Speculative fiction novels/series that deserve more attention

Ever since I created the Hotlist a decade ago, there is one thing that never changed. Every week, I receive random messages from SFF readers looking for recommendations. As you know, I have a reading list that I usually post once a year. But today, instead of posting that same old list, I've decided to post a number of SFF novels/series that I feel remain criminally unread. With the Holidays just around the corner, take this opportunity to fill up on these quality reads! =)

When available, click on the title of each book to read my review.


The Entire and the Rose by Kay Kenyon

- Bright of the Sky (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A World Too Near (Canada, USA, Europe)
- City Without End (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Prince of Storms (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Kay Kenyon, noted for her science fiction world-building, has in this new series created her most vivid and compelling society, the Universe Entire. In a land-locked galaxy that tunnels through our own, the Entire is a bizarre and seductive mix of long-lived quasi-human and alien beings gathered under a sky of fire, called the bright. A land of wonders, the Entire is sustained by monumental storm walls and an exotic, never-ending river. Over all, the elegant and cruel Tarig rule supreme.

Into this rich milieu is thrust Titus Quinn, former star pilot, bereft of his beloved wife and daughter who are assumed dead by everyone on earth except Quinn. Believing them trapped in a parallel universe—one where he himself may have been imprisoned—he returns to the Entire without resources, language, or his memories of that former life. He is assisted by Anzi, a woman of the Chalin people, a Chinese culture copied from our own universe and transformed by the kingdom of the bright. Learning of his daughter’s dreadful slavery, Quinn swears to free her. To do so, he must cross the unimaginable distances of the Entire in disguise, for the Tarig are lying in wait for him. As Quinn’s memories return, he discovers why. Quinn’s goal is to penetrate the exotic culture of the Entire—to the heart of Tarig power, the fabulous city of the Ascendancy, to steal the key to his family’s redemption.

But will his daughter and wife welcome rescue? Ten years of brutality have forced compromises on everyone. What Quinn will learn to his dismay is what his own choices were, long ago, in the Universe Entire. He will also discover why a fearful multiverse destiny is converging on him and what he must sacrifice to oppose the coming storm.

This is high-concept SF written on the scale of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld, Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, and Dan Dimmons’s Hyperion.

A rich, vivid environment; complex and multilayered storytelling; genuine and interesting characters; brilliant execution; that's The Entire and the Rose in a nutshell.


The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

- Vellum (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Ink (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Book of All Hours is a mind-blowing feat of ambition and imagination, written by a master storyteller with a "take no prisoners" attitude who's not afraid to experiment. You will either love it or despise it. I doubt Vellum and Ink can leave any reader indifferent.


The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay

- Sailing to Sarantium (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Lord of Emperors (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial city. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.

In Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.

Of course, I could have recommended that you read Kay's incredible Under Heaven (Canada, USA, Europe), or the terrific The Lions of al-Rassan (Canada, USA, Europe), or the beautiful Tigana (Canada, USA, Europe). To be honest, anything by this author should be read and cherished. At the top of his game, Guy Gavriel Kay is as good or better than any other speculative fiction writer out there, alive or dead. But fantasy fans usually prefer series, so this two-book cycle is just what the doctor ordered and the perfect way to sample the length and breadth of Kay's talent and imagination.


The Magisters trilogy by C. S. Friedman

- Feast of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Wings of Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Legacy of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe)

Friedman made a name for herself with the amazing Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, these books established the author as a master of dark fantasy during the 90s. If you haven't read Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe), When True Night Falls (Canada, USA, Europe), and Crown of Shadows (Canada, USA, Europe), stop what you are doing right now and get your hands on these novels! Sadly, the Magisters trilogy, although awesome, flew so low under the radar that very few people seem to have read it. If more and more people actually gave these books a shot, we might soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as the Friedman's other fantasy series. Yes, it's that damn good!


Dreamsongs by George R. R. Martin

- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

- Dreamsongs, Volume II (Canada, USA, Europe)

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, all collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Whether writing about werewolves, wizards, or outer space, George R.R. Martin is renowned for his versatility and expansive talent, highlighted in this dazzling collection. Included here, in Volume II, are acclaimed stories such as the World Fantasy Award-winner “The Skin Trade,” as well as the first novella in the Ice and Fire universe, “The Hedge Knight,” plus two never-before-published screenplays. Featuring extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume II; is an invaluable chronicle of a writer at the height of his creativity—and an unforgettable reading experience for fans old and new.

I am well aware that some angry fans refuse to read anything that Martin is involved in unless it's The Winds of Winter. Now, I'm looking forward to the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment as much as the next guy. But the truth is, GRRM's body of work is impressive and spans several different genres. And nothing gives you a better taste of that body of work than this collection of short fiction. As a matter of fact, Dreamsongs is an unbelievable read, one that is surpassed in quality only by the unforgettable A Storm of Swords. So do yourself a favor and get these two "slender" volumes for Christmas. You'll thank me. . . =)


The Godless World by Brian Ruckley

- Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

An uneasy truce exists between the thanes of the True Bloods. Now, as another winter approaches, the armies of the Black Road march south, from their exile beyond the Vale of Stones.

For some, war will bring a swift and violent death. Others will not hear the clash of swords or see the corpses strewn over the fields. Instead, they will see an opportunity to advance their own ambitions.

But soon, all will fall under the shadow that is descending. For while the storm of battle rages, one man is following a path that will awaken a terrible power in him -- and his legacy will be written in blood.

Dark, bloody, depressing, uncompromising, ruthless, with a poignant ending that should satisfy most fans and characters that stay true to themselves till the very end, The Godless World is definitely one of the best fantasy series of the new millennium. For fans of GRRM, Abercrombie, and Morgan, this is grimdark the way it was meant to be!


The Gap Saga by Stephen R. Donaldson

- The Real Story (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Forbidden Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Chaos and Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- This Day All Gods Die (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson retums with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.

Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn’t ended up in the lockup–or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory’s Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer–until she met up with Thermopyle.

But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn’t intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over–or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge–or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.

Another great space opera series from the 90s that for some reason no one talks about these days. If there was such a thing as science fiction grimdark, this would be it. There is violence, intrigue, politicking, backstabbing, the whole nine yards. Some scenes can be psychologically repulsive and will disturb you. But keep reading and you'll be rewarded with one of the very best science fiction series of all time. Don't stop after the first one, as The Real Story was meant to be a stand-alone novella. By the time you get to the halfway point of the second volume, you start to understand just how vast in scope and vision The Gap series truly is and then you can't let go.


The Jump 225 Trilogy by David Louis Edelman

- Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe)
- MultiReal (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Geosynchron (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb from the first volume:

How far should you go to make a profit?

Infoquake, the debut novel by David Louis Edelman, takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future. It’s a stunning trip through the trenches of a technological war fought with product demos, press releases, and sales pitches.

Natch is a master of bio/logics, the programming of the human body. He’s clawed and scraped his way to the top of the bio/logics market using little more than his wits. Now his sudden notoriety has brought him to the attention of Margaret Surina, the owner of a mysterious new technology called MultiReal. Only by enlisting Natch’s devious mind can Margaret keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies.

To fend off the intricate net of enemies closing in around him, Natch and his apprentices must accomplish the impossible. They must understand this strange new technology, run through the product development cycle, and prepare MultiReal for release to the public—all in three days.

Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the specter of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that’s disrupting the bio/logic networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.

With Infoquake, David Louis Edelman has created a fully detailed world that’s both as imaginative as Dune and as real as today’s Wall Street Journal.

Ambitious, vast in scope, with flawed protagonists and a deftly executed plot, and impeccable prose from start to finish, David Louis Edelman's The Jump 225 trilogy is a fascinating read. And yes, I'm aware that you may never have heard of it. It's up to you to remedy that situation. . . =)


The Avery Cates books by Jeff Somers

- The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer - for the Right Price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He's up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag. Conversion means death.

Jeff Somers' first series features Avery Cates, a far from likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Often down on his luck and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative is a highlight from this series since the opening chapter of the very first volume. If you like balls-to-the-wall noir techno-thrillers set in a futuristic dystopian Earth, chances are you'll love these books!


The Macht trilogy by Paul Kearney

- The Ten Thousand (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Corvus (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kings of the Morning (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Isca is fallen; Antimone draws Her veil over the dead. Rictus, a young soldier of the city, is now ostrakr – homeless, devoid of purpose. He dons the red cloak of the mercenary and sets out to find a road for himself.

On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a fierce, barbaric people whose discipline and prowess on the battlefi eld is the stuff of legend. If they did not war endlessly on themselves, they would conquer the world. Beyond their home in the remote Harukush Mountains, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf are united under the Great King of Asuria, who can call up whole nations to battle, and whose word is law.

But now the Great King’s brother means to take the throne by force, and has sought out the Macht. Rictus – and ten thousand more mercenary warriors – will march into the heart of the Empire. They will become legends.

The Macht trilogy is military fantasy at its best. And yet, although it's often all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be. If you love great characterization, action, and superior storytelling, give Kearney's signature work a shot!
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This should keep some of you busy for a little while. . . ;-) Happy Holidays to everyone!

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Pierce Brown's IRON GOLD


I'm giving away my advance reading copy of Pierce Brown's Iron Gold to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In the epic next chapter of the Red Rising Saga, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Morning Star pushes the boundaries of one of the boldest series in fiction.

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "IRON." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Legends II, a fantasy anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

An acclaimed anthology of original short novels by some of the greatest writers in fantasy fiction, including Terry Brooks, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and Anne McCaffrey.

Legends II picks up where its illustrious predecessor left off. All of the bestselling writers represented in Legends II return to the special universe of the imagination that its author has made famous throughout the world. Whether set before or after events already recounted elsewhere, whether featuring beloved characters or compelling new creations, these masterful short novels are both mesmerizing stand-alones—perfect introductions to the work of their authors—and indispensable additions to the epics on which they are based.

ROBIN HOBB returns to the Realm of the Elderlings with “Homecoming,” a powerful tale in which exiles sent to colonize the Cursed Shores find themselves sinking into an intoxicating but deadly dream . . . or is it a memory?

GEORGE R. R. MARTIN continues the adventures of Dunk, a young hedge knight, and his unusual squire, Egg, in “The Sworn Sword,” set a generation before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire.

ORSON SCOTT CARD tells a tale of Alvin Maker and the mighty Mississippi, featuring a couple of ne’er-do-wells named Jim Bowie and Abe Lincoln, in “The Yazoo Queen.”

DIANA GABALDON turns to an important character from her Outlander saga—Lord John Grey—in “Lord John and the Succubus,” a supernatural thriller set in the early days of the Seven Years War.

ROBERT SILVERBERG spins an enthralling tale of Majipoor’s early history—and remote future—as seen through the eyes of a dilettantish poet who discovers an unexpected destiny in “The Book of Changes.”

TAD WILLIAMS explores the strange afterlife of Orlando Gardiner, from his Otherland saga, in “The Happiest Dead Boy in the World.”

ANNE McCAFFREY shines a light into the most mysterious and wondrous of all places on Pern in the heartwarming “Beyond Between.”

RAYMOND E. FEIST turns from the great battles of the Riftwar to the story of one soldier, a young man about to embark on the ride of his life, in “The Messenger.”

ELIZABETH HAYDON tells of the destruction of Serendair and the fate of its last defenders in “Threshold,” set at the end of the Third Age of her Symphony of Ages series.

NEIL GAIMAN gives us a glimpse into what befalls the man called Shadow after the events of his Hugo Award–winning novel American Gods in “The Monarch of the Glen.”

TERRY BROOKS adds an exciting epilogue to The Wishsong of Shannara in “Indomitable,” the tale of Jair Ohmsford’s desperate quest to complete the destruction of the evil Ildatch . . . armed only with the magic of illusion.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can still download the digital omnibus edition of The Song of Albion Collection by Stephen Lawhead, which includes The Paradise War, The Silver Hand, and The Endless Knot, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Bestselling author Stephen R. Lawhead's Song of Albion Trilogy now available in one volume!

The Paradise War

Lewis Gillies is an American graduate student in Oxford who should be getting on with his life. Yet for some reason, he finds himself speeding north with his roommate Simon on a larkùhalf-heartedly searching for a long-extinct creature allegedly spotted in a misty glen in Scotland. Expecting little more than a weekend diversion, Lewis accidently crosses through a mystical gateway where two worlds meet: into the time-between-times, as the ancient Celts called it. And into the heart of a collision between good and evil that's been raging since long before Lewis was born.

The Silver Hand

The great king is dead and his kingdom lies in ruins. Treachery and brutality rule the land, and Albion is the scene of an epic struggle for the throne.

Lewis is now known as Llew in this Otherworld and has become a threat to the usurper Meldron. Exiled and driven from the clan, he must seek the meaning behind a mysterious prophecyùthe making of a true king and the revealing of a long-awaited champion: Silver Hand.

The Endless Knot

Fires rage in Albion: strange, hidden, dark-flamed, invisible to the eye. In the midst of it, Llew must journey to the Foul Land to redeem his greatest treasure. As the last battle begins, the myths, passions, and heroism of an ancient people come to life . . . and Llew Silver Hand will face a challenge that will test his very soul.

The Coldire trilogy optioned for TV


C. S. Friedman just announced that the Coldfire trilogy has been optioned for television! Of course, at this point it doesn't mean anything. But they are exploring whether or not they can make it happen. If you haven't read this dark fantasy series, give Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe) a shot as soon as possible!

Here's the blurb:

Blending science fiction and fantasy, the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy tells a dark tale of an alien world where nightmares are made manifest.

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength.

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 27th)

In hardcover:

Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Andy Weir's Artemis debuts at number 6.

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is down one position, ending the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Ken Scholes' Lamentation for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.

Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city – he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.

Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.

This remarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will take readers away to a new world – an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn’t changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Cover reveal and extract from Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne’s KILL THE FARM BOY


Here's the cover reveal and an extract from Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne’s upcoming Kill the Farm Boy, courtesy of the folks at DelRey. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett novels and The Princess Bride, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasma reinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

Enjoy!
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In a Squalid Barnyard in Borix, Redolent of Feces and Angst

The very worst part about drudgery, Worstley thought, was all the blasted drudging one had to do. Nothing joyful or frolicsome around the corner for a lowly farm boy like him to look forward to. Just more drudgery of a mind-sapping, soul-sucking nature—and on a good day, no cause for involuntary vomiting.

At least he’d become somewhat accustomed to cleaning up the barnyard after his older brother, Bestley, had been stabbed in the heart by Lord Ergot. Some said barnyard duties were a step up from scrubbing the chimney, but Worstley wasn’t so sure. It had been almost nine months since he’d last vomited at the smell of assorted animal dung, but it was a constant struggle. It was still his least favorite chore, and he had to do it every other day: walk out there with a shovel and a sack among the goats and the pigs and the chickens and those dratted geese that goosed him whenever they could and scoop up whatever foul turds they had excreted since the last time he’d cleaned up. And after that, the stables awaited the same routine. Only then could he have a sad waffle with no syrup on it for breakfast. He didn’t think his mother made them properly: rumor in the village had it that waffles weren’t supposed be gray.

Like most cheerless days in Borix, the sky was the color of his mother’s waffles. Worstley sighed at the clouds, exasperated. “Would it kill you to let the sun shine through every once in a while?” he said.

The demon geese honked at the sound of his voice and waddled his way, hissing, wings extended in a threat display. Worstley raised his shovel in front of him protectively. “Go on, now. Shoo!” he said. As he fenced with their snapping beaks for a few seconds, he said, “There’s got to be a better way to live than this.” Had he been in a musical, he thought, right then would have been the perfect time to sing a sad song about his woeful lot in life while emphasizing his eternal optimism and plucky heart. Although he’d been born in this very barnyard—right there by the bucket of lumpy slop—he’d always felt that he was meant for greater things, for some important purpose in the larger world. But there wasn’t so much as a gap-toothed troubadour around to strike an obliging opening chord about his shining future. Lord Ergot had hanged them all for singing a little ditty about his poky short sword on his wedding day.

The geese fended off, Worstley checked the position of the black billy goat that occasionally found it amusing to ram him from the blind side and bleat a laugh as he clutched his back and winced. So far the goat was staying still—Gus was his name—but he was watching Worstley carefully from the other side of the barnyard near the fence. Or at least Worstley thought Gus was watching him; it was hard to tell. The goat’s eyes never seemed to point in the same direction.

“Don’t even think it, Gus,” Worstley called.

Gus bleated, lifted his tail, and ejected a fresh pile of pellets out his backside.

“Oh, great. Why do people think animals are cute?” Worstley wondered aloud. “They’re just nasty.”

“Aw, you got it easy, kid,” a voice called from the fence to the right of the billy goat. Worstley’s eyes slid in that direction and spied a diminutive form perched on a post. “Goats ain’t nothing. You want a dangerous pile of poop, wait until you get a load of dragon dump. It’s hot and sulfurous and will burn the hairs right out of your nose.”

“Who are you?” Worstley asked. “Better yet, what are you?”

“C’mere, kid. We gotta talk.”

Keeping a wary eye out for attacks from geese and goat, Worstley drew closer to the fence to get a better look at the speaker.

She had a set of double wings like a dragonfly’s branching from her back, thin and translucent and veined with iridescent colors. They were the most beautiful things Worstley had ever seen. But the owner of said wings wasn’t precisely the image of a proper fairy. Her torn shirt decorated with dubious stains didn’t fully cover her belly, which bulged and sagged like a beer gut. A rather large mole with three stiff and proud hairs sprouting from it was rooted on the side of her left nostril. She had two black holes where teeth should’ve been, and the three remaining molars were capped with gold. A single eyebrow not unlike a furry caterpillar wriggled about on her forehead.

Worstley would’ve expected a glittering dress, dainty as a flower, but such was not in the offing. She wore a shirt that looked more like a used handkerchief, possibly swiped from someone with the plague. Her dull red pants ballooned over the thighs with the right leg bunched at the knee, revealing one blue threadbare sock. Her left pants leg fell to her ankle, but that foot was bare. Dirt rimmed her toenails, and she radiated a powerful funk that might’ve been fungal in origin.

In short, she resembled a fairy about as much as Worstley looked like a prince.

“Are you all right?” Worstley said.

“Of course I am. I mean, apart from it being too blasted early, I’m fine.” She belched robustly. “Ah, that’s better.”

Worstley blinked. “Right. It’s just that you don’t look—”

“Like what? You’d better not say a fairy, kid,” she said, pointing a warning finger at him. The finger appeared to have a booger affixed to the tip. “I’m a pixie. Name’s Staph.”

“Staph?”

“That’s what I said. I’m here to change your life, so we should probably get on with it so I can do something more productive with my day than talking to some scrawny cheesehole.”

Worstley took a step back and looked around, suspicious. He’d always dreamed of seeing a fairy, but never one that smelled quite so terrible. “Is this a joke? You can’t be a pixie.”

Staph blanched and looked over her shoulder to make sure she still had wings. The motion made her wobble unsteadily on the fence post. “Wings are still there. I’m a pixie. What the puck else would I be? A bogie?” She waggled her booger-tipped finger threateningly at him and cackled.

“Are you drunk?”

“Not as much as I’d like to be. Now look, kid, I’m here to tell you something important. The good news and the bad news is that you’re the Chosen One. You have a destiny, and I’m here to bless you with it. Or curse you, whatever. Anoint you, let’s say.”

“This has definitely got to be a joke. Who put you up to this?”

The pixie rolled her eyes. “Gahh, enough with that, all right? Nobody cares enough to play a joke on you, farm boy. This is destiny, all gen-u-wine and bona fide. What’s so hard to believe?”

“I thought pixies were supposed to be named Butterblossom or something, and they’re, like, I don’t know . . . clean.”

Staph’s eyes bulged, and she held up her boogery index finger to scold Worstley. “First, Butterblossom is a no-talent harpy who invades homes at night and eats little kids’ pet hamsters.” She held up another finger. “Second, clean people have no fun and they only bathe because they can’t think of anything better to do. But me, I’ve seen some right bloody business and I know things.”

Worstley shrugged and sighed and shouldered his shovel as if to say that if he had to deal with someone else’s crap in the barnyard, it should at least be the physical rather than the metaphorical kind.

“Don’t believe me? Okay, I’ll prove it to you.” The pixie hawked up a loogie and spat it at his feet. “I’ve got more magic juice than a poisoned apple orchard. I’ll show you. That’s an ordinary goat over there, right?”

Staph pointed at Gus.

“He’s kind of annoying, but otherwise, yeah.”

“Watch this.” Staph glared at the goat and thrust out a hand in a clawed gesture. The billy goat rocked back as if struck and began to choke and spit, its yellow eyes rolling back in its head. The pixie produced a tiny wand and added some extra oomph to whatever she was doing, and the goat fell over.

Worstley dropped the shovel. “Hey, what are you doing to Gus? Stop it!”

“Already done,” Staph said as she lowered her hands and put the wand away.

Kneeling by the fallen and unbreathing billy, Worstley was unsure how to give mouth-to-mouth to someone with such thin, filthy lips full of such jagged yellow teeth. Fortunately, Gus’s round belly puffed up with air, and he rolled over and onto his callused knees, coughing.

“You okay, Gus? C’mon, buddy. If you’re dead, Mom’ll kill me. Or, actually, that might save me a step . . .”

“My name,” said the goat, newly gifted with speech, “is Gustave, not Gus. Get it straight, Pooboy.” His voice was more cultured than Worstley’s and filled the boy with rage that only made him sound more the bumpkin.

“What did you—?”

“That’s your name, genius. Pooboy. As in the boy who scoops up my poo.”

Worstley bristled and said, “That’s so juvenile, you—” but Staph cut him off before he could finish.

“Look, will you forget the goat and listen to me now? He’s not important, but I’m for real, and I’m telling you that you’re the Chosen One. You have a special destiny. You’re going to do great things.”

“Why me?”

“Hey, it wasn’t me that chose you, okay? I just got sent here to do the deed. If I’m gonna choose a hero, you can be darned sure it’s not gonna be some whiny, pathetic punk named Pooboy.”

“That’s not my name! It’s Worstley!”

“Whatever. Like that’s any better. Anyway, you’re hereby anointed, so get to it, will ya?”

“Get to what?”

“Saving the world. Or changing it. Or both. The aura kind of takes care of everything, and it’s not my problem anymore. All’s I need is a drink and the occasional night of debauchery at the local halfling bar and I’m good. But you’re not good, right? You’re a pooboy named Worstley living in the most wretched earldom in Pell. Time to move on, don’t you think? Find your destiny, get some songs written about you. Do something worth singing about.”

Staph turned to go, and Worstley yelped and reached out a hand, although he fell short of actually touching her. They were short on soap around the farm, after all.

“Wait, that’s it? I mean, what have I been chosen to do?”

“Gadzooks, boy. Or zounds. I don’t know which is more appropriate in this case, and I get them mixed up.”

“Me, too,” Worstley admitted.

“But I do know one thing: you gotta figure out your destiny your own dang self.”

From the forthcoming book KILL THE FARM BOY by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne. Copyright © 2018 by Kevin Hearne and D.S. Dawson. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download the Dresden Files omnibus containing the first six volumes of the series for only 7.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada. This is an incredible deal and the perfect opportunity for potential readers to give the Dresden Files a shot!

The omnibus includes:

- Storm Front
- Fool Moon
- Grave Peril
- Summer Knight
- Death Masks
- Blood Rites

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the Chicago P.D. bring him in to consult on a double homicide committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name…

Turn Coat


Well, I'm running out of positive things to say about Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. This series has definitely become one of my favorite SFF reads and it keeps getting better!

If Dead Beat turned out to be the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear, for its part Proven Guilty did build on the storylines introduced in basically every other volume and pushed the envelope even further. Far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

As a matter of course, White Night had lofty expectations to live up to. But even if it was a fun and entertaining read in its own right, it was not as good as its last few predecessors. The novel was not as intricately plotted and satisfying as Dead Beat and Proven Guilty turned out to be, yet it nonetheless set the stage for another chapter in the Dresden Files. One that would undoubtedly raise the series to another, deeper and more complex, level. And Small Favor was definitely a return to form for Jim Butcher. The book elevated the series to an even higher level, with several hints of an even bigger and more ambitious story arc that is gradually becoming more and more discernible.

Given its predecessor's quality, Turn Coat had big shoes to fill. But Butcher upped his game yet again and came up with his best effort thus far.

Here's the blurb:

When it comes to the magical ruling body known as the White Council, Harry keeps his nose clean and his head down. For years, the Council has held a death mark over Harry's head. He's still thought of as a black sheep by some and as a sacrificial lamb by others. But none regard him with more suspicion and disdain than Morgan, a veteran Warden with a grudge against anyone who bends the rules.

Like Harry.

So when Morgan turns up asking for help, Harry isn't exactly eager to leap into action. Morgan has been accused of treason against the White Council, and there's only one final punishment for that crime. He's on the run, he wants his name cleared, and he needs someone with a knack for backing the underdog.

Like Harry.

Now Harry must uncover a traitor within the Council, keep a less than agreeable Morgan under wraps, and avoid coming under scrutiny himself. And a single mistake may cost someone his head.

Like Harry...

I was hooked by the premise of this book from the very beginning. Given the history between Morgan and Harry, how could I not? Turn Coat captivated me from the first page and never let go. I mean, when a battered and injured Morgan shows up at Harry's doorstep, asking for his help because he's accused of a murder he did not commit by the White Council, you immediately know that the proverbial crap has hit the fan. Given that we've suspected for a while that there is a traitor working for the Black Council hiding in plain sight within the inner circles of the White Council of Wizards, you know it's going to get interesting. And since no one will think that the Warden would seek out Harry to help clear his name, that gives the only wizard in the Chicago's phonebook a bit of a head start to discover what truly happened. Because if the Council finds out that Harry is hiding and helping Morgan, he will surely share the Warden's fate. A death sentence.

As always, the novel features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. Harry's voice as the only POV remains witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle every couple of pages or so. But this one was the darkest installment yet. As has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files volumes, it's the supporting cast which helps make this one another memorable read. The usual suspects are there for the ride; Murphy, Thomas, and Molly Carpenter. Never could have expected Thomas' transformation following his ordeal at the hands of the Skinwalker. I'm really looking forward to see how this will affect his relationship with his brother in the future. Speaking of Harry, the heart-breaking aftermath of the endgame with Anastasia Luccio must have profoundly hurt him. One of the most fascinating aspects of Turn Coat was that it shone some light on the politicking and the inner workings that are at the heart of the White Council. Seeing some senior members in action was also quite a treat. Listens-to-Wind, especially, can certainly kick some ass.

In my Small Favor review, I claimed that it was hands down the most convoluted installment so far. It was, no question. And yet, Turn Coat took it up a few notches. Once again, what begins as a relatively straightforward mission quickly turns into an extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that links this one with plotlines from past volumes. Like most of its predecessors, Turn Coat is an elaborate and interesting self-contained stand-alone story. Still, no other installment in the series was this complex and unveiled that many secrets which keep readers begging for more. The ending raised the stakes even higher, and it appears that the Dresden Files will now enter a new phase. One that keeps growing and growing, taking readers along unexpected paths.

Turn Coat is another fast-paced affair. Butcher really paced this one close to perfection. No doubt about it, this novel is a page-turner from start to finish!

With Small Favor and Turn Coat, the odds are definitely stacked against Harry and his few allies. New developments with Michael Carpenter, Thomas, and Anastasia will likely have grave repercussions on the poor guy. Not to mention that the list of entities and people wanting Harry dead keeps growing with each new Dresden Files book. It will take a lot of self-control to not forgo reading anything else and simply read the remaining volumes in this series.

Jim Butcher is awesome and Turn Coat was his best work to date! I wish reading could always be this fun!

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Take a dazzling journey through time with Tim Power’s classic, Philip K. Dick Award-winning tale...

Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time.

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Here's the blurb:

My name is Jax.

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