Giveaway: The Vagrant by Peter Newman

VagrantIn my last post I raved about The Vagrant by Peter Newman. Well now is your chance to win 1 of 5 copies thanks to Harper Voyager Australia. Oh, no…Australia!

FEAR NOT!

This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL! Hooray!

All you need to do, is follow the Rafflecopter instructions.

Please remember the Ts & Cs:

1) Prize per person
2) If you don’t qualify for the entry, all your entries will be removed i.e. you say you commented on the blog, but you didn’t
3) Winners have 48 hours to reply to email to claim the prize
4) The competition is not associated with Facebook or Twitter
5) A valid postal address is required
6) Entries close 11.59pm 22nd April 2015 (New Zealand Standard Time)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

Never had I known so little about an author and their book, but be so enraptured at the same time. I received an ARC copy a couple of weeks back and only just got to it after reading The Autumn Republic. I didn’t read the blurb at the back, so I had no prior knowledge at all.

The VagrantVagrant is a man on a mission. He is walking towards the Shining City, which is the last bastion of the human race. He has only his pack, a sword and a new born baby. Several years before, an invasion by demon’s rocked the world. The Knight Radiants came forth to protect mankind and Gamma, one of the Seven, was there to lead the charge. Yet because of the rest of The Seven’s apathy, Gamma and her Knight Radiants lose. All hell breaks loose and the demons pour forth, inhabiting the bodies of humans, and if they could not, they would leave pieces of themselves in them, to “taint” them.

Without reading the blurb, you don’t know what The Vagrant’s mission is and I think that is a good thing, so I won’t tell you here. Is it what’s in his pack, himself or the baby?

The setting while at first seems like a typical fantasy book, it isn’t. We get introduced to guns and transporters, but we don’t get many high rise buildings or cars. We have boats with motors and medical devices that run on batteries but it isn’t prevalent. This leads me to believe that it could be a story set in the future, an apocalypse after an apocalypse. Interesting indeed.

While I was reading, I was made comparisons with The Gunslinger by Stephen King. How it is about one man, alone, gruff and deadly. The difference is, The Vagrant has more mystery and the story moves more quickly. The mystery surrounding him and how Newman writes makes it all the more interesting. The Vagrant is deadly, but very compassionate. Alone with no help, he has to rely on “help” from people who can as easily betray him.

As I kept reading, I was reminded about how much the story sounds like campaigns from the game Starcraft (a game with three distinct races). In some scenarios, you started with one hero. That hero had to go slowly, killing some enemies, but also collecting things to fulfil the mission. Sometimes you rescued civilians and sometimes other beings. Those beings in turn might return the favour and help you. Because there were different types of demons (some with minds), I was able to make comparisons to them with Zergs (alien race), and The Seven and their bastion city to Protoss (more human like with advanced technology).

If you never played the game, you don’t lose out on anything, it was a funny I even made the connection. What you’ll get from The Vagrant by Peter Newman is a fast paced story, magical beings, a setting that intrigues, flawed protagonist and characters that develop over time (including the enemies). The only thing that Newman can improve on, is how he describes action/battle scenes.

I know it is only mid April, but I would say that The Vagrant might be the best debut fantasy novel in 2015.

The Great Way by Harry Connolly

The Great Way trilogy is a classic fantasy story, with a whole bunch of unique elements. But first off, you should know one thing. This trilogy was funded through Kickstarter, and I am very happy it was funded. I have liked Harry Connollys writings since forever, and my overall impression of these books are also positive.

Great-Way-Final-Cover-eBook-1-copyThe Great Way consists of The Way Into Chaos, The Way into Magic and The Way into Darkness.

The Great Way is the story of Tyr Tejohn Treygar, an ageing warrior turned nobleman, who acts as quartermaster and weapons trainer to the young prince Lar of Peradain.

The Peradaini empire was founded upon magic gifted to humans by the Evening People, who are elf-like creatures suffused by magic. Every 23 years a portal open into the capitol of Peradain, and a great festival with art, music and plays celebrates the opening of the portal and the visitation by the Evening People. During past festivals, if the Evening People have been pleased, they have decided to gift humans with more magic.

What comes out of the portal this time though, is not the Evening People. The first thing that sets this story apart from most other books, is the fact that it centers around a hostile invasion. The people of the Peradaini empire has to stand together if they want to keep any hope of overcoming the invasion.

The story are filled with magic, strange creatures, courageous warriors and sacrifice. No one is safe from harm and though it’s not graphic, there is some violence and brutality tied into the story.

The first thing you notice when you get the books, is the beautiful cover art. All three books are exceptionally well done and the story does the covers credit. The second thing you notice is the use of ”Tyr” before a lot of names. It’s a title, and it took some time getting used to. It’s the local lingo, and as all other books, it’s just something you have to accept.

The first thought that struck me after finishing the books, is that Harry Connolly wrote a zombie horror story without any zombies, but more than a few horrors.

darknessThere was more than a few times I felt parts could have been left out, or polished a bit, and the events in book two could easily have taken another 100-200 pages to add more detail and story. The first book was my favourite, I was disappointed by the length of the second, and I felt happy with the conclusion in book three, though I was left with a few questions in the end. And that is as it should be. Aside from this, it’s a good story, with a unique point of origin. At times, it feels more like an episode of The Walking Dead, but at its roots, its classic fantasy with a twist.

I am continually amazed at the creativity of Harry Connolly, and I cannot stress enough that I hope he gets picked up for more stories. I am a huge fan of his works, so I am probably more than a bit biased. With that said, if you like zombie-survival-sword and sorcery books, you should give The Way into Chaos a try.

Game of Thrones Giveaway (Australian Residents Only)

dreamsanddustSeason 5 of A Game of Thrones continues on April 12th. I’m sure just like me, many of you are eagerly awaiting for this to come out; dreading what they changed and how the series might (will) over take the book series.
For those of you who haven’t read the books and are working their way through, well lucky you!

We’re giving away 3 copies of A Dance of Dragons Part 1: Dreams and Dust.

All you need to do, is fill out the form below by 12am on Easter Sunday (4th April, Eastern Australian Time).

Look out for Part 2 as well, when we’ll hopefully have another giveaway thanks to Harper Voyager Australia.

Condition Entries: Must have a residential Australian address. Must fulfil the conditions of the entries. One entry per person. One prize per person.

 

Review of CREEP: A Collection of Poetry and Flash Fiction

creep: poetryCREEP  is a rather unique work of fantasy – a collection of horror poems and flash short stories by different authors that all pay homage to Halloween.

It’s not your usual type of fantasy, but for that reason, I found it unique enough and well worth the minimal investment in time it takes to read through this.

The stories and poems are, as you might surmise from the title of the work, all about horror, celebrating the magic, mystery, and horror of Halloween.

Contained in Creep, you have poems and flash fiction (one or two page short stories) about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about this work though; mostly, the strange poems and twisted short stories (which always end in the macabre demise of some poor sod) are kind of funny and pay homage to pop culture horror themes.

Scary it’s not, but an easy, quick read it is: you could finish the entire collection of stories in an hour or two. But then, poetry is a work need to be read slow and savored – like a nice bottle of wine. The goal is not to consume, but to experience and to enjoy.

The stories are a bit uneven with some of the authors giving a stronger effort than others. And I found some of the short stories very choppy with the endings not well explained (again, these are two page stories, so you really can’t develop a proper ending here). And as a collection of works by a number of different authors, the fiction and poems (ranging from short stories and poems) are almost randomly tied together without a seemingly (to me anyways) overarching order. As such, you read one then are suddenly thrust into something completely different which can leave you feeling a bit confused if you read from one story to the next. This work is best read in little bite sizes by reading a few, then putting it aside, and reading a few more later.

On the whole, Creep is a worthy addition to your library if you want something different. As a literature fan and a fan of poetry, I quite liked it. This won’t be a work for everyone, especially if you don’t like poetry or short stories, but if you are into poetry (not the average reader) AND speculative fiction (specifically horror) at the same, then you’ll find a lot to love about this eclectic work.

Creep is an indie production with the authors struggling to get their voice out in the public sphere. But the book is well-edited and for most of the stories, the writing quite strong which is unusual with indie fiction in my experience.

At under a 100 pages and under $1.00 for the kindle ebook version, this book is not a huge time and money sink either. I do recommend this if you want something entertainingly different. And I’m always a supporter of poetry.

So read it and enjoy some quick poetry and fiction about scary stuff.

Glitch by Hugh Howey

Glitch is a shortstory by Hugh Howey, narreted by Gabra Zackman.

Glitch is 5,000 words or 30 minutes of Audible time. As it is, it is probably my least favourite Hugh Howey story, but that is not because it is a bad story. It’s simply too short and certainly has the potential to be more than a short story.

glitchThe point of view is the main character Samantha. Together with her husband Peter, they create fighting robots for a living, competing in the Gladiator Nationals.

As such, this story is very reminiscent of the movie Real Steel, but it takes the premise one step further. In Glitch, Hugh Howey asks the question of what happens when a robot defies its programming. Is it broken, or is it something else?

The characters are not fleshed out as much as I hoped and wanted, and the story is over before it really ramps up. That is what happens when you write a 15 page story. Nevertheless, it is a good story and if you’ve read and liked other Hugh Howey offerings, you will like this one too. I hope he will revisit this world in the future. There is potential for a great story, in the society outlined and why and how it came to be.

If you’ve read everything else Hugh Howey or like to ponder the ”what ifs” of robotics, this might be for you.

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen is Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel in any genre. She has set this up to be a trilogy.

Reds are the commoners who work day in and day out for the Silvers. They are conscripted to fight the Silvers’ wars when they turn 18. They build, they toil and they make ends meet for the Silvers. This is all because Silvers are god like. They have powers to control water, fire, metal and penetrate your thoughts amongst other things.

redqueenMare Barrow is 17 and is about to be conscripted into the war, along with her friend Kilorn. Her 3 older brothers are all at the war front and there is nothing worse Mare can think of than be conscripted. With the help of her sister, they plan to infiltrate a Silver city, so they can steal something of real worth to buy their freedom, but just as all seems to be going well, the Scarlet Guard (a rebel group) strikes, ruining Mare’s plan.

While reading this book, it reminded me of Golden Son (funny enough the first book in the series called Red Rising), a book I had just read a month or so back. A dystopian world where classes of human’s are separated by their abilities, by their birth. Just like Red Rising, it is about having equality in an unequal world.

Initially, I was thinking nothing of the magic system. Each silver has a different power, and these powers are inherited from their parents. All of the powers require an initial ignition so to speak. Those who control and manipulate fire, can’t actually make it. Same goes with water powers and magnetrons (controlling metals) etc. It was only until near the end of the book that the thought struck me these were like mutants from Marvel Comics.

At no point did Aveyard attempt to explain the powers in detail, which I think is a good thing. However, I don’t think she goes into detail with many things. All the characters seem really dull. At no point did I feel a connection with the characters. Perhaps because most of the characters with teenagers. The one character that I did like, was Julian, but there aren’t nearly enough of him. The world building is sorely lacking. Aveyard tells us many things but she doesn’t describe it and make me imagine the world.

vicWhat Aveyard does do well is make the plot keep moving. Each chapter brings something new and moves the story a long. The ending is perhaps where she really shines (not the fight sequence though) and the cloak and dagger twist is done very well. She gave you hints along the way but I still didn’t really see it coming.

I would really love to see either more character building or world building. Personally I want the former, as I like to love my characters.

After you’ve read Red Queen, go take this quiz to see which power you might have if you live in Aveyard’s world. Though there are some mistakes (it says burners summon fire…they don’t), it is fun and harmless (no need to like or have pop up ads).

Upcoming books in April

skullthroneThe Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

One of the most anticipated books of this year for sure. However, it isn’t for the good reasons. The Warded Man (The Painted Man in some countries), Book 1 of the Demon Cycle was in my own owrds, just magnificent. It was the best read of that year for me. It had everything, hardship, magic system, world building and character growth. Then the next book The Desert Spear, completely went off track and had several cringe moments along with the WTF moments. Ok, so second book wasn’t so good, Book 3…was just mind boggling.

The forums at BFB have not been kind of Peter V. Brett and he even tweeted that he came upon a forum that slagged in off and how he shouldn’t have looked.

I really want this book to be good. I do. I want some redemption for a man that clearly has a talent for writing, but somewhere along his storytelling lines, he’s made some indifferent calls.

TheRebirthsOfTao-144dpi-21-e1424983024376Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu

Every now and again we like to promote Science Fiction even though our sister site www.bestsciencefiction.com is up and running now.

The Rebirths of Tao is the third book in the Tao Series, and has garnered Wesley Chu with a lot of praise.

Action packed and a page turner, this is one author you should get into if you haven’t already.

graceThe Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Ken Liu has won Nebulaand Hugo award winner. The Grace of Kings is his first fantasy novel and it looks to be another epic series.

The following is from Amazon: Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

dragonsDragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett

One of Sir Terry’s last books to be published after his embuggerance caught him. A collection of short fantasy stories for children (and maybe some adults).

As dragons start to invade and with all the knights out on other duties, it is up to Ralph and his motley crew of helpers to save the castle.

Other books that could interest you:
Emergence by John Birmingham
The Deepest Poison by Beth Cato
Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Renoylds
Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove

 

RIP Terry Pratchett (1948 – 2015)

pratchett_2233925b

 

 

You Will Be Missed

- The World

Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered.”

A week before Shadow was to be released from prison, the warden tells him he will be turned out early. His wife is dead. On the flight home, he happens to sit next to a mysterious one-eyed man who calls himself Wednesday. Wednesday recruits Shadow to work for him, except this will be no ordinary job; Wednesday tells Shadow that Gods are real. Gods of old. New Gods. Norse Gods, Hindu Gods, African Gods, Gods that have long been forgotten, and Gods that are being forged everyday from mankind’s ever-changing obsessions and beliefs. But Gods are real. And the Old Gods and New Gods are about to go to war.

Not sure whAmerican Gods by Neil Gaimanat to believe or not believe, Shadow gets sucked into a secret world within our world. One where Gods are not nearly as perfect as they should be, and the people are even less so. And caught between the warring faction is Shadow, wanted by both sides for reasons he does not know.

American Gods is not Gaiman’s first novel, but is almost certainly the one he is best known for, along with his graphic novels, The Sandman. I admit, I have never read any of Gaiman’s other works. I once bought a collection of his short stories, called Smoke and Mirrors, which I read very briefly before turning to other books that better held my interest. Suffice to say, then, that I didn’t go into the book with a ton of giddy excitement, despite the critical acclaim I am well aware the book received. Because of that, it should have been rather easy for Gaiman to pleasantly surprise me.

He didn’t.

I found the book a chore to get through. I can admit that the writing was quite good, and Gaiman’s prose is quite poetic and full of metaphors. But it’s too poetic and has too many metaphors. Perhaps I am just dense and simplistic, but I find it hard to read a novel that spends this much time trying to be subtle. Some of that effort, I think, should have given to making the novel more engrossing.

There were parts that I liked. I like the basic idea of the “New Gods,” essentially anything from the modern era that the masses cling to and ‘believe’ in has created a ‘god.’ So we have gods of technology, gods of media, gods of cars, etc. And I like how the Old Gods – the traditional gods, such as Odin, Kali, and others – are shown to be growing weaker and are dying out because not enough people believe in them. I also like how Gaiman skillfully weaves in a wide variety of gods, both well-known and lesser-known, into the plot’s narrative. The premise, then, is solid. So what isn’t?

For me, the main problem is Shadow. As a protagonist, I found him to be exceedingly dull. There is really nothing interesting at all about him, and nor does he seem to actually do anything. Rather, things just happen to and around him. He is neither likable nor dis-likable, neither a hero nor a villain, not great but not terrible. He’s just… there. And considering the entire novel (except a handful of passages) are from his point-of-view, that is a problem.

Another big problem… I don’t quite know how to put this best, but nothing happens in the book. It seems the entire novel is one big (and slow) build-up to something that turns out to be inconsequential. It’s one of those novels you read once in a while that, once you are done with them, just makes you wonder, “what was the point?”

I had another problem with the book. Or rather, it is less a problem with what is in the book and more of a problem with an omission. In a novel that is called American Gods, and features all manner of deities, there was a rather glaring omission of Jesus Christ. Or, indeed, anyone from one of the three main Abrahamic religions. Since Jesus so clearly plays a large part in modern religion in America, I can only assume that Gaiman excluded him because he felt intimidated by the idea of offending the masses. Perhaps he, himself, was offended by the thought? In the version I read, which was the “Author’s Preferred Text,” Gaiman does include a brief chapter after the epilogue, one that was apparently cut out of the final novel. The chapter wasn’t impressive. So maybe the reason Gaiman made the omission is because he simply didn’t know how to include Jesus in a way that was interesting.

The novel has a bit of a twist ending, if you can call it that. Is it still a twist if I don’t care what happens?

In the end, I was glad when I finished it for the sole reasons that I can now read something else. Sorry, Mr. Gaiman. You have a ton of awards and acclaim thrown at this book. So you should have no regrets. For me, I will give the book a whimpering 2.5/5.

 

Review by Afa

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