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Weekly Book Buzz: New Novels of Recluse, Darkover, and Vlad Taltos
We Review Suicide Kings: A Wild Cards Novel
By Tim Janson
January 03, 2010
Arms-Commander (Saga of Recluse) by L. E. Modesitt Jr(2010).
2010 is getting off to an explosive start of top flight new releases. On the fantasy side we have a new Recluse novel, a new Darkover novel, a new Vlad Taltos Novel from Steven Brust, and new releases from Wizards of the Coast. Over in Sci-Fi, we’ve got new fiction from Joe Haldeman, Anne McCaffrey, and Timothy Zahn. I hope everybody had a great New Years and I wish you the best in 2010! Now lets dig into this week’s new books.
The Spirit Lens: A Novel of the Collegia Magica Carol Berg (Roc TPB)
In a kingdom on the verge of a grand renaissance, where natural science has supplanted failing sorcery, someone aims to revive a savage rivalry... For Portier de Savin-Duplais, failed student of magic, sorcery's decline into ambiguity and cheap illusion is but a culmination of life's bitter disappointments. Reduced to tending the library at Sabria's last collegia magica, he fights off despair with scholarship. But when the king of Sabria charges him to investigate an attempted murder that has disturbing magical resonances, Portier believes his dreams of a greater destiny might at last be fulfilled.
As the king's new agente confide, Portier - much to his dismay - is partnered with the popinjay Ilario de Sylvae, the laughingstock of Sabria's court. Then the need to infiltrate a magical cabal leads Portier to Dante, a brooding, brilliant young sorcerer whose heretical ideas and penchant for violence threaten to expose the investigation before it's begun. But in an ever-shifting landscape of murders, betrayals, old secrets, and unholy sorcery, the three agentes will be forced to test the boundaries of magic, nature, and the divine...
Realms of the Dead: A Forgotten Realms Anthology Susan Morris (Wizards of the Coast)
Get spooked by Faerûn’s most chilling ghost stories! The millennia-old history of Faerûn is haunted with ghosts, vampires, zombies, and all other manner of gruesome undead. This anthology of all new stories is filled with the twelve most terrifying and lethal of these tales. From ancient lich kings to freshly turned ghouls; from disembodied hands to unholy, decaying angels, the dead in the Forgotten Realms® rarely rest in peace.
Realms of the Dead is an anthology of all new stories about the undead from The New York Times best-selling authors R.A. Salvatore, Richard Baker, Philip Athans, and Lisa Smedman; Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood; fan favorites Richard Lee Byers, Bruce R. Cordell, Rosemary Jones, Erik Scott de Bie, and Jaleigh Johnson; and talented newcomers Erin M. Evans and Christopher Rowe.
Path of the Planeswalker: A Magic: The Gathering Graphic Anthology (Wizards of the Coast)
Written by Magic:The Gathering’s creative team, and brought to life in lavish four-color illustration by some of the industry’s best known artists, Path of the Planeswalker represents the high quality story-telling readers have come to expect from the world’s most popular trading card game.
In this action-packed volume, readers get adventures from all their favorite planeswalkers including battles between mind-mage Jace Beleren and the implusive pyromancer Chandra Naalar. The mercurial necromancer Liliana Vess tangles with the savage Garruk Wildspeaker. And we learn more of the artificer Tezzeret’s past with the Seekers of Carmot, plus much more.
The Many Deaths of the Black Company Glen Cook (Tor Omnibus)
“Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive. . . .
“I am Murgen, Standardbearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead, One–Eye won’t, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end....” This omnibus volume comprises the novels Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live.
Iorich (Vlad) Steven Brust (Tor Hardcover)
House Jhereg, Dragaera's organized crime syndicate, is still hunting Vlad Taltos. There's a big price on his head on Draegara City. Then he hears disturbing news. Aliera--longtime friend, sometime ally--has been arrested by the Empire on a charge of practicing elder sorcery, a capital crime.
It doesn't make sense. Everybody knows Aliera's been dabbling in elder sorcery for ages. Why is the Empire down on her now? Why aren't her powerful friends--Morrolan, Sethra, the Empress Zerika--coming to her rescue? And most to the point, why has she utterly refused to do anything about her own defense?
It would be idiotic of Vlad to jump into this situation. He's a former Jhereg who betrayed the House. He's an Easterner--small, weak, short-lived. He's being searched for by the most remorseless killers in the world. Naturally, that's exactly why he's going to get completely involved...
Hastur Lord: A Novel of Darkover Marion Zimmer Bradley (DAW Hardcover)
A never-before-published fantasy novel set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe…The world of Darkover, a unique, isolated, and protected world, has long avoided becoming part of the technologically advanced Terran Empire. But things are about to change. Regis Hastur, lord of the most powerful of the seven Domains in Darkover, learns that the Empire is about to become a Federation, and is extending an invitation for all of the worlds to join. While the offer seems tempting to his people, Regis knows that Darkover would become little more than a military base, used for its unique planetary position, and will be sapped of its resources. He must now stop at nothing to save his world.
Death's Mistress (Dorina Basarab, Book 2) Karen Chance (Onyx)
Dorina Basarab is a dhampir-half-human, half-vampire. Back home in Brooklyn after the demise of her insane Uncle Dracula, Dory's hoping her life is about to calm down. But soon Dory realizes someone is killing vampire Senate members, and if she can't stop the murderer, her friends may be next...
Brooklyn Knight C.J. Henderson ( Tor)
Professor Piers Knight is an esteemed curator at the Brooklyn Museum and is regarded by many on the staff as a revered institution of his own if not an outright curiosity. Knight’s portfolio includes lost civilizations; arcane cultures, languages, and belief; and more than a little bit of the history of magic and mysticism.What his contemporaries don't know is that in addition to being a scholar of all things ancient he is schooled in the uses of magical artifacts, the teachings of forgotten deities, and the threats of unseen dangers.
If a mysterious object surfaces, Professor Knight makes it his job to figure it out--and make sure it stays out of dangerous hands. A contemporary on an expedition in the Middle East calls Knight's attention to a mysterious object in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum … just before it becomes the target of a sorcerous attack that leads to a siege on a local precinct house by a fire elemental.
What looks like an ordinary inscribed stone may unlock an otherworldly Armageddon that certain dark powers are all too eager to bring about--and only Piers Knight stands in their way.
Blood Cross (Jane Yellowrock, Book 2) Faith Hunter (Roc)
The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules-but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep...
Arms-Commander (Saga of Recluce) L. E. Modesitt Jr (Tor Hardcover)
Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.
Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.
New In Science Fiction
Catalyst: A Tale of the Barque Cats Anne McCaffrey (Del Rey Hardcover)
Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist—ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.
Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value.
Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped—er, catnapped—from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited.
But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared.
With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra—an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda—to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.
Veracity Laura Bynum (Pocket Hardcover)
Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government, the Confederation of the Willing, dedicated to maintaining order at any cost. The populace is controlled via government-sanctioned sex and drugs, a brutal police force known as the Blue Coats, and a device called the slate, a mandatory implant that monitors every word a person speaks. To utter a Red-Listed, forbidden word is to risk physical punishment or even death.
But there are those who resist. Guided by the fabled "Book of Noah," they are determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and are prepared to start a war in the name of freedom. The newest member of this resistance is Harper -- a woman driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. And she possesses a power that could make her the underground warriors' ultimate weapon -- or the instrument of their destruction.
In the tradition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Laura Bynum has written an astonishing debut novel about a chilling, all-too-plausible future in which speech is a weapon and security comes at the highest price of all.
Starbound Joe Haldeman (Ace Hardcover)
Carmen Dula and her husband have spent six years travelling to a distant solar system that is home to the enigmatic, powerful race known as "The Others," in the hopes of finding enough common purpose between their species to forge a delicate truce.
By the time Carmen and her party return, fifty years have been consumed by relativity-and the Earthlings have not been idle, building a massive flotilla of warships to defend Earth against The Others. But The Others have more power than any could imagine-and they will brook no insolence from the upstart human race.
The Domino Pattern Timothy Zahn (Tor Hardcover)
Frank Compton used to be an agent for the security forces of Earth, but that was a piece of cake compared to what he’s had to deal with working for the aliens who run the Quadrail, an interstellar transportation system connecting a dozen civilizations across the galaxy.
He’s been trying to end the domination of an alien lifeform called the Modhri. This enormously powerful creature wants to rule the galaxy by controlling the thoughts of all its citizens. It does so by having parts of itself “infect” others on contact, and act as agents for it without them being aware they’re being manipulated. When Frank and his assistant Bayta journey to investigate a connection between the Modhri and the Filiaelians, they come up against a conspiracy on the Quadrail.
Passengers are being murdered…but something besides murder haunts the Quadrail. A plot is brewing that even the Modhri fears. And once again, Frank and Bayta may be the only ones who can stop it.
The Sorceress of Karres Eric Flint (Baen Hardcover)
As Captain Pausert had often had occasion to observe, life just wasn’t fair! Hadn’t he (with the help of the notorious witches of Karres, of course) outmaneuvered the deadliest of space pirates and eliminated the threat of the Worm World (as told in The Witches of Karres), after which, at the least, he deserved some time off. No such luck, though, as the Empress herself sent him on a secret mission to stop the nanite plague, but an enemy had somehow convinced the Imperial Fleet that he was actually a wanted criminal, so after a battle leaving his ship in urgent need of repairs all three of them joined an interstellar traveling circus (don’t ask!) in order to save the galaxy once again (as told in The Wizard of Karres).
Time for a vacation? Don’t be ridiculous—there’s a new urgent mission that has Captain Pausert’s name on it! This new novel finds the long-suffering Captain and the two young Karres witches—Goth, who vows she will marry him when she grows up, and her younger sister The Leewit—being sent off to investigate mysterious and ominous events in the notorious Chaladoor region of space. Goth soon becomes aware that unknown but surely inimical forces are tracking them, and in order to foil them she takes a desperate route to travel back in time and meet Pausert as a young boy. Meanwhile, the Captain and the Leewit find themselves in the middle of their own desperate situation in the Chaladoor.
Whoever it was who said that a change was as good as a vacation never met any of the Witches of Karres—nor experienced their amazing talent for getting Captain Pausert into trouble.
Torchwood: The Undertaker's Gift Trevor Baxendale (Random House UK)
The Hokrala Corp lawyers are back, and they're suing planet Earth for mishandling the twenty-first century! An assassin has been sent to remove Captain Jack Harkness! And, a record number of aliens have been coming through the Rift - it's been a busy week in Cardiff. Now, there are reports of an extraordinary funeral cortege in the night time city, with mysterious pallbearers guarding a rotting cadaver that simply doesn't want to be buried. Torchwood should be ready for anything, but with Jack the target of an invisible killer, Gwen trapped in a forgotten crypt, and Ianto Jones falling desperately ill, could a world of suffering by the Undertaker's gift to planet Earth?
New in Horror
Through Stone and Sea: A Novel of the Noble Dead Barb Hendee (Roc Hardcover)
Wynn journeys to the mountain stronghold of the dwarves in search of the "Stonewalkers," an unknown sect supposedly in possession of important ancient texts. But in her obsession to understand these writings, she will find more puzzles and questions buried in secrets old and new-along with an enemy she thought destroyed...
Stephen King's The Stand Vol. 1: Captain Trips (Marvel comics Graphic Novel)
It all begins here: the epic apocalyptic battle between good and evil. On a secret army base in the Californian desert, something has gone horribly, terribly wrong. Something will send Charlie Campion, his wife and daughter fleeing in the middle of the night. Unfortunately for the Campion family, and the rest of America, they are unaware that all three of them are carrying a deadly cargo: a virus that will spread from person to person like wildfire, triggering a massive wave of disease and death, prefacing humanity's last stand. Collects The Stand: Captain Trips #1-5.
Hunger Barbara J. Hancock (Samhain)
Love might stand a chance…if they can keep from killing each other.
Holly Spinnaker is a monster. Really. Fangs and all. Never mind the petite figure. Pay no attention to the once-bouncy blonde mane. When Jarvis Winters first encounters…it…he prepares to exterminate freak number one hundred thirty two without a flinch.
Mistake number one: following it back to its lair. Mistake number two: watching and listening to her…it…replay voice mail messages from loving, clueless parents again and again and again. Mistake number three: having an actual conversation with a bloodthirsty fiend.
“Make them see you as a person.” Holly remembers the advice from a self-defense class her mother made her take her freshmen year. She couldn’t save her own sister, who ended up a pile of ashes at her feet only one month ago. The night they both found out monsters were real. The night her sister embraced the change. And Holly began to fight it.
“Make them see you as a person.” Kind of hard when you aren’t even sure if you are a person anymore.
Crux: Southern Arcana, Book 1 Moira Rogers (Samhain)
Jackson Holt makes a decent living as a private investigator in New Orleans, home of one of the largest underground supernatural populations in the United States. He and his partners have never met a case they couldn’t crack…until a local bar owner asks him to do a little digging on her newest hire.
New Orleans is the fourth destination in as many months for Mackenzie Brooks, a woman on the run from a deranged stalker. After all, any man who shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her destined lover has more than a few screws loose. But crazy doesn’t explain why he always finds her no matter how far she runs.
When her well-meaning boss puts a PI on her case, Mackenzie comes face to face with the incredible truth: magic is real, and whatever spell has kept her hidden and separate from the paranormal world is rapidly deteriorating.
With time running out, she has no choice but to trust Jackson as he struggles to uncover the truth of her past—and her destiny.
Suicide Kings: A Wild Cards Novel Edited by George R.R. Martin (Tor Hardcover)
Suicide Kings is the third novel in the Wild Cards Committee Triad that began with Inside Straight & Busted Flush. Edited by Martin and written by Daniel Abraham, S. L. Farrell, Victor Milán, Caroline Spector, Ian Tregillis, and Melinda Snodgrass, Suicide Kings picks up where the previous novel left off. The PPA (People’s Paradise of Africa) is spreading its power across Africa as it attacks The Caliphate of Arabia. The PPA is aided by a group of Aces including Tom “The Radical” Weathers, perhaps the most powerful Ace, and one of the series’ oldest characters and dangerously unbalanced. The Committee discover that the PPA is injecting the Wild Card virus into thousands of soldiers in the hopes of creating a vast army of Aces. With no Aces in their army, the Caliphate turns to British Ace and Assassin Noel Matthews for aid. Not wanting to get involved, Matthews realizes that the world will need him one final time.
Suicide Kings is more tightly written than the previous novel which tried to juggle a few too many storylines and thus muddied the entire picture. Rather than written in chapters it’s written days and times with events jumping from locale to locale but never leaving the reader behind. As always the strength of Wild Cars is in its memorable characters and Suicide Kings is no different. The plots mirror many events that have taken place in the world within the past 10 – 20 years such as the atrocities in Africa and elsewhere and it hardly makes Suicide Kings an uplifting read. While I personally prefer the more adventurous anthologies of the earlier Wild Cards books, the Triad serves notice as to how much the series as matured. Grade B+