Monday, March 21, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/19

Well, that was a week, wasn't it? (Imagine that said in the same tone as "Well, that's a baby!", when faced with something that no one in their right mind would call cute or adorable or sweet or, even, possibly, human. Also imagine, because you'll have to, that there was any reason whatsoever for this pseudo-bonhomie, and that it wasn't a purely random blog-post-opening sentence chosen by a vast and cold machine intellect. [Not that this is the case, of course. {Ignore these brackets.}])

Anyway, I got books in the mail this week. I was more than usually frenzied, because of preparations for Lunacon, so I barely glanced at them until this very here's what I can tell you about them:

Deathless is a new novel by Catherynne M. Valente, a writer who's always doing something interesting and particular. This time it's a retelling of the Russian legend of Koschei the Deathless, told against the backdrop of the very Russian 20th century. I've wanted to read several of Valente's novels so far, but haven't managed to yet -- I hope I can break the streak with this one, which is being published by Tor in hardcover on March 29th.

Imagine Steven Erikson slapping down The Crippled God on some very resonant, booming table -- the shiny, gigantic slab of wood in some mental boardroom, perhaps -- with a satisfied smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he gestures at the crowd of epic fantasy writers who haven't finished their big series (no names, please; he's Canadian and thus preternaturally polite) and shrugs slightly. It was barely twelve years ago that Gardens of the Moon was published, and there were many people who wondered out loud if then-new writer Erikson could keep up the pace he'd set for himself and deliver nine further (and all substantially bigger) books in the "Malazan Book of the Fallen." (In fact, Yr. Humble Correspondent, now three books behind, wishes that Mr. Erikson had been slightly slower, so that I wouldn't feel quite so behind-the-times.) Crippled God is out now -- it was published by Tor earlier this month, and hit the New York Times bestseller list almost immediately -- and the Malazan series is now finished. If there's anyone out there who has been waiting to be sure the series would end before starting it, this is your official notice. And if any of you wonder if the Malazan books are for you, ask yourself this question: have you found, any time in the recent past, that you've been reading epic fantasy books that feel thin and second-hand, that it seems like you've seen all of the tricks of the genre and are tired by the whole enterprise? Congratulations -- you've just leveled up, and you're ready to read Erikson.

 Black Halo by Sam Sykes, which is the second in the "Aeons' Gate" series, after Tome of the Undergates. This is tough, gritty fantasy, along the lines of Joe Abercrombie, about a hard-bitten adventurer and a mission to keep the gates of hell closed. (Because who would want them open? I ask you.) Black Halo will be published as a big, fat trade paperback by your friends at Pyr on March 29th.

Speaking of second books in fantasy series -- and I just was, oddly enough -- here is Honeyed Words, continuing J.A. Pitts's so-far untitled urban fantasy series about modern-day blacksmith, movie-props manager, and medieval re-enactor Sarah Beauhall, after last year's Black Blade Blues. The fantasy elements in this series seem to start with dragons -- who live secretly among humanity, conveniently shapeshifted -- and continue on in a mostly Norse vein, with dwarves, fairies and giants. Tor is publishing this second book in both hardcover and trade paperback form, for greater variety of choice, this July.

Fiona Patton's The Shining City, on the other hand, is the third volume of her "Warriors of Estavia" series, about a god-touched, rich city protected from the depredations of the outside world by a giant, ancient magical barrier, and about the three youngsters who are Destined by Prophecy to Be Important in a Series of Books. DAW is publishing this on April 5th.

And last for this week is a big graphic novel, the latest in the quirky series -- all by different creators, with utterly different stories and formats -- co-published by the famous Louvre museum [1] and NBM Publishing, The Sky Over the Louvre. This one is written by screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and drawn by Bernar Yslaire -- they're both French, as you'd expect from something about such a touchstone of French culture -- telling a story of the Revolution, of the time when the Louvre went from being a royal palace to a museum in the first place, and of the relationship between Robespierre, leader of the Terror, and the great painter David, hired to paint a new "Supreme Being" for the new France. This large volume -- it's close to eleven inches square -- will be available in hardcover this May, in comics stores and other fine purveyors of illustrated entertainments everywhere.

[1] You know, the one in Paris? That one.

1 comment:

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I think it's cool that you get free books in the mail. Thanks for the heads up on these. I think I'm most interested in the Deathless novel.

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