Sunday, 4 September 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 04/09/11

You know, after the double-dip last weekend, I'd really like to think I was all caught up in terms of books received. Turns out... not so much.

Among the newish releases in The BoSS this week, then: the run of books no doubt inspired by the success of Scott Lynch's series continues apace... a year on from Guardians of Paradise, Jaine Fenn returns, and I've still no clue what to make of her work... there are ninjas -- bloody ninjas at that... a classic fantasy kingdom I've been keeping seekrits about... and oh my God, there are beasts in your bed!

Time to change the sheets, I expect. :/

In fact, how about you guys read about some nearly-new books while I take care of that?


by Ben H. Winters

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 06/09/11
by Quirk

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Alex and Susan Wendt are the perfect couple in search of the perfect Brooklyn brownstone -- and the house at 56 Cranberry Street is too good to pass up. Sure, the landlady seems a little eccentric. And the creepy handyman drops too many strange remarks about the previous tenants. But the sidewalk is lined with trees and there's a beautiful playground just down the block, where their 3-year-old daughter Emma can play.

Many chapters of slow-building dread and paranoia will ensue -- think of this as Rosemary's Bedbugs. Alex loves their new home but Susan is less enthusiastic; something about the new place just doesn't feel right, and she's having trouble sleeping. In the mornings, Susan awakens to find drops of blood on her pillowcase -and soon her wrists are speckled with bites. She immediately suspects bedbugs but she and Alex and the landlady search the apartment without uncovering a single creature. Even stranger, Alex doesn't have any bites on his body. You're just experiencing some kind of psychosomatic reaction, he suggests. I've never seen any bugs. Exterminators search the apartment and find nothing. But Susan is convinced she's right: she's seen the bedbugs, crawling over her body, feasting on her flesh, and swarming in incredibly vivid nightmares.

As her fear and paranoid build to a fever pitch, the story arrives at its horrific conclusion, in which all of the book's many mysteries are revealed. Can Susan contain the bedbugs before they destroy her family? Bedbugs may be the first novel that appeals to both horror/Comic Con fans as well as suburban soccer mums -- and it's a great gift for anyone who's ever battled bedbugs in real life. Sleep tight!

My Thoughts: So the blurb for Bedbugs is... a bit much, shall we say, but I'm actually pretty darned intrigued to read this one. I've only my recent experiences with Quirk's books to go on here, of course - namely the wonders of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and the witty words of Geek Wisdom - but I very much admire what I've seen of their slate to date, and the stage is certainly set for some skin-crawling, stomach-churning fun.

I remain ever the optimist! :)

Den of Thieves
by David Chandler

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 07/06/11
by Voyager

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: Enter a world of darkness and danger, honour, daring and destiny in David Chandler’s magnificent epic trilogy: The Ancient Blades. 

Croy is a knight errant, and bearer of an ancient blade with a powerful destiny. He's also kind of, well, dim. He believes in honour. He believes that people are fundamentally good, and will do the right thing if you give them a chance.

Unfortunately, Croy lives in the city of Ness. A thriving medieval city of fifty thousand people, none of whom are fundamentally even decent, and who will gleefully stab you in the back. If you give them a chance.

Ness is also the home to Malden. Malden is a thief. He lives by his wits, disarming cunning traps, sneaking past sleeping guards, and running away very fast whenever people are trying to kill him. Which is often. One time Malden stole a crown. And then he had to steal it back to avoid a civil war. Croy got the credit, of course, because he's a noble knight. Another time the two of them went into the tomb of an ancient warrior race, and Croy accidentally started a barbarian invasion. Guess who had to clean that up?

They probably wouldn't be friends at all if it wasn't for Cythera. Cythera is a witch. A mostly-good witch. And despite herself she can't stop thieves and knights falling in love with her... at the same time.

My Thoughts: Actually, scratch that thing about optimism from the Bedbugs bit.

Really, there's been rather a lot of this sort of thing this year. You know, Gentlemen Bastard-esque fare, presumably to fill the gap which The Republic of Thieves has left after its many and various delays.

Not that that's reason enough for me to be down on Den of Thieves. However, Fantasy Book Critic's Robert Thompson did not approve of book one of The Ancient Blades trilogy, and unless I hear of another, more positive perspective on Den of Thieves sometime soon, I expect I'll be giving this one a miss.

But hey, as ever: it could happen!

Blood Ninja
by Nick Lake

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/09/10
by Corvus

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Taro is a boy from a coastal village in rural Japan, fated to become a fisherman like his father. But in just one night, Taro's world is turned upside down - and his destiny is changed forever. Skilled in the art of silent and deadly combat, ninjas are the agents of powerful nobles who rule sixteenth-century Japan. So why did a group of these highly trained assassins creep into a peasant's hut and kill Taro's father? And why did one ninja rescue Taro from their clutches, saving his life at enormous cost?

Now on the run with this mysterious saviour and his best friend Hiro, Taro is determined to learn the way of the ninja to avenge his father's death. But if they are to complete their perilous journey, Taro must first evade the wrath of the warring Lords, decipher an ancient curse, resist forbidden love - and come to terms with the blood-soaked secrets of a life lived in moonlight.

My Thoughts: Again, not my usual fare, but I stand in awe of that cover design, and as Conn Iggulden says, Blood Ninja is "a fast-paced, gripping book, with ninjas. It's all I ask for, really."

I could perhaps ask a little more, but whatever. This first Blood Ninja book sounds like fun, Nick Lake seems to have established a solid reputation between this and the other work he does, and with a review copy of the second in the series in my stack now too, I'd best get to Blood Ninja while the getting's good if I hope to get to it at all.

Which yes, I do.

Bringer of Light
by Jaine Fenn

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 18/08/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
3 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: Jarek Reen is trying to save a lost world. He discovered the primitive theocracy of Serenein by accident, and now he wants it to take its place in human-space. To do this he needs a shiftspace beacon -- without it, there is no way to find the planet again. The beacons were made by the Sidhe, the race that originally gave humanity access to the stars -- and dominated human-space for millennia, before a coalition of human rebels and Sidhe males brought the evil Sidhe females down.

Most people think the Sidhe are long dead, but Jarek knows better: a renegade female Sidhe is one of his companions, and a male Sidhe gave her and her lover the special powers that made them Angels, very unusual trained assassins. Jarek's only hope is to find Aleph, the hidden system where the last Sidhe males are rumoured to live. But even if he can persuade these eccentric, introspective beings to put aside their interminable internal squabbles, he still has to persuade Serenein that joining the rest of humankind is a good thing... for the price of progress is likely to be high. Can he stop it turning into tragedy?

My Thoughts: Wait, what? Again? Already? 

Well I suppose it's been a year; I shouldn't really be so surprised. But it feels like only yesterday I was intending to get to Guardians of Paradise, and yet, and yet... well, obviously I never did.

Book one gets a good rep on Amazon at least, and though I don't remember it attracting a great deal of attention around the blogosphere, I remain intrigued. Sounds a little Kay Kenyon-esque, and I did dig The Entire and the Rose.

I'm conflicted, folks, so help me out: should I give this series a shot, do you think?

The Illustrated Gormenghast
by Mervyn Peake

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 23/06/11
by Vintage Classics

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Enter the world of Gormenghast. The vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir. Titus is expected to rule this Gothic labyrinth of turrets and dungeons, cloisters and corridors as well as the eccentric and wayward subject. Things are changing in the castle and Titus must contend with a kingdom about to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder.

My Thoughts: Last for this week, last but not least - no, very far from least indeed - this beautiful new edition of the Gormenghast trilogy as was, released to accompany Titus Awakes, which Peake's widow put together after the author's passing, has roundly replaced my battered old second-hand editions of the three original novels. Profusely illustrated and with an all-new introduction by TSS favourite Monsieur Mieville, I expect I'll be referring to it rather a lot over the weeks and months to come.

I just can't tell you how or why yet. But know that there is something to know.

I'm not even sorry to be such a tease! :)

But do be sure to stay tuned for some very exciting Gormenghast-related news.


On which cruel and unusual note, that's it for this week in books received, boys and girls. The BoSS will be back again next Sunday, as usual -- by which point I expect I may be able to tell you all a little more about... things.

Meantime, please do chime in as regards the Jaine Fenn question, and while you're at it, if you want to wax lyrical about something you've been reading of late, consider the floor open all week long.


  1. I was looking at The Illustrated Gormenghast trying to decide if I wanted the real thing or the ebook. And you know what there is more chance of me reading the ebook (which has the images in it) than the real book even though it looks lovely!

  2. You know, I'm getting there myself, with the big 'uns.

    The Illustrated Gormenghast is a beautiful book, but it's an absolute behemoth; one wonders what sort of impression it'd make on the old lap, far less my poor arms, were I to dare try and hold the thing. On the other hand, I just adore the physicality of these collected editions, and whatever the convenience of a mobi or an epub, it could never match up to that.

    Then again, there are only so many series I'd be interested in a collected edition of. I dare say Gormenghast is one, so never mind me! :)

  3. It's very much a pretty vs practical. I just bought a copy of a book I've got a review copy of on Kindle as I want to read read it in the dark. I kid you not!

    I'm turning to practical though saying that I just bought a real book 2 or a two part thing as I want to have both physical copies. not sure I like having one real and one virtual....

    I'm an odd fish.

  4. Pretty versus practical - I like that! I am, I admit, an absolutely sucker for pretty things.

    But I'm getting there... slowly but surely. Currently the Kindle library stands 150-odd strong!

    Not that I have a Kindle; I have an app for my tablet. Pretty versus practical, right? :)

  5. An illustrated Gormenghast? I don't think I can resist that - though I've, alas, still only read (and loved!) the first of the volumes.

    And it seems to me like the sometimes lovable, always illegal rogue has now become a gritty-fantasy cliche to equal that of the long lost heir. Or maybe that's just because this year all the releases I'm hearing about happen to be Among Thieves, Prince of Thorns, or Den of Thieves.

  6. I don't recall any thieves in Prince of Thorns. If you abstract your stereotype far enough then everything can be called a cliche by people who want to call things cliche... A book features a good, bad, or mixed character. Ah ha! It has fallen into the good, bad, or mixed cliche. Shame on it :)

  7. Well no, no thieves in Prince of Thorns, strictly speaking, but it did feature at least one "loveable, always illegal rogue" - as Nathaniel says. 'Twas a book equal parts Gentleman Bastard and Joe Abercrombie, I recall. And there has been a lot of that lately... which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it is, I think, tantamount to a trend.

    And who wants to be trendy? Not I!

    (Saying that, I am reading Ready Player One...)

  8. who was the loveable and always illegal rogue?

  9. Alright, so he wasn't exactly loveable, or even particularly likeable, but Jorg - was that his name? - Jorg was our protagonist, and I do believe Mark Lawrence managed to instil in the reader some sympathies towards his anti-hero, whether by design or otherwise. Simply by walking a mile in Jorg's shoes, one ends up rooting for him a bit, rather than wishing him ill; this in spite of all the awful things he does, that make him at the very least illegal.

    Don't you think?

  10. So a not likeable or loveable or rougish, but murderous raping damaged teen, who isn't a thief in a city evading the lawmakers, but the leader of a raiding party in a lawless empire ... is squashed in with some city thief-rogues (presumably lovable, who are engaged in crimes and persued by justice) and called a new cliche/trend?

    Just seemed a bad call to me.

    Add to that the fact that you've called it mix of Lynch and Abercrombie and I've seen last night on SFF world a thread where the author makes it clear he's never read Abercrombie, Lynch, or Weeks, and it seems unfair to call the book cliched and trendy.

  11. Perhaps it is. But we're talking semantics here; and in any event no-one's suggesting Prince of Thorns is somehow a rip-off. But assuredly it is - whatever fantasy the author has or has not read, or rather says he hasn't - it is undeniably in line with various of the traits of what appears an emergent trend in the genre. There's no negative connotation to that in my mind; no inherent lack of imagination or talent Mark's part.

    The actual usefulness of such classification is of course a whole other can of crossed wires and differing opinions.

  12. seriously - you're suggesting he's lying? Just want to get that one clear.

  13. Saying something does not make it so, you know. No more than your commenting as "Anonymous" makes you thus. Nor is a suggestion an assertion.

    But you seem to have wilfully misconstrued this conversation for a fight, whomever you are, or are not, and though I really do hate to be rude, I'm not feeling particularly fighty today, so. Toodles!

  14. For the record. I have not read any Abercrombie, Lynch, Rothfuss, Morgan, K.J Parker, or Weeks. I can't imagine you're going to tell me I'm lying about my reading?

    PS - if you're unhappy about people using the anonymous option I would remove it as an option.

  15. well since (from twitter) it seems that you _are_ telling me I'm lying about my reading (a truly astonishing claim to make a stand on) I wipe my hands of you. Enjoy your additional traffic.

  16. I've already said I'll feed no more trolls today.

  17. Wow. Um... that was unexpected.

    My point was not that Prince of Thorns is a derivative work ripping off Mr. Abercrombie, Mr. Lynch, or whoever else happens to be brought in. I was merely saying that Prince of Thorns can be construed to fall into a group of fantasy novels based, not in the slightest upon the author's reading habits, but upon the content of the book. This is not an insult of the book or its author in any way.

  18. No Nathaniel no!

    Sorry. Anything to quote a bit of War of the Worlds. The uh... Jeff Wayne version. :/