Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone – Book Review

Book Review

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise Book CoverIn a genre that is dominated by the gritty and dark following the recent popularity of Game of Thrones, Max Gladstone delivers an impressive tale with an ultimate message of hope. Yes, there are problems in the world and they may seem unbeatable, but there is always a chance for a happy ending if someone is willing to stand up and go to work.

The second installment in the Craft Sequence continues the trend established by Three Parts Dead and introduces the reader to a richly detailed world that layers magic and history with our modern era. Except this time, Gladstone brings us to Dresediel Lex, a desert city with trappings that evoke the Aztec Empire’s culture (including flying feathered serpents).

Though, as I said, not all is well in the world. It hasn’t been that long since the Gods War, a time where magical Craftspeople and Gods did battle for control over the fate of the world. It seems that Dresediel Lex was hit especially hard because without the Gods to interfere and provide divinely filtered water, just how do you slake the thirst of a rapidly expanding population?

Oh, and you have to manage all of this while battling a priest (turned terrorist) of the old order who wants nothing more than to bring back the Gods and continue sacrificing blood and hearts to the twin serpents that slumber deep beneath the earth. Sounds easy, right?

There’s a lot of Two Serpents Rise that is reminiscent of the noir genre. There is a threaded mystery that begins with a dead body, a gambling hero who recently quit smoking and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – a trope that is often found in the various “-punk” subgenres.

While the framework of these characters draw heavily from established archetypes, that isn’t to say there’s no depth or originality to be found. The hero, Caleb, loves his city and would do anything to keep it running, a task that he’s quickly realizing is untenable unless some serious changes are made at Red King Consolidated, his place of employment and the only thing keeping the city from drying up. All of this is wrapped up in the issues with his father, the aforementioned priest/terrorist, and their conflicting ideologies.

Kopil, the Red King, starts as an imposing skeleton clad in a red robe, more mythic figure than individual. The triple click of his skeletal bones inspires fear in all under his employ as he walks. He has fought and killed deities in the Gods War and saved the city. But Kopil isn’t only an imposing force of might and magic. His motivations are rooted in a much more human emotion than you might expect from a skeleton.

Even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is more than the trope label I assigned to her. Mal begins as a thrill-seeking opportunist that quickly catches Caleb’s attention and doesn’t let go. Yet, there’s more to this girl than it first seems and she’s ready to do anything for what she believes in. As Caleb tracks her through the city and they begin a relationship her true personality is carefully revealed was worldly issues are revealed.

Dresediel Lex is running out of time. Whether it be from the attacks from those faithful to the Gods, inevitable drought due to overpopulation or some other threat from outside, it doesn’t seem like the city will last long. Gladstone doesn’t solve every single problem. This isn’t any fairy-tale, Disney ending. But neither will it be a hopeless battle of despair. Give Two Serpents Rise a shot and see just how Caleb goes to work to to save his city and restore hope to a world still suffering from a past war.

Book Synopsis:

In Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, Crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father—the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists—has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire…and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

– – – This review was originally posted at Fantasy-Faction – – –

Advertisements

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone – Book Review

Book Review

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead Book CoverMax Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead is fantasy of a different flavor. Instead of taking our world and adding magic (such as Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops), this is a world born of magic that has progressed to a point that mirrors our modern age. It’s a story of magical corporations and necromancer lawyers.

I bet I’ve got your attention now.

As a first-year associate of the necromantic firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, it’s up to Tara Abernathy to solve the murder of a dead God and bring him back to life. If she doesn’t, the city of Alt Coulomb will crumble into chaos. Her only chance is to win in court against opposing counsel.

It may seem like a stretch, a fantasy book based on lawyers rather than warriors, but that’s its true beauty. Gladstone managed to write a beautifully clever story. And he did it in a way that made the idea of fantasy lawyers interesting. It’s a novel that tackles important ideas of faith, politics and the privileged while keeping the excitement of magical duels with shadow and nightmare.

It’s unfortunate how uncommon strong female leads are. Fortunately, Gladstone decided to give us two strong female leads in his debut novel. Tara is a prodigal daughter who was graduated from the Hidden Schools just so they could cast her out, from a thousand feet in the air. She’s talented in the use of the Craft and has a sharp, ready whit that’s fun and likable. Her mentor, Elayne Kevarian on the other hand is the cool, detached master of her trade that is always five steps ahead and radiates power and elegance.

Our trio of protagonists is rounded out with the chain-smoking priest Abelard. The last person to be with the God, Kos Everburning, before his death, he’s understandably going through a crisis of faith. It’s through Abelard and his questions that we come to understand the ramifications of the death of his God. To Tara, it’s a client, to Abelard; it’s his purpose in life. Some of the most interesting pieces of prose are in watching this man deal with that loss.

There are a couple of antagonists throughout the book but it was the primary enemy that really caught my eye. It’s a villain you’re trained to hate from the moment you understand his history with the heroines. He’s the crazy yet charming villain we all find ourselves eerily drawn to.

The narrative requires a small buy-in of your time. That is, you’ll have to work a little bit to follow the influx of characters. Gladstone never goes so low as to info dump but he does dive straight into the world and expect you to figure it out and follow along. You shouldn’t worry it will ever be too much though, as the prose includes a healthy dose of fun and freedom that makes it much easier to swallow.

And it’s those moments of fun that strongly resonate. One such moment was the casual mention of Tara cackling loudly as she raised the dead early in the book. It’s a little diamond of self-aware prose that made me fall in love with Tara as a character and Gladstone as an author. That’s without getting into the vampire pirates or the gargoyles that have been exiled from the city yet still leave claw marks in the buildings that are poems to their Goddess.

Gladstone struck gold when he wrote this secondary-world fantasy that explores modern society. It features all of the things we love about fantasy in a world that is familiar yet strange. In this book you’ll find echoes of your own life, just with more starlight-fueled magic.

Book Synopsis:

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

– – – This review was originally posted at Fantasy-Faction – – –

Servant of the Crown by Brian McClellan – Novella Review

Book Review

Servant of the Crown by Brian McClellan

Servant_of_the_Crown_01Brian McClellan does something a little different with his Powder Mage universe. Instead of relying solely on his publishing deal for full-length works, he also produces short fiction that  adds meaning to the novels. As of this post, he’s released five such stories, the latest being Servant of the Crown, a story in which we finally discover how he met his fated other half, Erika.

Captain Tamas is a member of the Adran military, a commoner who worked his way through the ranks to get as far as he has, with ambitions to go higher. McClellan wastes no time in painting us a very vivid picture of Tamas’ hatred for the nobility. The clashing ideals and personalities between Tamas and the entitled nobles forms the crux of the novella.

Soon the King himself becomes involved along with one of the privileged sorceresses of the royal cabal, which leaves Tamas to be nothing more than a pawn on a chessboard he barely understands.

The only help Tamas receives is from a young Kez noblewoman, a girl named Erika who is a powder mage herself, albeit one who has been forced to hide her powers from a country that despises her kind. Last seen in the short story Forsworn, Erika has become enamored with the idea of Tamas’ rise to power in the military and his advocacy for powder mages.

McClellan’s writing is as tight as ever and still manages to contain the intensity of a summer blockbuster into writing. While the explosions and impossible shots are still a treat to read the true delight came in the banter between Tamas and Erika. Their chemistry is strong and their dialogue is some of the most genuine representations of early couples I’ve had the pleasure to read.

There are numerous ways to experience Servant of the Crown, but I’d recommend the direct method and getting it from the source? Check out Brian’s books and collection of short stories here.

 

Synopsis:

Captain Tamas is an ambitious young officer in the Adran army. As a commoner, he is one of very few without noble blood to hold a rank. When he challenges the son of a duke over an insult, the subsequent duel lands him in hot water with the nobility and the royal cabal of Privileged sorcerers. Tamas is soon drawn into a conflict that goes to the very highest office in the land, and his only ally is the most unlikely of people; a young noblewoman named Erika, who needs Tamas to teach her how to wield her powers as a powder mage.

Occurs about thirty-five years before the events in Promise of Blood.

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan – Book Review

Book Review

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

91WXPFBCv+L._SL1500_Brian McClellan authored one of my favorite debuts of 2013. His first novel Promise of Blood was filled with everything I want in an original work of fiction. Now, the second book, The Crimson Campaign has hit shelves.

Each successive book by a new author is a risk. “Will the audience like it?” “Can it live up to the first?” “What if the author hits a sophomore slump?” Luckily for us, McClellan not only matched the spark of his first book, but he surpassed it as well.

The dialogue is tighter, the action scenes more intense and the drama has never been more real.

The Crimson Campaign is an addictive blend of a summer blockbuster and a military history. Only this time there’s an angry god, powder mages and gifted detective with nothing to lose.

All of the characters we came to enjoy from The Promise of Blood are back, some with an expanded role. Bo, a relatively minor character from the first book, is full of the confidence and snark you’d expect from a member of the Royal Cabal. His self-assured attitude and gifted ability to manipulate the Else (sorcery) made Bo a breakout character in this new volume and one of my favorites.

Meanwhile, Tamas and Taniel are facing their own problems as the Kez continue their war against Adro. Tamas is trapped behind enemy lines with only a small unit of soldiers. Cut off from anyone who could help, he is forced to manipulate the situation to his own advantage while he is pursued relentlessly. In the first book we only got a glimpse at why this man rose to the rank of field marshal. Finally, the famed tactician is shown to us. He rises to MacGyver levels of ingenuity to slow those dogging his heels.

Taniel, however, is facing his own problems. Tamas’ disappearance has left him in a precarious position as the new leaders of the military begin to question whether or not Taniel deserves to be a captain when he can’t follow orders. Oh, and he’s got a crazed, one-eyed god hunting him for revenge.

The plot is filled with constant action and excitement as McClellan deftly wields the mythology and characters of the world he’s created into something truly great. There will always be stories that are transparently flat, no more depth than what’s necessary to finish the plot. McClellan, like many great authors, has instead added layer upon layer to his books (and short stories) to create a world that thrums with the beat of its own heart.

McClellan has burst onto the fantasy scene with the explosive power of a powder keg. His books are among those that will be remembered for the genuine characters, tense conflict and inspired world where gunpowder fuels magic and white-gloved sorcerers vie for power. Simply put, it’s brilliant.

Book Synopsis:

When invasion looms…

Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home…

In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?

Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN is the epic sequel to Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood.

Last to Rise by Francis Knight – Book Review

Last to Rise by Francis Knight Book Review

Last to Rise CoverFantasy-Noir. That was all I needed to hear before I hit the “buy” button on amazon for this series. Delving into the subgenres of fantasy has been a fun and rewarding experience as I come across books that aren’t the traditional “knight saving a princess.” These books are even, in many cases, leagues better than those types of books. Last to Rise is the end to what has grown to be one of my favorites in recent times. While I’m sad to see it go, Francis Knight ends the book in a picture-perfect way that left me smiling in approval.

The towering vertical city of Mahala is on the brink of war with its neighboring countries. It might be his worst nightmare, but Rojan and the few remaining pain mages have been drafted in to help. The city needs power in whatever form they can get it — and fast. With alchemists readying a prototype electricity generator, and factories producing guns faster than ever, the city’s best advantage is still the mages. Tapping their power is a risky plan, but with food in the city running out, and a battle brimming that no one is ready for, risky is the best they’ve got…

The run down city that built up instead of out, Mahala is one of the hallmarks of the series. Our final installment has us running up and down the many levels, and subsequent social standing, of the city giving us a true look at the current state of the inhabitants as the siege rages on outside. While I know what the author was going for when she introduced the “phantom bacon” smell I was a little put off by the fact that seemingly no one else noticed but Rojan. In a city full of starving people the greasy deliciousness that is bacon should have been more of a thing amongst the populace. I did however enjoy the reveal of what the “phantom bacon” smell actually was though and it was a weird piece that had me grinning with the thought process that must have gone behind it. Little touches like this are where the majority of faults can be found in the book. Each of these are small enough details that they can be overlooked without too much hassle on the part of the reader so they can enjoy the overall story. Most of the characters return in standard form over the course of the story. Pasha remains fiercely devoted to Jake, Lise remains spunky and immersed in developing new tech, and Perak juggles the cardinals and a corrupt government while enemies try to break down the gates. Jake takes a side role and Erlat, the prostitute with a heart for Rojan, takes her place in a spot closer to center stage and keeps the looming threat of the Black from consuming Rojan’s sanity. Rojan returns in fine form for the conclusion. This pessimistic hero constantly faced the impending battle outside the city and never gave up. While this is standard amongst fantasy heroes it shines all the brighter in Last to Rise as the theme of sacrifice plays a heavy role in the book, from the magic system, to the character motivations, to the city itself. Knight is smart to keep her world from falling prey to the idea of redeeming a dystopia. Instead she grounds her finale in a realistic, for the world, ending that left me a little speechless at the end. Pain and sacrifice are very real and very important to a book with pain mages and darkness that looms around Mahala. I’m glad to see Knight stay true to that idea and away from any rainbows and butterflies on the final pages.

Forsworn by Brian McClellan – Novella Review

Forsworn by Brian McClellan
Book Review

Forsworn-1.5-mbFor $0.99 Brian McClellan has been practically giving away short stories set in the same world as his Powder Mage Trilogy. Now, he has a new story up on his website, a novella this time for $2.99. Forsworn has the quality of story, depth of characters, and an increased page count that makes it all well worth it. Do yourself a favor and dive back into the world of powder mages, sorcerers, and gunpowder firearms. I promise, you won’t regret it.

This novella focuses on Erika ja Leora and a young girl named Norinne, both Powder Mages living in Kez, where such sorcery is punishable by death. While I keep yearning for a Tamas, Taniel, or Ka-poel story, McClellan is smart to keep such characters as cameos only. These short bits of writing are a wonderful exploration of new characters and the occasional reaction to the main characters is more powerful than any one story focused on Tamas or the others.

Once again, McClellan manages to write a wonderfully described world in the time of gunpowder and muskets. While the bulk of this book is set in a noble’s estate and in a carriage, it’s written in a way that feels more cinematic than many writers out there today. I could clearly picture the small practice yard used for fencing or the carriage making it’s way along a mountainside pass covered in snow. It was all realized with masterful writing that reaffirmed my initial opinion after reading Promise of Blood nearly a year ago – Brian McClellan is a writer of great visual skill.

The worldbuilding and history is setup in bits and pieces, as the novella length allows. The idea of powder mages being branded and the first look at the air rifles used in the books is a wonderful addition that makes the world feel real. This is tied directly into McClellan’s ability to stage and foreshadow his writing with a grace that isn’t seen as often as it should be amongst new writers. One particular bit of worldbuilidng concerning families who discover their children have the skill to be powder mages sent shivers down my spine later in the book, as I feared the worst. The fact that as I was reading the epilogue I was so emotionally invested as to shout at my ereader should be a marker for the author’s accomplished skills.

With the news that The Crimson Campaign, book two in the Powder Mage Trilogy, was pushed back to a new May release date, it’s comforting to see McClellan publish these short stories and novellas to keep us held over. It’s a brilliant marketing technique. The cheap price will give new initiates a chance to explore the world and Brian’s writing without feeling too guilty if they don’t like it. Fans of the first book are able to explore the world and the characters in more depth while they wait for the new book.

It’s a technique I hope more authors will take note of and adopt. Especially those authors, who shall not be named, who take 1+ years between books.

I haven’t had a chance to reread Promise of Blood since it came out last January. But these short stories have kept the world of Powder Mages and Privileged in my imagination. Be sure to pick up Forsworn and get immersed once more into the world of muskets and magic that Brian has so painstakingly created.

You can pick up Forsworn for your E-Reader of choice at his shop here.

– – –

Summary:

Erika ja Leora is a powder mage in northern Kez, a place where that particular sorcery is punishable by death. She is only protected by her family name and her position as heir to a duchy.

When she decides to help a young commoner—a powder mage marked for death, fugitive from the law—she puts her life and family reputation at risk and sets off to deliver her new ward to the safety of Adro while playing cat and mouse with the king’s own mage hunters and their captain, Duke Nikslaus.

Brandon Sanderson – Author Interview

Hello! Most of you probably know the name Brandon Sanderson, a New York Times Bestselling Author, author of over a dozen stories, as well as the man chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga. I had a chance to interview Brandon right before the release of his latest novel, Steelheart. I hope you all enjoy what he has to say!

The following is a transcription from audio Mr. Sanderson recorded specifically for this post.

– – –

  • Brandon-Sanderson-author-photo-776x1024Welcome Brandon Sanderson! I’m very excited for this chance to send along some interview questions and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. So, diving right into it, what is the biggest factor in your output of writing and how do you manage to keep track of so many works as well as the bits of inspiration that don’t have a home in a particular series yet?

I use a personal wiki and my own bizarre mental methodology. Here’s something else about the way I work: new projects excite me. In fact, I’m often dangling the new project in front of myself as incentive to finish my current project. It’s part of what I like about my job, always being able to do something new. It keeps me productive as a writer.

  • You’ve had a large amount of success for your novels, so much so that a lot of your work has had the option of being produced in other mediums. A potential Mistborn movie, an option for a television series based on Legion (both of which are up in the air still I believe?) and the Mistborn: Birthright video game developed by Little Orbit. How do you think these other mediums could help and/or hurt the overall narrative flow of these worlds you’ve crafted?

That’s a good question I’ve also wondered about. The larger your continuity gets, the more difficult these things are. At the same time, I think it’s worth it because there are certain types of stories you can explore in these other mediums that you can’t explore as well in a novel. It’s something I definitely want to dabble in, but I worry about the continuity becoming unwieldy.

  • Speaking of the Mistborn video game, you agreed to the deal on the condition that you would be able to write the script for the game. How has that process differed from your work on your novels and has it sparked any interest in writing for other mediums, such as video games, television, etc., more often?

We’ve been working with the developer, and they haven’t gotten to the point where it’s time for me to write the script yet. The process might be different. It might not be. I’ve noticed a lot of writers will script the video game and then immediately write the novel. I want to tell this story within the medium of video games, so my goal will not be to write the video game and then write the novelization of the video game. We’ll see if that happens or not, though.

  • Having a part in completing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series must have propelled your craft considerably given the complexity of the series and the importance of getting it right. Not to mention the attention from fans everywhere that have been waiting for the conclusion of this series since it debuted in 1990. Now that The Wheel of Time is finished do you feel caught in Robert Jordan’s, and the entire series, shadow?

I mention this a little bit in a video I recorded for Google Play. But no, I haven’t felt caught in his shadow so far, though I don’t b9e6d7fb4bd5ab5cfab43160935e0ecbreally mind if I am. Even if I’d never been involved with finishing The Wheel of Time, I’d still be caught in Robert Jordan’s shadow because he was the dominant writer in the field during the era when I was learning and growing as a writer and becoming the novelist I am today. It’s less a matter of being caught and more a matter of standing on his shoulders, especially now that I was able to work on his project.

I wrote in my eulogy of Robert Jordan how in my writing I’ve sometimes chosen to react against The Wheel of Time just because I felt that The Wheel of Time had done what it did so well. I’ll probably continue to do that, but it’s not a matter of escaping his shadow. I just want to tell stories. It’s not an ego thing for me. I get to write the stories. People read them and seem to like them. That’s awesome! I don’t really worry about the rest.

  • Your writing includes the big cosmere-related novels as well as shorter pieces of work to break it up during the year. The Emperor’s Soul was one such project, which recently won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. These shorter pieces are a great way to break things up and as you’ve said recharge your creative batteries. Other than Steelheart which is releasing soon, what is the next shorter piece you’re working on?

The next shorter piece I’m working on is a short novelette or novella called Sixth of the Dusk, which is a writing exercise I’m doing with the Writing Excuses team for my podcast. We all brainstormed with one another on-air last year, and then I wrote a story based on that. Then we workshopped it on-air, and that episode should go up fairly soon. Then I’ll do a last revision of it and put it up for people to buy, though I’m not sure yet when that will happen. I screen-captured myself writing the story, so I’ll probably post that video for free. That’s a fun sort of experiment to let aspiring writers see the process of brainstorming, the first draft, and the last draft.

The next thing that’s being released is my novella in George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s Dangerous Women anthology. I’m very proud of this story, called Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. Getting invited to one of George and Gardner’s anthologies is a huge honor. They pick dream teams for every one of their anthologies, so getting asked was awesome. As for novels, the next major project of mine is Words of Radiance, coming out in March.

WordsOfRadiance_Cover

  • Your work in the cosmere as well as the introduction of a big multi-volume epic, the Stormlight Archive, is a tremendous undertaking of time and effort. Have you ever been worried that you may have bitten off more than you can chew, that is either in its structure and length or for health and personal reasons, such as Robert Jordan who unfortunately passed away before the conclusion of The Wheel of Time?

No, I don’t really. I say that with a smile because I’m an epic fantasy writer. I dream big! Sure, every runner before they start their first marathon probably wonders, “Am I actually going to be able to finish this thing?” But at the same time, this is what I’ve dreamed of doing for my entire career, so I don’t think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I hope the fans will stick around with me for it, but Steven Erikson proved that you could do a ten-book series in a reasonable amount of time. He’s kind of a model and example for the rest of us in getting his large Malazan series finished, and he did a great job of it. So, he proves it can be done. I just have to step up and get to work.

  • The majority of your body of work rests in the fantasy genre and has given you an appropriate amount of success based on the incredible work you’ve done so far. You have dabbled in the realm of science fiction, including your short story “Firstborn”, and you have plans to extend the Mistborn universe into science fiction with a third trilogy, after a trilogy set in modern times. Do you have any plans, even in the distant future, for a standalone or series set entirely in the realm of science fiction, a space opera or something similar?

Yes, I’m definitely going to do some science fiction and space opera. I’m holding off on doing any longer works right now because the longer books I want to write are actually in worlds connected to my fantasy series. There are several of those I want to do. I will eventually get to them, but it’s going to take a little bit of time before I’m in the right place to do these stories. There are some great space operas in the cosmere that I want to tell.

  • The “Sanderson Laws” have become rather popular amongst the fantasy community. Have you given any consideration into expanding and crafting more “laws” to help aspiring genre writers design their settings?

Yes. I’ve actually got three or four that I’m working on. Keep in mind, I call them “Sanderson’s Laws” because these are my laws to myself. They are the ways I approach writing magic systems. They are not rules you need to follow, but reading them might help you understand at least how one person approaches magic systems. Sanderson’s Third Law should go up sometime this week.

  • 91WYnaA6QNL._SL1500_Steelheart is your latest published work. It’s a young adult novel that features a hero that is normal, without any extraordinary powers. Joel, the protagonist of The Rithmatist was also unable to use the magic of that world. What are the benefits of writing a story from the viewpoint of someone removed from such an important part of the setting and why did you choose to do this?

Basically this is me reacting against myself. The biggest benefit for me is that I get to try something different. Whenever I notice a theme—something I feel like I’m doing a little too often—I will say, “How can I approach this from a different perspective and try a different type of story?” I did this for two very different reasons in those two books.

In The Rithmatist it helps cement Joel as an outsider. It helps that feeling of distance. He desperately wants to be in, but through a quirk of birth, he is not in, and that’s part of the story. For David in Steelheart, it’s less about being an outsider and more about the story being more interesting for me because it’s about a normal person fighting back against basically a supervillain, and what you do when you don’t have the power to bring someone like that down. That makes an interesting conflict for me. So I’m approaching it from two different directions, but it is me trying to explore something that I haven’t done as much.

  • Thank you for giving me this chance to interview you and before we go is there anything else you might like to say or add?

Thank you very much for the interview. I hope people look into Steelheart. I’ve been posting a lot of cool stuff about it, specifically about the tour. So if you don’t mind throwing in a link to the Steelhunt to let people know what I’m doing, I would appreciate it.

– – –

We’d like to thank Mr. Sanderson again for taking the time to talk with us. His lastest novel, Steelheart, is out now. You can learn more about it on his website or you can follow him on Twitter.

Hope’s End by Brian McClellan – Short Story Review

Hope’s End – A Powder Mage Review
by Brian McClellan

rsz_1371-1Brian McClellan is one of the biggest debut authors of 2013. His first novel, Promise of Blood, was a success. His writing is cinematic and holds such a strong visual component it really felt like the written word equivalent of seeing a summer blockbuster. Not only that but Brian turned out to be an incredibly nice guy, as this interview showed.

He’s also taken a different route than one normally sees amongst authors, releasing short stories set in the Powder Mage world periodically until the release of book two, The Crimson Campaign coming this February. Maybe this is a sign of the changing times and the power of the internet, but color me excited if this catches on amongst other authors. I can never get enough of the worlds I love and I’m sure everyone else here feels the same.

It was in June that Brian released The Girl of Hrusch AvenuePowder Mage short story that focuses on Vlora as a little girl. For $.99 on Amazon, I said that Girl of Hrusch Avenue was the perfect toe-dipping piece to decide if Promise of Blood was worth your time. (Spoiler Alert: It totally is and you should get it now if you haven’t already.)

But now he’s back with another short story. This one, titled Hope’s Endis a little bit different. It focuses on Captain Hopes-End_01Verundish, a female officer in the Adran military serving under General Tamas (years before the events of Promise). In the midst of a siege against the Gurlish stronghold of Darjah, Verundish must make a difficult decision to ensure the two people she loves most are taken care of.

Hope’s End is by no means the most lengthy of works, coming in right around 8,000 words. Yet what Brian manages to accomplish in that space is exciting and compelling. It’s hard not to feel a connection to Captain Verundish as she contemplates one dark decision after another, all to keep her daughter safe.

General Tamas, of course, is a treat to see, especially as it’s set in a time before his promotion to Field Marshall and the events of the first book. Unlike Promise of Blood Tamas as a General is still limited by his superior officers, forced to follow the orders of Field Marshall Beravich even when it conflicts with his own sense.

I won’t go too much further into the plot, 8,000 words and $.99 should be enough to get you to do that for yourself, but I will say the story is well worth it. It contains all of the elements of a longform novel distilled into the smaller space. The emotional hooks are there from the beginning and the rousing battle in the finale stirs your blood in excitement as you hope for success and dread the worst possible outcome.

Hope’s End is out now, either through services such as Amazon or at Brian McClellan’s own webpage.

Captain Verundish has two problems. On campaign with the Adran army and far from her homeland, she is helpless when the young daughter she left at home is threatened. To make matters worse, General Tamas has put her lover in command of a Hope’s End—the first charge through a breach straight into the teeth of enemy cannon and sorcery. To save the people she loves, Verundish will have to come up with a deadly solution…

SPOTLIGHT – Penny Arcade: Lookouts, Thornwatch, The Tithe

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Spotlight on Fantasy is a new segment I’m bringing to the blog that is meant to call attention to pieces of work in the fantasy genre that are not novels and outside of the typical “mainstream” of media consumption (movies, books, video games). To introduce this segment I’ve decided to take a look at the Penny Arcade series: The Lookouts.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.47.54 PM

Penny Arcade is an online webcomic that was formed in 1998 that focuses on video games and video game culture along with the exploits of Gabe and Tycho, characters that are very loosely based on the creators Mike Krahulik (illustrator) and Jerry Holkins (writer) respectively.

The comic is updated on a Mon, Wed, Fri schedule that is accompanied with regular updates to the blog on the website. In the 15 years since its inception, the Penny Arcade brand has grown tremendously. There are now 3 massively popular video game related conventions that Penny Arcade puts on – PAXPrime, PAXEast, and PAXAustralia. They also organize and run Child’s Play, a charity that organizes toy drives to children’s hospitals. It is meant to help dispute the perception that gamers are violent and antisocial by mainstream media. Since it began in 2003 donors have sent in more than $12 million in toys, games and books to children’s hospitals.

It was early June of 2009 that Penny-Arcade, one of the titan’s of the online comic industry, introduced a series of three potential comics that they would run while they were at the San Diego Comic Con. Amongst those three candidates was The Lookouts, which came to be known as a fantasy equivalent of the Boy Scouts. During the initial post that accompanied the inaugural comic, the artist, Mike Krahulik (a.k.a Gabe) described the Lookouts as follows:

“The world of the Lookouts is a wild one. The majority of it is covered in a dense magical forest called the Eyrewood. Human settlements are few and far between. Learning to navigate and live alongside the forest is a necessity. Men must protect the few roads they have through the woods and as the Lookouts’ creed says, “What men must know a boy must learn.” Young boys in this world join the Lookouts and are taught the ways of the forest.”

 Initial Proposal Strip for Lookouts

The Lookouts received so much love and appreciation from fans that although it didn’t win that initial polling it was something Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins couldn’t abandon. They asked Becky Dreistadt to  illustrate the rest of that story in July of 2009. It wasn’t until nearly a year later in April of 2010 that The Lookouts would make another appearance in a six-strip series titled “A Boy Must Learn.”

Lookouts Comic Archive at Penny Arcade

July of 2012 brought the world of the Lookouts into full comic book form. A six-issue series available at ComiXology broadens the depth of the Eyrewood world that couldn’t be contained in 3-panel strips. The story itself is an intriguing one and there is plenty of bonus content at the end of each issue explaining some of the badges you can earn as a Lookout. It’s definitely worth the price of admission and I would wholeheartedly endorse the purchase of each issue.

Lookouts Comic Books at COMIXOLOGY

The Eyrewood has been fleshed out since 2009, growing to include two more segments that are set in the Eyrewood and work in tandem with The Lookouts series. Each of these are able to stand on their own and offer the possibility for a magnum opus their own. The folks at Penny Arcade have instead opted to stack each of these segments and let them inform and enhance one another.

Thornwatch was the second segment readers were introduced to in 2012. Thornwatch was originally devised as a card game that is a tabletop RPG (role-playing game). The members are each represented by a deck of cards and the player would use these decks in order to duel others. Krahulik spent time devising the game mechanics and had a series of news posts that focused on the process while he play-tested with friends. It was on September 16, 2013 that Krahulik (Gabe) announced Penny Arcade was exploring options and hopes to see it available next year for distribution.

The story behind The Thornwatch is that they are a group of oathbreakers and criminals in the eyes of the boys of the Lookouts. They are men and women that have left their duties and instead travel the Eyrewood waiting to be summoned. Krahulik explains the spell as such:

“They are summoned by tying a wreath of thorns around a birch tree. The knot you tie (and the blood you shed) finishes the spell that summons the Thornwatch and also informs them of your particular problem.”

Krahulik likens the Thornwatch to the A-Team, drawing parallels between the two groups and showcasing that while they might not always follow the rules, their intentions are generally good. A three-strip series ran that showcased the group and officially introduced the concept.

First Strip of Thornwatch Comic

i-6m6cPXx

The final segment of the Eyrewood world focuses on the Girl Scout equivalent to The LookoutsThe Daughters of the Eyrewood have been hinted at since the very beginning but information hasn’t surfaced until September of 2013.

Penny Arcade is running an extended series of strips that focuses on Hanna, a young girl who wakes up one morning with flowers growing in her hair (pictured above with the Thornwatch). She is called away from her home and deep into the Eyrewood to discover what being a Daughter means.

Holkins has spent time crafting songs and poems for the Eyrewood world, in particular for Hanna’s story. One particular poem is as follows:

“Secret a coin in your travelling show,
Fasten your half-cloak, better to roam;
Shake out your tallboots; make sure you have two,
And you’ll never have to go home.
Dance, though your mother and father be weeping,
Pull on your hood, you’ve no need of a comb;
Walk while the worst of the forest is sleeping,
And you’ll never have to go home.”

Daughters of the Eyrewood Comic – The Tithe

i-pCgNPvN

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The Eyrewood has grown since it’s initial concept was revealed in ’09. The Lookouts, Thornwatch, and the Daughters each crafting a portion of the triangle that makes up this world. There is so much to look forward to, Holkins has even mentioned the possibility of his crafting an entire novel based in this world, something that sounds remarkable for the worldbuilding and character development that only a novel can afford such a strong narrative.

EDIT: Gabe pointed on his website a quote from the forums from user PedroAsani that sums up the Eyrewood groups perfectly.

“From what I understand, based on the comics on the site and the Cryptozoics, the three factions have loose affiliations based on their mandates.

Lookouts: protect the village from the things in the forest.
Daughters: protect the forest from everything. Sometimes that means the people in the village.
Thornwatch: protect the vulnerable from the village and the forest.

So sometimes their goals align, sometimes they are opposed.”

– – –

*All images are owned by Penny Arcade*

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff – ARC Book Review

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff – ARC Book Review

Kinslayer FINAL

Kinslayer is Jay Kristoff’s latest installment in his Lotus War series. The story picks up not long after the end of Stormdancer, Shogun Yoritomo is dead at the hands of our hero Yukiko, the empire is in turmoil as to who will be the successor, and the Kage still lurk in the shadows – intent on toppling the regime of the Guild.

Stormdancer set the stage for Yukiko to become a Stormdancer, a hero out of legend that works in tandem with an arashitora, a tiger/eagle hybrid that commands thunder and the skies with fearsome pride. Kinslayer delivers those promises in spades, as Yukiko is raised to celebrity status amongst the citizens from her travels across the empire and speeches to the lowborn and commoners to rise above the fist of the Guild and the old regime and begin life anew.

Everything isn’t perfect for Yukiko however, as the Kenning, the ability that allows her to communicate telepathically with animals, has grown to dangerous levels. She can’t hear Buruu, her arashitora partner, without intense migraines and blood dripping from her nose and ears. To that end they set off to the North, on the hunt for a mysterious order that may provide answers. But they find more than they bargained for in foreign waters.

Kin, the young Guildsman who ran away from the order, returns to the Kage and pledges himself to the cause. Joining him is Ayane, a female Guildsmember with a hub of metallic spider legs implanted against her spine. The two former Guildsmembers face distrust and oftentimes violence against the prejudiced Kage. No one in the Kage are willing to look past Kin and Ayane’s former lives and see their true intentions.

Kin’s sections were the most compelling as the reader is forced to watch Kin and Ayane endure punishment after punishment. It’s an interesting examination of what lengths someone is willing to endure to help a just and righteous cause. At what point is it too much to bear?

Along with Yukiko and Kin we’re introduced to three new characters: Yoshi, Jurou, and Hana. Three lowborn in Kigen City that struggle with their station in life after Yukiko upset the balance and established order.

Yoshi and Jurou are lovers and work together; with the help of Yoritomo’s ironthrower (handgun) they recovered after his death and Yoshi’s Kenning, to rob members of the Yakuza. With their stolen cash they plan on leaving the city and living the life they think they deserve with Yohsi’s sister Hana.

buruu

Hana, meanwhile, has already volunteered to join the city cell of the Kage. She’s busy using her job as a chamber pot maid at the palace to keep tabs on Aisha, the late Shogun’s sister and only surviving link to the imperial bloodline, and Michi, one of Aisha’s maidservants and secret member of the Kage held prisoner in the palace.

We’re also given brief passages concerning Hiro, the green-eyed samurai who was lover and betrayer to Yukiko. The Guild has raised him above his station to be the next Shogun and have pledged their full support and might behind him.

This book delivers on all of the promises made from Stormdancer. We get a better understanding of the world, and culture, outside of the Shima Islands. We watch society slowly crumble as the Kage seek to end the Guild while Hiro and the Guild do everything to clench to the fading powerbase.

yukiko

Anyone who follows Jay’s blog or his twitter is well aware of his unique brand of humor and some of my favorite sections are where this humor was allowed to shine through,while still remaining faithful to the world. It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air and had me pause my reading to enjoy the change in tone a simple line or paragraph would bring.

Kinslayer will be released on September 17, 2013, which gives everyone who hasn’t had the chance to read Stormdancer yet plenty of time to get caught up. A wonderful blend of steampunk, in a Japanese setting, with mythic creatures should be enough to catch everyone’s interest.

Kinslayer is Book Two in Jay Kristoff’s critically acclaimed Lotus War series that began with Stormdancer, featuring an unforgettable heroine and a stunningly original Japanese dystopian steampunk world

A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The toxic blood lotus flower continues to ravage the land, the deadlands splitting wider by the day. The machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild conspire to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.