Smale's new novel is Eagle and Empire, book three of the
Smale's new novel is Eagle and Empire, book three of the
Order The Complete Revanche Cycle (omnibus) HERE
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The Revanche Cycle is one of my all-time favorite series, it is a series primarily focused on revenge. Some characters are trying to enact it, while others are trying to escape it. Featuring a solid cast of female characters, a strong political undercurrent & a slow build-up to the world's history & magic system. This series is one that I recommend to as many folks as I can.
Previously I had reviewed the first two books in the series and also managed to interview the author to get his viewpoint. This is what Craig said about his creation:
“The Revanche Cycle is a sweeping epic fantasy with multiple viewpoint characters, set in a fantasy world vaguely reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. It's about a lot of things. It's about conspiracies, political intrigue, and poison. It's about the relationship between church and state, and how religion is used (and abused) to shape policy. It's about faith, and culture, and overcoming the obstacles society throws in your path. It's a story about women.”
Control the papacy, rule the world.
As Pope Benignus withers on his deathbed, conspiracies swirl across the empire. Bounty hunters and assassins flock to the frozen north, searching a city of thieves for an exiled politician while a storm of war and witchcraft brews on the horizon. As gambits play out, contenders die and the dominoes fall, a rare few will determine the course of history.
Livia Serafini. Pious. Zealous. Driven. With her sights set upon her father's throne, Livia refuses to be a pawn of the conspirators that surround her. She'll risk it all to rise above the tempest and lead her people to peace. Her pure-hearted ambitions may cost more than she knows: her reputation, her life, even her very soul.
Mari Renault. Honorable. Brutal. Lost. A war orphan from a land under a conqueror's yoke, Mari is haunted by the horrors of her past and an impossible dream of knighthood. When she finds her dark savior, she'll learn how dreams can come true...and how a ragged refugee girl can become a champion of the night.
The Owl. Brilliant. Ruthless. Sadistic. The witch and her disciples, on a mission of vengeance, are lured into the battle for control of the papacy. Despite all of her well-laid plans, the Owl soon finds herself walking a strange and twisted road. One that pits her against the most deadly foe of all -- her own coven -- and rekindles passion in her ice-sheathed heart.
Renata Nicci. Honest. Devoted. Daring. She's just a dockside tavern barmaid. That's what everyone tells her. That's all anyone ever expected her to be. But when her lover Felix is swept into a battle between banking families and the machinations of a criminal kingpin, she'll take up a blade and cross a war-ravaged land to save him.
Four women, four lives on a collision course. When the dust settles, their world will never be the same...if anyone is still alive to see it.
With the launch of the omnibus edition yesterday, the omnibus will normally be priced at $9.99, however for this holiday weekend, it’s priced at $0.99 only.
Now that’s simply a steal, you get four terrific books and a complete series read at an impossibly low price. So go ahead and buy this omnibus edition folks, trust me you won’t regret it.
Pre-order “A Dragon Of A Different Color” HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath”
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Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)
"The next book will most definitely be all about the fallout from this one while also creating fallout of its own. We’re in the meta level climax now, and things are rolling. Algonquin’s on the war path, the world’s being shaken in all directions, the Chinese dragons are coming to deal with Bethesda’s mess, and it’s going to be great! You thought things were bad before? I have not yet begun to bring down the hammer!"
So yesterday it was really amazing to see the fantastic cover art (see above). It's done by series regular Anna Steinbauer and features both Julius & Marci. On a side note, this is the first time, that characters are making a repeat cover appearance (Julius with NDFL & Marci with OGDDA). We also have a blurb to go along with it as well:
To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives.
Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who's always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.
The book is all set for pre-orders on Amazon so get your orders in folks. As for me, I'll be
NB: Every example I give in this post will soon be out of date. I’m only talking Young Adult publishing in the USA. What follows may be a tad exaggerated.
Publishing may be an old and crusty industry, that sometimes still runs on handshakes, but it is also flighty and driven by fads.
Right now it is the kiss of death to say that your manuscript is post-apocalyptic.1 Which is interesting given the resurgence of sales for books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and, I’m really hoping, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.2 I’d’ve thought the demand for post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA would be huge right now. Teens have always been big consumers of dystopian tales largely because high school is all too often a dystopia.
When I asked why post-apocalyptic is anathema I was told, “They don’t sell.” When I point out that books like The Giver, Uglies, Hunger Games do still sell, it was pointed out that those are old books. It’s the new ones that don’t sell.
When I pointed out a more recent one that does seem to be selling, they then said that’s really time travel. Whatever my example, I was informed that it wasn’t really post-apocalyptic, it was fantasy or space opera or a romance. Okay, then.
The lesson I took from these conversations was that it is still possible to sell a post-apocalyptic novel but you best not call it that. That is pretty much the lesson I always take out of these conversations. “Vampires are dead! Oh, your book isn’t about vampires it’s about hemo-addicts? No problem then.”
The other word that YA agents and editors are particularly averse to right now is trilogy. When I asked an agent friend about it, they shuddered, “Oh, God, no. Just say it’s a duology. At most.”
This confused me as there are lots of trilogies selling well right now. Before I could start listing them I was told there are far more that aren’t selling, which makes it too risky to buy a trilogy up front.
That’s publishing logic for you.
Tragically, the dirty truth is that no matter what the genre there are always more books that aren’t selling well than that are. I know this because I have been publishing YA since the beginning of the huge YA boom. The majority of books, including mine, weren’t selling like Twilight. It didn’t seem to stop publishers from buying them.
Right now YA publishers will buy the first book in what might possibly be a trilogy, and sometimes they’ll buy the first two, but only if they sell well, will they ask for a third. Most publishers are not paying for a trilogy up front anymore except for a handful of bestselling authors.
Publishing is always risk averse but right now with books sales down across the board they are more risk averse than usual. They see the word trilogy or post-apocalyptic (or whatever) and what they hear is great big risk. They are scared. They back away from the scary words. They also back away from the scary new books that aren’t like anything else out there. *sigh* As an agent friend of mine put it, “Publishers are looking for the books that are kind of different but not too different that most closely resemble previous bestsellers.”
Now that you’ve finished reading this publishers will probably no longer be scared of “trilogy” or “post-apocalyptic.”
I love publishing. Truly, I do.
- Some agents I asked said the same goes for dystopian.
- Of those three Parable is the one that’s most prescient about this particular historical moment.
How dark money is subverting democracy in the UK.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 17th May 2017
How is this acceptable? A multimillionaire City asset manager has pledged to spend up to £700,000 on ousting Labour MPs who campaigned against Brexit. Jeremy Hosking will use his money to ensure that there is as little parliamentary opposition to a hard Brexit as possible. Why should multimillionaires be allowed to try to buy political results?
Allowed? That’s too soft a word. It is enabled by our pathetic, antiquated and anti-democratic rules on political spending. Hosking claims he wants to secure “the sovereign future of this independent-minded democracy”. But there is no greater threat to sovereignty, independence or democracy than the power money wields over our politics.
There are three categories of concern here. The first is transparent political funding, such as Hosking’s. Then there is opaque funding, that the Electoral Commission has so far failed to prevent: a shocking example has been uncovered by Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay of openDemocracy.
We already know that a vast payment was made by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party (DUP) for a newspaper advertisement urging people to vote for Brexit. Remarkably, this ad was not circulated in Northern Ireland, but only in England and Scotland.
This might suggest that someone was making use of Northern Ireland’s secrecy regime. Political donations there remain hidden from view. Funders wishing to disguise their identities can use Northern Ireland as a back channel into UK politics. After sustained pressure, the DUP revealed that the money came from a donation of £425,622, passed through an organisation called the Constitutional Research Council.
But the original source remains a mystery. Though electoral law in Great Britain states that “a donation of more than £500 cannot be accepted … if the donation is from a source that cannot be identified”, the DUP claims that it doesn’t need to know who provided this money. All we know about the Constitutional Research Council is that it’s run by a man called Richard Cook, who lives in a small house outside Glasgow. He seems unlikely to have been the original source.
What else do we know about him? OpenDemocracy discovered that in 2013 he helped found a company called Five Star Investments, 75% of which was owned by Prince Nawwaf al-Saud, former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence. Nawwaf’s son is currently the Saudi ambassador to the UK.
There is currently no known connection between these facts, and Cook has denied any foreign funding for the CRC. But he has not yet answered calls from openDemocracy or the Guardian. Though the Electoral Commission was asked 11 months ago to investigate, it has done nothing.
This story resonates with the deeply troubling revelations by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer, which suggest that the US billionaire Robert Mercer may have played a questionable role in our EU referendum. Thanks to the Observer, the Electoral Commission is investigating. But if it discovers any breaches of the rules, the penalties are feeble. The monumental decision this country has taken, which may have been unduly influenced by the forces Cadwalladr describes, will not be reversed.
The third issue is political funding that operates in a different sphere. It’s not illegal, it’s worse than that: there are no effective rules of any kind. This is the use of dark money that seeks not to influence elections directly, but to change the broader political landscape. Dark money is funding used, without public knowledge, by front groups.
There are various ways in which it is spent. One of them is “astroturfing”: the creation of fake grassroots movements. Pioneered by the tobacco companies, this later became a crucial strategy for fossil fuel companies trying to prevent action on climate change, and biotech firms trying to get their products on the market. It was a major component of the Tea Party movement in the United States, whose real members were coordinated by a group called Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers.
Another outlet for dark money is the organisations that call themselves thinktanks, but look to me like covertly funded lobbyists. The less transparent they are, the greater their presence in the media.
The research group Transparify ranks these “thinktanks” by their openness about their funding. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute and Policy Exchange, for example, are rated as “highly opaque”: they refuse to reveal any information about who sponsors them. But they are all over the BBC – the Today programme , Question Time and the rest – and other media.
The industry whose funding we know most about, thanks to a legal settlement that forced open its archives, is tobacco. We now know, for example, that the IEA has been sponsored by tobacco companies since 1963. It has received regular payments from British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International, which has described the institute as one of the groups that would “establish an echo chamber for [Philip Morris] messages”.
Last week the IEA published a report inveighing against the UK’s smoking ban and tobacco packaging law. This was picked up across the media, but with never a word about the institute’s funding. Apart from the BBC’s editorial guidelines, which are routinely flouted, there are no rules of any kind to prevent or reveal such conflicts of interest.
Is this democracy? Is this sovereignty? No. It’s the replacement of informed political choice with an onslaught of corporate propaganda and fake facts, which, as we don’t have 100 years between elections to check and refute, we have little chance of resisting.
Why has there been no effective action on climate change? Why are we choking on air pollution? Why is the junk food industry able to exploit our children? Because governments and their agencies have rolled over and let such people make a mockery of informed consent.
Now the whole democratic system is sliding, and the Electoral Commission is neither equipped nor willing to stop it. There’s an urgent, unmet need for new laws to defend democracy.
Order Where Loyalties Lie over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)
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Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic trilogy completion interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey. Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.
OFFICIAL BLURB: Everybody knows Drake Morrass is only out for himself.
As the fires of a dying city burn on a distant shore, Drake sees an opportunity to unite the other pirate Captains under his flag and claim a crown for himself. If he is to succeed he will need allies and the Oracle named Keelin Stillwater, the best swordsman in the isles, as Drake's right hand. With enemy ships sailing his waters and setting fire to his cities, and the sinister Tanner Black threatening to steal the throne before Drake has even sat in it, Drake must somehow convince the other Captains that his best interests are also theirs.
Author Rob J. Hayes, after his successful completion of his award-winning grimdark trilogy, The Ties That Bind, now continues the saga of First Earth.
FORMAT/INFO: Where Loyalties Lie is divided into four parts which are spread out over fifty-seven ship titled chapters with a titled prologue and an epilogue. The narration is in third person omniscient via Drake Morass, Keelin Stillwater, Elaina Black, T’ruck Khan, Damien Poole, first mate Princess & Arbiter Beck. This book is the first volume of the Best Laid Plans duology and can be read as a starting point to the First Earth saga.
May 26 2017 marks the US and UK e-book publication of Where Loyalties Lie and is being self-published by the author. Cover art is by Alex Raspad & cover design is provided by Shawn King.
CLASSIFICATION: Focusing on a wide character cast of pirates and epic sea battles, Where Loyalties Lie is the grimdark version of Pirates Of The Carribbean if imagined by Joe Abercrombie.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Rob J. Hayes is an author who appeared on to my radar when I read his debut The Heresy Within a little over 4 years ago. Since then after reading & thoroughly savoring the rest of his debut trilogy, I was simply convinced of his ample talent and the mysteries that were abundantly present in the First Earth world. This new duology has been delayed for over a year and the author has talked about the reasons over here on his blog. He even has provided a timeline of events and thankfully the author was able to get back the rights to these books and here we are with the first book. Before I start my review, for full disclosure I was an alpha/beta reader for this book and its sequel.
The book begins with a pirate town burning and Drake Morass’s pirate crew watching it along with their captain. Pretty soon the news spread and the pirates are wary of being hunted, among one such pirate captain is Keelin Stillwater. A person with a secret past who is hunting for a specific thing, Keelin is one of the rare pirates that chooses to avoid bloodshed whenever possible. He’s the exception among the seas where brutality & betrayal seems the norm. Both these pirate captains are gunning for something and they will have to strive to overcome their mutual distrust for their survival. We also meet Elaina Black, daughter of feared pirate Tanner Black and a dangerous person on her own. Elaina is running for her own deal however has to be careful of fraternal jealousy. Following up on the POV list we have a few other characters such as Arbiter Beck, Captain T’ruck Khan, Princess (who’s a guy) and a few others. They don’t get the same amount of page time but they are very, very interesting none the less.
The main focus of the story is one of ambition, betrayals and plotting. All of this occurs via the characters and namely Drake Morass is situated in front and center of this story, Drake was a minor but important character in the previous trilogy and his background actions fueled a lot of the plot twists. This duology though stands separate from the events of the previous trilogy and while it shares a few characters from the previous work (who made minor cameos in the books). New readers can easily pick up these books and will be snared up in the events. Drake again is in the thick of things and we begin the book with him and we end with him as well.
The characters are what make this story come alive in a very visceral way, beginning with our two main POV pirate captains Drake Morass and Keelin Seawater. Who couldn’t be more different than each other, Drake is calculating at all times but can be bloodthirsty, enigmatic and certainly the most feared person on sea. Keelin on the other hand is driven by his past and will do almost anything except irrationally murder folks. These two characters are what fuel the narrative as we find out what reasons might force them to work together. Let’s be clear Drake is the biggest enigma of this series and possibly one of the biggest in this world wherein most things are unknown or hidden. Drake’s exploits while being legendary are also grim. They make him out to be a monster but a good-looking and charming one at that. In this book we get to see all of his personas. The cruelty, the tall tales (that sound implausible but hold more than a ring of truth), the vicarious nature of his plots which almost always pan out as he planned and his daredevilry at accomplishing his lofty goals (some of which are laid bare within this duology). He’s the main engine for the plot of this book and manages to be a scene-stealer all the way. On one level while the readers will be horrified by his actions, on a pure character note, he is impossible to ignore.
Keelin Stillwater has a lot to live up to and the readers will get to read all about his past as well as the internal struggle he fights. Keelin has previously appeared in a small bit in The Price Of Faith but unless one is eagle-eyed you will most likely not picked up on it. Keelin is a good mirror to Drake and it’s fun to compare them both. The biggest surprise is Elaina Black who along with Arbiter Beck and T’ruck Khan are the dark horses of this story. They start out as small characters but by their actions at the end of the book become core characters. The author has even written a short story focusing on Beck and Elaina Black which acts as a prequel (to this duology) and a nice introduction to the pirates. Every character introduced is someone that’s fully fleshed and you want to read more about them. I think that’s the hallmark of a good writer and Rob J. Hayes is certainly fulfilling that mark.
Another thing about this story is because it focuses on pirates, it also shines a light on characters that don’t always show the best aspects of humanity. This story is filled with violence, betrayals and visceral surprises. About the first aspect, truly no one is safe in this story and the violence is quite interspersed within the story and we get various scenes that will horrify readers but make sense within the confines of the story. However I must warn readers that there’s one scene involving Tanner Black and Elaina Black which will shock you beyond anything. It’s a very disturbing scene and one that’s present to showcase the terror and disgust. Tanner Black makes Tywin Lannister seem like a doting parent & that’s saying something. The action sequences are almost always over water or feature some terrific scenes of ship boarding. In the previous trilogy, the action was more on a personal level however with this book, Rob J. Hayes certainly exalts things to a grand level. The best action scenes are ones featuring T’ruck Khan and I believe he’s a character that will be imprinted a lot on readers’ minds.
The pace of the story and the plot twists will keep the readers hooked and engaged throughout. One of the things that surprised me about this book was the love story within it. To be fair there’s two love stories going on (neither of them in the classical way) but if you really want to get down to brass tacks, they can be called as such. Let me be clear, the romance isn’t the focus of the story in the least. As a reader I just happened to notice it and found it funny to compare both those threads. The book ends on a solid note and because this is a duology, we can expect the next book (The Fifth Empire Of Man) to end things in a brutal manner as all the plots come to a head.
Drawbacks to me were next to none as this is the first volume and I felt that this book can serve as an excellent starting point to Rob J. Hayes’ violent & exciting First Earth saga. I must point out that this book is quite grim (but not bleak) and very, very violent. There’s one really graphic sexual violent scene that’s sure to raise hackles for some but it’s not there to titillate and makes sense from a story & character point of view. Overall I feel that this book is one that explores pirates quite unlike any other fantasy books I’ve read so far in the genre.
CONCLUSION: Rob J. Hayes recently mentioned how long it took for him to release this book for no fault of his. As a friend, I can very well vouch for his frustration at that. However as an unbiased reader, I have to say this is the first time when anybody has so successfully merged two different sub-genres of fantasy to give us a story that’s very, very good. Where Loyalties Lie is the perfect fusion of Grimdark and epic nautical fantasy that you never thought possible. Check this book out as I've a feeling that it will be one that readers will be talking about a lot more in the months to come.
Recently I asked Higgins about what she was reading. Her reply:My bookshelf is small and so full of books stacked in like Tetris blocks that
His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Boston Review, The Caravan, and Bidoun Magazine.
Lobo's new novel is Mr. Iyer Goes to War.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:I am currently reading several books both fiction and non-fiction.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Hough's reply:As usual I'm devouring two books at once, because I'll do one in print when I
Pre-order Godblind HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)
Read Michael's interview with Anna Stephens
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anna Stephens works in corporate communications for an international law firm by day and writes by night, normally into the small hours, much to her husbands dismay. Anna loves all things speculative, from books to film to TV, but if you disagree keep it to yourself as she's a second Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate.
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire.
That time has long since passed, and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border, where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost.
But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable. Vulnerable to the bloodthirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains....
Godblind is an incredible debut from a dazzling new voice of the genre.
ANALYSIS: Godblind is the exciting debut by Anna Stephens and here’s why I think it's a debut that marks itself out amidst grimdark fantasy.
THE GOOD: Gods meddling in mortal affairs, royal court-conspiracies, brimming with betrayals, battles and bloodlust, told via a distinct and diverse range of PoV characters.
THE BAD: The 2017 debuts are making me think this year – it’s tricky to pick anything ‘bad’ about them. If I had to say one thing, it’d be that if you prefer an ‘easy, light and bright read’ this isn’t for you. The multiple PoV approach can be a bit jarring at first, the plot at times complex, is grim, dark… to coin a phrase, grimdark? (I kid).
THE UGLY TRUTH: Godblind doesn’t pull its punches – it comes out swinging with a gut-buster of an opener, keeps on swinging, and after that KO of an ending, I feel like I’ve gone 12 rounds with a grimdark heavyweight, not a debut tyro. I hurt, I’m tired, I’m scared, I want a hug – but I want more!
This is not a story for the faint of heart. It’s grim, dark…and bloody.
I want to make that clear from the very beginning – which Godblind does in its very first chapter. And it only gets better from there! From treason to torture, sacrifice to sacrilege, bloodlust to a bat-shit crazy fanatic with a hammer and nails…this has everything you would want out of a grimdark book. And more.
Nor is it a story for fans of simple, straightforward, ‘a to b’ quest fantasy.
Plot twists aplenty, scheming and machinations to make the current real-world political landscape seem like a playground – but somehow, Goblind brings itself to life. The story and the world is real, oh so very real.
There are multiple POVs, some which you will enjoy more than others – and yes, there are a lot of POVs (think GRRM and John Gwynne), and that might even put some readers off, but they are done brilliantly, not just in terms of characterisation but also as a means to a page-burning pace. Not only that, but key with a story of betrayal, each POV brings a different perspective to the proceedings. As the saying goes: "one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter."
And on that note, of ‘man’, I’d like to highlight something here. Yes, this is a fantasy world in which there are elements of sexism, and yes, there is a rape plot-point of sorts (and we all know what kind of controversy this can stir up, especially on the interwebz). But they’re incredibly well-executed in terms of writing style and delivery. Not only that, because of their presence they define elements of the story and its characters.
On the note of the POVs and the characters, I would like to commend Anna Stephens for her strong female characters, both supporting and main. Yes, it’s easy to flame almost any author for treating a character (any character, be it a minority or otherwise) with prejudice or write with one of the many ‘isms’ (pick your poison), but at least for me, Anna strikes a bold balance in having characters (both male and female) who are heroes/heroines, and damsels/dudes in distress (I wanted to say dudettes, but let’s stick with damsels).
But this is a story for those that want something different – something new, something special. Something that will excite you and keep you coming back for more.
If I had to compare it to anything else, yes, as the publisher recommends, I’d agree with Abercrombie, Lynch and Lawrence. But you know what? I’d actually pitch it as the bastard whelp of John Gwynne’s ‘Faith and the Fallen’ series, and Brian Staveley’s ‘Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne’, if said spawn was then raised by GRRM and Kameron Hurley.
CONCLUSION: Every once in a while a book comes along that takes everything you have come to know and like, and doesn’t just raise the bar, it takes a step to the side and puts up its own bar. Sure, in a way it’s still everything you know and like, but for other reasons, you actually don’t know it, and you love it for it. Why? Because it’s going in a different direction, despite starting with similar ingredients.
Anna Stephens’ Godblind is that book, and I cannot wait to see where she takes us – not just for the destination, but for the journey, too. In her own words: ‘My feet are on the path.’
His job entails stopping all of the above events, not committing them, though we all have our bad days. When he isn't working you can find him on Twitter @MichaelWEverest or raving about books and writing over at michael-everest.com.
The attempt to turn the Lake District into a World Heritage site would be a disaster
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 9th May 2017
If this bid for power succeeds, the consequences for Britain will be irreversible. It will privilege special interests over the public good, shut out the voices of opposition and damage the fabric of the nation, perhaps indefinitely. No, I’m not writing about the election.
In the next few weeks Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation, will decide whether or not to grant World Heritage status to the Lake District. Once the decision is made, it is effectively irreversible.
Shouldn’t we be proud that this grand scenery, that plays such a prominent role in our perceptions of nationhood, will achieve official global recognition? On the contrary, we should raise our voices against it. World Heritage status would lock the Lake District into its current, shocking state, ensuring that recovery becomes almost impossible.
Stand back from the fells and valleys and try to judge this vista as you would a landscape in any other part of the world. What you will see is the great damage farming has inflicted: wet deserts grazed down to turf and rock; erosion gullies from which piles of stones spill; woods in which no new trees have grown for 80 years, as every seedling has been nibbled out by sheep; dredged and canalised rivers, empty of wildlife and dangerous to the people living downstream; tracts of bare mountainside on which every spring is a silent one. Anyone with ecological knowledge should recoil from this scene.
The documents supporting the bid for world heritage status are lavishly illustrated with photos, that inadvertently reveal what has happened to the national park. But this slow-burning disaster goes almost unmentioned in the text. On the contrary, the bid repeatedly claims that the park is in “good physical condition”, and that the relationship between grazing and wildlife is “harmonious”. Only on page 535, buried in a table, is the reality acknowledged: 75% of the sites that are meant to be protected for nature are in “unfavourable condition”.
This great national property has degenerated into a sheepwrecked wasteland. And the national park partnership, that submitted the bid, wants to keep it this way: this is the explicit purpose of its attempt to achieve world heritage status. It wants to preserve the Lake District as a “cultural landscape”. But whose culture? Whose landscape? There are only 1080 remaining farms in the district. Should the entire national park be managed for their benefit? If so, why? The question isn’t raised, let alone answered.
I can see the value and beauty of the traditional shepherding culture in the Lake District. I can also see that the farming there, reliant on subsidies, quad bikes and steel barns, now bears little relationship to traditional practice. As the size of landholdings has increased, it looks ever more like ranching and ever less like the old system the bid describes. The bid’s claim that farming there is “wholly authentic in terms of … its traditions, techniques and management systems” is neither intelligible nor true. Remnants of the old shepherding culture tend to be represented ceremonially, as its customs are mostly disconnected from the farm economy.
Shepherding is not the only cultural legacy in play. The other is that the Lake District is the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. Inspired by the Picturesque and Romantic movements, much of our environmental ethic and the groups representing it, such as the National Trust, originated here. Attempts to preserve natural beauty in the district began in the mid-18th century, with complaints against the felling of trees around Derwent Water. Today, the national park cares so little for this legacy that, as the bid admits, “there are no data available” on the condition of the Lake District’s woodlands.
The small group favoured by this bid sees environmental protection as anathema. Farmers’ organisations in the Lake District have fought tooth and nail against conservation measures. They revile the National Trust and the RSPB, whose mild efforts to protect the land from overgrazing are, with the help of a lazy and compliant media, treated like bubonic plague. As one of these farming groups exults, world heritage status “gives us a powerful weapon” that they can wield against those who seek to limit their impacts. If the plan is approved, this world heritage site would be a 230,000-hectare monument to overgrazing and ecological destruction.
This is not the only sense in which the bid is unsustainable. Nowhere in its 700 pages is Brexit mentioned. It was obviously written before the referendum, and has not been updated. Yet the entire vision relies, as the bid admits, on the economic viability of the farming system, which depends in turn on subsidies from the European Union.
Without these payments, there would be no sheep farming in the Lake District: it operates at a major loss. European subsidies counteract this loss, delivering an average net farm income of £9,600. Unsurprisingly, people are leaving the industry in droves: the number of farms in the national park is declining by 2% a year. And this is before the payments cease.
What is the national park partnership, that prepared this bid, going to do – march people onto the fells at gunpoint and demand they continue farming? Or does it hope that the government, amid the massacre of public investment that will follow Brexit, will not only match but exceed the £3bn of public money currently being passed to UK farmers by the European Union? Your guess is as good as mine. This omission alone should disqualify the bid.
The failure to mention this fatal issue looks to me like one of many attempts to pull the Herdwick wool over Unesco’s eyes. The entire bid is based on a fairy tale, a pretence that the rural economy of the Lake District hasn’t changed for 200 years. If Unesco grants world heritage status on these grounds, it will inflict irreparable harm on both our natural heritage and its own good standing.
The hills, whose clothes so many profess to admire, are naked. The narrative we are being asked to support is false. The attempt to ensure that the ecological disaster zone we call the Lake District National Park can never recover from its sheepwrecking is one long exercise in woolly thinking.
Riley's latest book to appear in the US is The Shadow Sister, the third
I’ve been enjoying my (sort of) new air fryer, but I haven’t been getting as creative with it as other people in my Facebook group have. I’ve done potatoes in fancy ways but mostly plain French fries and hash browns, tempeh bacon, asparagus, and, most successfully, tofu. After weeks of just “winging it,” I decided to take a look at the recipe book that came with my AF (as I abbreviate it) and noticed a non-vegetarian recipe for portobello mushroom pizzas that looked easy to veganize.
Read the rest of Portobello Mushroom Pizzas with Hummus (1,036 words)
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:Recently, I read J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy because I’m always looking for books that open up seemingly
Sometimes you have to take the time and applaud folks for the good that they do. Mark J. Dawson is an indie author who’s very well-known amidst the self-published thriller writing circles for his action-packed books focusing on John Milton. His series success and acclaim have been amply covered in this famous, viral Forbes article (Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer) as well as this one over at the Telegraph (Meet Mark Dawson, the literary sensation you've never heard of).
With bestsellers titles across all of his three series, he’s become an indie success on par with Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, Michael J Sullivan, and many others but several in the SFF field have barely heard of him. The reason why I’m writing this is to showcase the special effort Mark is undertaking to help provide much-needed cancer treatment to a mother facing a deadly condition.
I’ll let you read it in Mark’s own words as he describes the genesis of his project “Fight For Phoenix”:
"Emma Johns is the wife of my son's godfather and has been battling with breast cancer for several years. In the middle of her gruelling treatment she found out that she was pregnant (the chemotherapy was supposed to make her infertile but, to her surprise, it didn’t)."
"I want to help. I paused work on my current project (THE ALAMO) and revisited a favourite character. Not many people know this, but Beatrix Rose was inspired by Emma's courage in the face of her cancer, and it seemed right that I wrote a new short story featuring her."
"But not just her. I'm bringing someone else to the party."
"PHOENIX is a short novella that is a good starting point if you have never read any of my books. It's set just before GHOSTS (John Milton book #4 wherein Beatrix made her first appearance) and the Beatrix Rose trilogy (IN COLD BLOOD, BLOOD MOON RISING, & BLOOD AND ROSES). You don't need to have read any of those books to enjoy this novella and there are no spoilers. John Milton and a few other familiar faces will also be appearing in this 16,000 word novella."
"The finished product is available for you to buy today. Every last cent and penny that I receive for this novella will be donated to this amazing mother's campaign."
Barnes and Noble
There’s also the official website for the FIGHT FOR PHOENIX campaign where you can find details about Emma’s personal story as well see pictures of baby Phoenix. There’s also a Go Fund Me page for helping Emma Johns wherein you can contribute the amount you wish. Keep in mind that cancer treatment is an uphill battle and one can never predict what extra ailments will appear or what other treatments might be needed. So the money you donate will always be helpful to Emma and her family.
Mark Dawson is doing a remarkable thing by donating all of the money he receives from this novella for Emma's treatment. I’ve bought my copy of PHOENIX and I hope many of our readers will consider doing the same. So please help out either by buying a copy from any of the links given above or you can directly donate to Emma Johns via her GoFundMe campaign page.
NOTE: Mark Dawson picture courtesy of Eleanor Lawrie & ThisIsMoney.co.uk. All other pictures courtesy of Emma Johns & Mark Dawson.
So here we are after that exciting finish in which The Grey Bastards won the Selfie Stick award in a blazing manner & juggernauted its way into most of the readers hearts as well as got a snazzy traditional publishing contract as well. Now this was an entirely unexpected twist and something that no one expected. I don’t want authors to enter with the expectation that you *will* get a traditional publishing contract if you win.
No! That might not be the case but what you will get is lots of love, a healthy amount of reviews and targeted attention from an audience of readers who are always on the lookout to discover the next best thing a la Senlin Ascends or The Grey Bastards or our favorite Paternus.
Moving on, Mark Lawrence has our eternal gratitude for his unflagging zeal for running this contest and being so approachable. All ten bloggers have their lots allotted to them and these are the 30 titles from which our finalist will arise:
- The Arbiter by M.M. Perry
- Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English
- Forgotten Relics by Tiffany Cherney
- The Slave From The East by Victor Poole
- The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta
- The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale by Danielle E Shipley
- The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley
- Shadows for a Princess by Dominique Kristine
- Warcaster by J.C. Staudt
- The Defenders' Apprentice by Amelia Smith
- The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson
- Thunder Hunter by Rachel Medhurst
- The Lion Mistress by R.A. Steffan
- Gods of Color by C.H. Baum
- Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley
- Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds by Dale Kutzera
- The Songweaver's Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
- The Burglar of Sliceharbour by Jason A Holt
- Haven of Shadows by Ken Lozito
- Absence of Color by S.K. Wee
- The Half Killed by Quenby Olson
- Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick
- The Hiss of the Blade by Richard Writhen
- The Rift by J.T. Stoll
- The General's Legacy by Adrian G Hilder
- Dybsy by A.M. Macdonald
- The Waterfall Traveler by S.J. Lem
- Wrath of the Exiled by Dhesan Neil Pillay
- Night of the Chalk by Samuel Gately
- Into Exile by Derek Siddoway
This year though, Fantasy Book Critic is doing things a tad differently after learning from my past two experiences. My co-editor Cindy is joining me in this contest which means that authors you will have a lesser wait time. Cindy and me will be combing through our lot and reading the first five chapters or the first 50 pages (whichever is longer). We will then be selecting about 6-7 titles that we think are the strongest of the lot in terms of story/plot, characterization & writing style. These will become our semi-finalists. We will try to post our thoughts on each book but that might not always be possible. We will ideally go through batches of five books and announce one semi-finalist each time. However that might not always be possible as we might not like any book in that batch of five.
The aim is to select 6-7 best titles and so at the end of six rounds, we will announce all the semi-finalists (if we haven't selected any so far). All of these 6-7 titles will be getting mini-reviews and we will be offering each author an interview to go along with the review (similar to what I did the last time). Authors please understand the main reason why we are not able to offer reviews to all of our 30 books as FBC is a passion project outside of our professional and personal lives. We strive to make sure that our reviews truly reflect how we feel about the books that we read and enjoy. Authors please don’t feel slighted if your book isn’t selected. It doesn’t mean that it was a crappy book but simply that it didn’t match our tastes and hence it wasn’t put forward. The books that we love might not always be the ones that you like and vice versa. Keep in mind that we will do our best to select the book that we feel is the best of our lot (irrespective of the sub-genre it inhabits within fantasy)
From the last couple of times, I’ve also learnt that we aren’t the quickest in terms of finishing through our lot so authors please feel to email us at fantasybookcriticblog@gmail .com or message us on Facebook or Twitter asking for updates or any other queries. I promise we are very friendly and will do our best to reply back promptly. If you just want to say hello or have other ideas, we welcome them :)
So let the contest begin and we can’t wait to find out the gems in our lot.
NOTE: SPFBO Towers banner thanks to Sally over at the Qwillery.