Category Archives: Ari Marmell

All Good Covenants Must Come to an End

Covenants EndCovenant’s End
Ari Marmell
Hardcover, 250 p., $17.99
ebook $11.99

Ari Marmell begins the Author’s Afterward to Covenant’s End with these words: “Some of you hate me right now.”

He’s a perceptive man.

Although I have to say he wrapped up this series the only way he could.

This book is another example of why Pyr has made my list of publishers to read each year.  I wasn’t able to work in everything they provided review copies of last year.  I’m going to try to do better this year.  They publish some cool stuff.

Covenant’s End is the fourth and final adventure of Widdershins.  In this one she returns home to Davillon.  The city is under siege from within.  Widdershin’s old enemy Lissette has come back and taken over the Finder’s Guild.  She is intent on taking over, and she’s recruited some very powerful and evil allies to help her. Continue reading

Hot Lead, Cold Iron: The Best of Two Genres

Hot-Lead-Cold-Iron_cvr_frnt1-e1397613333382Hot Lead, Cold Iron: A Mick Oberon Job
Ari Marmell
Titan Books
Trade Paper $14.95
Ebook $9.99

I really like a good gangster story, especially a Depression era gangster story. If it’s set in Chicago, well, that’s a plus. And while tales set in the realm of faery aren’t among those I actively seek out, I’m willing to give one a try. Especially when the author is Ari Marmell.

And when Marmell combines both of those genres, I’m in. I would like to thank Tom Green of Titan Books for the review copy. I would also like to apologize for letting this one slip through the cracks and not reviewing it sooner.

Marmell first introduced the character of Mick Oberon in the short story “The Purloined Ledger”, included in his collection Strange New Words (reviewed here).

Oberon (yes, he’s related to that Oberon) is a private detective in Chicago.  Capone went to prison a year before.  Now the power structure among the mob is trying to restabilize.

Oberon is asked by a mobster to do a favor for his boss’s wife.  At first he turns down the job, but then he discovers his landlord and friend needs cash to keep the building.  So Mick reluctantly agrees to take the job. Continue reading

A Request for Assistance

Strange New WordsStrange New Worlds
Ari Marmell
Paperback $8.99
ebook $4.99 Kindle Nook Smashwords DriveThruFiction

I’m a huge fan of Ari Marmell’s Widdershins series, the most recent of which hit the shelves days ago, as well as his other work.  I’ve got several other novels by him on the shelves that I haven’t gotten to, as well.  He’s become one of my favorite writers.

Ari is having a bit of a tough go of it at the moment, through no fault of his own.  I’ll let him explain the details.  Bottom line, he’s strapped for cash and needs our help.  Because royalties are paid only once or twice a year, it will probably be at least six months before  he sees any cash from Lost Covenant, the latest Widdershins novel.  That’s assuming the book earns out its advance.

What he will see money from in a reasonably timely manner is the short story collection Strange New Worlds which he recently crowdfunded on Kickstarter.  I missed the Kickstarter on this one, or you would have already heard about it from me.

Anyway, if you want to help him out, buy the book.  All of the royalties after Amazon or B&N take their cut go to Ari.  I had bought a copy the night before he announced his need for support.  I’ve moved the book to the top of the TBR list.  I’m going to post the review at Amazing Stories, where it should get more pageviews than it will here.  Because of my schedule there, it will probably be next week before the post goes live, although I’m going to try to get it in before this weekend’s deadline.

As Tom Doolan mentioned earlier on his blog, we are a community.  It falls to us to help each other out.

Tis the Season for Theft, Snark, and Widdershins

LostCovenantLost Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
279 pp, hardcover $17.99 US/$19.50 Can
ISBN 978-1-61614-811-9
ebook $11.99
ISBN 978-1-61614-812-6

At this time of year, it’s customary to reflect on upon the things for which one is thankful.

I’m thankful for Mastercard Fraud Division.

I’m thankful that my car, which normally runs perfectly but lately has developed the troublesome habit of dying without warning while moving, hasn’t killed me yet.

I’m thankful this blog was shortlisted for an award.

I’m thankful that there’s a new Widdershins novel about to hit the shelves.

And of course I’m thankful to Lisa Michalski at Pyr books for sending me an ARC so I can read it ahead of time.

You’ll recall I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Widdershins novels, Thief’s Covenant (reviewed here) and False Covenant (reviewed here).

In this one Widdershins becomes aware of a plot against House Delacroix,.  Since it was Alexandre Delacroix who rescued her from life on the streets, she takes it upon herself to intervene on behalf of the House as a way of repaying the late Alexandre.  She ends up in the town of Aubier trying to convince the last matriarch of the house that she’s a friend.  All the while dealing with a mad alchemist, a brutal gang of thugs, and the matriarch’s son, who is somewhat smitten by Widdershins (perfectly understandable). Continue reading

In Thunder Forged Rocks

In Thunder Forged:  The Fall of Llael Book One
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Trade Paper 320 pp $18.00
ebook Kindle $8.69 Nook $10.31

If you’re a fan of dark, gritty military fantasy, then In Thunder Forged is the book for you.  Ari Marmell is a superb writer, and he’s at the top of his game in this first volume of The Iron Kingdoms Chronicles.  The series is based on the Warmachine Steam Powered Fantasy Wargame and the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game.  They’re produced by Privateer Press.  I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with them, not really having time to add gaming to my already full schedule.  After reading In Thunder Forged, I’m going to check them out. Continue reading

Howard Days, Here I Come

I’m leaving in a few minutes for Howard Days.  It doesn’t start officially until Friday, but there’s an informal get-together in Brownwood tonight.  Plus, Howard is buried in Brownwood, and I’ve never visited the grave site.  (Please don’t judge me.)

I’ll be commuting from my parents’ house in Breckenridge, which on the other side of Cross Plains.  (And one of the main reasons I’ve not visited Howard’s grave.)  I’ll give a full report when I get back.  I’ve been reading Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged, which came out Tuesday. I’d hoped to have the review up before I left, but obviously it didn’t happen.  I’ll try to finish the book on the trip and post the review when I get back.

Until then, I’ll check in once or twice a day, either early or late, but for the most part won’t be around much until next week.

New Acquisitions

Today a friend and I took my son hiking in Palo Duro Canyon while our wives stayed home doing whatever wives do when husbands are away.  (I don’t want to know; that it involves spending money is enough.)  This will tie into a Dispatches From the Lone Star Front post later in the week after another road trip. 

When I go home, there was a package waiting for me.  It contained a copy of Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged from Pyr Books.  Along with Wrath-Breaking Tree (James Enge) and Kindred and Wings (Philippa Ballantine) that came Thursday and Nebula Awards Showcase (Catherine Asaro, ed.), which arrived last week, that’s four from Pyr in about ten days.  The Marmell and Nebula Awards will be reviewed first since the former will be out in a couple of weeks, and the latter is out already.  That’s not to say some of the other review copies Pyr has sent me won’t end up in the queue in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve also got several titles from Angry Robot in my ereader:  The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (which I’ve already started and am loving), iD by Madelaine Ashbury, and A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp.

Finally, I’m looking forward to diving into No Return by Zachary Jernigan.  He was kind enough to send me a copy of his first novel.  This one got some good advance buzz, and I love the cover.  It’s up Blue Blazes

Anyway, those are the novels from publishers and authors I’ve agreed to read and review.  I still plan to increase the amount of short fiction I review.  (Sooper Seekrit Project #2 requires me to do so.)  I’m also going to stick in some novels just because I want to read them.

Think all that will keep me busy?

Writng Fantasy Heroes Arrives

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Waltz, ed.
Rogue Blades Entertainment
trade paper, 202 pages, $14.99

This isn’t a review.  That will come later, after I’ve read the book.  I don’t normally profile books until I’ve read them, but in this case I’m making an exception.  I think you’ll understand.

This volume contains 13 essays (plus an introduction by Steven Erikson) on how to write heroes in fantasy.  The contributors include (in no particular order) Glen Cook, Brandon Sanderson, C. L. Werner, Howard Andrew Jones, Ian C. Esslemont, Ari Marmell, Paul Kearney, Orson Scott Card.  I could go on.  But I won’t.  You can discover the rest for yourself.

I’ve reviewed works by several of the above here at Adventures Fantastic, and there are others on that list I haven’t gotten to yet, at least as far as reviews are concerned. There will be some great writing advice in there.  (I know, I’ve already peeked.)

I also know some of the people who read this blog are writers at various stages of their careers.  In the interest of helping you improve your craft (because I’m selfish and want great books by you to read), I thought I’d announce this book here.  And, yes, gloat, because my copy arrived today.  I’m going to steal time from some other commitments later tonight and start reading it.  I’ll post a full review when I’m done.

Writing Fantasy Heroes is from Rogue Blades Entertainment and is available from Amazon and B&N.  I was completely surprised when I heard about it.  Rogue Blades Entertainment hasn’t had anything out in a while, and they’ve been sorely missed.  Jason, it’s great to have you back.

Recommendations from the First Half of 2012

There have been a lot of lists posted or published, depending on the format, in the last few weeks, claiming to enumerate the best books/stories/graphic novels/dirty limericks/ransom notes/whathaveyou from the first half of 2102.  To which, I say, yeah, right.  Unless these lists were compiled by committee, no one person could have read enough novels to say their list is the best.  And if the list were put together by committee, well, we all know what too often comes out of committee.

Now I’m not saying those lists don’t have value, just the title “Best” is misleading.  So I’m going to call the list that follows simply my recommendations for the first half of 2012.

First, a couple of ground rules.  I’m going to limit myself to novels, and with one or two exceptions which were self-published, novels published in 2012.  I’m making an exception for the self-published novels because they sometimes need a little time to develop some momentum.  Anyone paying attention to the trade publishers should be aware of forthcoming novels.

I’m also going to take the coward’s way out and not try to rank them.  I started to, but quickly ran into the issue of trying to decide between two books I thoroughly loved but for entirely different reasons.  I could bite the bullet and give them rankings, but tomorrow I’d probably change my mind.  Instead the books will be listed alphabetically by title.

So here are my recommendations from the first half of 2012, along with an occasional cheeky synopsis.  If more than one book in a series came out in the first part of the year, I’ve only listed the first book.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig  This is short, dark, compulsively readable tale of a young woman who can see the death of any person she touches through the eyes of that person.  One day she touches a man and sees herself present at his death.  Review here.

Carpathia by Matt Forbeck  The Carpathia was the ship which rescued the survivors of the Titanic.  What if there were vampires onboard?  Review here.

Crazy Greta by David A. Hardy  I called this the book John Bunyan would have written if he had been dropping acid while writing The Pilgrim’s Progress.  I stand by that statement.  Review here.

Feyland by Anthea Sharp  An entertaining and well-written young adult novel about what happens when the immersive computer game becomes a little too real.  Review here

Giant Thief by David Tallerman  So this kleptomaniac steals this giant, see?  Then he gets roped into being the hero against this warlord.  The only problem is his sticky fingers keep getting him in trouble.  Review here.

Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine  An emotionally wounded woman serves as a hunter for a tyrant in a world in which the landscape changes on a regular basis.  Review here.

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp  Two thieves kill a demon while robbing a tomb.  Only the demon has powerful friends…A great adventure that reminded me of why I read sword and sorcery in the first place.  Review here.

Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon  An epic fantasy about duty, honor, family, and the ties that bind.  An impressive debut.  Review here.

Shadow Ops:  Control Point by Myke Cole  A world in which those with magical abilities are either drafted into covert military teams or exterminated and what happens when one man says, “Enough is enough.”  Review here.

Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk  The conclusion of a dark trilogy about a man who is heir to the shadows seeking to learn who he is.  Review here.

The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu Flying ships, astral projection, Machiavellian politics, an invading army, and a doomsday cult trying to bring about the end of the world.  In the midst of this, can two crazy kids find true love?  Review here.

Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell  Another YA, but with a dark edge.  Widdershins is a thief who has minor deity living in her head.  One of the most fun books I’ve read in a while in spite of the dark content.  Review here.

More Wit, More Charm, More Snark, More Theft, and a Lot More Fun

False Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, $16.95, release date June 2012

I think I’m a little in love with Widdershins.  It’s perfectly understandable really.  She’s beautiful and clever, with a sharp blade and a sharper tongue.  And I’m not the only one in love with her.  There’s…come to think of it, much of my competition is significantly better with a blade than I am.  Perhaps I should forget about her.

Besides, she’s a fictional character.

Why are you people looking at me that way?

False Covenant is the sequel to Thief’s Covenant, the inaugural volume in Ari Marmell’s new YA series.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  I detail my reasons here.  Don’t let the fact that these books are marketed as YA deter you from reading them.  They’re better than the bulk of what’s published as “adult” fantasy these days.

False Covenant opens about six months after the close of Thief’s Covenant, and things are not going well in the city of Davillon.  The Church blames the city for the death of Archbishop de Laurent and is actively doing what it can to punish the city by openly using its influence to redirect trade away from the city.  This isn’t exactly popular with the populace, and relations between parishioners and Church are continuing to deteriorate.

Everyone is feeling the pinch, including the aristocracy, the Finder’s Guild, and Widdershins, who is trying her best to honestly run a tavern.  Enter the new Bishop, who sympathizes with his adopted city and hatches a plot to try to improve relations between the Church and the citizens by scaring them back into the pews.

I read a quote recently (don’t ask me where) that basically said if you want to commit great evil, attempt to do great good.  That’s certainly the case here, and the other, more familiar quote about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions applies as well.

If you’ll forgive a small spoiler, what the Bishop does is enlist some men to impersonate a character out of fairy tales named Iruoch to create an atmosphere of fear in Davillon.  Initially the plan works, no one is seriously hurt, and worshipers return to services.

Until the real Iruoch shows up.  He’s a nasty piece of work and really creepy.  His fingers are unnaturally long, and he can walk on them like a spider.  He can also walk up walks and across ceilings.  He drains bodies of their blood and life essence, leaving dry husks.  The fact that much of the time he tends to talk in a sing-song nursery rhyme cadence and is accompanied by a chorus of giggling children’s voices only adds to the creepiness factor.

Meanwhile, Widdershins has a new man in her life.  And not in a good way.  He comes out of nowhere, knows far more about her than he should, and makes it clear that his intention is to cause her serious problems.

How Marmell weaves these two plots together is an example of a writer at the top of his game.  I wasn’t expecting the approach he took, but I have to admit it made perfect sense.  And the epilogue was unexpected, although again perfectly logical, setting the stage for many more adventures.

The voice Marmell uses is wonderfully snarky and at times downright hilarious.  I’ve said a time or two before in these reviews that it’s hard to get me to laugh out loud.  This book did it twice.  I’m not sure, but that might be a record.

And the humor is needed.  This is in many respects a very dark book.  It could easily have sunk to a level of bleakness that would make A Song of Fire and Ice look like Pollyanna.  And yet it doesn’t.  Marmell doesn’t shy away from the emotional effects of what happens, but he doesn’t revel in them, either.  Another quote I’ve seen recently is that good sword and sorcery has a strong infusion of horror.  Marmell writes that type of sword and sorcery, and he writes it well.  The humor helps to alleviate the horrors.  Striking this type of balance is tough trick to pull off, but the author makes it look easy.

All of the major supporting characters from Thief’s Covenant, including Widdershins’ personal deity Olgun, are back.  At least all the ones that survived to the end of that book.  Their relationships will continue to grow, although not all of them will survive to the end of this book.  If you read it, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I have a bone to pick with Marmell over the permanent change in Widdershins’ relationship with one of these characters in particular.  (No, I won’t tell you which one.  Read the  book yourself.)  But the characters are fully realized, three dimensional people, not archetypes or stock characters.  Even most of the “villains” are sympathetic and act with understandable motives, Iruoch being the exception.  They don’t all get along, they don’t all like each other, and those interactions raise this book above your standard, generic fantasy.

I haven’t read all the fantasy series Pyr has published or is in the process of publishing (but I’m working on it, Lou).  Of the ones I’ve read, my two favorites until now have been Jasper Kent’s Danilov Chronicles and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.  Add to that list Ari Marmell’s Widdershins’ Adventures or whatever the formal title is. I’ll continue to read about her adventures as long as Marmell continues to write them.  There’s not another title scheduled that I know of, but I hope that will change soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to read the rest of Marmell’s work, starting with The Goblin Corps.

As I said at the beginning of this review, don’t let the YA label deter you from reading this series.  It’s one of the freshest, darkest, funniest, and best sword and sorcery series being written today and should appeal to readers of all ages.  It’s great fun and reminded me of why I like fantasy, and sword and sorcery in particular, in the first place.  I hated to reach the end of it.