28 February, 2010

Winner: Left Hand of God, by Paul Hoffman

Congratulations to Kay Anna K. from GA on winning an uncorrected proof copy of The Left Hand of God, by Paul Hoffman. Sadly, there were no snarky comments this week, so you will all have to wait till the Seeds of Earth giveaway by Michael Cobley finishes up to get your fill. I hope every one had a good weekend and stay tuned for more exciting posts this week.

For a teaser of things past, present and future make sure to follow Michael's Weekly Roundups, where spirit crushing knowledge of all things sf/f will let you know what's hot and what's not.

27 February, 2010

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #09

Hello and welcome to issue #09 of my Weekly Roundup. Tomorrow is the last day of February. Where has the month gone? Concerning reading it has been a sad month. Three and a half books is far away from my planned six books. But finally I started to work on one of my New Year's resolutions - thanks tomy wife for putting pressure on me. Since last week we both go three times per week to a local fitness center. That means on the one hand less time for reading but on the other hand I do something for my health and to be honest I feel better. Blog wise you should have mentioned that we three post more regularly. And it seems that you our dear readers like the mix. Enjoy reading......

Bona Fide's Menu

Bona Fide's Post and Read Forecast
  1. Bona Fide's Forecast
  2. Bona Fide's Butcher's Bill: January Reads
  3. Bona Fide's February Reading List
  1. A book recommendation by Daniel Abraham
  2. Delivery of the week: Farlander by Col Buchanan
  3. Hijacking of the week: Soulless by Gail Carriger
  1. DRIN - Del Rey Internet Newsletter - February 2010
  1. German proverbs, sayings and idioms Goats....

Bona Fide's Post and Read Forecast

Bona Fide's posts in March 2010

Friday, March 5th, Review: The Stolen Moon of Londor (2009) [US] [UK] , by A.P. Stephens
First book in the The White Shadow Saga. Epic quest with elves, dwarves, wizards.......

Saturday, March 6th, Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #10
Content unknown so far

Friday, March 12th, Review: Farlander (2010) [US] [UK], by Col Buchanan
Another promising debut novel. The blurb is like a soft reverberation of The Malazan Empire

Saturday, March 13th, Bona Fide:Weekly Roundup #11
Content unknown so far

Friday, March 19th, Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010) [US] [UK], by J.K.Nemesin
A very promising debut novel.

Saturday, March 20th, Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup#12
Content unknown so far

Wednesday, March 24th, Review: The Exodus Gate (2009, 566 p.) [US][UK], Stephen Zimmer
Second series by Stephen Zimmer

Friday, March 26th, Review: Soulless (2009) [US] [UK], by Gail Carriger.
More and more people talk about it. I wanted to know more about vampires, werewolves and parasols.

Saturday, March 27th, Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup#13
Contains Bona Fide's Forecast for April 2010; Reading Forecast and the Reality; rest unknown

Bona Fide's Butcher's Bill: January Reads

I read and reviewed following three books
Seeds of Earth (2009) [US][UK], Michael Cobley
Spellwright (2010) [US March] [UK July], by Blake Charlton
The Stolen Moon of Londor (2009) [US] [UK] , by A.P. Stephens, will be posted on March 5th

I read 1/5th of the book in January. Wanted to continue in February and Failed. Will now continue in March.
The Gardens of the Moon (2009, 10th anniversary edtition) [US][UK], by Steven Erikson

I read 1/3rd of the book in February. I will finish and review it in March.
The Exodus Gate (2009, 566 p.) [US][UK], Stephen Zimmer

Again I didn't reach my target. There is one obvious reason for it: I have had less time for reading and reviewing. But I work on my schedule in order to optimize. Will see how it works in March.

Average Pages Per Day: 52
Average Publication Date: 2009
Average Books Per Day: 0.10
Books settled in London: NONE
Stolen moons: 1

Bona Fide's March Reading List
Even I missed my monthly reading goal of six books for the second time I plan again to read six books. Among my choice you find two debut novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Farlander. Beside this I will read my second sci-fi book in 2010: Crossover.

The Gardens of the Moon (2009, 10th anniversary edtition) [US][UK], by Steven Erikson
The Exodus Gate (2009, 566 p.) [US][UK], Stephen Zimmer
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010) [US] [UK], by J.K.Nemesin
Soulless (2009) [US] [UK], by Gail Carriger
Crossover (2006) [US] [UK], by Joel Shepherd
Farlander (2010) [US] [UK], by Col Buchanan


On last Monday Daniel Abraham - author of the Long Price Quartet - recommended a book on Facebook: "Do yourself a favor. Get this. You may quote me." Amazon.com: Bitter Seeds (9780765321503): Ian Tregillis: Books
I was curious and tried to find out what the book is about.
"Product Description
It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.
Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.
When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different."
About the Author
IAN TREGILLIS lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he works as a physicist at Los Alamos Laboratory. He is a member of the Wild Cards writing collective, directed by George R. R. Martin. Bitter Seeds is his first novel.

Ian Tregillis is also mentioned in the informative post series Authors Worth Watching, Spotlight 2 of 5 over at Stomping On Yeti. Anyway I put Bitter Seeds immediately on my list.

Delivery of the week
Today I received a my review copy of Farlander (2010) [US] [UK], by Col Buchanan. Thanks to Julie Crisp who is the editor of the book.
And this is the blurb
"The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.
The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army. Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the R shun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta.
Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink. When the Holy Matriarch's son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the R shun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution.
As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the R shun orders - their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports ...into bloodshed and death."
The cover is mouth-watering. There is a dirigible.....
Farlander hardback will be on sale on March 5th 2010
Unfortunately I can deliver you a review until March 5th. But you can read my review in two weeks time.

Hijacking of the week
Soulless (2009) [US] [UK], by Gail Carriger has been my Valentine gift for my wife. That was on February 14th.
I could resist thirteen days until I "hijacked" the book. Which means I started to read it.
The Blurb
"Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she is being rudely attacked by a vampire to whom she has not been properly introduced! Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?"

How could I withstand? London, Victorian Era combined with vampires and werwolves.
Maybe I can convince you to read it too. Listen to a free sample of the first chapter of Soulless!


I don't know whom of you receive DRIN - Del Rey Internet Newsletter. The February issue contains an article by Robert V.S. Redick - author of x and x - which I would like to share with you.

The Possibility and Promise of a Book
by Robert V. S. Redick

The Ruling Sea by Robert V.S. Redick

Fantasy extends the promise of a feast. Suppose you're watching a ship sail towards you across a choppy bay. As it draws near and you gain perspective, you see that it's very large–no, gigantic–no, monstrous, larger by half than any ship you've ever heard of, let alone seen. There's a mad captain at the wheel, and fantastically muscled ogres turning the capstan, a young woman guarded by blue mastiffs emerging from the forecastle house, tiny figures in the shadows, fitting three-inch arrows to their bows–

Stop. There's a setting for you: as it happens, my own, in The Ruling Sea, which Del Rey brought to the states on February 16 (yeah, baby!). Trouble is, that setting guarantees you precisely nothing. The book in question could be glorious, or ghastly. You simply can't know which until you start to read.

Now consider plot. In my four-book series The Chathrand Voyage, two empires–long estranged but intimately bound by ties of history–find themselves at a crossroads. For years, they've tried to practice a kind of benign neglect, because both sides have found that preferable to another chapter in their long, ruinous, unnecessary war. Or have they? As my heroes discover to their horror in Book I, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, smiles and vague words of peace can sometimes be the perfect cover for an assassination attempt.

But by the same token, a nice setup can be a perfect cover for a half-baked novel. Again, such summary information can only tell you about one aspect of a book—one that's not, by any stretch, the most important.

What is? Fortunately, that's still up to the individual reader. The best the market analysts can do is when, and how deeply, the readers begin to care. Of course, caring is not the same as cheering. Beloved books, like beloved people, don't only make us jump for joy. They can also make us sad, furious, frightened or scandalized. But they always make us feel.

Plenty of books–genre and mainstream, old and new–don't pass this personal test. Something colder–sterile craft perfectionism, or a desperate grab for literary chique, or geeky hand-rubbing over a Nifty Idea (vampires plus time travel plus gorgeous handbags plus...)–takes the place of the novel's heart. When that happens, I walk. You can fill that space in the chest cavity with dust or diamonds: this reader still won't care.

Idealistic? You might say. Don't get me wrong, though: I want millions–nay, billions–to love The Chathrand Voyage series, to devour the books, and me by extension. I've deployed my own Nifty Ideas, after all: one former mentor asked if there was anything left in the sorcerer's lab, or was it all in the bubbling cauldron?

I don't know the magic spell that summons billions to the bookshops. Only Ms. J.K.R. knows that, and she can't be bribed. But I can promise you one thing: love The Ruling Sea or hate it, you won't ever ask yourself if the writer was indifferent. Happy sailing—and don't go barefoot on the lower decks.

You liked the article? Then give the entertaining Chatrand Voayge series a go.In the meantime the first two books are available: The Red Wolf Conspiracy and The Rats and the Ruling Sea.


This time I want to do something different. As you may know movies have different release dates depending on the country they are shown. I live in Germany and when I can trust the schedule of my favorite cinema I have to go there several times in March. These are trailers of the movies I want to watch together with my wife:

The film, based on the novel "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane, is an atmospheric psychological thriller set in a 1950s asylum for the criminally insane.



Nearly three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered by oceans.
(Don't get confused by the very short Italian introduction

And now tell me which movies are on your agenda for March.


The Men Who Stare At Goats inspired me to search for quotes related to goats........

" Don't approach a goat from the front, a horse from the back, or a fool from any side.
Yiddish proverb

"Bring me A bowl of coffee before I turn into a goat.
Johann Sebastian Bach, German composer and musician (1685 -1750)

"Put silk on a goat and it is still a goat.
Irish sayings

"SATYR, n. One of the few characters of the Grecian mythology accorded recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus, xvii, 7.) The satyr was at first a member of the dissolute community acknowledging a loose allegiance with Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the faun, a later and decenter creation of the Romans, who was less like a man and more like a goat.
Ambrose Bierce, American writer and journalist (1842 - 1914)

26 February, 2010

Review: Spellwright, by Blake Charlton

2010 will also be a year of challenges. For the first time I will get a copy of a book in two languages: English and German. I will read both and compare them. The German edition will be published in fall 2010. And this is the book: Spellwright (2010) [US] [UK] , by Blake Charlton which will get different covers in US (left) and UK (right).
The fastest way for me to get copy of the book was a download of a PDF version offered by Blake Charlton.
Readers who follow my posts know that I don't like to read books on my notebook.
But I was so eager to read Spellwright. I can tell you the reading was quite exhausting. After spending ten hours in front of a screen at work it was a pain to continue it at home.
I must admit the content of Spellwright was more than worth to take the trouble. But I don't want to repeat this procedure in near future except there is another awesome read.
Before I forget Spellwright is Blake Charlton's debut novel and at the same time the first book in the Spellwright trilogy and will be followed by Spellbound and Disjunction. but not his first writing experience. His short fiction Endosymbiont - which you can download in different formats here - has been published in the Seeds of Change anthology.
And now Let's have a look.....

You can't review Spellwright without talking about dyslexia, which
"is a learning disorder that manifests itself as a difficulty with reading, spelling and in some cases mathematics."
During his school time Blake Charlton had to cope with dyslexia. Read From Special Ed to Stanford Med for details. Blake's dyslexia has had a strong influence on Spellwright.

The Setup

I was thinking about either to write the setup in my own words or to skip and put a link instead or to post the author's text. Finally I decided to take Blake's text because his verbalizations are definitely not that quirky as my setup would be.
""Imagine a world in which you could peel written words off a page and make them physically real. You might pick your teeth with a sentence fragment, protect yourself with defensive paragraphs, or thrust a sharply-worded sentence at an enemy’s throat.
Such a world is home to Nicodemus Weal, an apprentice at the wizardly academy of Starhaven. Because of how fast he can forge the magical runes that create spells, Nicodemus was thought to be the Halcyon, a powerful spellwright prophesied to prevent an event called the War of Disjunction, which would destroy all human language. There was only one problem: Nicodemus couldn’t spell.
Runes must be placed in the correct order to create a spell. Deviation results in a “misspell”—a flawed text that behaves in an erratic, sometimes lethal, manner. And Nicodemus has a disability, called cacography, that causes him to misspell texts simply by touching them.
Now twenty-five, Nicodemus lives in the aftermath of failing to fulfill prophecy. He finds solace only in reading knightly romances and in the teachings of Magister Shannon, an old blind wizard who’s left academic politics to care for Starhaven’s disabled students.
But when a powerful wizard is murdered with a misspell, Shannon and Nicodemus becomes the primary suspects. Proving their innocence becomes harder when the murderer begins killing male cacographers one by one…and all evidence suggests that Nicodemus will be next. Hunted by both investigators and a hidden killer, Shannon and Nicodemus must race to discover the truth about the murders, the nature of magic, and themselves."" [Source]
My Take in Brief

What does Blake Charlton deliver on 352 pages ( yes, it is no door stopper) ?
From formal point of view Spellwright consists of a map, a Prolog and an Epilog which embrace 46 numbered and not too long chapters. It is a third-person narrated story. This is done via different person whereas the "hero" Nicodemus Weal covers the most.

The novel comes alive with ingredients which you know from other fantasy books: Gargoyles, golems, kobolds, demons, deities, villains, druids, wizards, apprentices, magic, prophecies, kingdoms, magical institutions from schools to confederations, and more... (psssst, you look for dragons? You lucky one. There is a red one...)

World wise we know from the map that there are six Kingdoms. But Spellwright is far away to be a travel quest novel. The most part of the story takes places in the magical academy Starhaven. All in all I found the world building sufficient. Of course it could be more but that would have led to a longer story.
Starhaven is in some case the grown up version of ... Hogwarts. Even apprentice Nicodemus Weal and his mentor Grand Wizard Agwu Shannon let you think of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore . But don't get me wrong. Spellwright is far more adult then the Harry Potter series. When I followed Nicodemus I also recognised that I compared him partially with Simon "Mooncalf", the "hero" of the awesome Memory, Sorrow and Thorne series by Tad Williams. I must admit that I like Nicodemus a lot. He is no super hero. There was a big smile on my face when I read that Nicodemus loves romances. For me the story of Nicodemus shows autobiographically traces (the youth, cacography - dyslexia). Blake Charlton used and transfered his own experience very well.

The story shows twists and turns. And the end is no big cliffhanger. Blake Charltons story telling is exceedingly charming, offers passion and twist you around the little finger within minutes.

So far I avoided to talk about the magic system because it is so incredibly sophisticated and unique that it deserves to be singled out. It is as extraordinary and well developed as the Allomancer concept by Brandon Sanderson.
Nicodemus held an introductory lesson about spellwriting. Let me quotes two passages which will give you a first glimpse:
"“So, how does one acquire magic language?” he asked, turning to the class. “Really it’s no different from learning a verbal or mathematical language.First, we learn the symbols. Verbal languages use letters, mathematical languages numbers, magical languages runes. However, anyone with a quill and an inkhorn can forge mundane text. Anyone with eyes can see mundane text. But to see or forge magical text, one must be born with a magically receptive mind.”" [p. 101]
"“So back to learning magical language. We’ve established that you all have literate minds. So armed, you can learn to forge runes within your muscles. And, as with any language, you will need to build a vocabulary and understand the grammar governing that vocabulary. After that, you will learn how to move the runes through your bodies, how to string them together in sentences, and finally how to cast them out into the world.”" [p. 102]
I don't want to go more into details because that would disturb your reading experience. But Let me emphasize that a misspell can cause serious problems from simple bone fractures over hazardous diseases like logorrhea where you vomit words and more up to death. To keep it short:

Spellwright breathes magic with every syllable!

Of course such a system needs explanations. I'm sure some people will say that the explanation are sometimes too long and influence the flow of reading. But not for me. Did you watch Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.and Judd Law? In case of yes you know that there are some fights where you get a detailed explanation about what will happen within the following seconds. And then you see the scene in normal speed. That was quite impressive and vivid. Blake Charlton does the same with his magic.

If you want to read one of the promising 2010 debut novels which is exceedingly charming, offers passion, breathes magic with every syllable and twist you around the little finger within minutes then there is no way out to read Spellwright.

I can't wait to read Spellbound and Disjunction. Well done Blake Charlton!

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

What is Bona Fide's Book Oracle? To keep it short. It is a palaver about the reviewed book held by ediFanoB and his alter ego Bona Fide. And I am the keeper of the minutes. Now read my minutes..

Bona: "
What the hell is that smell?" Fide[pinched]: "That was a SPELLWRONG! I casted FIND [Bona's nose] and SMELL (a sick donkey farting) instead of FIND [Bona's ear] and SOUND (a sick donkey farting)." Bona: "That smells horrible!! Luckily we don't use smogger, the advanced blogger tool." Fide: "Are you sure? Why is the keeper of the minutes suffocating? FIND and HIT [Keeper's nose]." Bona: "Ouch! Why did you hurt Keeper? His nose is bleeding." Fide: "That's quite simple. Pain superimpose smell." Bona: "Where did you learn SPELLWRONG er Spellwright?" Fide: "What a silly question. I read YDUTS-FLES A - SYAD NET NI THGIRWLLEPS. But nobody told me that I have to use a mirror to read it." Bona: "What else to expect from a brainless log." Fide: "You can't hurt me. FIND and CLOSE [Bona's Maul]." Bona [laughing]: "You can't mix two languages (MAUL is the German word for mouth, the keeper of the minutes). Fide: "I think I should stop SPELLWRONG and talk instead about Spellwright. I liked the gargoyles." Bona: "Are you insane? You can't speak about the book without getting tortured by me." Fide: "The times they are a-changin' ....." Bona[dumbfounded]: "...." Fide: "We need a doctor. Bona got tonguerrhea." Bona: "Shut up! Even you are a lousy wizard, the magic system of is plain and gorgeous at once in its uniqueness." Fide: "Where did you get that from? Too many drinks before our ravings? Shame on you!" Bona[fingers in ears]: "I can't hear you. I can't hear you." Fide: "In case someone is reading this. My sincerest apology. Forget Bona. Read Spellwright. It is exceedingly charming, offers passion and twist you around the little finger within minutes. What a debut of an author who definitely loves the genre." Bona: "As always it seems it is up to me to analyze Spellwright. You can't depend on Fide. Spellwright is such a ........" Fide[interrupting]: "book which you should read soon. We have to stop for now." Bona: "But...." I'm the keeper of the minutes. There has been plenty of time. But they talked about donkey farts. What shall I offer you dear Readers based on Bona and Fide's chitchat:

Spellwright is a must read because it is the first book where magic donkey farts are performed!

Please keep in mind that this is the opinion of Bona and Fide.
For a more serious appraisal read ediFanoB's take.

Some Amusing Spells

As I mentioned before is not without humor. Here are a few amusing spells:
The curse that had missed Nicodemus’s nose by inches had read, “FIND [John’s left butt cheek] and LABEL with (I’m a gelatinous poop sucker).”
Laughing uncontrollably, he cocked his massive arm and with an overhand throw cast “FIND and HIT [Devin’s right butt cheek].”
Simple John cast “FIND [Nicodemus’s ear] and SOUND (a sick donkey farting).”

More Blake Charlton

For more information about the author you can use following links: The official Blake Charlton website, Blake Charlton on Twitter, Blake Charlton on Facebook,

More Spellwright

Listen to The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Podcast, Episode 8: Magic! Medicine! Fantic Episy!

If you live in California you can look forward to the SPELLWRIGHT Book Tour. First stop will be

March 14th, 2:00pm: Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA (event page)

Look here for further details.

Origin of the copy

I received a copy in PDF format from author Blake Charlton..

25 February, 2010

Giveaway: Seeds of Earth, by Michael Cobley

Michael's review of Seeds of Earth strong-armed me into adding the book to my pile-0-shame. Nuf said.

Giveaway Rules

Want a copy of Seeds of Earth? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs till 3/10/10 @ 11:59 PM EST):

1) E-mail me [bloggeratf@gmail.com] your name and address, with the title of the book in caps, as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and the snarkiest comment of the week gets free entries for future giveaways.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways!
3) Think happy thoughts.
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on the blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds.
5) There is no rule number five. I just like odd numbers.

24 February, 2010

Quick Review - Sepulchral Earth by Tim Marquitz

As you can see from my review, I'm really glad I gave Armageddon Bound a chance. Tim has a unique sense of humor and writes one heck of an action scene. Needless to say, I've been converted.

In light of this, I was excited to be contacted with Tim's newest creation, Sepulchral Earth, The Long Road, part one of a serial novella set for release on March 1, 2010. As it's just under 50 pages, I'll make this quick. Here's the blurb:

Two years after the furious dead rose up to murder the living, the
remnants of mankind face a brutal extinction. Wretched and broken, trading
humanity for life, the survivors suffer under the inevitable shadow of

Aided by friendly spirits, the necromancer Harlan Cole wages war against
the merciless forces of the undead. Driven to bring peace to the souls of
his wife and daughter, Harlan vows to return the dead to their graves, or
join them trying.
This was a unique dark fantasy spin on the post-apocalyptic zombie tale that was able to suck me in from the beginning. Sepulchral Earth takes on a much more serious tone than Armageddon Bound, but still delivers on action and suspense while giving us an initial glimpse at the protagonist, Harlan Cole. Magic and monsters are combined as Harlan fends for his life and others on his journey to make the world whole again. I would recommend this to anyone who's remotely interested in the zombie sub-genre.

Sepulchral Earth, The Long Road (March 1, 2010; website) is being released in eBook (Kindle, PDF, etc.) and Trade Paperback according to Damnation Books' variable pricing. This is the first in 3 part series.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

22 February, 2010

Shadow Prowler Breaks All the Rules![sic]

Deviating from the standard review, I have something a bit special for you today. The Guardian, on its books blogs, posted a very neat article that was filled with tips on writing from great writers. The spec fic fan will quickly recognize both Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman who give us ten great writing bullet points to live by. For you entertainment pleasure, I give you the five rules that Shadow Prowler, by Alexey Pehov, sinfully breaks - and then breaks again.

From Elmore Leonard:

Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

I am guilty of breaking this rule myself, but Shadow Prowler makes my abuse look like a coffee addict standing next to a heroine junky!

This handy and sadly unheeded rule comes form Geof Dyer:

Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.

Absolute and total fail. Every single review of Shadow Prowler has lamented the fact that it is a massive ball of le cliche. I can confidently say that if sheer abundance of cliches makes for good reading, then Shadow Prowler is going to win The Locus, The Nebula, and The Nobel. On a side note, has spec fic ever won a Nobel?

This recommendation comes from Jonathan Franzen:

Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.

Ok, so Mr. Pehov only sort of breaks this rule. I found the first-person perspective to be engaging for the most part.

This next piece of mind-blowing advice comes from Margaret Atwood:

Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

OK, so I might have exaggerated a bit about the mind blowing part... Did you do back exercises Mr. Pehov? Did you?! (See what I mean about the exclamation points?!)

Last but not least, some more sage advise from Jonathan Frazen:

The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.

Wound within this rule lies my main criticism of the novel; I felt like a spectator and not a friend. Highly subjective I know, but just like this snarky pseudo-review I can't help but be myself.

As a last little side note, I want to add that the language was probably my favorite aspect of the book. The slightly off-kilter humor and the strange idioms gave the novel an authentic, almost earthy feel. So yes, chalk up some good points and unbroken rules for Shadow Prowler, but all in all a slightly childish and lackluster read that will send you running back into the arms of your favorite authors. Oh, and to whoever it was that compared this to the Wheel of Time and named it epic fantasy at its finest... ware my wrath.

21 February, 2010

News: The Truth of Valor, by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff, Valor series
One of my guilty pleasures is reading some of the wonderfully fast paced military sci-fi of Tanya Huff. Her Valor series is arguably my favorite in that self-indulgent niche, so I was very excited to learn that she has sent the fifth book, The Truth of Valor, to her publisher. She is forthcoming on her blog about future projects as well - next up seems to be Napoleonic Werewolves...

Anyway, for anyone that hasn't given the series a chance and enjoys spacey military action, the Valor series is highly recommended. Incidentally, in the same niche you will also find David Gunn and his Death's Head series, which is a bit rougher around the edges but enjoyable nonetheless.

Review - The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan

I've never been one to put up a huge fight when it comes to peer pressure and this is no exception. The Crown Conspiracy (2008, 310 p.) [US] [UK] has been around the blog-o-sphere and back and for good reason.

This may not be the most alluring of analogies, but do you ever have an itch that can only be scratched by a certain type of novel. That's exactly what The Crown Conspiracy did for me.

Lately I've been in the mood for something traditional(ish), something fast-paced and easy to read and that is exactly what The Crown Conspiracy provides.

The Setup

I think the blurb on the back says it best:

There is no ancient evil to defeat, no orphan destined for greatness, just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to murder the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out...and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.
My Take in Brief

There is much to be said about a novel that reads well. I've mentioned this before on my own blog, but a book that keeps you reading ranks high for me. Not only is it entertaining, but you look forward to getting back into the book each and every time you pick it up, if you have the self-control to ever put it down.

Atypical of many current series, The Crown Conspiracy does not contain much in the way of grittiness, yet it remains inventive (see discussion by James Long and Sam Sykes here). For half the story, I was convinced that I knew who the actual killer was only to be rebuffed. The plot moved quickly and even though some traditional fantasy archetypes show up, it is not in the usual way; including a wizard who provides little in the way of guidance as well as elves that are despised.

This is not your typical epic as has already been mentioned especially when looking at the size of the novels and yet Sullivan is able to make the characters come alive. The relationship between Royce, the thief, and Hadrian, the brawn, is great fun and still provides great mystery. Who are these people and how do they have such talents?

In terms of world-building, there is not an enormous amount, but I thought it fit the story very well. The reader is filled in by characters mostly through dialogue while the plot continues to move forward.

When Should You Read This?

Sullivan's The Crown Conspiracy reminds me of why I got into fantasy in the first place. It's filled with great characters that are fun, with protagonists who stick up for the little guy and do the thing that must be done. Largely self-contained, if you're in the mood for a quick-paced story that has a twist to your traditional fantasy and resolves the main plot, this is for you.

My Rating

4.25/5 (more than loved it, why aren't you reading this right now?)

Origin of the Copy

I purchased this copy of my own free will. :)

20 February, 2010

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #08

Hello and welcome to issue #08 of my Weekly Roundup. It seems I have to withdraw my proposal from last week. I'm nor more longer sure whether I can read more books than the three I read in January. Due to limited time I had to postpone my additional review on upcoming Wednesday. And it is sad to scroll through all the interesting tweets of the day in the evening... But there is one thing which I really enjoy: More posts on the blog and the variety of topics. It seems we three are on a good way to be the source for different tastes under one "roof". I hope you like the mix... Enjoy reading........

Bona Fide's Menu

  1. Delivery of the week: The Stolen Moon of Londor by A.P.Stephens
  2. Discovery of the week: Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw
  3. Looking for Space Opera recommendations
  1. Stomping On Yeti:25 Authors Worth Watching in 2010 and Beyond
  2. A Victorian Era Mystery: Spring Heeled Jack
  1. A Brief History Of Pretty Much Everything
  1. Space Opera....

A few days ago I received a copy of The Stolen Moon of Londor (2009) [US] [UK] , by A.P. Stephens.
The author has been so kind as to send me a copy and an awesome book mark showing one of the main characters. I will add a picture of the book mark to the review which you can expect on March 5th.
You want to have a look at the title and read the blurb? Here we go:
"The era of peace among the elves, men, and dwarves comes to an end when one of Londor's twin moons disappears from the heavens. Without the moon's balancing effect, evil forces grow bold, and warfare, sickness, and chaos threaten life itself. Hearing the prayers of desperation that ride on the violent winds, the ancient wizard Randor Miithra, servant to the elf-gods, takes it upon himself to mend the world he has sworn to protect. The task will not be an easy one, though, for the wizard, too, has begun to feel the effects of the world's imbalance. As Randor struggles to maintain some semblance of his powers, he meets a secretive band of colorful characters from all walks of life, drawn together by a common goal: to find the stolen moon, whatever the cost. It does not take Randor and his motley company long to see that someone or something does not want the moon returned to the heavens. The road is perilous...the stakes have never been greater...will they find victory...or will they only find their deaths?" [Source= back of the book]
Dwarves and Elves that sounds like "traditional" fantasy....

Compared to last year I will read more debut novels. Due to some circumstances I can't spend as much time as I would like on twitter. So it was serendipity that I met Jenna Burtenshaw. She was talking about her debut novel Wintercraft (2010, May) [US] [UK]. I found it interesting and after reading the blurb I put it on my list:
"Ten years ago Kate Winters' parents were taken by the High Council's wardens to help with the country's war effort. Now the wardens are back...and prisoners, including Kate's uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane -- the High Council's most feared man -- recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council's experiments into the veil, and he's convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace. The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft -- a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft. To help Artemis, Edgar and herself, Kate must honour her pact with a murderer and come face to face with the true nature of death." [Source]
Want to know more? Follow Jenna on Twitter

Yesterday I posted my review of Seeds of Earth (2010, mass market paperback) [US][UK], by Michael Cobley. It is the first book in the Humanity's Fire series.I liked it a lot and will definitely read book two and three too.

So far I didn't have had time to look for other space operas Like the Humanity's Fire series. But maybe you dear readers know some space operas which you would like to recommend me.
I look forward to your recommendations......


The blogosphere - and I just talk about the part related to sff - is full of of good stuff. And I know there are a lot of undiscovered gems. In 2009 I found an interesting project called Interview Series: Keeping an Eye On... over at Stomping on Yeti. One of my favorites is Keeping An Eye On... Daniel Abraham. This post forced my to read A Shadow in Summer. Anyway I recommend to read the posts of the series.
I have been exhilarated when I found out that the series will be continued ( containing some slight changes): 25Authors Worth Watching in 2010 and Beyond
The list consists of 25 authors. How many authors do you know? I read books from two of them and one more book is on my shelf. That means I still have to discover 22 authors....

In the past month I encountered again an again one name: Spring Heeled Jack
He is one of the characters in Evolution Expects (2009) [US][UK] by Jonathan Green. But there is more behind. I read the wikipedia entry about Spring Heeled Jack. He is still a mystery since his first appearance in London in 1837.
You don't like to read the wikipedia entry? Then watch following video which gives you the relevant information about Spring Heeled Jack:

For all of you who can't get enough information I recommend to visit Springheeled Jack.

You think that's all about Spring Heeled Jack? No, No, No.
I follow Snowbooks. On February 15th you could read following post by Emma Barnes - Super things:
"There shine brightly two super things this week: firstly, this review of George Mann's forthcoming Ghosts of Manhattan and secondly an endorsement of Mark Hodder's forthcoming Spring Heeled Jack from none other than Michael Moorcock (Michael Moorcock!) who says "This is the best debut novel I have read in ages". Click below for the full glowing review.

Imagine you're me and you started a company a few years back, and stuff happened, time passed, and then seven years later you get a review like that for a book you're publishing from a childhood hero. Chuffed doesn't begin to cover it.

Oh yes, and I'm going to New York next week. With Ro. Whee!

"This is an exhilarating romp through a witty combination of 19th century English fact and fiction. Mark Hodder definitely knows his stuff and has given us steam opera at its finest. In this first novel he shows himself to be as clever and inventive a writer as those who enliven his pages. We follow English explorer and eroticist (and King's agent) Sir Richard Francis Burton, poet and Sadean Algernon Charles Swinburne and a cast including Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, Francis Galton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (rather different to those known to our Victorian ancestors) as well as the mysterious albino Laurence Oliphant in an adventure involving the very nature of Time itself in a London filled with steam-horses and velopicides where were-wolves prowl the streets and 'Spring-Heeled Jack', star of the Penny Dreadfuls, might provide the key to an ever-deepening mystery. A great, increasingly complex, plot, fine characters and invention that never flags! It gets better and better, offering clues to some of Victorian London's strangest mysteries. This is the best debut novel I have read in ages." -- Michael Moorcock"

I ordered Ghosts of Manhattan last year in advance!! I really look forward to read it. But did you recognize the title of the second book Emma mentioned?
Spring Heeled Jack by Marc Hodder!!
It is Marc's debut novel and will hit the stores in [US] and [UK] in April 2010. Of course I couldn't withstand to order the book the same day.
Finally you get the cover and the blurb:
"It is 1861, and Albertian Britain is in the grip of conflicting forces. Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose restrictive and unjust laws and flood the country with propaganda demanding a society based on beauty and creativity; while The Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, sexuality, drugs and anarchy. Returning from his failed expedition to find the source of the Nile, explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, employs him as a King's Spy His first mission: to investigate the sexual assaults committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack; to find out why chimney sweeps are being kidnapped by half-man, half-dog creatures; and to discover the whereabouts of his badly injured former friend, John Hanning Speke. Accompanied by the diminutive and pain-loving poet, Algernon Swinburne, Burton's investigations lead him back to one of the defining events of the age: the brutal assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840; and the terrifying possibility that the world he inhabits shouldn't exist at all." [Source]

The following video has been discovered by - drumroll - my wife.
What would you do in three weeks with about 50 jotter books and a bunch of pens?
I know my result would be very different. Enjoy following trailer:


From epic fantasy to space opera. That inspired me to search for opera quotes and that is what I found...

" Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.
Ed Gardner

" Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
H. L. Mencken,US editor (1880 - 1956)

" Opera, n. A play representing life in another world whose inhabitants have no speech but song, no motions but gestures, and no postures but attitudes.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary,US author & satirist (1842 - 1914)

" How wonderful opera would be if there were no singers.
Gioacchino Rosini

19 February, 2010

Review: Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley

At a time when WWW was an unknown abbreviation I liked to read science fiction. Anyone here who remembers authors like E. E. Smith or A. E. Van Vogt? -- to keep it short I press now fast-forward -- STOP -- In Roundup #03 I wrote about my plan to read some sci-fi within 2010. And I mentioned the book which I review today:
Seeds of Earth (2010, mass market paperback) [US][UK], by Michael Cobley. It is the first book in the Humanity's Fire series. As it has been published first in 2009 several reviews are available. Just follow the links: Walker of Worlds, Dave Brendon's Fantasy & Scifi Weblog, SFF World, Fantasy Book Critic, King of the Nerds !!! To be honest there are more reviews available and now the time has come to add my two cents:

The Setup

A dream came through.Mankind gets in contact with intelligent life from outer space. But it didn't take long and the dream turned into a nightmare. The Swarm - relentless, merciless, unstoppable - knew only one target: Conquer the Earth. In a last desperate attempt Earth send out three colony ships: Hyperion, Forrestal, Tenebrosa - the Seeds of Earth.
150 years later. Somewhere in space. Planet Darien. New home for the colonists of the Hyperion. They have established a peaceful relationship with the aboriginal Uvovo. Together they try to discover the secrets beneath Dariens's forest moon which is a secret in itself. Secrets which arouse attention of other galactic civilizations. Coincidence or Predetermination - Darien gets in the focus of different races and beyond them people from Earth....

My Take in Brief

My first sci-fi book in 2010. the lusciously start of a space opera according to my taste. It is sad that I have to wait for the sequel - The Orphaned World - until April 2010.

I spent several evenings with thinking about how to review Seeds of Earth without giving any spoiler. In the end I think I found a way to express my thoughts.

Obviously the story is divided in a prologue, 56 named chapters and an epilogue.
The prologue gives an insight on what happened 150 years ago on Earth. It reminded me partially on Starship Troopers. Each of the 56 chapters is titled with the name of the character we follow in that chapter. The epilogue gives you a few hints about what to come and that's intriguing...

Michael Cobley offers a lot of information, plots and subplots and without the change of the characters you easily would get lost. And by following the mostly well depicted characters you will easily find minimum one of them which you connect with. I must admit I liked more than one. It seems I have a knack for mechs. And so it should be no surprise that I liked the mech Drazuma-H* a lot. I really, really would like to tell more about him but that would be definitely a spoiler. Fortunately there are some more loveable characters like the as unobtrusive as mysterious Chel, an Uvovo. He changes in body and soul. Then we have Kao Chih, a descendant form the Tenebrosa colonists. Not to forget Robert Horst, the Earth ambassador and his daughter...... and "Black Theo" Theodor Karlsson former soldier who has been involved in Darien political coup some twenty years ago.
The very good thing is that each of he characters has own motives which of course collide with greater plans.

One eerie thing is the the use of AI implanted to the bodies of alien races, especially the visitors of the powerful Sendruky Hegemony coalition.

MichaelCobley created a vast and interesting world. Every time when I read about Darien Avatar the movie came up in my mind. Mostly because of the forest. The aliens are definitely aliens in shape and size and thoughts and actions and reactions.

Coming back to the plot which is more than a plot divided in subplots full of twist and turns. The story lines of the characters are insolubly interwoven with the the main plot. Beside this the story is ensnared and stuffed with history, mystery, science, drama, serendipities, emotion, battles. Not to forget a splash of philosophy.

Finally I found something which reminded me of my youth (Michael Cobley and I share not only the first name we are also the same age group. And it seems we shared the same taste for music.
Kao Chih tries to sell his audiobud (Must be something similar to a mp3-player nowadays) to an alien. Now read what kind of music the alien likes:
"... but this rokinrol is, ah, crude, harsh and fully alive, especially the Deep Purple,the Black Sabbath and the Led Zeppelin."
That means Seeds of Earth is as powerful as Smoke on the Water, as twisted as Paranoid and as epic as Stairway to Heaven.

As a lover of epic fantasy I tell you that is the kind of space opera I want to read. For me it is epic fantasy in future. I recommend it! Give it a go....

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

What is Bona Fide's Book Oracle? To keep it short. It is a palaver about the reviewed book held by ediFanoB and his alter ego Bona Fide. And I am the keeper of the minutes. Now read my minutes..

Bona: "Napoleon. NAPOLEON! Bastard! Why don't you answer me? I hate this implant." Fide: "Hey Bona, what's the matter? Once again problems with Napoleon?" Bona: "Yep. That megalomaniac AI tries to drive me mad in order to come into power!" Fide: "Maybe your choice hasn't been a clever one." Bona: "It is more than obvious why you chose a kind of Patrick AI." Fide: "Ha! You are envious! You can't imagine how relaxing the absence of intelligence is." Bona: "Unbelievable! Finally you told me your secret. That is the explanation for your permanent pribble-prabble!" Fide: "I don't know what you mean. Give me a cookie please. We can try to count crumbs afterwards [giggle]." Bona[sighing]: "You will get a cookie as soon as we finish to talk about
Seeds of Earth." Fide: "Hey Bona, how are you? Why don't we talk about Seeds of Earth? Why is it always up to me to upbraid you?" Bona [soliloquizing]: "Stay calm.Stay calm. Ask Napoleon for a plan to switch off this f*cking Patrick AI." Fide: "It is so sad. Bona is aging rapidly. Now we reached the stadium of soliloquizing. Don't desperate keeper of the minutes. I read Seeds of Earth and I would like to tell you my impressions." Bona: "Of course I read Seeds of Earth too. And of course I want to conquer the universe." Fide: "So we both read it and mentioned Seeds of Earth five times so far." Bona: "And now tell us your opinion." Fide: "Great stuff. Likable characters with own personality. Gorgeous world descriptions. A story full of twists and turns on several levels from single character to galaxy-spanning. That is epic fantasy settled in future. I want more! I want more! I want more! I want more! I want more! I want more!..." Bona[shouting]: "SHUT UP!!!!" Fide: "My work is done. Hello. It's me, Patrick. And I want to tell you that I like to sing space operas under the shower." Bona[shouting]: "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp! Keeper of the minutes,please put me out of this misery."
I'm the keeper of the minutes and I must confess Bona and Fide are going insane. Dear readers please apologize. I hope I can do something against it until our next meeting. I think you today I will go back to Bona Fide's appraisal:

Seeds of Earth is as powerful as Smoke on the Water, as twisted as Paranoid and as epic as Stairway to Heaven.

My Favorite Quote

My favorite quote is all at once a good description of the book:
"...the shooting, the event that would set the first cogs in motion, their turning bringing certain forces into play, allowing larger cogs the freedom to turn, while other things moved and stalked between the stars..." [p. 160]
More Michael Cobley

For more information about the author you can use following links: INTERSTELLAR TACTICS

More Humanity's Fire

The whole series is a trilogy. Look forward to April 2010 when book two The Orphaned World (2010) [UK], [US unknown] will be published. The final volume The Ascendant Stars is announced for 2011 [UK], [US unknown].

Origin of the copy

I bought the copy of Seeds of Earth which I read and used for this review.