Giveaway winner for Hush!

As promised, I’m announcing the winner of a copy of Hush. I had Wiebe throw a d4 to decide the winner. So without further ado, the winner of this giveaway is……

Gillian from Nottingham!

Congratulations Gillian and commiserations to all the other entrants. Better luck next time!

James Maxey – Hush & Giveaway!

The invulnerable, super-strong warrior Infidel has a secret: she’s lost her magical powers right at the moment when she needs them most. To keep a promise to a fallen friend, she must journey to the frozen wastelands of the north.

Her quest leads her through the abstract realms of the Sea of Wine, where she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all life. Hush, the primal dragon of cold, has formed an alliance with the ghost of a vengeful witch to murder Glorious, the dragon of the sun, plunging the world into an unending winter night.

Without her magical strength, can Infidel possibly survive her battle with Hush? If she fails to save Glorious, will the world see another morning?

Earlier this year I read and reviewed Greatshadow, and I thought it was brilliant. As I said in my review: ‘… any story that can legitimately clothe its main character in a chain mail bikini and make it functional can only be genius!’ Having enjoyed Greatshadow so much, I was looking forward to reading Hush rather impatiently as I wanted to find out what would happen to Infidel and Stagger. So you could say I had rather high expectations when I started Hush.

Happily, my high expectations weren’t disappointed. I loved Hush, perhaps even more than I loved Greatshadow. Other than obviously being part of a continuing story, Hush never felt like a second book in a series; Maxey knew where he was going with his tale and keeping a tight rein on it, never letting it meander or bog down. Instead we get action by the minute and travel by the mile, as we leave the Isle of Fire, the main focus of the action in the last book and follow our intrepid adventurers to icy Qikiqtabruk. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if everything was as straightforward as that sentence made it seem, so there are plenty of interesting characters and shenanigans to keep us occupied on our way there.

Action, travel and shenanigans aside, Hush had some surprisingly philosophical leanings thanks to Stagger. Returning in his capacity as narrator, this time round he isn’t just along as a ghost observer, he actually gets in on the action thanks to Sorrow, a materialist who binds him as a wood golem in her service. This semi-return to life – Sorrow makes it clear that the binding won’t last and once Stagger’s spectral energy runs out he’ll move on for good – prompt a lot of musing on the meaning of life and love for Stagger and give him a chance to, for once and for all, tell Infidel the whole of his feelings for her. There are a lot of lovely passages in the book, unexpectedly touching in this hard-hitting tale of high adventure, such as the one I added as a quote to my Tumblr. It made reading Hush a pleasure beyond that of a fantastic story, it made me appreciate the prose as well.

Beyond the addition of Sorrow as one of her travel companions, Infidel also adds the Romers, a family of Wanderers and the owners of the Freewind. She hires them to take her to Qikiqtabruk and they are a fabulous set of characters. Consisting of the captain, Gale, and her children, they are a handy bunch to have a round in a pinch, as they each have gifts given them as rewards by the mermen – the tale of which must be interesting in its own right and which we don’t fully get here, alas – and they are very resourceful. They are joined by their dry man Brand, who is the one who conducts their business on land, as Wanderers can’t set foot on dry land, because of their deal with Abyss, the primal dragon of the sea. However entertaining and intriguing the Romers are, the real star to join Infidel is Sorrow. Not only is she a materialist – a witch who is able to manipulate matter after hammering the relevant nail into the correct position on her head (!!) – she’s also the estranged daughter of one of the judge-captains of King Brightmoon’s fleet and as such has a lot in common with Infidel in the daddy-issues department. Sorrow is a fascinating character, at once coldly analytic and strangely empathetic; I never was quite sure whether she didn’t have a hidden (nefarious) agenda.

Beyond a new set of companions for Infidel, we also get a new set of dragons, Hush, Rott and Glorious, a new villain, Purity, and a lot more information on the world, its links with the abstract world and its magic. Hush and Glorious are awesome – well duh, they’re dragons, but even beyond that – I loved that they were at the same time all too human, I mean they’re whole animosity was based on a lover’s quarrel as Greatshadow told us in the previous book, and far beyond humanity as the humans don’t even rate in their decision-making process. The world seems to have far more depth to it than I suspected after last book, which was mirrored both in the races and people we encounter and the way the different magics we’ve come across so far are connected.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Hush. Despite its sometimes a little more serious passages, it was still a fun romp and anyone just looking for more of what made Greatshadow such a great read (no pun intended) will definitely find it in Hush. For those who found Greatshadow to be mostly light entertainment, I think you’ll find more heft in Hush, with a world that has more depth, a narrator given to more serious introspection and some more rounded motivations for its characters. Hush‘s ending left me spinning and I can’t wait to see where Maxey will pick up Infidel’s tale in the next book, Witchbreaker, next year! Hush was released by Solaris Books earlier this month and should be available from all the usual venues, both online and off.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.


The kind folks at Solaris have also provided me with a copy to give away to one of my readers. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win James Maxey’s Hush, send an email with the subject HUSH to pallekenl [at] xs4all [dot] nl (or just click the little envelope on the right) with your name and your mailing address and I’ll have my husband randomly pick a winner. The giveaway is open to addresses in the UK and EUROPE only, but please, only one entry per person or you’ll be disqualified!

The competition will remain open till July 28th and I’ll announce the winner on the 29th.

The Last Refuge Giveaway Winner

As promised, I’m announcing the winner of a signed copy of The Last Refuge. I had Wiebe throw a d4 to decide the winner. So without further ado, the winner of this giveaway is……

Myra from Texas!

Congratulations Myra and commiserations to all the other entrants. Better luck next time!

Stay tuned for another giveaway soon!

Ben Coes – The Last Refuge + Giveaway!

Off a quiet street in Brooklyn, New York, Israeli Special Forces commander Kohl Meir is captured by operatives of the Iranian secret service, who smuggle Meir back to Iran where he’s imprisoned, tortured and prepared for a show trial.
What they don’t know is that Meir was in New York to recruit Dewey Andreas for a secret operation. Meir had been tipped off that Iran had developed a nuclear bomb and was planning to use it to attack Israel. His proof was a photo of the bomb with the words “Goodbye Tel Aviv” written in Farsi.
Dewey Andreas, a former SEAL en Delta, owes his life to Meir and his team of Israeli commandos. Now to repay his debt, Dewey has to attempt the impossible—to rescue Meir from one of the world’s most secure prisons before he’s executed and to find and eliminate Iran’s nuclear bomb before it’s deployed. All without the help or sanction of Israel or America (or risk near certain detection by Iran before the plan is in place).
Unfortunately, Dewey’s first moves have caught the attention of Abu Paria, the brutal and brilliant head of VEVAK, the Iranian secret service. Now Dewey has to face off against, outwit and outfight, an opponent with equal cunning, skill and determination with the destruction of Israel’s largest city hanging in the balance.

Political shenanigans… I love them in my fantasy and a good conspiracy theory is always entertaining. Also Bond, James Bond or spies are cool. That’s why it’s surprising that I don’t read more political thrillers or spy novels. I guess you only have so much time (and resources) to devote to reading and it’s easy to gravitate to that which you know. So I was delighted when I was asked to review Ben Coes’ latest novel The Last Refuge, his third Dewey Andreas novel. Besides, with a main character called Dewey, the librarian in me couldn’t resist!

Dewey Andreas is a likeable character. He isn’t your regular Joe, being an ex-Delta operative and having just been rescued from captivity after assassinating the Pakistani President, but he’s accessible to the reader. And that’s a good thing, because – surprisingly, seeing how much I love Mark Lawrence, George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie – I had a hard time with the casual violence in this book. And it’s not just the bad guys who kill indiscriminately, Dewey gives as good as he gets. I found it shocking, perhaps because it’s set in the real world and not a secondary one – I can’t quite figure out why – but it troubled me more than it usually does. What scared me too was the description of the TLA agencies’ practices. I know this is fiction, but the agency practices described have to be based at least a little in fact and that is quite scary. I never imagined it was such a Wild West in terms of going off the grid and killing enemy operatives.

I found the sides very black and white. The other good guys with larger roles, Jessica, the National Security Advisor, and Calibrisi, the CIA director, are quite likeable as well. The real stars of the supporting characters list were Tacoma and Foxx who Dewey sources to help him run his rescue operation. I found their little set up a somewhat scary, they’re basically a privately funded covert operations firm, but I loved the interactions between them and, especially, Katie Foxx’s character. We see her in action, but we also see a little of her history in some of her scenes and I really liked the emotional depth this gave her. However, I found I didn’t connect to Kohl Meir as much as the author would have perhaps wished me too. On the one hand, he’s a very sympathetic character and obviously a political pawn, on the other hand, I found him a little too dogmatic. Similarly, the bad guys are just as dogmatic and stringent in their adherence to their political beliefs. In addition, they are portrayed as evil and having no regard for human life. This was especially true for Abu Paria, the main Iranian opponent we follow throughout the book. This man was really evil and had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I did appreciate the nuance the characters of Qassou and Taris brought, as I was afraid that Coes would paint all Iranians with the same dark brush. It kept the book from being populated exclusively by white hats and black hats, though overall the characters in The Last Refuge, while not cardboard, aren’t super well-rounded either. Then again, in a political thriller the plot is more important than knowing the deepest psychological motivations of your villain or even your hero.

Plot-wise The Last Refuge fulfils its promise: it’s action-packed and hard-hitting, with no observable plot holes or leaps of logic. Dewey’s reasons for going after Meir are understandable, even laudable, and the way he goes about it is intelligent and cunning. Coes also managed to tie everything together and delivered a satisfying ending, while leaving enough threads loose to tie into a new novel. Since this is a twisty-turny thriller, it’s hard to say more about the plot without spoiling the story, but suffice it to say Dewey has to roll with the punches.

I had issues with the book, with its callous executions of opponents and, at times, the political rhetoric of some of its protagonists, which hit very close to reality and thus were extra scary to read. I don’t know whether the things I disliked in the book are inherent to the genre or just this book; I haven’t read enough of it to judge. Despite the issues I had with it, the book kept me reading and entertained, which is what is should do. If you’re into political thrillers, The Last Refuge is a good one to pick up. Though the third in a series, it can easily be read as a standalone, but I’d recommend catching up with the other two as I suspect Dewey’s motivations would be more underpinned and clearer. Action-filled, exciting and clever, without pretending to be overly intellectual about it, The Last Refuge is the perfect summer read.

This book was provided for review by the author.


Ben has also been kind enough to provide a signed first edition of The Last Refuge to one of my readers. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win Ben Coes’ The Last Refuge, send an email with the subject THE LAST REFUGE to pallekenl [at] xs4all [dot] nl (or just click the little envelope on the right) with your name and your mailing address and I’ll have my husband randomly pick a winner. The giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, but please, only one entry per person or you’ll be disqualified!

The competition will remain open till July 13th and I’ll announce the winner on the 14th.

The Alchemist of Souls Giveaway Winner

Well, this week didn’t go as planned. I expected to go back to work this week, instead I ended up stuck at home with a throat infection and a course of anti-biotics. That also explains the relative blog silence this week. I had the interview drafted and ready to go last weekend, so I was able to put something up, but there was no blogging for me this week otherwise. However, I did manage to read some lovely books, reviews for which will follow next week! But enough of the excuses and stuff, let’s get on to what you’re really here for, the winner of my The Alchemist of Souls giveaway. I assigned each entry a number in the order they arrived and Wiebe threw a D20 to select the winner. And this lucky winner is:

Lisa from White Plains (US)

Congratulations Lisa, the book will be winging its way to you soon! Commiserations to all the other entrants, better luck next time!

Giveaway! Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls

One of my absolute favourite books I’ve read so far this year is Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls. Or as I put it in my review:

I can’t think of a bad thing to say about The Alchemist of Souls other than that I now have to wait till spring next year to find out what is next! There is a lot going on in the book, lots of conspiracies and spying and plots within plots, but Lyle guides the narrative with a deft hand and keeps the reader from becoming confused. The story packs a punch, not just action and intrigue-wise – of which there is lots – but emotionally as well, as we see Mal dealing with the truth about him and his twin and having to make some tough decisions as to their future, that are both heartbreaking and leave the reader hopeful. I really enjoyed the time I spent with Mal, Coby and the rest of the characters of The Alchemist of Souls and I can’t wait for The Merchant of Dreams next year. It’s one of my top reads so far this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it on my best reads-list at the end of the year!

Now the kind folks over at Angry Robot Books have provided me with a copy to giveaway, so one of you can find out what I was so excited about. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls, send an email with the subject ALCHEMIST OF SOULS to pallekenl [at] xs4all [dot] nl (or just click the little envelope on the right) with your name and your mailing address and I’ll have my husband randomly pick a winner. The giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, but please, only one entry per person, or you’ll be disqualified!

The competition will remain open till May 24th and I’ll announce the winner on the 26th.

The Assassin’s Curse Giveaway Winner!

As promised, I’m announcing the winner of The Assassin’s Curse ARC giveaway winner. I put the names of all the people that emailed me on little papers and had Wiebe draw one at random. So without further ado, the winner of an ARC of Cassandra R. Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse is……

Petra from Germany!

Congratulations Petra and commiserations to all the other entrants. Better luck next time!

Stay tuned for another giveaway soon!

Cover Reveal & Giveaway for Cassandra R. Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse

One of the first novels announced for Angry Robot’s new YA imprint Strange Chemistry was Cassandra R. Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse. It sounded like a very interesting story and today Strange Chemistry shared the cover art for The Assassin’s Curse and I have to say it’s gorgeous! I love the colours, the text design and the little ship silhouette. What do you think? Do you agree?

Here’s the official blurb for The Assassin’s Curse:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. And when Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks—all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic, and the growing romantic tension between them.

And some information on Cassandra R. Clarke:

Cassandra Clarke is a speculative fiction writer and occasional teacher living amongst the beige stucco of Houston, Texas. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a bachelor’s degree in English, and in 2008 she completed her master’s degree in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin. Both of these degrees have served her surprisingly well.

During the summer of 2010, she attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, where she enjoyed sixty-degree summer days. Having been born and raised in Texas, this was something of a big deal. She was also a recipient of the 2010 Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.

Cassandra is also the first author published of those signed after last year’s Angry Robot Open Door month. You can find more information on her and her writing on Cassandra’s website and follow her on Twitter.

Now for my very first giveaway ever:
Thanks to the kind folks at Strange Chemistry I have one copy of the The Assassin’s Curse ARC to giveaway on A Fantastical Librarian. Have you fallen in love with the cover art or the blurb and can’t wait to read Cassandra’s debut novel? Then here’s your chance! Send an email with the subject ASSASSIN’S CURSE to pallekenl [at] xs4all [dot] nl (or just click the little envelope on the right) with your name and your address and I’ll have my husband randomly pick a winner. The giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, but please, only one entry per person, or you’ll be disqualified!
The competition will remain open till May 10th and I’ll announce the winner on the 12th.