Review: THE COPPER PROMISE by Jen Williams

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I picked up The Copper Promise not because I follow author Jen Williams on Twitter (and you should too) but because of two things:

  1. Big ass dragon on the cover.
  2. I like stories where there is payback.

I don’t quite know where to begin in this review because there is a hell of a lot going on in the book. We have a trio of characters, two are hired swords and their employer, a certain nobleman named Lord Frith (who has a chip on his shoulder the size of a large asteroid) heading into a very dangerous place where you don’t really come out alive…. and yet they somehow do. And this all happens very quickly so what I think Jen Williams has done nicely (and perhaps one of the reasons I don’t read as much epic fantasy as I should) is to weave the world building and the character’s motivations together by means of action. A hell of a lot of action, real fast. Within the first handful of chapters.

This is a formula I quite like and as a result, I was drawn into a story that is very broad in scope, yet somehow manages to keep the action flowing while maintaining a great deal of reader buy-in to each of the three main characters. And bad guys? Holy crap, does Williams write good bad guys, particularly Fane, who is a dirt bag of the highest order and someone you want killed of ASAP because he’s such a huge prick!

Sebastian is a wonderful grounding character for the over the top Wydrin who basically wants to stab every bad guy she sees in the face with her claws. Oh no, this girl isn’t into swords at all. She’s into daggers which means really nasty close quarter combat. She’s a great character who in another author’s hands might have come off as a bit too over the top. She has her moments of insight and the nature of her relationship with Sebastian is such that you can’t help but want her in your corner no matter what. Where Sebastian is sworn to duty, Wydrin is sworn to raise a little hell. I quite liked that.

Of course when you are on a quest, bad things tend to happen and in this book, we see the trio inadvertently release a great evil, namely the aforementioned big ass dragon. Oh, and her daughters. An unstoppable force that lay waste to everything in their path. They kill people, by the way. Everyone. Big or small, fat or tall, old or young. (The daughters are very complex characters in their own right. Not human, but seemingly titillated by humanity in the same way a child looks through a frost covered window at a train set during the holiday season – just before that same child stomps on all their toys in a violent rage come Boxing Day.)

The stakes are high throughout the book. There are very few moments of down time for our flawed but fascinating heroes. Often they take one step forward and two steps back but as you become immersed in the story, you can see how the characters learn to rely on each other.

The quality of Williams’ writing as fantastic. Her knack for descriptive prose is admirable and she’s the kind of writer I like – one who can paint a picture in a single sentence instead of five paragraphs. (Because some epic fantasy authors love the sound of their own world building they need to give each new locale, person, motive or plot point its own chapter.)

Overall, I highly recommend this book because it’s just plain fun. The reader gets a wild ride through a world that is as original as the characters who live there. A great read. Go get it!

 

Here’s where Jen lives on the Internets

Here’s where you can buy her book!

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Review: THE CORMORANT by Chuck Wendig

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I just finished the third book in Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. This is punk dark fantasy. Period. End of story. Full stop.

Why?

Because every time I read about Miriam Black, I can hear the Sex Pistols and The Exploited jamming together in my head with every turn of the page. In my humble opinion, Ms. Black is the most bad ass, the most kick your teeth in, the most dangerous and unpredictable female protagonist in fantasy books today. If there were vampires, she wouldn’t sleep with them – she’d grab a flamethrower and a 40 ounce bottle of Jack Daniels, chug it back and exterminate them. She will @#$% up your sh*t. Again, period. Full stop. End of story.

There is a percussive rhythm to Wendig’s style of writing and in this installment of my favorite train wreck’s misadventures, we see Miriam as a suspected serial killer at the start of the book. She’s being interrogated by the FBI and she’s as defiant as ever. She’s got a story to tell  – so unbelievable at times, you actually have to feel sorry for the pair of agents who are trying to string together some kind of truth to a roller coaster ride that takes the reader all over the Florida Keys, to Miami, to the seediest spots you can think of. And folks, nobody writes seedy better than Wendig. The strength of the series is in Miriam herself, because she’s trying like hell to eke out an existence from book to book. An existence comprised largely of ten and twenty dollar bills, endless cigarettes (a lot of them bummed from others) stolen automobiles, knife and gun violence not to mention hard liquor that can also be used to strip paint off an old house.

And why wouldn’t she be screwed up? When she touches your skin she sees your end. Sometimes you burn to death in an overturned car or rot away from the inside thanks to cancer. Maybe you’re an old man with dementia and you fall down the stairs or maybe someone puts a bullet in the back of your head when you least expect it. This is Miriam’s existence. This is her life, curse, burden .. whatever. I can’t think of any other female lead who faces the kinds of things Miriam faces. She’s a creature of the shadows, really, and in this book, Wendig paints a vivid picture of those shadowy places where the rest of us roll up the windows, lock the car doors and hope like hell we can still make that green light ahead.

The plot is a simple mystery with a supernatural twist. Miriam is drawn to Florida because someone wants to pay her $5K to find out how and when he dies. And when she gets there, when she steps inside her time machine of the macabre, she’s greeted by a killer who knows her name and wants her dead. Someone, it seems, who knows about her unique ability and who sets up an elaborate scheme just to grab her attention. Hi jinks ensue. Really. Bloody. Hi jinks. (Sniff the cordite. Just sniff it!!)

Buckle up dear reader. Have a belt of something that will burn a hole in your stomach. Light up a smoke and prepare yourself because you know what? You’re going to get some of this story on you as you read. Why? Because there are very few authors I’ve read who have absolutely mastered the art of showing and not telling. (Seriously, are you thinking of trying to get published? You should read all of Wendig’s books because he’s going to school you on how it’s done.)

A damned good book by a damned good author. An anti-hero protagonist who could easily kick Randall Flagg in the balls while mashing her fist in the face of the Devil himself. It’s the bad part of town for nearly three hundred pages. Grab a stab vest, won’t you?

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Cover Reveal: To Catch a Cat Thief

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Hey look! It’s the cover art for my forthcoming middle grade debut, To Catch a Cat Thief!

What’s it about? Have a read below!

Hundreds of cats are missing! Fear not-Penelope Ann Pickersgill and her hippie grandma are on the case!

While her friends go to cool camps, twelve-year-old Penelope has to spend the summer with Grandma Bev, who is convinced that cat-eating aliens are beaming the town’s furry friends aboard their mother ship at night. Lights in the sky point to UFO’s, but Penelope is sure there’s a more logical explanation. With a little help from Sherlock Holmes, she and Grandma Bev set out to find the cats. Will they be able to solve the mystery before all the cats in Thornhill disappear?

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Why yes, that’s a Dodge Caravan painted up hippie-style!

This is my first book published by a Canadian publisher, so that’s a pretty big deal to me. Rebelight Publishing calls Winnipeg its home ( yes, a place colder than where I live in Saskatoon) and I’m pleased as punch to have this romp of a missing cat mystery published by them. It’s already listed on Amazon, you can pre-order a copy here and here.  It comes out in October (even though Amazon says September 15th). I’ll be doing a launch here in Saskatoon and hopefully getting some copies out into the hands of bloggers for a few reviews before the big day.

So … there you go. Nice to get something fun out to the Interweb on a Monday morning!

 

 

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Behold … terrifying professional athlete images in Saskatoon

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I was parked across the road from these images at a local sports bar this past weekend. Naturally, I have experienced nightmares for three consecutive nights. Still, there’s probably a terrifying children’s story in this somewhere ….

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If You Look North You Can See The Aurora(s)

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Much has been written about the Hugo Awards, sad puppies, Vox Day and his ilk by smarter people than me, so I’m not going to comment on the politicized hot mess this year’s awards have turned into other than to say it’s been wrecked by a handful of uber-agendized types and it’s no longer about quality SFF, which is a damned shame for authors and readers everywhere.

Here in Canada, we have our own excellent award for the SFF community – The Auroras. And really, aside from having exceptionally good drive thru coffee from a vendor named after a dead hockey player, Canada also produces some world-class SFF. Here’s a blurb from the award website:

The Prix Aurora Awards are given out annually to honour the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy literary works, artwork, and fan activities from the previous year. The event is organized by Canvention, and the awards are given out by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA). Canvention alternates between eastern and western Canadian conventions where they host the Aurora awards ceremony and the society’s annual general meeting.

Awards for Canadian SF and fantasy were first given out at Halcon 2 in 1980 and were first called the Aurora Awards in1990 at Con-Version 7 in Calgary. Voting for the awards is open to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Hey look: here’s a list of past winners! (Seriously, who DOESN’T love Tanya Huff or Robert J. Sawyer or Edward Willett? (who lives two hours down the road from me))

This year’s slate of eligible books includes authors ranging from Peter Watts  to Julie Czerneda to Edward Willett once again and even yours truly. There’s YA, Short Fiction, Graphic Novels, Poetry, Artists, Fan Publication … the list goes on. All it takes to vote is a valid membership with the CSFFA (which costs like, ten bucks – a bargain!) and of course, you have to be a Canadian or a Permanent Resident.

There’s only ten days left to nominate eligible works to this year’s awards – April 25th is the deadline day. So do have a look at the website and the authors whose exceptional books and stories are all deserving of recognition. We have amazing authors north of the 49th parallel and I hope you check out their stuff.

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