Sunday, March 28, 2010

[REVIEW] 'Shalador’s Lady' by Anne Bishop

Title: Shalador's Lady
Author: Anne Bishop
ISBN-10: 0451462866
ISBN-13: 978-0451462862
Pages: 496
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Black Jewels [8th book of 8]
Publisher: Roc (2 Mar 2010)
Reviewer: Cara
Copy: bought myself

From the inside cover: For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. And even though the refugees have found sanctuary in Dena Nehele, they have never been able to call it home.

Now that Dena Nehele has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jewelled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore the land and prove her ability to rule. She knows that undertaking this task will require all her heart and courage as she summons the untested power within her, a power capable of consuming if she cannot control it.

And even if Lady Cassidy survives her trial by fire, other dangers await. For Black Widows see within their tangled webs visions of something coming that will change the land – and Lady Cassidy – forever.

Background: Shalador’s Lady is the eighth book in Anne Bishop’s series and a direct sequel to The Shadow Queen. It would not be the best introduction to the Black Jewels world, which is rich, dark and intricately layered with protocol, power and magic. I would certainly recommend that one reads The Black Jewels Trilogy before embarking on Shalador’s Lady. This is Jaenelle’s story, set in a three-layered world called the Realms: Keeler, Terreille and Hell. This is dark fantasy, with cruelty, corruption, violence and sexual deviance being the order of the day. Queens are the rulers of the Blood, an elite ruling class with magical abilities determined by the darkness of their Jewel. Females are the dominant gender and Males serve. Protocols are in place to protect the weaker from the stronger… but this is a corrupted world, one where the balance has been lost. We are introduced to Saetan, High Lord of Hell and his sons, Daemon di Sadi and Lucivar, all pivotal characters, with Jaenelle, throughout the series.

The previous book, The Shadow Queen, introduced us to Cassidy, Theran, and Gray. Talon is the link between the current political situation and the story of Jared Blaed in The Invisible Ring.

Cover art: I dislike the cover intensely… it does not represent the content, indeed it implies a light medieval romance a lá Kathleen Woodiweiss. Shalador’s Lady, while being less explicit than previous books, is more political than romantic and maintains the air of dark elegance first seen in The Black Jewels Trilogy. The legacy of corruption and oppression is explored, yet the darkness of the culture, nor the political intrigue is reflected in the bland cover.

Review: As a fan of long-standing I was disappointed with Shalador’s Lady. The ‘edge’, so dominant in previous books was blunted, the darkness implied by the reader’s past knowledge of the series and largely missing in this volume. Although Saetan and his family are still central characters, they are more benign and family-oriented than ever before. The threat of sadistic violence and ruthlessness remains but only if you are aware of their actions in past events. It is not overt here, sadly.

This book explores Protocol and how one inexperienced Queen can win the hearts of her Court and her people in the face of opposition. Cassidy is a Queen part-way through a one year contract, has a deteriorating relationship with her First Escort, Theran Grayhaven. The arrival of another Queen, Kermilla, with whom Cassidy has history, puts Cassidy’s position in jeopardy. We see how Cassidy sets up her Court and gains the loyalty and trust of her First Circle and the people of Dena Nehele. Guidance and tuition in the intricacies of Protocol are provided to Gray, Cassidy’s main supporter, by Saetan and Daemon as they guide him through the legacy of his torture at the hands of now dead Queens to take his rightful place at Cassidy’s side.

Kermilla is the villain… a spoilt and petulant Queen with no respect for anyone. She wants Cassidy’s position as Queen of Dena Nehele and has Theran’s support. Quite a shallow and selfish character, she embodies the corruption of the previous Queens and all that went wrong for the land and it’s people. Previous encounters with Kermilla fuels Cassidy’s insecurities and dashes her self-esteem. Anne Bishop describes the emotions of her characters very well and choices they make are in keeping with their personalities. Cassidy is an endearing character and her quiet determined manner gives her a solid strength.

The men in the First Circle, particularly Ranon, get more attention in Shalador’s Lady. These Warlord Princes are warriors with a veneer of the civilised, quick to rise to the killing edge, yet intelligent, passionate and sensual. How they choose to support their Queen shows the depth of their bond to her and their trust in her ability to rule in accordance with Protocol and the Old Ways. Both Ranon and Gray are well-realised characters, both having their flaws and weaknesses yet possessing an inner strength that serves them well.

Overall, my view is that, while an enjoyable and comfortable read, Shalador’s Lady is one of the weaker books in the Black Jewels series. I much prefer the pre-Witchstorm world, where corruption, cruelty and oppression were the backdrop to live in the Realms.

Rating 6/10

[Reviewer Time] Amanda from Floor to Ceiling Books

Blog: Floor to Ceiling Books [which is actually true, as seen in Amanda’s ‘Organize Books Day’]
Founder: Amanda Rutter
First Post: August 7th 2009 [though she claims she started in January 2010; women and age. Tisk, tisk, tisk]
Average Number of Posts per Month: 41 [based on 2010 so far; which is scary competition. January alone had 90 posts]

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romances [all subdivisions] & basically all that resembles a book.

From the Chick Herself: I read a great deal, but mostly across fantasy and sci fi, with a smattering of chick lit for those lazy Sunday afternoons! However, I have been known to try anything and my wishlist on Amazon just gets longer and longer with all the book recommendations from friends that I am now desperate to try.

I decided to call my blog Floor to Ceiling Books, because that is literally the state of my living room. I have far more books than I could probably ever read, and would most certainly consider myself a bibliophile. Charity bookshops and eBay are my friends! I buy books rampantly, always thinking that I'll get round to reading them at some point...

Highlights: At the moment, Amanda is soul-searching and hopes to leave a long lasting mark in the ever shifting Sands of Blogging. She will deny [with fervor], but she already has grown popular with those silly little cover art quizzes. You know: UK vs. US. But don’t tell it to her face, she has death rays [being a dangerous robot from the future and all].

Why do I bother?: As I mentioned, Amanda[-bot] is an intergalactic space alien robot, who is hell bent on conquering the Blog-o-sphere in direct opposition to the Pink Overlord. I am just a minion in a Clash of Titans [coming in a cinema near you!]. But crazy robotics aside, Amanda is Blog-o-sphere’s Sweetheart. Well mannered, polite, generous and totally open to talk to. Together we are even starting a mutual project in a few days.

My Two Cents: Floor to Ceiling Books is a new asset to our Blogging Pantheon and a much needed splash of color and personality. As I mentioned she is extra sweet and approachable, so it is delightful to communicate with her. As the sociable butterfly, you can see her hopping from blog to blog to leave comments and on Twitter she is more than willing to connect with people, be they authors, writers, readers and/or random people.

This translates well into her blogging. Floor to Ceiling Books is different from the majority of reviewer blogs from the name [which suggests nothing about reviews, but testifies a love for books] to design [which although simple, invites the reader to stay] and the giddy excitement, with which Amanda writes about literature. It goes without saying that Amanda knows how to review. She has had professional training in the massive collaborative project called Fan Lit, where spec fic books stand no chance. What I personally enjoy about her style is that she is liberated in her expressions and her reviews read more like a one-sided conversation, where she rants about a book she loved/hated and I sit across her, concentrated on whatever aspects she is discussing.

But it isn’t all reviews, as all experienced bloggers will tell you and Amanda is synonymous with diversity. Among her reviews, we find posts about her book shelves, the swag she has received, purchased or slipped in her purse, when nobody was looking [joke with the last one; she does that while everybody is looking]. There are informative interviews with writers and a new promising feature, which casts the limelight on the life partners of well known authors. In the mix we also see reports of book parties with publishers and tea parties with authors as well as those addicting cover quizzes.

So? What are you doing here? Go, go, go to Floor to Ceiling Books. NO! Wait! First read the interview…


Have some tea, darling, and in the mean time do tell us a bit more about yourself. Do you exist in particular or is this Amanda-Bot figure a Blogging Doomsday Device set by a lunatic scientist to destroy? Also, when you are not blogging [or planning destruction for that matter], what is it that you do?

Ooh tea! Don't mind if I do! Are there biscuits too? *relaxes back into seat*

I am actually a figment of everyone's imagination - I'm lulling you all into a false sense of security so that I can take down each book blogger one by one and steal all the ARCs for myself mwah ha ha ha ha... *ahem* Don't know quite what came over me there!

I'm definitely a real person :-). And I do have a life outside of blogging, although you wouldn't think it from the amount I lurk on Twitter - seriously, that thing is addictive! I've missed personal book deadlines (for finishing books and reviewing them) because I've been hanging around chatting to the very sweet folks who happen to follow me.

For my sins, I'm an accountant in my day job (seriously, let's not talk about that - you'll be asleep before.... Harry? *shakes Harry Bot awake*). Outside of work, obviously I read, but my other big activity is field hockey. Bashing other girls with a stick and hitting balls with fiery vengeance really help me get rid of stress a couple of times a week. I'm quite sad because the hockey season is almost at an end and I'll have to find something else to do with my Saturdays! I also dabble with Latin American and Ballroom dancing - I do this with enthusiasm rather than any skill, and part of my eagerness for my lessons is to do with the statuesque Estonian beauty who teaches me. Seriously, I have such a girl crush on her! But enough about that!

How did a robot [presuming you are a Bot] learn how to appreciate literature and when did your blueprints develop a taste for SFF?

One of my enduring memories from childhood is of my dad reading to me. An early memory came from when we lived in the Outer Hebrides (Benbecula, to be exact - a tiny island off the north coast of Scotland): we frequently endured power cuts and I recall being nestled in my dad's lap, about five years old, with him reading to me by candlelight from a massive hardback edition of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As a child I enjoyed a few books that could be called fantasy, such as Watership Down and Room 13 (a really excellent book, for younger readers), but I was mostly into horse stories. Any and all books that had horses in them would find their way onto my little bookshelf!

At about age 12 I had run out of my usual type of books and, on impulse, picked up Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings from the school library. Many people sneer a little at the comfortable, formulaic nature of this book; the slightly cheesy good vs. evil plotline; and the nagging female characters. But imagine reading this as your first fantasy book: unbelievably easy reading, wonderful characters (I developed a slightly worrying crush on Silk), and a great springboard into stronger stuff. And, for a person who has yet to encounter the huge amount of cliches rampant in fantasy person, it came across as original and vibrant. I would still recommend these books without hesitation to a teenager who shows any interest in fantasy.

When my dad realised I was reading fantasy, he offered me the grand-daddy of fantasy authors and pointed me in the direction of The Lord of The Rings. And, to be honest, we're lucky I'm still reading any sort of fantasy! I found it tiresome to read and it took me about three runs at it before I finally made it through. However, my eyes were opened to the fact that there were more books involving magic and fantasy, so I took myself down to my local town library and started voraciously working myself through their entire range of fantasy.

Customary as it is, love, I must inquire of the circumstances that lead you to the creation of your small and yet charming ‘Floor to Ceiling Books’. Why did you choose blogging as a pastime activity and how did you decide on the name?

I sort of fell into blogging. I'd been aware of the existence of certain blogs - I've been visiting A Dribble of Ink and The Wertzone for a good couple of years now - but I thought that only a certain few were able to get into it. I thought, mistaken as I was, that it was a fairly elitist group that partook in the hobby of book blogging (now, of course, I know that the blogging world accepts anyone - how else to explain the repeat visitors to my cosy corner of the web?!)

In 2009 I joined Librarything so that I could catalogue my many books (an essential thing to do, since even then I had about 900 books - that figure is almost double a year later, shockingly *blush*). I started using their review function, but got sick and tired of the fact that my clearly excellent (*cheek*) and thoughtful reviews were being swamped by one liners saying 'this book was rilly grate' and decided to spotlight my talents in my own personal review site. Floor to Ceiling Books was born around June 2009 or so, but it was January 2010 that I decided to kick-start a proper blog with regular features as well as reviews.

The name came from the fact that my house is FULL of floor to ceiling books - they're literally piled up around the place. It couldn't be called anything else! Plus, I thereby managed to avoid any specific reference to speculative fiction, which allows me to blog about and review other genres.

As I recall, Monday [March 15th, 2010] you butted… invited yourself to a celebrity tea party hosted by Alex Bell [rising star in the SFF circles] and Michaela Deas [well established muse]. Did you behave yourself and was this your first formal author meeting?

I totally gate-crashed! I couldn't believe it when Alex offered me the opportunity to go along. As for behaving myself - well, I didn't get drunk and dance on the tables, if that is what you're asking! But I might have stared wide-eyed as they gossiped about authors I am star-struck by - and shortened their names to nickname forms! I actually didn't think the event was going to go well based on the fact that within five minutes of meeting Alex I had fumbled my way through trying to sort out a ticket for the Undergound - this is something I have done many hundreds of times, but I found myself dithering around and being all weirdly indecisive! Not that I'm saying Alex is intimidating - she's lovely - but I went all to pieces at the thought of being in the presence of a real life author!

It was my first formal meeting with an author, yeah. I must have managed to deal with it okay, since I'm being invited to see Alex and Michaela again!

Since you managed to successfully invite yourself to the tea party and Gollancz has invited quite a few of our ilk to their parties, do you think that the role of the blogger as a reviewer has increased his/hers importance?

Let's be clear now - the tea party was very much a social occasion, rather than anything to do with my blogging. I took advantage of it by adding a post to my blog, but I could equally have kept it all very quiet (was just too excited that I couldn't shut up about it though!)

I'm going to be a little bit controversial now, and say that sometimes I think bloggers become a little overwhelmed with their own importance. Not all of them, by any means. But I sometimes feel as though some bloggers feel they are actually affecting the sales of books or changing the face of speculative fiction by their actions. We are such a vocal minority! There are many thousands and thousands of fantasy readers who aren't even online and actually *gasp* buy their books based entirely on the book coves! And they all like hooded men too, because it means they can identify the type of story they might enjoy! I'm being a little snarky, but I don't think we're as important as we sometimes believe we are.

Having said that, I do find it interesting that certain recent initiatives by publishers acknowledge that bloggers are now an essential part of their marketing campaign for new books - especially those by debut authors that might not otherwise pick up the same interest as can be generated by sending out review copies. These initiatives include the party invites such as given by Gollancz and, more recently, Headline.

Ooh, did I just sit on the fence there? I think I might have!

Twitter is known to produce random discussions about all things and one of those has touched upon age. We all know you are ever youthful [for you are a Bot], but do you think in our line of work age, experience in literature and the number of novels we have read matters in order for a person to be accepted as a source of information and opinions. Can someone be too young, too old, too unread or too well-read in a chaotic number of genres to be a blogger?

Yes, I haven't aged. Ever. I will remain this age forever (God, I wish! Am looking thirty down the barrel of a gun right now and trying frantically to convince myself that it's just another number!) I don't think age makes any difference where blogging is concerned - and, to be honest, until we had that conversation about age, I had absolutely no idea how old or young most of my fellow bloggers were. I do, however, believe that experience in literature (including other genres) and the number of novels read allow a blogger to provide a more well-rounded review of a book. You are able to more easily identify truly unique ideas or writing, for one thing. A common piece of advice given to those who want to write is "Read lots, across many different genres." I believe the same advice can be extended to those who want to review and keep a blog.

One problem, though, is something I have experienced. You *can* read across too many diverse genres to really appeal to the book blogging community, which still remains quite isolated by genre. It takes someone who reads across many genres to want to visit a blog that reviews many genres. Whenever I post a review of, say, a thriller or a chick lit novel, I'm half-embarrassed asking my speculative fiction buds on Twitter to re-tweet and publicise the review, since it is something that they have no interest in. I have a mountain of books from other genres (historical fiction is my second favourite, based on number of books, followed closely by women's fiction) and I want to start posting more reviews of these, but I've found myself sticking mostly with speculative fiction since January.

As we have all seen, reviews are simply not cutting edge no more. Witty, clever and good as wordsmiths as we are, it has come to a point, where we need to be Lady Gagas [aka draw attention, not wear sculptures on our heads]. Agreed? Ultimately, what does it take to amass an audience?

I'm not sure I'm the blogger to address that question to! I know that my numbers of visitors are steadily increasing month on month, but I have a very humble (but hopefully devoted) following compared some of the big names. I am prepared to try wearing sculptures, but it would probably take a fair amount of alcohol!)

What I do know is that some of my best days in terms of visitor numbers have actually come from the humble review. I think they're still as useful and popular as they've ever been - if you pick the right book and you write a decent review, the masses will come. I will use two examples - one is my review of The Left Hand of God. People are still linking to that now, and, when people realised it was a slightly sarcastic negative review, they came in droves. So, there you have a recent release combined with a snarky style. More recently, my review of Sam Sykes' Tome of the Undergates gave me my best numbers for March - here, I think author and publisher have a great deal to do with it. Sam is generating interest all by himself, to the extent that people are reading anything he links to on Twitter, and Gollancz are really on the ball when it comes to publicising positive reviews.

Other than that, I think the best way of bringing in the masses is to offer something interactive - either a post that involves lots of questions and invites the blogosphere to talk about themselves; or something like polls/quizzes that gives them buttons to click. People love clicking buttons and offering opinions!

Blogs that I respect and feel comfortable with are those that give you a real schedule to look forward to - I would number The Book Smugglers and Book Chick City amongst them. You know what will be on their blog on each day and can check in and out depending on your level of interest. I do think that is a helluva lot of work though, hence the respect!

I also like those blogs that really try to offer something different - for instance, Gav on Next Read with his magazine idea. It keeps the blogosphere fresh!

You are known to be a part of SFF forums [research shows me all]. How has being a part of these forums aided your blogging and what advice will you give out to all the bloggers, who wish to use forums to their advantage?

I dabble, to be honest. I'm also on the SFX forums - it was there I first came across Adam Whitehead and Graeme Flory, and their respective blogs. Being part of the forums allowed me to realise that blogs actually exist! And they are a great resource to come up with discussion points for your own blogs. They are rarely a place where your points of view go echoing into nothingness, which can sometimes be the impression you get from blogging, especially when you start out and no one puts any comments on your blog posts. Forums are extremely interactive and give you varying viewpoints on books, authors, and long-running series. You can go head to head with people who think Goodkind is the bomb, and chat merrily with all those who also read the more obscure fantasy authors like Maggie Furey. You can discuss the role of female characters in fantasy fiction and share stories about your insurmountable to-read pile. I like forums, and they have their place in the publicising of new blog posts.

BUT, to the new forum user, I would offer this advice: don't just breeze in with links to your blog and breeze out again. For one, that is often against the forum rules. And for another, which forum user will bother reading your posts and visiting your blog if they don't know anything about the person behind the blog name. So, get involved with forum discussions, post more than just links, and definitely give back to the community to say thanks that you're allowed to offer your own humble blog. Try posting your reviews in their entirety on the forum rather than just saying 'Read this review here...' And enjoy - they're a great place to find people who share your enthusiasm for the genre.

Social media is a key component these days. Twitter, Facebook, Hootsuite, Social Oomph, 42 Blips and Digg [many more] have become an arsenal in today’s blogger Internet presence. What do you personally use and at this stage do you consider building a strategic approach to your online presence?

I used to be on Facebook but deleted my profile because I was only really using it to check I was in a better position that old school colleagues who used to bully me for being a geek! I got sick and tired of the silly games that filled up my newsfeed and of the fact that, of my 300-odd friends, the ones I really wanted to talk to I would interact with in far better ways than a status update! I joined Twitter on a whim and, in fact, started out by following only famous people (like Stephen Fry). Then I found out that one of my favourite authors was on Twitter and followed them, which led to checking through their list of people they followed and realising that I'd discovered a whole new world of interesting folk! At that point I cleared out my original list of people I followed and started building up a purely literary feed. And this has become the most boring and inane little tale! I'll stop!

My online presence on Twitter was purely accidental, but it's worked out very nicely and I adore the little community I'm now part of. I don't feel the need to join anything else, but I do see the use of resources such as Librarything and Goodreads - both are great little places that help to build exposure to your blog.

I understand your nature [being a Bot & an accountant], but have you ever wanted to pick up that keyboard and type up Britain’s Next Top Novel?

Oh, I was dreading this question - means I get to trot out the usual 'yep, I'm a thwarted novelist' line. I have some good ideas. I'm working on a novel. But until I kill my purple prose tendencies and my ability to use seventeen words where two were required (seriously, Redundant is my middle name - and I work in the Office of Redundancy as a Redundancy Manager), I think I would be laughed out of any agent's office!

But I do know that I'm capable of the discipline of getting words down on a page thanks to NaNoWriMo, which I completed (wrote 50,000 words in the month of November last year). They are BAD words, and that particular novel (I use the word in its loosest possible form, since 50k words is miniscule when considering most novels on the shelves) will NEVER see the light of day. I shudder at the flagrant adjective abuse, the two dimensional characters that all talk with the same style of dialogue and the extreme use of run-on sentences. Hoo boy, if any of the other bloggers got their hands on it, I would expect a hatchett job done!

So, now that I've demonstrated my excellent ability to go on and on and on, here is the short-form reply to your question: "Yes."

Amanda, you are known to be a part of a global blogging operation called FanLit. Do speak about your involvement there [aka how did you butt in] and what are your responsibilities, little drone.

It was a serendipitous coming together, me and Fanlit. I've always been fond of the site, because the reviewers over there and extremely talented and, thanks to having a number of them on the staff, are churning out a goodly number of reviews per day. Chances are, if you want to find out what someone thought of an obscure fantasy novel, that is your best place to start! I had been scratching around thinking about starting my blog when I noticed a small advert on their site that asked people to submit examples of their reviews if they wanted to join the Fanlit team. We were also asked our favourite and least favourite authors, and my answers to those questions might have swung their decision! I was amazed and pleased that they agreed to accept me on board. It was useful that, at the time, they were thinking about getting a UK bod on board anyway *wink*.

My current duties are to liaise with various of the UK publicists for publishing houses like Orbit and Gollancz, read new releases and review them, conduct a few interviews, do a weekly round-up post.... Hmm, no wonder my free time seems non-existent right now! I have also been challenged (as have all the Fanlit reviewers) with trying to target any of the fantasy authors for review that haven't already been covered - do you know just how many fantasy authors there are?! *wipes brow*

I love working with Kat, Bill, Beth, Robert and all of the other fab people on the Fanlit team - and, oh boy, do they know their fantasy! Puts me to shame!

You have started these UK vs. US cover art quizzes, which I completely adore. Elaborate, how did this marvelous idea conceive in your head and do you plan on further editions?

Haha, God damn it! Everyone asks about the cover art quizzes! I was sat over a lazy Sunday dinner with a friend who was asking me about my blog and what content I intended to include. His throwaway remark was that I should do a quiz, because everyone loves quizzes! Well, how right he was! He (being a bit more of a techie than myself) helped me to put together the first one, so that I could avoid any glaring mistakes. And it just took off! I had very random people and forums linking through to the quiz and masses of visitors. So, it came about as a complete accident, if I'm entirely honest. I want to do more - but I don't want to do so many that people say 'Oh, it's just another of those stupid quizzes' and get bored of the whole concept. My next possible idea is taking different artwork from the same book i.e. where a book has been released with different covers (such as the recent Abercrombie covers for the First Law trilogy) and then asking which version people prefer.

What according to you is the power of the Cover Art? Do you judge a book by its cover [that is racist and superficial, just so you know]?

Cover art is pretty powerful stuff! Sure, we should not judge a book entirely by its cover, but that, to be frank, is what is most likely to pull us over to the bookshelf. I'm talking here about browsing through a bookstore, right? Those buildings people used to frequent before the rise of nasty places like Amazon? Imagine this - you've gone in with no real idea of what you fancy buying but you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket. You know you want a fantasy novel, so your eyes glide over the spines and covers filling the shelf in front of you. Sure, you might recognise a title that has been publicised on blogs you frequent and pick that one up - but I can guarantee that everyone will also see a book they like the cover of and pick that up THEN look at the blurb on the back to see if it is something they might like to read. They may then put the book down again BUT the cover art has done it's job and at least attracted attention.

I would say that, if I am not looking particularly for something and just browsing, the first thing that will attract is the author name, the second is the 3-for-2 offer stickers and the third is the cover art. No doubt about it.

But the reverse is true as well - you definitely should not judge a book by its cover. When you read a genre like chick lit, you simply cannot do it! Some of those books have the worst saccharine-sweet pastel-shaded covers, but the story within is powerful and haunting (I'm thinking particularly of Marian Keyes here and her book 'Anybody Out There?') I would have missed a lot of truly great novels if I had been snobby about cover art.

What do you absolutely detest to see on a book cover?

Is this a veiled question about hooded guys? *laughs* Actually *lowers voice and leans in* I quite like the hooded men phenomena. There was a post earlier in the year by Patrick over at Stomping on Yeti, where he showed the big fantasy debuts of 2010 and then listed them in order he'd want to read them based on the cover art (he also expressed his disgust at the similar nature of the pictures on the front of the books) - but I just wanted to read them all. They all looked GREAT.

I think the only art I'm not keen on is some of the older styles, like from the pulp speculative fiction of the 60s and 70s. Oh, and I'm not that fond of the Wheel of Time cover art either - the original editions, that is.

You have so many books, as shown through your narcissistic post about bookshelves, and I imagine that you might have a tinsy, tiny problem reading them all, but that is relatively common. Do you abide a schedule to optimize your reading?

A schedule? Dear God, no! Sometimes while reading one book, I tentatively think about the next book I might like to try, but that is as far as it goes. As with Carolyn (of Book Chick City) I am a moody chooser of books. When I finish one book I will wander along my shelves (and, yes, people, they are so long that I can get at least three paces of wandering along them!), and see what jumps out at me. Often I will change genres to keep me fresh, so if I have read a couple of fantasy books I will dip into something humerous or try a historical novel.

I do have a huge problem with my number of unread books though. When I sit in my living room my eyes will often stray to the shelves and I'll start picking out all the books that I WANT to read NOW, and it gives me book guilt that I can't get to them quickly enough.

Gav from NextRead has been accusing that we read only new novels. Is that true? Are we so fickle to pay attention to the new and shiny? Testify.

Gav and Mark Charan Newton have both been making some very interesting and valid posts on this subject just lately. Bloggers do tend towards the shiny and new, going by the reviews you often see on blogs. As they and others have observed, at times it seems every one of your favourite blogs all have reviews of the same book on the front page.

I really don't know how much of this is to do with being sent review copies, how much is wanting to stay abreast of the newest releases, how much is genuinely wanting to read the books in question. Speaking personally, there is not a book that I have been sent and reviewed that I have not also wanted to read off my own back (and would therefore have purchased) - whether because they are by an author that I've had my eye on or out of curiosity. However, I do feel the pressure of the review copies. I don't feel a pressing need to have the review done prior to release or close to, because I figure continual publicity for the book is better than one short sharp burst around the release date, but I do feel a need to read and review what I am being sent. I want to show willing - not just because I'd enjoy being sent books in the future, but because I want to build a good relationship with the publicists dealing with me so that, in the event I wanted to conduct interviews or actually request a review copy, they are more likely to look kindly on me knowing that I deliver the goods. But this does mean a bias towards newer books!

Fact is, I have so many older novels waiting for my loving attention (and can you believe that I also want to go back and re-read certain fantasy books I've adored as well) that I will NEVER be able to just stick to the newer books. I think as I settle into this reviewing lark that I shall flit between new and old with gay abandon (especially because I am planning a couple of challenges involving Charles de Lint and David Gemmell - and I'm talking part in the Malazan party as well. There's some older books, right there!)

Okay, I am in a fairy tale mood, so tell me, which fairy tale princess do you want to be and why?

Urgh, fairy tale princess? Really? A wet blanket of a heroine who waits around to be rescued by the prince on a white charger? Can I not be the evil villain of the piece? Maybe Morgan Le Fay - a bit of magic throwing and kick assing never hurt anyone! Or how about an actual historical personage who was both a princess and a queen and dominated the political arena in which she operated - I give you Eleanor of Aquitaine, the only woman to have been Queen of both France and England. I would have liked to be her - or at least have a conversation with her: bet she had some interesting tales to tell!

You really want a princess? Fine *sulks* (and there, right there, see me showing my non-princess credentials?) How about Princess Jasmine from Aladdin - she was pretty feisty and quite stunning for a cartoon character! Yeah, I pick her.

Which SFF character have you developed a crush on and in your imagination have him on a leash [metaphorically or otherwise]?

Well, I can tell you who I haven't developed a crush on! All those teenage girls can keep Edward Cullen - he is just too damn creepy for me!

I have had a number of fantasy crushes in my time - my first being, as I said, Silk from the Eddings' books. That sarcasm and the towering arrogance - sure, that did it for me. Until she totally emasculated him in the later books, I had a thing for Jean Claude from the Anita Blake series - totally hot and all that power, and, yeah, a little arrogant. And you can't go far wrong with many of the men out of L J Smith's YA books - she writes a good bad boy! My utter favourite was Gabriel from the Dark Visions trilogy - sarcastic, and possessed of a great deal of arrogance. Hmm, I'm sensing a real theme here! Looks like you just have to write me a bad boy arrogant character and I'm all yours *grin*

Which fairy tale would you love to see modernized with a heavy speculative angle?

To be fair, which fairy tales originally did NOT have a heavy speculative angle? Let us have a look at some of them... First up, Sleeping Beauty - princess is put into a magic sleep, where she will only wake from the kiss of her true love who has to battle a dragon to reach her (that may have just been the Disney version, but hey!) Then we have The Little Mermaid, a being from the sea who gives up her fins and tail in order to try a life on land. Howabout Jack and the Beanstalk? Guy sells cow for magic beans and grows a beanstalk that takes him to a giant's land above the clouds where he steals a goose who lays golden eggs! These are all heavy with fantasy, magic, romance - lots of true speculative fiction!

I think the greater challenge would be turning one of these magic-heavy tales into something gritty and dark and ultra-realistic!

Thank you for being an interview. This was a magnificent tea party. Do conclude it with your own words.

Well, I believe it is customary to say thanks for having me - and for putting on such a fabulous spread! I will also say that you are quite the interrogator! Some of these questions had me sweating while I tried to come up with something clever and witty to say - and generally failed in a spectacular manner *grin*. It just leaves me to say that I hope people enjoyed reading my point of view, and I'd welcome you following me on Twitter @ALRutter where you can experience even more inane chatter on a daily basis!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

[HIATUS] A wee bit of a headache

It can be argued whether a 10 day long persistent headache can be called normal with my schedule and the likes, because I have made my hobbies a second job. That is the level of my dedication. I'm quite happy with being busy, but my body does not share the same sentiment.

SO I am taking an extensive Offline Vacation. 5-6 days offline should do it. No Twitter. No fetish with mail-checking. And apart from the Sunday obligatory 'Reviewer Time' I will be mostly under the radar. I will make my glorious return [much like Cher's comeback tours] and hopefully have a diagnosis behind the mysterious headaches that plague me.

Well wishes are welcome [ever the Attention Whore that I am].

See you all later.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

[Cover Porn] The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton

I have been a bit untimely [yet again] for waiting good news turn archaic before I get my ass to posting, but here is some awesome Cover Art. Todd Newton's Ninth Avatar has been picked up by Trapdoor Books and has received major pimpage in the cover art department. The Cover Art Gods have been generous.

Wizards have wondered for generations when a human would ascend to become the Ninth Avatar, and what would happen when they did. Opinions differ, but the Ninth Pillar of Magic—that of Darkness—is feared by many whether they use magic or not.

When Starka, an outcast priestess of the magic loathing Cathedrals of Myst, receives a prophecy heralding this ascension, a new force rises to threaten the entire known world. The Carrion army, a race of transformed humans bearing black horns and an unquenchable thirst for blood, destroys every city it comes across. Their leader, Zion, has only one goal: to become the living embodiment of magic that is the Ninth Avatar.

Aiding Starka in her quest to halt this are DaVille, a mysterious warrior bent on killing the Carrion leader; Cairos, a wizard from the betrayed city of Illiadora; and Wan Du and Lady Mayrah, a man and woman from rival nations now decimated by the Carrion. Amidst all this turmoil, Wadam, a Cardinal of Starka’s faith, seeks to seize control of Myst for himself and thereby subjugate the female leaders.

With the world in peril Starka must find the means to prevent these things, or die trying.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parody Oscar Posters

It's Movie Monday [it even alliterates] and as such I will bring to you something relevant [or not so relevant, since the Oscars were ages ago] and/or funny [which I am aiming for right now]. Without further ado, here are some movie posters from CollgeHumor, where Oscar nominees get the not so tactful, but hilarious treatment. I discovered this ages ago on a Bulgarian movie review site called the Cinema Scrotum [the dude is hilarious, malevolent and most importantly, knows what he's talking about]. Too bad you do not know my language. Anyway, enjoy.

Da Vinci to be an Action Hero

"Mr. Myagi, The European Renaissance Years"

Warner Bros. is turning Leonardo into an action-adventure hero. No, not DiCaprio, but Da Vinci.

The studio has picked up a treatment titled "Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever" from producer Adrian Askarieh, who is teaming with Vertigo's Roy Lee and Doug Davison.

Da Vinci is best known as the painter behind "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper," though he also was an inventor, engineer, architect, mathematician among many other occupations. The project re-imagines Da Vinci as a member of a secret society who falls headlong into a supernatural adventure that pits the man against Biblical demons in a story involving secret codes, lost civilizations, hidden fortresses and fallen angels. Think "National Treasure" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" by way of "Clash of the Titans."


Who else is terrified? I am sure that history is against using iconic examples of human greatness to be ridiculed in these movies and books. We had Queen Victoria and Abe Lincoln, but now we have Da Vinchi. I sure hope that they leave Elvis Presley, Julia Child, Marie Currie and Nicola Tesla alone.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

[Giveway] Angry Robot: 'Walking the Tree', 'World House', 'King Maker'

Hello Temple Library Readers, who hail from the UK. This is a most fortunate day for you as you can enter a giveaway, approved by Angry Robot Books, and win these beauties.


There is a box. Inside that box is a door. And beyond that door is a whole world.

In some rooms, forests grow. In others, animals and objects come to life. Elsewhere, secrets and treasures wait for the brave and foolhardy.

And at the very top of the house, a prisoner sits behind a locked door waiting for a key to turn. The day that happens, the world will end…

Botanica is an island, but almost all of the island is taken up by the Tree.

Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

On the streets of Indianapolis, the ancient Arthurian cycle is replaying in the lives of rival street gangs. Told through the eyes of King, as he gathers like-minded friends and warriors around him to venture into the fastness of Dred, the notorious crime lord, this is a stunning mix of myth and harsh reality. A truly remarkable novel.


1) Are you British? Yes? Then you are eligible to enter the giveaway. Because Angry Robot Books have yet to invade the US and then the rest of the world, we are keeping this local to the imprint.

2) Entries are only accepted via e-mail: likenion [at] gmail [dot] com [Topic should read Angry Robot Giveaway]

3) An e-mail brings you one number in the lottery. If you want these badly, you can do one or all of the following and tell me so in the e-mail

- Become a follower of Temple Library Reviews
- Follow me on Twitter: @harrymarkov
- Re-tweet my announcement of the giveaway on Twitter
- If you own a blog, post about the giveaway there.

4) Behave and follow the rules

5) GOOD LUCK. The giveaway will run for a whole month. Entries past April 30th will be ignored.

[Interview] Lee Harris from Angry Robot Books

What love fest can exist without some Q&A with the people responsible for the things you love. Right now I've managed to e-mail and twitter Lee Harris into accepting my interview invitation. I was positively beyond excitement at that point and shot so many questions [as you will read] that a follow-up was unnecessary [and immoral, since Lee does have a killer schedule to work with].

But who is Lee Harris? Simple. He is an Angry Robot Overlord come to enslave us with daring fiction without an analog. Hail Angry Robot Books. He is also a Twitter VIP and creator of the one and only Hub Magazine.


Hello Lee, thank you so much for accepting my invitation to chat in my humble adobe. You make a devoted fanboy very happy. Let´s start this interview with an obvious question. Your handle on Twitter is LeeAHarris. Does the A stand for Awesome? Because, so far, evidence about your persona suggests that.

That's um... very... Look, I'll just be waiting in the corner over there. I won't be any trouble. Please don't hurt me! The “A” is symbolic. It's indicative of the fact that I'm one of many that work hard to get great books out there. I'm a Harris, not the Harris. Coincidentally, my middle name is Anthony.

With that out of my system, I can now act with a remote sense of professionalism. Relax Lee on my comfy imaginary couch. Tell me, what is your relationship with speculative fiction in general? When did you fall in love with the written word?

Goodness, you do like the difficult questions, don't you! I've always loved the written word. I barely have a childhood memory that doesn't feature a book in there, somewhere. Books even featured in my playtime, as I would construct elaborate games around books I'd read. I wasn't a hit with the girls, you know.

You are a writerly type. You have several theatre plays to your name and at the same time you help brilliant fiction grace bookstore shelves. You deal with two very different mediums. Do you mind sharing what you gain from theatre and from novels on a pure, creative level?

Well, first of all, the theatre plays aren't just in my name – they were co-written with the extremely talented Scott Harrison. Secondly, I'm not involved in the theatre these days, though I miss it tremendously. Now I'll try to actually answer your question.

Theatre and literature are very different beasts. When I was writing plays I was also directing them, so I engaged on a number of levels. It's a very direct medium, very visual (of course), and more collaborative than literature (though literature is more collaborative than many readers assume, of course). With theatre I was able to shape not only the words the audience heard, but also the way they heard them, and the way they saw the characters. With literature, part of the fun is that the audience (readers) have to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and people's interpretations of characters can differ wildly. Also, the special effects are cheaper than on stage.

Angry Robot is an imprint with a focus on cross-genre. I´ve speculated for quite some time that speculative fiction is reaching a point, where genres seize to exist in their strictest sense and instead hybrids will inherit the earth. In that sense is cross-genre the next natural step in SFF as a movement in literature and how far has cross-genre managed to infiltrate mainstream culture?

After thirty-something years of devouring speculative fiction, I'm still undecided on this issue. Having the genre in its own section in bookshops certainly helps genre fans find what they're looking for more easily, but I think it probably does many of the novels a disservice, marginalising the artform. I think many potential new readers are put off by the fact that it's not part of the general literature section in the shops. Where genre material has been classified as mainstream (Jasper Fforde, Margaret Atwood) it has often performed very well. But no, I don't think that we're nearing a point where genres definitions make less sense, though sometimes I think that would be a good thing for everyone. Sometimes.

You are the engine of Hub Magazine. What prompted you to wake up one day and say to yourself ‘I will start a magazine´?

I like new projects. And when I get hold of an idea, I'm like a rottweiler with a small child – only a blow to the head is likely to make me release my grip. It was a ridiculously huge undertaking (Hub was a print zine for the first couple of issues) and horrendously expensive and time-consuming, but great fun!

Hub Magazine is a weekly eZine. From my brief brush with weekly features on my blog, I translate weekly as commitment and chaos confined in a seven day deadline. What rhythm does a weekly magazine demand to be healthy?

Well, it's difficult to keep the flames of passion alive indefinitely, so it's important to surround yourself with people who can fan those flames, which is what I have with Alasdair Stuart, Phil Lunt and Ellen Allen. Also, the rottweiler mentality. Grrrrr!

So, let´s recap. You are an assistant editor at Angry Robot, run a magazine, you blog at SFX magazine, you are a family man and a human being. How do you manage this balancing act and how come we have not seen your time managing feats on the news?

Editor, not Assistant Editor (promoted in less than a year, dontcha know). I also write, and have a multitude of other projects on the boil at any one time. Sleep is for wimps.

I get itchy feet if I'm not doing something, so it's less a case of great time management, and more a case of need. I need to be busy, so I make work for myself. Luckily, I love what I do.

Imagine I´m a young, eager lover of fiction, who wants to become an editor. I corner you at a con and ask ‘Lee, Lee, how can I become a mighty editor like you?´ Do explain the path of the editor to me. How does one make it in this field?

I came into it by a strange path. Angry Robot's publishing director, Marc Gascoigne, was aware of the work I was doing with Hub magazine, and when he started looking for someone to work with him at Angry Robot, I was one of the people he thought of. He knew how much work went into producing something like Hub and he wanted someone with that level of passion for the work.

The more traditional route is likely to bear more fruit. Go to university, major in literature, apply for jobs. Having a Hub-like project can help, of course, but I wouldn't recommend following my path.

As an editor, what quality must a novel possess to make the jump from the slush pile? And I am asking for a specific standard you abide to help you sift through submissions.

Marco and I look for different things. For me, character is paramount. I need to live the lives of the characters, which means I need to believe in them without question; believe in their motives, their actions, their reactions and their speech patterns. Story, plot and structure are also vital elements, of course, but if a novel fails the character test, I'm not interested in what happens to them, or why.

Angry Robot is an imprint with a mighty fine name. Is there an epic origin story a la super hero behind it?

It was Marco that came up with it, after a loooong process of deliberation. I believe it was one of those “eureka” moments. It's great!

In your opinion, what separates Angry Robot from the other imprints on the market?

We originally set out to play in the “post-YA” market (Marco's phrase), the X-Box generation. We want to attract readers that have maybe tried YA and liked it, but don't know where to go, next. That's not to say our books aren't suitable for genre veterans, of course, but we want to capture the excitement of playing a video game. Actually, I quite like that – a video game in book format. We're also determined to make the most of the opportunities afforded us by technology – eBooks, enhanced eBooks, audio and print-on-demand where appropriate. We're aiming to get to a stage where all major formats are released simultaneously. After all, the format is just a delivery mechanism for the important bit of a book – the words.

During my time spent surfing the Internet; I have never come across a negative comment or a slight against Angry Robot. There is just a generally positive vibe towards Angry Robot. What is the best thing you have heard or read, regarding the imprint?

Difficult to pick just one – other people seem to have as much passion for it as me and Marco. One of the best comments was from someone who said he'd happily buy a standing order for Angry Robot titles – pay for future books he knew nothing about – because he trusted our judgement, based on our titles so far.

You are known for your love of digital books through different interviews and your posts on SFX. Was it your idea to make all the ARCs electronic and now that the imprint is picking up speed does it seem like a good choice?

We do produce some physical ARCs, but not many. The decision to produce electronic ARCs was made before I joined HarperCollins, and it's a damn fine one. Physical ARCs are expensive to produce, and marketing budgets for an imprint of our size are always stretched. I see electronic ARCs playing a much bigger role across the industry in years to come.

In February we learned that ‘Slights´ by Kaaron Warren was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. I am pretty sure that Kaaron was and still is ecstatic, but as a man behind the curtain, how did you receive the news?

It was on the preliminary ballot, but technically it wasn't “nominated” as it didn't make the shortlist. I was thrilled for Kaaron, of course, as I was when she was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award and the Australian Horror Writers' Award. A damn shame she didn't make the Stoker final ballot, but that's more to do with distribution than the quality of the work – it hasn't yet been released outside the UK or Australia, so most Stoker voters won't have had the opportunity to read it.

What is the SFF award you most desire for a book from your imprint?

The best award is sales figures. A Hugo would be nice, or a Nebula, or a Stoker, or an Arthur C Clarke, or a Gemmell, but the most rewarding is to have the books read by huge numbers of people, so our authors can continue to write more novels.

What exactly does an assistant editor do? Describe a day from your life at Angry Robot HQ.

I work with authors to help them improve their already-excellent manuscripts (by, for instance, suggesting new scenes, recommending changes to structure, etc), I also manage our team of freelance copyeditors and proofreaders, I read the slush pile and work with agents to find great new books and great new authors, I maintain the website and various back-end databases, I talk to bloggers and genre site owners, and the media, and I attend various work-related events and conventions. Sometimes, on a busy day, I do more.

Finally, what can we expect from Angry Robot?

Watch this space...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

[Announcement] Marvel Zombies 5

As you might know, I am a HUGE Marvel Zombies fan. It's raw. It's campy, bloody and action packed and it never seems to end, which is why I love it. I love seeing what Marvel can come up with and for the fifth installment the series they are going Western with writer Fred Van Lente.

What's not to like?

I have this interview conducted by the Comics Alliance with the author Fred Van Lente and I am simply ecstatic.

CA: You've got "Marvel Zombies 5" on the way – what's coming for "Marvel Zombies" fans in the new series?

FVL: What isn't coming, Laura? "Marvel Zombies 5" is kind of a smorgasbord for zombie connoisseurs. We have this scenario in which the alcoholic robot Machine Man has returned, and is now tasking with hunting down and collecting samples from zombies across the Multiverse. So it's like a United Colors of Benetton of zombiery. He manages to collect various allies along the way, including one that I think everyone will admit is the perfect person to be a member of A.R.M.O.R., the Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response agency, which is charged with containing the zombies. And we go into all these different genres, so they're going to Camelot, a post-apocalyptic War of the Worlds" Martian tripod world, a cyberpunk world from the 1980s Barry Windsor-Smith "Machine Man," but in the first issue they go a world where the frontier was never settled, and it's perpetually the Old West, so you get all the Marvel western characters. One of the first things I ever saw Jeff Parker write was in a book in 2006 that we both did as part of this "Marvel Westerns" event, and his story was way better than mine. So I'm going to do a sequel to it, because I'm oedipal like that. His story was about this really obscure character called the Hurricane, the fastest gun in the West, so I'm doing what happened to Hurricane after he got old story. With zombies. And robots.

[In the Mailbox] Julie Crisp = Book Fairy

I am a very lucky book addict and very unfortunate at the same time. On one side I feel so bereft that all my other reviewer buddies receive so many books and on the other I am swamped already from the books I have. Julie Crisp, Twitter Goddess & Generous Benefactor extraordinaire, has possibly broken the postman's back with all THIS. I promised I will use them for giveaways, but I am more or less greedy as hell to start reading, before I say goodbye to these beauties. Thank you, Julie.

'Vellum' by Hal Duncan

Following the trail of a family legend, Reynard Guy Carter finds The Book of All Hours, aka the Vellum, a blueprint for all creation written by the scribe of God after the word was spoken. Carter thereafter wanders the strange, deserted worlds of the Vellum, while angels and demons, the Covenant and the Sovereigns, battle for control of the order of everything. Within the Vellum, Phreedom Messenger is on a quest to find her brother that will lead her to the very depths of the underworld in a movement parallel to Innana's descent to the underworld of Ereshkigal; and Seamus Finnan, her brother's betrayer and an old friend, is, like Prometheus, bound for his sins. The paths the three characters follow become a scintillating web of journeys across worlds and through the three dimensions of time.

'Ink' by Hal Duncan

In the sequel to Vellum (2005), the Covenant has been broken, but the angel and demon unkin still compete for power over the worlds of the Vellum. Playing out against a backdrop of futurism and fascism and little pockets of stagnant order--havens, where the bitmites make all the things humans have ever dreamed up possible--the split parts of Mad Jack, Joey Narcosis, Phreedom, and the rest of their crew seek to rewrite the Book of All Hours and bring the angels and demons to their knees for good.

'The Wanderer's Tale' by David Bilsborough

Many generations ago the arctic stronghold of a terrible demon, Drauglir, was destroyed by the forces of good. Five hundred years later, rumours spread of the evil demigod’s second coming, with terrible consequences for the world of Lindormyn. In the remote northern town of Nordwas a ramshackle group is assembled by the ambitious warrior Nibulus, under the guidance of a mage-priest, to set off on the long and perilous journey back to Melhus to ensure that Drauglir is properly despatched this time round.

The quest includes two foreign mercenaries, three bickering priests, a young esquire, and, last but not least, Bolldhe the unsociable ‘wanderer’. Their eventful progress through a desolate terrain embroils them regularly with a wide array of races, fantastic creatures, giants and sorcerers – and with terrifying adventures which will affect each of them differently.

'A Fire in the North' by David Bilsborough

This second volume picks up the ongoing story in a tunnel leading out of enchanted mountain realm of Eotunlandt. Fighting their way through subterranean dangers, Nibulus and his diminished retinue of ‘questers’ finally reach the open again, only to discover that their rivals the Thieves have mysteriously disappeared.

Meanwhile, Gapp and a sinisterly altered Methuselech continue towards Wrythe, the last settlement. They find the population strangely degenerated, under the influence of a local leader, in fact the evil being Scathur who has been hiding there for five hundred years, awaiting his moment of vengeance. Scathur recognises that inside Methuselech is the outcast soul of a rival necromancer, Mauglad, so imprisons them both till they manage to flee for their lives.

The rest of the original questers also turn up for a scary sojourn in Wrythe, before heading on to Melhus island with Scathur’s deathly henchmen in pursuit. During strange dreams, the wanderer Bolldhe learns he must use a strange sword he has found to kill the evil demigod Drauglir, once and for all. They all venture into Melhus (the Underworld), contesting with the hosts of the dead sent against them. There ensues a colossal battle, with thrills and spills and monumental destruction, before the questers achieve an unexpected victory –and most of them will return to Nordwas sadder but wiser.

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