In the Duke’s Sights: Books of Note for 8/7/15

7 Aug

In the Duke’s Sights returns with a belated book-heavy monster post (no, they won’t normally be this big, but I’ve been lazy, so…).  From space opera to urban fantasy to epic fantasy to steampunk and beyond! Here’s a chunk of the stuff I’ve received in the last couple weeks that I may just have to read…now.  Needless to say, my TBR pile just got exponentially taller…

Included below are the descriptions of books from Tor Books, Subterranean Press, Harper Voyager, William Morrow, and Fairwood Press.  Anything look interesting to you?  Let me know in the comments!

1. The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth (William Morrow; 8/4/15)

Five hundred years ago, a group of Spanish conquistadors searching for gold, led by a young and brilliant commander named Simon De Oliveras, land in the New World. What they find in the sunny and humid swamps of this uncharted land is a treasure far more valuable: the Fountain of Youth. The Spaniards slaughter the Uzita, the Native American tribe who guard the precious waters that will keep the conquistadors young for centuries. But one escapes: Shako, the chief’s fierce and beautiful daughter, who swears to avenge her people—a blood oath that spans more than five centuries. . .

When the source of the fountain is destroyed in our own time, the loss threatens Simon and his men, and the powerful, shadowy empire of wealth and influence they have built. For help, they turn to David Robinton, a scientific prodigy who believes he is on the verge of the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. But as the centuries-old war between Shako and Simon reaches its final stages, David makes a horrifying discovery about his employers and the mysterious and exotic woman he loves. Now, the scientist must decide: is he a pawn in a game of immortals. . . or will he be its only winner?

Reading the blurb threw me for a loop. I thought this would be yet another Fountain of Youth narrative where the hero goes off to find it, does, and things happen, but Farnsworth seems to be taking a fresh take on the concept by treating the conquistadors like vampires. Colonizing vampires who suck blood metaphorically. Could be fun! I mean, not the colonizers destroying entire civilizations, mind you. The unfolding of the reveal. The mystery. The blood oath. Can you tell the academic in me is squeeing a bit?

2. Driven by Kelley Armstrong (Subterranean Press; 01/16)

Cains are known for being big, brutish and not-too-bright. The mutt clan embodies all the supernatural world’s worst stereotypes about werewolves. But not even the Cains deserve to be hunted down and skinned like animals.

When young Davis Cain comes to the Pack for help, Alpha Elena Michaels can’t refuse him. It isn’t about morality or justice. It’s about not letting anyone think they can do this to werewolves and get away with it.

But Elena is also dealing with the Pack’s homegrown monster—Malcolm Danvers, onetime enforcer, full-time psycho. Malcolm is now under Elena’s control, as part of the most difficult decision she’s had to make as leader. But if she has to let Malcolm in, she’s going to make full use of him…and the best person to catch monsters is one who knows exactly how they think.

I’ve yet to read a Kelley Armstrong book, but given that this one is pretty short and features some of the things that made me fall in love with Rhiannon Held’s werewolf series, I may have to give it a shot. I love urban fantasy that actually deals with pack dynamics in werewolf “groups.” Hopefully, Armstrong’s take is equally as compelling as Held’s.

3. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books; 10/6/15)

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

I’ve yet to read anything by Sanderson other than one of his Subterranean novellas. He’s a solid writer, but for some reason, I never took the Mistborn plunge. This one might be my first. The paragraph about the mix of tech and magic has me intrigued, since I’ve always enjoyed fantasy that doesn’t forget that normal people probably wouldn’t just sit around doing nothing while the magic people went around blowing stuff up with magic balls of energy.

4. The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato (Harper Voyager; 6/9/15)

Rich in atmosphere, imagination, and fun, the action-packed, magic-filled sequel to The Clockwork Dagger is an enchanting steampunk fantasy, evocative of the works of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

We just had Beth Cato on the show for a special panel episode on a certain topic (to be released). I’d say the topic is secret, but, c’mon, you know what it is. Needless to say, Cato’s work is well worth reading!

5. Killing Pretty by Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager; 7/28/15)

Sandman Slim investigates Death’s death in this hip, propulsive urban fantasy through a phantasmagoric LA rife with murder, mayhem, and magic.

James Stark has met his share of demons and angels, on earth and beyond. Now, he’s come face to face with the one entity few care to meet: Death.

Someone has tried to kill Death—ripping the heart right out of him—or rather the body he’s inhabiting. Death needs Sandman Slim’s help: he believes anyone who can beat Lucifer and the old gods at their own game is the only one who can solve his murder.

Stark follows a sordid trail deep into LA’s subterranean world, from vampire-infested nightclubs to talent agencies specializing in mad ghosts, from Weimar Republic mystical societies to sleazy supernatural underground fight and sex clubs. Along the way he meets a mysterious girl—distinguished by a pair of graveyard eyes—as badass as Slim: she happens to be the only person who ever outwitted Death. But escaping her demise has had dire consequences for the rest of the world . . . and a few others.

For years, Slim has been fighting cosmic forces bent on destroying Heaven, Hell, and Earth. This time, the battle is right here on the gritty streets of the City of Angels, where a very clever, very ballsy killer lies in wait.

Thus far, I haven’t read a single Sandman Slim novel. And since it’s on this list, I have to ask:  have you read any of his work, and would you recommend it?

6. Forbidden by Cathy Clamp (Tor Books; 8/15)

USA Today bestselling author Cathy Clamp reboots the Sazi universe in Forbidden, a tightly-paced, high-tension urban fantasy thriller.

Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible “cure” on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shapeshift.

Luna Lake, isolated in Washington State, started as a refugee camp for Sazi orphans. Now it’s a small town and those refugees are young adults, chafing at the limits set by their still-fearful guardians.

There’s reason to fear: Sazi children are being kidnapped. Claire, a red wolf shifter, is sent to investigate. Held prisoner by the Snakes during childhood, Claire is distrusted by those who call Luna Lake home.

Before the war, Alek was part of a wolf pack in Chicago. In Luna Lake he was adopted by a parliament of Owls, defying Sazi tradition. The kidnappings are a painful reminder that his little sister disappeared a decade ago.

When Claire and Alek meet, sparks fly–but the desperate race to find the missing children forces them to set aside their mutual attraction and focus on the future of their people.

Clamp’s work is fairly new to me. So new, in fact, that this is the first book I can recall seeing with her name on it. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. In fact, it might be a good thing, since new is always better (as Barney Stinson says). Forbidden appears to be another take on the shapeshifters w/o shifting powers idea. I don’t know how common that idea is, but this one has a, let’s say, dark angle to that loss. Urban fantasy, perhaps. Dark fantasy? Seems so.

7. Last First Snow by Max Gladstone (Tor Books; 7/15)

Last First Snow: the fourth novel set in Max Gladstone’s compellingly modern fantasy world of the Craft Sequence.

Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation-especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace-or failing that, to save as many people as they can.

If you’re not already reading Max Gladstone’s work, then you’re missing out. This is the most recent addition to his Craft Sequence, and I’m sure it’ll be as incredible as the others!

8. Pandora’s Gun by James Van Pelt (Fairwood Press; 8/15)

What would you do if you controlled powers that were once attributed to gods? What if what you had heard was right: sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? High school student Peter Van Meer finds an impossible treasure that seems too good to be true. Now, he must work with his two best friends to unlock its secrets before it threatens to spill out its unknown dangers into the world. Chased by the police, the FBI, and men in blue suits, they soon realize that Peter’s discovery is much, much more than they bargained for.

Fairwood press puts out some pretty impressive collections and short novels. They’re one of those specialty presses that publishes stuff nobody else will. So it’s nice to see novels I might otherwise have missed because they don’t fit the mold of a Big Six publisher. Pandora’s Gun seems to be something straight from Van Pelt’s wheelhouse, too, seeing as he’s a high school teacher and all. And I think it could be a bit of fun!

9. Blue Yonders, Grateful Pies by Ken Scholes (Fairwood Press; 8/15)

A grief-struck man finds the truth he needs in a Wild Blue Yonder purchased from a back alley grief counselor. A Kentucky veteran freshly home from Iraq juggles a trailer-park Thanksgiving and zombie apocalypse. A disillusioned pastor and a disgraced security officer in the not-so-distant future face down a domestic terror cell bent on bringing about Armageddon. These are just a few of the stops in Ken Scholes’s latest pass through his Imagination Forest.

Blue Yonders, Grateful Pies and Other Fanciful Feasts is a potluck of words gathered together just in time to celebrate 15 years logging stories for fun and profit. So grab your plate and fork, find yourself a place at the table, and get ready to dig in!

It’s Ken Scholes. What else do you need to know to consider picking this one up?

10. Cracking the Sky by Brenda Cooper (Fairwood Press; 8/15)

Award-winning author Brenda Cooper’s first science fiction only collection treats readers to human stories about the future.  Meet a physicist who searches across timelines in a desperate attempt to travel across them herself, a young woman who tried to re-cover the magic of a trip on a river with her grandfather, a young couple who suspect their neighbor child is being raised by robots, and many more…

As it turns out, Paul Weimer recently reviewed this book right here on Skiffy and Fanty

11. Nightwise by R.S. Belcher (Tor Books; 8/15)

R.S. Belcher, the acclaimed author of The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana launches a gritty new urban fantasy series set in today’s seedy occult underworld in Nightwise.

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in-between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It’s said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher’s Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he’s also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.

Now a promise to a dying friend has Ballard on the trail of an escaped Serbian war criminal with friends in both high and low places–and a sinister history of blood sacrifices. Ballard is hell-bent on making Dusan Slorzack pay for his numerous atrocities, but Slorzack seems to have literally dropped off the face of the Earth, beyond the reach of his enemies, the Illuminati, and maybe even the Devil himself. To find Slorzack, Ballard must follow a winding, treacherous path that stretches from Wall Street and Washington, D.C. to backwoods hollows and truckstops, while risking what’s left of his very soul . . . .

I’ve heard good things about The Six-Gun Tarot, so I’m sure Nightwise is a welcome addition to Belcher’s ouevre. Nightwise seems to have some real meat to it, since it involves war crimes and a manhunt. Given what just happened in the international scene to one of the last remaining Nazi war criminals, it’s oddly prescient.

12. The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan (Tor Books; 7/15)

“It’s like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.” –George R. R. Martin

A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden-and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán’s splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac-and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

Dinosaurs in a secondary world fantasy novel. That is all.

13. The Edge of Dawn by Melinda Snodgrass (Tor Books; 8/15)

What do you do when the Earth is under assault from monstrous creatures by alternate dimensions and you’re the only person who can wield the weapon that can destroy them? That’s the situation facing Richard Oort, hero of the Melinda Snodgrass’s Edge of Dawn.

Lonely and overwhelmed after a series of terrifying, catastrophic global and personal events, Richard is still determined to save the world from the horrific Old Ones. He goes undercover in a Christian fundamentalist compound, playing house with an attractive FBI agent. At first, this only serves to increase his loneliness, missing his real family, but against all odds discovers another unique human who can use the paladin’s weapon, one who might be able to join him and lighten the burden of responsibility. There’s only one problem – Mosi is a nine year old Navajo girl.

Their enemies are trying to kill both Richard and Mosi-and have already killed Mosi’s family. To keep her safe Richard becomes her guardian, but an error in judgement leads to disaster and betrayal, and now the odd pair will need to summon all their strength to survive the coming battle. From the American southwest to a secret society in Turkey, the paladin and his ward try to stay in front of their enemies, but the world is at stake-and time is running short.

I’ve yet to read a Snodgrass novel, but there’s a first time for everything, right? I’m intrigued by this one primarily because it features a Navajo character. There aren’t enough novels where Native Americans are part of the narrative, so anything that presents them in a positive light tends to grab my attention.

14. The Best of Nancy Kress (Subterranean Press; 9/15)

Nancy Kress, winner of multiple awards for her science fiction and fantasy, ranges through space and time in this stunning collection. Anne Boleyn is snatched from her time stream—with unexpected consequences for two worlds. A far-future spaceship brings religion to a planet that already harbors shocking natives. People genetically engineered to never need to sleep clash with those who do. A scientific expedition to the center of the galaxy discovers more than anyone bargained for. A woman finds that “people like us” does not mean what she thinks it does.

Praised for both her hard SF and her complex characters, Nancy Kress brings a unique viewpoint to twenty-one stories, the best of a long and varied career that has won her five Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Nancy Kress, I’m told, is an incredible short fiction writer, so this collection of her work will certainly please fans of her work and fans of short fiction. Me? I’ll give it a read because I’ve heard nothing but good things about Nancy Kress, and a collection of her best work seems like a good place to go to find, well, her best work.

15. A Fantasy Medley 3 edited by Yanni Kuznia (Subterranean Press; 12/15)

In each of the first two volumes of the acclaimed A Fantasy Medley series—both of which earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly—editor Yanni Kuznia brought together stories from a quartet of fantasy’s most exciting authors. Now Kuznia returns with A Fantasy Medley 3, offering riveting new tales of the fantastic from four more of the field’s brightest stars:

In “Goddess at the Crossroads,” Kevin Hearne shares a thrillingly memorable episode from the past of his popular Iron Druid Chronicles hero Atticus O’Sullivan, revealing how one night’s dark encounter with the cult of Hecate served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s witches in the Scottish play.

With “Ashes,” Laura Bickle revisits Detroit arson investigator and powerful spirit medium Anya Kalinczyk as she, her five-foot-long salamander familiar Sparky, and Hades’ Charon pursue a destructive fire elemental named the Nain Rouge through the city’s festival in his dubious honor.

“The Death of Aiguillon” finds Aliette de Bodard exploring an episode sixty years prior to the start of her latest novel, The House of Shattered Wings, in which the survivors of an ongoing magical conflict in Paris eke out a grim existence, and one woman’s wish for a better life is granted at a terrible price.

And in “One Hundred Ablutions,” Jacqueline Carey, author of the much-beloved Kushiel’s Legacy series, tells the tale of Dala—a young woman chosen by her people’s overlords to be an exalted slave among slaves—and of the twining in her life of ritual, rebellion, and redemption.

Aliette de Bodard is in this. What more do you need to know?

16. Shadow of Empire by Jay Allan (Harper Voyager; 11/3/15)

The first installment in the Far Star series, a swashbuckling space saga that introduces the daring pirate Blackhawk and the loyal crew of the Wolf’s Claw, from the author of the bestselling Crimson Worlds saga.

Smuggler and mercenary Arkarin Blackhawk and the crew of the ship Wolf’s Claw are freelance adventurers who live on the fringe of human society in the Far Stars. A veteran fighter as deadly with a blade as he is with a gun, Blackhawk is a man haunted by a dark past. Even his cynicism cannot banish the guilt and pain that threaten his sanity.

Sent to rescue the kidnapped daughter of his longtime friend Marshal Augustin Lucerne, Blackhawk and his crew find themselves drawn into one deadly fight after another. When the Wolf’s Claw is damaged, they are forced to land on a remote planet subsumed by civil war. Pulled unwittingly into the conflict, they uncover disturbing information about secret imperial involvement that could upset the plans of Lucerne.

For the Marshal is determined to forge a Far Stars Confederation powerful enough to eliminate all imperial influence and threats in the sector. He needs a skilled warrior like Blackhawk on his side, but the mercenary, plagued by dark memories from the past, refuses to join the cause. All too soon, though, he and his crew will have to take a stand.

I’m reading this right away simply because I’m teaching a space opera course in a couple weeks and this book looks like something that would fit. I’m in!

Now get reading!


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