Wednesday, 29 January 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Elder Scrolls Online releases a Special Edition and a new Cinematic Trailer - Bethesda


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda let us know about a couple of things to do with the forthcoming Elder Scrolls Online.

Firstly the announcement of a new cinematic trailer:

 

And secondly about the forthcoming limited edition title:
"We’re pleased to announce The Elder Scrolls Online Imperial Edition -- a premium collector’s edition for the highly-anticipated The Elder Scrolls Online. This edition will be made available in digital and limited physical formats and are now available for pre-order through participating retailers and pre-purchase from the newly launched, official online store - store.elderscrollsonline.com.

 The Elder Scrolls Online Physical Imperial Edition includes:
  • Molag Bal Statue. A 30.5 cm statue featuring Molag Bal, Daedric Prince of domination and enslavement.
  • The Improved Emperor’s Guide to Tamriel. A 224-page illustrated guide annotated by the Imperial scholar, Flaccus Terentius.
  • Physical Map of Tamriel. A 53.3 cm x 66 cm printed map detailing Alliance-controlled zones and the ultimate conquest: Cyrodiil.  
  • Steelbook™ Packaging. A limited edition steel case decorated in the color of the Imperials.
  • Exclusive Collection of Digital Content.
    • Play as an Imperial: Become an Imperial and play in any Alliance. Gain unique bonuses, crafting styles, gear, and more.
    • White Imperial Horse: Summon this Imperial mount and journey through Tamriel with speed.
    • Mudcrab Vanity Pet: Explore Tamriel with a mudcrab pet scuttling along by your side.
    • Rings of Mara: Complete the Ritual of Mara with a friend and receive an experience bonus when you play together.
The Physical Imperial Edition is extremely limited in quantity and available for pre-order through participating retailers for £89.99.
The Elder Scrolls Online Digital Imperial Edition includes the base game and all digital content outlined for the Physical Imperial Edition above and retails for £69.99.

All those who pre-order or pre-purchase either the Imperial Edition or the Standard Edition in physical or digital formats will also receive The Explorer’s Pack bonus at launch, which includes: Scuttler vanity pet, four bonus treasure maps, and the ability to play as any of thenine races in any Alliance.

Early Access bonuses will also be offered to those pre-ordering or pre-purchasing a PC/Mac version. A five (5) day early access bonus will be offered to those who pre-purchase the Digital Imperial Edition or the Digital Standard Edition through The Elder Scrolls Online Store. Additional early access programs are also available through participating retailers."

Currently there is no news on a limited edition for either of the next gen consoles.


Elder Scrolls Online is released:
PC: 04/04/14  
Mac: 04/04/14  
Xbox One: June 2014  
PS4: June 2014  

We'll see you on the field on honour,  



Gareth and Lady Eleanor

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Sentinels of New Orleans 1-3: Royal Street, River Road, Elysian Fields - Suzanne Johnson

Release Date: 27/09/12
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco spends more of her time mixing potions and retrieving pixies than she does sniffing out supernatural bad guys that slip over from the preternatural beyond. It is DJ's eccentric boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, who is tasked with protecting the city. But when Hurricane Katrina hammers the city's fragile levees, it unleashes more than just flood waters. As the winds howl and Lake Pontchartrain surges, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld start to crumble away ...Now the dead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover. To make it worse, Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards' Elders have assigned a grenade-toting asshat as DJ's new partner, and the pirate Jean Lafitte - who has an impressive libido for a 200-year-old - wants her to walk his plank. If she is going to survive, DJ will have to learn that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies can be found in unlikely places ...and that duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.


REVIEW:

To be honest I was pretty sold on this title by the book blurb and I was lucky enough to be able to get the first three to read back to back. Add to this the fact that I’d considered using a certain pirate within as a principle player in one of my own projects and I was more than interested to see what would occur within.

What unfurls, for me is a book that sadly starts off very slow. The introduction to the characters feels not only a little forced but also awkward without it feeling like its natural progression to the story overall. And yet, as you make your way through, the authors idea’s clearly come through as the mysterious plot wends its way into the readers imagination. It is a story that takes some getting used to and I hope that after an awkward beginning that the series will go from strength to strength.




Release Date: 22/11/12
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

The hurricane may have passed, but in New Orleans the storm rages on. With the borders between the city and the Otherworld destroyed, new and dangerous species have swarmed into the waterways. There is talk of war between rival clans in the darkest depths of Louisiana's swamps and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the peace. When wizards start dying and it become apparent that the waters of the mighty Mississippi itself have been poisoned, DJ will have to really focus if she is to find out who - or what - is responsible. And with an undead suitor, the amorous pirate Jean Lafitte, on her back, that isn't going to be easy...It's anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.


REVIEW:

OK after a worrying start with the first book, I was a little apprehensive at starting the second s after all, in any series its usually the second that’s the make or break, so preparing with a selection of reading supplies (comfy blanket, extra pillows and of course snackages) I picked up the title and turned the first page in apprehension.

For me, this book is far stronger than the original, the characters grow in not only strength but emotionally and when added to a whole new set of problems that only Louisiana can host (and it was wonderfully inventive) all round generated a story that had me turning the pages until I finished the title in the early hours of the morning (I say early hours, its dependent as to what time you call sun-up. LOL)

All round a book that I really enjoyed and one that left me demanding the third when I’d captured up on some sleep.



Release Date: 15/08/13
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

New Orleans is under attack from a copycat who is mimicking the crimes of a serial killer who terrorized the streets almost a century earlier. Drusilla Jaco could happily live without the advances of the 200-year-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte, but through him DJ learns the terrible truth: this is no copycat - someone has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans. And to make matters worse, the attacks aren't random at all. He's after her. So there's an undead serial killer on her back. A loup-garou who's going loco. The Elders are insisting on magic lessons from the world's most annoying wizard. And former partner - and sometime Neanderthal - Alex Warin has just turned up on DJ's to-do list. DJ is about to discover that life in Louisiana has more twists and turns than the mighty Mississippi.


REVIEW:

Having recently been glued to American Horror Story: Coven, I was interested to see what an author would do with the Axeman tale from New Orleans. What occurred within was a tale that was gory, had some solid twists and when added to our principle heroes more than hooked you from the get go.

Add to the mix some wonderful turns of phrase, a great overall arc alongside great prose and pace and for me it’s a series that keeps capturing my imagination. Magical.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

NEWS: Join the Greatcoats with Jo Fletcher Books

Hail Mighty Readers, 
Our friends at Jo Fletcher Books have let us know about some cracking information to do with the forthcoming Traitor's Blade by author Sebastien De Castell.  

Here's the latest news for you:
Due to popular demand the eBook of Traitor’s Blade has been bought forward to February 10th and to celebrate we are offering up to 100 eReview copies of Traitor’s Blade via NetGalley. To enter this competition people need to tweet @JoFletcherBooks their Greatcoat Name which is worked out this way:

1.       Writing down the name of your first school – OK, for me this was Jericho
2.       Writing down the MAIDEN name of your Grandmother on your Mother’s side – Cunnington
3.       Combining the two – So in this case my personal Greatcoat name is Jericho Cunnington

The winners of this completion will be announced on the 6th of February and will receive eReview copies via Net Galley. Information about this is now on our blog:



So why delay, sign up now, your King needs you,



Gareth

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation: Known Devil - Justin Gustainis

Release Date: 28/01/14
Publisher:  Angry Robot

SYNOPSIS:

My name's Markowski. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets. A new supernatural gang is intent on invading Scranton - as if I didn't have enough to contend with!


REVIEW:

The latest Justin Gustainis which takes us back to spend more time with the Police Unit that deals with the things that go bump in the night generating not only a real kickass story but one that brings the wonderfully thorny Markowski to the reader.

I love spending time with this principle character as he resolves his human side against the otherness of the people he deals with. Its quirky, has a great overall arc and when added to a criminal element goes on to show how tricky policing the unusual can be. Its definitely something that I would recommend to others and a series that has done nothing but entertain since its original release.

Add to this adventure a new danger to the otherworld community of Slide, the return of an old foe and of course a whole workload for our hero to deal with and all round you’ll be in for a treat. Great stuff.



Thursday, 23 January 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: The Elder Scrolls Online: Vocal Talent - Bethesda


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda have let us know about the vocal talent behind the forthcoming Elder Scrolls Online.

The only thing we can say is epic:


Elder Scrolls Online is released:
PC: 04/04/14
Mac: 04/04/14

Xbox One: June 2014
PS4: June 2014

We'll see you on the field on honour,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

GUEST BLOG: Where Writers Get their Idea's from - Mike "Tinker" Pearce



For those of you that dont know me Im Michael Tinker Pearce, best known as a knife and sword maker but I am also a writer.  Mostly I collaborate with my wife Linda S.Pearce. You can find our work here: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Tinker-Pearce/e/B00A6X16X6/

One of the questions that writers often get asked is, Where do you get your ideas?  Its a well-intentioned question, but writers generally hate it.  Lately Ive taken to answering, Theres a clearing-house in Poughkeepsie; I just send them a monthly payment and they send me ideas. Some people have actually asked me to email them a link, so Ive pretty much had to stop that.

The truth is that asking a writer where they get their ideas is like asking a fish where they get the water that they breath.  They are literally swimming in it and probably never gave it a second thought.  Likewise the writers inspiration comes from their physical and intellectual environment.  They are surrounded by a world of ideas, and being writers some of these ideas latch on and take hold.

I cant speak for all writers of course, but we never have an idea spring upon us fully developed.  It starts with a seed that results in questions and grows from there.  Our first novel, Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman, started with a comment in World of Warcraft about Regiments of Dwarven Riflemen.  I got to thinking about that- how would such regiments evolve, and how would they fit into a Medieval fantasy world?  Technologies are viral and spread like crazy, so if dwarves had rifles why wouldnt everyone?  What kind of rifles? How are they employed? Who are these dwarves and where do they live? What is their culture and where did they come from?  The answers to every question spawned more questions and from these grew a world.

Once there was a world to set the story in we needed an idea for a story, and of course we didnt want it to be the same as every other epic fantasy out there.  That idea was slow in coming, but eventually it did come and the story evolved from there.  That idea again came from our personal environment.  I was re-reading Louis LAmours Comstock Lode and thought, What if this story were set in our world, rather than the real world?  So we set out to write that, but then the logic of the world and the character took over and we wound up straying quite far from that original concept.  This happens to writers a lot, I understand, because the ideas dont stop coming. Ever.  A lot of writers express that they must write to see what happens next and this certainly matches our experience.

Of course there are leftover ideas at the end of the book, and the we wanted to see how those would play out so we wrote the novella Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rear Guard and are working on the full-length sequel Lord of the North.  Because the ideas just never stop coming.

Our current work-in-progress, Rage of Angels, was spawned from a National Geographic special about an invasion of the earth by aliens.  It was pretty intelligent and interesting, which is not true of most popular media alien-invasion stories.  It got me thinking about how smart aliens would go about attacking the earth, and what could we do about it?  But we still didnt have a story.  Then Linda got the idea to combine the smart invasion with the military science-fiction world of my short stories The Killing Machine and What Happens in Dubai…’ and we were off and running.  Once again the logic of the characters, the story and the world took over and were writing to see what happens next.  We know roughly how its going to end, but how we get to that ending is still a path awash in the sea of ideas.

So theres a recipe; be aware of and interested in the world around you. Ideas are everywhere.  Once one sticks start asking and answering questions and youll have your story soon enough.  Dont know the answers? Well, luckily were living in the Information Age and the answers are just a click or two away.  Im constantly breaking off from my writing to research a particular point on the internet, or to do math to see how something will work out, or in fact if it will work at all.
###

Michael 'Tinker' Pearce lives in Seattle with his wife and co-author Linda. He got the nickname 'Tinker' in the 1980's when he was at various times a soldier, college student, a bodyguard, a private investigator, a meat-carver at a restaurant, a police officer, an illustrator, heavy equipment operator, competition shooter, cover-copy writer, outlaw road-racer, Drill Instructor Candidate, receptionist, executive assistant to the heads of corporate banking at Citycorps, Tobacconist, courier for a currency exchange etc.
He finally settled down to become a knife and sword maker, specializing in the blades of medieval Europe and the Viking Era. He is the author of 'The Medieval Sword in the Modern World,' and the designer of the CAS Iberia Tinker Line of medieval swords and trainers. He is a trained theatrical fighter and choreographer, and a student of Historic European Martial Arts. He co-authored the Foreworld novella 'The Shield Maiden' and the couple released their first novel 'Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman' in early 2013. They released a sequel novella, 'Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rear Guard' in September 2013. Their second Foreworld Novella 'Tyr's Hammer' was published in October 2013.
The couple is currently working on their second novel, 'Rage of Angels,' a hard-science military science-fiction story based on the events in 'The Killing Machine' and 'What Happens in Dubai.' They hope to complete this book by the end of 2013.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY REVIEW: Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman, Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rearguard, The Foreworld Saga: Tyr's Hammer, What Happens in Dubai - Mike Tinker Pearce and Linda Pearce

Release Date: 26/02/13
Publisher:  47 North

SYNOPSIS:

Engvyr’s father gave up on the miner’s life to move the family back to their ancestral home in the far north. But the journey is fraught with perils the young dwarf has never imagined, and when tragedy casts him in the role of hero, well, what’s a dwarf to do?

The events of that fateful journey have shaped and ruled his life, but now Engvyr wants nothing more than to make a place for himself, perhaps settle down and raise a family. But when a new enemy rises in the North he finds himself at the center of the conflict, with not merely the freedom of his people but the fate of all of humanity hanging in the balance… and the habit of heroism is a hard one to break.

In Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman magic, science and technology work hand-in-hand to create a new kind of fantasy world, where the character, life and relationships of an ordinary dwarf can steer the course of history and save a world.


REVIEW:

I love a cracking fantasy story and having enjoyed another 47 North author prior to this, I was more than happy to give a second a go and to be honest I was pleased I did. Here in the first of two tales featuring a cracking lead hero, is a tale that gives a reader an adventure of a lifetime (our principle heroes) and one that has a whole host of emotional context within.

The prose is sharp, has great twists and when added to a Dwarven love of gunpowder all round gives the reader a cracking story that will stay with them long after the final page is turned. Add to this a voice that the reader will love to spend time around as well as a wonderfully developed protagonist and I can’t wait to start part two.



Release Date: 19/09/13
Publisher:  47 North

SYNOPSIS:

Engvyr Gunnarson is an expert marksman and a soldier in one of the dwarves' elite rifle regiments. He is sworn to preserve king and country, but when a rescue mission goes awry he and his companions must face impossible odds to delay their pursuers... and perhaps pay the ultimate price for their heroism!


REVIEW:

I love spending time with the stunty ones and having loved the first outing from Mike and Linda, I couldn’t wait to see what the world would dish up this time as world changing events are in the offing with our principle hero in the thick of things. It has great prose, some wonderful twists which when backed with an authorly voice that really speaks to the reader all round generates a special tale that you won’t be able to put down.

Add to this the continued development of our hero as well as the strength of tale improving all round gives the reader something not only unique but a real treat. Great stuff.



Release Date: 03/12/13
Publisher:  Brilliance Corp

SYNOPSIS:

SideQuests are stand-alone stories or novellas that chronicle the heroes, villains, and adventures in The Foreworld Saga across numerous eras and ages. They can be read in any order with or without prior knowledge of The Foreworld Saga. In this quick-witted and action-packed addition to The Foreworld Saga series, the leader of the Shield-Brethren has dispatched two of his men northward to secure land for a new citadel. When Tyr and his companion come upon the perfect spot, they discover that it is owned by Voldrun, a northern king with a questionable sense of justice. Although he welcomes the travelers, the king's true motives eventually become clear. Determined to be compensated for his hospitality, Voldrun subjects the duo to several challenges, culminating in a game more dangerous than either warrior could ever have imagined. Steadfast and brave to the end, Tyr must draw upon all of his considerable skill and cunning as he endeavors to outwit the sly Voldrun and strives to secure a bright future for the order.


REVIEW:

I love a classic fantasy tale so this tale by Mike and Linda, hit all the right buttons for me as they brought life to a tale of Nordic proportions. The prose was sharp, the characters fun to spend time around and whilst I saw what was coming quite early on, I still had a lot of fun as the tale wound its merry way through my imagination. All round a cracking little tale and one that I think a fair few others should try to get a flavour of whats to come in their longer stories. Great stuff.




Release Date: 16/08/13
Publisher:  Brilliance Corp

SYNOPSIS:

Special Forces troops in powered armor must try to stop terrorists from detonating a ten-megaton nuclear weapon in a major city. If they fail millions will die and it will tear the heart out of the Middle East's economy.


REVIEW:

A short story outing that is not only a wonderful bit of fun but one that gets the readers to ask questions of themselves about the possible futures. Here within this title, is a story that brings Mike and Linda’s writing to the fore, it has cracking pace, prose which in its sparseness works wonderfully and when added to a unique point of view all round gives the reader an experience that is different to a lot of other reads out there. All round a great bit of fun.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Cemetery Girl 1: Cemetery Girl - Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Don Kramer

Release Date: 02/01/14
Publisher:  

SYNOPSIS:

Calexa Rose Dunhill was just fourteen when she woke in a cemetery. Bruised, bloody and left for dead, with no memory of her previous life, she took a new name from the headstones that surrounded her. Now, three years on, Calexa still lives in Dunhill Cemetery, struggling with the desire to know her true identity - and the all-consuming fear of what she might discover when she does. Then, when she witnesses a gang of teenagers staging a stunt that goes horribly, fatally wrong, Calexa Rose Dunhill discovers she has a unique ability. One she cannot control...


REVIEW:

A brand new story from two cracking authors in a wonderful graphic novel format that not only brings the story to life but will bring them to a whole new audience. The artwork is wonderful and with the imagination of Charlaine and Christopher, really does bring the whole thing together and whilst I was initially worried about the differing styles between graphic novel scripting and novel writing, it did work out wonderfully.

All round a first outing in a brand new series and one that I thought was a good bit of fun as it was not only dark but brought something new to the fore. Great fun.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

URBAN FANTASY CRIME REVIEW: NEW SERIES: Prospero's War 1: Dirty Magic - Jaye Wells

Release Date: 21/01/14
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

DIRTY MAGIC - IT'S DANGEROUS, ILLEGAL AND TWICE AS ADDICTIVE AS COCAINE The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there's a new blend out there that's as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she's brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realises she must secure a spot on the MEA task force. Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier - on the same day she swore she'd given up dirty magic for good.


REVIEW:

I really love a new novel from a favourite author so receiving a cracking new Urban Crime Tale from Jaye Wells was a great way to start a new year. What you get is a story that has high octane action, some wonderful emotional twists as well as a principle character that has personal alongside professional quandaries to resolve.

Back this all up with an identifiable writing style, some wonderful dialogue with some great one liners and I was a more than happy reader. Magic.



Monday, 20 January 2014

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Samantha Carter 1: Vampire Seeker - Tim O'Rourke

Release Date: 16/01/14
Publisher:  Piatkus

SYNOPSIS:

250,000 books sold 4000 five star reviews Discover an underground phenomenon Discover Tim O'Rourke Samantha Carter believes a vampire is responsible for the brutal deaths of four women in London and finally she has the chance to catch him. Desperate to prove the killer's identity, she chases him onto a late night tube train. But Samantha doesn't reach the next station - instead she's pulled into a very different journey, back in time to the Wild West - where friendship, desire and even love all come hand in hand with deadly danger. To stay alive she'll have to work out who to trust - and when to resist temptation. For Sammy's nightmares are about to come true - vampires are real and more lethal than she ever imagined..


REVIEW:

I love something a little different and having heard of Tim’s work through friends, when Piatkus picked him up, I decided that I was more than happy to spend time in the Old West in the company of Samantha “Sammy” Carter I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. Within this title, the first outing in the series, was a story that was light, had some interesting twists as well as solid action sequences that all round generated a book that was a good bit of fun to spend time away from reality within.

Add to this a curious cast of characters, some double dealing mixed in with a touch of sparkly romance and all round it was a book that left me wanting more in the series. Thanks, Tim.



Friday, 10 January 2014

Guest Blog: What If? - Alexander Cole

Here at Falcata Times, we're always proud to host a guest blog from authors.  We love to see the thinking behind the work, the questions that the authors ask themselves and to be part of a tour gives the readers the chance to not only try new blogs out but to return to some old favourites.   So here, on his proud Alternate History debut, author Alexander Cole (aka Colin Falconer) brings his concepts to the fore:
 ______________________________

My mother told me that my first word wasn’t ‘Mum’. Or even ‘Dad’.

It was “Wotif?’

I think she knew about then that her son was going to be a writer.

What if.

What if Alexander had not died in Babylon in 323BC? What would he have done next?

And what would he have done with his new war elephants?

COLOSSUS is my first foray into alternative history. Some of my other novels have been whydidtheys rather than whatifs,

I played out my stories against well researched periods of history; with Cleopatra, with Cortes, with Suleiman, I asked why.

But with Alexander it was ‘what if?’

The speculation was too sumptuous to resist.

There are those who do not like alternative history. It certainly has its critics. But as a reader of historical novels, as well as an author of them, I don’t care as long as the story seduces me. My only caveat is that the author pays attention to the facts.

Thomas Harris’s ‘Fatherland’ for example; it never happened, but the back story paid every attention to historical record.

I believe alternative history is valid; when real events are given due respect, it throws recorded history into context..

But I didn’t set out to write alternate fiction; I set out to write a story. It just happened to be the best way to tell it.

In that, I suppose, I’m not a purist. I read an interview recently between Bernard Cornwell and George RR Martin where they both agreed on the parallels between fantasy fiction and historical fiction, yet dismissed alternate fiction. I don’t understand this. I’m not an apologist for alternative fiction - this is the first I’ve ever written, it may be the last. But surely the story is the boss.

And ‘what if’ is the seed behind every tale.

I did as much research for COLOSSUS as I did for any historical novel. I researched Alexander’s life thoroughly, studied his battle tactics and the well documented degeneration of his personality. I read every book I could find on the history of war elephants. When Alexander came to conquer Carthage he employed the same tactics as those used by Scipio Africanus two hundred years later.

And finally, knowing as much as I could about the years before and after his death, I gave him one extra year of life to see what he would do with it.

I brought an elephant to life and put his mahout into Alexander’s orbit, imagined him as Alexander’s elephantarch, in command his new secret weapon - the war elephant.

And then what?

Well, what if Alexander had decided to march on Carthage?

What if, during this campaign, we can learn to sympathise with the elephants who have been enslaved as war machines?

What if the ancient struggle between avarice and compassion are played out on an epic, long ago stage?

Ah, what if.

It has fired my imagination since a child.

It fires it still. 


Colossus was released on the 2nd January 2014 from Atlantic Books.

ALTERNATE HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Colossus - Alexander Cole

Release Date:  02/01/14
Publisher:  Atlantic Books

SYNOPSIS:

Alexander the Great rests in Babylon as he decides which should be his next world to conquer. A war elephant, Colossus, disturbs the peace of the camp when he is provoked to a killing rampage. Only one young mahout has the courage to stop Colossus. And when Alexander notices his bravery, Gajendra begins a meteoric climb through the ranks of the Macedonian army. Gajendra is fiercely loyal to Alexander, the great General who plucked him from obscurity. But as he rises to become Captain of the Elephants, Gajendra sees how Alexander is being corrupted by luxury and power. Forced to choose between keeping faith with Alexander or with his comrades, Gajendra must find the strength to make the right decision as Alexander's army approaches the gates of Rome.


REVIEW:

There are times as a reader when as a reader you'd love to sit back and ponder the "What if" question and whilst a lot of books take the reader into the fantasy realm, this title brings one of History's Greatest General's to the fore, into a story that could have happened had he not died so young.

Here in this case, the reader is asked the question of "What if Alexander the Great had invaded Carthage?" And to be honest, it generates not only a fascinating story but gives the reader a tale that has not only fascinating ponderings but generates believable battle sequences that goes to show a war thats all or nothing.

Its a cracking read and with Alexander giving me as a reader just the right blend of action, some great machinations of personal and political asides and when added to a writing style thats easy to get on with all round gave me a tale that was hard to put down. Great Stuff.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

GUEST BLOG: Love in a Cold Climate - Alma Katsu

One thing The Immortal Trilogy doesn’t lack is a variety of settings. Because the books features flashbacks on the characters’ long lives, readers get to experience places and periods as diverse as Venice in 1262; the Hindu Kush in 1841; several months with Lord Byron in Pisa in 1822; and Fez in 1830.

For all those warmer locations, I think of the books as being associated more with wintery climes. The first book, The Taker, is set primarily in the protagonist’s hometown, the fictional town of St. Andrew in northernmost Maine that would sit about where Allagash stands today. It is winter there nearly half the year, with snow piling up to the windows. The book opens on a chilly night in the present day, with a disillusioned doctor contemplating the difficult lives of his farming neighbors minutes before he is meets Lanore, a woman who claims to have lived in the town at the time of its founding over 200 years earlier.



Readers ask why I decided to set the book in a relatively unknown area of Maine (or rather, known today for its rafting and fly-fishing and not for its past); why did I choose such a cold location for the story? The answer is two-fold. First, the characters had to start their lives in an isolated place, where they were essentially living in a remote kingdom that was self-sufficient, with laws unto itself. A place where one of the characters, Jonathan (the one with whom Lanore falls in love), could be a veritable princeling, ruler of all he surveys. So I whisked them away to a very cold, remote place indeed.

In the second place, I grew up in the north. Not the snowy isolation of northern Maine; no, I grew up some place even more remote and snowy and deadly: Alaska. People are always surprised to hear that I was born in Alaska, in the area of Fairbanks. The reason is pretty simple: my father was in the Army and was stationed there. It was a long time ago, and the impression I get is that life was even harder then than it is now.

This all happened a long time ago and I have few memories of living there. The stories I do remember, however, have to do with how dangerous it was. My parents came close to losing my three siblings and me on several occasions. Of course this may say more about my parents’ atrocious parenting skills than the inherent dangers of the snowy north. For instance, on a camping trip in Denali park, one of us became lost and it apparently got to a fairly dire point before the lost child was found (I no longer remember if I was the one who was lost, or one of my sisters, but you’ll see that it hardly matters because we each have our turn in the barrel, so to speak.)

On another occasion, they brought my two older sisters to the dogsled races (I was deemed too young and left at home) and for some reason, thought it would be fun to put the two of them in one of the sleds participating in the race. When the sleds crossed the finish line, they saw to their horror that one of my sisters was missing. They assumed that she fell out of the sled somewhere along the miles-long route. The sledders were about to organize a search party when they discovered the missing sister tucked in at the bottom of the sled, asleep.

Then there was the time they almost left my brother—who was then an infant—behind at a rest stop on the Yukon Highway. This was the same excursion where my father came face to face with a brown bear; my mother (who cannot drive) had visions of being left alone with four children in the wilderness after her husband had been mauled to death by a bear. What I have taken away from all these hilarious stories is that my parents have very poor judgment. I cannot figure out for the life of me why any of my siblings would leave their children in my parents’ care, but they have.

Perhaps this is why, in shadowy back of my mind, the wintery north equates to danger and loss of life in a spectacular way.

We return to St. Andrew, as well as travel to Venice in the Middle Ages and even the underworld in the final book of the trilogy, The Descent. For more information on the books and the author, please visit www.almakatsu.com.

(Stock Photo in the article purchased by Alma Katsu.)

URBAN FANTSAY ROMANCE REVIEW: The Immortal Trilogy 3: The Descent - Alma Katsu

Release Date: 02/01/14
Publisher:  Arrow Books

SYNOPSIS:

This is the stunning conclusion to Alma Katsu's gripping supernatural trilogy that began with The Taker. 'We had a tangled history, Adair and I. He had been my lover and my teacher, master to my slave. We had literally been prisoners to one another. Somewhere along the way he fell in love with me, but I was too afraid to love him in return. Afraid of his unexplainable powers, and his furious temper. Afraid of what I knew he was capable of and what even he himself didn't know he could do. I ran away to follow a safer path with a man I could understand. I always knew, however, that my path would one day lead back to Adair...'


REVIEW:

To be honest I can be a real sucker (no pun intended with this book) for an age old love story and this is what Alma has done wonderfully well within this, the third and final outing of the series. As with the previous two instalments, the story has a wonderful summation at the beginning (so if you haven’t done a reread prior to starting you don’t have to worry) and when added to the development of her principle players (along with excellent backstory flashes) makes this a book that is a “just one more chapter before bed” late night read.

It has solid prose, a wonderful turn of pace and when you add the scope embraced within alongside some cracking twits all round gives the reader a golden glow upon completion after the cast has seen the final curtain. It’s heart-breaking in places, jovial in others and takes you through a whole roller-coaster throughout that really was a joy to spend time with. All round a great book and thanks Alma for giving it redemption as well as emotional plucking to see it on its way.



Monday, 6 January 2014

GUEST BLOG: Attacking the Crapster; Literary Tactics Versus Strategy - Brian Staveley

We always love to bring a new author to our readers and a few days ago we reviewed Brian's debut novel, The Emperor's Blades.  So for your viewing pleasure, Brian has kindly written this post for us about the problems between strategy and tactics in writing:

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I’m struck, as I finish up the edits to The Providence of Fire, the sequel to The Emperor’s Blades, at how frequently I approach my writing in terms of strategic impulses and tactical opportunities. Of course, a writer doesn’t have a clear opponent, but I like to imagine myself playing the artistic game against a real asshole I know only as The Master of Crap. Whenever something works in my book, it’s because I’ve achieved a small victory in our ongoing battle. Whenever something fails, it’s because The Crapster has outsmarted me.

For a long time, I thought tactics and strategy were the same thing, both vaguely synonymous with “sneaky plans to be used in board games, marriage, or war.” Turns out (as it often does) that I was wrong.

Not that tactics and strategy aren’t important in romance and war, but the two are not the same thing. Tactics are focused, limited, and delimiting. The goal of a given tactical situation is always clear: destroy this gun, capture White’s bishop, etc. Not so much, when it comes to strategy. A strategy is a large-scale, open-ended plan aimed at the organic generation of tactical opportunities.

In chess, for instance, it’s considered a sound strategic move to double up rooks on an open file, not because you know exactly what those rooks will do fifteen moves down the road, but because they’re better like that. Likewise with the terrain of battlefieds. Few military thinkers advocate seizing the lowlands and swamps. Almost regardless of the situation or weaponry – longbows right on down to artillery – the high ground is strategically valuable. It makes anyone who possesses it better; it provides opportunities that might not even be clear before the battle is joined.

When I started The Emperor’s Blades many years back, I thought almost exclusively in terms of tactics. How do I reveal this secret? How do I flesh out this brawl? How do I set up this relationship? I was like the classic barbarian warrior, that staple of fantasy novels, who wades into the battle heedlessly, crushes the skull of his first foe, then looks around and bellows, “Who’s next?” While this makes for exciting fight scenes, it’s not a great way to compose a book. I scrapped my early effort after many hundreds of pages.

Then I was tempted by the urge to outline everything, to have blueprints of the whole castle before I started building, but while blueprints are wonderful things for castles, preventing, as they do, the tendency for a vast tonnage of stone to return abruptly to the earth, they are, at least for me, deadly to the process of writing. A story, unlike a castle, needs room to evolve, to grow, to respond to itself in the process of creation. It is a bad thing if you decide, halfway though the building of a tower, that you don’t want a tower in that particular spot after all; it is a good thing, on the other hand, to raze entire chapters of a book. I know there are writers who won’t compose a word until the whole story is outlined plot point by plot point, but I would miss out on most of my good ideas if I tried to do this, ideas that spring up unexpectedly as weeds in the middle of the act of writing.

The only alternative to short-sighted tactics or obsessive planning is strategy, and it’s here that I’m sometimes able to steal a march on the ever-vigilant Crapster. You don’t need to know exactly how things are going to unfold in order to make strategic decisions. Like doubling rooks on an open file or seizing the high ground, certain literary choices are just more likely to lead to interesting outcomes.

For instance: When dividing characters into groups (you three have to go rescue Dipshit the Wizard, while you three have to go hold the mountain pass at Akkadakka) don’t put friends in the same group. It’s sort of like the way teachers approach group assignments, except where teachers are hoping (usually in vain) that the students will learn to get along with someone new, the author is banking on the fact that characters who distrust and dislike each other will, when forced to spend time together, do something interesting. And the great thing is, you don’t even need to know what that interesting thing is when you first arrange the group.

Plenty of strategic moves are similarly obvious:
Should Character A have an injury? Yes.
Should Character B have a phobia? Yes.
Should Character C have a secret? Yes.

It’s self-evident that a group of three characters with phobias, injuries, and secrets are going to offer far richer tactical opportunities, opportunities to seize the high ground from the Crapster, than a group of three healthy, happy, blithely honest folk.

There are, however, other strategic decisions that are far murkier, and as I finish revising the second volume, I’m seeing just how far-reaching some of my early choices really are. For instance, two of the characters in The Emperor’s Blades have burning eyes, irises that actually shift and glow as though they were embers. I am still grappling with the effects of this early decision.

Chess notation uses the following symbol – !? – to indicate an unexpected move that could prove strategically far-sighted or utterly stupid. I feel as though the burning eyes should have been annotated with such a symbol. They have led to some wonderful opportunities, especially in The Providence of Fire, but there are some real tactical drawbacks to having a character instantly recognizable wherever she goes.

And of course, this is what makes any kind of strategy so interesting. Once you’ve doubled the rooks and seized the high ground, there are hundreds more decisions to make, difficult decisions that will affect the story for pages to come, and The Crapster is always waiting.