Author Query – Jeff Salyards

jeffsalyards-chainsofthehereticChains of the Heretic is the final book in Jeff Salyards’ Bloodsounder’s Arc trilogy and it is out now. When the first book in the series, Scourge of the Betrayer came out I was taken completely by surprise as to how much I liked the book. It’s sequel Veil of the Deserters was equally good, but this time I knew what I was getting into when I started it. Due to publishing shenanigans it has taken a while for this series to reach its conclusion but Chains is finally here and I can’t wait to see how this story spins out for Arki, Braylar and the rest of the Syldoon. Jeff was kind enough to answer some questions for me and I present you with his Author Query below.  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: Science Fiction & Horror

2015Welcome to the third post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. Today I bring you both my science fiction and my horror picks. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: Fantasy October-December

2015Day two of my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. As usual I had so many fantasy books catch my fancy I had to split them into two posts. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Jeff Salyards – Veil of the Deserters

jeffsalyards-veilofthedesertersBraylar is still poisoned by the memories of those slain by his unholy flail Bloodsounder, and attempts to counter this sickness have proven ineffectual. The Syldoonian Emperor, Cynead, has solidified his power in unprecedented ways, and Braylar and company are recalled to the capital to swear fealty. Braylar must decide if he can trust his sister, Soffjian, with the secret that is killing him. She has powerful memory magics that might be able to save him from Bloodsounder’s effects, but she has political allegiances that are not his own. Arki and others in the company try to get Soffjian and Braylar to trust one another, but politics in the capital prove to be complicated and dangerous. Deposed emperor Thumarr plots to remove the repressive Cynead, and Braylar and Soffjian are at the heart of his plans. The distance between “favored shadow agent of the emperor” and “exiled traitor” is unsurprisingly small. But it is filled with blind twists and unexpected turns. Before the journey is over, Arki will chronicle the true intentions of Emperor Cynead and Soffjian.

Two years ago I was very impressed with Jeff Salyards’ debut Scourge of the Betrayer. I enjoyed this tale of a young, naive scribe hired by a ruthless band of soldiers as  their company’s chroniclers enormously and I was looking forward to reading the second book in the series Veil of the Deserters. Unfortunately, due to the folding and subsequent sale of his publishers, Night Shade Books, to Skyhorse Publishing the publication of the book was delayed and we had to wait until a few months ago to be able to return to Arki’s story. But it certainly was a joyful reunion.  Read More …

Robin Riopelle – Deadroads

robinriopelle-deadroadsLutie always wanted a pet ghost—but the devil’s in the details.

The Sarrazins have always stood apart from the rest of their Bayou-born neighbors. Almost as far as they prefer to stand from each other. Blessed—or cursed—with the uncanny ability to see beyond the spectral plane, Aurie has raised his children, Sol, Baz, and Lutie, in the tradition of the traiteur, finding wayward spirits and using his special gift to release them along Deadroads into the afterworld. The family, however, fractured by their clashing egos, drifted apart, scattered high and low across the continent.

But tragedy serves to bring them together. When Aurie, while investigating a series of ghastly (and ghostly) murders, is himself killed by a devil, Sol, EMT by day and traiteur by night, Baz, a traveling musician with a truly spiritual voice, and Lutie, combating her eerie visions with antipsychotics, are thrown headlong into a world of gory sprites, brilliant angels, and nefarious demons—small potatoes compared to reconciling their familial differences.

From the Louisiana swamps to the snowfields of the north and everywhere in between, Deadroads summons you onto a mysterious trail of paranormal proportions.

Robin Riopelle’s Deadroads was an inordinate amount of fun. There was plenty of creepiness and conflicted emotions and relationship difficulties between the characters, but on finishing the book what remained was the sheer enjoyment I got out of reading the book. Featuring a family of traiteurs – essentially ghost whisperers – the story is built upon its protagonists. They are what make this novel so enjoyable. Deadroads portrays the tension of being of two worlds in several different layers. There’s the obvious one – being able to see ghosts or not – but there is also Lutie’s being suddenly confronted with her birth family, while having been raised in a very different foster family. Lastly there is the difference between the Cajun heritage on their father’s side and the Acadian heritage on their mother’s side.  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012: Science Fiction

The third of my Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012 is all about the Science Fiction. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. The other posts will follow tomorrow and next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with the Anticipated Reads post up on the Sunday.

July

Adam Roberts – Jack Glass (Gollancz)
Jack Glass is the murderer. We know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel tells the story of three murders committed by Glass the reader will be surprised to find out that it was Glass who was the killer and how he did it. And by the end of the book our sympathies for the killer are fully engaged.
Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, JACK GLASS is another bravura performance from Roberts. Whatever games he plays with the genre, whatever questions he asks of the reader, Roberts never loses sight of the need to entertain. JACK GLASS has some wonderfully gruesome moments, is built around three gripping HowDunnits and comes with liberal doses of sly humour.
Roberts invites us to have fun and tricks us into thinking about both crime and SF via a beautifully structured novel set in a society whose depiction challanges notions of crime, punishment, power and freedom. It is an extraordinary novel.

Katy Stauber – Spin the Sky (Night Shade Books)
HOME IS WHERE THE HERD IS . . . .

Fifteen years after winning the Spacer War, Cesar Vaquero has returned to Ithaca, a rugged orbital colony that boasts the only herd of cattle in space, and a wife and a son who don’t even recognize him when he shows up at their doorstep. Posing as a homeless drifter, he soon discovers that making his way home past space pirates, one-eyed giants, and mad scientists was the easy part . . . .

Penelope swore off men after her husband disappeared. She’s been busy enough running the ranch, raising her son, and fending off pushy suitors eager to get their hands on her and her herd. But something about this war-weary drifter stirs forgotten feelings in her, even as sabotage, rustlers, and a space stampede threaten to tear Ithaca apart!

Spin the Sky is an rollicking, high-spirited riff on a certain classic odyssey–featuring characters as big and full of surprises as Space itself!

Charles Stross – The Apocalypse Codex (Orbit)
Bob Howard used to fix computers for the Laundry – the branch of the British Secret Service that deals with otherworldly threats – but those days are over. He’s not only been promoted to active service but actually survived missions against cultists, enemy spies and tentacled horrors from other dimensions. Willingly or not, he’s on his way up in this dangerous organisation. When a televangelist with connections to 10 Downing Street seems able to work miracles, the Laundry takes an interest. But an agency that answers to the Prime Minister can’t spy on him themselves, and Bob’s shadowy superiors come up with a compromise – they hire ‘freelancers’, with Bob in charge. British citizens who discover the occult are either forcibly recruited by the Laundry or disposed of, and Bob’s never heard of freelancers before. Officially they don’t exist. Anyone who’s big and bad enough to remain independent is going to be hard to handle, and Bob’s not too sure that the one-week ‘people management’ course he was sent on in Milton Keynes is going to be enough …

August

Madeline Ashby – vN (Angry Robot)
Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

September

Peter F. Hamilton – Great North Road (Tor UK)
St Libra is paradise for Earth’s mega-rich. Until the killing begins.

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.

Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo. But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra …

Mike Shepherd – Kris Longknife: Furious (Ace)
Having used unorthodox methods to save a world—and every sentient being on it—Lieutenant Commander Kris Longknife is wanted for crimes against humanity across the galaxy. For her own safety, she’s been assigned to a backwater planet where her (First) Fast Patrol Squadron 127 enforces immigration control and smuggler interdiction.

But Kris is a Longknife and nothing can stop her from getting back to the center of things( — not when all hell is breaking loose). Now, she’s on the run, hunted by both military and civilian authorities—and since the civilian authorities happen to be her immediate family, Kris soon finds herself homeless, broke, and on trial for her life on an alien world…(provisionary back cover quote from author’s blog)

November

Jared Shurin & Anne C. Perry Eds. – A Town Called Pandemonium (Pandemonium Fiction)
Pandemonium sits four days’ ride from the Texas border. Many call it Hell, but some call it home: the ambitious, the desperate, the foolish and the mad.

A Town Called Pandemonium gets science fiction writers to put down their ray guns and pick up their six-shooters for a collection of shared world fiction set in the Wild West.

Jeff Salyards – Scourge of the Betrayer

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!

When I read Justin’s review for Scourge of the Betrayer, I thought this would be a book I’d love to read. Not too long after I was approached by its author to review it, something which I readily agreed to. It’s not often my wishes are catered to this efficiently! And the book was just as good as Justin made it out to be. It’s a good military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, a comparison reinforced by the book’s narrator, who is a chronicler just as Cook’s Croaker is, albeit a lot less martial than the latter.

Scourge of the Betrayer starts somewhat in medias res. Not in regard to Arki’s story; no, we join him at the start of his association with Killcoin’s Syldoon company, but in regard to whatever the company is up to and as such it’s not completely clear what the greater plot is. This would be my greatest complaint with the book. It made me jump out of the narrative at times, wondering what they were doing and why they were doing what they were doing, but other than making me wonder, it doesn’t really take away from the reading experience. Plus by the end of the book, the reader is pretty much in the know on what the company was doing in Alespell and what their orders seem to be. However, if anything, this book is setting up Arki as chronicler of the company and him finding his feet within the group and committing to being part of their activities, to becoming totally embedded in the band. His assimilation into the group is gradual and seeping; Arki is horrified by Braylar’s casual violence and made uncomfortable by the many secrets they seem to keep from him, but he is slowly drawn in, until he surprises himself by the choices he makes, such as getting involved in one of the band’s violent altercations and his decision to stay at the ending of the book.

Due to the nature of the story, characterisation is key; if the characters aren’t believable, the story won’t engage the reader. Arki is a great character in this respect; he’s likeable, a bit of an Everyman: he doesn’t possess great martial prowess or special powers; he is a scribe, with perhaps better than average observational skills. The reader can identify with him, without it slipping into Gary Sue-territory.  The Syldoon soldiers are wonderfully portrayed. While Braylar is violent, secretive and frightening, he is also unexpectedly sympathetic. I liked him more than expected, especially after we learn about the price he pays for wielding Bloodsounder. The bond between the men is also shown in a wonderful manner, from the gruff banter at table, the name-calling exchanges between Hewspear and Mulldoos, which seem to mask a deep respect and comradeship, and a soldier’s heartfelt grief at the loss of his best friend. Loyalty is of paramount importance to these men, something borne out in their treatment of Lloi. Lloi is a Grass Dog, a woman from one of the plains-dwelling tribes largely considered barbarians and the enemy, but because she’s fiercely loyal to Braylar and would lay down her life for his without hesitation, they may treat her as nothing but an inconvenient necessity, but they respect her nonetheless.

Scourge of the Betrayer is a wonderful read, even with the question of ‘where is this going?’ haunting me for most of the book. There are some major questions raised in this first book in Bloodsounder’s Arc – what is Bloodsounder anyway, beyond a really scary flail? – and I can’t wait for book two return to Arki and the Syldoon and get some answers. Scourge of the Betrayer is a strong debut, and in a year where I’ve read some very strong debuts, this one measures up to the best of them. Jeff Salyards is definitely one to watch for the future.

This book was provided for review by the author.