Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.
For the rogues and fantasy readers out there, Orbit’s Fall line-up is an exciting one, and it includes the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish! Starting in October, we’re publishing the first three books back-to-back. Here’s an excerpt from the first book, A DANCE OF CLOAKS (US | UK | AUS)
For the past two weeks the simple building had been his safe house, but now Thren Felhorn distrusted its protection as he limped through the door. He clutched his right arm to his body, fighting to halt its trembling. Blood ran from his shoulder to his elbow, the arm cut by a poisoned blade.
“Damn you, Leon,” he said as he staggered across the wood floor, through a sparsely decorated room, and up to a wall made of plaster and oak. Even with his blurred vision he located the slight groove with his fingers. He pressed down, detaching an iron lock on the other side of the wall. A small door swung inward.
The master of the Spider Guild collapsed in a chair and removed his gray hood and cloak. He sat in a much larger room painted silver and decorated with pictures of mountains and fields. Removing his shirt, he gritted his teeth while pulling it over his wounded arm. The toxin had been meant to paralyze him, not kill him, but the fact was little comfort. Most likely Leon Connington had wanted him alive so he could sit in his padded chair and watch his “gentle touchers” bleed Thren drop by drop. The fat man’s treacherous words from their meeting ignited a fire in his gut that refused to die.
On cross-country road trip, a minotaur girl and an all-american boy will discover the adventure of a lifetime in HELEN AND TROY’S EPIC ROAD QUEST — a new comic fantasy by A. Lee Martinez! Publishers Weekly called it “a sweetly charming, gleefully entertaining tale of two teens traveling across the country, one mythic encounter at a time,” releases next week. Get ready to laugh out loud until your sides hurt and check out the first chapter!
The strangeness of a minotaur working at a burger joint wasn’t lost on Helen, but she’d needed a summer job. If she’d applied herself, she probably could’ve found something better, but it was only a few months until she started college, so why bother?
Fortunately Mr. Whiteleaf had been pretty cool about it. He didn’t make her flip burgers, and he didn’t make her stand out on the curb with a sandwich board as she’d feared he might. She usually ran the register, and while some customers might give her funny looks before placing their orders, that was their problem, not hers.
Full-blown minotaurism was rare in this day and age. Last time she’d checked, there had been thirteen recorded cases in the last hundred years. All the others were male. The enchantment or curse or whatever you wanted to call it usually didn’t take with girls. Not all the way.
The last full female minotaur, Gladys Hoffman, aka Minotaur Minnie, had made a name for herself as a strongwoman touring with P. T. Barnum’s Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome. Gladys had made the best of her circumstances, but that was 1880. The world was different now, and Helen had more options. Or so she liked to believe.
She was still a seven-foot girl with horns and hooves, dozens of case studies in various medical journals, and her very own Wikipedia page. But she’d learned to roll with the punches.
Based on the Hugo-winning short story, LOVE MINUS EIGHTY (US | UK | AUS) is a haunting and compelling story which Kirkus called “speculative fiction at its most personal and powerful”.
In this full-length novel, Will McIntosh expands upon the complexity of love, loss, and death in a future where advancements in medicine and cryogenics have changed the dating game in a major way. Although the technology may be unfamiliar, the challenges these characters face while struggling with issues of identity, existence, and the search for love ring eerily true for all of us. Read the prologue on io9 or continue on to the first chapter below.
Chapter 1: Rob AD 2103
The woman across the aisle from Rob yammered on as the micro-T rose above street level, threading through the Perrydot Building, lit offices buzzing past in a colorful blur. He should have taken his Scamp. Public transport was simpler, but he always seemed to share a compartment with someone who didn’t have the courtesy to subvocalize.
For no reason except that she was annoying the shit out of him, Rob decided to scan her to see how much work she’d had done on her face.
As his fingers danced over the skintight system on his left arm, the woman glanced his way and curled her lip—a microexpression that was there and gone in a flicker. Now he had another reason to dislike this complete stranger. No, his style wasn’t elegant and seamless, and he was tired of being judged by the technological glitterati as lacking some vital core because he only cared about making his system function, not how he looked doing it.
Hot on the heels of an exciting April which included some gut-wrenching moments in Game of Thrones and several great new fantasy novels to read, this May gives us every reason to continue celebrating. THE TYRANT’S LAW (US | UK | AUS), Daniel Abraham’s latest novel in the Dagger and Coin series, will be available for purchase next week!
Here’s an excerpt from the third novel in the series which RT Book Reviews called “easily the best of the series, and perhaps the best book this reviewer has read in the last 12 months!”
Milo slipped in the darkness, falling to one knee. The stones of the beach cut his skin, and the blood darkened the oiled wool of his leggings. The old fisherman, Kirot his name was, paused and looked back at him, lifting his lantern and one white eyebrow in query. Are you coming, or staying here? To the north, the waves cracked with ice. To the south, the deep darkness of the village waited for their return. Milo forced himself to stand. A little more blood would do him no harm. He’d lost enough, God knew. Kirot nodded and turned back to the long, slow trudge along the shore.
The rhythm of their steps sounded against the waves like the complex patterns of a marriage dance. Milo could almost conjure up the thrill of the violins and the tapping of the shell drums. He had heard it said that of all the thirteen races of mankind, the Haaverkin had the most exquisite sense of music. In fairness, he’d only heard this said by other Haaverkin. A woman’s voice rose in the music, ululating in a sensual harmony with the strings, and Milo recognized that he was hallucinating. The voice of the water, his father called it. He’d heard it before sometimes when he’d been out on the boats in the dim light before dawn or limping back in to shore after a long day on the cold northern waters. Sometimes it was music, other times voices in conversation or argument. Some of the very old or very young claimed that the sounds were real, that they were the Drowned calling out to their brother race. Milo’s father said that was rot and piss. It was only a man’s mind playing tricks on itself, and the roar of ice and water to give it ground to play on. And so that was what Milo believed.
The coast nearest his village was ragged. Cliffs and stony beach, fat green crabs and snow-grey gulls. Some nights the aurora danced green and gold in the sky, but tonight it was low dark cloud and the smell of snow coming. The moon struggled now and again through the cover, peeping down at the two men and then looking shyly away. No, not two men. Not yet. One man and one nearly so. Milo had been a boy that morning, and would be a man before he slept, but he was still in the dangerous place between places, neither one thing nor another. It was why. he was here.
Airships have somehow ended up becoming the ultimate symbol of steampunk fiction. But as much as we love their appearance in established steampunk classics such as Gail Carriger’s fantastic Parasol Protectorate novels, Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER and Stephen Hunt’s COURT OF THE AIR, I’m making a plea that we remember the humble airship does not have to remain in the domain of steam – and the punkification thereof!
I think it’s really time to claim back the airship for epic fantasy. What got me thinking about this was Terry Brooks’s new Dark Legacy of Shannara series, starting with WARDS OF FAERIE (UK / ANZ) and continuing with the recently released BLOODFIRE QUEST (UK / ANZ).
Airships have been in Terry Brooks’ novels for a while, ever since ILSE WITCH I believe, but it’s in his brand new series The Dark Legacy of Shannara that they’re really coming into their own. I couldn’t help thinking – I really, really want to own one of these airships.
Terry Brooks’ airships are like the suped-up, turbo charged versions of the common airship we’re all so familiar with. They’re powered by the sun – using ambient-light sails, something called diapson crystals and radian draws. Light gets converted into energy, and then this energy is expelled through what’s called the parse tubes. They’ve also got sails to gather extra power from the wind. They can easily fly at 1000 feet, and they’re kickass.
In WARDS OF FAERIE, things only get more exciting on the airship front. You don’t have to have read any previous Terry Brooks novels to enjoy this brand new novel, and you don’t have to know a lot about what’s gone before in airship automobile history to appreciate just how cool Terry’s speed-demon designs are.
To set the scene, there are two twins, Redden and Railing Ohmsford, who are thrill-seekers, risking life and limb racing special modified airships of their own design called Sprints.
Now I’m not into fancy cars, superbikes or private jets, but there’s something about these airships that really gets me salivating . . .
Sprints were one wicked pair of machines . . . Painted black from mast to keel, light sheaths black as well to better absorb the power of the sun, they had long, narrow hulls stripped of everything that might slow them down . . .
The controls were set to either side of a shallow depression that served as a cockpit, all within easy reach of the pilot. The pilot lay on his back with his head slightly elevated, facing forward down the length of his body toward the bow . . . Inside the cockpit, the thrusters and steering levers were manipulated by a combination of hands and feet, the cords that ran from the levers to the sheaths, rudder, and fins drawn so tightly that even the smallest amount of pressure would produce a response in the vessel’s handling . . .
These slender black monsters weren’t designed as transports; they were built to race.
*HUMANA, HUMANA* . . . It would be pretty cool to pull up outside Orbit Towers in one of those.
Now Terry Brooks certainly isn’t the only author to be using airships in a fantasy setting. A number of other authors doing this in books that are just as much fantasy as pure steampunk (Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadow of the Apt books, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and Neil Gailman’s STARDUST come to mind…).
But I think that Terry Brooks really is one of the pioneers making airships truly sexy. If anyone can think of sexier airships then I’d be open to opinions!
But all I’m going to say for now is, to quote an Amazon reviewer, “Hold onto your diapson crystals – Shannara is back!”
This week, the follow-up to VENGEANCE (US | UK | AUS) releases everywhere. Magic is failing and there are dark days ahead for the land of Hightspall . . .
If you haven’t picked up the first book of The Tainted Realm series, you can check our the first chapter here or find out what fans are already saying about it on Ian’s Facebook page.
The action does not let up in the latest novel, REBELLION (US | UK | AUS). From the first pages you’ll be caught up in the epic struggle as Rix and Tali fight against a villain hellbent on destroying the world in order to rebuild it according to his desires. Read an excerpt below.
“Lord Rixium?” Her voice was desperate. “You gotta get up now. The enemy are coming. Coming fast.”
Rix’s right wrist throbbed abominably, and so did the back of his head. He groaned, rolled over and cracked his ear on a stone edge. His cheek and chest were numb, as if he’d been lying on ice.
“What . . . ?” he mumbled. “Where . . . ?” His eyes were gummed shut and he didn’t want to open them. Didn’t want to see.
“Chancellor’s stolen Tali and Rannilt away, to milk their healing blood.”
Art first glance Wink, New Mexico is a seemingly normal town except that you won’t’ find it on any map. You see Wink should not exist, but that is not the strangest thing you’ll find there when you crack open AMERICAN ELSEWHERE (US | UK | AUS) – the latest novel from Edgar Award winning author Robert JacksonBennett.
Check out Publishers Weekly starred review and read the first chapter of this riveting novel.
“Bennett (The Troupe) gives the idealized image of the American dream a pan-dimensional twist with this alien invasion tale, part Bradbury and part L’Engle with a dash of Edward Scissorhands…Through sharp empathetic detail, the horrific becomes both achingly poignant and comic; a wholesome diner where no one can ever order just one piece of pie shares space with a harsh alien landscape where a quivering blue imp cowers in terror while pleading for his life. Readers will be captivated from start to finish.” - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Even though it is a fairly cool night, Norris is sweating abundantly. The sweat leaks out of his temples and the top of his skull and runs down his cheeks to pool around his collarbones. He feels little trickles weaving down his arms to soak into the elbows and wrists of his shirt. The entire car now has a saline reek, like a locker room.
Norris is sitting in the driver’s seat with the car running, and for the past twenty minutes he’s been debating whether leaving the car running was a good idea or not. He’s made several mental charts of pros and cons and probabilities, and overall he thinks it was a good idea: the odds that someone will notice the sound of a car idling on this neighborhood lane, and check it out and sense something suspicious, feel fairly low; whereas the odds of him fumbling with the ignition or the clutch if he needs to start the car quickly seem very, very high right now. He is so convinced of his own impending clumsiness that he hasn’t even dared to take his hands off the steering wheel. He is gripping it so hard and his palms are so sweaty that he doesn’t know if he could remove them if he tried. Suction, he thinks. I’m stuck here forever, no matter who notices what.
He’s not sure why he’s so worried about being noticed. No one lives in the neighboring houses. Though it is not posted anywhere—in any visual manner, that is—this part of town is not open to the public. There is only one resident on this street.
Norris leans forward in his seat to reexamine the house. He is parked right before its front walk. Behind the car is a small, neat gravel driveway that breaks off from the paved road and curves down the slope to a massive garage. The house itself is very, very big, but its size is mostly hidden behind the Englemann spruces; one can make out only hints of pristine white wooden siding, sprawling lantana, perfectly draped windows, and clean red-brick walls. And there, at the end of the front walk, is a modest, inviting front door with a coat of bright red paint and a cheery bronze handle.
It is a flawless house, really, a dream house. It is a dream house not only in the sense that anyone would dream of living there; rather, it is so perfect that a house like this could exist only in a dream.
Next month is the release of Francis Knight’s thrilling debut fantasy FADE TO BLACK (US | UK | ANZ). Like the city of Mahala, a city built upwards, not across – where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings, FADE TO BLACK will surely rise as a favorite among fantasy readers this year. Check out some of the great praise this book has already received including a review by Felicia Day.
“The world building is crazy interesting, the characters are very noir, and the plot was enough to keep me on my toes..I’m very excited to read the second in the series for sure!” – Felicia Day
“This is a great fantasy debut, introducing us to an intriguing new character, and the beginning of something really quite brilliant….Knight has a real flare for description, and imbues Rojan’s observations with a wry wit and keen eye.” - Civilian Reader
“A very strong debut from a novelist of vision who has built an intriguing sandbox to play in, with plenty of twists, turns and surprising moments.” – Fantasy Faction
The first chapter can be read here while My Bookish Ways and Bookworm Blues will have the next exciting chapters for you all later this week. So get ready for the Rojan Dizon series, and watch your step! Darkness and corruption are everywhere in Mahala, and if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself falling into the depths of the Pit.
I forced the door, nice and quiet, with my ever-so-slightly-illegal pulse pistol at the ready. Magic wasn’t usually on the agenda for runaways, but this little madam was exceptional: booby traps a speciality – I’d almost gone up in flames this morning. Twice. If it wasn’t for the obscene amount of money her parents had offered me to find her, I’d have given it up as a bad job.
The room beyond the door was even more dingy and rubbish-strewn than the corridor, and that was saying something. Rainwater had driven through a broken window and the faint stench of synth drifted up from where it pooled. I sidestepped around it. You could catch a fatal dose and never know until it was too late. Residents hurried away behind me with a mutter of footfalls. One sight of me, a burly man in a subtly armoured, close-fitting all over with a flapping black coat, and the scavenge-rat teens that called this place home took to their heels. I dare say it looked too much like a Ministry Special’s uniform with an added coat. Living this far down, a nose for trouble was essential.
I checked around carefully, trying to listen past the far rumble and thump of factories above us. A flash of movement off to my left, a hint of bright blue shirt. Lise, the girl I was after. With nothing to alarm me – yet – I made my careful way in. There it was again: a flicker of blue, floating in the gloom. I slid my fingers round the pistol’s trigger and pointed it.
Xandra is back next month in the next installment of the Immortal Empire series! THE QUEEN IS DEAD (US | UK | AUS) will knock your spats off when a new threat to kingdom and crown rises up and Xandra and her family find themselves again at the heart of the matter.
The first chapter can be found here, but if you haven’t read GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (US | UK | AUS) yet, HOLD UP! There are some major spoilers ahead. So do yourself a favor and start with GOD SAVE THE QUEEN – a unique blend of urban fantasy and Victorian flare. Check out some of the great praise these novels have received.
Praise for the Immortal Empire series:
“Locke has developed an intricate and darkly political world that has various races on edge and on the verge of confrontation. Packed with knife-edged danger, treachery and murder, nothing is simple, as Xandra quickly learns. Although it certainly helps to have read the first book in Locke’s Immortal Empire series, readers can pick up the story from here. If you like your steampunk gritty and challenging, this is the series for you!” – RT Reviews on THE QUEEN IS DEAD
“Readers will be intrigued by the author’s original take on the origins of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures and their interactions with “normal” humans. Rapid-paced action and an original interpretation of goblins (they are not J.K. Rowling’s cranky, clever, gold-centric goblins) add much to differentiate Locke’s fantasy from the rest of the pack.” – Library Journal on GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
“This is truly a book to sink your teeth into.” – SF REVU on GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
Read Chapter One of SEVEN KINGS (US | UK| AUS) by John R. Fultz, the second instalment of a magnificent story of an age of legends – where the children of giants do battle with ancient sorcerers, and no less is at stake than the fate of the world.
1: Three Lives
The colors of the jungle were bloody red and midnight black.
Whispers of fog rustled the scarlet fronds, and the poison juices of orchids glistened on vine and petal. Red ferns grew in clusters about the roots of colossal carmine trees. Patches of russet moss hid the nests of red vipers and coral spiders. Black shadows danced beneath a canopy of branches that denied both sun and moon. Toads dark as ravens croaked songs of death among the florid mushrooms. Clouds of hungry insects filled the air, and red tigers prowled silent as dreams.
Death waited for him in the jungle. There was nothing else to find here. No refuge, no escape, no safety or comfort. This place offered none of those, only a savage end to suffering and a blinding slip into eternity. Tong expected to die here, and he welcomed it. He would die a free man, his knees no longer bent in slavery. He ran barefoot and bleeding through the bloodshot wilderness.
Yes, he would die soon. But not yet. He would take more of their worthless lives with him. This was why he fled the scene of his first murder and entered the poison wilderness. It was not to save himself from the retribution of his oppressors. He fled so they would chase him into this scarlet realm of death. The dense jungle and its dangers gave him precious time. Time to steal the lives of the men who chased him. He would survive just long enough to kill them all; then he would give his life gladly to the jungle and its cruel mercy.
Only then would he allow himself to seek Matay in the green fields of the Deathlands.