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Interview with Callie Bates


Please welcome Callie Bates to The Qwillery. Callie is the author of The Waking Land series - The Waking Land (2017) and The Memory of Fire which was published on June 5th by Del Rey.



Interview with Callie Bates




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Memory of Fire (The Waking Land 2), was published on June 5th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Waking Land (2017) to The Memory of Fire?

Callie:  My writing process remained much the same from The Waking Land to The Memory of Fire—I still handwrote the first draft, then transferred to the computer for revisions and edits. (Having said that, I made significant changes in how I drafted the third book in the series—I learned how to revise much more effectively!)



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Waking Land came out that you know now?

Callie:  I wish I had been able to take the advice to chill out and not worry so much about everything! Perhaps inevitably, everything seems much more fraught and urgent when your first novel comes out—and like most things in life, in hindsight, it wasn’t quite as monumental as it seemed.



TQWhich method or methods do you use to keep track of your characters' traits, eye color, etc. and events in the novels?

Callie:  A lot of those traits are ingrained in my mind at this point (or so I claim), but I have also found Scrivener’s Characters/Places/Research templates quite handy, especially early in the drafting process when it feels like my brain is imploding.



TQHow soon after the events in The Waking Land do the events in The Memory of Fire take place?

Callie:  There’s a gap of about two months from the epilogue in The Waking Land to Chapter 1 in The Memory of Fire. Enough time for political tensions to have escalated!



TQPlease tell us a bit about how the magic system in The Waking Land series works.

Callie:  Magic in this world is highly individualized; there is as much variation in people’s abilities as there is in their personalities. Especially since magic hasn’t been taught or widely practiced in a long time, the characters are still discovering all that is possible with sorcery. At one point in The Memory of Fire, Jahan explains that magic is the fulfillment of the potential in anything—for example, it’s possible to light a candle with his mind because the potential for fire exists in the candle.



TQHow difficult or easy was it for you to change your 1st person point of view character for The Memory of Fire?

Callie:  It actually turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would! I ended up rewriting the book quite thoroughly because I didn’t get Jahan’s voice right on the first go-round. But maybe this is, in part, a typical challenge for a second novel—I think we authors tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves with the next book.



TQWhich character in the The Waking Land series (so far) surprised you the most?

Callie:  I would say, as a pair, Sophy and Alistar have been the most unexpected! While I intended for years to write about Elanna and Jahan, Sophy and Alistar both individually just showed up as I was writing The Waking Land—Sophy demanding in her diffident way to be seen, and Alistar bounding onto the page. And now Sophy’s getting her own book, the third in the trilogy, which I would not have foreseen before writing TWL.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Memory of Fire.

Callie:  “I look into her eyes. I need to remember them as long as I can, but I already know how the memories will slip and fade. I know what it’s like to wake up on that stone table, with nothing but the certainty of loss.”



TQWhat's next?

Callie:  I’m finishing up the third book in The Waking Land series, which as I said is about Sophy, who’s trying to figure out how to rule a kingdom, and her heart. I can’t wait to share it with the world!



TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

Callie:  Thanks for having me!





The Memory of Fire
The Waking Land 2
Del Rey, June 5, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Callie Bates
Callie Bates’s debut novel, The Waking Land, announced the arrival of a brilliant new talent in epic fantasy. Now, with The Memory of Fire, Bates expertly deepens her tale, spinning glittering threads of magic and intrigue into a vibrant tapestry of adventure, betrayal, and romance.

Thanks to the magic of Elanna Valtai and the Paladisan noble Jahan Korakide, he lands once controlled by the empire of Paladis have won their independence. But as Elanna exhausts her powers restoring the ravaged land, news that the emperor is readying an invasion spurs Jahan on a desperate mission to establish peace.

Going back to Paladis proves to be anything but peaceful. As magic is a crime in the empire, punishable by death, Jahan must hide his abilities. Nonetheless, the grand inquisitor’s hunters suspect him of sorcery, and mysterious, urgent messages from the witch who secretly trained Jahan only increase his danger of being exposed. Worst of all, the crown prince has turned his back on Jahan, robbing him of the royal protection he once enjoyed.

As word of Jahan’s return spreads, long-sheathed knives, sharp and deadly, are drawn again. And when Elanna, stripped of her magic, is brought to the capital in chains, Jahan must face down the traumas of his past to defeat the shadowy enemies threatening his true love’s life, and the future of the revolution itself.





Previously

The Waking Land
The Waking Land 1
Del Rey, January 2, 2018
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, June 27, 2017

Interview with Callie Bates
In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.





About Callie

Interview with Callie Bates
Photo © Jim Schumaker
Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometime artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. She lives in the Upper Midwest. She is also the author of The Waking Land.










Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @calliebywords


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018


Fear not gentle reader, I am back with my Week in Review :)  I thought I would give you a short break from my WIR and share two of my SPFBO 2017 reviews. I hope you enjoyed them. Keep your eye on the blog for reviews from my fellow Qwillery reviewers on what they thought of the books they read for the competition.

I had a little pooch at NetGalley this week and was surprised by two books I had read last year but hadn't yet reviewed.  Lately books have been available months before their publish date and then I get all excited about reading them. This time I had convinced myself that I had actually posted a review here but after some checking it transpired I hadn't left you a review so check out what I read.


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
First up is The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan which is the first instalment of The Map of Unknown Things, published by Angry Robot on January 2nd. This series is set in the same world as Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series with Elizabeth Barnabus back in her role of spy but this time with the dreaded Patent Office. When airships start to disappear, along with someone close to Elizabeth, she decides to take action and goes undercover, again as a man. As the science officer on a whaler far out to sea Elizabeth is desperate to find out what has happened and more importantly, who is responsible. Elizabeth finds herself in the middle of a mystery and in more danger than anything the Patent Office could do to her. It will take every ounce of her ingenuity and bravery to discover what has happened and survive long enough to report back.

I loved Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series and thought that Elizabeth was a complex, gutsy heroine. Normally, I am a bit nervous when an author creates a new series for one their characters as it usually means they don't want to let go and new books usually aren't as good. I prefer a shorter, excellent series than a long mediocre, drawn out one. However, Duncan doesn't disappoint and this is an excellent start to what I feel is going to be a compelling series. At the beginning of the story I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen, but midway through every thing changed and I couldn't really guess what was going to become of Elizabeth. This is a difficult book to review because I don't want to give anything away. I want you to discover what happens to Elizabeth on your own because it is such a tasty tale. I have read too many reviews that spell everything out and basically rewrite the book so I don't want to do that here. What I can say is that Duncan fleshes out Elizabeth even more and the new landscape in which this story is set is rich and bleak in equal measure. If I had to sum up this story I would describe it as a story of the power of friendship. Cruel, beautiful, warm, and chillingly lonely. It's all these things and a great mystery as well. If you haven't read the original series don't miss out and then join Elizabeth in The Queen of All Crows.


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
The second book I would like to tell you about is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. This is the second in her Winternight Trilogy and follows not long after the events of book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya is on the run. She has been cast out of her village following the death of her father and she faces either being married off  - to become a girl in a tower - or joining a convent. Neither option appeals to her so when the opportunity presents itself she disguises herself as a boy and joins the Grand Prince of Moscow's retinue. When a mysterious and possibly magical force threatens the kingdom Vasya risks everything, including her freedom, to save the Prince, her family and her kingdom.

I can't believe that it is less than a year from the time that Arden released her debut The Bear and the Nightingale (check out my review here). Book 2 does not disappoint. In fact Arden has built upon the strengths of these characters and takes this from a mere fairy tale into some more like folklore. While this is fiction Arden has created characters who are credible, who make you believe they were actually alive, centuries ago. I have to admit I did spend a lot of the story thinking to myself  'poor Vasya' as things seem to go from bad to worse for our teenage heroine. She is forced to grow up quickly but at the same time stays innocent from how cruel the world can really be.

Again, this is another book that I could recount half the plot for you in this review but why would I ruin the journey that you need to take? Join Vasya on her journey of self discovery. Well done Arden, another great book. I can hardly wait for the final in this trilogy, The Winter of the Witch.


That is it for me this week. Apologies for not getting these reviews to you sooner. Better late than never! Until next time Happy Reading.





The Queen of All Crows
The Map of Unknown Things 1
Angry Robot Books, January 2, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
Only one woman can stop the world from descending into endless war, in the thrilling new series in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire
The year is 2012 but it might as well be the Victorian age. The nations of the world are overseen by the International Patent Office, and its ruthless stranglehold on technology.

When airships start disappearing in the middle of the Atlantic, the Patent Office is desperate to discover what has happened. Forbidden to operate beyond the territorial waters of member nations, they send spies to investigate in secret.

One of those spies is Elizabeth Barnabus. She must overcome her dislike of the machinations of her employers, disguise herself as a man, and take to the sea in search of the floating nation of pirates who threaten the world order.

File Under: Fantasy [ A Lost Airship | On the Sargasso | Stowaway Bay | The Crow Queen ]





The Girl in the Tower
Winternight Trilogy 2
Del Rey, December 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.

Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

Interview with Callie Bates, author of The Waking Land


Please welcome Callie Bates to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Waking Land was published on June 27th by Del Rey.



Interview with Callie Bates, author of The Waking Land




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Callie:  Thanks so much for having me! I started writing when I was about 10 or 11. I was a voracious reader—and also a voracious dress-up-player—and I realized that I could write down the stories I was always inventing in dress-up. Both my parents are writers, and sitting down to concoct a book myself didn’t seem outside the realm of possibility.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Callie:  I’ve evolved into a hybrid. I used to firmly be a pantser, but I discovered I need some plan to get to the end of a book (or, in fact, the middle). So now I outline enough to know where I’m going, but not so much that I lose the thrill of discovery.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Callie:  I think stamina challenges me the most—to state the obvious, writing a novel takes a long time, and much of it is done in isolation. There are first drafts, rewrites, revisions, edits. Writing a novel isn’t really like running a marathon—it’s like several marathons, a couple of sprints, and some periods sitting in the grass wondering where exactly you’re trying to get to.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Callie:  Many wonderful books have inspired me over the years, from reading Robin McKinley, Tamora Pierce, and Diana Wynne Jones as a kid, to discovering Dorothy Dunnett and Homer in my teens, to all the incredible books being published now by Naomi Novik, Leigh Bardugo, and so many more. My list could be so much longer! I’m also strongly influenced by place and history—I’m intrigued by finding a real place or historical person or event, and twisting them into fiction.



TQDescribe The Waking Land in 140 characters or less.

Callie:  When she’s framed for poisoning the king, a young woman’s repressed nature magic drags her into her despised, estranged father’s political machinations.



TQ:   Tell us something about The Waking Land that is not found in the book description.

Callie:  Elanna, the main character, is taken hostage as a child for her father’s failed revolution, and raised like a daughter by the king. I was interested in exploring the tension of someone who grows up within a sheltered world, yet apart from it by dint of her birth—and who also struggles with Stockholm Syndrome.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Waking Land? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Callie:  I wanted to explore the symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world through Elanna’s magic—something that can’t really be done outside the fantasy genre! I also wanted to take her on a journey of identity, where she truly transforms her understanding of herself and her world. Though of course I also wanted to write about poisonous fungi, daring escapes and romance!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Waking Land?

Callie:  I did some research into the history of Scotland and Ireland, particularly the Jacobite rebellion of 1745—which is probably obvious to anyone who knows much about Bonnie Prince Charlie! The stone circles are inspired by a trip I took to Ireland in 2012, though my love affair with Neolithic monuments dates back much earlier. Specific details of 18th century life also had to be researched, to give the book the right flavor. And, since the main character is a botanist, I had to study up on my plants!



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Waking Land?

Callie:  The U.S. cover was designed by Kathleen Lynch and illustrated by Ben Perini, and I absolutely love it. I am in awe of their attention to detail—each small feature on the cover ties directly into the book, from the accurate amanita virosa mushrooms to the stone circle, the pistol to the raven, the stately home to the horse riders… It’s pretty much an author’s dream!



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

Callie:  Hmm… Alistar has to be the easiest! He literally bounded onto the page, completely unexpected, and wrote himself into the story. The Butcher was, hands down, the hardest; I was still tinkering with his arc in late edits. Though I can’t explain why without spoilers!



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Waking Land?

Callie:  To me, though I think The Waking Land addresses various social issues, climate change sits at the core of the book. This isn’t a novel about climate change, but in the era of global warming, I think reflecting on the power of the earth—and our connection to it—is essential. If Elanna’s story inspires people to do that, I’ll be very happy!



TQWhich question about The Waking Land do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Callie:  Why did you make Elanna a botanist?

There’s an obvious parallel between El’s interest in botany and her magic. But I also wanted to depict a woman with a scientific bent. And I wanted to show that, like many 19-year-olds, she has hopes and dreams that are already in place, and that matter to her very much. She doesn’t take kindly to having her future plans shattered—which I imagine most of us wouldn’t, either!



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Waking Land.

Callie:  From the prologue: “I was made to walk across the streets to the palace, a barefoot girl in a soiled nightdress, the cold cobblestones burning my feet.”

And this poem: “Wildegarde came, bearing a flame in her heart and her hair crowned with the pale light of stars. Where she placed her foot, the earth trembled; when she raised her hand, mountains moved.”



TQWhat's next?

Callie:  The sequel! The Memory of Fire picks up where The Waking Land leaves off—but this time, the story is Jahan’s. All his secrets will be revealed!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Callie:  Thanks for having me!





The Waking Land
Del Rey, June 27, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Callie Bates, author of The Waking Land
In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.





About Callie

Interview with Callie Bates, author of The Waking Land
Photo © Jim Schumaker
Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometime artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. She lives in the Upper Midwest. The Waking Land is her debut fantasy novel.









Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @calliebywords



Melanie's Week in Review - April 2, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review - April 2, 2017


Happy spring! I can't believe it is April already. It felt like it was just minutes from when I was telling you about my favourite books of 2016. Before I look forward to April showers I thought I would tell you about what I read this week. I actually read 2 books but midway writing this I checked the publication date and realised one of the books I read won't be released until October 2017! You are going to have to wait a while to hear what I thought. However, I do have a book that more than makes up for it. So wait no longer..... Note: There are slight spoilers for the 1st book in this series so read at your own risk.


Melanie's Week in Review - April 2, 2017
I had been waiting months to read Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel and I was finally able to. It was rather like waiting counting down for Christmas but in this case I was counting down to the publication date of the 4th April. I had the book for a few months but didn't want to read it too much in advance of its publication and my opportunity to find out what happened next to my favourite characters from Sleeping Giants (book 1 of The Themis Files), one of my all time favourite books.

Waking Gods is set approximately 10 years after the events of book 1 and humanity is enjoying relative peace thanks to the giant alien robot Themis, built by the Earth Defense Corps. When another robot appears in Regents Park (in London, UK) and ends up decimating most of London, killing millions, everyone soon realises that the peace they have enjoyed is now over. It's up to the EDC to figure out how to save humanity from complete annihilation from the alien race. Are they up to the job? I will let you find out for yourself.

All my favourite characters are also back including Rose Thornton who died midway through book 1 but who reappears, unharmed in Ireland but missing 4 years of her life. We get to find out what happened to Rose and how and why she returned. Also back is the mystery man who conducts the interviews which tell the story through book 1 and most of 2. Neuvel is a real tease by solving some of the mysteries from book 1 including who the mysterious interviewer is and how he came involved, but then leaves us with one big whopping cliff hanger at the end. We also find out more about Themis and why she was left buried, in pieces around the world. There are some real shockers in Waking Gods and don't get too attached to some of the characters....that is all I am going to say about the plot. Another fantastic novel in the Themis series. Well done Neuvel. From clever debut to exciting second novel.


That is it for me this week. Short and sweet. Apologies for not having more books to tell you about and I promise to take more care about publication dates and when I should be reading certain books. Until next week, Happy reading.



Waking Gods
The Themis Files 2
Del Rey, April 4, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 2, 2017
In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.



Previously

Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files 1
Del Rey, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 26, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - April 2, 2017
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?


See Melanie's Review here.

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors


Here are some of the recent and upcoming novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors! The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.


Laura Lam (2016)

Shattered Minds
A Pacifica Novel
Tor Books, June 20, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
Johnny Mnemonic meets a female Dexter in Laura Lam's new speculative thriller, set in the near-future SF world of False Hearts

Carina used to be one of the best biohackers in Pacifica. But when she worked for Sudice and saw what the company's experiments on brain recording were doing to their subjects, it disturbed her—especially because she found herself enjoying giving pain and contemplating murder. She quit and soon grew addicted to the drug Zeal, spending most of her waking moments in a horror-filled dream world where she could act out her depraved fantasies without actually hurting anyone.

One of her trips is interrupted by strange flashing images and the brutal murder of a young girl. Even in her drug-addicted state, Carina knows it isn’t anything she created in the Zealscape. On her next trip, she discovers that an old coworker from Sudice, Max, sent her these images before he was killed by the company. Encrypted within the images are the clues to his murder, plus information strong enough to take down the international corporation.

Carina's next choice will transform herself, San Francisco, and possibly the world itself.





Yoon Ha Lee (2016)

Extracurricular Activities
A Tor.com Original
Tor Books, February 15, 2017
eBook, 32 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
A space opera adventure set in a distant future where an undercover agent has to go behind enemy lines to recover a lost ship and a possible traitor.


Raven Stratagem
Machineries of Empire 2
Solaris, June 13, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
Captain Kel Cheris is possessed by a long-dead traitor general. Together they must face the rivalries of the hexarchate and a potentially devastating invasion.

When the hexarchate's gifted young captain Kel Cheris summoned the ghost of the long-dead General Shuos Jedao to help her put down a rebellion, she didn't reckon on his breaking free of centuries of imprisonment – and possessing her.

Even worse, the enemy Hafn are invading, and Jedao takes over General Kel Khiruev's fleet, which was tasked with stopping them. Only one of Khiruev's subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, seems to be able to resist the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.





Michael Poore (2012)

Reincarnation Blues
Del Rey, August 22, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
In the tradition of Cloud Atlas comes a wildly imaginative novel about a man who is reincarnated over ten thousand lifetimes to be with his one true love: Death herself.

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try? 

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.

Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too.

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig


Aftermath: Empire's End
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 21, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price: US$28.99 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101966969 (print); 9781101966976 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

EVERY END IS A NEW BEGINNING.

As the final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire draws near, all eyes turn to a once-isolated planet: Jakku.

The Battle of Endor shattered the Empire, scattering its remaining forces across the galaxy. But the months following the Rebellion’s victory have not been easy. The fledgling New Republic has suffered a devastating attack from the Imperial remnant, forcing the new democracy to escalate their hunt for the hidden enemy.

For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal—and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice.

But Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began at Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.



Trinitytwo's / Tracey's Review

Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End, the stunning conclusion to Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath series, tidily wraps up the adventures of an unlikely group of New Republic heroes. In the wake of the devastation caused by the bloodbath on Chandrila, Norra Wexley, leader of a team of "Imperial Hunters", uncovers information that Grand Admiral Rae Sloane has fled to the desert planet of Jakku. For Norra, bringing Sloane to justice, is personal. Her husband was one of the released Imperial captives that was programmed, via implant, to assassinate high ranking New Republic personnel during the Liberation Day celebrations. Norra is determined to make Sloane pay for the pain and anguish that was inflicted on the innocent.

But Norra and the New Republic are wrong: Sloane was not responsible for the terrorist attack. She's tracked the organizer of the slaughter, Gallius Rax, to Jakku. Sloane's agenda is simple: for his perversion of her beloved Empire, she will find him and kill him. Norra and her squad are hot on Sloane's trail, but as they drop out of hyperspace they are alarmed to discover that what's left of the Imperial fleet is orbiting this remote planet. But to what purpose? Will this discovery set off a chain of events that will lead to the Empire's ultimate end?

Empire's End is a beautifully written finale to the Aftermath series. Wendig meticulously ties up the multitude of story arcs into a neat package. Fans of the film will definitely appreciate how the final battle sets the stage for Episode VII. But by laying the necessary groundwork for the film, I felt the main characters' stories suffered slightly. I got the feeling that Empire's End was much more of a staging area for the film than Aftermath or Aftermath: Life Debt. This doesn't necessarily make the story bad, in fact, it's pretty darn good. I really enjoy Wendig's characters and feel that they were a bit short-changed.

For instance, I simply did not get enough of ex-Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus. I always enjoy Sinjir's exploits; whether he is extracting information from an unwilling bounty hunter, or on a covert mission to expose corrupt senators. I especially like his interactions with bounty hunter Jas Emari, Chancellor Mon Mothma, and his relationship with tech slicer Conder Kyl.

The modified B1 battle droid, Mister Bones, is always a favorite. Although Bones is a supporting character, he is totally unforgettable. I am seriously excited because Wendig tantalizes readers with a few of the maniacal droid's memories; proving that there is much more to Mister Bones that meets the eye.

Who doesn't love reuniting with old friends? Wendig's story is peppered with interludes, some of which feature the suave scoundrel Lando Calrissian retaking Bespin, a certain infamous Gungan on Naboo, and the ongoing struggles on Kashyyyk featuring Chewbacca.

Aftermath: Empire's End is an exciting and entertaining book. It seems to have been given the momentous task of taking a galaxy of loose threads and tying them together. Wendig does this brilliantly. Lovers of the Star Wars Universe shouldn't pass up the book, or the series; it provides tons of insight into future events and succeeds by being both appealing and exhilarating.




Previously

Aftermath
Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 1
Del Rey, March 29, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2015

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Aftermath [reveals] what happened after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It turns out, there’s more than just the Empire for the good guys to worry about.”—The Hollywood Reporter

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.


Read Tracey's Review here.




Aftermath: Life Debt
Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 2
Del Rey, March 28, 2017
Mass Market Paperback, 512 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 19, 2016

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig’s bestselling trilogy.

It is a dark time for the Empire. . . .

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush—resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the Millennium Falcon’s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them—or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.


Read Tracey's Review here.

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage


Please welcome Vic James to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gilded Cage is published on February 14th by Del Rey.

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



Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Vic:  Thank you so much for inviting me in! I was a reader first. Every night my parents would check on me after lights-out and find me sound asleep with a book on my face where I’d not wanted to put it down! As for when I started to write, well, my mother just moved house and found a copy of a story I wrote age 7 that won a prize in a local library competition. It was about a statue of a dark ages king who comes to life and walks through the city centre, where he breaks into a cake shop and a bookshop – my 7-year-old’s priorities, right there! I write to tell the stories I wish had been written for me.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Vic:  A hybrid. Before I start I need to know my ending, and to have a few significant ‘waymarker’ events. Then I let my characters find their own route between them. I do write chronologically, and can’t imagine doing it any other way! I can never leave a tricky bit unresolved and simply move on. I stop where I am until I’ve got it right.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Vic:  I use multiple perspectives – three ‘leads’ and two other significant ones – and though they are each telling their own story, they are all part of the same, single narrative. Making sure that the reader can confidently fill in for themselves what one character might have been doing while we spend time hearing from another character is very important.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a TV director influence or not your novel writing?

Vic:  My works as a current affairs TV director is central to my writing. It’s given me insights into everything from the harsh realities of life at the bottom of our society today (when I made UK reports for Channel 4 News), to how sexual coercion is commonplace in politics (I made a report dubbed ‘Sexminster’), to how elites live and operate, as with a series on the modern global superrich. I couldn’t have written this book and expected it to be convincing without that experience.



TQDescribe Gilded Cage in 140 characters or less.

Vic:  In an alternate modern Britain, everyone must perform 10 years’ service to the ruling magical aristocracy. A brother & sister must survive – & make a different world.



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

Vic:  Ooooh. The history goes very deep. There is around 1,200 years of backstory to the world, which is drip-fed in small amounts through the books. I have all sorts of legends and short stories and origin myths and historical tales of derring-do locked up in my head. One theme of the series is the nature of history and who writes it, and these stories from the past become progressively more important as the series progresses.



TQWhat inspired you to write Gilded Cage?

Vic:  My day job is in TV. I was producing a BBC series titled The Superrich and Us, filming with billionaires, visiting their houses and exclusive events, like a supercar rally, at a time when there was a lot of talk about ‘the 1%’ and ‘the 99%’. And on my way to work one day, the idea just clicked in my head: What if the 1% didn’t only have unimaginable wealth – what if they also had magic?

In fact, isn’t extreme wealth, in our world, like a kind of magic? It lets these people do things the rest of us simply can’t. I wanted to explore how those people behave: do they do good, or bad? Do they want to change the world – or just enjoy their position of privilege in it?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gilded Cage?

Vic:  No especial research, because in a way I’ve been researching for it my whole life! The alternate Britain diverges 400 years ago, during the English Civil War, and I did a doctorate on that period. All of the bleak details about life during the slavedays were informed by my career as a news journalist reporting on UK social affairs. The grand houses I describe are inspired by stately homes owned by the National Trust which I’ve been visiting since childhood. After all, they do say ‘write what you know’!



TQPlease tell us about Gilded Cage's cover.

Vic:  I love both my UK and US covers, and I’ve just seen the French one, which has blown my tiny mind! Huge thanks to Jo Thompson (UK) and Dave Stevenson (US) for their wonderful work. All my publishers have seized on the theme of birds! That’s probably to be expected, with the title of this first book, but it’s also a reference to the dynamics of the world – the super-powered Equals, and everyone else. There’s a line where one of the characters enters Kyneston, the aristocratic estate, at night, and hears noises in the forest: “it seemed like everything here was busy hunting everything else: the animals with wings and claws going after the animals with neither.”



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

Vic:  Writing Gilded Cage brought an interesting insight: writing characters whose thought processes are a lot like yours (in my case, Silyen), or who are vastly different (eg. Gavar) are both fun and easy. The trickier ones are characters with whom you share qualities, but from whom you differ in important respects. So like Abi, I am bookish, academic and motivated; but she is more methodical, and far more trusting in system and order than I am. So with those characters, you have to watch those fault-lines carefully.



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in Gilded Cage?

Vic:  The book is social issues. They were its inspiration. These books could only have been written now, and I’m sure readers will spot plenty more current parallels in book 2, as well!



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

Vic:  Some readers have wondered why, given that you can choose when to start your ‘slavedays’, people don’t just put it off forever. In the book I mention that you have to start by age 55 (because otherwise you wouldn’t be much good if you were allocated heavy labour!) But there was a longer explanation that got cut in revisions. One important thing not mentioned in Gilded Cage is that if a parent dies with their days unserved, their child(ren) inherit that debt. This happened to Luke and Abi’s cousin Sean, whose father had a heart attack when Sean was 12. As an only child, Sean inherited the whole of his father’s debt, meaning he’ll have to serve a total of 20 years. (Multiple children would share the debt-days among them.) That’s a massive incentive for any parent to want to do their days while they’re still reasonably young and healthy – just as the Hadley parents do.



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

Vic:  There are two that to me sum up the world of the books – I’ve even had them printed on t-shirts for when I do events!

One is Doc Jackson’s advice to Luke: “There’s no magic more powerful than the human spirit.”

The other is Gavar Jardine’s reflection on the power of his elite kind, the Equals, because magic is like money, “You didn’t need to ask to know who had lots of it.”



TQWhat's next?

Vic:  Right now I am working on book 3, Bright Ruin, which releases June 2018. (Book 2, Tarnished City, is out in seven months, in early September.) I’m also directing a major documentary for BBC1 on the first 100 days of the Trump administration. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether/how any of that feeds into the books! And I’m turning over ideas for my post-trilogy books. I have another alternate-now story, this one a standalone, that I desperately want to write!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Vic:  Thank you so much for having me, and for loving Gilded Cage!





Gilded Cage
Dark Gifts 1
Del Rey, February 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?


Read Melanie's review here.





About Vic

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
Photo by Jay Dacey
Vic James is a current-affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms. Her programs for BBC1 have covered the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Britain’s EU referendum. She has twice judged The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Gilded Cage is her first novel, and an early draft of it won a major online award from Wattpad for most-talked-about fantasy. She has lived in Rome and Tokyo, and currently lives in London.


Website  ~  Twitter @DrVictoriaJames  ~  Facebook





UK Edition

Gilded Cage
The Dark Gifts Trilogy 1
Pan, January 26, 2017
Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
A thrilling Orwellian vision of Britain, with a rebellious Hunger Games heart, Gilded Cage is the astonishing debut novel from Vic James, and the first title in her electrifying The Dark Gifts Trilogy.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James


Gilded Cage
Author:  Vic James
Series:  Dark Gifts 1
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 14, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  US$20.00 (print); US$10.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425284155 (print); 9780425284131 (eBook)

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?



Melanie's Thoughts

Abi and Luke have their whole lives in front of them - Abi has been accepted into university to study medicine and the 16 year old Luke is looking forward to doing what most teenage boys do...have fun. This isn't on the cards when their parents make the big decision to leave their home, jobs, friends, family and most importantly their freedom in order to do their mandatory 10 years as slaves for the magically gifted aristocracy. When Luke is separated and sent to the brutal factory town of Millmoor it's clear that this was a decision that would irrevocably change the entire family's lives forever. Politics and revolution play hand in hand with magic and subjugation.

James sets her debut in a dystopian version of England where the ruling class are the Skilled with magical powers they barely ever have to use and the rest of humanity who give up ten years of their lives in slavery to the Equals. The majority of the story is told from four of the main characters POV including Abi and Luke where we learn what it is like to have everything you love stripped away from you by the ruling class. To avoid a totally one sided story chapters are also dedicated to two of the Equalis - Gavar and Bouda whose are both single mindedly selfish and cruel. The mystery of this story is not what happens to Abi and Luke but rather it's whether the extremely powerful Equal Silyen is working for good or evil. You are kept guessing all the way to the end (and I'm still not sure).

When I read the book summary I was convinced that this story was going to be right up my street - a bit of magic, a bit of mayhem and a fight against an evil aristocracy. While there was definitely a bit of magic the revolution aspects were pretty thin on the ground. I wouldn't say that Luke actually succeeded in proving that the power of the people was greater than the power of magic. I felt that Abi's almost instant infatuation with the Skillless aristocract Jenner was a bit trite and unbelievable. I am not sure, regardless of how handsome Jenner was, how you could fall so easily in love with someone who effectively owns you and your family for a decade. I thought that Silyen was the most interesting by far and he wasn't in it quite enough to keep my interest through the whole story.

While I think Gilded Cage was a good debut I wasn't blown away. The world building was very good but I found the characterisation a bit weak. My main criticism is that I just didn't care enough about any of the characters that I was worried about what could happen to them or angry when they did something evil. I believe that having a story told by 4-5 different POVs makes it more challenging to really draw in the reader so that they are truly invested in what they do and what happens to them. The story ended on quite the cliffhanger but I am undecided whether I want to know what happens next.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden


The Bear and the Nightingale
Author:  Katherine Arden
Publisher:  Del Rey, January 10, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101885932 (print); 9781101885949 (eBook)

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.



Melanie's Thoughts

Set in the remote forest of Russia, Katherine Arden begins her amazing debut featuring Vasilisa who is very different from her parents and siblings. Vasilisa can see the spirits who live in her home, stables and the forest. The same spirits who frighten her step mother and cast her in the role of the village witch. When a young priest is sent to the village, determined to purge the 'old ways' everything takes a turn for the worst.  Crops start to fail, villagers and their animals die in horrible ways and the dead come back to life but its not the pious who will save them. Vasilisa, with the help of the frost demon, is the only one who can save her family home.

The Bear and the Nightingale is truly a fantastic book. It is one of those books that you can't believe is a debut and can't put down. To echo the book summary it really reminded me of Naomi Novak's Uprooted. Both books are steeped in Russian folklore with enigmatic female leads. Arden paints a rich and colourful picture of Vasilisa's lonely upbringing as the child that caused her beloved mother's death. When her stepmother turns up on the scene Vasilisa's life turns into an almost 'cinderella before the ball' existence. I enjoyed how Arden uses the plot to explain the spread of Christianity during that time period in Russia and how people turned away from worshiping the pagan gods and spirits. My one small criticism is that Arden spent a little too long describing Vasilisa's early life as I believe she could have a successfully progressed the plot without so much exposition in that period of her life.

If you are looking for a book that draws you in from page one and you can't put down then I urge you to read The Bear and the Nightingale. Hats off to Arden for crafting an richly textured story in a wonderfully lush and equally stark setting. This story hearkens back to a traditional fairy tale and is so detailed you can almost feel the chill of every snowflake that falls on Vasilisa's shoulders. A joy to read, start to finish.

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig


Aftermath: Life Debt
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  The Aftermath Trilogy 2
Publisher:  Del Rey, July 12, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  US$28.99 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN9781101966938 (print); 9781101966945 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig’s bestselling trilogy.

It is a dark time for the Empire. . . . 

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush—resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the Millennium Falcon’s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them—or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.



Tracey/Trinitytwo's Point of View

Aftermath: Life Debt picks up shortly after the events of Aftermath. Norra Wexley's eclectic team has made a name for itself and works steadily for the New Republic. Their mission: capture and deliver important Imperials to Chandrila, where they will stand trial for their crimes against the galaxy. After returning from a particularly harrowing mission, Norra is approached by Princess Leia Organa who announces that her husband, Han Solo, is missing after a failed attempt to free Chewbacca from incarceration by the Empire. Although her request is not sanctioned by the leaders of the New Republic, Leia asks Norra and her team to find Han.

Life Debt screams into action almost immediately and its pace never lessens. Wendig hits his stride in this second installment and the choppiness I noted in book one of the trilogy has transitioned into a smooth ride through hyperspace. Although its storyline is complex, it's particularly well orchestrated. Each component fits together like an intricate puzzle that is extremely satisfying when completed.

I have grown quite fond of Norra Wexley and her diverse team of risk takers. Of note, Norra's son Temmin, whose chip on his shoulder was so large that he was often unlikeable in book one, has shown clear growth. His mixture of confusion, anger, and budding maturity are appropriate for a teenager. Norra has also grown more realistic. I empathize with her struggle to balance both her responsibilities as a single mom and her position in the New Republic. Jas Emari, the bounty hunter, Sinjir Rath Velus, the ex-Imperial, Jom Barell, formerly New Republic Spec-Forces and Mister Bones, Temmin's maniacal B1 Battle Droid, round out the team. Wendig allows each member to seamlessly get his, her, or its moment in the sun. In fact, Wendig does a fantastic job of keeping this large ensemble cast of characters three dimensional and hits every note with bittersweet accuracy.

Wendig provides insight into Grand Admiral Rae Sloane's motivation. Sloane's determination to champion the Empire's way of life and her desire to preserve its "order and stability" is key to the plot. Wendig humanizes her while also providing purpose and a plausibility that is often missing in antagonists that are simply greedy or hungry for power.

Aftermath tantalizes readers with glimpses of many favorites from the original Star Wars film trilogy: notably Han Solo and Chewbacca. Life Debt will assuredly thrill readers by continuing Han and Chewie's adventures after Return of the Jedi. As a diehard fan of the franchise, I enjoyed learning more about the complicated relationships between the princess, the scoundrel and the Wookie. Without any spoilerish details, there is one passage between Han and Chewie that brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Wendig!

Life Debt speaks of the injustices of inequality, slavery, prejudice and poverty in a galaxy far, far away, and yet it also served to remind me of the suffering in our world today. This is brilliant writing! I am truly impressed with the overall message Wendig sends out while at the same time entertaining readers with a rich, complex and riveting story set in the Star Wars universe. I thoroughly enjoyed book one, but book two is even better. Aftermath: Life Debt leaves me excited to get my hands on Book 3, Aftermath: Empire's End. I recommend if you haven't started this series, start reading now. This is definitely the Star Wars series you've been looking for!


Note: Aftermath: Life Debt is the second book in the Aftermath Trilogy following Aftermath (See Trinitytwo's Review here..  I recommend reading them in order, although the author does a great job of reintroducing characters and conflicts in book two.





Previously

Aftermath
The Aftermath Trilogy 1
Del Rey, March 29, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2015

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Aftermath [reveals] what happened after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It turns out, there’s more than just the Empire for the good guys to worry about.”—The Hollywood Reporter

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.


See Trinitytwo's Review here.





Upcoming

Aftermath: Empire's End
The Aftermath Trilogy 3
Del Rey, February 21, 2017
Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

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