SFF prints and ART GIVEAWAY by Rin from The 13th Shelf

Updates

Happy birthday to Parsecs & Parchment! Throughout my time in the SFF book blogosphere, Jon’s blog has been a must-read for me, as his stamp of approval is rare and hard-earned. He’s introduced me to some fantastic authors that really made my year, and my TBR is littered with his top recommendations. I’m honored that he has asked me to write a guest post to help him celebrate his blog’s anniversary.

My own blog, The 13th Shelf, is not just about sci-fi and fantasy books. I think one of the best things about SF&F is that it’s a genre that has affected all sorts of media and art forms. I love how the limitless potential of speculative fiction finds its way out of book covers and into our lives in beautiful and inspiring ways.

Today I’d like to share some SFF art prints to decorate the walls of your reading spaces, and in celebration of Parsecs & Parchment’s birthday, I’d like to host a giveaway for one of the prints featured here. Read the rules and requirements at the end of this post!


Last Studio – Travel Middle Earth Print Set, $40 USD for eight 5.5″ x 7″ prints

Rather than the somber greens and grays of a Peter Jackson movie, these depictions of classic Tolkien locations pull inspiration from American mid-century animation styles to show Middle Earth as a bright and vividly detailed world that would not be out of place in a 1950s Disney movie. Framed together near your favorite reading nook, they bring a refreshing pop of color to SFF shelves that are often rife with book covers dominated by blacks, blues and washed out pastels.


Prints by Ulla Thynell (pictured above: Blooming Forest, $28 USD for 18” x 13.” Pictured below: Dragon Hills, $28 USD for 19” x 11”)

Thynell’s whimsical watercolors evoke all the nostalgia of vintage picture books, with faraway castles, dragons and unicorns set amid dreamy, ethereal forests—perfect for anyone whose love of fantasy blossomed in the illustrations of hand-me-down children’s books.



Pop Chart specializes in…well, charts. Big charts, with an insane amount of detail. They have an interesting collection of book-themed posters (including scratch-off prints for those wanting to read 100 classics), but for the SFF set, the Harry Potter posted is a fun choice. (If adult fantasy is more your thing, check out their Game of Thrones print, which illustrates everything from the armor, weapons and crowns of all the houses to their castles and horses.)


Stephan Martiniere’s archival prints, $30 USD for 13” x 19” (pictured left: Elantris, pictured right: Dark Forest)

Stephan Martiniere is one of my favorite concept artists—and perhaps he’s yours too, and you just don’t know it. There’s a good chance you own his work, and it’s sitting somewhere on your SFF book shelf. His fantastically detailed art graces many of the most well-known speculative fiction books of the past 10 years, and it’s not hard to see why. He offers high-quality prints of all his book covers, allowing you to decorate your wall with the scenes and landscapes of some of the best contemporary SFF.


PARSECS & PARCHMENT’S BIRTHDAY SFF PRINT GIVEAWAY

PRIZE: ONE of the following:
Last Studio: one Travel Middle Earth Print Set, (8 prints total, 5.5″ x 7″ each)
Ulla Thynell: one (size small) unframed print of your choosing (see options)
Popchart: one Magical Objects of the Wizarding World (print only) OR one The World of Ice and Fire (print only)
Stephan Martiniere: one 13″ x 19″ unframed print of your choosing (see options)

TO ENTER: Hop on over to JonBob’s Twitter account and follow, like & retweet the pinned giveaway post. That’s it 🙂 If you know which print you’d like if you win, comment underneath. Oh, and there’s a bonus entry if you also follow the blog. The winner will be announced on Sunday 20th September. Good luck!

REQUIREMENTS: US only (sorry non-US folks)


You can find Rin on Twitter @13thShelf or over at her blog The Thirteenth Shelf, where she writes succinct reviews of books and book-ish things for the busy reader. She loves tea, mathematics, cats, French & Japanese cuisine, paranormal podcasts, journaling, enamel pins and abstract art.

Reading Update 28/07/2020

Updates

Hey bookwyrms. You might have noticed I’ve been taking a more lax approach to these reading updates lately; I used to do them every Wednesday but found I’d sometimes end up forcing myself to read when I didn’t want to just to avoid retreading familiar ground each week. Soooo I’m just gonna do them whenever I have new stuff to talk about. I’m not one who deals well with routine anyway. I’m not reading any new books lately, in fact they’re all canny old, so if what you’re really interested in is the shiny new releases you’re not gonna find anything to excite you here. But! If, like me, you think old books deserve appreciation too, then let’s wipe the dust of aeons off those old book covers and dive into some retro fiction.



Recently Finished: THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler
Some of my favourite books have been influenced by the pulp noir genre. Neuromancer by William Gibson for example, one of my all time favourite books, is saturated with the atmosphere and character tropes of noir detective fiction. Classic cyberpunk characters are the marginalised, alienated loners who live on the edges of society and eschew its rules, much like the anti-hero of Raymond Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP. Private dick Philip Marlowe is the archetypal rough-around-the-edges, booze-guzzling maverick private investigator we’re all familiar with now and is pulled into the shady underbelly of 1930s Los Angeles when he’s hired by an old general to investigate the blackmailer of his daughter. This was a really good book. Didn’t quite make it to being great, but Chandler’s famous no-nonsense prose was very compelling and, given how much I love William Gibson, I was intrigued by the stylistic prose that clearly influenced what came to be a classic of the cyberpunk genre in Neuromancer.

Currently Reading: THE STAND by Stephen King
I’ve mentioned before in passing how I have a goal to read all of Stephen King’s books in order. I’ve been making slow progress with that but, let’s be real, it’s gonna be a lifelong commitment cos that guy has written a lot of books. You may also be questioning my sanity in reading a book about a killer virus that wipes out 99% of humanity while in the middle of an irl pandemic and I really have no answer for you there, maybe I just didn’t think the real world was dark enough. I’m about ten chapters in and enjoying it well enough so far. I have an odd relationship with Stephen King; he has a weird writing style and his books feel like deep character studies more than books with an actual plot and I think he really needs an editor to tell him to shut the fuck up sometimes, but his books are enjoyable, sort of like chewing gum for the brain.

Next Read: THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie
This section is almost always entirely nonsense cos I love a good mood read, so will change my mind a hundred times about what to read next, but I finished the first Hercule Poirot book a few weeks ago and loved it. I’m a massive Agatha Christie fan boy now and I’m really digging old crime fiction at the mo. THE MURDER ON THE LINKS sees our old Belgian detective summoned to France after receiving a distressing letter with a urgent cry for help. Upon his arrival Poirot finds the letter writer, the South American millionaire Monsieur Renauld, stabbed to death and his body flung into a freshly dug open grave on the golf course adjoining the property. Renauld’s wife is found bound and gagged in her room. Apparently, it seems that Renauld and his wife were victims of a failed break-in, resulting in Renauld’s kidnapping and death. There’s no lack of suspects: his wife, whose dagger served as the weapon; his embittered son, who would have killed for independence; and his mistress, who refused to be ignored – and each felt deserving of the dead man’s fortune. The police think they’ve found the culprit, but Poirot has his doubts. Why is the dead man wearing an overcoat that is too big for him? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse… Love it love it love it.


Let me know what you’re reading and if you enjoyed this update follow the blog to never miss a post!

Weekly Reading Update 01/07/2020

Updates

Gonna be honest folks, I haven’t done a great deal of reading this past week. So instead I’m gonna talk about a few non-fiction books I plan to read soon. I don’t talk about non-fiction very often cos this is primarily a science fiction and fantasy blog, but I love non-fiction and don’t talk about it enough. So, three non-fiction books I’ve got on my radar right now.



IF THEY COME IN THE MORNING by Angela Davis
One of America’s most historic political trials is undoubtedly that of Angela Davis. Opening with a letter from James Baldwin to Davis, and including contributions from numerous radicals such as Black Panthers George Jackson, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Erica Huggins, this book is not only an account of Davis’s incarceration and the struggles surrounding it, but also highlighted as one the most comprehensive and thorough analyses of the prison system in the United States. Since this book was written, the carceral system in the US has seen unprecedented growth, with more of America’s Black population behind bars than ever before. And as recent events have reinforced, the analysis of the role of prisons and the policing of Black populations offered by Davis and her comrades in this volume remains as pertinent today as the day it was first published.

INSURGENT EMPIRE: ANTICOLONIAL RESISTANCE AND BRITISH DISSENT by Priyamvada Gopal
INSURGENT EMPIRE is a book about about how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation. What is more, they shaped British ideas of freedom and emancipation back in the United Kingdom. Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of empire were influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies, from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. This book aims to set the record straight in demonstrating that these people were much more than victims of imperialism or, subsequently, the passive beneficiaries of an enlightened British conscience—they were insurgents whose legacies shaped and benefited the nation that once oppressed them.

BACK TO BLACK: BLACK RADICALISM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY by Kehinde Andrews
BACK TO BLACK traces the long and eminent history of Black radical politics. Born out of resistance to slavery and colonialism, its rich past encompasses figures such as Marcus Garvey, Angela Davis, the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter activists of today. At its core it argues that racism is inexorably embedded in the fabric of society, and that it can never be overcome unless by enacting change outside of this suffocating system. Yet this Black radical tradition has been diluted and moderated over time; wilfully misrepresented and caricatured by others; divested of its legacy, potency, inclusivity and force for global change. Kehinde Andrews explores the true roots of this tradition, and connects the dots to today’s struggles by showing what a renewed politics of Black radicalism might look like in the 21st century.


I’m thinking of making this a monthly post, to boost some non-fiction and just get a chance to talk about the stuff I’m reading that isn’t magic and spaceships, as much as I love all that. It won’t be for all of my readers and that’s fine, but I hope that if you are a non-fiction reader (or even if you’re not) you might find something to interest you 🙂


Did you enjoy this post? While you’re here why not check out some reviews and if you happen to enjoy yourself, follow the blog and you’ll never miss a post!

Weekly Reading Update 25/06/2020

Updates

Welcome to Wednesday bookwyrms. Usually I do these weekly updates on a Wednesday (though I have on occasion been known to be less than consistent) but today is a day late simply cos it was so hot yesterday I felt like I was melting unless I was sat in my garden with a big ol’ glass of Gin & Tonic. I’ve been getting a bunch of reading done recently though, so here’s a snapshot of what’s on my radar right now.



Recently Finished: THE ORDER OF THE PURE MOON REFLECTED IN WATER by Zen Cho
I’d been looking forward to this book for ages. Since many months ago in fact, when Caitlin from Realms Of My Mind posted about it, floating this line from the blurb: “A bandit walks into a coffee house, and it all goes downhill from there”. I was sold instantly and it ended up being a cool wuxia story about found family and a pretty deep reflection on war and conflict. I did enjoy this book, though not nearly as much as I expected to given how much I’d built it up in my head. That’s on me I guess, and there are perhaps some lessons to be learned about how expectations can influence how you experience a book.

Currently Reading: BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED by Joe Abercrombie
Okay, I’m finally gonna complete this series! I read The Blade Itself towards the end of 2019 and, despite enjoying it, just never continued with the series. And as a massive grimdark fan, it seems somewhat sacrilegious to still have this uncompleted series on my TBR. I’m not too far in yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying my old problematic fave Sand dan Glokta throwing his weight around in Dagoska. One of my favourite parts of the first book was the conspiracy involving the Guild of Mercers and the economic and political manoeuvering surrounding that storyline, and it looks like we’re gonna get a bunch more of that stuff here. I’m rubbing my hands together with gleeful anticipation.

Next Read: LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS by Joe Abercrombie
I don’t often read series books in consecutive order these days; I like to have something sandwiched in between so I don’t get burned out (and who knows, maybe I’ll still end up doing that here) but I really want to finish this series, so I’m at least planning to move straight to the final book in the trilogy. I want to finish it posthaste for a few reasons; a) because I’m enjoying it and that should always be the number one reason to read anything in this hobby, but also b) because I have so many uncompleted series on the go right now and I can only go so long before I just forget what happens and have to start from the beginning again. Anyway, looking forward to getting to LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS; I haven’t been spoiled thankfully, but I hear some crazy shit goes down in the rest of this series!


If you want to take part in WWW Wednesday, hosted by Taking on a World of Words, just answer the following questions:

What have you just read?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Let me know what you’re reading and if you enjoyed this update follow the blog to never miss a post!

Weekly Reading Update 17/06/2020

Updates

Welcome to Wednesday bookwyrms. I didn’t have a weekly update last week cos I’d been moving house, so honestly just hadn’t got much reading done. I’m on a novella-reading binge at the moment though and can I just say how happy I am that the novella is is making a comeback. Especially in genre fiction, and fantasy specifically, that has long been associated with the ‘doorstopper’ novel. I Love a good thousand-pager as much as anyone, but there’s something beautiful and incredibly skilful about the craft of a good novella, where tonnes of character and world building can be packed into such a small package. Here’s a selection of the novellas I’ve got on my radar at the mo.



Recently Finished: THE HAUNTING OF TRAM CAR 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
I’m on a bit of a P. Djèlí Clark kick at the moment. After reading his short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo I thought I potentially had a new favourite author on my hands. So I quickly moved on to his Haitian sky pirate novella The Black God’s Drums and thought “Yep, this guy is incredible” and after THE HAUNTING OF TRAM CAR 015 I can confidently say P. Djèlí Clark is one of the smartest, most engaging authors out there right now and is undoubtedly a master of the novella. This story takes place in the same universe as A Dead Djinn in Cairo and follows Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr as he tries to solve the mystery of the haunting of a tram car, along the way encountering the Egyptian suffragette movement and becoming acquainted with a group of magic-wielding women deeply knowledgeable about the folklore of multicultural Cairo.

Currently Reading: ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING by Aliette De Bodard
I’ve missed science fiction. Even though Wyrd & Wonder ended a few weeks ago I’ve still been reading mostly fantasy and non-fiction, and my beloved sci-fi remains abandoned by the wayside. I technically haven’t started this yet as I’ve literally just closed the final pages of Tram Car 015 ten minutes ago, but thought it was about time I sated my science fiction craving. ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING is the first novella in Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya Universe, which also incldudes The Citadel of Weeping Pearls and The Tea Master and the Detective, the latter of which I’ve already read and loved. ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING is the story of Station Mistress Quyen and Honoured Ancestress, an AI born of a human womb, as they struggle to keep their loved ones safe amidst a brewing war in the Dai Vet Empire.

Next Read: RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark
No surprise by now that I’ll be reading another P. Djèlí Clark novella next. RING SHOUT sounds incredible, and is particularly pertinent given the mass uprising against racist violence in the US right now. It sets up D. W. Griffith (a real life figure who directed a vile, racist film called The Birth of a Nation in 1915) as a sorceror whose film was a spell that drew from the darkest thoughts and wishes at the heart of American society. Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it too, but to confront this ongoing evil she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh – and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it. Sounds absolutely amazing.


If you want to take part in WWW Wednesday, hosted by Taking on a World of Words, just answer the following questions:

What have you just read?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Let me know what you’re reading and if you enjoyed this update follow the blog to never miss a post!

Why blog tours are bullshit and I won’t do them anymore

Updates

EDIT: A point has been raised with me about the original introductory paragraph that I entirely agree with. It named a specific book which, in addition to potentially making things uncomfortable for the author, also made it very easy to identify a particular blog tour organiser, who have been seen as the specific target of the points I make in this post. I want to make it crystal clear that, while I stand by the points I’ve made, this is in no way a personal or targeted attack on any one blog tour organiser. In that spirit, I’ve deleted the introductory paragraph. Everything else remains the same.

For anyone who doesn’t know about blog tours, they’re basically publicity events for books where a bunch of reviewers and bloggers review and blog about the book over the course of, say, a week. They can be organised by the author, a publicist or a third party. Usually the participants get a free copy of the book to read and review. Seems fine right? Not all that different from getting a free copy from NetGalley or the publisher in exchange for a review? Nah man, blog tours are bullshit, and here’s why.

For starters, it’s pretty standard practice for most blog tours to have a policy of no negative reviews during the tour. Not only that, but if you didn’t like the book, you’re still usually asked to promote it regardless, by spotlighting it and posting an excerpt. This is how I came to be required to promote a book I didn’t like. And I mean look, that’s all well and good right, I recognise that taste is subjective and a book I didn’t get along with might be someone else’s five star book of the year, so I have no problem talking about books that weren’t my cup of tea. Hell, in past reviews I’ve said stuff like “this didn’t work for me, but if you’re a fan of this trope/writing style/type of humour etc then you’d probably enjoy this book.” The problem for me arises when I have to uncritically promote it and mask the fact I didn’t like it. Besides the intellectual dishonesty wound up in that it also just seems obvious, on a practical level, that discerning readers will pick up on the fact that excerpt is just code for bad book anyway, especially if the excerpts are continuously followed by negative reviews the following week.

And hey, this just sounds like my own personal discomfort with blog tours. And of course that’s true, this is just my opinion, and many other bloggers and reviewers out there won’t share my views and be more than happy to spotlight books and hold off on (or never even write) negative reviews. I still think that’s perfectly legitimate stance. However, I do think if that’s the position you’re going to take then you owe it to the readers to think about why you’re happy to carry on doing that. Because this is where my big gripe with blog tours surfaces. While I’m more than enthusiastic to shout from the rooftops about great books and get the word out about the authors I love, I never lose sight of the fact that fundamentally reviews are for readers. And if we’re honest about it, blog tours are for authors. They’re for authors to drum up positive reviews, and only positive reviews, that leave the reader with a warped and frankly, inaccurate reception of the book. Given that blog tours are often organised to promote new books with very few (if any) other reviews to balance this out, that leaves the reader, who the review is supposedly intended for, in a very shitty, uninformed position. As a side note to this, I actually think some negative reviews are a good thing for authors. No book is universally loved. Even the most critically acclaimed best-sellers have their detractors and one star reviews. So if I see a small title with twenty ratings, and those ratings are all five stars, I wouldn’t trust that book not to keep my change. The positive reviews become meaningless. Whereas if most people enjoyed it, but there’s some people in there saying it didn’t work for them, it actually lends a degree of authenticity to the book’s reception.

The other (and I think most insidious) thing I want to talk about is money. Payment. Publicists and blog tour companies are usually being paid to organise these things. And they don’t let you write negative reviews. Think about that. Most people would consider it reprehensible for an author to pay a blogger directly and say they could only write a positive review. Yet this is precisely what is happening, albeit with the insertion of a middleman in the form of a publicist or blog tour company that masks the transaction. And it gets worse! I’ve actually seen the organisers of blog tours – the individuals receiving payment – reviewing the book themselves. And shock fucking horror, they’re always positive and very often five stars. That’s messed up.

I took part in two blog tours before I came to the conclusion the whole ecosystem is a corrupt mess that subverts the purpose of reviews. I remember signing up for the first one and very quickly getting anxious about what to do if I didn’t like the book. As it turned out, I enjoyed the first one, which allowed me to sweep the problem under the rug and not think about it for a while. I couldn’t do this the second time round, when I had such a negative opinion of the book. When I talked about this, a few fellow bloggers got in touch to tell me about similar experiences they’ve had. Some went so far as pulling out of tours altogether because they didn’t feel comfortable promoting a book they didn’t like. That’s always an option, but for me there’s a couple of problems with that approach. The first is simply a matter of professionalism. When I signed up to those blog tours I made an agreement right? And the rules of that agreement stated that if I didn’t like the book I was still expected to promote it. To wait and see if I like the book before deciding whether to uphold my side of the agreement just doesn’t seem right. The second, most fundamental problem is that by participating in it and continuing to review books when I do like them and just withdrawing when I don’t, I’d still be propping up an ecosystem awash with the other faults and issues I’ve already highlighted. Either way, the practise goes on and I’m doing nothing to challenge it, even offering my tacit approval. And I’m not willing to do that.

If you’re a reader who’s followed blog tours and never considered this angle before, I honestly think you’d be better off avoiding them; they don’t serve you well. If you’re a blogger considering being part of a blog tour in future, just give some thought to what I’ve said. If you do that and still think I’m wrong, I’m always open to a good faith chat 🙂 Peace out bookwyrms.


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Blog Tour: A KING’S BARGAIN by J. D. L. Rosell

Updates

Hello bookwyrms, I hope today finds you well. Today I’m hosting my very first book excerpt, from A KING’S BARGAIN, by J. D. L. Rosell, a straight up classic fantasy about a village boy who sets out on an adventure with a legendary hero. I’ve spoke about this one a few times in my weekly reading updates and got my hands on a review copy as part of the Storytellers On Tour blog tour for the book. A KING’S BARGAIN is the story of Tal Harrenfel, a legendary warrior who, after decades of hunting warlocks, monster and mythical beasts, just wants to settle down. But then he meets Garin, a village boy who wants to make a name for himself, and receives an unexpected visit from a mysterious stranger. Tal and Garin begin a journey across the kingdom, becoming embroiled in the plots of monarchs, on the frontlines of an ancient war, and at the mercy of a fabled sorcerer. If you find your appetite whetted (is that a word?), here’s a little morsel to try.



Bran settled in a chair across from his guest and smiled like they were old friends.
The house was nothing to look at, he well knew: two rooms large, with a ragged curtain separating them; a small wood stove settled behind him, and a well-used pot and pan, travel-ready, hanging above it. As rain began to patter against the roof, the usual leaks started up in the corners.
He didn’t care to impress folks, not anymore, and this man least of all. But he’d helped his guest over the stoop like a nobleman might usher a lady into his bedroom, and ignored the man’s protests that he needed no assistance in a similarly lofty manner.
Gallantry, he’d often found, suited a liar like a cape fit a king.
Garin squirmed in the seat next to them, but Bran paid him no mind as he took his glass and threw it back. He sighed as the liquid burned its way down his throat to settle a steady warmth in his gut. “Say what you want about Crazy Ean, but he makes a damn fine whiskey.”
“So says anyone mad enough to try it,” Garin muttered.
Bran grinned at him. “Life is short and dark as it is. May as well brighten it with a few glorious risks.”
The youth shrugged.
He turned his gaze to the guest again, who hadn’t touched his glass. “I know your name, Aelyn, and you know ours. The table is set. Now lay out what you want, or we’ll have to settle on beans and roots for dinner.”
Aelyn hadn’t removed his hat, but even with his eyes shadowed, they seemed to gleam. “You know what I want. I’m not idly used as a messenger. But I obey my commands.” 

He lifted his hand to reveal a small, shining band resting in his palm, then set it on the table. Garin stared at it, mouth open wide. Bran found he was unable to resist looking himself, though he knew its kind well. Not a ring of silver or gold or copper, but milky white crystal, with a steady glow from within its clouded center.
“What is it?” Garin asked, sounding as if he wished he hadn’t spoken but was unable to resist.
Aelyn didn’t answer but kept his steady, orange gaze on Bran, like a raptor on a hare.
Bran sighed. “It’s a Binding Ring. An artifact of oaths that holds the wearer to a promise.”
Garin might be a man grown to the villagers, but he looked a boy at that moment, his eyes wide, his mouth forming a small “o.”
“Like… a magic ring?” the youth ventured.
“Enough of this!” Aelyn snapped. “Take it and put it on. We must be returning immediately.”
“Off so soon? But you haven’t touched your drink.”
The man snorted. “If I wished to poison myself, I have a thousand better ways than that human swill. Don that ring. Now.” His fiery eyes slid over to Garin. “Or do you want the boy to know your true name?”
Bran studied him. A feeling, hard as flint, was starting behind his eyes. A feeling familiar as a distant memory. A feeling he’d hoped to have dug a deep grave and buried in the past. As it rose, a warmth unconnected to the whiskey began coursing through his body. Dread? he mocked himself. Or anticipation?
He reached a hand forward, finger brushing the crystal. It was warm to the touch. From past experience, he knew it remained warm most of the time. So long as the wearer kept to what he was bound. If he didn’t, a mountain peak in winter would be preferable punishment.
Aelyn’s eyes watched. Wary. Waiting.
Bran scooped up the ring, vaulted across the table, and shouted, “Heshidal bauchdid!”
The man jerked, then stiffened in his chair, eyes wide with surprise, hat knocked askew. Bran took his moment, snatching one of the smooth hands and slipping the ring over a long finger.

As Aelyn shivered free of the binding, his mouth stuttered, “Bastard of a pig-blooded whore—!”
“Quiet down!” Bran shouted over him. “This I bind you to: That you will wear this ring until I am safely back in Hunt’s Hollow. That you will tell no one that you wear this ring instead of me. That you will tell no one my true name unless I bid it. And that you won’t harm the boy Garin or myself in that time.”
The ring shone brightly for a moment, and Aelyn shuddered, eyes squeezed shut, teeth braced in a grimace. A moment later, the ring dimmed, and Bran released his guest’s hand. As he settled into his chair, brushing back the hairs that had worked loose of his tail, his blood began to cool again.
“Now,” he said as he reached for the whiskey bottle, which had fallen over in the struggle, and pulled out the stopper. “You sure you don’t want any of this human swill?”
The man raised his hand and stared at the crystal ring, horror spreading across his face. “She told you, didn’t she? She told you my true name.”
Bran poured a glass, then proffered it to the youth, who stared at him as if he were the stranger. “Feeling mad enough yet?”
Garin took the glass, threw it back, and promptly coughed half of it back up.
“There you are, Garin, there you are,” Bran said, thumping his back. “You’ll learn to swallow it all before long.”


If A KING’S BARGAIN sounds like your cup of tea then Storytellers On Tour are running a giveaway that you can enter here. One physical copy and five ebooks are up for grabs 🙂



Did you enjoy this post? While you’re here why not check out some reviews and if you happen to enjoy yourself, follow the blog and you’ll never miss a post!

Weekly Reading Update 03/06/2020

Updates

Welcome to Wednesday bookwyrms. I haven’t actually got any fiction to talk about this week. I’m sure everyone reading this is aware of the massive rebellion that’s broken out in the USA in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week and the subsequent declaration of war by the police on US citizens. In addition to donating to bail funds and Black Lives Matter groups I’ve took the long overdue step of reading some of the books that are required reading for any white person who wants to overcome their own bias and racism and truly be an ally in the fight against police violence and Black oppression. If you’re a white person reading this and want to take a step in the right direction, read some (or all) of the books I talk about here and donate to a bail fund.



Recently Finished: HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST by Ibram X. Kendi
The title of this one seemed like a logical place to start. In it Kendi talks about how being ‘not racist’ simply isn’t enough to challenge the deeply entrenched system of racism that pervades society and how being antiracist isn’t a constant state of being, but something we must always be striving for. He weaves together a powerful narrative of history, ethics and science with his own personal account of his journey into anticracism. A must read for anyone who wants to go beyond awareness of racism’s existence and start to building a truly antiracist and equal society.

Currently Reading: WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin Diangelo
I’m not very far into this one yet but already I feel like it’s going to be laying down some harsh truths about how white people approach discussions around race and racism and I’ve been compelled into several moments of self-reflection. One of the main points I’ve taken on board so far is how racism is framed as this individualised act or belief that only ‘bad’ people do and have, as opposed to an institutionalised set of oppressive systems that are baked in to the way society functions. And so to be told something we’ve said or done is racist can feel like a personal attack on our moral character, rather than something for us to reflect on and try to improve. I think this book is going to teach me a lot.

Next Read: NATIVES: RACE AND CLASS IN THE RUINS OF EMPIRE by Akala
The two previous books are written by American writers and focus on American society and, although they are very applicable to Western societies in general, this book is very much focused on British racism. It’s very easy for people in the UK to look across the Atlantic and be shocked by the levels of racism and police violence in the USA and yet still overlook our own problems. And while our police aren’t armed to the teeth and militarised in the same way as the American police force, we still have a big problem with institutional racism here. Britain has yet to have an open and honest conversation about our own history of empire and its legacy and this book is part of kickstarting that very necessary process.


I just want to finish up by encouraging you all to donate to one of the many organisations supporting the protesters. Click here to see a list of places you can donate. I also want to encourage all my white followers to educate yourselves. Read the books I talked about here and join the protests that are now going global. Stay safe if you’re out there on the streets everyone. To all my Black brothers, sisters and comrades, you have my full and unconditional support. Solidarity and much love to you all.


If you want to take part in WWW Wednesday, hosted by Taking on a World of Words, just answer the following questions:

What have you just read?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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Wyrd & Wonder May Wrap Up

Updates

Well that was an absolute blast! My first Wyrd & Wonder is over and I read some great books and met some even better people 🙂 I did have a tentative TBR I aimed to get to, which included nine books. That was kind of ambitious to begin with to be honest, as nine books in a month is actually kind of a lot for me and I only ended up reading two off the list (technically two and a half because I set Foundryside to one side for a while because I absolutely hated it with the fiery passion of seven hells, don’t @ me).



I kicked off the month with a re-read of Melissa Caruso’s THE TETHERED MAGE, book one of her Renaissance Venetian-inspired flintlock fantasy series Swords and Fire. I re-read this because A) it’s awesome, but B) because I never got round to reading book three of the series so it gave me a nice excuse to refresh my memory and write a review, which you can have a glance at if intrigue, fire warlocks and court drama sounds like your cup of tea. I moved on to A DEAD DJINN IN CAIRO after that and I feel like I might have a new auto-buy author in P. Djèlí Clark if his other stuff is this good! A detective solving a murder in an alternative turn of the century Egypt, where djinn have crossed the borders between worlds after the fabric of space was torn asunder. With shades of steampunk and weird cosmic horror shit thrown into the blender. *Chef’s kiss*. THE GRAND TOUR was a collection of short horror stories that I got an advance copy of from the good folks at Apex. It was the first E. Catherine Tobler stuff I’d read and I’m really glad I discovered her, because some of these stories are simply phenomenal. I believe I described it as ‘horror with a heart’.



AMBERLOUGH was my favourite read this month. I was blown away by this glitzy spy thriller featuring some incredible character writing. Having just recently finished Jade City and Jade War by the master of character Fonda Lee, I feel like my bar for good character writing is pretty high right now, so the fact that Lara Elena Donnelly still managed to be this impressive should tell you just how great this book is. OF DRAGONS, FEASTS AND MURDERS was an ARC of Aliette de Bodard’s upcoming stabby court drama murder mystery and it will come as no surprise to anyone that I loved it! Aliette de Bodard is a firm fave of mine and I’m almost guaranteed to enjoy anything she writes. My final Wyrd & Wonder read was KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames, proud holder of the Fastest Book To Make Me Cry Award. This was just great fun and also really touching. An unapologetic fantasy romp featuring all the Dungeons & Dragons tropes and party shenanigans, from absent-minded wizards and enchanted weapons to terrifying wyverns and villainous characters that are villains for the sake of being villains (but not quite).


Before I head off I just want to say a massive thank you to Imyril, Jory and Lisa for organising Wyrd & Wonder. It’s been such great fun and I’m so happy to have discovered a bunch of new blogs and met some cool fellow bookwyrms to nerd out over all things fantasy with. Counting down to next time already 🙂


Reviews:

A DEAD DJINN IN CAIRO by P. Djèlí Clark
THE TETHERED MAGE by Melissa Caruso
STORM FRONT by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #1)
JADE WAR by Fonda Lee
THE GRAND TOUR by E. Catherine Tobler
AMBERLOUGH by Lara Elena Donnelly

Other posts and updates:

My Wyrd & Wonder TBR 2020
Humble Beginnings: My First Fantasy Book
The Best Things Come In Three: The Books of D&D
Books I Can’t Wait To Read
Get To Know The Fantasy Reader tag


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Get to know the fantasy reader – Wyrd & Wonder 2020

Updates

This would have been a great introductory post if I’d had the foresight to actually plan any of my Wyrd & Wonder posts, but if we met through Wyrd & Wonder and have exchanged a few words, I’m hoping this is a fun little way for you folks to get to know me as a reader 🙂 I came across it on a few blogs, including Maryam at The Curious SFF Reader, Sahi at My World Of Books and Maddalena at Space and Sorcery and I thought it looked like fun.


1. What is the first fantasy novel you read?
I used to think it was The Hobbit, until I realised fantasy didn’t just have to mean elves and dragons and dwarves. Then I realised it was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Thinking about it though, I think I probably read The Chronicles of Narnia books even before that, so it might even have been The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe followed by The Magician’s Nephew. Memory is a nebulous thing and I just remember always reading when I was a little ‘un.

2. If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?
This is a funny question cos I probably would’t want to be at the centre of any of the crazy shit that goes on in most of the books I read; that’s much more drama than I want in my life thank you very much. I’ll stick to reading about other people’s crazy adventures from a safe distance with a hot cup of tea.

3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that turned into a huge revelation?
Jade City and Jade War by the living genius Fonda Lee. These books are nothing short of masterpieces. The experience of reading these books was like forming actually existing memories in my mind, so that I legit feel like I lived through the events they portrayed. Like I was sitting in the bar of a Janloon lantern man reading the newspaper and I could hop back on a plane and go back there if I wanted to. This series blew my mind and I can’t explain how excited I am for Jade Legacy’s release.



4. What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?
I have such a complicated relationship with subgenres. They’re very useful – up to a point. Then they often degenerate into complete parodies of themselves as readers take them to extreme lengths and get into internet fights with strangers about whether a book is really solarpunk or cli-fi. If I was pushed I’d say grimdark is my favourite genre, but how useful that is as a term anymore is debatable. Let’s say I like gritty stories with no clear heroes and leave it at that.

5. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?
It’ll come as no surprise, given my previous answer, but George R. R. Martin is one of my favourite writers. I gather that it’s quite fashionable to disparage A Song of Ice and Fire but they are legitimately incredible books that completely turned my idea of what a story had to be on its head. I remember being confused by them at first and thinking “There’s no good guys, whose side am I supposed to be on?”. And after a while coming to the realisation that that was the point and having my mind explode into all the fascinating possibilities that opened up. Plus the writing is stellar and is one of those rare series that pulled me nose over tail into the world of the story to the point of not being aware of my surroundings anymore.



6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)
Most of my recs these days come from the fabulous people I talk to on Twitter and my fellow bloggers. Twitter is a fantastic place for book recommendations actually. You can ask for the most specific thing, like low magic economic fantasy with Machiavellian merchants and interdependent political systems and a bunch of people will respond with The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Kushiel’s Dart, The Dagger and the Coin series and more. I love my bookish pals 🙂

7. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?
I guess I already mentioned Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee so it would be cheating to use that again. Fortunately we’re swimming in incredible books at the minute so I’m gonna say The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho. I actually haven’t read any Zen Cho before but I read the first line of the blurb for this book and was already hooked. A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Sold. Next.



8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?
That it’s all crusty white blokes with beards writing about elves and dwarves and dragons. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of books I love written by crusty white blokes with beards, but fantasy is (and always has been) so much more than that. On top of some of the folks I’ve already mentioned we’ve got writers like Chloe Gong releasing a fantasy Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1926 Shanghai (These Violent Delights); Paul Krueger’s post-colonial Pokemon/ATLA mashup (Steel Crow Saga); P. Djèlí Clark, who’s written some fantastic steampunk detective mysteries set in early 20th century Cairo where the barriers between worlds has been torn asunder, allowing djinni to cross freely into our world (A Dead Djinn in Cairo & The Haunting of Tram Car 015).

9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?
I’d do my best to tailor it to the specific person, given the sheer dearth of fantasy available now, but without any prior knowledge I’d steer away from the big hefty classics and opt for something more streamlined. I’m gonna go with The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso, Jade City by Fonda Lee (I will never shut up about this series) and Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, which I actually re-read recently and loved just as much now as I did as a youngster. Three very different flavours of fantasy (none of which contain dragons, elves or dwarves) that can show how much variety there is within the genre.

10. What’s the site that you like to visit for reviews, author interviews and all things fantasy?
One of my fave bloggers, Caitlin who runs Realms Of My Mind. She’s great and my TBR is under a great deal of strain because of her. If you don’t already follow her, what are you still doing here? Click that link and go read her blog!


Whew! That was fun. What about you folks? Let me know what kind of fantasy reader you are. If you don’t wanna do the full thing, mebs just answer one or two of the questions in the comments or let me know what you think about any of my answers. Toodle pip bookwyrms.


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