Sunday, 2 May 2010

The BoSS for 02/05/10

Nothing in this week's healthy haul of proofs and ARCs really gets my blood pumping in the way Kraken, the collection of Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and some of the other books from the last few editions of the BoSS have, but what do I know? There are a whole host of unknown quantities this time out, and as ever, I'm game for new experiences. Of particular note, I think is Carrie Ryan's The Dead-Tossed Waves - though as yet I've no real idea why. Help me out here, readers; please. What is this book?

Click through to read Meet the BoSS for an introduction and an explanation as to why you should care about the Bag o' Speculative Swag.

Read on for a sneak peek at some of the books - past, present and future - you can expect to see coverage of here on The Speculative Scotsman in the coming weeks and months.

***

The Dragon Keeper
by Robin Hobb


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
04/03/10 by HarperVoyager

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive. People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise.

"One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life's work to study all there is to know of dragons.

"But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist!"

Commentary: My mum - the Speculative Scotsmaw, as I like to call her (though never, ever to her face) - reads Robin Hobb. Which, for all the gratitude I'm due her for setting me down the road towards the genres of literature I've love since I was but a wee beast, makes me, umm... rather question these books. I should say I won this in a giveaway on Twitter, so there's certainly no pressure on me to review it, but I think my somewhat divergent perspective on The Dragon Keeper - the first volume of a duology called The Rain Wild Chronicles of which the concluding volume just saw release - might make for interesting reading, so don't be surprised to see a Robin Hobb review on TSS at some point in the future.


Unholy Ghosts
by Stacia Kane


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
15/06/10 by HarperVoyager

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Murderous spirits and ruthless drug dealers combine to create serious problems for fiercely independent heroine, Chess, in these fast-paced, sexy and addictive novels -- fitting for a witch with a serious drug problem. The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen and constantly attack the living. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased.

"Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch and freewheeling Debunker and ghost hunter. She's got a real talent for nailing the human liars or banishing the wicked dead. But she's keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that's landed her in hot and dangerous water. Chess owes a murderous drug lord named Bump a lot of money. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport.

"But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust with a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump's ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it..."

Commentary: Oh no. I try not to be snooty, neither in my reading nor in life, but I know my own tastes fairly well, and just the cover quote from Sookie Stackhouse mastermind Charlaine Harris leads me to believe this, another of my winnings from Voyager and the first book of the Downside Ghosts series - which despite my reservations I can easily see being the next big thing in the Twilight mode - leads me to believe that Unholy Ghosts won't be my thing. Add to that a snippet from the publicity blurb boasting that these are "fast-paced, sexy and addictive novels" and there's little room left for me to doubt my snap judgment. Firstly, I despise anything by Stephanie Meyer with every fiber of my being, and furthermore, I'd extend that presumption of negativity towards all those novels that dream of snatching some of her suspect popular acclaim... of which this, clearly, is one. But believe it or not, I've been wrong before. So how about this? I'll try to give it a try.


Crossing Over
by Anna Kendall


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
24/06/10 by Gollancz YA

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Whether it's a curse or a blessing the fact remains: whenever Roger is in enough pain he can cross over to the Land of the Dead and speak to the people there. It's an unexpected gift - and one that, throughout Roger's life, his violent uncle has taken advantage of. Roger has been hauled from fairground to fairground, and beaten into unconsciousness, in order to bring word of the dead to the recently bereaved. It's a hard, painful way of life, deceiving the living for a crust of bread.

"So when Roger has the chance of a new life, it seems a gift. He has a chance at safety and at living a life of his choosing, tucked away in the royal court. But life is unexpected, and when Roger falls in love with the bewitching, willful Lady Cecilia he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. With every step he takes towards her, he is drawn deeper into court intrigue, into politics, and even into war... and when Roger's curious abilities come to the Queen's attention, everything changes forever.

"Trapped in courtly politics, bound by secrets, Roger is torn between his own safety and that of his friends. He can save them... but only if he can bring himself to perform a deed so unthinkable that the living and the dead shrink from it alike..."

Commentary: Crossing Over marks not only the debut of Irish-born author Anna Kendall but also a whole new, Young Adult-oriented Gollancz imprint. Beyond the synopsis above I don't yet know a whole lot above this one, except that there's a sequel called Dark Mist Rising scheduled for publication next year, but I've enjoyed all the all-ages books I've read since launching The Speculative Scotsman, so I'm certainly game for Crossing Over. Also Irish girls... what can I say? They're an Achilles heel of mine.


Shadow's Sun
by Jon Sprunk


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
29/07/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, in the holy city of Othir. It's the perfect place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and even fewer scruples. Caim makes - or perhaps more accurately, takes - his living on the edge of a blade. Murder is a risky business, but so far he reckons he's on the right side of it. Or he was... because when a short-notice contract job goes south, Caim finds himself thrust into the middle of a sinister plot in which he seems to be one of the primary marks.

"Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers and the darkest kinds of sorcery, it's going to take more than luck if he's to get through this alive. He may lack scruples, but he's still got his knives, and his instincts, to rely on - and a developed sense of revenge, or should that be justice? - to fall back on.

"But when his path leads him from the hazardous back streets of Othir and into the highest halls of power, will instincts and weapons alone really be enough? If Caim is really going to unravel the plot which has snared him, to unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he will have to finally claim his birthright as the Shadow's Son."

Commentary: Gollancz are really making their mark on the fantasy landscape this year, publishing one knockout debut after another - from Sam Sykes to MD Lachlan and so on... Enter Jon Sprunk. Shadow's Son is his first published novel, volume one, as is so often the way, of a trilogy due a continuation in Shadow's Lure next year. I'll admit the premise is a little bit been there, done that, but given the sustained quality of the imprint's debuts through 2010 to date, I'm certainly willing to give Shadow's Sun a fair shot. Take note that the cover above is for Pyr's US release of Sprunk's novel: artwork for the Gollancz edition was not yet available at this time.

Bad Boy
by Peter Robinson


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
05/08/10 by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "When Juliet Doyle discovers a gun in her daughter’s bedroom, she turns to old friend DCI Alan Banks for advice. But Banks is taking a much-needed holiday, and it's left to DI Annie Cabbot to deal with the removal of the firearm. No one can foresee the operation's disastrous consequences, or that the Doyles will not be the only family affected.

Banks' daughter Tracy has fallen for the wrong boy. Her flatmate’s boyfriend is good-looking, ambitious, and surrounded by an intoxicating air of mystery. He's also very dangerous. When Tracy warns him that the police might be on his tail, he persuades her to go on the run with him, and flattered by his attention, she agrees. Before she knows it, a deadly chase across the country is set in motion. 


"And on his return, completely unsuspecting of Tracy's perilous situation, Banks is plunged into his most terrifying, personal case yet."


Commentary: Seems like there might be a significant increase in coverage of crime fiction here on TSS in the weeks and months to come, what with this and last week's John Connolly. This, though, is significantly less interesting to me than The WhisperersBad Boy looks to be somewhat run-of-the-mill - and not only that, it's the somethingth novel in an interminable series of books starring DCI Alan Banks. I might give this one the old once-over, and if it grabs me, so much the better, but unless there's someone out there willing to tell me why I should pay attention to Peter Robinson, I can't imagine you'll see further coverage of Bad Boy - what a bore of a title, incidentally - for some time to come.


The Dead-Tossed Waves
by Carrie Ryan


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
08/04/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known and, and all she needs for happiness. But life after the Return is never safe and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back. Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but, like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling. One night beyond the Barrier... one boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery... one reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry knows only one thing: if she has any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past."

Commentary: For the life of me I don't get what all the fuss over The Dead-Tossed Waves has been about. Don't misunderstand me. I'm excited to get started on this one, the hype has been that huge, but I simply don't know what this book and its predecessor, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, are. Are they urban fantasy? Are they horror for young adults? Those of you who've been reading the blog for long enough to have a handle on my tastes, I ask you: will I despise this book?


Elves: Once Walked With Gods
by James Barclay


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
19/08/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "The elves have fled to Calius, seeking to escape the overwhelming power of the demonic Garonin. A desperate last stand in their own dimension saved the race, at the cost of 100,000 elves lost to the Garonin. The elf who led that fight, Takaar, is blamed for the losses and has gone into hiding. Now the weakened elf race is tearing itself apart in civil war, human mercenaries have arrived in Calius and are ripping the continent apart. Only one elf can unite the elves. And only one elf believes in him. A young warrior named Auum sets out to bring back the shamed hero and save the elven race. James Barclay's Elves trilogy will tell the whole story of his immortal elven race, and will appeal to all fans of Tolkien and fantasy - this is a uniquely entertaining take on a fantasy staple perfect to bring new readers to Barclay. And old readers of James Barclay will welcome a return to one of their favourite creations and will also love seeing one of their favourite characters again - the Tai Gethan warriror Auum destined to be one of the Raven."

Commentary: Another rather meh addition to the rank and file this week. I mean, I like fantasy, and I'm a devoted Tolkien reader - I know... what a shocker - so the publicity clearly has me pinned right into this book's apparent target market, but Elves: Once Walked With Gods, from the author of the Orcs series (oh God really?) just comes off a bit naff in my view. But perhaps I'm jumping the gun. This books is some months out from publication yet, so I'll have plenty of time to at least try out the waters, see if they're as tepid as I suspect, and I will, be sure. Any James Barclay fans out there ready to tell me why this might be more than the sum of its so-so sounding parts?

10 comments:

  1. I think you might have confused James Barclay with someone else (Stan Nicholls? He wrote a series about Orcs). James Barclay has garnered some praise for his series of novels about a group of mercenaries called The Raven. I wasn't sure about the first novel Dawnthief and haven't read any of his subsequent novels, but I do know people who class him as one of their favourite writers. He might be worth a bump up of your reviewing priority with that in mind?

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Magemanda - Point well taken, but mmmm, I still don't think it's for me. It's a book about Elves, called Elves, for one thing. Though it seems this Stan Nicholls fella is indeed the Orcs guy. I wasn't just making this up, I swear. Something in the press release must have confuzzled me...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ha, we all know that not all books are for all people :-). I was also sent a copy of Elves by James Barclay - once I've given it a read and review, you can check it out and see if it's for you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Might you have a better idea of what this Carrie Ryan is than I, Amanda? I'm honest to God interested in The Dead-Tossed Waves, but just... utterly flummoxed. Is it YA?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my ... are you saying that you've not read Robin Hobb before - or did I misunderstand that?

    If not, you really really must.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Rachel - I have not, no. Is The Dragon Keeper a fine place for me to start, do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  7. If I may interject, I personally would not recommend you start with The Dragon Keeper since it really isn't the best Hobb read and requires you sort of know something about the world she has created, or at least its much more enjoyable if you do. I would be more tempted to push you in the direction of her Farseer or Liveship Traders trilogies, but the choice is yours...
    BTW: I've reviewed the Dragon Keeper so you can see my more detailed opinion of it there

    ReplyDelete
  8. I agree with thelec.

    Farseer is my favourite, but then, I have been completely in love with Fitz since I first read those books however many years ago. The Liveship Traders books are great fun too.

    I've not read Dragon Keeper yet. Was waiting for the paperback.

    Oh - I'm so jealous of you. I wish I could discover Robin Hobb all over again :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. "The Dead-Tossed Waves" and its predecessor "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" are YA zombie novels - they're not in a series though, they're more like companion novels. You can read the second without having read the first.

    That being said, I enjoyed "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" more than "The Dead-Tossed Waves". The protagonist in the second has a pretty weak backbone compared to the first, and she can was really grating, especially in the first half. Both are solid novels, I just preferred the first book overall in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  10. WOW! Many great books here. Elves looks like an interesting read to me, but not because it's being stacked up there with Tolkien. I think all but one books look like reads I would enjoy. I hope you enjoy them all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on them.

    ReplyDelete