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New Releases: August 2015 [Aug. 3rd, 2015|12:35 pm]
DAW Books Inc.

jpsorrow
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Time for the new releases from DAW Books for August 2015! We have new R.M. Meluch, Jacey Bedford, and Phyllis Ames, along with two omnibus editions--one from Mercedes Lackey and another with two novels from S. Andrew Swann. Check them out below, then raid the bookstore!

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First up, a new USS Merrimack novel from R.M. Meluch in hardcover, The Twice and Future Caesar!





In the year 2448, the interstellar Empire of Rome spans an area almost as wide as the far-flung colonial worlds of the United States of America.

Caesar Numa Pompeii is still rebuilding his shredded empire after the catastrophic war that his predecessor, Caesar Romulus, waged against the United States. War’s end left Romulus in a nanovirus-induced coma, captive of Caesar Numa.

Numa has under his command a powerful living weapon--a patterner, an augmented man capable of synthesizing vast amounts of data into actionable intelligence.

Now, Numa has lost his prisoner, and his patterner may have turned on him, while the U.S.S. Merrimack has lost the commander of her Fleet Marines, Colonel T. R. Steele.

Events take a Mobius turn when fanatical devotees of Romulus rescue their fallen leader from his tortured captivity and fashion him into the most capable patterner ever created. Romulus is back, more insanely brilliant than ever. But without his queen, all the power in the universe means nothing. Romulus will move heaven and Earth and space and time to rescue his beloved Claudia.

Admiral John Farragut returns to the space battle­ship Merrimack in an attempt to head off the impend­ing temporal catastrophe. Past and future hinge on a critical moment when time broke once before in the distant star cluster known as the Myriad.

********************

Next up, we have Crossways from Jacey Bedford, the second novel in her Psi-Tech series.





Ben Benjamin, psi-tech Navigator, and Cara Carlinni, Telepath, can never go home again. To the Trust and Alphacorp alike, they are wanted criminals. Murder, terrorism, armed insurrection, hijacking, grand theft, and kidnapping are just the top of a long list of charges they’ll face if they’re caught.

So they better not get caught.

These are the people who defied the megacorporations and saved a colony by selling the platinum mining rights and relocating ten thousand colonists somewhere safe, and they’re not saying where that is.

They take refuge on crimelord-run Crossways Station with the remnants of their team of renegade psi-techs and the Solar Wind, their state-of-the-art jump-drive ship. They’ve made a promise to find a missing space ark with thirty thousand settlers aboard. But to do that, Ben and Cara have to confront old enemies.

Alphacorp and the Trust: separately they are dangerous, united they are unstoppable. They want to silence Ben and Cara more than they want to upstage each other. If they have to get rid of Crossways in order to do it, they can live with that. In fact, this might be the excuse they’ve been looking for. . . .

*****************

Next, we have the debut novel of Phyllis Ames, Frozen in Amber.





Amber Treganis constantly reinvents herself. New clothes, new hairstyle, new car--anything she can do to exert a level of control over her life. What she can’t control is her shape-shifting other self: the WerCougar that sinks its claws into her brain during the three nights surrounding the full moon.

Though she is a natural-born shifter from a prominent WerCougar family, Amber has been unwilling to change into her cat form ever since a terrible tragedy cost her the man she loved. And she has little patience with Wers of any species who embrace their otherness more than their humanity. She focuses on her life as a defense attorney in Mt. Hood, and stays out of Wer politics.

But after a blurry night of hunting, Amber begins to notice changes in her transformation. When she hears rumors of research to discover a treatment for shifting, she suspects she may have been unknowingly given the experimental therapy.

With the help of Adler, a WerEagle active in community politics, Amber tries to hunt down the truth about this cure, while staying off the radar of the FBI, which tracks and manages Wer communities in secret.

But Amber doesn’t realize how much she depends on her Wer sense until, one by one, they begin to fade. And Amber is left increasingly ill--and increasingly human. Can shifter who is losing her abilities survive for long in either human or Wer society?

**************************

Next, we shift to the omnibus editions for this month. First up is the omnibus of Mercedes Lackey's Arrows trilogy, The Complete Arrows Trilogy.





The Complete Arrows Trilogy contains the three extraordinary novels that launched Mercedes Lackey’s remarkable career and sparked the imaginations of millions of readers across the world.

The Arrows trilogy tells the story of Talia, a daughter of the repres­sive Holderfolk, who is Chosen by the immortal Companion Rolan to become one of the legendary Heralds of Valdemar.

Companions like Rolan are mystical horse-like beings with powers beyond imagining—including the power to sense an awakening potential for special talents of the mind in certain young men and women, like Talia.

With Rolan’s help, Talia will learn to master her unique mental abilities of telepathy and empathy, and will grow from an uncertain and inexperienced Herald trainee to become the most important Herald of all: the Queen’s Own.

And together, Talia and Rolan will fight to protect the queen, the heir to the throne, and the entire kingdom—from dangerous conspiracies, looming unrest, vicious treachery, and even an evil and ancient sorcery beyond the magic of the Heralds themselves.

****************************

And lastly this month, we have the omnibus of two of S. Andrew Swann's Moreau novels in The Moreau Quartet, Volume 1.





It's 2053, and the U.S. has long since genetically engineered life successfully. "Moreaus," humanoid and animal hybrids, and "frankensteins," genetically manipulated humans, live as second-class citizens. Nohar Rajasthan is a moreau, a humanoid of tiger stock. Raised by a human after his parents' death, Nohar ekes out a career as a private eye. Mixing science fiction with detective thrillers, Nohar's story leaps off the page with all the nonstop excitement and danger of an action blockbuster.

Forests of the Night: When Nohar accepts a commission from a frankenstein to investigate the death of the campaign manager of a local politico, all hell breaks loose. Nohar finds himself targeted by everyone from local cops to federal agents to a drug-running gang to an assassin with a 100% kill rate.

Fearful Symmetries: Nohar retired from the private eye business ten years ago, and just wants to spend his remaining time in the peace and quiet of his wilderness homestead. So when a human lawyer asks him to take on a missing moreau case, he refuses--and soon after is attacked by a paramilitary team. Now Nohar must find the missing moreau and discover why someone wants him dead.

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And those are the August releases from DAW Books! Sally forth and read, read, read!
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Book Discussion: "Elisha Rex" by E.C. Ambrose [Jul. 21st, 2015|08:36 am]
DAW Books Inc.

jpsorrow
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Time for the next book discussion of the July releases from DAW Books! This time, we're looking at Elisha Rex from E.C. Ambrose, the third book in the Dark Apostle series. I've read the first one and have the second on my "short stack" for reading. Who here has gotten to this one already? What did you think?





Cover Copy: Elisha was once a lowly barber-surgeon, cutting hair and stitching wounds for poor peasants like himself in 14th century London. But that was before: before he was falsely accused of murder, and sent to die in an unjust war. Before he discovered his potential for a singularly deadly magic. Before he was forced to embrace his gifts and end the war . . . by using his newfound abilities to kill the tyrannical king.

So who is Elisha now? The beautiful witch Brigit, his former mentor, claims him for the magi, all those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, and who are persecuted for it. Duke Randall, the man who first rose against the mad King Hugh, has accepted him as a comrade and ally in the perilous schemes of the nobility. Somehow, he has even become a friend to Thomas, both the rightful king and, something finer, a good man.

But there is another force at work in the world, a shadowy cabal beyond the might of kings and nobles, that sees its opportunity in the chaos of war and political turmoil--and sees its mirror in Elisha's indivisible connection with Death. For these necromancers, Elisha is the ultimate prize, and the perfect tool.

When the necromancers' secret plans begin to bear black fruit and King Thomas goes missing, England teeters on the brink of a hellish anarchy that could make the previous war look like a pleasant memory. Elisha may be the only man who can stop it. But if he steps forward and takes on the authority he is offered to save his nation, is he playing right into the necromancers' hands?

Why does it seem like his enemies are the ones most keen to call him Elisha Rex?
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Book Review: "Dragon * Thief" by S. Andrew Swann [Jul. 20th, 2015|04:22 pm]
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jpsorrow
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I loved the first book in this new series and immediately moved on to the second. I'm happy to say, it's just as much fun as the first. In fact, I'm a little miffed that I'll have to wait almost a year before the third book comes out. (Although I'm not miffed because there's a giant cliffhanger or anything, nothing of the sort.)





Premise: Frank Blackthorne is a thief who somehow finds himself trapped in a princess' body, basically taking on the princess' role . . . which leaves something to be desired. He'd desperately like to be back in his own body, but that's just not possible. So for second-best, he'd like to at least be back in a MAN'S body. So, one night, drunk and not thinking, he uses the cursed artifact given to him as a wedding gift . . . and finds himself not only in a man's body, but a thief's as well. One of the most dangerous thieves in the world, wanted by nearly every country. A man who is now inhabiting the princess' body, with all the power it entales, in the defenseless Lendowyn court.

Again, a great rollicking story that starts off with a terrible and stupid mistake that escalates into a disaster of monstrous proportions, with that little twist of switching bodies. Frank's escapades as he tries to get back to the Lendowyn court and change everything back to the way it was are hilarious and fun, especially with all of the characters he meets along the way. If you like humorous fantasy that plays with the tropes we're all used to, then you should definitely be reading this series.

But the best part of this series--and what makes a truly good humorous story rise above all others--is that there IS some seriousness behind all of the tongue-in-cheek fun. In this case, most of the seriousness comes into play with the outcast group of teenage girls, all with their own little stories. These little serious elements are what takes the book out of simple fun and give it that extra kick, making the story work on multiple levels.

As usual, lots of little twists as Frank works his way back to the castle, with a ton of twists at the end, especially with exactly who this master thief really is and how he's used his newfound powers to mess with the Lendowyn court. But that would be spoilery, so . . .

A great, fun, enjoyable read that works on many levels--some more serious than others. Definitely go find Dragon * Princess, the first book in the series, or this one and read them. Both of them. (You don't NEED to have read the first one to read this one, but you'd be missing out on another fun read if you didn't.)
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Book Discussion: "A Murder of Mages" by Marshall Ryan Maresca [Jul. 17th, 2015|01:07 pm]
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The next book discussion for the July releases is the first book in Marshall Ryan Maresca's The Maradaine Constabulary series, A Murder of Mages. I read the standalone book The Thorn of Dentonhill set in the same city (although with different characters) and look forward to reading this new book. Anyone here read it? What did you think?





A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey--former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty--has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage--almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together--the ritual murder of a Circled mage--sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.
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Book Discussion: "Faces" by E.C. Blake [Jul. 16th, 2015|11:36 am]
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It's time for our first book discussion of the July releases! (Now that my copies have arrived. *grin*) The hardcover release this month is for Faces by E.C. Blake, the third novel in his Masks of Aygrima series. Who here has read it? What did you think?





Cover Copy: Here is the spellbinding third novel of The Masks of Aygrima, set in the only kingdom that is home to magic wielders, a land where people are forced to wear spell-imbued Masks from the age of fifteen, Masks that will reveal any traitorous thoughts they have about their ruler, the Autarch.

Mara Holdfast is a young woman gifted with the ability to see and use all the colors of magic. Two other people share this talent: the Autarch, who draws upon the very life-force of his subjects to fuel his existence and retain his control over the kingdom; and the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire, the only person who has ever truly challenged the Autarch’s despotic reign.

After a devastating battle that takes a dreadful toll on both the rebel unMasked Army and the forces of Prince Chell, their ally from across the sea, Mara and her fellow survivors have no one to turn to for help but the Lady of Pain and Fire.

As the Lady leads them to her haven beyond the mountain borders of the kingdom, Mara feels that she has found the one person who truly understands her, a mentor who can teach her to control and use her power for the greater good. Together, they may be able to at last free Agryma from the Autarch’s rule.

Living within the Lady’s castle, cut off from her friends in the village far below, Mara immerses herself in her training. Still, she can’t entirely escape from hearing dark hints about the Lady, rumors that the Lady may, in her own way, be as ruthless as the Autarch himself.

Yet it is not until they begin their campaign against the Autarch that Mara discovers where the real danger lies. Driven by the Lady’s thirst for revenge, will Mara and all her friends fall victim in a duel to the death between two masters of magic?
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New Releases: July 2015 [Jul. 2nd, 2015|12:12 pm]
DAW Books Inc.

jpsorrow
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And it's a new month, which means new DAW Books to drool over and devour! This month, we have new books from E.C. Blake, E.C. Ambrose, and Marshall Ryan Maresca, plus a paperback release from Joshua Palmatier. Here are the quick summaries and covers, as usual. Which ones are you dying to read!

****************

First up, the hardcover release of Faces by E.C. Blake, the third book in his Masks of Aygrima series.





The spellbinding third novel of The Masks of Aygrima is set in a land where people are forced to wear spell-imbued Masks that reveal any traitorous thoughts they have about their ruler, the Autarch.

Mara Holdfast is a young woman gifted with the ability to see and use all the colors of magic. Two other people share this talent: the Autarch, who draws upon the very life-force of his subjects to fuel his existence and retain his control over the kingdom; and the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire, the only person who has ever truly challenged the Autarch’s despotic reign.

After a devastating battle that takes a dreadful toll on both the rebel unMasked Army and the forces of Prince Chell, their ally from across the sea, Mara and her fellow survivors have no one to turn to for help but the Lady of Pain and Fire.

As the Lady leads them to her haven beyond the mountain borders of the kingdom, Mara feels that she has found the one person who truly understands her, a mentor who can teach her to control and use her power for the greater good. Together, they may be able to at last free Agryma from the Autarch’s rule.

Living within the Lady’s castle, cut off from her friends in the village far below, Mara immerses herself in her training. Still, she can’t entirely escape from hearing dark hints about the Lady, rumors that the Lady may, in her own way, be as ruthless as the Autarch himself.

Yet it is not until they begin their campaign against the Autarch that Mara discovers where the real danger lies. Driven by the Lady’s thirst for revenge, will Mara and all her friends fall victim in a duel to the death between two masters of magic?

****************

Next we have the paperback release of Elisha Rex by E.C. Ambrose, the third book in her Dark Apostle series.





Elisha Rex is the third book in the gritty, sharp historical fantasy series, The Dark Apostle.

Elisha was a skillful barber-surgeon, cutting hair and stitching wounds for poor peasants like himself in 14th century London. But that was before catastrophe ruined his family. Before he was falsely accused of murder, and sent to die in an unjust war. Before he discovered his exceptional potential for a singularly deadly magic, and was forced to embrace his gifts and end that war . . . by using his newfound abilities to kill the tyrannical king.

Elisha is no longer the lowly barber he was, but it is hard to tell exactly who he is now. The beautiful witch Brigit, his former mentor, claims him for the magi, all those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, and who are persecuted for it. Duke Randall, the man who first rose against the mad King Hugh, has accepted him as a comrade and ally in the perilous schemes of the nobility. Somehow, he has even become a friend to Thomas, both the rightful king and, something rarer, a good man.

But he is still a regicide, and in order to solidify Thomas’s authority among the restive barons, he had to let the new king sentence him to a horrific public execution. With Thomas’s covert aid, Elisha faked his death and went into hiding, but the peasants of London are beginning to call it a martyrdom, as legends of Elisha’s spectacular “miracles” in the service of his country have spread. Yet Elisha is finally beginning to understand the dreadful power within him, and he has never felt less holy--or more terrified.

Because there is another force at work in the world, a shadowy cabal beyond the might of kings and nobles, that sees its opportunity in the chaos of war and political turmoil--and sees its mirror in Elisha’s indivisible connection with Death. For these necromancers, Elisha is the ultimate prize, and the perfect tool.

When the necromancers’ secret plans begin to bear black fruit, England teeters on the brink of a hellish anarchy that could make the previous war look like a pleasant memory, and it appears Elisha is the only man who can stop it. But if he steps forward and takes on the authority he is offered to save his nation once again, is he playing right into the mancers’ hands?

Why does it seem like his enemies are the ones most keen to call him Elisha Rex?

****************

Also new this month, a new book from Marshall Ryan Maresca, A Murder of Mages.





A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey--former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty--has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage--almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together--the ritual murder of a Circled mage--sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.

*****************

And finally, the paperback release of Joshua Palmatier's Shattering the Ley.





Erenthrall--sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day.

At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen and unnatural assassins.

When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Allan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined . . . and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction--or its salvation.

*******************

And those are the July releases from DAW Books! Go forth and plunder! And then return later this month and let us know what you thought of the books during their individual book discussions.
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Book Review: "Dragon * Princess" by S. Andrew Swann [Jun. 30th, 2015|08:54 am]
DAW Books Inc.

jpsorrow
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Let's end the month with a book review!

This is the first book by S. Andrew Swann that I've read, continuing my attempt to read new-to-me authors this year. And it was a blast! Definitely a fun romp through fantasy tropes with a twist.





Premise: Frank Blackthorne is a not-so-great thief on the run after accidentally disrupting a virgin sacrifice to a Dark Lord. After rescuing the virgin, he finds himself in need of an escape from an entire kingdom. When a wizard approaches him with an offer to help save a princess from a dragon in exchange for the princess' hand in marriage, he's rightfully suspicious, but also out of options. Of course, the rescue goes horribly wrong and suddenly he finds himself trapped in the princess' body and deposited in the middle of nowhere. Now he has to find his way back, find the wizard, and hopefully get his own body back!

Again, this is intended to be a fun, glorious romp through all of the fantasy tropes you've grown to love and it's exactly that. The twist, of course, is the body swapping, which S. Andrew Swann handles wonderfully. The moment I started reading, I was caught up in the story and the adventure dragged me along and kept me interested, with likeable characters (a must for these types of books) and a plot that unravels and gets more complicated the more Frank finds out in his search for the wizard. The best part of the novel is that the plot hinges completely on the four major characters involved (princess, dragon, wizard, thief) and that each of those characters has their own story, their own motivations, and all of them are completely believable.

If you like fun, humorous fantasy, I'd definitely recommend this book (and its sequel, which I've already read). I'm now waiting impatiently for the third book in the series.
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Book Discussion: "Blood Red" by Mercedes Lackey [Jun. 18th, 2015|01:42 pm]
DAW Books Inc.

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The last book discussion for the June releases from DAW Books is for Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey, part of the Elemental Masters series. Who here has read it? What did you think?





Cover Copy: Rosamund grew up in a small cottage in the Schwarzwald, the ancient Black Forest of Germany, with her Earth Master teacher, a wise old woman. But when Rosa was ten years old, her teacher was attacked and brutally murdered by werewolves.

Luckily, Rosa escaped and found a new home with the Schwarzwald Foresters. Now years later, her adoptive Papa, the Hunt Master and an Earth Magician, has taught her to use her talents to protect herself and those under her care. Unlike most Earth Masters, Rosa is not a healer. Her path is to "cleanse" the Earth and defend the gentle fae from those evil beings who seek to harm them.

And so Rosa becomes the first woman Hunt Master and the scourge of evil creatures, with a deadly specialty in werewolves and other shapeshifters.

Rosa has been taught that there are three kinds of werewolves. There are those who transform themselves by use of dark magic. There are others who have been infected by the bite of the dark werewolves. Yet, there is a third kind: those who have been born with the ability to transform at will. Some insist that certain hereditary werewolves are benign. But Rosa has never encountered a benign werewolf! Nor could she imagine one.

That is, until Rosa meets a pair of Elemental Magicians from Hungary who have come looking for help. They suspect that there is a dread power responsible for a string of murders happening in the remote countryside of Transylvania, but they have no proof. Rosa agrees to help them, but there is a catch: one of the two men asking for aid is a hereditary werewolf.

Can she trust this Hungarian werewolf? Or is the Hunter destined to become the Hunted?
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Book Discussion: "The Birthgrave" by Tanith Lee [Jun. 16th, 2015|11:08 am]
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Time for the next book discussion for the June releases. This time we're looking at Tanith Lee's The Birthgrave, the first book in the re-release of Lee's novels, and the first book in her Birthgrave series. Who here has read it, either recently or back when it was originally released? What did you think, especially if you've reread it?





Cover Copy: Haunting and full of mythic depth, The Birthgrave is legendary author Tanith Lee's debut novel. This 40th anniversary edition celebrates the launch of her stunning career and features both the original introduction by Marion Zimmer Bradley and a new introduction by the author herself. Now a recognized master fantasist, Lee has won multiple awards for her craft, including the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Horror.

A mysterious woman awakens in the heart of a dormant volcano. Shepherded into rebirth by a terrifying entity named Karrakaz, she has no memory of herself, but is offered a choice: remain in eternal darkness, or begin a cursed life above.

Emerging into a culturally devastated and brutal world, she embarks on a journey of discovery, despite the ruthless fate foretold by Karrakaz and the dark heritage she may be forced to accept. Inexplicably compelled to seek out a strange object she knows only as Jade, she could be anyone--mortal woman, demoness lover, fierce sorceress, last living heir to a long-gone race, or a goddess of destruction. She chooses to be all.

Rediscover Tanith Lee's realm of brilliant cruel beauty and seductive immortal ruins, of grand conquest, falling stars, and silver gods.
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Book Discussion: "From a High Tower" by Mercedes Lackey [Jun. 11th, 2015|11:45 am]
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Time for the next book discussion for June, the hardcover release of Mercedes Lackey's latest Elemental Masters series, From a High Tower. I know this is a popular series (one I should probably get started on reading, yes?), so who here has read it? What did you think?





Cover Copy: Giselle had lived the first fourteen years of her life safe and happy in an abandoned monastery tower. Her mother had told her that, as a young Air Master, she needed to be kept isolated during her potentially tumultuous adolescent years for the safety of herself and others. Mother knew about those things, for she was a powerful Earth Master.

When Mother was called away or had to go to town for supplies, Giselle was locked in her tower for days. Her favorite spot was her bedroom because it had four large windows and was filled with breezes and views of the lush German countryside; heaven for a growing Air Master.

Her sheltered life left her unprepared when a handsome young man appeared at the base of her tower. Giselle was instantly smitten. The only other men she'd seen were the magic-wielding Foresters of the Black Forest, who occasionally came to consult with Mother; men who were older and terribly serious. In two short days, the young stranger convinced Giselle to throw down a rope and help him climb up into her high bedchamber. But as soon as he entered her window, his demeanor changed. When the man tried to force himself upon her, Giselle was seized by terror and called the storm elementals: thunder and black clouds and lightning. She was saved by the appearance of Mother, who beat the man out the window he had climbed in--but this time without the help of the rope.

The following day, Mother called two Foresters to visit Giselle. The Foresters were Earth Masters whose job it was to cleanse the ancient forest of evil elementals. Over the next four years, they shared their fighting expertise to teach Giselle self-defense. Giselle became proficient with the knife, staff, club, and other specialized weapons, but her greatest talent was with the rifle. By the age of twenty, Giselle was an expert markswoman, rivaling anyone in her country. And after Mother suddenly died, it was this skill she used to survive.

Cutting her long hair, she masqueraded as a boy and entered shooting competitions, using the prize money to support herself. Despite her care, her talent caused a vicious guard captain to accuse her of avoiding military service. When she explained by admitting her true gender, she did not meet with sympathy, but a recurrence of the predatory behavior she had encountered as a teenager in her tower. Terrified, she called to her night-sylphs: "Take his breath!" But rather than the temporary unconsciousness Giselle intended, the captain died.

Haunted by the murder she had inadvertently committed, she fled and joined a traveling American Wild West Show touring the German countryside. She had read many Western novels, and she fit right in as the beautiful sharpshooter. Thus disguised, with the language help of her elements, she traveled as an American.

But she never forgot the first man who had assaulted her, and she could not find peace. When that stranger had fallen from her tower long ago, his body had never been found. In Giselle's heart, she was certain he was a magician and thus had survived the fall. Surely, it was only a matter of time before he found her and sought revenge. Would she be prepared to stand against his magic?
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