Q & A: Nicky Drayden Talks ‘The Prey of Gods’

Nicky DraydenOne of my most highly anticipated novels this year is The Prey of Gods, a debut from Nicky Drayden with a cover that caught my eye and a blurb that made my heart start thumping.  I have read it, and a review will be up next week consisting mostly of me jumping up and down for joy and yelling at people to listen to me when I tell them to pick up a book.  And as I am wont to I then begged for the opportunity to ask the author a few questions.

Thankfully I once again got a yes.  But first the vitals!  The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden, release date of June 13, 2017 from Harper Voyager.

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

And now, for the Q & A… Continue reading

Q & A with Maurice Broaddus

First posted to Booknest.eu

While Tor.com has a very full and impressive lineup of novellas coming out in the near future the one that stood out the most to me was Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus.  A secret agent escorting a mysterious young boy through a North America completely different from our own?  What is not to want?  After reading the tale, and enjoying it very much, I asked if the author would be willing to answer a few questions.  Thankfully he agreed!  But first, some information on the upcoming tale!

Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.

Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.

Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.

Publication Date: April 25 – Available for pre-order NOW

 

First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to a Q & A.  I loved Buffalo Soldier and have a major fascination with GOOD alternative history and just had to ask a few questions.

Continue reading

Q & A: Lara Elena Donnelly talks Amberlough

lara-donnelly_credit-debra-wilburnCrossposted to Booknest

Earlier this week I raved about Amberlough, the amazing debut from Lara Elena Donnelly.  I was not even halfway through the book before I realized I absolutely had to ask the author for a chance to do a Q & A session.  Graciously she agreed!  No further ado needed; I present to you you good readers… Lara Elena Donnelly.

First of all. Thank you for agreeing to do a quick Q&A. I loved Amberlough and wasn’t even halfway through it before I was contacting your publicist to ask for this opportunity.

LD: Thanks so much for saying so! I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

This was both a political and character driven book. Which came first; Amberlough City or the characters who live in it?

LD: Aristide Makricosta came first, fully formed and standing alone in a desolate mountain pass. And then I had to figure out who he was and where he’d come from. So Amberlough city was born. I figured only a place that crooked and glamorous could produce someone like Ari, and that he’d only ever leave it for the mountains if it was well and truly doomed. Continue reading

Reviews: ‘Last Song Before Night’ by Ilana C. Myer and ‘Updraft’ by Fran Wilde

UpdraftOn the surface there is almost nothing to compare between Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer and Updraft by Fran Wilde. Last Song Before Night is a very generic fantasy world with a seemingly unique hook. Magic in the form of poetry has been made mostly impotent and after a string of murders a small group works to bring back the magic against the wishes of the royal poet who still seems to control it. With the power of language right at the front this had potential to be a fantasy with something to say. Updraft on the other hand is a world I have never seen before; living towers growing high above the clouds house the remnants of humanity. With people relying on gliders for travel and trial by (air) combat one could rightfully expect this to be an action adventure with a bit of weird.

In both cases my expectations were wrong; once for the better and the other, unfortunately, not. So why am I comparing these two books?

Let me lay down a promotional quote for one of these books.

‘Themes of censorship, patriarchy, feminism, and the power of art as an engine for social change run throughout…’

Now to be fair I realize the author has nothing to do with these quotes and more than once I have seen books get a bad shake from their promotional material. But in this case I think the quote is quite favorable for the book in question; certainly I do believe that there was a general aim to look at censorship, patriarchy, etc in the book in question. I compare these two books because while the above quote was meant to promote Last Song Before Night I think it was given to the wrong book.

Yes it is Updraft that surprised me, a much deeper book than the high flying (catch that pun?) premise put out front. In this very solid debut we see a land where language, and especially songs, can be used to control the populous. Those truly in power have very different versions of the songs being used to teach.  They also control their secrets religiously. Yet in this sky based world there is the illusion of fairness to the system of oppression, in part because the oppressors have some real justifications for what they do. In fact they believe whole heartedly what they do is for the best. And so trial by combat is allowed; with challengers having the chance to take on the guardians who control them. But even here the illusion is easily broken; silence is a must and the trials themselves are of course questionable in their credibility.

So Updraft looks at censorship in some depth. It also looks at ‘art as an engine for social change.’ Living is sky cities paper is obviously not a possibility and as such writing is at a premium. Small pieces of carved bone, with a combination of symbolism and art, is one of the driving catalyst that moves things forward. And while it is hard as a cis male to make any claims to know feminism I would humbly proclaim that a land where an ingrained patriarchy is not present (evidenced by the fact that the young protagonists’ gender is never a hindrance) is a good example of breaking from some common fantasy pitfalls that promote a patriarchal worldview.

‘Themes of censorship, patriarchy, feminism, and the power of art as an engine for social change run throughout…’

On the other hand I read Last Song Before Night. It had a very generic setting seen often in Last Song Before Nightfantasy; that of royals, nobles behaving badly, and an ingrained patriarchy that leaves nothing for the women outside of drudgery (and prostitution or course). To rise above this bland background it was a book that needed a strong hook. And that hook was supposed to be poetry as magic. It pulled me in, I love the thought of a book looking into the power or language in a new way. Language is powerful, magical language should be even better. Unfortunately the lost magic of poetry was treated as nothing more than a lost magic. The poetry, and the language of it, it didn’t matter at all; it could have been any generic lost relic that was causing magic to fail and had the same effect within this story. With that realization the censorship being enforced by the Court Poet was no longer a complex act; it was just an evil power grab. There was no subtlety, no complexity, no reason to really get interested.

Once the realization came that there was no subtle play looking into censorship or the power of language the whole book unraveled for me. Because the lack of subtlety became a theme throughout. The most evil poet in the land is evil. The main character is fighting patriarchy… kind of. Really she is getting away with a little bit that other women can’t because of some lucky influence. When she does make a breakthrough it is unconvincing; a powerful man says it is OK so suddenly she is a trailblazer. A secondary villain is a stock bad guy; beats women, kills for fun, and plays cruel games of seduction. Only a couple of characters had any depth that allowed them to seem human i.e. make and learn from mistakes.

The problem was not that Last Song Before Night was badly written rather that it never holds up to its promise. It is perfectly readable, and while I am not a fan of dreamland like dimensions used to wrap things up I would say it is solidly plotted throughout. It just lacked any kind of depth and wasn’t the type of book trying to overcome that shortcoming with action. This made it an easy to read but never engaging story. It was a book that I was looking forward to ending, which probably sums up my feelings better than anything else.

Compare to Updraft and the difference is night and day. I said Updraft has surprising depth but it also had a great amount of action. It was easy to read and ultra-captivating; mixing death defying acts of flight with some real soul. It succeeds in mixing its pace up so as never to overload the reader. And I was racing to the final page not to get it over with but because I really had to know how it would all end.

Two books, nothing at all alike outside of seemingly having some similar themes to explore. I wish I could have loved them both but I am very glad to have read Updraft.

Q & A: Alex Marshall talks ‘A Crown for Cold Silver’

A Crown For Cold SilverFIVE VILLAINS. ONE LEGENDARY GENERAL. A FINAL QUEST FOR VENGEANCE.

Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

One of my favorite reads of last year, A Crown for Cold Silver, is being released in paperback this week.  Alex Marshall was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, writing it, and the series as a whole.  My attempt to sneak in a question about the pseudonym was unfortunately spotted though.  No big reveal coming is today =)

First off, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I am honored and I absolutely loved A Crown for Cold Silver. Because I hope my readers have the same interests as me I hope you don’t mind a line of questioning designed to sate my own curiosity!

I have talked about your book quite a bit because it is a book I really enjoyed. It was dark, gritty, funny, deep, and subversive as hell. But one question has come up in various conversations that I can’t seem to answer. Do you consider A Crown for Cold Silver to be a parody of the popular dark fantasy style (GRIMDARK) or is it a loving homage? Or were you considering the larger fantasy picture at all as your wrote it?

I consider it to be part of a long and worthy tradition, one that is very near to my heart…but no tradition is perfect, and applying a critical eye to even those that that we love helps contribute to the whole instead of detracting from it. So while there’s humor in the work that’s predicated on certain preconceptions about dark fantasy, the novel is by no means a parody. I approached the project with the utmost sincerity.

Something a little more plot specific I was wondering about. It took me a while to realize Maroto considered Zosia in a very manic pixie dream girl type of way, something that Zosia wanted no part of. This may be closely related to the previous question but did you deliberately built up specific tropes just to break them back down?

As mentioned, I’m obviously aware of all the tropes we know and love—and those we groan at—but whether I played with or against them depended on the how the characters and their world came to life, versus an overwhelming desire to take the piss. Mostly. My goal is always to tell an interesting tale that grows organically from the personalities of the players, not shoe-horn in heavy-handed statements, even those I agree with. I’m not naïve enough to think I’m reinventing the battle ax here, just offering my own modern style on a classic design.

Quite frankly I found A Crown for Cold Silver to be hilarious; often I was laughing at very inappropriate times in the story. I know writing humor is one of the hardest aspects of the craft. Does mixing humor with more serious tones make it easier, something that just flowed with your writing? Or was it always a struggle to craft just right?

I’m glad you appreciated it, and yes, it has to flow naturally or you’re in serious trouble—forcing in humor is even worse than forcing in messages.

All of Zosia’s ‘villains’ were well crafted with unique personalities. Maroto seems to get the most page time so let’s ignore him for a bit. Do you find yourself with a personal favorite villain while writing?

That’s a tough question, in part because we only see the rest of the Villains through the perspectives of their friends and foes, and in part because I’m rubbish at picking favorites in the first place. I suppose I’ll go with Hoartrap the Touch, if only because writing about weird wizards is obviously its own reward.

Last one, I promise. Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect in the future from you and this world?

I’m not going to be done with Star and it’s many villains for some time—Book II is already in the bag, and the third is in progress. In the sequel we’ll see the scale of the peril vastly expand, even as personal conflicts sharpen to fatal points. We’ll also get to experience the perspective of characters who have thus far existed on the periphery, and the world will grow larger and richer even as its entire future is threatened. Before the end readers won’t have to wish on any devils to discover the eldritch secrets of the First Dark, and even if few of the characters particularly enjoy the ride I suspect my audience will.

Thank you so much for your time. As I said, I loved the book. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

It’s been my pleasure, and thanks again for reading.

 

Marshall, Alex (1608265)Alex Marshall my friends!  Anyone good enough for a blurb from Kameron Hurley ought to be good enough for all of us.

Alex Marshall is a pseudonym for an acclaimed author who has previously published several novels in different genres. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/authors/alex-marshall/#about