Reincarnation Blues

I was looking for a light read to bring with me on my latest hiking trip in parc national de la Jacques-Cartier and parc national de la Mauricie, and it felt as though Michael Poore's Reincarnation Blues was just what the doctor ordered. I was hooked on the premise as soon as I received the novel and intrigued enough to move it quite near to the top of my rotation of books to read.

I had never read anything by this author before, but this seemed to be a unique idea and I was looking forward to reading something totally different from what's out there these days. Sadly, after a great start that was very promising, Poore sort of lost control of his story and everything appeared to drift a bit aimlessly for a while. So much so that I had more or less lost interest before the end came. Which is a shame, as Reincarnation Blues seemed destined to be another winner like Daryl Gregory's Spoonbenders. Alas. . .

Here's the blurb:

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try?

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.

Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too.

The worldbuilding is decidedly uneven. Some chapters follow Milo in the afterlife, while others focus on his countless reincarnations. The timeline is all over the place, with chapters taking place centuries in the past and others fast-forward centuries into the future. It follows no logical chronology, which can have weird repercussions on the main story arc. Some of these reincarnation plotlines are brilliantly written, but others are a mess and it felt as though the author was winging it and had no idea where he was going with his tale. The premise gave Michael Poore countless opportunities to showcase his imagination, yet many of Milo's reincarnations felt flat due to what ultimately was poor execution on the author's part. There are some awesome parts in this novel. Trouble is, there is also a lot of uninspired and lackluster material that often sends everything else down the crapper.

Although his heart is in the right place (most of the time at least), there is no denying that Milo is a slacker and kind of a prick. And while it's so easy and fun to root for him at the beginning of the novel, each new reincarnation makes him lose more of his luster and it gets to the point when the reader simply loses interest in Milo's plight. I particularly enjoyed Suzie's perspective, but it wasn't enough to reel me back in once I sort of gave up on Milo. The supporting cast doesn't feature any memorable secondary characters, I'm afraid. Mama and Nan had potential, but they're never really developed. The dark and witty humor that works so well at the start of the book gradually loses its magic as the story progresses. Indeed, you go from multiple chuckles throughout each chapter to a point where you disengage and just want the story to end.

Weighing in at 374 pages, Reincarnation Blues is not a big novel. One would think that such a book wouldn't suffer from pacing issues, but it is unfortunately the case. Following a great beginning, it appears that Michael Poore ran out of fun and ingeniously clever ideas for Milo's subsequent reincarnations. As a result, the main story arc peters out, plagued by a few way-too-long chapters that irremediably kills whatever traction and momentum the storylines had going for them. Trimmed down by perhaps fifty pages or so, things might have worked a lot better overall.

In the end, by the time the last reincarnation comes and goes, I was so disconnected from the plot that Milo's fate left me almost totally indifferent. Which is too bad, as Reincarnation Blues had a lot of potential. I fear that Poore enjoyed his own cleverness a bit too much and went all out in a way that was detrimental to what lies at the heart of the tale: Milo and Suzie's love story.

It's an often fun and witty sort of novel, no doubt about it. And yet, attempting to cram too much humor and strange reincarnation stories ultimately spoiled the execution and resulted into a bit of a mess that failed to live up to the potential Reincarnation Blues showed early on.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Follow this link to read an extract from the book.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin.

And a cold-blooded killer.

His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good. . . and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

The international hit that inspired the video game: The Witcher.

Guest Blog: Joshua Palmatier

When Joshua Palmatier emailed me to ask if I'd be willing to share the Kickstarter for his small press Zombies Need Brains, which produces all-original SFF anthologies, I invited him to write a guest blog post instead.


Genesis of a Small Press

By Joshua Palmatier

Zombies Need Brains is a small press I created in 2013 with the intent of producing SF&F themed anthologies. Since then, the press has released seven anthologies with themes ranging from steampunk vs aliens to Death personified. Along the way, it has published New York Times bestsellers alongside authors where their ZNB story was their first professional sale. Recently, the press has been recognized by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) as a qualifying market and one of its stories—“Radio Silence” by Walter H. Hunt (published in ALIEN ARTIFACTS)—is a finalist for the Washington Science Fiction Society’s Small Press Award. It continues to grow, reaching a wider and wider audience each year, but I thought it would be interesting to go back to the beginning, to see where it all started and how it all began.

So, close your eyes and imagine a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New Jersey in 2010 (or thereabouts). This was a group signing, with seven SF&F authors gathering in the hopes of peddling their newest books. The signing went fairly well, and afterwards, we all decided to hit the bar at a restaurant nearby. Somehow, while drinking and talking shop, the topic of anthologies came up—in particular, themed anthologies. I joked about doing an anthology centered around a bar. Someone else said what if the bar represented the epitome of all bars at that time and that as soon as that magic of being the best, the most popular, passed, the bar would shift to a new location—in essence, traveling through time. And then Patricia Bray jokingly said, what if the bartender was Gilgamesh? He found his immortality by taking over (being tricked into running, actually) the bar.

Most of the time when things like this happen, that’s the end of it. The writers go home and wake up the next day going about their usual business. But this time, I went home and wrote up a proposal for what would become AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE URBAR. It was pitched by Tekno to DAW Books and they liked it and published it, along with another anthology Patricia Bray and I created called THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY. Patricia and I enjoyed editing these anthologies, bringing them to life, and so we wrote up more proposals—

But then there was an upheaval in the publishing world. I’m not sure exactly what caused it—ebooks were having a significant impact at this point—but whatever it was, the publishing world began cutting back. Editors at houses shifted. Houses merged. And DAW Books cut back their anthology line to only a few anthologies a year, when before they were doing six or eight. It made sense—anthologies rarely earn out or make money for the large traditional houses. But it still cut Patricia and I off at the knees, right when we were settling in as editors.

I had hopes that the publishing world would settle down and DAW would bring back their anthology line. But after a couple years, it hadn’t happened. Yet I still wanted to edit anthologies. So I began to plan: I researched what it would take to set up a small press, what the expenses would be, what the legalities would cost, and then I researched crowdfunding platforms, because I certainly couldn’t afford to set up the press and produce an anthology on my own. I ended up deciding that the only way it would work is if I ran a Kickstarter that would produce the first anthology AND raise the money to pay for setting up the small press. I sat on the idea for even longer, mulling it over. Was it worth the risk? Was it worth the time and effort? Was I insane?

And then I pulled the trigger.

Zombies Need Brains’ first Kickstarter ran in August of 2013, featuring the anthology CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK VS ALIENS with the (self-evident) theme of aliens invading a steampunk Earth. I set it up so that half of the anthology would be filled with well-known authors, what I called anchor authors. These authors helped promote the Kickstarter and drew in enough backers that the Kickstarter was a success. The other half of the anthology was filled by a call for submissions from some of the writers lists that Patricia and I are part of. So it wasn’t a completely open call, but it was one step away from that. We ended up with some great stories and—with a few “learning curve” mistakes made by me as a new crowdfunder and publisher—the anthology was released into the world.

The original plan was to run a Kickstarter every year for one anthology for five years, and then sit back and see where things stood to see if I’d continue with Zombies Need Brains. That changed after the second anthology. When I hit the third year, I decided that I could risk going to two themed anthologies. That worked so well, in the fourth year I did three new anthologies and I expanded to additional editors.

And now we’re on the fifth year. The Kickstarter is currently active and we’re over halfway to our goal. We’re shooting for three anthologies again. THE RAZOR’S EDGE is a military SF&F anthology featuring stories about that fine line between being a rebel and an insurgent; GUILDS & GLAIVES explores the sword & sorcery genre; and SECOND ROUND brings everyone back to the time-traveling bar tended by Gilgamesh first seen in AFTER HOURS. We’ve got some stellar anchor author lined up, names I can guarantee you’ll recognize. And you can help bring these three anthologies to life by supporting our Kickstarter at We have special pledge levels featuring tuckerizations in some of the anchor author short stories and signed copies of some of our anchor authors’ books. You could be drawn as a cartoon hamster by Esther Friesner. There’s even a pledge level that will catch you up on all of our past anthologies!

What’s in store for the future? Well, hopefully at some point Zombies Need Brains will be able to produce anthologies without the need of a Kickstarter. We aren’t close to that yet, barring me winning the Powerball in the next week. But that’s the hope. And beyond that? I’d like to expand beyond anthologies, into original novels.

But that’s far future, the land of hopes and dreams. Right now, I’m focused on the Kickstarter and the hope that I can produce at least three more anthologies, bringing ZNB’s total publishing list up to ten in just five years. Not bad for something that started as a joke: Seven authors walk into a bar …

Check out the new Kickstarter here:

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 11th)

In hardcover:

Delilah S. Dawson's Star Wars: Phasma debuts at number 10.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It is up one spot, finishing the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Cover art and extract from Jacqueline Carey's STARLESS

The folks from Happy Ever After have just unveiled the cover art for Jacqueline Carey's forthcoming Starless (Canada, USA, Europe).

Here's the blurb:

Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series. Lush and sensual, Starless introduces us to an epic world where exiled gods live among us, and a hero whose journey will resonate long after the last page is turned.

Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

Follow this link to read te extract.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership and comparisons to fantasy masters Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, and J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Now Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series—and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of The Craft Sequence omnibus by Max Gladstone for only 11.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Set in a phenomenally-built world in which lawyers ride lightning bolts, souls are currency, and cities are powered by the remains of fallen gods, MAX GLADSTONE's Craft Sequence introduces readers to a modern fantasy landscape and an epic struggle to build a just society.

Three Parts Dead — A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Two Serpents Rise — Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—is sent by Red King Consolidated to cleanse shadow demons from the Dresediel Lex city water supply, and uncovers a scheme to forever alter the balance of power in the city.

Full Fathom Five — On the island of Kavekana, Kai nearly loses her life trying to save one of her creations, a god built to order. But when Kai starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can't stop it first.

Last First Snow — Craft lawyer Elayne Kevarian and warrior-priest Temoc must fight dark magic, secret agendas, and their own demons to save the peace between the citizens and rulers of Dresediel Lex, before hell opens to swallow the city whole.

Four Roads Cross — Protests rock the city of Alt Coulumb, Kos Everburning's creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god's church, and Craftswoman Tara Abernathy must defend the church against the world's fiercest necromantic firm.

Quote of the Day

We lie best when we lie to ourselves.

- STEPHEN KING, It (Canada, USA, Europe)

Read this book back when I was a teenager, and now I'm reading it again before seeing the new movie. More than three decades down the line, It is still as good as it was when it came out in 1986!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Django Wexler's The Thousand Names for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel — but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic…

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder-smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men, and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

But the fates of both of these soldiers, and all the men they lead, depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning.

But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural — a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 4th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's It is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down two positions, ending the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Side Jobs for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

With tales ranging from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious—including an original story for this volume—Side Jobs is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan.

As Chicago’s only professional wizard, Harry Dresden has had cases that have pitted him against insane necromancers, power-hungry faerie queens, enigmatic dark wizards, fallen angels—pretty much a “who’s who” of hell and beyond—with the stakes in each case ranging from a lone human soul to the entire human race. But not every adventure Harry Dresden undertakes is an epic tale of life and death in a world on the edge of annihilation.

Here, together for the first time in paperback, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher—a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 28th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up two positions, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It debuts at number 6 (trade paperback).

In the Village Where Brightwine Flows

You probably remember that I gave Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya series glowing reviews, going as far as to claim that it was one of the most interesting fantasy series I had read in the last decade or so. It was dark, ambitious, complex, and populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages. Even for jaded readers looking for a quality read, that book sequence was different from everything else on the market and definitely worth checking out.

I was looking forward to whatever the author would publish next, but you likely also recall that I never could get into Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. I felt that it featured none of the depth, the great worldbuilding, or the superior characterization. Everything was too black or white for my taste, and the protagonists featured none of the complexity and moral ambiguity that made characters like Nikandr Khalakovo, Atiana Vostroma, Nasim, Soroush, Rehada, and Styophan Andrashayev such unforgettable people. This was especially true of Çeda, who was too badass for her own good, and I found it impossible to care for or root for her.

And yet, although it wasn't perfect, I enjoyed Beaulieu's Middle Eastern setting. I wasn't in any hurry to give subsequent novel-length installments in The Song of the Shattered Sands series a shot any time soon, I was intrigued by this new novella.

Here's the blurb:

Street urchins have been turning up missing in the great desert city of Sharakhai. Few care until the son of one of the city’s richest patrons goes missing as well.

The apothecary named Dardzada wants nothing to do with it, but his shrewd mind and skills as an apothecary make him indispensable to his cruel half-brother Layth, the captain of the guard tasked with solving the mystery.

When Layth insists he look deeper into the kidnappings, Dardzada is drawn into a struggle much larger than he ever anticipated, and he soon realizes it will take all his wits to save the victims and himself.

In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is a stand-alone work that one can read without having read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and its sequels. I mean, you'll miss a few nuances regarding the characters. But nothing that would prevent you from enjoying the tale in its entirety. Mind you, I haven't read With Blood Upon the Sand and Of Sand and Malice Made, so perhaps I did miss some myself. To all ends and purposes, this novella appears to be a side story that is self-contained and can be enjoyed on its own. That's how it worked out for me, in any case.

Dardzada, the mysterious apothecary who deals with the Moonless Host introduced in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, takes center stage. And since he proved to be one of the most interesting characters from that book, this was what made me want to give this novella a try. More than just an apothecary, this brilliant and crafty man will unveil a dangerous secret when he investigates the kidnapping and the murder of an adolescent boy who fell in with the wrong crowd. As Dardzada gets closer to the truth, he'll soon realize that his own life could be in danger.

The pace of In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is quite fluid, which came as a surprise. Bradley P. Beaulieu's works have always been slow-moving affairs, mostly because he's laying a lot of groundwork for what is to come, or he's weaving various threads to bring everything together later on. The novella-length format precludes that sort of approach and the rhythm keeps the tale progressing at a good clip.

Street gangs, drugs, corruption, murder; In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows has all that and more. The story comes together nicely the closer you get to the endgame and this short fiction piece packs a powerful punch at the end.

In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is a nice addition to The Song of the Shattered Sands series that further fleshes out Dardzada. But as a novella-length stand-alone, it's the perfect opportunity for potential readers who have yet to give Bradley P. Beaulieu a shot to do so.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download this new novella for about 2.99$: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Steven Erikson's Willful Child for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times Bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new science fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Joe Hill's NOS4A2 for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

The Mongrel Mage

Modesitt fans are getting spoiled in 2017 with two different Recluce books! I wasn't even aware that the 19th installment in the saga was on its way. So with Recluce Tales published earlier this year and The Mongrel Mage being released this fall, this is an unexpected surprise.

Even better, this is the beginning of a brand new story arc. If the past is any indication, this one will likely be another two-volume sequence. Time will tell, but I have a feeling that fans of the author will be happy no matter how many novels comprise Beltur's tale.

Here's the blurb:

The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world with world-building detail and an ingenious and disciplined magic system. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to his longest and bestselling fantasy series with volume nineteen, The Mongrel Mage, which marks the beginning of a new story arc.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic—the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics.

On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

However, when the white mage he fled attempts to invade his new home, Beltur must hope his new found power will be enough to save them all.

Personally, I feel that the worldbuilding is always one of the most fascinating facets of these new Recluce books. Indeed, it allows readers to discover how people and events shaped history during their lifetime. In the last few novels, Modesitt first showed how Saryn's involvement in protecting the regency culminated in drastic changes throughout Lornth, shaping that country into what it would become in later years. Saryn's coming down from Tower Black and the Roof of the World echoed down the centuries the same way the deeds of an inexperienced Lerial, a young man forced to grow up before his time, would change Hamor forever with his attempts to save Cigoerne from its many enemies. It's too early to tell how Beltur's story will fit in the greater scheme of things, yet I'm looking forward to discovering how he'll leave his own indelible mark upon the Recluce timeline.

As is usually his wont, Modesitt continues to explore the relationship between Order and Chaos, one of the trademarks of this series. In Cyador's Heirs and Heritage of Cyador, being able to manipulate both Order and Chaos forced Lerial to test the limits of what he could do, often with unanticipated results. The same goes for Beltur. Although trained as a White Mage, he soon finds out that he's more Black than he ever thought possible. This strange dichotomy doesn't sit well with some of his newfound allies, who sometimes refer to him as a mongrel mage.

The characterization would probably have benefited from more POV characters. In the last Recluce story arc, Lerial, a teenager with an inquisitive mind, was a sympathetic protagonist which was easy to root for. Although his heart is always in the right place, Beltur can be dense at times and he's not as endearing as Lerial turned out to be. Still, rediscovering how to forge cupridium and his experiments to use Order to help defeat the Gallosian forces bent on conquering his new home make Beltur an interesting young man to follow. The supporting cast is particularly engaging, chief among them the gay couple comprised of the Black Mages Athaal and Meldryn, the Healers Margrena and her daughter Jessyla, as well as Captain Laugreth and Squad Leader Gaermyn.

Not surprisingly, the pace was an issue at times. Modesitt's novels are never fast-paced affairs and The Mongrel Mage is no exception to that rule. As was the case in every Recluce installment, the author needs time to establish the various plotlines. Once done, you then follow the main character as he or she must learn, experiment, and puzzle out ways to escape a number of predicaments before the endgame can take place. In that respect, The Mongrel Mage follows the classic Recluce recipe and long-time fans end up with another compelling read. And yet, even though it's the first chapter in a much bigger tale, it felt as though this novel was not as self-contained at other similar Recluce offerings. There is a lot more to Beltur's story, that goes without saying. But I feel that this one didn't stand as well on its own and wasn't as satisfying as other first installments in previous Recluce story arcs.

When all is said and done, The Mongrel Mage turned out to be another solid effort by L. E. Modesitt, jr. Smart, thoughtful, and entertaining without any of the bells and whistles so prevalent in epic fantasy these days, this is adult fantasy by an author who remains in perfect control of his craft and his universe. Looking forward to what comes next!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Extract from Peter V. Brett's THE CORE

You can now ready the first 50 pages from Peter V. Brett's The Core online. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb for:

New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett brings one of the most imaginative fantasy sagas of the twenty-first century to an epic close.

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.

Follow this link to read the extract!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 21st)

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.