Books Wot I Have Read: 2018

Everybody else is doing it, so I figured I ought to jump in too. Why not? A touch of positivity is always welcome at this time of year.

Image result for sheffield university arts tower
My TBR, yesterday

Alas, my TBR pile resembles the Arts Tower of Sheffield University right now, and it’s absolutely impossible to catch up with everything that was released this year while I’ve still got so many other worlds to visit. So this round-up of the best books I’ve read over the last twelve months also includes a number that weren’t actually published this year, and I refuse to apologise for that.

In no particular order:

Under The Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot, 2017)

34643773Holy heck. This is Angry Robot at its best, putting the WTF into fantasy once more, combining the detailed, refined and steady narrative of a gothic Victorian romance with the sudden sharp turns and queasy horrors of modern fiction. Jeannette Ng has created a disturbing world that resonates all the more true for the passions and obsessions its characters confront. Catherine’s arc – from Yorkshire to Gethsemane, from fragile English traveller to changeling, and beyond – is told with a sort of spellbinding quality – you want to shout and scream, and wrench her and Laon away before it is too late, and yet even when that line has been crossed you can’t help but read on and cheer their courage.

Quite probably the best treatment of the Fae since Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Graham Joyce), and that’s saying something.

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2016)

Holy heck (again), this was good. A broken earth, with fractured characters, and a history that is more geology and archaeology than anything else, plus giant floating obelisks, institutionalized slavery, and a narrative device that sinks the reader deep into the heart and soul of one of the most damaged characters of all. Make no bones, this is not a comfort read. The characters herein are not heroes, they are all survivors. You might call this grimdark if that label didn’t have so many negative connotations.

22468727The City of Silk and Steel, by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, & Louise Carey (Gollancz, 2012)

A wonderful, multi-layered tale of storytellers, their stories, and a full harem of concubines who escape death during a revolution by a cult of fanatics and return to the city of Bessa to depose the cultists in turn. Told in the voices of the characters themselves, with recipes, tall tales, legends and fourth-wall-breaking meta-narratives, The City of Silk and Steel is full of action, dry wit, diplomacy, and subtle magics. I can’t believe it isn’t better known than it is.

Do yourselves a favour and search this one out, trust me, you will not regret it.

38213770The Tower of Living and Dying, by Anna Smith Spark (Harper Voyager, 2018)

If you’ve made it this far into the glorious and murderous chaos of Anna Smith Spark’s world, then you know just how fantastically she uses language, repetition, broad strokes, and needle-sharp observations to tell a story. You won’t be disappointed this time either.

In my review of the first book in the trilogy I likened Marith to one of rock’n’roll’s early pioneers, despoiling his way across a continent. Now, with Thalia at his side, he’s an analogue of Elvis in his pomp, if Elvis had ever led an army of devoted berserkers to war.

Next? Can’t wait.

Wrath, by John Gwynne (Pan, 2016)

Fair to say we’ve crowned the next generation’s David Gemmell? I reckon so: there will be a lot of future fantasists using The Faithful And The Fallen as a foundation of their own explorations into the genre.

These are all personal choices, of course. My alternate self over at SFSF is bound to be a touch more relevant…

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Art of War Anthology: Out Now!

It’s here! Booknest.eu’s supermassive anthology of war-themed fantasy fiction short stories, produced to benefit Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is OUT NOW as an ebook and a paperback.

What do you get? Stories from Ed Greenwood, Anna Smith-Spark, Anna Stephens, Dyrk Ashton, Laura M Hughes, some bloke called Steven Poore, I have literally no idea what he’s doing in there, Brian Staveley, Ed Greenwood, John Gywnne, Nicholas Eames, RJ Barker, Stan Nicholls, Mark Lawrence, and at least twenty-five more, plus a great fuzzy feeling for having put a bit of money towards a great cause.

Oh, and if you’ve bought the paperback – go you! – each of the 40 stories has a brilliant illustration by Jason Deem specifically for that tale.

Today – 13th February, Pancake Day – you’ll be able to catch some of the contributing authors, as well as project editor Petros Triantafyllou, doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on reddit’s r/Fantasy board. I’ll be popping in & out as time allows (between pancakes, basically, and with Golden Syrup since you ask).

My story in the book, Asalantir Forever, has been getting some good advance notices over on Goodreads – here’s a selection…

So far it’s the first story that displays trenches, an image I have in my head when thinking about wars (due to the childhood nights spent in front of the TV). I liked the language. It offers some strong imagery and nice sentences like this one:
Spill offers a flaccid skin. The Pride takes a mouthful each. The last of the water. It tastes of dirt and death, just as the air does.

More Please! Award: Asalantir Forever by Steven Poore. It’s a really exciting high fantasy story with magic involved in the warfare beyond just as artillery fire.

 I’ve had a weakness for stories that deal with the particular futility of life in the trenches since Blackadder Goes Forth. This one had strong writing and powerful imagery.

Adrian Collins, over at Grimdark Magazine, meanwhile, had this to say:

Jin and her pride join the assault through the bloody trenches to take the walls of Asalantir. A fun read start to finish, and I really enjoyed the idea of trench warfare in a medieval fantasy setting. Plenty to enjoy about this one. 4/5

If I’ve not convinced you yet, go take a good look at that contents page over on Amazon, and do a Good Thing.

Art of War Purchase Link!

The Art of War

Revealed this morning over on Fantasy Book Critic, here’s the rather stunning cover for the charity anthology The Art of War, due on 13th February 2018, raising funds for Medicins Sans Frontieres. There’s 40 stories in this massive, epic project, nearly all of them accompanied by illustrations by Jason Deem. Edited by Tim Marquitz, and conceived by Petros Triantafyllou of Booknest.eu, The Art of War looks to be a veritable who’s who of dynamic modern fantasy and, folks, you should totally get yours reserved.

The Art of War – cover by John Anthony di Giovanni and Shawn King

Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK ¦ Goodreads

Self-interest alert: yes, The Art of War contains something by me – Asalantir Forever! is a nippy little bugger that takes swords & sorcery into the trenches and shows that you can do the same thing over and over again… and the results will never change.

Still here? Don’t forget that Empire Dance 5 – Weapons Free launches in early January! And there’s still time to enter the Twitter-based giveaway compo for e-copies of Malessar’s Curse!

Journeys – preorder now!

Journeys by [Gwynne, John , Martin, Gail Z., Knight, Julia, Tchaikovsky, Adrian , Spink Mills, Juliana , Cooper, Jacob, McKenna, Juliet E., Poore, Steven , Pulsipher, Charlie, Ashura, Davis]I have a story, The Witness, in the new anthology from Woodbridge Press, Journeys (releasing 15th February). It’s a cracking tale of vengeance in a dying world, but it’s not the only reason you need to buy this book.

  • Adrian Tchaikovsky.
  • Juliet E McKenna.
  • Gail Z Martin.
  • John Gwynne.
  • Thaddeus White.
  • Julia Knight.

Those are even better reasons to preorder this book now. And the best reason of all?

  • 99p/99c.

Yes, 99p. DO IT NOW.

Amazon UK
Amazon US