Category Archives: Pyr books

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

When October Goes

Layout 1Now that Halloween is over, I’m going to shift gears a bit.  Time to return to more sword and sorcery here at Adventures Fantastic.  Or at least solid adventure fantasy.  I’ve already started reading Shattered Shields, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, which hits shelves on Tuesday.  I don’t know if I’ll have the review up by the release date, but I’ll do my best.

Pyr and Solaris have both sent me copies of some cool titles since the first of the summer that I never got a chance to work into the schedule.  I really want to go back and pick read some of them.  They’re mostly fantasy, but there’s some science fiction mixed in.  Also, Night Shade has sent me some titles, and one of the first I’ll read is Stories of the Raksura, vol.1, by Martha Wells.  I’ll probably start that one by the end of the week.

Speaking of science fiction, there are some titles sitting around I want to read.  Some of them will be popping up at Futures Past and Present as I work them in.  I’ll also be reading some mystery/noir titles and reviewing them at Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

Plus there are some titles from various other publishers I want to read.  I’ll be mixing them in at random.  I’m going to try to strike a balance between titles that someone has sent me and stuff I just want to read for fun.  So you never know what’s going to pop up next.

Lou Anders Leaves Pyr to Write Full Time

Lou-Anders-smallLocus Online reported Friday that Lou Anders, long-time editor at Pyr Books, was stepping down to pursue writing full time.  John O’Neill at Black Gate added some details this morning.

Under his leadership, Pyr became one of the freshest and most innovative imprints in the field while still staying true to the field’s roots.  Some of my favorite titles and series from the last few years were from Pyr.  I’ve got a stack of books that came out over the last few months that I’ve not had a chance to get to.

Anders recently published his first novel, Frostborn, a fantasy for middle grade readers.  In fact, this was one of the things Anders did at Pyr that impressed me.  He began acquiring titles aimed at YA readers.  I’ve met Lou briefly a few times over the years.  The most recent was at Fencon in 2012.  One of the things we talked about was the need for gateway books aimed at YA and middle grade readers.  He’s putting his money (and his career) where his mouth is.  Adventures Fantastic wishes him the best of luck.

Rene Sears has served as Anders’ assistant.  She will step up as interim editor.  I also wish her the best of luck.  She’s got some big shoes to fill, but I’m sure can handle it.

A Review of K. V. Johansen’s The Leopard

LeopardThe Leopard
K. V. Johansen
Pyr Books
Trade Paper US $18.00 Can $19.00
Ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook

This book was released about a week and a half ago. I had intended to have it finished and the review posted before then, but as I stated elsewhere, family commitments and life have been getting in the way for the last six weeks or so.

The Leopard is K. V Johansen’s second novel Pyr has published. The first was Blackdog, which I’ve had since it was published. I hadn’t read it yet because of length; I can’t always work longer books into my schedule. That turned out to be a mistake. While I don’t think The Leopard is a direct sequel, a knowledge of the characters and events from Blackdog would have proven convenient in the second half of The Leopard.

I say convenient because characters from Blackdog don’t show up until The Leopard is well under way.  Continue reading

Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron Hits Shelves

Blood and IronBlood and Iron
Jon Sprunk
Pyr Books
Trade paper, 424 pg., $18.00
ebook $11.99  Kindle Nook

I really enjoyed Jon Sprunk’s Shadow Saga (reviewed here, here, and here), so I was thrilled recently to learn he had a new book coming out. That book is Blood and Iron, and while it’s set in the same universe as the Shadow Saga, it’s on a different continent and doesn’t have anything to do with the previous books.

It’s also quite good. Blood and Iron is the first volume of The Book of the Black Earth. As well done as the Shadow Saga was, The Book of the Black Earth promises to be even better. Continue reading

Reading Plans for 2014

This post is a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the previous one.  If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to just to understand the context.  Here I’m going to discuss my reading plans for the year.  They’re going to be a bit different than they’ve been.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals, whether I reach any of them or not.  I know from experience if I don’t set some sort of a goal, then I won’t get anything accomplished.  Think of this post as a series of goals, goals that are flexible and highly subject to change. Continue reading

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

A Review of The Scroll of Years

ScrollofYearsThe Scroll of Years
Chris Willrich
Pyr Books
Trade paper $15.95 US $17.00 Canada
Ebook $11.99
Amazon  B&N Indie Bound

A Scroll of Years is the first novel about thief Imago Bone and poet Persimmon Gaunt. The pair have appeared in 5 short stories to date, and the first is included in this volume. Somehow this series has managed to fly under my radar. That’s something I’m going to need to fix. Looking at Willrich’s website, I may have read one or two but didn’t realize they were part of a series.

Anyway, Bone and a pregnant Gaunt are fleeing from Night’s Auditors. They are a pair of hit men who don’t merely kill their victims. In essence they steal their victims’ souls. They’re a pair of nasty dudes, and they have a dragon working for them. One of them controls a fire spirit. The other has a mirror embedded in his forehead which shows all possible things his victim might do. These guys are hard to kill, and they don’t give up easily.

Gaunt and Bone flee across the ocean to a land much like Imperial China. Gaunt has a mark forming on her belly that resembles two dragons. It’s a sign that the child she carries is someone a lot of powerful people want to get their hands on. Gaunt and Bone are going to need all the allies they can get.

The writing is rich and subtle, and Gaunt and Bone are foremost of a cast of delightfully flawed characters. Some fantasy novels are like a tankard of ale, intended to be slammed back. The Scroll of Years is of a more refined vintage, one in which you savor the writing as well as the story and characters.  The story takes place over both months and years simultaneously.  (That statement will make sense if you read the book, trust me.)

Gaunt and Bone have been compared to Fafhred and the Grey Mouser. I can see the resemblance, and I’d bet money that Fritz Leiber was one of Willrich’s influences. But that comparison runs the risk of limiting the characters or skewing a potential reader’s expectations. I see echoes of an earlier generation of writers in this book. Writers such as Ernest Bramah with perhaps a dash of Dunsany and maybe a pinch of Clark Ashton Smith. Plus a nod to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Leiber’s heroes were clearly cut from the same general cloth as Conan, inhabiting a milieu rooted in Western tradition where any portrayal of Eastern cultures were filtered to a greater or lesser degree through the West’s perceptions of the East. As Willrich notes in the Acknowledgements, this particular work is firmly planted in Chinese soil. The titular Scroll of Years is a concept I’ve not come across in much European based fantasy.  And rather that detracting, the Chinese folk tales Willrich interjects into the story give it added depth and resonance.

The Scroll of Years is not like anything I’ve seen recently. Willrich has a fresh voice, and with this novel (I can’t speak for the short stories, not being familiar with them yet) he expands the boundaries of sword and sorcery.

The events in this book grow out of the short stories, and there are one or two passing reference to previous events that seem to refer back to them. Don’t let that stop you from picking this one up. You can enjoy The Scroll of Years on its own merits. The ARC I have says today is the release date (which is why I wrote the review today), but the author’s website says the 24th.  Either way, look for a copy if this sounds like it might be your cup of tea. And if Pyr want to publish the short stories (with one or two new ones included, hint, hint), well, that would be fine with me.

I’d like to thank Lisa Michalski at Pyr Books for the review copy.

Morlock in Love

Wrath-Bearing Tree
James Enge
Pyr Books
Trade paperback, 320 pp., $18.00
ebook  $11.99 Kindle Nook

Across the Narrow Sea, in the land of Kaen, something is killing the gods.  In order to determine if this is a potential threat to the Wardlands, the Graith of Guardians sends Morlock Ambrosius and Aloe Oaij to investigate.

Morlock is secretly in love with Aloe.  Aloe isn’t in love with him.  At least not yet.  In his afterward, Enge describes this book as a love story with sword and sorcery interruptions.  To a point, that’s true.  But if you take the sword and sorcery out, the love story is pretty thin.  Magic is so much a part of Morlock that you can’t tell much of a story about him if there’s no magic involved.

This was a strange novel in some ways.  Not the love story portion.  Enge handles that very well, starting with the misunderstandings between Aloe and Morlock to her growing admiration of, and ultimately love for, Morlock.  I realize that last sentence sounds like this is just Jane Austin with fantasy trappings.  In the hands of other, lesser writers, that’s what you would get.  Not so here.

At times Wrath-Bearing Tree is a very weird book.  As Morlock and Aloe visit the cities of Kaen, it’s almost like reading some of the “true accounts” of travelers in the early days of the Age of Exploration.  Strange, bizarre, and completely unlike anything you’re familiar with.  For instance, and this isn’t the weirdest example, there’s a mountain on which the inhabitants either herd goats or sheep, but never both.  The reason is the religious significance of what an individual herds.  Once a year the two religions have a major battle (which of course Morlock and Aloe get caught in), but the goats and sheep used in those battles are anything but cute livestock.  And I’m not even sure how to describe the The Purple Patriarchy.

Because of this, much of the book reminded me of Jack Vance with doses of Clark Ashton Smith here and there.  The unusual societies were one of the highlights of the book for me.  Enge has some fun along the way.  During the Purple Patriarchy chapter, Aloe and Morlock have run afoul of the local traditions and need to escape.  They do so with the aid of a group of adventures trying to put together a quest, D&D style.

Eventually Morlock and Aloe encounter Morlock’s father Merlin.  Morlock has never met his father, so it’s an emotional reunion.  Merlin as Enge depicts him is an interesting character, although not an admirable one.  I would like to have seen more of him.

The main portion of the book, in which Aloe begins to fall in love with Morlock is told entirely from her point of view.  The reader already knows how he feels about her.  It’s interesting to watch her misunderstandings about him change as she gets to know him better.  One word of warning.  The sex scenes are extremely graphic, so if you are offended by that sort of thing or it’s not your cup of tea, you may want to keep that in mind. 

The subtitle of Wrath-Bearing Tree is A Tournament of Shadows, Book 2.  There are some unresolved issues in the larger story arc, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Enge resolves them.  I’d also like to thank Pyr Books for sending me the review copy. 

Enge’s work is unlike anything else out there that I’ve come across.  To some extent, it may be an acquired taste, because he’s not a paint-by-numbers kind of writer.  His work is original, imaginative, and one of a kind.

Return to the Shifted World

Kindred and Wings
Philippa Ballantine
Pyr Books
Paperback 340 pp., $18.00
ebook $11.99  Kindle  B&N

If you read Philippa Ballantine’s Hunter and Fox last year (reviewed here), then you will be glad to know that the sequel hits the shelves on August 6, which is tomorrow as I’m writing this.  The good folks at Pyr books were kind enough to send me a review copy, for which I would like to thank them.

I enjoyed the novel, but I liked the sequel even more.  Kindred and Wings takes up where Hunter and Fox left off. Talyn is still seeking the Caisah’s death, but she’s going to discover there are other things that should be a higher priority.  Finn the Fox, aided by the dragon Wahirangi, continues his quest to find his brother.  Meanwhile, Talyn’s brother Byre will discover that dealing with the Kindred is not without cost. And hanging over everything is the growing menace of White Void.

There are a number of viewpoint characters in Kindred and Wings.  Ballantine alternates between them, juggling story lines in a way that makes the action flow.  I’ve not read her more recent novels in her other series (not because I’m not interested but because I have to sleep sometime), so I can’t make a complete comparison, but I think this is some of her best writing.  Each of the viewpoint characters, and there more than just the three I mentioned above, are well defined.  We see each of them at their worst and their best.  Their motives and agendas sometimes come into conflict, and it’s here that some of the strongest character development occurs.  While I didn’t like all the viewpoint characters, I understood them, and it’s because they were so well written that I didn’t like one or two of them.  None of them were stock characters.

There are some great action scenes, including several battles, and all are handled well.  But ultimately this book boils down to personal conflict, and it’s at this level that the author’s abilities really shine.  The scene in the castle where Finn first encounters the shade of his mother, or when Kelanim is in the chapel of wings, not a word is wasted.  The sense of being there, of visualizing what was happening, was particularly strong. 

Overall, Kindred and Wings had a more epic feel to it than I remember Hunter and Fox having.   That’s probably the result of how Ballantine handles the viewpoint characters.  The respective characters don’t alternate chapters or sections of chapters in a predictable manner.  Rather we see what we need to see when it’s time to see it.  That means that sometimes a character will be off stage longer in some parts of the book than in others.  We find out the Caisah’s secrets, and I really liked what those turned out to be.  Not everything you thought you knew in the first book was true.

If I had to find a flaw in the book, I felt that everyone coming together for the final confrontation was a little rushed.  I was expecting a cliffhanger ending with the final resolution in a following book.  The ending was satisfying, and I don’t mean to imply that it wasn’t.  I just wasn’t expecting it to happen in this book.

Kindred and Wings was a very satisfying read. It hits shelves tomorrow, so if this is your cup of tea, look for it.