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Review: Binary by Stephanie Saulter


Binary
Author:  Stephanie Saulter
Series:  ®EVOLUTION 2
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $22.99  (print)
ISBN:  9781623654658 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Binary by Stephanie Saulter
Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she's now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel'Natur's research to help gems and norms alike.

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel'Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist's latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after-not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past...


Melanie's Thoughts

Binary, the second book of the ®EVOLUTION series by Stephanie Saulter, starts several years after book 1 with the norms and the gems living together in more harmony and the gemtechs a mere shadow of their former selves. Everything seems too happy until some gemstock is stolen from a super secure government building and DI Sharon Varsi, a norm now married to gem, is sent to investigate. While the investigation unfolds the savant Herran is asked to work for the former baddy Zavcka Klist. What seems like two very separate plots combined with secrets from Ayrel Morningstar's past all culminate in one fantastic read.

I reviewed Gemsigns back in May 2014 and it later became one of my favourite books of the 2014. I was not disappointed with Binary (with the added bonus that in the UK it was released much earlier). Saulter introduced us to very few new characters but likewise did not bring back that many of the main characters from Binary. This really worked as all the sub-plots revolved around the beautiful and wise Gem leader Ayrel Morningstar.  We get to see a glimpse into her past through a series of flashbacks and see how her past has shaped his future self as she faces off with the former gemtech kingpin Zavcka Klist.

I was a bit dubious that I was going to enjoy this book as much as I liked Gemsigns but Saulter did it. She managed to weave a story that flitted from the past to present with ease and drew the reader in so deeply that it was almost impossible to put this book down. While I missed some of the characters I had grown to love in the previous book I was just as happy to spend time getting to know new ones. The book still focused on Aryl Morningstar who is a compelling protagonist and the flashbacks make her even more so. Kavcka was equally interesting and nothing is better than a baddy who isn't overtly sinister. Saulter writes truly believable science fiction and I almost feel smarter from having read it. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next.

Cover Revealed: Binary by Stephanie Saulter and Excerpt


The Qwillery is thrilled to present the US cover for Binary, ®Evolution 2, by Stephanie Saulter out May 5, 2015 from Jo Fletcher Books:



Cover Revealed: Binary by Stephanie Saulter and Excerpt




Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she's now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel'Natur's research to help gems and norms alike.

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel'Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist's latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after-not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past...




An excerpt

3

Eli waited until the room was almost full, with crowds still massed in the aisles, before slipping in as inconspicuously as possible. He was recognizable enough, especially in this crowd, for a few heads to turn, but no one spoke to him as he found a seat near the back, and he did not think he had been spotted by any of the organizing staff. He had no wish to be hailed from the stage by whatever functionary was conducting the Festival’s formal launch, as could very easily happen if they knew he was there.
       There was no risk of such notice from the evening’s keynote speaker, but he nevertheless felt an almost juvenile aversion to her discovering that he was in attendance. The terms on which they had last met had not been friendly. Mikal was down in front, among the other city officials, and it amused him to imagine the reaction that facing the giant gem would likely evoke; though doubtless she had been steeling herself since the election to keep her feelings well hidden. Still, this last- minute trailing of a major announcement was a curious development, one which had attracted a flurry of comment from the business newstreams. He could understand Aryel’s desire for a first- person report.
       He had glimpsed her as he made his way inside the massive building, fl uttering to earth near the stage that had been erected on the riverwalk’s great park. Greeting Lyriam no doubt, and satisfying herself that all was in readiness for those attending the festivities at his invitation. Disability, either physical or psychological, was virtually unknown among norms but still distressingly common among gems. The older ones in particular had been designed, reared, and trained at a time when such matters barely rated consideration. Even though they had all since been raised to legal equality with norms, ensuring that crippled, disfigured, or dysfunctional gems got the assistance they needed still took a fair amount of coordination and cajoling.
       The people here, he thought as he looked around him, were probably about equally divided between those who had fought early and with diligence for those freedoms and support, and others who had clambered aboard the bandwagon but in truth would have slept no less well had the bad old days of gemtech domination never ended. They would not wish for a return to it, not now that their
consciences had been pricked, but there was a malleability about them that the woman he had come to hear would understand well how to manipulate.
       Not unlike Aryel.
       The thought felt immediately both unworthy— vile, even— and intriguing. Eli picked at it as the program got under way. Aryel too knew how to play people, how to express a perspective and inspire a response. He wondered if the only real difference between the two women was that he happened to share the winged gem’s sense of values.
       He quickly decided— some deeply skeptical part of his mind whispered it might be too quickly— that it was more than that. Aryel’s approach was subtle. She used neither brutality nor blackmail; her weapon was an almost preternatural ability to persuade, a manner that was somehow both emotive and calmly rational. What she thought you should do became, after a few moments’ conversation, the only logical thing to do. That intellectual clarity and ability to communicate had put him in her corner. It was how she had hauled her people out of their postemancipation limbo and into the light.
       That and her beauty, and the magic of her wings.
       He emerged from his reverie in time to applaud the last of a parade of dignitaries. There were a few seconds of bustle before the lights tightened down again to illuminate only the stage. The Festival director reappeared on it, staring owl- like into the gloom of the audience, and gathered up his full pomp to announce that as they were no doubt aware, the chief executive of the Bel’Natur conglomerate would be the final speaker. What was less well- known, he told them, was that Bel’Natur had been early and generous supporters of the Festival, helping to fund much of the launch and the monthlong program of events. He was sure they would all give a very warm welcome to a woman many had heard of but few— unlike himself of course— had been privileged to meet: Zavcka Klist.
       As he took to the stage to make his introduction, in the instant after the lights went down, the door through which Eli had entered was pushed open once again. There was a rustle as some latecomer slipped quickly in.
       When they did not immediately walk past him on the way to one of the few empty seats, he glanced around. He was astonished to recognize the distinctive profile of Aryel Morningstar against the soft blue glow of exit lights, stepping back against the wall, wings tucked in tight. A murmur started as those on either side of the aisle realized who stood there and he saw her raise a finger sharply to her lips. The murmur died away and she folded her arms, standing still as a stone.

Zavcka Klist stood in the spotlight, gazing out into the darkened auditorium while perfunctory applause died away. She carried no tablet, and ignored the lectern onto which a prepared speech might have been projected. She seemed, Eli thought, to be letting them all take a good long look, the better to emphasize whatever point she had come here to make.
       She had changed little in the years since they had last met face to face. Slightly taller than the norm average, blond and dark- eyed, she was possessed of a harsh aristocratic beauty. She had the gift of elegance, of wearing expensive clothes well and looking glamorous with little embellishment. She had favored scarlet lipstick then, he remembered, but no longer; her mouth was now a softer shade, and the lines of her stylish summer suit less stridently autocratic.
       But she was still Zavcka Klist.
       She still wasted little time on pleasantries.
       “Our involvement with the Festival of the Future has struck many as anachronistic,” she began. “You may well wonder how a company that was on the brink of collapse not so very long ago, part of an industry whose day many consider done, can imagine itself to have much of a future. You all know I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the last few years have been, to say the least, challenging.”
       There were a few titters of nervous laughter that degenerated hastily into scattered coughs.
       “The financial challenges have been obvious and serious, but I am happy to report that they have largely been overcome. Bel’Natur remains a leader in agricultural gemtech and as a result we are once again approaching the levels of turnover and profitability that we enjoyed before the abolition of commercialized human gemtech.”
       The silence rippled out. It was as though a stone had been dropped into the massed memories of a century’s shame; a deep, still pool of guilt and recrimination around which, by mutual and unspoken agreement, most norms preferred to tiptoe as silently as possible. Zavcka stared straight into the audience as she spoke, eyes traveling slowly along the seated ranks of gems and norms, a mingling made possible only by the abolition of which she spoke. Eli, who already knew what a bravura performance she was capable of, nevertheless found himself holding his breath.
       “That was, of course, a watershed for the company, as indeed it has been for all of society. You will not be surprised to learn, ladies and gentlemen, gems and norms, that the cultural challenges it presented to us at Bel’Natur were beyond anything we’d ever dealt with. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending that we had no difficulty facing up to the facts of our history, learning the lessons from it, and instituting the changes, both in our business practices and in our attitudes, to ensure that such a cavalier and unthinking application of technology could never occur within our company again. I am certainly not going to insult your sense of justice by suggesting that no wrongs were done.”
       A loud murmur, with more than a hint, Eli thought, of the kind of self- righteousness beloved of those who preferred not to consider their own complicity. People shifted and muttered to each other. He kept his eyes on the back of Mikal’s head, shoulders and half a torso higher than anyone else’s, and noted that he had not moved a muscle.
       Zavcka stepped back a couple of paces, hands up in capitulation. “Let me say this, loud and clear, so no one can be in any doubt where Bel’Natur stands on this today: Wrongs were done, and we did them, along with the rest of the industry. And while we could justifiably add that a medical crisis and lax regulation and social apathy were contributing factors, that doesn’t actually let us off the hook. It has been a difficult thing to come to terms with, collectively and individually. I might not have been the chief executive during that time, but as you know I’ve been in this business for many years and I, like all of us, should have known better.”
       Eli felt an almost overwhelming disorientation. He remembered his first conversation with Zavcka Klist, just days before she took over the top job at what had once been the world’s most prestigious gemtech. There had been no humility then, and precious little contrition. He could not square that recollection with the apparent sincerity on display before him. He shook himself and glanced back at Aryel. Her arms were still folded across her chest, a counterpoint to the high bulge of her wings, and he could almost see the frown she bent toward Zavcka.
       He shifted his own attention back to the woman in the spotlight.
       “So we deal with the past,” Zavcka said, and she seemed to be looking directly at Mikal before turning away to pace the stage. “We admit our mistakes, we try to help the people we hurt, and we move on. And moving on is what I mainly want to talk about this evening, ladies and gentlemen. Moving on is why we’re all here. In our case that involved a lesson from the past, and what we think it means for the future.
       “As we examined the series of events that led us to where we are now, we noted the parallels between the way breakthroughs in genetic engineering were applied without due consideration for the
consequences and the way advances in information technology had been adopted with reckless speed a century and a half ago. Now we know where the latter led us— to the Syndrome, and a crisis
that demanded we develop modification techniques just to survive. But what became apparent is that although society used gemtech to solve the problems created by infotech, we nevertheless abandoned infotech. Progress came to a crashing halt once the Syndrome was identified. Our technical capacity is almost exactly the same as it was at year zero. That is neither necessary nor desirable.”
       She raised her hands again, this time a gesture of inclusion and uplift. The room murmured again, this time an expectant little ripple. They were hanging on her every word. Eli could not entirely conquer a reluctant sense of admiration.
       “We believe that the next great advances in science and technology, the next wave of improvement in the way we live our lives, will come from picking up where we left off with infotech. So what I came here to tell you today is that, far from being consigned to the garbage can of history, the Bel’Natur Corporation is changing course. We are launching a major, long- term research and development program into computing and information technologies. We now know how to do it safely, and as we travel down this new road we will be integrating what we’ve learned from human gemtech—both the scientific breakthroughs and the ethical imperatives. Over the next ten years we are going to be investing over a billion credits, creating thousands of new jobs, and bringing to market dozens of new products. We are going to be combining our unparalleled expertise in neural architecture with new concepts in software and hardware. We are going to launch the next phase of infotech.”

The midsummer sun was still high enough above the horizon to cast a golden glow over the gathering crowds on the riverwalk an hour later. Eli let himself be carried along in the fl ow of people heading toward the park, until he could step aside into a little nook where two ancient chestnut trees sheltered an empty bench. He sank down onto it and tried to think.
       Zavcka had wrapped her speech up quickly. The grandee who had introduced her bounced back onstage, grinning widely, and invited questions. Eli wondered if Aryel would stay and challenge or slip away as unobtrusively as she had arrived, but she did neither. Instead she had waited until the lights came up, waited until they touched the wall where she stood and Zavcka Klist’s eyes had focused on her and widened, before she sidestepped quickly to the door and out. By then people were on their feet all over the room and salvos were being fired at the stage.
       They ranged predictably from anxious inquiries about safety, to what sorts of products she thought might emerge, to quantifying the economic impact. She had gone straight to Mikal’s raised hand, though, despite knowing that he must be about to ask her to explain precisely what she meant by integrating human gemtech.
       Work had already begun, she said, in the pre-Syndrome era, on direct interfaces. But they did not understand enough then about how the brain was structured and how it worked; progress was slow, patchy, and ultimately abandoned.
       “We have the answers to those questions now,” she said. “And while we can regret the manner in which much of that knowledge was gained, I don’t think it honors anybody to simply not use it. On the contrary, it seems to me that we have an obligation to turn it into something worthwhile. Much of the original research focused on disability, for example, and working in difficult environments like space. Or underwater. If we can use what we already know to link this,” she pointed to her own head, “directly to this,” and she took a tablet out of the Festival director’s hand and held it up with the same restrained theatricality, “then there are so many problems we can solve.”
       She handed the tablet back, her attention still on Mikal. “We’re not talking about new gemtech. But I understand the concerns behind your question, Councillor, and I respect them. It’s a question that should be asked.”
       A few seconds of silence then, the audience bemusedly contemplating the unexpected courtesy she was showing to Mikal. Eli could imagine the split- lidded blink with which he filled it, something he thought his friend sometimes did on purpose when he wished to be disconcerting.
       “There are many questions that should be asked,” Mikal had replied evenly. “And answered. I look forward to it.”
       Eli knew her well enough to recognize the flash of anger in Zavcka Klist’s eyes as she registered the rebuke. A few people seemed to realize that they had missed something, but it sailed too far over the heads of most. Mikal sat back, giving up the floor and watching her weather the torrent.
       Now Eli kept an eye on the passing crowd until the giant loomed into view. He raised a hand. Mikal waved back and changed course, navigating to the edge of the fl ow of people so that Eli could fall into step beside him.
       “Well,” he said, channeling well- worn irony, “that was interesting.”
       Mikal laughed, a gusty tone with an edge of bitterness to it. “Which part? The rebirth of infotech, the recycling of gemtech, or Zavcka Klist being my new best friend?”
       “That last one is the killer. Did she speak to you again? I slipped out when it looked like there was going to be mingling. No love lost between us, as you know.”
       “I think she would have been nice even to you. She came straight up to me, handshake, congratulations, the whole thing. Said she didn’t think it would have been helpful to get into a technical discussion about neurochemistry from the stage but she didn’t want me to think she was being evasive, they intend to be completely open, blah, blah, blah.”
       “Subject to commercial constraints, of course.”
       “Of course. Though she did make a point of saying they want to set up a protocol with the regulators to ensure that the protection of intellectual property doesn’t undermine transparency. Quite how you manage that I don’t know, but she’d be very happy for me to help work it out.”
       “Blimey. Do you believe her?”
       “Do I believe that she wants me on her private stream, or popping by the office? That she mortifies herself nightly over what Bel’Natur did? Over what she allowed to happen to Gabriel, and Callan, and goodness knows how many others? No, no and no. She doesn’t look nearly shredded enough.”
       The big man sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It was medium length and a nondescript lightish brown. The modifications he bore were more than sufficient gemsign; his designers had correctly judged that topping them off with a jewel- colored, phosphorescent mane would have been redundant. His double thumbs left twin furrows on either side of his head.
       “But is she now genuinely trying to chart a new course? She might be, Eli. She knows they can’t go back to the old days. Innovate or die, as they used to say at Recombin. Infotech has been stagnant for a long time. We are all Syndrome- safe now, gems and norms, even the Remnants. Bel’Natur might be up to exactly what she says they’re up to.”
       “You sound like a politician, Mik.”
       “Go wash your mouth out. With soap.”



Review: The Detainee by Peter Liney


The Detainee
Author:  Peter Liney
Series:  The Detainee Trilogy 1
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books, March 11, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781623651084 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Other Formats:  Available in Mass Market Paperback, February 3, 2015

Review: The Detainee by Peter Liney
Peter Liney honed his strong narrative skills and attention to detail during his long career as a writer of German, Australian, British, and South African television and radio programs. In his debut novel, The Detainee, Liney has crated a dystopian world in which the state has gone bust and can no longer support its weakest members.

The Island is a place of hopelessness. The Island is death. And it is to this place that all the elderly and infirm are shipped, the scapegoats for the collapse of society. There’s no escape, not from the punishment satellites that deliver instant judgment for any crime—including escape attempts—and not from the demons that come on foggy nights, when the satellites are all but blind. But when one of the Island’s inhabitants, the aging "Big Guy" Clancy, finds a network of tunnels beneath the waste, there is suddenly hope—for love, for escape, and for the chance to fight back.



Brannigan's Review

The Detainee is an edge of your seat dystopia novel for adults. It's a little odd to read a dystopian novel that doesn't have a young teenage protagonist running for her life while remaining beautiful and having an equally beautiful love interest. I, for one, like the changes Peter Liney has brought to the popular YA genre. All of the main characters are over 30 years old and the 'Big Guy' or Clancy is twice that age. To Liney's credit, he has a diverse cast of characters. And while there's still some running involved, it ain’t pretty, it's real. Liney does a great job of bring some reality to the genre that sucked me into the story.

The world Liney's created isn't too hard to imagine as a near future event. The island is a fascinating location for the story and Liney uses it to great effect. He does a wonderful job of describing the fog that is both a curse and a blessing at times. There were several times in the story I felt like I was running behind Clancy and tripping over loose bricks trying to outrun the fog and the danger it brought.

The Detainee has all four narrative conflicts running through the story, Man vs Society, Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, and Man vs Self. As with any dystopian story, there's an all-powerful big brother watching them through the satellites and dealing out their own brand of justice as they see fit. However, they aren't the focus of the story, so there is no true closure. I'm sure they will be playing a bigger role in the other two books. The antagonist remains off camera for the majority of the story, and is only mentioned by characters with dread. This was effective in building up a mystique for the character, but it also makes it hard to live up to once he arrives. Now for his henchmen, they do a wonderful job of bringing horror and fear to the island. I don't want to say too much as it will lose its impact, but I found it sufficiently creepy. In the end though, I found the struggle Clancy has with himself and the island to be the most rewarding of conflicts. Liney did a wonderful job of getting me inside Clancy's head by using first person narrative.

Some people might think a 63 year-old protagonist is too old. My father is the same age, and I have no trouble imagining him playing the role of Clancy, so it didn't throw me out of the story or make it hard to find a connection to Clancy. There are a few tiny problems with story, but with any speculative fiction you have to allow yourself to let go and enjoy the ride, which I recommend you do. The only other problem I had was that the ending seemed to be a little too abrupt. I would have liked maybe two more pages to settle me down and hook me for book two.

The Detainee is an engaging dystopian novel for adults. There are acts of violence, language, and sexual situations so I would only recommend the book to adults. It's perfect for anyone who loves dystopian fiction and refreshingly realistic characters.


Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014


Please welcome Sebastien de Castell to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Traitor's Blade is published today in the US by Jo Fletcher Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Sebastien a Happy US Publication Day!



Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Sebastien:  Thanks for having me. I wrote my first novel in 1997 in part to see if I had it in me and in part because when I was reading other books I’d find myself distracted by thoughts of my own stories. In 2006, despite there being many great fantasy novels out, I was never able to find one that really spoke to me, so I decided to try and write it myself. That book became Traitor’s Blade. I was rather shocked to later discover that when you just focus on writing the book you yourself most want to read, other people want to read it, too.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sebastien:  I tend to develop various elements of a novel into sample scenes or short stories and then grow those into full-fledged outlines. So really, I’m not a plotter or a pantser. I’m a plantser.



TQ:  Your publisher bio includes a long list of professions ("a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist."), which of these have influenced your writing? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sebastien:  I think that, as with most writers, every experience becomes a tool you can use in your storytelling. My degree is in archaeology and that inspired me to want to show Falcio’s own buried history inside Traitor’s Blade - so that events in the present are informed by the little pieces of evidence from the past. The fight scenes are inspired in part by my experience as a sword choreographer for the theatre. Those gigs taught me that every fight has to be a story in and of itself, and every moment within the fight needs to be as specific to the character as their lines of dialogue.

Sometimes it’s the little experiences inside a profession that influence you. The idea for the coats that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wear came from an actual greatcoat that my brother bought me one year. When I was working as an actor I found I’d always bring this coat because no matter how cold it got or how long I had to wait before filming a scene, I could pretty much carry everything I needed in it and stay warm and ready to go. Alas, mine doesn’t have secret bone plates to protect me from being hit by swords nor does it have the various tricks, traps, and potions that the characters in Traitor’s Blade rely on.

The most challenging thing about writing is that every book changes you as an author. Your brain seems to change in some ineffable way that makes it impossible to reproduce the same process you used in the previous book and so you have to uncover your internal creative process all over again.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sebastien:  I draw from a lot of different places - authors, screenwriters, and sometimes comic book writers all have different approaches that can help in building a novel. When it comes to fantasy writers, Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber, which is written with almost no fluff or embellishment, really grabbed me. I’m also a fan of Steven Brust - especially the Vlad Taltos novels - which taught me that you could write fantasy without having all your characters speak in fake old-timey dialects.

Reviewers of Traitor’s Blade have tended to bring up Dumas and The Three Musketeers as influences on me but I’m equally enthralled by C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower stories. I loved the way Hornblower looked at every battle as if it were a puzzle that needed to be solved rather than simply a contest of might or manliness.

When writing description and setting I tend to look to noir authors like Raymond Chandler or, more recently, Dennis Lehane, who have a style and an economy in their prose that really draws me in as a reader. Aaron Sorkin, who writes largely for television and film, is unmatched for my taste when it comes to dialogue and making even small moments between characters feel dramatic. Finally, because I write fantasy and adventure, I have to think about balancing the more bombastic nature of heroic characters with a more grounded approach to personal relationships. Brian Michael Bendis does this brilliantly with super-heroic figures, as do a number of new comic book writers out there.



TQ:  Describe Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats 1) in 140 characters or less.

Sebastien:  A disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by saving a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy. Swashbuckling ensues.



TQ:  Tell us something about Traitor's Blade that is not in the book description.

Sebastien:  Most people are surprised by the humour - something that generally isn’t conveyed in the book descriptions. It’s not a comedy by any means (it’s rather dark as fantasy goes, in fact) but I love to write the banter between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti. They’ve known each other so long and been through so much that they really can stare death in the face and make a joke about it. In fact, they generally prefer it that way.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Traitor's Blade? Why did you choose to write Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres?

SebastienTraitor’s Blade is really a story about idealism in the face of overwhelming cynical pragmatism. In that sense, it’s a story I wanted to write because, while it’s set in a fantasy milieu, it deals with the kinds of questions many of us ask ourselves in our own world.

You often hear people say that fantasy is an escape but what I enjoy most about the genre is that you sometimes find a book that lets you bring that sense of wonder - of enchantment - back into your own life and the world around you. Fantasy can be enchanting in the best sense of the word, and that’s what I’m aiming to do with my own books. It’s also a genre that gives an author the flexibility to let themes drive the world of the story. You can explore an idea in depth without having to either make the situation feel completely contrived or force your characters to be subservient to our pre-defined understanding of our own day-to-day existence.

In addition to swashbuckling fantasy, I’ve occasionally written mystery novels. I’m working on one now, in fact.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Traitor's Blade?

Sebastien:  I studied history and archaeology in university and that, perhaps strangely, makes me not want to get stuck in historicism when writing fantasy novels. So many historical events, technologies, and social practices are inextricably connected and it always feels a bit weird to me to take one or two of them and then switch everything else up. So I prefer to be inspired by history rather than thinking of it as research material.

The idea for the Greatcoats - the sword fighting travelling magistrates who play a central role in the novel - came from reading about the itinerant judges of the English Middle-Ages. These poor devils had to go out on a circuit that could take an entire year, travelling from town to town, hearing cases and trying to mete out the King’s justice. It sounded like an awfully dangerous job, though it’s vastly more so in the world of Traitor’s Blade.

I often get asked about researching sword fighting for the book but I actually stayed very much away from historical fighting styles for Traitor’s Blade because I wanted to let the characters in this world have their own unique fighting techniques.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite character?

Sebastien:  King Paelis, who we only see in flashbacks, was the easiest to write. We know of him only through Falcio’s memories - through the eyes of a young man who very much idealized this visionary King. This allowed me to make Paelis not so much larger than life but a better, more decent man than we expect to find in a ruler.

The most difficult character to write was, believe it or not, the horse. Making her work was definitely threading a very fine needle.

Falcio’s always been my favourite character simply because he’s always engaged in this struggle to do the right thing without being sure what the right thing is anymore. That being said, I’m growing more and more fond of Brasti with each book. One of my favourite arcs in book 2 is watching his ‘charming rogue’ act start to fall apart and seeing him grow into something else that’s more uniquely his own.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Traitor's Blade .

Sebastien:

"Ah, fool. Dying isn't sacrifice. Haven't you figured that out yet? All those years of trying to get yourself killed in battle? That ain't sacrifice. That's self-loathing. It's gleeful suicide. It's vanity."
I felt her hand release my jaw and saw her stand, she pushed Aline in front of me and took the sword in both her hands, pulling it back in line with the girl's neck. "Now this? This is sacrifice!”



TQ:  What's next?

Sebastien:  The second book in the Greatcoats series is with the publisher and I’m writing the third book over the next couple of months. My other fantasy series, Spellslinger, is with my agent right now. Finally, I’m writing a new mystery series that’s a bit of a 'Nancy Drew meets Chinatown’ thing (weird, I know, but I promise it’ll work!)



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sebastien:  My pleasure. Thanks for having me!





Traitor's Blade
Greatcoats 1
Jo Fletcher Books, July 15, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
(US Debut)

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014
With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor’s Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.





About Sebastien

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014
Photo by Pink Monkey Studios
Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realised how much he hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife.







Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @decastell







Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter


Gemsigns
Author:  Stephanie Saulter
Series:  ®EVOLUTION 1
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books, May 6, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:   9781623651602 (print) (US Debut)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter
Starburst magazine raved that Gemsigns, the first novel in a series, is “a fascinating and compelling read, exploring the boundaries of human behavior, religious influences, and the morality of the everyday person. It comes highly recommended.” For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems—the line between survival and ethics was radically altered. Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom. But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.


Melanie's Thoughts

The story starts with a community of genetically enhanced humans - aka Gems - who are trying to find their place in a 'norm' world. Humanity had been on the brink of extinction and in order to survive they developed a genetically distinct race who would effectively do all the jobs that they couldn't/wouldn't be able to do - mining, farming, manufacturing, surrogacy etc. The gems are controlled by large corporations who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by ruling this genetically modified offshoot of humanity. The story largely focuses on Eli Walker who is an anthropologist researching whether gems are really human. He is caught between the gorgeous, powerful Zavcka Klist, an executive working for one of the companies involved the creation of the gems, and equally beautiful but badly deformed gem, Ayral Morningstar. Tensions rise to a fever pitch as the ethical debate plays out. Its only a matter of time before the debate leads to violence and everything Eli thought he knew gets called into question.

Gemsigns could have been have been just another story of one race persecuting another but Saulter layers a number of themes to tell her story including fascism, slavery and religious fanaticism. The theme of whether genetically enhanced humans should be subjugated for their powers/abilities is not new. X-Men came to mind as I read this book. Saulter avoided mediocrity and adds a few twists to make the story unique and engaging.  She blended some relatively uncomfortable themes with great characters and excellent writing. There are parts of the book that are so eloquently written, those discussing the 'humanity' of the gems, that I felt like I was reading a thesis....an interesting thesis I might add. I found the first couple of pages a bit odd but as soon as it launched into the main story I was gripped and stayed that way until the end.

This is Saulter's debut novel and if it is an indication of her abilities then she is destined to have a great career as an author. This book is a winner in my humble opinion. I am also very lucky that I don't have to wait for book 2, Binary as it has already been released in the UK. Sorry to rub it in! Gemsigns is a great book and sets the stage for a great series.

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.


Sebastien de Castell

Traitor's Blade
Greatcoats 1
Jo Fletcher Books, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook
(US Debut)

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor’s Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.


Guest Blog by Stephanie Saulter - Finding Voices: Defining the Characters in BINARY - May 11, 2015Review: Binary by Stephanie SaulterCover Revealed: Binary by Stephanie Saulter and ExcerptReview: The Detainee by Peter LineyInterview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014Interview with Stephanie Saulter and Giveaway of Gemsigns! - May 7, 2014Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de CastellGiveaway: Gemsigns by Stephanie SaulterGiveaway: Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter

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