Monday, December 31, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Witch Bane by Tim Marquitz

Happy New Year (soon) and a giveaway. Witch Bane by Tim Marquitz is a quick read, and a non-stop action revenge tale. It was released a few days ago, and the ever generous Tim is offering 2 paperback copies for US shipping address, and 5 eBook copies for worldwide participants. Mihir should be reviewing it tomorrow or so on Fantasy Book Critic, so keep an eye out for his review.

In any case, a good way to close the year here on the blog, and hopefully next year will be a bit more active one.
Sebastian is whisked away at birth, just moments after his mother's death. He returns nineteen years later, a warlock trained in the arts of war. Raised in secret and fed on tales of revenge, he seeks redemption against the witches who betrayed and murdered his mother.
Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

Giveaway will be for 2 paperback copies of Witch Bane for a US participants, and 5 eBook copies of Witch Bane for worldwide participants.

The giveaway is open worldwide, but the paperbacks are US shipping addresses only; it will run from December 31, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on January 11, 2013.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on January 11, 2013.
  • There'll be 7 winner total (2 US participants for paperback and 5 worldwide participants for eBook of Witch Bane
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone and Happy New Year! See ya in 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guest Post: Triumph Over Tragedy by Sarah from Bookworm Blues

This past election season proved something to me. No matter how much people can disagree on opinions or argue their point, the one thing that seems to bring us all together is the love of a good book. That’s the thing about literature: it brings people together. No matter if you appreciate some beautiful prose, a rich world, or a layered plot (or all the above), you’ll find someone out there who enjoys that same book just as much as you do. Opinions on everything else be damned, the love of a good book seems to bridge all divides.

One of the amazing things about the Speculative Fiction community is how well we tend to pull together in times of strife. Not only readers, but authors as well. Anthologies have been put together with funds donated toward the relief of many tragedies in the past few years, and it’s amazing to watch all of these projects succeed and help so many.

Triumph Over Tragedy is a wonderful anthology dreamed up and put together by Ryan Kaelin, who has donated an immense amount of time and effort to make this thing happen. Not only is Triumph Over Tragedy happening, it’s exceeded our wildest dreams. We have so many wonderful authors contributing stories to the anthology that it’s hard not to be excited about it. Not only that, but 100% (yes, every red cent) goes to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Imagine how excited we are to not only present a book that can unite readers and stoke the flame of their passion for the genre, but also help so many deserving people at the same time.

As of today, the list of authors with stories in Triumph Over Tragedy are:

• Robert Silverberg (Hugo & Nebula Award winner)
• Marion Zimmer Bradley (Locus Award winner) (donated by the MZB Literary Trust)
• Timothy Zahn (NYT Bestseller & Hugo Award winner)
• Michael Stackpole (NYT Bestseller)
• Elizabeth Bear
• Michael J. Sullivan
• Mark Lawrence
• Bradley P. Beaulieu
• Philip Athans
• Adrian Tchaikovsky
• Tobias Buckell
• Stephen D. Sullivan
• Rick Novy
• Jean Rabe
Ÿ Tim Marquitz
• Maxwell Alexander Drake
• SM Blooding
• Erik Scott de Bie
• Alex Bledsoe
• Elisabeth Waters
• R.T. Kaelin
• Ari Marmell
• Matt Bone
• Sarah Hans
• Rob Rogers
• Jaym Gates
• C.S. Marks
• C.J. Henderson
• Marian Allen
• Bryan Young
• Donald Bingle
• Janine Spendlove
• T.L. Gray
• Miya Kressin
• Matthew Wayne Selznick
• Steven Saus
• Addie King
• Rob Knipe
• Vicki Johnson-Steger
• Tracy Chowdhury
• Doris Stever

While we were originally aiming for a December 20th publication date, we have some exciting things potentially being added to the book (yes, I’m being deliberately vague here), which might delay the publication to the first part of January. However, I can assure you the wait is worth it.

For a measly $7 you get an anthology packed full of stories by incredible authors, and you get to help someone who dearly needs it at the same time. It’s a win for everyone involved. Those of us who have worked hard editing the anthology are excited about the quality of stories it contains (as well as the impressive list of authors), and we are sure it will please SF fans. Personally, I am thrilled to be part of a project that can not only unite readers through a love of literature, but also help people who so desperately need it at the same time.

All thanks to R.T. Kaelin, and his intense desire to make a lasting difference.

Please check out the project’s website for more information.


Good reading, low price, and helping those in need at the same time? Seems like a great idea. Thanks Sarah for sharing this with us, and helping make this project a possibility.

You can find Sarah on her website Bookworm Blues, her Twitter @BookwormBlues, and she recently provided a guest post for us on the topic of Urban Fantasy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

We are over at The Qwillery with some book gift ideas for Christmas

Mihir and I today visit The Qwillery in which we were asked to contribute by answering this question, "Which book would you give for the holidays?".

I chose The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, while Mihir chose Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. If you're interested in why we chose them, and of course to read what other bloggers advised, then please visit The Qwillery. You'll also get to learn a bit more about myself, my superpowers, and my chatting habits.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guest Post: How I Lost My Virginity on Prom Night by Cecy Robson, author of Sealed with a Curse

Okay, I’ll admit, the title is more of a metaphor than an actual event. Truth be told, I didn't attend my high school prom. No one asked hence, no deflowering actually took place. My buck teeth, coke-bottle thick glasses, and frizzy 80’s perm might have kept many a handsome suitor away―but I had wit, damn it!

Going to the prom actually has to do with my road to publication. Any writer who has ever tossed his or her cummerbund or corsage onto the prom dance floor that is traditional publishing is more than a little familiar with rejection. I was rejected by seventy-five―yes, seventy-five!—various agents and editors before my lovely agent, Nicole Resciniti, swept in on her angelic wings (cue the chorus of cherubs singing here) and signed me days after our initial meeting. “Your voice is amazing,” she said. “You’re so funny,” she praised. “How has no one ever signed you?” she gushed.

That being said, that’s when our four rounds of edits―or getting ready for prom night began. What it comes down to is this: no matter how prepared writers believe their manuscripts are, someone usually has an opinion on how to improve your work. Should writers listen to anyone and everyone?  Just like believing electric teal eye shadow would go perfectly with your electric teal dress, the answer is no. But when a professional whom you trust makes suggestions, you better damn well listen and listen hard.

Lots of edits, lots of tweaking, and lots of swearing on my end later, Nicole began submitting to all those big awesome New York publishing houses. I made it, I thought. I’m going to be published!

Nothing like a rejection nut-punch to bitch-slap modesty back into me. It was the Aquanet to the eyes I apparently needed.

Nicole phoned me after the third ‘no.’ I believe I took the call from my fetal position on the floor. “Jhanteigh, an editor from Penguin has shown interest,” she told me. “She wants to work with you on exclusive basis. Call her and we’ll go from there.”

I spoke to Jhanteigh. She praised my writing voice, my dialogue, and my characters. She liked me, she really liked me . . . but she felt the story arc wasn't strong enough and that too much happened in the first book.  It looked like I wouldn't have a date for prom after all―worse yet, I was momentarily banned from the gym.  So I wiped off the mascara, slipped out of my dress, and commenced another round of edits.

To be clear, the exclusive basis option isn't something editors typically offer―nor does it guarantee a contract. It’s merely an opportunity―a blind date that may or may not stand you up.  I reworked my novel and following edits it was resubmitted. That’s when waiting for prom night to arrive began. I had my novel (dress), an agent (limo), my opportunity (the would-be prom date). I sat in my electric teal dress for a long time, envisioning piles of brilliant manuscripts (hot babes) passing by Jhanteigh’s desk and wondering if my date would show, or if he’d dump me for a prettier, smarter, funnier gal.

“I want to go to prom!” I told my friend Melissa Landers, who writes as Macy Beckett. “I want to come home with lots of hickies. Is it too much to hope for hickies?”

“You’re going to prom,” Melissa insisted. “And you’re going to play your 'V' card."

She was right. On February 29, 2012, Nicole called me to say Penguin offered me a three-book deal. I emailed my pals to tell them I’d gone to prom and lost my virginity.

SEALED WITH A CURSE―my novel birthed from prom night releases December 31, 2012.



Cecy (pronounced Sessy) Robson is an author with Penguin's SIGNET ECLIPSE. She attributes her passion for story-telling back to the rough New Jersey neighborhood she was raised in. As a child, she was rarely allowed to leave the safety of her house and passed her time fantasizing about flying, fairies, and things that go bump in the night. Her dad unwittingly encouraged Cecy's creativity by kissing her goodnight wearing vampire fangs. Gifted and cursed with an overactive imagination, she began writing her Urban Fantasy Romance Series, Weird Girls, in May 2009. THE WEIRD GIRLS: A Novella, debuts December 4, 2012 followed by SEALED WITH A CURSE, December 31, 2012, and A CURSED EMBRACE, July 2, 2013.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Winner Update of The Culture Boxed Set by Iain M. Banks

Winner of the 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set by Iain M. Banks giveaway from Orbit Books, which contains the first three novels of the series:


Thanks everyone to everyone who participated., and congrats to Colin.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Evolution of Urban Fantasy by Mihir

In the past few weeks, there have been several bloggers posting their thoughts on the topic of “Urban Fantasy”. Surprisingly all of them seemed to be fed-up by it and ironically it is a sub-genre that has many readers, authors, and bloggers divided about its features and strengths. I however like urban fantasy books to a certain large extent with the only detracting point being that romance sometimes becomes the highlight of the story.

Urban Fantasy is a term that has come into the spotlight since the late 90s with the emergence of the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Before this series, it was a bit loosely termed as contemporary fantasy and was competently showcased in stories by Charles D. Lint, Emma Bull and Mercedes Lackey. While these books and many others showed a remarkable fusion of modern life and magical characters, they weren't the most financially successful books. It wasn't until Hamilton came out with her Anita Blake books that the series practically ignited a fire under many readers with its mix of heady action and erotic sequences that left most readers waiting desperately for the next volume. Terry Brooks ironically also had a hand to play in the start to the urban fantasy bandwagon with his world and Void Trilogy, which was a dark urban fantasy series and later revealed to be the prequel to his Shannara world. Many readers enjoyed this darker turn in Brook's predictable efforts.

There's also the presence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which further galvanized the fans and helped focus the rise of Vampires and other supernatural races within the confines of urban life. This was the start of the movement which made publishers take notice of this sub-genre and made them realize how this could be the next cash cow. Of course the Anita Blake series has taken a huge nose dive after books five/six (depending on your perspective) and most of its readers felt the series had jumped off the proverbial shark and headed into the area that can be only labelled as Paranormal Romance at best. However most readers weren't so kind and many labelled it as soft-porn or the erotic ramblings of an author who made her character sex-addicted and charmed to keep boinking to save her life or some silly situation like that.

This series did have an impact on many readers and chief among them was a hitherto-unknown dude called Jim Butcher who started writing his own series about a wizard detective set in Chicago. He got his start by having the same agent as that of Laurell K. Hamilton and in 2000 got his book published under the Penguin imprint. Since his debut Jim Butcher has become a juggernaut of sorts with each new book release, the sales of the Dresden Files have sky rocketed leading to the series jumping from paperback to Hardback on publication and eventually getting a TV show order from then known as Sci-Fi channel as well. The TV show didn't pan out all too well however it further spread the word about the books and that has also helped introduce newer readers to the author whom I believe can be labelled as “Tolkien of the Urban fantasy sub-genre”.

My reason for labeling Butcher as such is simple; this sub-genre is in its nascent stages and is slowly finding its feet. Recall the early era of the epic fantasy genre before Tolkien, people might not remember much beyond Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs and a few other distinguished names. Tolkien basically came along with his books and laid down the foundation for the epic fantasy world and here are a few observations from his seminal work:

1. The story mostly was about good versus evil
2. The world had to be detailed with many races and with a hankering for the passing of ages
3. The stories had to be laid out in the form of a trilogy

The last part we know was more of a publishing decision than Tolkien's, and since then these make-shift rules influenced the epic fantasy world and made it a benchmark for all writers to follow. Terry Brooks lead a further resurgence of Fantasy with his Shannara titles and he was joined by David Eddings, David Gemmell, Glen Cook, Raymond Feist and many others who upon reading Tolkien’s work were galvanized to continue his epic storytelling efforts, however with their own slants. They furthered epic fantasy's cause and showcased various other facets of storytelling that perhaps weren't Tolkiens forte.

The next decade however was to unleash three other publishing phenomenons who would further change the fantasy rules and create millions of newer readers as well. Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind and George R. R. Martin were the three behemoths that left publishers with a big fat smile on their faces and with even fatter purses. They added the aspect of long winded stories that would require large volumes to be finished. Of the three, one has finished his series (sort-of), one passed away and the third is still writing. Their value to fantasy cannot be overstated, however their writing skills/contributions to fantasy are debatable and have often been points of contention in arguments and discussions. In the last decade though, we have seen fantasy been further amalgamated into various other forms as well seen writers such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Peter V. Brett take conventional stories/tropes and spin them sideways to give very, very interesting story-lines.

There's also Robin Hobb and Kate Elliott who since their debuts have perfected characterization into a sublime art, Mercedes Lackey who has dabbled in many a genre and further created many more fans. There's also J.K. Rowling who writes in a beguiling way mixing comedy, epic fantasy, and other genres to create a debut series that is often mistaken to be epic fantasy but can be thought of as “Epic Urban Fantasy”. In the last decade many female writers have taken their rightful place into the epic fantasy annals and I hope this trend continues and we see more them explore epic fantasy and all of its multivariate incarnations.

The basic gist of my recollection of Epic Fantasy's metamorphosis is that I believe urban fantasy will take a similar path. Urban fantasy's path will however be much quicker than that of epic fantasy thanks to technology and immense reader participation via the internet and social media, not to mention the meteoric advent of self/indie publishing. What this means is that this will cause further permutations in the metamorphosis of urban fantasy.  Developments which took decades to occur in epic fantasy, might take only a few years for urban fantasy. Presently we are in what we can call the 80s decade of fantasy, which means that we will be seeing or reading the emergence of the Eddings’, Brooks’, Gemmells' and Cooks' in this sub-genre.

Kevin Hearne is a writer whose Iron Druid Chronicles is often thought as the literary successor to The Dresden Files. It has a witty hero, colorful side character cast, deep world system and a quirky magic system as well. Kevin Hearne can be said to be the "Brooks/Feist of urban fantasy" for now. Myke Cole is another writer whose books have taken an off-road track; he debuted in January with his Shadow Ops series, a high-octane mix of military thriller and urban fantasy. His series featured a much darker world and with his background, the author choose to re-imagine a geo-political world that has been further complicated with the rise of Magic. His series has been one to showcase the world from a grunt level and that is very reminiscent of a particular Black Company. I believe Myke can be labelled as the “Glen Cook of urban fantasy”.

Going by the same standards, Ilona Andrews share the same level as David Eddings because of the witty banter shared by their characters in their various books. Though this writer couple is way ahead in prose style and characterization, I'm labeling them as such to provide a point to parallel the comparisons of progress between the two subgenres at their respective development cycle. Also Laurell K. Hamilton while being a label herself, can be thought as the “Terry Goodkind of urban fantasy” as she believes in herself more than others might be willing and her series has simply gone off the deep end, but yet remains a commercial success for her publishers.

Lastly there are a few mavericks that defy classification and are forging their own paths. These writers namely Tim Marquitz, Peter Clines, B. Justin Shier and John Connolly are ones to watch out for as they write their own brand of urban fantasy stories. With Tim Marquitz, the dark and grotesque get their turn at the helm. With Peter Clines, we get a hodge-podge of zombies, urban fantasy, comedy & much more to keep flipping the pages, and with B. Justin Shier it's the exciting mix of Harry Dresden and Harry Potter-like story that perhaps makes the read so enticing. Lastly with John Connolly, readers get a nuanced series about a private eye who's trying to find peace after the loss of his loved ones however trouble always finds him and in this case there are strong metaphysical reasons for the happenings. His Charlie Parker series is unique with its setting and mystical juxtaposition, and it comfortably straddles both urban fantasy and the mystery genre. There also solo gems here and there such as the Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and Devil’s Cape by Rob C. Rogers. Both these books are vastly under-appreciated and equally under-read.

What we can look forward to is the 1990s & 2000s decades of fantasy, when writers will perhaps reach the magnificent depths of A Song Of Ice And Fire or give us the topsy-turvy nature of the First Law Trilogy. Either way it will be something that I as a fan can look forward to with gusto and anticipation. Perhaps by then we might have gotten over the horrible cover gal fiascos that is so prevalent nowadays and also urban fantasy might have significantly distanced itself from its amorous sub-genre cousin; paranormal romance (PNR). These are weighty things to anticipate and might entirely come to pass soon enough, but as with most fantasy fans hope runs ever eternal that they might happen sooner than later.

NOTE: It has come to my attention that I've done a great disservice to female authors in the urban fantasy genre. These authors have been the central pillars of urban fantasy and have had a big hand in its progression until now. So I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my mishandling of the topic.

When I wrote this article, I wasn’t looking to downgrade the impact of female authors in urban fantasy. I was hoping to put into focus the need for urban fantasy to explore outside of its comfort zones. Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, and Kim Harrison, for example, are three big names that have helped this sub-genre. However, I reckon Armstrong's books are more PNR oriented than UF. I’ve also read both Briggs and Harrison, but by my estimation they are more inline as direct successors of the aforementioned Laurell K. Hamilton's story format. It's for that reason, that I unintentionally overlooked them and deprived them the well deserved credit they've earned in regards to furthering the urban fantasy genre, and inspiring the great majority of what seems to be found in urban fantasy today. As with others worthy of mention are mentioned in the comments by others and me.

Nevertheless, what I’m trying to get at is that I was attempting to mention authors who had written stories within the genre, but have done something different irrespective of their gender. Something crucial to differentiate their stories from what has been written so far in the genre abundantly. Kelly Gay was an author that I should've mentioned, and whom I completely overlooked, and is someone whose books I enjoy very much. As was Kari A. Stewart who writes the wonderful Jesse James Dawson books. K.A. Stewart on the other hand seems more of "descendant" to what Jim Butcher is doing, so maybe for that reason I failed to mention her as it's the same reason I overlooked the Briggs and Harrisons of the world. It looks like Kate Griffith might have also been worthy of mention, but I haven't read her.

So my apologies if the intent of this post seems misleading and handled shoddily as I did. I wish for urban fantasy to be read further and I want the authors to challenge reader perceptions and go beyond the impressions of what currently abounds in urban fantasy as detailed in the recent group of urban fantasy guest posts from readers who dislike the subgenre. Since PNR and Romance were two of the main complaints indicated in those posts, I shied away from certain series/authors, but now it has become apparent that I was wrong to do so. With that said, it is my hope to see more stories that break from that mold and help with the diversification of the subgenre.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What books will you gift to yourself this Christmas?

So, it's finally December and the fast approaching Christmas time of the year. While everyone is busy planning what gifts to buy family members and friends (and in my case, should also be planning birthday presents for mother and sister), I personally say screw them and worry about what to buy for myself. Let's face it, I deserve it and I'm going to self-indulge.

It's with that in mind that I've been working on a small list of books I'd like to gift to myself on this very special holiday. I'm not sure if I'll manage to get them all, but they're some books that are missing from my shelves for one reason or another, and it's something I should remedy. Being a hoarder at heart, I have no alternative course of action to take.

Knife Sworn by Mazarkis Williams

This is the second novel in the Tower & Knife series, and sequel to The Emperor's Knife which I really enjoyed and reviewed some months ago. It was released last month, and still haven't managed to buy myself a copy despite my anticipation for reading it.

I was offered a copy of this one prior to Summer, and for some idiotic reason I declined the opportunity. Something about not wanting to commit to a review at the time when I knew I was pressed for time; something silly like that. Still, very much looking to read this one, it's been highly recommended to me.

I purposely avoided buying this when it came out. First, I was sure that I wasn't in the mood to read a 1,000+ page novel. Secondly, it was quite evident that it would take some time for the sequel to come out, particularly with Sanderson, despite being some sort of writing robot, was busy finishing up The Wheel of Time. But I think it's time now.

I'm a big fan of Tim Pratt's Marla Mason urban fantasy series, so this is a definite buy for me. I reviewed two of them, Poison Sleep and Dead Reign. Been hearing some great things about this one, and quite eager to experience the author in a new setting.

Spellbound by Blake Charlton

I've all ready read Spellbound and loved it. I managed to receive a signed ARC from the author, the very first ARC I received once I started this blog, but I want a real finished copy of the book and I also want my brother to read it. Considering that he practically destroys any book I lend him, there's no way in hell I'm going to give him a signed copy.

The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer

I won a finished copy of this book from The Night Bazaar, which was also signed by the author. So, the rule from above applies here too since I want my brother to read this series. I also reviewed the novel, while Bryce did a guest review here. Also finished the sequel recently, which was also very good and should be reviewing shortly.

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell

I've always seem to be in the mood for a YA superhero novel, or simply a superhero novel. Been wanting to give this a try for some time now, and since there have been recent rumors of a forthcoming sequel, I thought it was time to give it a shot. Has an interesting premise about an aspiring supervillain.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

From all I've seen, The Night Circus is a book tailored made for me. It gathered a lot of praise and hype when it came out, yet every time I got out to buy a few books, this novel never comes to mind.

Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Low Town was one of my favorite fantasy reads of last year, together with Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves, they provided a winning mixture of some of the elements I like in my urban fantasy reading, but taken to a secondary world setting in a first person narrative. Really looking forward to reading more about the Warden, but haven't heard any news about Tomorrow, the Killing being published in the US, and that won't stop me from getting myself a copy.

The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham

Much to my chagrin, I've haven't read as much of Daniel Abraham as I'd want. My only experience with him has been his urban fantasy books, The Black Sun's Daughter. Even though I've enjoyed them, I'm quite aware that his other books should be even better, and I've been missing out. I own all The Long Price Quartet books, and I also own the first of The Dagger & the Coin which I hope to read soon, so I'm hoping that buying the sequel will motivate me to read it sooner rather than later.

At the Gates and Echoes of the Past by Tim Marquitz

Demon Squad is one of my top urban fantasy series, and At the Gates in particular one my favorite reads in the last couple of years in the subgenre. I reviewed Resurrection, the 2nd novel in the series. Tim Marquitz keeps sending me unsolicited eARCs for these books when he knows full well I rather read the physical copies. Yet, I can't help myself and read them regardless, but now I need the actual books.

When We Were Executioners by J. M. McDermott

I really enjoyed the first in the series, Never Knew Another which I did a quick-reaction to not long ago. The book was as unique as it was thoughtful and insightful. Really want to get back to this very interesting world by quite the talented writer.

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

A couple of months ago, Tor sent me a copy of the latest in the Eddie LaCrosse series, Wake of the Bloody Angel, as a gift. Probably they were hoping I'd review it, but since I haven't read any of the prior novels, it simply wasn't going to happen. So a gift it is. That said, I've been quite interested in the series for some time now, and now that I have a copy of one of the books in the series, I've been forced to start the series at some point. It looks like Wake of the Bloody Angel might get reviewed after all. Well played Tor, well played... though it'll be quite some time before I get there.

Well crap, a bit longer of a list than I intended (and I'm sure I forgot a few as it is), so I doubt all of these will make the cut in the end for Christmas. Decisions, decisions...

What books will you be buying for yourself this Christmas? Any other recommendations for me?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

A few months ago I reviewed One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, and I praised it plenty. In particular, I made it a point to distinguish and commend McGuire for her writing skills which I felt was among the top in the genre, making her novels standout from the pack. It was with that in mind that I eagerly anticipated the next in the October Day series, Ashes of Honor, but can't help but be disappointed about a few aspects that I perceived worsened this time around.

My main hindrance in the enjoyment of Ashes of Honor was the repetition, and it began with "coffee". I was hard pressed to go a few pages, maybe even a few paragraphs without "coffee" being mentioned on some regard. And just about every scene was framed by coffee-related topics, usually about going over and over about how much Toby loves coffee, and how her friends are the best of friends because they know to bring her coffee, and going on about how she likes her coffee served, etc. By the third of the novel, I was already coffee'd-out with no end to it in sight. I mean, was there really a need to mention coffee about 76 times in the novel? I really don't think so. We crossed the line between portraying a personality quirk and a distraction. Had a similar problem with the use of "pennyroyal and musk", used to describe Tybalt's scent, particularly when he uses his fae abilities. Though a far less egregious use than what's described above, there was one particular passage that it seemed like Tybalt couldn't take two steps without Toby using this descriptor once more, then again. The scene really called for Toby to find a more varied way to narrate and describe Tybalt's actions.

The attention to detail wasn't up to standards either. Those close to Toby determined that she was suicidal, but the evidence presented in the narrative just didn't add up. Given, we knew that Toby went through a traumatic experience in the last novel, but absent of that knowledge, nothing presented should've led to these characters claiming she was suicidal. In fact, if it wasn't for that knowledge I would've thought she was doing quite well for herself. She has a very nice home, she's living with a self-made family who she cares about and they love her in return, she has her friends, and she seemed more comfortable with who she is in this world. Then they use as evidence her "going into danger alone" to conclude that she wants to get herself killed, but it's a non-sequitur. In a vacuum yes that's a good reason to suspect Toby destructive intentions; problem is that it's no different than her actions in the past, that's who she has always been. All to say a better job should've been done to lay the groundwork for the portrayal of the apparent depression Toby was going through during the time between the previous events and the start of this novel.

On a similar regard, I also felt that the actions taken by the villain towards the ends were uncharacteristically convenient for our heroes. A villain who was shown to be very smart, clever, and paranoid, yet in the end this character was anything but. Some dumb unnecessary strategic mistakes were made, and it really didn't hold up well as the climax came to be.

Lastly, the last contrary facet I'll mention is that there was a plot convergence towards the end that I personally didn't like. Though not a problem in any shape or form, I thought the story would have been much stronger and more powerful had they remained separate. As it were, there was a slight cheapening of some of the events, and the twist that brought it forward didn't have the weight it probably intended. I'm not going to lose any sleep over this particular objection though, just a personal preference observation. Many probably loved this particular development.

Now that I've managed to get my venting out of the way, I'd like to take the opportunity to say that even with the above, I still enjoyed the book. Certainly not the best in the series, but not the worst either, and the story progression was quite favorable. In fact, quite a few interesting things are going on that I'll be interested in seeing them unfold in the coming installments.

One thing I loved about Ashes of Honor was the re-focus it gave to the human world, something that has been fairly neglected until now (though we saw a bit in the previous book). There was more interaction with human characters, the police got involved, and it added a certain dynamic that really enriched all that Toby has gone through, and the world she's living in. I hope we see more of this going forward. Apart from the human world, McGuire took us to new places in the fae world, places I didn't think we'd get to experience, so that was a very nice touch as she keeps expanding this universe.

Character interaction is still going strong, something that I constantly see improving with each new novel. Tybalt and Toby scenes were great, and some interesting progressions going here as well, so we'll see how McGuire handles it going forward. Though I very much am in favor of the current happenings, it's something that's quite fragile and needs to be handled with care. There's also a certain tension and maybe some animosity growing between Toby and Luna (more from the former towards the latter) which I'm finding quite curious and interesting. It's something subtle, nothing full blown, in fact, for all intents and purposes they love and care about each other, but it's a relationship I'll be paying a very close attention as the story goes along.

I think my favorite aspect of the novel was the focus given to the Court of Cats. It had an interesting plot thread, and through it we learned about Tybalt's past and also of how the succession of the King works, so that added a good dimension to the story.

Ashes of Honor was an overall good read, but it was overshadowed by the aforementioned problems for me. I suspect not many readers that are this far along in the series will care much for these observations, and will end up loving the novel as is. I still very much stand by the October Daye series, one of the current favorites in the genre, but can't shake the disappointment with the latest novel given that the previous two were great. That said, urban fantasy readers who have yet to give this series a try, don't be discouraged to give this series a look. I highly recommend it.

Buy Ashes of Honor at The Book Depository.

For more information on the series, please visit Seanan McGuire's website and blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set by Iain M. Banks

November 28th, 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks, considered among the best in Science-Fiction. In October, The Hydrogen Sonata was published, becoming the 10th novel in the Culture series which began with Consider Phlebasin 1987. As part of celebrating the anniversary, Orbit has organized some activities through various social medias, beginning with an interview hosted on their blog

Here we're hosting a giveaway for the 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set which contains the first three books in the series: Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, and Use of Weapons. Looks like a good opportunity for those who haven't tried the series yet, like myself.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the first three bestselling Culture novels are now gathered into one collectible boxed set.
The war raged across the galaxy. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
The Culture -- a human/machine symbiotic society -- has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life -- and very possibly his death.
The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.
The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.
The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for US and Canada shipping addresses only, and it will run from November 28, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on December 7, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on December 7, 2012.
  • There'll be 1 winners total, for the 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone, also there should be more giveaways around as I'm not the only one hosting, so keep an eye out for them. The best way to find about them is to go to twitter and search for the #25YearsofCulture! hashtag.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Update Winners for Requiem and Eyes to See

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Here are the winners for last couple of giveaways on the blog.

Requiem by Tim Marquitz

This giveaway had a multitude of prizes and free stuff, but the main draw was Requiem which was the last book of the Blood War Trilogy, the dark epic fantasy series by Marquitz.

Requiem paperback winner:

  • erin f

Requiem eBook winners:

  • Danielle V.
  • Richard A.
  • Melissa H.
  • galena
  • Nuzaifa H.

There were also prizes for everyone who commented on the blog post during the duration of the giveaway, so everyone who did it won an ecopy of Embers of an Age and Armageddon Bound.

Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

Two mass paperback copies were up for grabs of Eyes to See, which is the first of the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle series. Next installment King of the Dead comes out tomorrow, and the winners:

  • Annah S.
  • Dannielle B.

Thanks everyone who took the time to participate, and congrats to all the winners. Make sure to come back this Wednesday for another book giveaway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mihir's Thoughts: From Man to Man by D.E.M Emrys

From Man To Man is the debut short story by D.E.M. Emrys, a prequel to his heroic fantasy book It Began With Ashes book one of The Wroge Elements saga. I've been fascinated by the veracity and ingenuity of Emry's book reviews that I've read (so far) as he was able to channel the essence of the book skillfully into his reviews, making them a thorough pleasure to read. Also he's a self-professed fan of David Gemmell and his debut book might be inspired by this legendary writer, which also amps up my anticipation for this title.

From Man To Man focuses on Draven Reinhardt, an older ex-warrior who hasn't lost any of his deadly martial skills, however has lost the reasons to continue as a warrior. He lives in a small village called Hidann wherein he strives to tread the path of an honest person working small but menial jobs. However destiny and his attitude mark him out to be otherwise. Soon after his most recent job loss, he gets an offer to use his skills albeit in a role as a guard, however things are never as crystal clear as they seem. Draven needs to find out whether he can continue to be the person he is attempting to be and also figure out where his future lies ultimately.

The author writes with a fairly sharp prose style, he sets up the story and introduces Draven and his miserable situation. This short story gives a stark look into what happens to the life of an ex-soldier and this perhaps is a dicey move as with the length of the story, it leaves the readers wanting to know more but not getting their due. The pace of the story is something that helps, as the story never loses steam and once the situation is set up, the reader is drawn into Draven’s world and thoughts. The reader will then have to follow through to the end of the tale wanting to see how it ends and what does Draven accomplish.

In my estimation this is a good short story with some deficiencies in regards to the story setup. Also the end action sequence & climax perhaps raises more questions than the answers it provides. It does however leave the reader with a strong desire to know more about the world and about Draven, who as an axe man, has big boots to fill. From Man To Man does serve its intended purpose to intrigue readers, present the main character and showcase the author’s skills. In the end I can vouch that it’s a good short story, which ends a bit sooner than expected. There’s also an excerpt of the upcoming book It Began With Ashes that helps in knowing more about the story to come. Give it a shot; I know I will, as I’ll be waiting to see where D.E.M. Emrys takes the story next.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Post: Urban Fantasy Anonymous by Justin from Staffer's Book Reviews

My name is Justin, and I don't like urban fantasy. This is where everyone says, "Hi Justin" and then I regale you with the stories about how the genre has burned me so often that I can longer stand to be in the same room with it. I might finish my little speech by saying, "And I've been urban fantasy free for 98 days." Someone might even give me a pin to commemorate my unreliance. Of course, that isn't really true. . . I do read urban fantasy. I'm just scared of wasting my life every time I do.

I think it's important to take a minute to discuss what I mean by urban fantasy. It's a horrifyingly easy term that means something different to every one who hears it. As a marketing subgenre, urban fantasy means a story set in contemporary times which contains supernatural elements (examples: Dresden Files, Anita Blake, et al.) and contains some element of romance (from a little to a ton). For the purposes of this article, that's the definition I'm working with because the actual definition, fantasy set in a city, is so benign as to be useless. Based on those assumptions, I find the subgenre predictable, hackneyed, and all together boring.

Rabble, Rabble, you're reading the wrong urban fantasy, Rabble Rabble.

No, I'm not. There are several urban fantasies from this year alone that I really enjoyed. Jim C. Hines's Libriomancer, Tom H. Pollock's The City's Son, and Jennifer Safrey's Tooth & Nail are all 2012 urban fantasies I can recommend. They do their genre proud. And yet, each of them are entirely predictable. They follow a linear plot structure, they have a romance, they're faced with a supernatural problem, and they solve it. Don't get me wrong, they're special in other ways. In the case of Libriomancer, it's literally inundated with author's joy for fantasy. The City's Son is a beautiful composition of fiction, bursting with allegory. Tooth & Nail is about Washington DC. What can I say, I'm a sucker for books about where I live. But, all of their plots are essentially boring. And so few urban fantasies excel enough elsewhere to overcome that deficiency.

The more likely outcome is my reaction to Alex Hughes's novel, Clean. I'm nodding off just writing the title. First person narrator who's a drug addict detective who happens to be smitten with his grouchy, but sexy, partner. Murders abound and a mystery much be solved! This is the urban fantasy I rail against; the cookie cutter sameness. It's not poorly written. It has a good pace and I can understand why someone might love it. What I can't understand, and what I refuse to accept, is that publishers and readers continue to want to read Clean and the fifteen other novels published this year just like it. Had Clean been the first novel of its kind, I might smile and nod. As it stands now, I roll my eyes and wonder why bother?

That's why I'm writing this post today and announcing a new organization. Urban Fantasy Anonymous, an organization dedicated to eradicating the reliance on homogeneous fiction. These are the rules under which the organization is formed:

  1. Our common mental faculty should come first; personal recovery depends upon our unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—an experienced blogger who's read enough to never recommend a sardonic heroine down on her luck, but ready to kick ass and take names.
  3. The only requirement for membership is no receipts from Pocket Books for six days.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting publishing house marketing strategies. In that case, organized guerrilla warfare is entirely acceptable.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the poor readers suffering under the thumb of lazy writing and wooden characters.
  6. A UFA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the UFA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest those endeavors lead to further lining the pockets of publishers and editors who seek to control us with sparkling vampires.
  7. Every UFA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions—urban fantasy in sheep's clothing is too risky!
  8. UFA should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers, which does not imply sex workers, who have suffered enough as murder victims in urban fantasy.
  9. UFA, as such, ought never be organized; to be organized is to be modular, which is to behave in the image of that we are trying to reject.
  10. UFA has no opinion on outside issues; our only public affairs concern is ensuring that the 2012 Presidential Election has nothing to do with Edward or Jacob. It's a public service.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on keeping a low profile. Readers empowered by urban fantasy can often be dangerous, in roving packs armed with katanas and lower back tattoos.
  12. Finally, we must be ever mindful to place stimulation before comfort.

Who's with me?

Justin can be found on his blog Staffer's Book Reviews (formerly known as Staffer's Musings) or on Twitter @jdiddyesquire. Some great SFF content there, so don't miss out. He's also recently joined the SF Signal group.

This marks the end of the guest posts on Urban Fantasy from bloggers and reviewers who for some reason the subgenre hasn't worked for them. There'll be a few more on-topic posts coming up though.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

Eyes to See is the first in the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle by Joseph Nassise. Later this month (November 27) the sequel, King of the Dead, is set to be released by TOR. With that in mind, we have a giveaway for 2 mass paperback copies of Eyes to See. I just started reading it myself, and so far looks like a good one.
In Joseph Nassise's Eyes to See, an urban fantasy that charts daring new territory in the field, Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: his marriage, his career, his reputation. Desperate to reclaim what he has lost, Hunt finally turns to the supernatural for justice.
Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and even more dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead and the powers that stalk his worst nightmares, Hunt embarks upon a strange new career—a pariah among the living; a scourge among the dead; doomed to walk between the light of day and the deepest darkness beyond night.
His love for his departed daughter sustains him when all is most hopeless, but Hunt is cursed by something more evil than he can possibly imagine. As he descends into the maelstrom of his terrifying quest, he discovers that even his deepest fears are but prelude to yet darker deeds by a powerful entity from beyond the grave…that will not let him go until it has used him for its own nefarious purposes.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for worldwide, and it will run from November 5, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on November 16, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on November 16, 2012.
  • There'll be 2 winners total, each with one copy of Eyes to See.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Guest Post: The Bizarre Mixture that is Urban Fantasy by Kathryn from The Forged Forest

Bastard asked me to do a post about urban fantasy, as it's something that is a touchy subject for me. Those who know me know that I tend to have a bad time with urban fantasy, and I really don't trust books that are marketed as such. Why? Well, it's really not that simple, and I've struggled to make points I'm comfortable with over about seven or eight draft versions now, so instead I'll just rant for a bit.

Urban Fantasy is, well, something I'm not too keen on. In fact, I'd say I'd go out of my way to avoid it for the most part. Covers with women with an inability to wear clothing made of anything but leather and malformed skeletons 'grace' a plethora of books, whereas many of the others feature a man with an allegy to clothing above his genitals and the most yawn-inducing chiseled figure. Sometimes, if you're really unlucky, you'll find a cover which has both!

Firstly, how can a publisher or a marketer expect me to take their books seriously if that's how they market them? I'm sorry, but I'm really not interested in Miss Rubber Spine's ass/side-boob pose, nor Mr McPertPecs' manboobs. Really, publishers? Really? Are you really so unimaginative that all of your models just have to show a minimum of 25% of their skin on your book covers?

And then we get to what's inside the books. Now, I'm probably missing some really good stories, but if you're going to have romance in your book then for the love of all that's unholy, put down those Mills & Boon titles and go and find out how couples really get together. If your heroine starts having an orgasm at the first sight of Mr McPertPecs (who's probably a werewolf or a vampire or both), then I'm really not going to read your book any further. If your heroine is drooling over him whilst she's supposed to be fighting, then I'm not going to read your book further. It's just bad.

Simply put, I hate this perpetual weakening of female characters in UF/PNR/DF/Whatever it's called today. I want to read about strong, capable women. I don't want to read about Sally Simple and her 'mate' (vom), I don't want to read about Mary Manlover and her insatiable thirst for manlove (vom) – I don't want any of it in my books. If you're going to write porn, go and write porn. Stop masquerading it – and, publishers, stop marketing it – as something else. You're doing yourself and fiction a disservice. That's not to say it doesn't happen in more traditional fantasy settings, because it does, but I find it much easier to avoid elsewhere. Whilst I must confess I've never particularly fancied reading them, it appears that UF books about gay male protagonists have the exact same marketing and 'taste' issues. It seems, bizarrely, that gay or bisexual women tend to be relegated to support roles in this genre (an exception being J.A. Pitts' Sarah Beauhall books, which I recommend, even considering the explicit sex).

This was my expression when I wrote this. Genuinely.
Do you get the idea? Yup. I appear to have stepped in paranormal romance or some sort of erotic sub-genre by mistake. Except it's massively pervasive in urban fantasy. The covers, the women (even if strong and independent) being beholden to men – I just can't seem to find anything without these elements. I've nothing against romance, but I get very annoyed when it overshadows the plot, or when it comes across as unrealistic.

See, for me, my vision of urban fantasy would probably be closer to contemporary fantasy. You know, books like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or Paul Cornell's upcoming London Falling. At a stretch, I'd go so far as to say books like many of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld titles, Jon Sprunk's Shadow series and Ari Marmell's Widdershins novels are urban fantasy – books that are fantastical and take place primarily in urban settings. What I'd love to see is publishers, and authors, differentiating more between romantic/erotic works and those focused more on plots.

I've probably come across as a bit harsh, maybe even hypocritical. Sure, I am - I know it. But to me, urban fantasy is this bizarre mixture of erotica and, well, contemporary fantasy. And the lack of clear separation makes it hard for me to find what I'm looking for.

Kathryn has her own blog The Forged Forest with all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy content, including some comics commentary. Alternatively, you can follow her on Twitter @Loerwyn.

A few months back she wrote a romance themed post titled Romance in Genre Fiction which I think is worth a read.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Requiem by Tim Marquitz

Three months ago we had a guest post by Tim Marquitz where he shared his challenges and lessons learned while writing a dark epic fantasy trilogy. I mention this because he just released the last novel of the Blood War Trilogy with the title Requiem.

It's Halloween, which apparently for Marquitz it means time to give free stuff. Now we have a giveaway for Requiem and other bonus freebies. As a quick reminder, you can get the first of the trilogy Dawn of War for free.

There's a free short story which was picking up plenty of dust in Marquitz's computer, it's a dark urban fantasy so should fit right in with Halloween. Its title is Into the Mirror Black with the short description, "Driven by darkness, Tyson sets the stage for the elder gods' return."

Those that have followed this blog know that I consider Marquitz's urban fantasy series Demon Squad one of the more underrated urban fantasy series out there, which also happens to be one of my favorites.

With that in mind and since this month I've had a series of urban fantasy related guest posts, as part of the Requiem giveaway, everyone who answers the question, "What's your most underrated urban fantasy title?" in the comments section of this post, Tim Marquitz will send you eBook copies of Armageddon Bound (the first of the Demon Squad series) and Embers of an Age (second novel of the Blood War Trilogy).

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

Giveaway will be for 1 paperback copy of Requiem  for a US participants, and 5 eBook copies of Requiem for all participants.

The giveaway is open for worldwide, but the paperback is US shipping addresses only; it will run from October 29, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on November 9, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on November 9, 2012.
  • There'll be 6 winner total (1 US participant for paperback and 5 worldwide participants for eBook of Requiem) 
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone and Happy Halloween! And don't forget to comment to get free shit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Post: Metamorphosis of Urban Fantasy and Cover Art Models by Andrea from the Little Red Reviewer

Urban Fantasy. it’s a slippery thing - sometimes scary, sometimes romantic, usually thrilling, often starring attractive people who try very hard to do the right thing. Pretty hard to say you’re a fan of something, or not, when it’s definition keeps changing every 5 years. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about most contemporary urban fantasy that just doesn’t do it for me (and by contemporary, I mean UF that was written in the last 5 years or so).

I was shocked at how difficult this essay was for me to write. I was getting so close, but my words never quite matched how I felt. If I was writing this the old skool way, on paper, with a pencil and an eraser, I’d have erased through the fibers of the paper by now.

I used to read Urban Fantasy, except back then we also called it Magical Realism, and many fans used those terms interchangeably. Some of my favorite authors in that genre were Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman. De Lint wrote about mythology come to life, regular midwestern college kids who had conversations with crows and coyotes, who traveled to other planes and returned mildly unscathed after seeing another level of our world. In Gaiman’s famous Neverwhere, readers got a look into an unknown London, where a regular Joe helps a woman in need and finds himself sucked into a fantastical and horribly dangerous world populated by all sorts of strange people.

For the most part, the UF books I was exposed to when I was younger, and this was before days of the blogosphere and Amazon, were populated by ultra scary paranormal creatures, and humans who ran away from them instead of befriending them or flirting with them. The urban fantasy of my youth was all about the hero’s journey, of the character being forever changed by their experience. The plot was more mystery or coming-of-age than romance, the characters more interested in staying not-dead or not-possessed than in making sure the reader knew they were strong and sexy, yet vulnerable too. The characters were also often quite pissed off about being ripped from their every day lives and forced to do fantasy type things, like slay monsters or talk to spirit animals, or move to a different plane through music. This isn’t to say that nothing written back then (or nothing I read) had paranormal creatures who had romances with humans - The Skin Trade by George R R Martin is an excellent example. That one sure scared the shit out of me.

And here’s the part of this essay where I use clunky and inelegant language in an attempt to say how I truly feel, end up sounding like an idiot, and possibly piss a bunch of folks off. Ya’ll ready for some epically inelegant language?

So much of the urban fantasy I see when I go to Barnes and Noble these days seems like a fashion spread for really tight pants, anorexia, and neat tattoos. A stupid reason to be sure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the cover art on a lot of these books is a major turn off to me. Judging a book by the cover? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I already said it was stupid.

I think I know what they’re attempting to do with that cover art. I could be 100% wrong, but I think they’re trying to tell me that this book features a strong female main character. See how strong she is? I know she’s strong because her back is arched, she’s really skinny, she’s showing me her butt and or midriff, she’s got some super hawt tattoos, and she’s probably holding a weapon at a really weird angle too. My gut reaction is that someone feels it’s very, very important that I know right away how ravishingly beautiful and sexy this character is, and that there aren’t any other attributes about her or the story than they’d like to convey to me via the cover art. She’s hot and sexy, and that should be enough for me, right? Umm... what?

Someone’s brilliant concept of “how to get someone to pick up this book” completely and utterly backfired on me.

Yes, I’m aware of the stupidity of judging a book by it’s cover. but hey, the first thing that caught my interest for the Hurley and the Bledsoe was the cover art, so it goes both ways.

I’m an equal opportunist - I don’t give a shit what the character’s gender is or if the person is attractive or not, or what gender the person on the cover is. I want a character who shouts from the cover art “spend 300 pages with me because I’m fascinating and I’ll change your life”, not one shouts “spend 300 pages with me because I look better in tight pants than you do”.

This is very difficult for me to explain, and no matter the words I use, I feel like I’m sounding like some shithead who wants to go back in time to when women weren’t strong characters in books, women writers couldn’t get contracts, and publishers didn’t want to work with women, and basically, women’s lives sucked like you can’t believe. I don’t mean to sound like that. remember what I said about clunky and inelegant language? Good thing I’m not really using these ovaries, they seem to be defective. Not enough feminism in there, also, not enough elegant words.

Am I knocking down an entire subgenre because of it’s cover art? A little bit. Does the author have any control over the cover art? Usually not. I’ll agree whole heartedly with anyone who says “but that’s stupid!”. Maybe deep down I’m just jealous of all those skinny babes who can eat all the carbs they want and never get fat. Maybe I’m scared of having to face my own insecurities. Would I read more UF if the cover art was different? Maybe, but maybe not. I prefer my fantasy much, much darker than a lot of UF goes. Wow, repression and insecurities! it’s a winning combo! Or not.

This isn’t to say I’m a total UF hater. I recently fell head over heels in love with Stina Leicht’s Of Blood and Honey (and it’s sequel And Blue Skies from Pain) and Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver. Both feature the expected trappings of urban fantasy - secrets hidden in plain sight, ancient mythos, a hidden world of non-humans, and doomed romances. The characters are brave, flawed, face destruction if their secrets are made public, and willing to do what needs doing even when afraid. The intriguing cover art didn’t hurt either.

It’s completely possible those two books spoiled me rotten when it comes to UF.

Urban fantasy is like every other genre and subgenre - there are people who love it, and people like me who aren’t so keen on it in large doses but still find the occasional title to enjoy. The way those books fly off the shelves at the bookstore, me preferring other types of books isn’t hurting their sales one bit.

Please visit the Little Red Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @redhead5318 for more reviews and insights of the sci-fi and fantasy community.

She also organized one of the more interesting projects I've seen around known as the Bookstore Bookblogger Connection. Through it she helps give online reviews a voice outside of the internet, while at the same time helping bookstores promote novels they're trying to sell. For more information about all that it entails, please read this description. It's very much a worthwhile project, so hope it succeeds in its endeavor.