31 August 2012

Mockingbird ARC Giveaway!

So, I've decided to run my very first book giveaway on my blog. The lucky winner will get my ARC of Chuck Wendig's frankly brilliant Mockingbird, my review of it is to be found here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go on. Enter. You know you want this book. Contest is open internationally.

30 August 2012

Tricked - Kevin Hearne

The BlurbDruid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.

But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

This is Kevin Hearne's fourth novel in the Iron Druid series. It's a pretty fun urban fantasy series thus far, with loads of comedic moments sprinkled throughout the book. This is what I've come to expect from Mr. Hearne's writing. If you do not laugh at least twice per chapter you have a broken sense of humour.

Atticus needs help to die and to hide after the chaos he helped organise on the Norse Pantheon. He turns to the Navajo trickster god Coyote to help him die, which may have been a mistake in the long run. I mean who in their right minds trusts a trickster god? He didn't really have any other choice, but it didn't make the decision any smarter. He also needs about twelve quiet years to train his apprentice Granualie in the art of being a Druid.

One of the most enjoyable aspects was the Navajo culture and history used as the main setting for this book. I know less than nothing about them, so it was fun to read about new gods and beliefs. It was a welcome break from the usually European based mythologies. Mr. Hearne has quite a way to make even the most powerful gods seem approachable and nice in stead of all powerful and wise.

Atticus also fills in some of his earlier years through stories he tells Oberon and Granualie, which supplied more than just a few laughs and gave him real depth. Having a main character that's older than two thousand years gives you loads of history to play with and it was nice to get more back story on the guy. Oberon is his usual entertaining self, he's the coolest dog in modern fantasy. It really makes me wish I could communicate telepathically with my pets.

Coyote tricks Atticus into helping him deal with some of the most monstrous creatures from Navajo myths, the Skinwalkers. Coyote knows Atticus will keep his word, seeing as he is a good Druid and cut from the old cloth as they say.  These Skinwalkers are damn evil and pretty damn scary as any good monster should be. Madness ensues. 

Atticus being a druid makes for some interesting challenges. He cannot do anything to harm the earth and this permeates all his decisions. Earth comes first. It makes him a unique character and made for some interesting and creative solutions to the problems he faced. He's not all powerful and he does not think just of himself of just of winning, but of the well being of others as well as the well being of the world around him.

The book is solidly written, the jokes and dialogue are damn funny and the action scenes are well done. Siodhachan O Suileabhain is fast becoming one of my favourite Urban Fantasy characters.


28 August 2012

Sam Sykes - Skybound Sea Extract

Read and enjoy! I'm sure Sam's a bit insane, but damn he can write. I can't wait for the book.

The Shen came surging up the highway in a riot of color. Lanky green muscle trembled beneath tattooed bands of red and black, weapons of bone and metal flashed in their hands, yellow eyes grew gold with fury at the sight of her.

Great webbed crests rose from their scaly crowns, displaying colorful murals tattooed on the leathery flesh. Giant fish on some, serpents on others—various peoples in various stages of dismemberment seemed a rather popular choice.

They bent at the waist, long tails risen behind them as they picked up speed, raised their weapons and howled.

Like hounds, she thought. Big, tattooed, ugly hounds. With weapons. Sharp ones. She glanced up the road. Why aren’t you running, again?

If her head couldn’t form a response, her feet did. And they spoke loudly and in great favor of screaming loudly and running away. She agreed and tore down the highway, folding her ears over themselves to block the sound of a dozen warcries growing louder.

She saw Lenk a moment later, the young man leaning on his knees and trying desperately to catch his breath. She opened her mouth to warn him, to tell him that they were close enough behind that he had to keep moving.


That wasn’t a warning, but it made him move, regardless. He sheathed his sword and took off at a sprint, falling in beside her.

“You could have warned me,” she snarled between breaths.

“Did you not see me running?” he screamed back. “What, did you think I was just thatexcited to see you?”

“You had your sword drawn! I didn’t know what was happening!”

Her ears pricked up at a faint whistle growing steadily louder. She leapt and the arrow cursed her in a spray of sparks and a whine of metal as it struck the stones where she had just stood.

“How about now?” he asked. “If you’re still confused, they’ve got more arrows.”

And in symphonic volleys, the arrows wailed. They came screaming from atop the walls, making shrill and childish demands for blood, skulking in clattering mutters when they found only stone.

The archers took only a few opportunistic shots, shouldering their bows and racing atop the wall after their fleeing pink targets as soon as they moved out of range. But there were always more archers and ever more arrows.

Precise shots, Kataria thought. Hungry shots. Little wolves of metal and wood. And like wolves, they came from all sides.

She glanced over to the side. The kelp had thinned out, giving way to another, stranger forest.

Coral formations rose out of the sand and into the gray sky. Jagged blue pillars, spheres of twisted green, great cobwebs of red thorns and sheets of yellow blossomed like a garden of brittle, dead gemstones.

It might have been beautiful, had each formation not been host to yellow eyes lurking in their towering pillars, green feet perched upon the colorful branches, bows bent and arrows drawn.

They ducked, weaved, hid where they could, tumbled where they had to. Arrows snarled overhead, jagged tips reaching with bone-shard barbs. They darted behind one of the twisted bells to avoid a volley. The arrows struck, sent the misshapen metal wailing, screaming, weeping, laughing, grinding sound against sound in a horrifying cacophony.

Kataria clamped hands over her ears, shouted to be heard. “How far back are they?” “I don’t care!” he shouted back. “Just keep going until we can find someplace to hide!”

She glanced over her shoulder. The tide of Shen seemed a distant green ebb. They had checked their pace, pursuing with intent, not speed. They were up to something. Or maybe lizards just weren’t meant to run on two legs.

“Must be the tails,” she muttered. “We’re bound to lose them soon. For a bunch of crafty savages, you’d think they’d have a better plan than just chasing us and—“

Damn it, Kat,” Lenk snarled. “Why the hell would you say that?”

She didn’t have to ask. The moment she turned, she saw it, looming overhead, its gray so dark it stood out even against the cloud-shrouded sky. The monolith statue stood upon the wall, palm outstretched, a symbol of a great, unblinking eye set within its stone hood.

While it certainly didn’t seem to object to the cluster of Shen around its feet trying desperately to push it over and onto the road below, Kataria picked up her speed.

Stop!” Lenk rasped. “We’ll never make it!”

“Yes, we will! Just go faster!”

He did go. Faster than her, even. Their breath became soundless, coming so swiftly and weakly it might as well not exist. Their legs pumped numbly beneath them, forgetting that they were supposed to have collapsed by now. They had nothing left to give but the desperate hope of passing before the statue fell.

Whatever god it was supposed to represent, though, the monolith appeared unmoved.

By their efforts, anyway.

The collective heaving of ten Shen proved to be far more persuasive.

The monolith tilted with a roar of rock and the wail of wind as it teetered and pitched over the wall, plummeting to the road below. She felt the shock of it through her numb feet, coursing up into her skull as the old stone god smashed against the rock below, sending a wave of pulverized granite dust erupting.

His legs desperately trying to remember how to stop, Lenk skidded into the great stone eye with an undignified sound. He came to a rasping, gasping halt.

Kataria did not.

With an almost unnerving casualness, she leapt, racing up his back, onto his shoulders, leaping off of him like a fleshy, wheezy stepping stone and scrambling atop the statute’s stone flank. She turned, looked down at him as he scrambled to follow her, failed to even come close.

She clicked her tongue. “Okay, so I was halfway right.”

Had he the breath to respond, he probably would have cursed her. Had he the energy to lift his sword, he probably would have thrown it at her. She didn’t watch him for long, though. Her eyes were drawn down the road, toward the advancing Shen horde. Archers continued to slither out of the coral forest to join the tide, bows added to the throngs of clubs and blades raised high and hungry for blood.

But even that did not hold her attention for long.

Her ears did not prick up at the sound, for she did not hear it. She felt it, in the nothingness of the mist. Determination. Compassion. Hate. Anger.


He was out there, somewhere. Somewhere close. Watching her, even now. And his were not the only eyes upon her.

But the Shen were also close. And growing closer. Stay and chase them off, she thought, and the greenshicts would come and kill Lenk. Leave to chase off the greenshicts and the Shen would kill Lenk. Neither option was attractive.

But then he decided for her.

“I can’t make it,” he said, finally finding his breath. “You have to go.”

“Right,” she said, making a move to leave.



“I didn’t mean it! I was trying to be noble!”

“Ah…” She looked at him and winced. “Well.”

And Lenk was left staring at an empty space she had just occupied. Had he breath to speak, he still wouldn’t have had the words to describe what he felt just then.

Someone else did, though.

Told you,” the voice whispered.

Don’t be an asshole about this, he thought in reply.

More important matters, anyway.”

The voice was right. Lenk knew that the moment he heard the hissing behind him. Breath coming heavily, sweat dripping from his brow, Lenk turned around very slowly. But he was in no hurry.

When he finally turned to face them, the Shen were waiting.

22 August 2012

King of Thorns - Mark Lawrence

The Blurb:  The boy who would be King has gained the throne...

Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath vowed when he was nine to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother—and punish his father for not doing so. When he was fifteen, he began to fulfill that vow. Now he is eighteen—and he must hold on by strength of arms to what he took by torture and treachery.

King Jorg is a man haunted: by the ghost of a young boy, by a mysterious copper box, by his desire for the woman who rides with his enemy. Plagued by nightmares of the atrocities he committed, and of the atrocities committed against him when he was a child, he is filled with rage. And even as his need for revenge continues to consume him, twenty thousand men march toward the gates of his castle. His enemy is far stronger than him. Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight.

But he has found, in a chamber hidden beneath the castle, ancient and long-lost artifacts. Some might call them magic. Jorg is not certain—all he knows is that the secrets they hold can be put to terrible use in the coming battle...

I won't lie, I've been waiting for this book since reading Prince of Thorns. I've been internet stalking Mark Lawrence for months, snapping up any and all hints, sneak peeks and deleted scenes. Hell, most of the fragments he's released has been reposted on this site.

The book is written solely from Jorg's point of view, with other character's thoughts only showing up as letters and interactions with Jorg. The four years between Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns isn't neglected though, since most of the story is told through flashback. Not classic blurry memory flashback, more through "four years earlier" but it's done well and interspersed throughout the current storyline. It supports and explains Jorg's actions and thinking, as well as consequentness of his previous actions coming home to roost.

Jorg is getting married. For those who knows Jorg, this might come as quite a shock. Our favourite little Captain Insane-o getting married? Can't be. Don't worry though, this happens four years after Prince of Thorns. The little bastard has grown up quite a bit.

Jorg's back story gets some perspective and attention in the book. This helps to explain why he sees the world as he does. There is a certain scene with Jorg and his father that made me feel physically ill. I can't remember the last time this happened, and it made me appreciate the writing so much more. You must be damn good to make me feel nauseous and uncomfortable. This certainly isn't criticism, it's praise. To suck you in and make you care so deeply that you feel so much is an art. 

The rest of the world gets some fleshing out throughout the book. Quite a nice chunk of it gets explored by Jorg and his Brothers and new, interesting people and creatures are met. Not all of them are killed, which was quite nice. 

There are some shady characters moving people and nations around as pawns and they are truly in the background, pulling the strings. There's even a bit of prophecy coming to the fore from them, pushing the world into a certain direction, but Jorg really does not care for prophecy or being controlled. They should have known better.

Jorg has really matured throughout this book. He cares for his friends, even if he won't admit it to himself. He starts to show empathy towards strangers and his people. He hasn't gone soft though. He'll burn the world if he feels it'll get him what he wants and he'll not shed a single tear. This point is proven again in the climax of the book. He may be a bit more cuddly that younger Jorg, but he's still the hardest and most calculating bastard in the Broken Empire.

This book is written so well, the characters are amazing and the world is unique and interesting. Jorg is still on his mission to be the Emperor of the Broken Empire, and he's daring anyone to try and stop him. Distant lands are also spoken of, which makes me wonder what stories will be written about them. 

The Broken Empire has certainly jumped to the top of my favourite series pile. Go read this book. It's brilliant.


16 August 2012

Mockingbird - Chuck Wendig

The Blurb: Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.
It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.
Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

This is the second Miriam Black novel, the first being Blackbirds - you can find my review of it here. If you haven't read it yet, for shame! Go and buy it. Read it, I'll wait...
First things first, the cover is awesomely unique. Joey Hi-Fi really outdid himself, but that happens quite regularly with all his covers. The guy is really good.

The book picks up a few months after the stunning ending of Blackbirds. Miriam is trying to live a normal life and it's not going well. Poor old suffering Louis is trying his best to provide stability to her life and she really hates it. She hates her job, the trailer she lives in and basically everyone around her. She is living an almost normal life, and Miriam does not seem to like anything normal.
She screws it up as she usually does and absolute chaos erupts. Miriam is really one damn disturbed woman. Totally batshit insane. She cannot connect in any normal way to the people who care about her. As soon as something goes a little right in her world, she sabotages it and runs. It makes for some compelling reading, but it'll be damn frustrating to live like this in the real world.
Miriam is on a mission to thwart fate once again. Not for money, but because she decided it's the right thing to do. This is the biggest difference between the first and second books in my opinion. Miriam tries to use her gift to do good. She saves those that she can, especially the helpless and hopeless. Fate does not like this meddling, and the hints are there that Miriam is being noticed by something or somethings that you really do not want to notice you.
The language and violence used in the book might disturb those with gentle constitutions, but you have been warned. Miriam curses more and better than a sailor, but as she sees death everywhere, she gets a free pass on that. 
Some may feel that the story is too much like Blackbirds, but they are quite wrong. There are real character growth and development throughout the story, personal conflicts gets resolved and some real damn big issues are hinted at that's coming in the near future. I see Mockingbird as the second chapter in the Miriam Black story. 
The writing and pacing is done well and really sucks you in. I destroyed this book in two days, and wished that the next one was out as well. The pages flew past without the story feeling frantic. That is pacing I enjoy.
The story is bleak, dark and gory. Despair and death seems to be everywhere. It's amazing.


14 August 2012

The Hammer and the Blade - Paul S. Kemp

The BlurbA Tale of Egil and Nix
A fast paced adventure redolent with the best of classic sword and sorcery tales…
Kill the demon.
Steal the treasure.
Retire to a life of luxury.
Sounds easy when you put it like that.
Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.

Ah, now this was fun. Some good old fashioned sword and sorcery, hack and slash adventure. It was like a good brain scrub, reminding me of my childhood. The one thing I do not like is the cover. It seems too mcuh ye olde fantasy book to me. I have it on my Kindle, so that is a minor point.
Not that this book is a YA or child friendly. There's cursewords and blood and guts galore, with even a little whoring thrown in for good measure.
The stars of this book are Egil and Nix. Two friends, companions and grave robbers. There seemed to be a previous civilization who buried their royalty with loads of loot. Egil and Nix feel that leaving it there seems a waste, so they go take it at great personal risk to themselves.
There are fights, drinking, magic mayhem, damsels in distress, demons and humour galore. The thing that made this book so damn fun was that it hinted at a deeper back story. The history of the main characters are hinted at, but never really explained. The fallen empire whose graves are being robbed seems well thought out, with only hints about their customs and who they were. There are loads of room in this world for further exploration, and that will certainly make me come back for more.
The supporting cast is well fleshed out, each being granted some real personality for the most part. There were a few generic guards that were slaughtered along the way, but that's wat they were there for. You cannot individualise each and every person to their full extent, otherwise you'd be stuck with a 2000 book on character development.
This book came as a real surprise to me, and I'd recommend it to any fantasy fan. If you like sword and sorcery, you'll love this. If you enjoy a well crafted story and a good book, you'll like it just at much. That makes it special.


01 August 2012

What a performance!

Now I know I'm a bit behind in my reading, but some good stuff is on the horison. I'm currently busy with Paul S. Kemp's The Hammer and the Blade, then right into Chuck Wendig's Mockingbird - with a giveaway - and then most probably Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns. So there are some damn good books and reviews coming in the near future.

I'm behind because of the Olympics. The games have sucked me in, and refuses to let me go. We do not stand much chance of a huge medal haul here in South Africa, it's always been that way. That's why when we win one it's kind of a big deal. Cameron van der Burgh worked his ass off to dominate in the 100m breststroke and Chad le Clos stunned the world in the 200m Butterfly. Thanks guys, you made my year!