Tag Archives: Mark Lawrence

Ten Steps to Select a Publisher

As an Indie author, I chose Amazon’s Createspace for paperbacks and its Kindle Digital Platform for my ebook distribution. Two reasons dictated this choice : initial cost is free, and I maintain total control of my work. To insure this control, I provide my own ISBN. This means I do all the work unless I contact out work such as designing the cover and editing. I have professionals do that. So, there are costs, but those costs I control.

Marketing is another cost. This cost is a balance between the cost of the program and the revenue it most likely will generate in book sales. Again, I have control, and in January, I spent nothing on marketing and banked the revenue, but paid the price in reduced book sales for that month. Since Amazon pays on a three month lag, March revenue will be down. I knew that and budgeted for it.

However, many new writers, for one reason or another, need the help of a publisher. They are lost as to how to get an editor, how to format, how to find a cover designer, and all the things that have to be done to become a successful author. Perhaps, they have a day job or run a household with active kids. They turn to a wide list of publishers and stare at rows of smiling shark’s teeth. A whole industry of “milk the author” has evolved. It’s an author beware publishing world. However, within that mix are good guys who honestly want to help the bewildered writer. How to find the needle in a haystack?

Why am I blathering on about this? Because I know several writers searching for guidance, and I recently stumbled across Jane Friedman article on what to look at when deciding on a publisher. Her blogs are invaluable and you must check them out.

https://janefriedman.com/10-questions-epublishing/

As you will notice, this blog is dated November 2014, but was recently updated. The information is still valuable. It doesn’t cover all the names of publishers currently out there, but it’s a guide for the questions you need to ask. For example: Just being able to control the price of your book is important, particularly if you want to advertise. An overpriced book with no exposure to readers is a lonely book indeed, even if well written. A bad cover often turns away an interested buyer. Make no mistake, with the advent of easy publishing, the book market is flooded and cleverly marketed books are the ones to gain the overwhelmed reader’s purse. Even so, the market is challenging. These ten suggestions may save  you a lot of money and heartache.

I am now working on the last quarter of the second book in the Terran Trilogy called Somewhat Alien. Once again, I want to suggest Larry Brooks and his storyfix blog. He has several books with his ideas, one called Story Engineering. He provides a framework for writing a story while still letting your characters surprise you.

… And they are surprising me with their actions. Right now the immigration of aliens into our country is a hot topic, and this story is exactly about aliens trying to immigrate onto an inhabited planet. I just have to check the headlines for great story ideas.

This week my book selection is Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell. This book was recommended by Peter from Powell’s Bookstore at Cedars Crossing. Peter is an expert in science fiction and fantasy, and this book delighted me.

If you like Mark Lawrence (The Red Queen’s War ) or Joe Abercrombie, (The First Law Trilogy), Traitor’s Blade will suit. It has a bit of swashbuckle in it.

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats, once the elite corps of 144 men and women, who traveled throughout the kingdom, dispensing the king’s justice. That is, until King Paelis ordered them to stand aside, and his head found is way onto a pike atop his castle, put there by conquering feudal lords intent on expanding their land and power.

Now jeered at and called “tattercoats,” Cantor and his small band must follow secret instructions given by the king in order to unite the ragged remnants of the once proud Greatcoats. If they fail in their mission, their kingdom will be destroyed.

Character and bantering dialog make this a stay-up-late story. His aching loyalty to justice puts Cantor into impossible situations as he struggles to rebuild the Empire and clean out the rot.
The book uses the technique of flashback, returning to the story of the king’s final battle, and then jumps forward to Cantor’s present as he struggles to save his world.

Peter recommended this; I recommend this. Soon, you’ll be recommending it too.

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Filed under Best selling author, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Self-publishing

Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

img_1018Santa will soon be sliding into town and my rushing around to get ready is taking time from writing and reading. But in attempt to get you ready for the holiday doldrums, I’ve come up with twelve binge reading ideas.

Because once the hooha dies down, there may come days in a row where you are tired of parties and company and would like to do a little binge reading.

I’ve picked out twelve authors randomly (for the twelve days of Christmas) who offer a good binge-reading experience.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Dune is a classic with incredible world building and intriguing characters. After Frank Hebert’s death, his son, Brian Herbert and fellow writer, Kevin Anderson, added a number of readable prequels and additions to the storyline. Just out in September 2016 is Navigators of Dune that tells about the strange ship navigators that can fold space.

Fool's Quest2. Robin Hobbs and all her Realm of the Elderling books are good. Start with the Assassin’s Apprentice and read on up to her current Fool’s Assassin.

3. William Gibson’s Sprawl Series. William Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is his Hugo winning start, but the rest in the series : Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero Interrupt, Zero History etc. are interesting, particularly if you look at the dates when they were written and current technology and events.

4. Lois Bujold’s Vorsigan Series. Read how the irrepressible Miles Vorsigan deals with life. I even enjoyed the more recent Captain Vortapil’s Alliance and Miles wasn’t the main character. Bujold has won numerous awards for this series and others in the fantasy realm.Barrayar

Visitor

5. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series. Start at the beginning, but her latest, Visitor is seventh in the series and an amazing study on how to handle first contact with an alien race. Also, Cherryh has an Alliance-Union Series of merchant ships caught in the politics of war among planets. My all-time favorites of Heavy Time and Hellburner are in this series. Rimrunner, Merchants Luck, and the Hugo award winning Down Below Station are stand alone stories that also take place in the Alliance-Union Universe. I also want to mention a good fantasy series of hers called the Fortress Series

Expanse Collection6. James Corey’s The Expanse Series. Recently this exciting series hit television with some interesting visual effects. In January, the second season is due to fire up and continue the storyline. Start with Leviathan Wakes and read up to the new Babylon ‘s Ashes just published December 6. Space Opera at its best.

7. Joe Abercrombie ‘s First Law Trilogy. A fantasy trilogy that you won’t be able to put down. It starts with The Blade Itself, Before They were Hanged and ends with Last Argument of Kings. If you’re a delicate reader, this one gets gritty… Fair warning.First Law Trilogy

8. Brandon Sanderson has several series. His Mistborn Series breaks into two trilogies. The most recent just out is Bands of Mourning. (See my blog on it) Also his The Stormlight Archive with Way of Kings and Words of Radiance is quite good. Doorstoppers, both of them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora9. Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards series has also been a favorite of mine. The first is The Lies of Locke Lamora, then Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Soon to come out is The Thorn of Emberlaine. Great adventure in the life of Renaissance swindlers.

10.  L. E. Modesitte has written sixty books! His Saga of the Recluse Series is very popular and his Imager Series just had its seventh book released today called Treachery’s Tools. He has several other series that are more hard science and futuristic. One of my favorites is Gravity Dreams and the Octagonal Raven. Lots to binge on with this author.   Imager

Ender's Game

11. Orson Scott Card. Can’t forget his Ender’s Game, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time. (made into a movie) Spin offs from this series are still popping up, so start now and be on the look out.

12. And last but not Least…Sheron Mccartha’s The Alysian Universe series. Now you knew I would have to mention it. For all the books in this series look right and see my listing.

These are just a few series or large books to binge on over the holidays when you want to escape the madness of the holiday or the frenetic relatives. There are more equally as good I haven’t yet mentioned (and might). Do you have any favorites? Let us know.

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

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Filed under Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, fantasy series, first contact, Hugo winners, Mistborn series, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

A Best Selling Fantasy, er, Science Fiction

photoSummer is over and, in Portland, that means that the rains are on the way. My only consolation is that football season is beginning, and the Ryder Cup is coming up this month.

I didn’t do any marketing in August and sales suffered. I don’t care as I am wrapped up in getting my latest book, A World Too Far ready to publish. I have one more Beta reader to report in and a proof with the second cover to check over, and I’ll be done. I’m dancing about because in all my stats, September tends to be the lowest in sales, and I’m analyzing when would be the best time to launch. Publishers claim November and December are strong because of Christmas, but I would guess that would be for hardback or trade paperbacks. I still sell more ebooks than paperbacks. Another difference from how book publishing used to be.bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

Still…

The answer may be…when the book is ready. I’m considering setting May 2017 as the date for the next book and making it firm as May is usually one of my strongest months.

Speaking of the book publishing business, Hugh Howey has an excellent blog you should read.

http://www.hughhowey.com under “A Peek Behind the Curtain”

Good stuff.

wheel-of-osheimThis week after a few false starts, I got my teeth into the newest (and I think final) book of Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War book three, The Wheel of Osheim.

I really enjoy the bad boy characters in his books and, in fact, Jorg Ancrah of Prince of Fools makes an appearance to give Jal some serious advice. We see the character arc of Jal Kendreth who trips into a hero’s role no matter how hard he tries to run away.

What I liked least was the jumping back and forth between Snorri in Hell trying to save his family and Jan’s escapades after he wiggles out of Hell, leaving Snorri behind.

Escaping Hell, Jal finds even worse nightmares and villains among the living nearer to home. A bit of a zombie apocalypse erupts as he is left alone, appointed as Marshall to save his city of Vermilion, while grandmother, the queen, goes after the Blue Lady and her many mirrors. The Blue Lady is bent on speeding up the turning wheel of Osheim that portends the end of the world.Liars Key

The wheel of Osheim is turning faster and faster, threatening to crack the world. Loki’s key may play a vital role in stopping it or speeding it up, depending on how it ‘s turned, and Jal carries it.

This is the part I liked the best. Lawrence inserts science fiction into a story that could masquerade as a fantasy except that rumors and hints say it’s the future after a nuclear holocaust. Jalan meets what is described as holographs or “data echoes” of long dead “builders” involved in the “wheel” that sounds suspiciously like the Hadron Collider. Blending mythology (Loki’s key and the Dead King ) and science (the collider and the builders ), Lawrence King of Thornsdelivers a rousing and unique story.

ps. You do know that we barely escaped being hit by an asteroid only 7.3 million miles away, don’t you? And September 17, a smaller one is on track to come nearer, but hopefully to also miss. See header for picture.

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Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, science fiction, science fiction series

Book Trailers

IMG_9503Trailers

No, not the kind you live in…the kind that keep popping up on a blog, Facebook or Utube.

We’re not anything if we’re not a media generation.
And the media is currently appearing all over mobile devices.

Recently two writers in my group put together their own trailers to promote their books.

Ted Blasche’s The Rust Bucket Chronicles has a trailer link in his e-mail signature.

https://youtu.be/npcdiizMgTw
.

Using Animoto, Clayton Callahan whipped together this trailer for an anthology, Five Elements, in which I’d contributed a fun story called, “Peace Treaty.” (See right panel) He posted the trailer on Facebook. I’ve noticed this year a lot of short videos are being posted on my Facebook.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rJhFZCjUDeE

Then I was on TOR’s blog. TOR has been using trailers for a while to announce new shows and new books. I recently saw they had a trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes series I have been waiting for, so I eagerly tapped on the link. Are you eagerly waiting also?

http://www.tor.com/2015/10/08/new-sherlock-christmas-special-trailer-bbc-one/

So trailers are easy to make (Clayton did so), cheap, and popular on several platforms. Add interest to your blog, Facebook, e-mail, or Twitter. Send a trailer out to enthusiastic fans.
It’s another arrow in your marketing quiver.

Liars KeyThis week I read Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. I’m into several series, and this is second in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen Series. The first in the series is the Prince of Fools.Prince of Fools

Very much like the book I’m currently writing, Worlds Too Far, it’s in the same universe as a previous series, the Broken Empire, but has totally different characters at another part of the world and is considered a separate series. The Dead King is mentioned several times and the main character, Jalan, comments in a conversation on his cousin, Jorg of Ancrath, as a blood thirsty king. (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns,)King of Thorns

Liar’s Key is a buddy adventure that continues the story of Jalan, Prince of Red March, a self-centered scoundrel, who only wants to return to the palace and resume his hedonistic lifestyle. He has no desire for kingship or power, but prefers women, wine and leisure rather than his current position of poverty and the cold North. He rationalizes his cowardly deeds, which ironically often end up appearing heroic by happenstance. Preventing him from returning to the palace is his Viking companion and big-hearted Snorri Snaggonson. (yes that’s his name) Snorri has somehow finagled Loki’s key that opens all doors in hopes of opening the door to death and retrieving his family. Jalan has been magically tied to Snorri by a powerful mage, the Silent Sister, his aunt, consequently where Snorri goes, so goes Jalan.

Of course Loki is the trickster god who created the key, so nothing happens in a straight forward way. Many powerful beings covet the key and try all manner of means to possess it.

Prince of thornsI laughed at and loved this adventure. Mark Lawrence wrote Jalan perfectly as the rogue who unwittingly does good, and towards the end actually makes a few sacrifices. Snorri is the perfect foil, full of valor, loyalty and everything heroic who constantly drags the band toward danger and death, putting them in impossible situations. Often in an attempt to bed a woman or run away, Jalan unwittingly saves the day.

Guiding the group through the power of his key, the reader never knows what the trickster god Loki will cause to happen next. That surprise along with the character of Jalan kept me laughing and interested in this fun adventure. Lawrence’s writing is so fluid the reader becomes immersed in the story and the crazy adventures of the foolish Jalan.

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Call for Beta Readers

IMG_9518I spoke too soon.

What a surprise you say.

The usual pleasant summer found in the Northwest has beamed down hot flames from the sun all week, making the temperature soar to 103 degrees Saturday. At least the nights cool down. Any reading is being done inside. Writing too. In air conditioning. It’s temporary.

I submitted my last chapter of book 8 to my writing group. Now I want to gather a few more Beta readers. These are readers who take a manuscript and read through it checking for continuity and general sense of character behavior and plot action. If they find misspelled words, I hope they mention it. Beta readers are special and often get a mention in the Acknowledgment and a signed final copy. They are people I trust with my special creation. They are the final polish.

So if you’d like to be a Beta reader for my next book, Time’s Equation, I need just a few more. Email me at: shmccartha@gmail.com.

Kepler 452bIn the science news: Many of you are already aware that the Kepler Project is discovering quite a few other planets out there in the universe. Recently, the most Earthlike planet has been discovered. Link:  https://www.nasa.gov/keplerbriefing0723  

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. Finding a possibly compatible planet in which we could live is exciting stuff to an author writing about an Earth type planet such as Alysia. Science fiction becomes reality. Half a King

This week I read Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and Half a World.

Being royalty isn’t easy when you have a hard cold father, a maimed hand, and dislike violence. Prince Yarvi, the younger prince, was happy to leave court to study for the ministry, the office that advises the king, rather than fight wars. Handling a sword proved awkward with his half a hand. But then his father and older brother are killed, and he is called back to court as the new King of Gettland.

His mother, known as the golden queen, has firm ideas on what to do. Attack their enemies no matter the wishes of the High King who demands peace. When asked how his father and brother died, Yarvi is told that his father went to speak peace with the bordering king Grom-Gil-Gorm and was attacked and killed through treachery. At his father’s funeral Yarvi swears vengeance on his family’s killer. His uncle Odem and his mother encourage him to command an army to attack his enemies. Of course, he must lead them there. Sword raised high. Gulp.

Yarvi sails to Vansterland with his uncle Odem where he finds unexpected treachery from his once supportive uncle. His loyal guard reveals his true colors and, on Odem’s orders, throws Yarvi from a high parapet into the sea to drown. But he survives. Washed up on shore, he is brought before Grom-Gil-Gorm where he claims to be a cook’s boy to hide his true identity from his sworn enemy. From there, he is chained and delivered to a slaver who sells him to row on the downtrodden merchant ship, the Southwind.

Yarvi’s grueling life at the oar and the friendships he makes as he uses his wits to figure an escape teaches him to be a man. But even freedom isn’t pleasant, as he and a few from the ship are hunted by their sadistic captain while he tries to unravel the plots of those who want him dead.

This is an adventure story of royalty sold into slavery and overcoming adversity. A young prince who tries to reclaim his birthright and become a man. A few interesting twists and turns keep it fresh. Abercrombie builds an believable world that offers solid action.Half a World

The sequel, Half a World, follows the story of young girl who calls herself Thorn and aspires to be a king’s warrior in a society where women are supposed to cook, sew and clean house. It follows her struggle to prove herself, but when the sword master makes her fight three opponents at once, she accidentally kills one of her attackers after her practice sword splinters. The sword master claims murder, and she is clapped in jail. When Thorn faces a possible verdict of death by stoning, a fellow trainee, Brand, discloses the real story to now Minister Yarvi who saves her by bundling her onto his departing ship, the Southwind.

Once again several characters from the first book join an older and more mature Yarvi as they sail half a world away in search of allies for an upcoming war. The High King plots to take over the world and his cunning Minister, Mother Wexen, has her own plans within those plots. Minister Yarvi must untangle the politics and uncover the truth as he ventures from land to land with his rough crew, searching for allies.

As they sail, Yarvi has Thorn trained to become a killing machine and his secret weapon. There is also a nice, but rocky, romance between Brand and Thorn.

Both books are worth reading and offer old fashioned adventure with clever Yarvi and the rough but likable crew of the Southwind as they sail into exotic ports and discover surprising allies.

Recently Joe Abercrombie has come out with the next adventure called Half a War.

Enjoy your read now that the weather is cooling off.

Aaaahhh.

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Going to the Dark Side

IMG_0180Summer is a wonderful time of the year here in the Northwest. We have cooled off to high seventies in temperature, and other than gardening, I have time to read out on my shady deck under tall pines.

Lately, I have been restless, trying to find a good cutting-edge future science fiction tale. I dove into cyber punk with mixed results in Gibson’s The Peripheral and Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE. (See previous blog for further comments).

Since I have been advertising my books on different websites, also with mixed results, I decided to download a few free and discounted books from Freebooksy and Sweetfreebooks. In my several marketing campaigns, Freebooksy and more recently the Midlist have given me the best results. The vaunted Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla have cost me money while delivering poor sales. Having said that, other authors claim good results from them. Once again, various factors of timing, cover, taste, and reader who just wanted a time travel book at that moment, come into play.

Post HumanSo I chose the Post Human Series by David Simpson, Mirrored Time J.D. Faulkner and Star Wanderers by Joe Vasice. Why? The Post Human series had far future humans with transhumanism where humans are using technology and science to evolve past being human. Also, there was a suggestion of inter-dimensional realities that intrigued me. I’ll admit that so far the story is chock full of future science and action. The writing flows well with few grammar or punctuation errors.

The early episodes, however, are short and choppy, skipping over large spans of time. All that I could deal with, and did, until I got snagged on the changing point of views. Rapidly switching point of view with no warning or break is a new writer’s curse, and often the writer isn’t aware of what he’s doing until it’s pointed out to him. In this case, three pov jumps in one paragraph, and I put the book down. I may pick it back up later because of the interesting ideas and technology.Mirrored Times

Sometimes I’m not strong of will and cross over to the dark side. When the temperature hit over ninety last week, I reached for chocolate Haagen Daas to cool off my mouth and make my taste buds dance.

What diet?

At the same time, I reached for a fantasy in the form of Mark Lawrence’s The King of Thorns sitting soKing of Thorns seductively on my reading table. I had read his Prince of Fools and liked it. The reviews said King of Thorns was even better. I would be traveling into the realm of dark fantasy and knew it.

Now, there is also a Prince of Thorns that you should read first, but like chocolate Hagen Daas, I didn’t mind not having another flavor at the moment and confused the earlier book with Prince of Fools.

King of Thorns is a can’t-put-down book. And that’s just what I wanted. The writing is gorgeous with gasping wit, heart-pounding action, and tear-filled emotion. A bit gritty, but bearable.

You continue the life of Jorge Ancrath who at age nine has vowed to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother, and punish his father for not doing so. Now at age eighteen, Prince of thornshe is King of Renar, having taken the land through slaughter and death from his evil uncle. Jorge is not a delicate lad. He’s on a mission to rule the world and doesn’t play by the rules.

The story begins outside his castle where he is surrounded by thousands of the Prince of Arrow’s men. Orrin Oildan, Prince of Arrow, also hungers to be Emperor and sweeps kingdoms into his hand as he marches victoriously across the land until he reaches Jorge’s rough castle. Unlike Jorge, who is beset by sorcerers at every turn and considered mean and ruthless, Orrin is the fair-haired ruler whom everyone calls great and good. Every sorcerer and witch prophesies the triumph of the Prince of Arrows for the Emperor’s throne until Jorge is weary of hearing it. But it doesn’t slow him down a whit.

The book jumps back and forth in time, starting with Jorg’s wedding day, and then returning four years into the past. There he travels with his band of disreputable friends across the land from one wild adventure to another. Adventure and wedding flip back and forth moving closer in time as the book progresses.

Clever, haunted, and powerful, Jorge has the touch of necromancy in his fingers and carries a dangerous box of memories everywhere he goes. Trying to save a young fire Mage, he also learns to play with fire.

There are also hints of science fiction within the fantasy-flavored tale when Jorge refers to “the Builders” who seem to be great men from Earth’s past. He meets a holograph who is a downloaded personality of a past scientist. The holograph tends a forgotten machine deep under Jorge’s maternal uncle’s castle. Along the way, Jorge also accumulates artifacts from the past that become important to his survival.

My only complaint with the story is that in two critical instances, the author uses my own tricky plot twist to escape an almost impossible situation. One I use in Caught in Time when the bandits try to rob and rape Rowyna, and the other in A Dangerous Talent for Time when Brand de Fyre Elitas, like Jorg Ancrath, faces overwhelming odds in a battle.

Not fair!

Mark Lawrence will be remembered for the plot twist over me, I’m sure. Just like, since July 15, another author has come out with the title Caught in Time. The second one came out last year, well after my publication. (Sound of moaning and hair-pulling)

Oh well, I liked it when I wrote it, and I liked it again in Mark Lawrence’s story. In fact, I liked his whole story a lot. It made the chocolate ice cream go down so cool and sweet, as I slipped over to the dark side.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Cutting Edge Science ideas, downloaded personalities, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Noir Fantasy, science fiction, science fiction series, Transhumanism, Wizards and magic

The Anti Hero in Fantasy

IMG_0180

What is happening to the hero who is firm of jaw and pure of heart? Where is the man who faces dangerous odds in order to rescue fair damsel?

Lately he’s the clever, disfigured dwarf (Game of Thrones), the contorted torturer (The Blade Itself), or a multi identitied spaceship (Ancillary Justice).

The Blade Itself2

And the fair damsel is an ass kicking chick with knives to spare and attitude.

The two books I read this week have both.

Prince of FoolsThe first is Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools.

Jalan Kendreth of the Red March, tenth in line to the throne, likes boozing, gambling and womanizing. He is a man of no ambition and an admitted coward and liar.

He is a royal prince, who adheres enthusiastically to the rights of royally. As he leaps out of a noble lady’s window pursued by an antagonistic older brother, he justifies his roguish actions with a wide grin.

He admits to cowardice with nary a qualm, never revealing he was running away when he ran into the surprise attack and won the war. He’s acclaimed a hero, and doesn’t hesitate to trade on the glory it brings, always forgetting to mention his true intention at the time.

He lines out his philosophy by saying, “Enjoy the world while you can, I say. A shallow enough philosophy by which to live, but shallow is what I got. Besides, deep is apt to drown you.”

Through an act of sorcery, Jalan becomes entangled with a fierce Viking slave, Snorri ver Snagason who is bent on revenge for atrocities to his family. Snorri is a blonde mountain of a man with a abundant courage and a good heart that turns dark when violence taps into his “blood rage.”

Throughout the whole book Jalan is pulled along in Snorri’s wake as he struggles to free himself from their sorcerous bond. Snorri misinterprets a lot of Jalan’s actions as heroic, while Jalan recognizes the more realistic truth of his intentions. Often he tries to ply the influence of royalty only to find the farther away from court and his own country he goes, the less influence it wields. Deference turns to yawns as Jalen scrambles to find new levers with which to survive.

Prince of thornsEvidently there is a prior series that begins with Prince of Thorns set in this same universe and wildly acclaimed. The story is dark and edgy. While there are dark and edgy moments in Prince of Fools, the humor between the two men as they struggle with each other, gradually becoming fast friends, dominates the book. I loved the banter and developing friendship as the two search for release from each other. But when Jalan is told that all he has to do to be released from Snorri is to order him killed, he responds by inquiring if perchance there might be another way.

Mark Lawrence writes a thoroughly engaging story with their “buddy adventure” as the main thread. If you like your hero a bit tarnished, and your world rich with description and magic, then I recommend Prince of Fools.

 

Hunting PartyI’d never read anything by Elizabeth Moon, but I heard her name often enough. So I thought to try one of her novels. Several people in my book group offered enthusiastic suggestions, so I settled on the first in a series called Hunting Party.

Descended from a famous family of Admirals, Heris Serrano resigns her commission from the military due to mysterious circumstances that gradually are revealed. Although beneath her dignity, she hires on to captain a space yacht owned by Lady Cecelia de Marktos, a wealthy eccentric.

Lady Cecelia’s passion is riding horses, and she is bound to a hunt at Lord Thornbuckle’s, known to his peers as Bunny. Owning an entire planet, Lord Thornbuckle has recreated his version of an old English hunt. Unfortunately, before Cecelia can get away, her sister ropes her into taking along her spoiled son, Ronnie, and his three friends, George, Bubbles and Raffele. Bubbles is Lord Thornbuckle’s daughter.

Seems Ronnie, the profligate son, bedded the prince’s current mistress and then bragged about it, causing full royal fury complete with death threats. So Ronnie is put on probation and sent away with his maiden aunt and a few friends.

All the commotion has set back the schedule, and Heris is pressured to get underway without a full inspection. Only gradually, after launch, does she come to realize how lax and sloppy the former captain ran the ship. A serious problem develops into the journey that requires they put in the nearest shipyard for repairs. Heris tries her best to calm down her new employer who will miss opening day by suggesting a bet. If the repairs extend past a certain deadline, she will learn how to ride, and if they make their timetable, Lady Cecelia will learn about her ship.

Contraband is discovered as parts are replaced, causing legal delays, so Heris agrees to train on Lady Cecelia’s mechanical mount on board the ship and ride at the hunt. Cecelia relents and agrees to learn more about her yacht. The two develop a friendship.

They arrive, a bit late, but intact. Ronnie is bored by the hunt and suggests a midnight escape in Lord Thornbuckle’s flitter with a picnic at dawn. Bubbles remembers a childhood island where the family would go camping. They head there, but as they approach the island, they are waved off. When they circle back, they are shot down.

It turns out the island is being used illegally for a different kind of hunt and Heris’s former crew is involved. Now Ronnie and his friends are also in danger for their lives.

Moon turns in her version of The Hunger Games that involve an old nemesis of Heris’s and a mysterious Mr. Smith that wears boots that leave a royal print.

Plot drives this story and provides a pleasant tale with danger, friendship, intrigue and bravery. Not a wilting violet among these strong females with Heris as the kickass captain who can take charge when things become dangerous, and who has extra guns and attitude to spare.

 

 

 

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