Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: A Guile of Dragons by James Enge

A Guile of Dragons
Author:  James Enge
Series:  A Tournament of Shadows 1
Publisher:  Pyr, August 24, 2012
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Price:  $17.95 (print)
ISBN:  978-1-61614-628-3 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Cover Illustration: © Steve Stone

It's dwarves vs dragons in this origin story for Enge's signature character, Morlock Ambrosius!

Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.

The dwarves are cut cut off from the Graith of Guardians in the south. Their defenders are taken prisoner or corrupted by dragonspells. The weight of guarding the Northhold now rests on the crooked shoulders of a traitor’s son, Morlock syr Theorn (also called Ambrosius).

But his wounded mind has learned a dark secret in the hidden ways under the mountains. Regin and Fafnir were brothers, and the Longest War can never be over...

Brannigan's Review

A Guile of Dragons is not your everyday fast-food fantasy book. James Enge writes full-course meal fantasy, and it should be appreciated as such. For anyone looking for a quick and easy hack and slash story, don't be fooled by the page count. Enge packs in a lot of depth and care in a short amount of pages. Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to frighten anyone off from reading this engaging and thoughtful book. In fact, I think it's the perfect blend of original ideas, beautiful prose and action. It's a book I found myself taking my time feasting on.

Even though this is not the first book we find Morlock Ambrosius in, it is the beginning of Morlock's story, so don't worry if you haven't read the first series by Enge. Enge excels in the way he gives familiar races an interesting connection and/or twist from the run-of-the-mill fantasy. He also likes to play with the idea of magic and spirituality that I found captivating. I also appreciated the fact that the book feels complete after reading it. A lot of series treat the first book as a tease to the main story, leaving too many unanswered questions as a tool to get the reader to buy the next book, but Enge leaves the reader fulfilled. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

A Guile of Dragons is a solid foundation to the origins of Morlock Ambrosius. It is well suited for a reader that enjoys taking their time reading a book and thinking about the questions the author raises. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a quick easy book to read on the beach. I would recommend it to young adults and adults. It's perfect for fantasy fans that like to read a series story with new ideas. I'd also recommend it to anyone that likes literary fiction as a bridge to the fantasy genre.

Cover Revealed: The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig recently revealed the cover for The Hellsblood Bride, the 2nd novel in his Mookie Pearl series. The fabulous cover is by Joey Hi-Fi.

The Hellsblood Bride
Mookie Pearl 2
Angry Robot Books, December 30, 2014 (North American Print / eBook)
     January 1, 2015 (UK Print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook

Yes, we’re going back deep underground for another twelve rounds with Mookie Pearl.

Father, barkeep, former Mafioso, ruler of his subterranean crime-kingdom. The Organization is back, and they’ll do anything to get Mookie on board, but Mookie has gone legit, and it’s taking every ounce of effort for him to keep his new bar from crashing and burning.

To top it all, his daughter is missing, and when Nora’s not in plain sight, that’s usually a sign of bad things to come! On one hand, the Organization. On the other, Nora.

Why can’t Family ever be easy..?

File Under: Urban Fantasy

The 1st novel in the Mookie Pearl series:

The Blue Blazes
Mookie Pearl 1
Angry Robot Books, May 28, 2013  (North American Print / eBook)
     June 6, 2013  (UK Print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook

Meet Mookie Pearl.

Criminal underworld? He runs in it.

Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.

Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.

But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Family Matters | When Underworlds Collide | Thrill of the Hunt | Chips and Old Blocks ]

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Release Day Review: Pack of Strays by Dana Cameron

Pack of Strays
Author:  Dana Cameron
Series:  Fangborn 2
Publisher:  47North, April 15, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 346 pages
List Price:  $14.95  (print)
ISBN:  9781477819777 (print)
Review copy: Provided by the Publisher

The second exciting novel in the Fangborn series.

Archaeologist Zoe Miller has only recently learned she is Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles dedicated to protecting humanity. But after she discovered and opened Pandora’s Box, the fabled item has lived up to its myth, and for Zoe and her friends, all hell has broken loose. Now she’s on a double mission: to prevent a politician from revealing the existence of the Fangborn and to foil the diabolical plans of the powerful Order of Nicomedia, a group dedicated to eradicating her kind.

But Zoe is also noticing disturbing changes in herself—new and unique abilities. Her visions are intensifying too, drawing her to faraway places to find more artifacts like the bejeweled bracelet embedded in her wrist.

In a world of dizzying shifts, who can Zoe trust? For while her former lover wants to turn her in, her former adversary seems dedicated to helping her mission succeed…

The second novel in Dana Cameron’s Fangborn series, Pack of Strays takes the fast-paced adventure of Seven Kinds of Hell to a whole new level!

Qwill's Thoughts

Pack of Strays is the 2nd novel in the Fangborn series by Dana Cameron. The Fangborn were first found in a several short stories. Fangborn are vampires, werewolves and oracles who are dedicated to protecting humanity from evil while humanity knows nothing about them. Seven Kinds of Hell was the first novel published in the series. Pack of Strays picks up where the first novel leaves off. Zoe Miller has escaped the clutches of the Theodore Roundtree Group or TRG (a secret US governmental entity) that was experimenting on her. In the first novel she had found a Fangborn artifact that became a part of her body. The TRG wanted to find out why and what it was doing to her.

In Pack of Strays Zoe is being called to find more artifacts. She can't avoid the call and must go after the various artifacts which continue to change her body. While she has embraced that she is a werewolf,, something altogether different is now happening to her. She doesn't understand what it is and neither does the reader though there are hints that she may be fulfilling a Fangborn prophecy.  She travels the world and over the course of the novel picks up a number of Fangborn who want to aid her for various reasons - old and new allies. Not only is Zoe up against the TRG, she is fighting the Order of Nicomedia ("Order") who have sworn to wipe out the Fangborn.

There is a wonderful amount of action in Pack of Strays as Zoe hunts for artifacts and is chased at various times by the TRG and the Order. The Order is up to something really awful and Zoe is determined to stop it. In addition to Zoe, there are Fangborn that we met in the prior novel along with some new characters. There seems to be a bit of love triangle developing with Zoe, her ex-boyfriend Will and Adam Nichols (who worked for the TRG). The romance takes a huge and appropriate back seat to saving the Fangborn. Zoe simply does not have time to deal with her love life in full at the moment. Zoe is becoming a more complex character as the series goes on. She is still somewhat out of her element, but is trying to be a leader while figuring out what is happening to her. For a werewolf she seems very human.

Once again Cameron uses her knowledge of archaeology to enrich the story. Zoe is an archaeologist and this plays a pivotal roll during Pack of Strays. The writing is crisp and the story unfolds nicely from start to finish with much pulse-pounding action, some humor, and mystery. If you haven't read the first novel (and you should), Cameron gives the reader enough information to catch up quickly. Pack of Strays ends on what can be construed as a cliff-hanger. I don't mind cliff-hangers in general and did not in this case. I thoroughly enjoyed Pack of Strays and Zoe Miller's story so far. I am really looking forward to the next novel in the Fangborn series.

Read an April 9th interview with Dana Cameron here. The interview includes a list of the short stories.

Read my review of Seven Kinds of Hell here.

Interview with Jacob Bacharach, author of The Bend of the World - April 15, 2014

Please welcome Jacob Bacharach to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bend of the World was published on April 14, 2014 by Liveright.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Jacob:  Thanks for having me. I started writing when I was very young. I had always been a precocious reader, and when I was in, oh, probably second or third grade, someone--probably my mom--gave me this little anthology called 101 Famous Poems (which you can still find, by the way; it was compiled by a man named Roy J. Cook). For the next couple of years, I was obsessed with the poem, "Each in His Own Voice," by William Herbert Carruth, especially the first verse:

A fire-mist and a planet,--
A crystal and a cell,--
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod,--
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.

I must have written a hundred poems ripping it off. A few years later, my dad gave me The Edge of Tomorrow, which is a great Asimov collection. I fell in love with his short story, "The Final Question," which involves a giant computer called Multivac eventually merging with the collective mind of much-evolved humanity and creating the universe all over again. I ripped that off, too, which was the start of my interest in fiction.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

JacobThe Bend of the World is a book, in part, about occult conspiracies, so you'd think I would be a plotter, but in reality, I knew where it started and I knew where it ended and I noodled my way through the in-between. I didn't actually write a synopsis until my agent made me, at which point the first draft of the book was nearly complete.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jacob:  I am a serial procrastinator. Go to look up one fact, and I emerge three hours later having written a blog post, read a Wikipedia list of the world's longest bridges, tried to find a snippet of dialogue from some other book, made eggs, had tea, taken the dog for a walk, watched an old episode of Star Trek on Netflix . . .

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Jacob:  There are so many. I love Philip K. Dick and Joseph Conrad--that's a weird pairing, I know, but both of them write astonishingly well about paranoia and the conspiratorial mindset, and both of them are underrated as humorists; Conrad's The Secret Agent is one of the great comic conspiracy-espionage novels of all time, and it even has a bit of a scifi tinge, as it involves a plot to blow up an astronomical observatory. I also love Ishmael Reed. Mumbo Jumbo is a sort of Afrocentric alternate history involving jazz, magic, and ancient Egyptian deities. I own every one of Iain M. Banks Culture novels, although my favorite of his is the non-Culture The Algebraist, which features what I consider the finest, funniest aliens anyone ever invented. I selfishly regretted his too-early death last year, because I was always waiting for his next book. I still love Frank Herbert, whose environmentalism was so prescient--a friend of mine was making fun of me for having all the Dune books by my bedside and called me "Kwisatz Bacharach."

TQ:  Describe The Bend of the World in 140 characters or less.

A coming of age novel in which no one comes of age. With UFOs and a sasquatch.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Bend of the World that is not in the book description.

There are a lot of drugs in the book, real and imagined, and they're sometimes played for laughs, but in a lot of ways, The Bend of the World is about our addictions: to drugs, to love, to status, to wealth, to our imagined futures. Even the book's different conspirators and conspiracy theories are treated in may ways as addicts and their addictions. I'm fascinated by the idea that addiction is in so many ways the mind conspiring against itself.

TQThe Bend of the World is a genre blending literary novel set in Pittsburgh, PA. Why Pittsburgh? How would you describe the genres mixed together in your novel?

Pittsburgh because it's the best town in the world! And my hometown. I like books and stories that have a real sense of place to them. It's a fascinating geography and topography against which to set a tale of the weird. Also, I believe, as one character says in the book, that the city is "a nexus of intense magical convergence, an axis mundi, if you will."

It's half a pretty classic literary Bildungsroman, a quarter X-Files, with the remainder a combination of late Philip K. Dick, disinfo, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and The Gates of Prayer, which is the Reform Jewish Shabbat prayer book . . . although the narrator is in fact a Catholic.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Bend of the World?

I re-watched The X-Files, spent hundreds of hours reading about the Philadelphia Project and MK Ultra and other classic conspiracy theories, and, because the book is as much about a place as about characters, I spent days staring at Google maps, trying to figure out exactly where everything should occur.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

The easiest was Johnny, the narrator's best friend. He is the world-of-the-weird's main interlocutor in the book, and in many ways it was Johnny, rather than my narrator and protagonist, who provided the impetus to write the story. The hardest character was Helen, a beautiful and deeply troubled artist with whom Peter (the narrator) becomes infatuated. She had to be both impressive and pitiable, finely drawn and still mysterious--it was very difficult to find the proper balance.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Bend of the World.

I love the last line, but that would be telling. So I'll give you the opener instead: "It was a wet February in Pittsburgh, spring, early and without warning, and twice in one week UFOs had been spotted hovering over Mount Washington."

TQ:  What's next?

I'm working on a new novel, a sort of loose retelling of the Abraham story from Genesis, set in rural Western Pennsylvania in more-or-less present times, full of Real Estate scams and fracking and megalomaniacal architects who think they're prophets and a monster or a god who lives in the woods.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Bend of the World

The Bend of the World
Liveright (W.W. Norton), April 14, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

"A comedy of bad manners, darting wisecracks, deadpan chagrin, and drug-hazed pratfalls" (James Wolcott), The Bend of the World is a madcap coming-of-age novel in which no one quite comes of age and everything you know is not a lie, it's just, well, tangential to the truth.

In the most audacious literary debut to come out of the Steel City since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, we meet Peter Morrison, twenty-nine and comfortably adrift in a state of not-quite-adulthood, less concerned about the general direction of his life than with his suspicion that all his closest relationships are the products of inertia. He and his girlfriend float along in the same general direction, while his parents are acting funny, though his rich, hypochondriac grandmother is still good for admission to the better parties. He spends his days clocking into Global Solutions (a firm whose purpose remains unnervingly ambiguous) and his weekends listening to the half-imagined rants of his childhood best friend, Johnny. An addict and conspiracy theorist, Johnny believes Pittsburgh is a "nexus of intense magical convergence" and is playing host to a cabal of dubious politicians, evil corporate schemes, ancient occult rites, and otherwise inexplicable phenomena, such as the fact that people really do keep seeing UFOs hovering over the city.

Against this strange background, Peter meets Mark and Helen, a slightly older couple, new to town, whose wealth and glamour never fully conceal the suggestion of something sinister, and with whom he becomes quickly infatuated. Mark is a corporate lawyer in the process of negotiating a buyout of Global Solutions, and initiates Peter into the real, mundane (maybe) conspiracies of corporations and careers, while Helen—a beautiful and once prominent artist—is both the echo and the promise of the sort of woman Peter always imagined, or was always told he ought to find for himself.

As Peter climbs the corporate ladder, Johnny is pulled into the orbit of a mysterious local author, Winston Pringle, whose lunatic book of conspiracies seems to be coming true. As Johnny falls farther down the rabbit hole, the surreal begins to seep into the mundane, and the settled rhythm of Peter's routine is disrupted by a series of close encounters of third, fourth, and fifth kinds. By the time Peter sets out to save his friend from Pringle's evil machinations (and pharmacological interventions), his familiar life threatens to transform into that most terrifying possibility: a surprise.

In The Bend of the World Philip K. Dick meets Michael Chabon, and Jacob Bacharach creates an appropriately hilarious, bizarre, and keenly observed portrait of life on the edge of thirty in the adolescent years of twenty-first-century America.

About Jacob

Jacob Bacharach is a writer and nonprofit administrator living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has a BA in English and creative writing from Oberlin College and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is not, to the best of our knowledge, a shape-shifting reptiloid or a descendant of the Merovingian dynasty. In his spare time, he cooks, rides bikes, and occasionally plays the violin badly. He prefers "experiencer" to "abductee." This is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @jakebackpack