Category Archives: Bradley Beaulieu

Return to Sharakhai

Of Sand and Malice MadeOf Sand and Malice Made
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Daw Books
hardcover, 240 pages $18.00
ebook $9.99

I’d like to thank Bradley P. Beaulieu for providing me with the review copy.  I found reading the book to be rather frustrating, not because of any flaw in the story or writing.  Just the opposite.  Life has been chaotic for a number of reasons which are worth getting into.  I’ve been reading the book in snatches, with many interruptions.  I’ve wanted to simply dive in.  Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happened.

But I did manage to carve out some time to read most of the second half over the weekend and finished the last twenty pages tonight.  Of Sand and Malice Made is an excellent fantasy adventure.

It’s also a great introduction to the world of Shattered Sands, which we saw in the first volume of the series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (reviewed here).  You don’t have to have read that volume to enjoy this one.  Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel, telling an adventure of Ceda before the tale of her quest for vengeance against the kings begins.  In fact the kings are hardly mentioned. Continue reading

Guest Post by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The good folks over at Ragnarok Publishing are running a Kickstarter for a new anthology featuring female protagonists, Hath No Fury, which ends in a few hours.  They asked me to help get the word out and offered suggestions that would help to do that, including possible guest posts by some of their contributors.  One of the authors with a story in the book is Bradley P. Beaulieu.  His contribution features the protagonist from his current series, The Song of the Shattered Sands.  I reviewed the first volume, Twelve Kings in Sharakai here.

So without further ado, here’s Brad:

I was recently at a convention—GenCon down in Indianapolis—and I was doing a short video interview where we got to talking about the state of the field and how quickly (or not) it changes. My basic take was that it’s a field, much like most of the entertainment industry at large, that’s pretty slow to change.

Why? Well, it’s complicated, but I think a lot of it boils down to how editors (and these days more and more, purchasing panels) decide what a publisher is (and isn’t) going to buy. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m just going to call these folks “editors”, but know that these days it’s almost never a single person that’s making the call, but rather a number of people, including sales, marketing, and other executives—especially if we’re talking about a hot author or property—but it all starts with the editors, so let’s be reductive for the time being. Continue reading

Bradley Beaulieu Knocks it Out of the Park

Twelve Kings in SharakhaiTwelve Kings in Sharakhai
Bradley P. Beaulieu
DAW Books
Hardcover $24.95, ebook $9.99, audiobook $14.68
Available September 1, 2015

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu.  So when he asked me if I would be interested in an advance ebook for review purposes, there was only one answer.  (Many thanks, sir.)

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first volume in The Song of Shattered Sands.  It’s an ambitious book, and it’s clear that the series is going to be ambitious.

Now, I’ve long said that writers, in an ideal world at least, should continue to improve and get better as time goes on.  If the quality of the first book is any indication, this is going to be a major series.  I loved The Lays of Anaskaya, but The Song of Shattered Sands looks to be even better.

I’ll explain why after I give you a brief description of the setup. Continue reading

The Rest of the Summer

The July 4th holiday, AKA Independence Day, is fast  approaching, which means for me that the summer is half over.  I’ve done a bit of traveling but that’s about to stop for the most part.

I’ll be teaching a class the second summer term, which starts on Tuesday.  It’s at 8:00 a.m.  That’s early, but that’s okay.  I’m tanned, I’m rested, I’m ready.  What that means is I’ll have a lot less free time on my hands.

Twelve Kings in SharakhaiCurrent projects are to finish Bradley Beaulieu’s new novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.  I’ll do that in a bit and try to get the review up tomorrow night.  (Spoiler:  It’s awesome.)

I’ve not done a BAF post in a while, but I’ll start on the next book this weekend.  I’m going to try to read the short fiction that’s up for the Hugo that I’d not already read when the ballot was announced.  Ditto for the Gemmell Awards.  I won’t be able to finish everything on the Gemmell ballot before the deadline, but I’ll at least get a couple of books out of the way.

Aeronaut's WindlassI was accepted into the Ace Roc Stars program earlier this year.  What that basically means is that i get advanced copies of most of the upcoming books by either Ace or Roc.  The first batch of titles didn’t have much that interested me, but the second batch is a gold mine.  The first volume in Jim Butcher’s new series, the second Lizzie Borden novel by Cheri Priest, a couple of new fantasy novels and the first volumes in some space opera series.

In addition I”ll be trying to read as much fantasy, science fiction, and crime as possible.  I want to read as many of the Shamus Award nominees as I can.  Anyway, that’s what’s going on with reviewing and blogging.  Writing I’ll discuss in another post once i have some things in better shape.

Brad Beaulieu’s Lays of Anuskaya on Sale

35210630ca882ec70b25c525de775128_largeBrad Beaulieu’s Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, plus the collection Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten, are on sale in Kindle format today for $0.99 each.

Here are the links:  The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh, The Flames of Shadem Kohreh, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten and Other Stories.

This is one of the most enjoyable series I’ve come across in the last ten years or so.  It’s full of adventure, intrigue, and interesting characters doing interesting things in exotic settings.  It’s fun and exciting.  If you’ve been thinking about reading them, now’s your chance to get in on the action at a great price.  I don’t know how long the sale will last, so don’t wait too long.

My reviews of The Lays of Anuskaya are here:  The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh, The Flames of Shadem Khoreh.

Thanks to Paul for the tip.

2013: An Assessment – Individual Authors and Titles

This is the second part of my assessment of 2013.  The first looked at publishers.  Here I’ll feature some authors and/or individual titles that I thought were standouts.  Links for books will be to my reviews (the reviews will have links to buy if you’re interested.)  Since I’ve been doing a weekly post at Amazing Stories, with only one week missed, I’ll be including some of the titles I reviewed there in this list.

As with the publishers, these are in alphabetical order.  I’m probably overlooking someone or a particular book.  I apologize in advance.  This list consists of titles and authors I read in 2013 and isn’t intended to be inclusive.  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.  Again, I’m including mystery, crime, and science fiction as well as fantasy. Continue reading

Worldcon Report, Part 1

This is going to be the written report, mostly without pictures because I haven’t had time to sort through the ones I took and see what I want to post.  It’s been one of those weeks at work and it started on the way down to San Antonio.  I spent more time than I would have liked dealing with a couple of problems that waited until I was on the road to arise.  I post some pictures in the next few days.


James Gunn at his reception.

I had to teach class Thursday morning, so by the time I got to San Antonio, checked into the hotel and hoofed it over to the convention center to register, I just made it before registration closed.  I wandered the dealer’s room and familiarized myself with the layout before grabbing a bite.  At least I intended to.  I ran into Adrian Simmons, editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and ended up accompanying him to a private, invitation-only reception for James Gunn.  Adrian had been invited, and I went along as his guest.  It was a great event, and I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with him.  He’s 90, and critics are calling his new novel his best.  I picked up a signed copy before the weekend was over.  There’ll be a review going up at Futures Past and Present sometime in the next few months.  Learning of Fred Poh’s death made me extra glad I grabbed a signed copy, in spite of being a little overbudget.


What would you eat for a book?

Later I attended the Bookswarm party, which was packed.  I got a chance to talk to Martha Wells for a few minutes, and I walked away with two free books.  The theme of the party was Eat a Bug, Get a Book.  The bugs were sanitized and freeze dried.  (I ate a mole circket and a dung beetle and got The Other Half of the Sky edited by Athena Andreadis and Exile by Betsy Dornbush.)  The highlight of the party was getting to meet Brad Beaulieu, Douglas Hulett, Courtney Schafer, and Zachary Jernigan.  If you haven’t read them, you should.  Other than a glimpse of Jernigan from across the street, the only one of that group that I saw after that night was Courtney Schafer.

The next day was one of those where there was about twelve hours of programming I wanted to attend, all of it in a three hour block.  I went to most of the Robert E. Howard panels, of which there were many.  Most of the hanging out I did with friends was with members of the Robert E. Howard Foundation or chatting with folks at parties.  Saturday was much the same, but Sunday was a little more relaxed.  Among the non-Howard panels I attended were a discussion of C. L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, the history of firearms in the 1800s, a discussion on writing that included Michael Swanwick and James Patrick Kelly, a panel of Texas writers who have passed on, and readings by Jack McDevitt and Howard Waldrop.  I only caught part of the panel on sword and sorcery since it was up against one of the more interesting Robert E. Howard panels.  The autographing lines were either nonexistent or ridiculously long, so I only got a few signatures.


Sword and Sorcery Panel: (l. to r.) Stina Leitch, Lou Anders, Sam Sykes, Saladin Ahmed, Chris Willrich

I went to the Alamo Saturday morning with Bill Cavalier, editor of REHupa.  He hadn’t seen it, and it had been a while since I had paid my respects.  Next to the Alamo is the Menger Hotel.  Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders in the bar, and it’s something of a mini-museum.  I’ll do a write-up of it on Dispatches From the Lone Star Front over the weekend.

I didn’t try to attend the Hugos.  I wasn’t impressed with the slate of nominees for the most part.  But it’s a popularity contest, and currently my tastes and those of the field are in a state of moderate divergence.  The Legacy Circle of the REH Foundation went to dinner Saturday night.

There were some free books, including NESFA’s three volume Chad Oliver set.  I found the first two of the Heinlein juveniles I was missing, and picked up an extra copy of Glory Road.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of that novel.  I read it when I was about 14, and it’s about time for a reread.


It’s good to be the king.

Some overall thoughts.  First, this was the first time I’ve been able to attend a Worldcon.  It wasn’t quite what I expected.  I’ve attended World Fantasy twice, and the density of pros in that venue is high, but then that’s a convention that’s aimed at pros.  Worldcon is more geared for fans.  I never saw some of the bigger names, although I know they were there.  Most of the ones I did see, I only saw once or twice.  The convention center is a bit too spread out for this sort of event.

I was surprised at crowded it wasn’t.  I was also a little surprised with how old the average attendee seemed to be.  While people seemed to be having a good time, I didn’t detect a great deal of excitement.  Maybe that’s because I’m getting older, but everything seemed more laid back than I was expecting.

I’d certainly attend another Worldcon, but only if it wasn’t at the same time classes started.  And only if it wasn’t too far away.  While I enjoyed it and am glad I went, I wouldn’t travel halfway around the world, or even the country, to repeat the experience.

I’ll post some more photos later in the week.

Bradley P. Beaulieu Short Story Collection Kickstarter

Just a quick note.  I don’t ordinarily promote a lot of projects from Kickstarter here on the blog, although I do review some (such as here, here, and here).  However, to every rule there are usually exceptions.  This is going to be one of them.  Bradley P. Beaulieu is one of my favorite writers to have appeared in recent years.  Look here, here, and here for details about why I think that.  But for this post, let me just say the man can write character and plot and sense of wonder and make it look easy. 

I got an email from him a few hours ago announcing a Kickstarter campaign to collect all of his short fiction, with stretch goals to include new stories set in the world of The Winds of Khalakovo.  If it were a manly thing, I would swoon or squee or something.  Instead, consider a loud roar of triumph to have been roared.

If you’ve read Beaulieu’s stuff, you’ll want this collection.  The nice thing about this one is that the rewards listed have reasonable pledge amounts, unlike some projects.  So if you think you might be interested, head over here and check it out.  I’d really like to read those Khalakovo stories.

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.

Across the Straits of Galahesh

The Straits of Galahesh
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Nightshade Books
Trade Paperback $14.99 – 570 pages
various electonic editions $6.00

If you read my review of Beaulieu’s first novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, you know it was one of my favorites last year.  Now the second volume in the series has hit shelves.  Beaulieu was kind enough to send me a review copy of The Straits of Galahesh.  I had wanted to have the book finished and this review posted about the time the books hit the shelves, which was a week ago.  Unfortunately life has been happening at my house, and I’m a bit behind on several commitments.

However, you can still snag a copy.  And you should.  What follows are several reasons why, along with some spoilers for The Winds of Khalakovo.  If you haven’t read it, skip the next few paragraphs.

Before I give those reasons, though, let me set the stage.  Five years have passed since the end of the previous novel.   Nasim is now a young man, seeking to understand his past and stop the Al-Aqim from ushering in the end of the world.  Khalakovo is still occupied by Vostromo.  Nikandr is traveling the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya, trying to stop the spread of the Rift.  And Ataina, now a powerful Matra, has offered herself as a wife to one of the high ranking noblemen in the Empire of Yrstanla.

Yes, she still loves Nikandr, and he, her.  This is a political marriage.  Not that this sits well with Nikandr.  Remember the things I said in the review of Winds about the course of true love not running smooth.  Well this is a longer book, and straits often contain rapids.  I’m just saying.

The wedding is going to take place on the island of Galahesh, a quasi-independent state, which is cut in half by deep straits.  The ley lines through the aether twist along the straights to such an extent that the airships can’t cross the straits.  All personnel and material have to be lowered in elevators, transported across the straits by ferry, and raised by elevators.  The straits act as an effective barrier between the Empire and the Grand Duchy.  This becomes a major point in the plot, in part because the Matra can’t cross the straits either when they take the dark.

Nikandr still has his bond with Nasim.  Nasim can no longer sense the spirit world. Soroush (at the beginning of the novel) is still being held by the Maharat.  Atiana is one of the more powerful Matra.  Nikandr’s father is now one of the Grand Duke’s most trusted advisers in spite Vostromo’s occupation of Khalakovo.  And Grigory still needs to be taken out and hanged.

None of them will be the same after the events of this book.  Provided they survive.

End of spoilers for Winds.

Sometimes a first novel hits the shelves that is above average, promising great things to come in future works, only to have the second novel disappoint.  This can be because the author only had one good book in him/her, because there was more time to polish the first novel than the second due to publication schedules, or any number of other reasons.

That is not the case here.  Straits is a more mature work than Winds.  There is a great deal of action, and all of the action scenes are quite well done, but it seems to me the focus here is more on character.  Don’t get me wrong; there was strong character development in Winds.

It’s just that Beaulieu has taken his character development to a new level.  And not just with the three viewpoint characters:  Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim.  The supporting cast of siblings, servants, soldiers, and others come alive as individuals.  I found this to be particularly true of Soroush, the terrorist leader who was one of the central villains in the first book.  Here he grows into one of the more heroic figures.  In short Beaulieu has created a cast of characters who live, breath, and about whom the reader cares.  He populates the book with them.

Then he kills them.

Not all of them, of course.  A number survive.  But no one’s survival is guaranteed.  At no time does Beaulieu kill off a character gratuitously.  Each death is logical and comes naturally from the events in the story.  None of these characters die for cheap emotional manipulation.  And once it sinks in that any one of these people may not make it to the last page, it heightens the suspense.

And there’s plenty of suspense.  The book is structured so that each viewpoint character gets two or three chapters before another character gets their turn on stage.  Each of these sections ends in such a way that you want to keep reading.  The term “page-turner” is sometimes used derisively by the literati for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.   It would seem to me that a writer who can make the reader want to keep turning the pages because he/she is engrossed in the story is a success, regardless of sales numbers.

This is not a predicatble novel.  Several times the story went in a direction I wasn’t expecting.  Not everything is as it seems.  Straits is a dark novel, however.  At times, very dark.  There are scenes of human sacrifice, including children.  If you like your fantasy full of rainbow colored unicorns, you might have problems with parts of this one.

There is not as much emphasis on politics as there was in Winds, although based on how this one ends, I suspect that won’t be the case with the third book.  The story, although at a natural break, is far from over.

If you read The Winds of Khalakovo, then you will want to read The Straits of Galahesh.  If you haven’t, then buy and read them both.  This one is full of excitement, suspense, and betrayal.  Lots of betrayal, some intentional, some not.  I’ve read a great deal of fantasy in the last year, and almost all of it was good to great.  The Straits of Galahesh was one of the best.