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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder

Please welcome Alina Boyden to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Stealing Thunder is published on May 12, 2020 by Ace.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Alina a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Alina:  Wow, we're really going back to the beginning, huh? The first piece of fiction I actually remember sitting down at a computer and writing was a story in French when I was in third or fourth grade, having just spent the summer studying it. It has not survived the intervening centuries, and so I can't go back and look at how bad my French was at that age. The first piece I wrote of real fiction was when I was 18, I think, back in like maybe 2002, and it was a 300,000 word post-apocalyptic epic about the trials and tribulations of a small medieval city-state in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. I still have it, but can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Some authors can make 300,000 words seem to fly by, but 18-year-old me was not one of those people.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alina:  I am 1000% pantser. I never outline. I do a lot of research and world-building ahead of time, and I generally know in my head more or less what the starting drama is, and more or less what the resolution is, and then I just let the characters work it out. Sometimes I honestly don't even know what the ending is when I start. In fact, when I started writing Stealing Thunder I didn't have the slightest clue what the plot was going to be. I just knew who Razia was and where she was, and what her situation was, and she took care of the rest.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alina:  Editing. By far editing. I tend to be one of those people who writes one draft of a thing, and that's the finished product, more or less. That was the case with Stealing Thunder. However, while that's a very entertaining way to live your life, I don't think it's consistent enough for the fiction market, given how competitive it is. So, the sequel, for example, went through about a dozen "drafts." Though none of those drafts was a full draft. I tend to write myself into corners and then erase the path back to where it branched, and start over. So for the sequel to Stealing Thunder, which is around 124,000 words, I wrote something like 400 or 450,000 words. So, maybe instead of a plotter or a pantser I'm a pruner?

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alina:  History is probably my biggest influence. I'm a history nut, and will happily spend hours and hours researching the history of just the most random things. I don't have a particular place or time that I'm more in love with than any other. They're all equally brilliant and fascinating. I think what I love about it is that you get to see people who are just like us living in a world vastly different from our own, and I think that dovetails brilliantly with fantasy and science fiction.

TQWhat is a cultural anthropologist and how does being one affect your writing?

Alina:  I'm a trained cultural anthropologist, but I don't really identify as one. I'm also a trained archaeologist, and a trained historian from an academic standpoint. We all have many facets to our identities, but if I'm anything professionally at this point, it's a writer. That being said, I think that cultural anthropology is a discipline that has at its founding core a very hopeful message for humanity, and one that is particularly valuable for fiction, as I've often heard fiction described as an exercise in empathy. Cultural anthropology was founded on the idea of empathy, and the idea that if you take the time to listen to other people and to live with other people, you can come to understand something about them. It was predicated, at least in the Boasian tradition, on the idea that no culture is superior to any other, that no people is hierarchically above any other, and that all cultural beliefs and practices are of equal value. Like many ideals, cultural anthropology's have rarely been achieved in actual practice, but I think it's a good message to take home nonetheless.

TQDescribe Stealing Thunder using only 5 words.

Alina:  Trans "Pretty Woman" with dragons.

TQTell us something about Stealing Thunder that is not found in the book description.

Alina:  Page 1 has three trans women having a conversation not about cis people. I don't know if there's some equivalent of the Bechdel test for trans women, but if it exists, Stealing Thunder might be the only fantasy novel in the history of the world that passes it. And it does so on page 1.

TQWhat inspired you to write Stealing Thunder? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Alina:  I was inspired to write Stealing Thunder largely as a result of my experiences with South Asian trans women and their communities. They are some of the oldest communities in the world of trans people who are out and acknowledged by society. That blew my mind when I first encountered it, and it really changed my approach to writing trans girls in fiction in general, but fantasy in particular, because I was so tired of seeing LGBT representation where we're all unicorns who live alone and never encounter anyone like us. (And, like medieval unicorns we also usually die just before consummating our love).

Fantasy is my favorite genre because I get to write historical fiction, but I don't have to be slavish to the history, and if I want to have something different happen, or to have a weird pterano-bird-dragon that you can ride on, I can have that.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Stealing Thunder?

Alina:  Stealing Thunder didn't require much in the way of special research, because it was stuff I was already doing. At the time I wrote it, I was studying Urdu, reading the history of South Asia, having loads of conversations with South Asian trans women, and so it was something that I was very much already stewing in at the time. For the sequel, without giving anything away, I did delve very especially into certain regional histories and ethnographies, but for Stealing Thunder it sort of naturally followed what I was already doing.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Stealing Thunder.

Alina:  If you zoom in really close on the full-size digital image, the details on the columns on either side of Razia are amazing. Greg Ruth did a really wonderful job, and I am so happy that my first book has such cool cover art. Lots of authors aren't so lucky.

TQIn Stealing Thunder who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Alina:  The easiest characters for me are always the jerks, I think. I don't know what that says about me, but I find them to be really fun. I don't mean villains necessarily, but antagonists. So Sikander, Razia's father, Arjun's father, they're all really easy for me. Even Karim to an extent. But the hardest were Razia's sisters, Sakshi and Lakshmi. Lakshmi because she's a kid, and I was never a normal kid, so writing a normal kid is really hard for me. And Sakshi because she's the supportive one, the kind one, but I can't make her too one note, or she's just not a character. People like drama, they like tension, and so when you write characters who are adversarial, I think people tend to see them more vividly. So a supportive cast is tough to write without making them dull.

TQDoes Stealing Thunder touch on any social issues?

Alina:  I don't think Stealing Thunder so much touches on social issues as it does just take a flamethrower (or maybe a fire-breathing zahhak) to them. I think it's easy, if you live in a liberal bubble in the US, to forget that in most of the country trans people's rights are being eroded every day - especially trans childrens'. Just in the last three weeks we've seen bills preventing trans girls from playing sports and preventing all trans people from changing their birth certificates made law in Idaho, just to cite one example. At this very moment, the Supreme Court is waiting to rule on whether or not I can be fired from my job just for being transgender. If the case goes against us, Title VII will no longer apply to trans people anywhere in the US. So, while the climate is not nearly as bad as it was when I transitioned eighteen years ago, it is far from good, and to have a book put out by the biggest publisher in the world with a trans girl heroine is really making a statement.

TQWhich question about Stealing Thunder do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Alina:  What does it mean to you to have an unapologetically positive story with a trans woman main character?

It means everything to me, and I hope it will come to mean something to those members of our community who read fantasy novels. Stealing Thunder counters so many negative messages for trans women in our country - that we're not pretty, that we're not desirable, that we're not worthy of love, that we're not heroic, that we're not noble, that we're sinful, that we're weak, that we're mentally incompetent, insane, deranged, perverse. I've been called every single one of those things in my life, and so has every other trans woman I've ever met. We've seen it in literature, on TV, in film, and acted out on the nightly news. I somewhat jokingly summarize Stealing Thunder as trans girl Pretty Woman in the Mughal Empire with dragons, but we didn't actually get Pretty Woman. We got the Crying Game, where we're portrayed by a cis man, and when our romantic interest finds out we're trans, he vomits and punches us in the face. And as horrible as that sounds, that was the most positive representation I saw of a trans woman in film in my youth. Normally we're creepy serial killers or confusing corpses for criminal investigators to figure out - if we're included at all. So, to finally get a chance to see a positive portrayal of a trans woman in my favorite literary genre is really a special experience, and I hope it's inspiring for other trans women who pick it up and read it.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Stealing Thunder.


"How do you explain your soul to another person? How do you give them a glimpse of it?"

"As difficult as life could be here, at least my life was my own, and at least I was me."

TQWhat's next?

Alina:  Next for me is editing Stealing Thunder's sequel, which is slated to release in May 2021. I have a couple of other fun projects brewing that I can't really talk too much about yet, but mostly I'm just looking forward to seeing Stealing Thunder finally out in the world!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alina:  Thank you so much for hosting me!

Stealing Thunder
Ace, May 12, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder
Protecting her identity means life or death in this immersive epic fantasy inspired by the Mughal Empire.  

In a different life, under a different name, Razia Khan was raised to be the Crown Prince of Nizam, the most powerful kingdom in Daryastan. Born with the soul of a woman, she ran away at a young age to escape her father’s hatred and live life true to herself.

Amongst the hijras of Bikampur, Razia finds sisterhood and discovers a new purpose in life. By day she’s one of her dera’s finest dancers, and by night its most profitable thief. But when her latest target leads her to cross paths with Arjun Agnivansha, Prince of Bikampur, it is she who has something stolen.

An immediate connection with the prince changes Razia’s life forever, and she finds herself embroiled in a dangerous political war. The stakes are greater than any heist she’s ever performed. When the battle brings her face to face with her father, Razia has the chance to reclaim everything she lost…and save her prince.

About Alina

Alina Boyden is a cultural anthropologist focused on organized communities of transgender women in Pakistan, known as khwaja siras, or more popularly as hijras, focusing on how they use their unique community organization to advance the fight for their rights at home and abroad–something which has inspired her, as a transgender woman, in her own battles for civil rights in the U.S. as she fought for transgender care in a major court case with the ACLU.

Website  ~  Twitter @AlinaBoyden

Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman

The Secret Chapter
Author:  Genevieve Cogman
Series:  The Invisible Library Novel 6
Publisher: Ace, January 7, 2020
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price: US$26.00 (HC); US$16.00 (TP); US$11.99  (eBook)
ISBN:  978059317844 (HC); 9781984804761 (TP);  9781984804778 (eBook)

Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman
Time-travelling, dimension-jumping, Librarian-spy Irene and dragon-prince Kai will have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of a dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and Irene is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. Her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information-broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in an early twenty-first-century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.

Melanie's Thoughts

This instalment of the Invisible Library series is a librarian version of Ocean's 11 meets the Italian job with a little of the Thomas Crown Affair thrown in for good measure. Irene is barely afforded the time to rest after the traumatic events of the last story where she helped to broker a deal between the dragons and fae. Her mission, this time, is to obtain a specific book or else the World in which she spent her teenage years will fall into chaos. Unfortunately, the key to finding this book rests in the hands of an information broker - Mr. Nemo. Before he gives up the secret to the book he wants Irene to steal a painting from another world. Irene won't be doing this on her own. She has a crack team at her disposal, each with their own specialism - a thief, a gambler, the muscle, a computer geek and a driver. If they return the painting to Mr. Nemo within a week he will give them something from his collection.  For Irene it's the book she desperately wants. Irene is not normally a 'team player' but she has to cooperate with the others or she has no chance of stealing the painting let alone surviving the mission.

This book seems to signal another change in direction for the series. Books 1-3 focused on the Alberich plotline. Then the direction changes in Books 4 and 5 which leads up to the confrontation between the fae and dragons. Then Book 6 (The Secret Chapter) is different again, where Irene is joined by Kai and a couple of 'players' in order to complete the mission. The only things that are consistent through all novels are Irene, the Library and Kai. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the story. I did. However, that is due to how much I like Irene and Kai and less about the plotline which I found quite predictable in comparison to other stories. Cogman really focuses on stereotypes and the roles that people play in life and the plot lends itself to this theme. I feel that if Cogman represented her characters in colour then everyone apart from Irene and Kai would been in black and white.

Cogam also introduces us to Irene's parents. They are both typical and atypical parents. Irene is unique as she has grown up with the Library but didn't spend a lot of time with her parents as they were off on their own book retrieval missions. The fact that they weren't always around doesn't stop Irene's parents from acting like typical parents and the scenes they are together are quite humorous. Typically being introduced to someone's parents gives you a better idea of what they are like as a person. As we have already spent 5 novels with Irene I don't think there is much about this character that we don't already know and while amusing it does seem more like her parents are a plot device rather than developing Irene's backstory and character.

Overall, this is another solid instalment in the Invisible Library series. I do, however, worry that Cogman has lost the over-arching plot arc. As much as I love Irene, Kai and friends I don't want this to continue to be one off, semi-standalone series with no end in sight.

Interview with C.M. Waggoner, author of Unnatural Magic

Please welcome C.M. Waggoner to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Unnatural Magic was published on November 5, 2019 by Ace.

Interview with C.M. Waggoner, author of Unnatural Magic

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

C.M.  A truly terrible, fairly plotless stab at a fantasy novel when I was about fourteen – I think I gave up at it at about 150 pages in because I realized that I hadn’t thought as far as an ending!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

C.M.  Definitely a hybrid. I tend to write a loose outline and then fill in the gaps as I go. In my experience trying to make things up as I go along just results in another document to add to my failed novel graveyard file.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.M.  I always tell people that the hardest thing about writing for me is getting the characters from one room to another. I always have scenes that I especially want to write in mind before I get started, but moving characters from one interesting scene to the next one is always a struggle!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

C.M.  A combination of the fantasy I read as a kid and classic authors who wrote particularly beautiful or witty prose. My childhood fantasy favorites were probably Tamora Pierce, Monica Furlong and Diana Wynn Jones. In terms of classics Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler are big inspirations. If I think about adult fantasy authors who I admire, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and N.K. Jemisin top the list, though I’m so suggestible

TQDescribe Unnatural Magic using only 5 words.

C.M.  Trolls, humans, wizards and hijinks.

TQTell us something about Unnatural Magic that is not found in the book description.

C.M.  There’s a romantic subplot that’s a pretty major part of the book that doesn’t show up in the book description, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book to write. I wanted to create a couple that didn’t look like the couples that I’m used to seeing in fiction, and I hope that readers enjoy what I came up with!

TQWhat inspired you to write Unnatural Magic? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

C.M.  My initial inspiration came mostly from having consumed so much fantasy as a kid and young adult, and wanting to explore the tropes that I encountered in those books in a playful way. For example, with my depiction of trolls I wanted to tackle the trope of fantasy “races” who have homogenous cultures across their entire species (why do dwarves speak dwarvish when humans don’t speak “human”?) and are constantly at war with each other, and come up with a different way to imagine what it would look like if humans really did coexist with other peoples. In Unnatural Magic I imagined the relationship between the trolls and humans of Daeslund as being less like that between humans and orcs in The Lord of The Rings and more like the real-life relationship between the English and the French – sometimes at war, sometimes allies, and sometimes one completely conquering the other, to the point that it’s impossible to completely untangle where one culture ends and the other begins.

I’m not sure if I think of Unnatural Magic as historic fantasy, exactly, because to me the term brings to mind books that are more alternate history or fantasy retellings of historic events, and Unnatural Magic is definitely second-world fantasy! Basing my worldbuilding in a more Victorian/Regency-flavored culture than the more traditional medieval-style fantasy just made sense to me because I’m such a huge fan of Victorian lit and know little to nothing about the medieval period – I also knew I’d do a better job of worldbuilding based on a historic era that I’m familiar with than trying to make something up from scratch!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Unnatural Magic?

C.M.  Since it’s second-world fantasy I didn’t feel particularly constrained by getting facts about any particular place and time exactly right, but I did do research to try to make the level of technology fairly consistent across the board so that the world made sense – for example, I wanted to make sure that a town’s economy could be based on a pencil eraser factory in an era while trains are also a fairly new and somewhat alarming technology. I do own a couple of reference books about the Regency and Victorian era as well, and look forward to diving back into them as I flesh out the worldbuilding more in my next books.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Unnatural Magic.

C.M.  The cover art is by Tomas Almeida, and there are little clues for things that happen in the book hidden in the corners, like the apple and the heart. It was very fun brainstorming ideas for things to include!

TQIn Unnatural Magic who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

C.M.  Jeckran was the easiest to write because his ways of thinking and speaking are the closest to my own. Onna was harder because I wanted to write her as a naturally feminine, socially adept people-pleaser, but when I was her age I bought my clothes from the men’s section and was pretty hopeless at interacting with my peers. I actually consulted with friends about their inner processes as teen girls in order to try to get it right, though I’m not sure how successful I was!

TQWhich question about Unnatural Magic do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Are there any enormous trolls sitting in tiny armchairs and drinking out of tiny teacups in your book?
A: Yes. Yes there are.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Unnatural Magic.


“You’re terribly clever, aren’t you? How very charming. You’re clever like me, and theatrical like me, and one always finds it so wonderfully enriching to spend time around people who are almost exactly like oneself.”

TQWhat's next?

C.M.  I’m currently almost done writing my second book, which takes place in the same world as Unnatural Magic but follows different characters – though there are guest appearances from some of the folks in Unnatural Magic.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Unnatural Magic
Ace, November 5, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with C.M. Waggoner, author of Unnatural Magic
A “brilliant and terrifically fun”* debut novel brings an enchanting new voice to fantasy.

Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…

*Kat Howard, Alex Award-winning author of An Unkindness of Magicians

About C.M. Waggoner

C.M. Waggoner is at work on her next novel.

Twitter @CMWaggoner2

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan

The Wolf's Call
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  A Raven's Blade Novel 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 23, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451492517 (print); 9780451492531 (eBook)

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan

Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song—the first book of the Raven’s Shadow series—took the fantasy world by storm. Now, he continues that saga with The Wolf’s Call, which begins a thrilling new story of razor-sharp action and epic adventure.

Peace never lasts.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.

Tracey's Review

Vaelin Al Sorna has served Queen Lyrna, also known as the Fire Queen, as Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches since the end of the Liberation War. Now, word has come of the Stalhast, a powerful enemy rising in the Far West, led by Kehlbrand, who is regarded as a god by his people. Kehlbrand is a man whose lust for domination over all free people knows no limits and who will raise his bloody fist in challenge to the Fire Queen if not stopped. Vaelin may have been content to wait until the Stalhast became a tangible threat, but he soon learns that the healer Sherin, a woman he sent to the Venerable Kingdom to ensure her well-being years ago, is directly in their deadly path. And so Vaelin sets out to assure her safety and assess this new threat first-hand.

Full disclosure: I am a huge Anthony Ryan fan. His first book Blood Song, which I reviewed in 2013, was my favorite read that year. The Wolf’s Call, a Raven’s Blade Novel which succeeds A Raven’s Shadow trilogy, begins a new chapter for Vaelin, the veteran warrior and defender of the Unified Realm. Ryan hits the ground running with his newest installment and I couldn’t be more delighted. Although the first trilogy tied things up nicely, it was very satisfying to learn what befell the characters I knew so well in the aftermath of the Liberation War’s destruction.

Ryan really knows how to create characters that readers can admire, distrust, pity, or fear. In Vaelin al Sorna he has created a character that readers really care about and root for. Vaelin’s no-nonsense reasoning, coupled with his fighting skills, and amazing sense of loyalty to those he loves makes him special. The Wolf’s Call is a great blend of familiar characters and brand-new additions. For instance, Nortah, Vaelin’s Brother of the Sixth Order, hearkens back to his early years, while his niece Ellese has just recently been sent to the Northern Reaches for training. Although Ellese is young, she is smart and her fighting skills are daunting, but it’s her attitude - the perfect balance of insubordination and rebellion - that bring her to life. Vaelin’s newest enemy, the Stalhast, were interesting to learn about. Kehlbrand is arrogant, brutal and a master manipulator which makes him a powerful threat. His sister, Luralyn has gifts and talents of her own and shares her thoughts through her own POV narrative which makes for effective story telling.

The Wolf’s Call comes in the form of a threat and warning from an old enemy. As I mentioned before this time it's personal as one of the few people still alive that Vaelin loves is being threatened. In true epic adventure form Vaelin assembles a diverse, yet trustworthy company to find the healer and protect her from harm’s way. Ryan effortlessly introduces new characters who are almost instantly relatable in the context of his consummate worldbuilding skills. He is also a master strategist, and keeps the adrenaline pumping during this action-packed volume. I really enjoyed The Wolf’s Call; I didn’t want to put it down and certainly did not want it to end. If you are looking for epic adventure, answer The Wolf’s Call.

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019

Bye bye May! I can't believe that May has come and gone. I hope that May brought you some blooming great books (get it...May flowers....blooming???...tee hee).  Well excuse my poor sense of humour. I have jetlag after a rather long journey back from the east coast of Canada. The holiday did provide me with the opportunity to read some good books though. So what did I read?

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019
One of my sisters is an ardent fan of Patricia Briggs (she introduced me to the author) and had the most recent Mercy Thompson book - Storm Cursed. I had forgotten that this book had been released so I grabbed her Kindle and piled in. This book is set a mere few months after the events of book 10 when Mercy was kidnapped and held in Europe. Rather than referencing the events of the last book Storm Cursed carries on the plot arc from books 8 and 9. Just when Mercy has a little bit of stability in her life a deadly coven of witches threaten the peace talks between the humans, fae and werewolves. Mercy and the pack promised to protect the Tri Cities and they are determined regardless how many zombie goats they have to kill in the process.

I enjoyed Mercy's 11th adventure more than I thought I would. This instalment links more closely to the overall plot arc (or what I believe is the plot arc) then the previous instalment Silence Fallen (book 10). A number of my favourite characters are back including Zee, Uncle Mike and Larry the Goblin King. The book also emphasizes how Mercy is a bit of an outsider and if it wasn't for being Adam's mate she wouldn't have the support from all of the pack. I felt the book was a bit more like the early books with the dynamic between Mercy, Zee, Tad and the vampire Stefan. Zombie goats aside there are some rather violent sections in this book although much of the violence is recounted rather than experienced by one of the characters. Mercy does get beaten up but not as badly as in previous books. I know this isn't popular with some readers of my posts but I really wish Briggs would wrap up this series. I like Mercy but I think she needs to have her HEA.

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019
I decided to switch it up and read some science fiction after a glut of fantasy and urban fantasy. I turned to the short story Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The story is told by astronaut Gary Rendell. Gary has gone on a mission across the stars to investigate an alien structure. Disaster strikes not long after landing and Gary is alone and lost inside the structure with something or somethings lurking around every corner.

I enjoyed this short story mainly for the witty way in which Tchaikovsky tells the story through Gary's POV. The story switches between the present and the past as Gary recounts how he has ended up in his unique predicament while he wanders through the endless dark tunnels trying to survive. The story is rather light hearted because of Gary's witty story telling until the very end when it gets rather much darker. If you are a science fiction fan and want something that doesn't take ages to read then give Walking to Aldebaran a go.

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019
In case you missed it one of my other reads in May was the final instalment of Lindsay J. Pryor's Blackthorn series - Blood Broken. In honour of this being the final book of the series I wrote a full review which you can read here.

For all you Ilona Andrews fans you are going to be totally jealous that I got an advance copy of Sapphire Flames which is the soon to be released latest book in the Hidden Legacy series. I have to wait a bit before I am able to review it. It is out in August so look for my review sometime in July.

That's all I have for you for this month. I am going to be a bit more dedicated to the blog and get some full reviews posted so wish me luck. Until June happy reading!

Storm Cursed
Mercy Thompson 11
Ace, May 7, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019
In this powerful entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Mercy Thompson must face a deadly enemy to defend all she loves…

My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic.
And a coyote shapeshifter.
And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.

Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn’t stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.

The reality is that nothing and no one is safe.  As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death.

But we are pack, and we have given our word.

We will die to keep it.

Walking to Aldebaran
Solaris, May 28, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 140 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - May 2019
Chilling story of a lost astronaut on an alien artefact from Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Adrian Tchaikovsky

My name is Gary Rendell. I’m an astronaut. When they asked me as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “astronaut, please!” I dreamed astronaut, I worked astronaut, I studied astronaut.

I got lucky; when a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud found a strange alien rock and an international team of scientists was put together to go and look at it, I made the draw.

I got even luckier. When disaster hit and our team was split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, I somehow survived.

Now I’m lost, and alone, and scared, and there’s something horrible in here.

Lucky me.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Interview with Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast's Heart

Please welcome Leife Shellcross to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Beast's Heart is published on February 12, 2019 by Ace.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Leife a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast's Heart

The Qwillery: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Leife Shallcross: Somewhere in a box I have a story I wrote and illustrated when I was about six called The Princess and the Ghost. It involved hidden treasure. I first tried to write a novel when I was about 15 – that one never got finished, but I still have it, all in longhand in old exercise books left over from school.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

LS:  Definitely on the pantser end of the spectrum, but I’m finding it more and more useful to challenge myself to learn how to plot better.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

LS:  Ugh. Plotting. See previous answer. It’s the kind of thing that makes all my procrastination instincts kick in. But when I actually force myself to sit down and do it, I always end up enjoying it.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

LS:  Probably mostly the books I read during my formative years. I love stories where the world is so vibrant and immersive it becomes a character all on its own, and I love lush, descriptive language and understated, dry-as-bones humor. Authors who really inspired my love of story and language in my youth include Jane Austen, Tanith Lee, M M Kaye, Joan Aiken and Diana Wynne Jones. But then, there’s so many incredible authors writing today that continue to inspire me.

TQDescribe The Beast's Heart using only 5 words.

LS:  Enchanting, slow-burn, fairy tale romance. (I definitely didn’t cheat, hyphens are allowed.)

TQTell us something about The Beast's Heart that is not found in the book description.

LS:  In my tale, Beauty has two sisters and they get their own stories.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Beast's Heart? What attracted you to the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast?

LS:  Firstly, I love that Beauty and the Beast isn’t an insta-love story. They spend quite a lot of time getting to know each other before Beauty realizes she’s fallen in love with him, and I love a slow-burn romance. Secondly, I love the idea of the Beast’s enchanted castle being this magical hidden world at the heart of the forest. When I started writing this story, it was mostly a way of losing myself in a fairy tale and getting to hang out in a magical chateau with ensorcelled gardens. Pure self-indulgence.

TQDo you have any other favorite fairy tales?

LS:  This is like asking me to name my favorite kind of cake! There are so many delicious kinds! I am definitely partial to a Cinderella story. Catskin is one of my favorite variants on the theme, and if you want a stunning version of that, the Sapsorrow episode of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller TV series from the late 1980s is wonderful. Then there is a great Norwegian fairy tale called Tatterhood where the main character is a princess who slouches around in a ragged hood, rides a goat and beats up trolls with a wooden spoon for fun.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Beast's Heart?

LS:  So, so much! I’ve been intimately familiar with the fairy tale since I was a child, so my research was mostly about the setting I chose, being 17th Century France. It was lots of weird, bitsy stuff, like 17th Century cutlery, clothing, food, nutcrackers, wedding customs and French names. For example, forks were not really in common use in 17th Century Europe. They weren’t unheard of, just not common. So you won’t find any forks in The Beast’s Heart. I also had to do a bit of research on fireworks.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Beast's Heart.

LS:  I can’t tell you how much I love the cover. It makes me think of 17th Century tapestries, and the roses are so very fairy taleish. The artist is Lisa Perrin, and she has done a bunch of other book covers and quite a bit of illustration. Her work is so beautiful. I’m just thrilled and honored to have it on the cover of my story.


Insta: @madebyperrin

TQIn The Beast's Heart who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

LS:  The hardest character was definitely Isabeau (aka Beauty). Because it’s his story, I spent so much time in my Beast’s head and had to stop at one point and deliberately move out of that space to see the story from her point of view. She’s got an awful lot going on, but the story is so centered on the Beast, I found I hadn’t paid enough attention to her motivations and drivers and she was coming across as a bit of a cipher. The easiest character was probably Claude, the younger of my Beauty’s older sisters. She’s lovely, but she’s not a complicated person.

TQWhich question about The Beast's Heart do you wish someone would ask?

LS:  Question: Fanfic: yes or no?

LS: Dear God, yes! I have a kind of bingo list of author goals and that’s definitely on there. Having the privilege of someone enjoying my story world so much they write fanfic just so they can spend more time in it would just be too exciting.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Beast's Heart.


Quote 1: Enchantments and dreams: I suspect they are made of the same stuff. They each beguile the mind and confuse the senses with wonder and strangeness so all that was familiar becomes freakish, and the most bizarre of things intimate and natural.

Quote 2: There is always a way to break a curse.

TQWhat's next?

LS:  I’m working on another fairy-tale-themed story - this one is based on Cinderella, but my Cinderella has faked her father’s death in order to get him out of his disastrous second marriage and then she gets caught up in a nefarious plot that threatens the crown. I’m also working on a series set in 18th Century London with runaway heiresses and dissolute viscounts and magic and murder. Lots of fun.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Beast's Heart
Ace, February 12, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast's Heart
A luxuriously magical retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in seventeenth-century France–and told from the point of view of the Beast himself.

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .

About Leife

Interview with Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast's Heart
Leife Shallcross lives at the foot of a mountain in Canberra, Australia, with her family and a small, scruffy creature that snores. She is the author of several short stories, including "Pretty Jennie Greenteeth," which won the 2016 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story. The Beast's Heart is her first novel.

Find her online at,, Twitter: @leioss, and

Interview with W. L. Goodwater, author of Breach

Please welcome W. L. Goodwater to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Breach was published on November 6, 2018 by Ace.

Interview with W. L. Goodwater, author of Breach

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece of fiction you remember writing?

W. L.:  I remember starting a noir detective story when I was in the 1st grade. I didn’t know that detective stories had to have a plot – I was mostly focused on the cool hat and trench coat – so I didn’t make it much past the first scene, but I was hooked and have been writing ever since.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

W. L.:  Originally I was a proud pantser, but I can’t do it anymore; outlines are just too helpful. My creative process benefits from separating the “coming up with an interesting story” bit from the “write good words” bit. Otherwise I spend too long staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor. That said, at least twice while writing Breach I made significant deviations from the outline because the story made it clear that it needed to go in a new direction.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

W. L.:  Being creative on demand. I like to sit and wait for inspiration to strike – actually I like to go for long walks, that’s when my imagination works best. But deadlines don’t go away, so I’ve had to learn to just start writing. Once I’ve built some momentum, the creativity usually catches up, and we’ll clean up the rest in editing.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

W. L.:  Like most writers, I read constantly and I know my writing benefits from all those wonderful stories and well-crafted sentences bouncing around in my head. There are brilliant writers who I wish would influence me more so I could have a fraction of their skill, some of my favorites being Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Cormac McCarthy. For Breach though, my inspiration came mostly from the books of John le Carré and Lev Grossman, and from the TV show Agent Carter.

TQDescribe Breach using only 5 words.

W. L.:  Cold War magicians uncovering secrets.

TQTell us something about Breach that is not found in the book description.

W. L.:  Here’s a Breach Easter egg for you: one of the villains is named after a dear friend of mine. When I started writing the book, he offered to help me with any untranslated Russian, so in turn I immortalized him as a bad guy. Seemed like a fair trade.

TQWhat inspired you to write Breach? What appeals to you about writing Alternate History?

W. L.:  The idea came to me in fairly vague terms: Cold War fantasy novel. There are a few examples out there of this sub-sub-sub-genre, but not many. The Cold War spans the whole globe and a huge timeline, but I immediately knew I wanted to write something set in divided Berlin in the years following WWII. It is such a unique and strange part of our recent history, and I knew throwing magic into the mix could only make it more so.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Breach?

W. L.:  Once I had the idea for the story, I knew I needed to learn a lot more, so I did what any writer would do: I got a bunch of books. Some were very helpful; some were a bit dry (turns out that the CIA and KGB don’t always hire agents because of their engaging prose). The best were Frederick Taylor’s The Berlin Wall: A World Divided and Frederick Kempe’s Berlin 1961.

TQWhy did you set the novel in Berlin during the Cold War?

W. L.:  It is just such an evocative setting: the clothes people wore, the cars they drove, the condition of the city as it recovered from the war, all of it. And Cold War Berlin has an abundance of what every good novel requires: conflict.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Breach.

W. L.:  I love the cover for Breach. I was honored to have a cover by Pete Garceau who has done stunning covers for Neil Gaiman, Lee Child, Mary Roach, and many others. The cover shows a historic map of Berlin overlaid with the colors of the German flag and a bright and jagged tear – the titular breach. I love that I’ve never seen a cover quite like it; it really stands out on a bookshelf.

TQIn Breach who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

W. L.:  My main character Karen was often the hardest, because I so desperately wanted to get her right. I did not want to join the ever-expanding Hall of Shame for men writers who write terrible female characters; my readers (and my characters) deserve better. Through the hard work of my wife, my agent, and my editor, I hope she feels authentic.

Villains are often the most fun to write, and I very much enjoyed writing for my deadly KGB colonel, the Nightingale. He believes himself a decent man, committed to his family and his country, despite the terrible things he does for the Soviet Union. That duality – and sometimes just hypocrisy – made writing him always interesting.

TQDoes Breach touch on any social issues?

W. L.:  Since the book is set in the 1950’s with a female main character who is driven to succeed in a male-dominated field, she’s forced to confront misogyny as well as Soviet spies. I wish struggles like this were – like the Berlin Wall – relegated to the past, but obviously our society still doesn’t know how to treat women equally. I think Karen does a good job excelling despite the confines her culture tries to force on her, but it means she’s hindered even by her allies.

TQWhich question about Breach do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

W. L.:  “What’s the deal with that one Yiddish phrase you use in the first chapter?”

I’m glad you asked! The phrase is: “A shod m’hot nisht geredt fun moshiach” and literally translates to “We should have been speaking of Messiah.” It is used the same as the English phrase “Speak of the devil and he shall appear.” I think the idea is “We were talking about this guy and he showed up; maybe if we were talking about Messiah, he’d appear too.” I found it on the internet some years back and thought it was such an interesting phrase so I’ve been looking for a way to use it. During copyediting for Breach, my publisher wanted me to confirm that it meant what I thought, but that proved harder than expected. A friend put me in touch with a dozen or so rabbis and professors, who all had different takes on it, ranging from “Never heard of it” to “Well, maybe…” In the end, I decided to keep it in the book and hope for the best.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Breach.

W. L.:  I love Karen’s exchange with one of her sexist co-workers early on in the book, after she runs out of patience for being talked down to:

          “Listen here, Honey—”

          “Yes, Sweetheart?” Karen replied. This stopped the old Texan cold. Stopped the whole room, actually. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Karen said, “I thought we were being familiar. My mistake.”

And I think the curmudgeonly but poetic nature of Arthur, the CIA chief in West Berlin, is well summarized by this quote of his:

“Someone once told me that life is just the accumulation of memories and regrets. Worst part is, the older I get, I forget about the memories, but those regrets tend to stick around.”

TQWhat's next?

W. L.:  Currently I’m working on edits for the sequel to Breach, which should be out in November 2019. The Cold War has decades of conflict available for inspiration, so there are plenty more stories to tell.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

A Cold War Magic Novel 1
Ace, November 6, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with W. L. Goodwater, author of Breach
The first novel in a new Cold War fantasy series, where the Berlin Wall is made entirely of magic. When a breach unexpectedly appears in the wall, spies from both sides swarm to the city as World War III threatens to spark.


When Soviet magicians conjured an arcane wall to blockade occupied Berlin, the world was outraged but let it stand for the sake of peace. Now, after ten years of fighting with spies instead of spells, the CIA has discovered the unthinkable…


While refugees and soldiers mass along the border, operatives from East and West converge on the most dangerous city in the world to either stop the crisis, or take advantage of it.

Karen, a young magician with the American Office of Magical Research and Deployment, is sent to investigate the breach in the Wall and determine if it can be fixed. Instead, she discovers that the truth is elusive in this divided city–and that even magic itself has its own agenda.


About W. L. Goodwater

Interview with W. L. Goodwater, author of Breach
Walter was born in northern California, in a small (and often miserably hot) town called Red Bluff. He started writing at a young age, writing often about magic, history, detectives, and swords. He went to college to study Computer Science at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and fell in love with the mild climate and decided to stay. While in college, he competed with the Cal Poly fencing team, who won league titles nearly every season. He currently coaches the high school fencing team for the Dunn School in Los Olivos, which has won multiple championship titles.

While he loves to read and write fantasy, he especially enjoys books that span genres. His debut novel, BREACH, takes the chocolate + peanut butter approach of merging fantasy with a Cold War spy thriller, to create a world that benefits from the power of both kinds of stories.

When he isn't writing, Walter is a software engineer specializing in user interface design. He has a passion for creating enjoyable user experiences even out of mundane tasks, and applies the principles of good UX even when writing novels.

Walter loves books, the beach, and Birkenstocks. Root beer floats are also pretty great.

For more insight into the mysteries of Walter, check out the Journal.

Website  ~  Twitter @wlgoodwater  ~  Instagram

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!

Penguin Random House is celebrating the upcoming release of Genevieve Cogman's next novel, THE MORTAL WORD, with a giveaway of the entire Invisible Library series to one lucky winner. 

This giveaway runs from November 12th - November 23rd, 2018. Read the rules and enter at Penguin Random House HERE!

The Invisible Library Series

The Invisible Library
An Invisible Library Novel 1
Ace, June 14, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!
Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

FEATURING BONUS MATERIAL: including an interview with the author, a legend from the Library, and more!

The Masked City
An Invisible Library Novel 2
Ace, September 6, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!
Librarian-spy Irene and her apprentice Kai are back in the second in this “dazzling”* book-filled fantasy series from the author of The Invisible Library.

The written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time…

Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear….

The Burning Page
An Invisible Library Novel 3
Ace, January 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!
Librarian spy Irene and her apprentice Kai return for another “tremendously fun, rip-roaring adventure,” (A Fantastical Librarian) third in the bibliophilic fantasy series from the author of The Masked City.

Never judge a book by its cover…

Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency of finding both Irene and her apprentice, Kai—a dragon prince—and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle…

Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her…

The Lost Plot
An Invisible Library Novel 4
Ace, January 9, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!
After being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae.

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

The Mortal Word
An Invisible Library Novel 5
Ace, November 27, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!
In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Vienna, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, but that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris.

Once they arrive, it seems that the murder victim had uncovered evidence suggesting that he may have found proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are already hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder – but was it dragon, Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?”

About Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author, who has written for several role-playing game companies. She currently works for the NHS in England as a clinical classifications specialist. She is the author of The Invisible Library, The Masked City, The Burning Page, and The Lost Plot.

Website  ~  Twitter @GenevieveCogman

Interview with Peter McLean

Please welcome Peter McLean to The Qwillery. Priest of Bones, the first novel in the War for the Rose Throne, was published on October 2nd by Ace.

Interview with Peter McLean

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery! Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne 1) was published on October 2nd. Describe Priest of Bones using only 5 words.

Peter:  Peaky Blinders with Swords. There, that’s only four words! Joel Cunningham at Barnes & Noble came up with that when they hosted the online cover reveal, and it’s absolutely perfect.

TQIn our first interview (back in 2016) you said that the most challenging thing for you about writing was "Simply making the time to do it is always the hardest thing." Is this still the case or have new challenges cropped up?

Peter:  Yes and no. I had eighteen months off between leaving one day job and starting another, which gave me a ton of time to work (the second book, Priest of Lies, is already done!) but I’m now back at work during the days again, so I’m once more burning the candle at both ends. It’s manageable though, I find I just have to choose what I don’t do in order to make time for writing. I barely watch TV any more, for example, and nights out have definitely become a thing of the past. Writing is one of those things that, if you really want to do it, you’ll find the time somewhere. I know people who get up to write at 5am every day before their families wake up, for example, and people who write on their lunch breaks at work. The time is always there, it’s just up to you how you choose to use it.

TQYour first series, The Burned Man series (Drake, Dominion, and Damnation), is Urban Fantasy. Priest of Bones is described as "...a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy." While The Burned Man series was often grim and dark it could not be called grimdark. What drew you to writing grimdark? What is "grimdark" in your opinion?

Peter:  Oh boy, I’m not even sure of the answer to that myself. I don’t really think anyone outside of the Warhammer community (where the term originated) really agrees on what “grimdark” means. For me, at least, it’s about morally ambiguous characters, about everyone thinking they’re doing the right thing and usually being wrong, and about consequences. One of the key signatures of books commonly regarded as grimdark is that actions have consequences. Wounds get infected and go bad, soldiers get dysentery on campaign, good people die unexpectedly, and war leaves mental as well as physical scars. In those respects I suppose you could say it’s more “realistic” than traditional high fantasy where you often find instant healing spells and so forth, but it’s not just that. There’s an aesthetic to it too, a grime that speaks to the noir-lover in me. I can’t see myself ever writing about singing elves and happy unicorns, if you know what I mean.

TQAre there any themes that Priest of Bones shares with The Burned Man series?

Peter:  Yeah, definitely. Childhood trauma and parent issues seem to be two of my recurring themes whatever I’m writing, and both Don Drake and Tomas Piety are the products of abusive upbringings. There’s the criminality too, of course. Don Drake from The Burned Man was basically a hitman, at least to begin with, and Tomas Piety is a gangster. Both are trying to do good, to be better men, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Both series are set amongst the lower classes of their worlds, too; even when I’m reading history, I’m infinitely more interested in how cobblers, bakers, seamstresses and soldiers lived in a given time than I am in royalty or dukes and duchesses. I always think people’s actions and decisions are more interesting when they’re influenced not simply by what they perceive to be right, but also by how they’ll get to eat that day.

TQYou've set Priest of Bones sort of in the Tudor period. What appeals to you about this particular historical period?

Peter:  I knew I wanted my broken soldiers to be haunted by the noise of the cannon, in a nod to the heroes of the First World War, so I decided to set the story in an analogue of the Tudor period rather than the more ubiquitous “Medieval fantasy era”, which is never particularly Medieval anyway. Also I wanted Ellinburg, where the book is set, to be a filthy industrial city, with lots of heavy manufacturing. I didn’t want to go steampunk with it, but there are a lot of factories powered by waterwheels which I think fit better in a later-feeling setting.

TQIn Priest of Bones who was your favorite character to write and why? Which character has given you the most trouble and why?

Peter:  Bloody Anne is far and away my favourite character. Like the very best characters, she just sort of arrived in my head one day, fully formed and generally causing trouble, demanding to be written. She fascinates me because she functions as Tomas’s conscience, something he’s personally lacking to a large degree. Their relationship is purely platonic but there’s definitely a love between them, and a deep well of mutual respect.

I think in a way Tomas himself was probably the most difficult – with a first person narrator you’re obviously much deeper in that character than any of the others, and Tomas is a complicated man. He just arrived too, but he was much harder to get into the head of than Anne. He’s a ruthless, manipulative businessman out for himself and a natural leader, but at the same time he genuinely cares for his people and his streets, the place where he came from. He grew up dirt poor on those streets, abused and with no prospects. He’s a completely self-made man with big political ambitions and bigger problems, who gets swallowed up by events beyond his control and has to do what he can to make the best of it. He’s a man of contradictions, priest and executioner both. While he is enormously fun to write about it’s a big character to wrap around myself, and not always a comfortable head to live in while writing him.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Priest of Bones.

Peter:  I absolutely love the cover, Ace really did me proud there. It was designed in-house at Berkley by Katie Anderson, combining the photograph of the sword by Jelena Jovanovic with Slava Geri’s street scene. The US trade paperback has a gorgeous textured finish too, while the UK edition from Jo Fletcher Books has a slightly different design but the same image, and will be a my first hardcover release.

TQPlease share with us one or two of your favorite quotes from Priest of Bones.


“My weapons are gold and lace, and paints and powders. And the dagger, when it’s needed. You can hide a dagger very well indeed, behind enough lace.”

When people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy.

TQWhat's next?

Peter:  Next is the second book in the series, Priest of Lies, due out next July. Without giving too much away, you’ll see savage gang warfare, visit Dannsburg, see the imposing House of Law and the terrible House of Magicians, and discover what happens when a man who lives by his brutal reputation finds himself thrown into the merciless arena of royal politics in a city where that reputation simply doesn’t exist.

And that’s without what the Queen’s Men have planned for him.

TQThank you for joining us as The Qwillery!

Peter:  Thank you for having me!

Priest of Bones
War for the Rose Throne 1
Ace, October 2, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Peter McLean
“The first in an unmissable series, Priest of Bones is a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy. Mashing together soldiers, gangsters, magic and war into a heady mix that is a hulking big brother to The Lies of Locke Lamora.”–Anna Stephens, author of Godblind

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg–his people–have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life, it becomes clear:

The war is only just beginning.

About Peter

Interview with Peter McLean
Peter McLean lives in the UK, where he studies martial arts and magic, and volunteers at a prison, teaching creative writing. He is the author of the Burned Man urban fantasy series.

Website  ~  Twitter @petemc666  ~  Facebook

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound
Author:  Grace Draven
Series:  The Fallen Empire 1
Publisher:  Ace, September 25, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  US$15.00 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451489753 (print); 9780451489760 (eBook)

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
A woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.

Melanie's Thoughts

Had Grace Draven's name not been on the front cover I would not have guessed this is one of her novels....well at least not for the first few chapters. Gilene and Azarion are both victims who had endured rape and torture at the hands of the Empire. The Krael Empire is not a typical setting for a Draven novel and most certainly, the systematic rape and torture is not typical of what happens to her characters. Sure, her characters have endured hardship or isolation but never anything to this extreme, especially for the story's hero Azarion. Before you start to this think that this story is something completely different to Draven romance let me reassure you as Draven doesn't focus unduly on what Azarion or Gilene have experienced as captives of the Empire. Azarion and Gilene's memories of their treatment is not too graphic and Draven successfully uses these scenes for character development, possibly also as a backdrop for other books of the series.

Phoenix Unbound is set in, what best can be described, in a time period similar to the Roman Empire where the pagan gods are worshipped and the rich rule by controlling the populace through blood sport and ritual killing. Draven's Krael Empire is not too different to periods of our own history, just with a little more magic. This makes it easier to relate to her characters and could also make you believe that Gilene and Azarion were from a page in history rather than the pages of a fantasy novel.

Draven has a lyrical or poetic writing style and the latter scenes between the two lead characters are written to be read like one long love letter. One of the lines that reminded me that I was reading a Draven novel occurred when Azarion sees Gilene for the first time after nearly a year. He calls her the 'wife of my soul'. For me this is typical Draven. At its core Phoenix Unbound is romance but not as obviously romance as some of her other novels. I am very finicky about what romance I enjoy. I have to say I read quite a bit of that genre but I invariably don't enjoy it, especially when there is a lot of sex. I really enjoyed Draven's Master of Crows series and if she continues to build the Fallen Empire series on the foundation of this first novel then I think I may enjoy it more.

Draven has such beautifully illustrated novels - Masters of Crows is beautiful. The cover of Phoenix Unbound is absolutely gorgeous and I have spent quite a bit of time staring at it. She is very lucky to have someone to create such lovely illustrations.

This may not be a novel to suit every lover of romance but if you like something a little different and not a lot on the hot and steamy then this may be the book for you.
Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing ThunderReview: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve CogmanInterview with C.M. Waggoner, author of Unnatural MagicReview: The Wolf's Call by Anthony RyanMelanie's Month in Review - May 2019Interview with Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast's HeartInterview with W. L. Goodwater, author of BreachThe Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman - GIVEAWAY!!!Interview with Peter McLeanReview: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

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