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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

SPFBO Finalist Review: The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss

The Gods of Men
The Gods of Men 1
Barbara Kloss, May 18, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 450 pages

Top 10 Finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn't know her music holds power over souls--not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister's heart, killing her. Horrified by what she's done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone--or something--is hunting her.

On the run again, Sable's best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he's offered. There's something about him Sable doesn't trust, but she doesn't have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it's getting closer.

Sable soon discovers she's just the start of the necromancer's plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she's the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she's beginning to fall for.

Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and Victoria Schwab will love this dark and epic fantasy adventure.

Qwill's Thoughts

The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss is the first novel in the series of the same name. The story focuses primarily on Sable, a healer, who had run away from her home a decade earlier, and Jos, who has his own secrets. I am going to be deliberately vague about characters and events in the novel to avoid spoiling anything.

There is so much to really love about this novel. Both Sable and Jos are well written characters. They are both hiding - from who they really are and from things they have done. Sable rejects her magic because of the death she caused and tries to make amends by being a healer in a town in The Wilds. It's a hard and horrible place and some of the things she does are not good but generally done for altruistic motives. Jos works for his father and brother and has spent a lot of time routing out those with magic (with extreme prejudice). He is dangerous and deadly.

Things are shaky in the Five Provinces because it appears that magic is making a comeback in a violent manner. It's not easy to figure out who is behind this resurgence and I was suitably surprised during the big reveal (which is gory and well done).

The world building is very good. Throughout the novel Kloss weaves in history, myths, magic, religion, and the geopolitical underpinnings of The Wilds and the Five Provinces. I enjoyed this immensely as I got a real sense of place and history. That said I would have liked more explanation of the magic system and more about its roots. Of course, Kloss could be saving some of this for later books in the series. 

What truly makes this novel so good though are the characters. Both Sable and Jos journey through the physical world but are also making an emotional journey. They are not static characters; nor are they entirely likeable. While Sable and Jos are the main characters and their back and forth and nascent romance takes center stage, there are so many others who are interesting. Kloss really excels at writing characters who are not wholly good or evil, though there are plenty of characters whot are indeed awful. In particular Jos' older brother gave me some stomach turning moments.

Kloss handles the attraction between Sable and Jos well. It is really not the centerpiece of the novel, but is simply one facet of the relationship that develops slowly between the two. For me the story would have been ruined had it focused too closely on the romance aspects.

The ending is really well done, refreshingly not what I expected and without a cliffhanger. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

9 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas

The Purification Era 1
August 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 387 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas
Top 10 finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

They can take your house, your daughter, whatever they want.

For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. They alone provide protection from the enemies lurking beyond the city wall.

For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. Though even a whisper against them is treason worthy of death, Rabreah is determined to end their tyranny. Joining an underground resistance is her only hope – until she realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all. Unsure who to trust but unable to back out, she must work alongside the attractive yet infuriating rebel leader who reminds her far too much of the soldiers she hates.

But with subversive posters appearing throughout the city and people dying on the blade of an unknown assailant, the sisters’ world begins to crumble.

And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.

Sowing is a gritty, slow burn spy thriller set in a dystopian world on the brink of war.

Perfect for fans of the characterization and political tension in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series, and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga.

Qwill's Thoughts

I had a difficult time with Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas and am going to keep this short.

The novel is set entirely in the city of Totta and centers on 2 sisters - Ariliah and Rabreah.  I found the sisters to be rigid opposites of each other regarding how they viewed their small world just to make it clear regarding only 2 of the ways to view the society in which the live. Ariliah thinks everything is good and the Hulcondans are there to provide a safe way of life. She turns a blind eye to anything wrong with her world. Rabreah is the opposite. Everything is wrong and the Hulcondans and their leaders are to blame. The sisters do not develop much over the course of the novel in any meaningful way. This is not just a problem with the sisters. None of the characters are very well-developed.

The sister's mother is vicious both physically and verbally to the younger sister, Ariliah. I never understood why. I found this really disturbing as I'm sure it is supposed to be. I also found it mostly unnecessary. There are additional uncomfortable scenes of abuse with one of them verging into the gratuitous.

It took me a long time to read Sowing and I frankly would not have finished it if it was not a SPFBO Finalist. I was disappointed when I got to the end. Sowing feels like an extended prologue with not a lot happening and not much at all resolved. The world building is lacking and the characters are unappealing.

3.5 out of 10

SPFBO 2018 - The Qwillery's Method

SPFBO 2018 - The Qwillery's Method

This year is the 3rd year in which The Qwillery is participating as an "agent" in The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. We have again made some changes to how we will be handling which books get full reviews and how we choose our finalist.

This year I (Qwill) am delighted to announce that we have a guest "agent" - author Paul Lavender (bio below).

The two of us (Qwill and Paul) are reading the beginning of every book assigned to The Qwillery to find books that we want to read fully and review. If you can't interest one of us in the those first few chapters then we will not read the full book. We hope to end up with at least 5 books and up to 7 books that get full reads. Those books will be reviewed and the book we put through to the final round will be chosen from those books.

Once our semi-finalists have been chosen, The Qwillery's reviewers will be on board to put fresh eyes on the novels and write reviews though I am not ruling out a full review by Qwill or Paul.

Good luck to all entrants!

The Qwillery's Slush Pile

Daniel AdornoThe Blade Heir
Kian N. ArdalanThe Dragon's Heir
C.C AuneThe Ill-Kept Oath
E.D.E BellDiamondsong
J.C. Boyd & Joshua RobertsonBlood and Bile
T.J BrownThe Unhappy Medium
Erik BundyMagic and Murder Among the Dwarves
Randal DoeringThe Necromancer of Peach Valley Orchard
Shakyra DunnThe Final Lesson
Sandy FredianiThe Binding
David GoweyKaschar's Quarter
Donna Maree HansonDragon Wine
S.J HironsScenes from 'The War on Magic'
Sharon JossBrothers of the Fang
Rosalyn KellyMelokai
Nicholas KotarThe Song of the Sirin
Matt LarkinDays of Endless Night
Gareth LewisGlyphpunk
Nicole MacDonaldThe Arrival
R. MedhurstMagically Bound
Mike MorrisNathaniel Rane: He Who Fights
David OliverThe Great Hearts
Carol A. ParkBanebringer
Benedict PatrickThose Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords
M.M PerryEnchanted Legacy
Kevin PotterRise of the Overlord
James PyleMinding the Heavens
Bryan SchuderAin't a Hero
Mike ShelAching God
Aidan R. WalshThe Game Bird

About Paul

Paul Lavender has been lied to all his life. He thought he was born in Gateshead, England when really, he was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This may seem like a small thing (the two places are about 200 yards apart) but it means Paul is a true Geordie. Of course none of this matters as he now lives in Worcester with Sam, his very supportive wife, and Ryan their son.

When he was younger Paul was heavily influenced by the dark arts of comics, RPG’s, fantasy novels, power metal and computer games. It really is amazing that he’s turned out so well adjusted. He is the author of Tales from Ashen Falls, and The Eighth God. Currently he’s working on sequels to both books. You can find more about The Orcslayers at

About Qwill / Sally

I founded The Qwillery, on October 1, 2008 as a place to chat about things in general. By the middle of 2010 I realized what I like to talk about most is books - speculative fiction books! I've been reading genre fiction since my brother hooked me on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when I was a pre-teen. With addition of reviewers, I've become the Editor in Chief of The Qwillery as well as a writer and reviewer.

I live in New England, with my two kids (one of whom is a Whovian), seven geckos, and more (print) books than I actually have room for.

You can find Qwill / Sally on Twitter @QQwill and Facebook at The Qwillery page.  You can also follow The Qwillery announcement list on Twitter: @Qwillery.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015

Here are my top 5 favorite/best books of 2015 (in no particular order). Each of these novels deserves a place on your reading list!

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

Silver on the Road is one of my favorite books of 2015 because of the wonderful characters and the gorgeous worldbuilding. The novel is at moments like the soft brush of gently swaying prairie grass and at times like the thunder of a herd of buffalo stampeding. There is magic. There are monsters and a 16 year old girl - Isobel - learning her place in the world. The mythology and lore underpinning Silver on the Road are terrific. Isobel is a great character and watching her learn and grow into magic and her new life is captivating. Silver on the Road is a fabulous coming of age story set in a deeply memorable alternative American West.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig is a technological thriller surrounding issues of government surveillance and overstepping. The Zer0es of the title are 5 hackers on the hook for one year of servitude to the government instead of multiple years in prison. Wendig quickly introduces us to this disparate group as they are rounded up. The novel starts off as hackerpunk and gently slides into cyberpunk and then into what-the-hell-is-that? I absolutely loved it. Wendig has a talent for writing fabulous characters and I always enjoy his offbeat ones immensely. Zer0es surprised me, occasionally frightened me, and totally delighted me.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Los Nefilim, Part One and Part Two by T. Frohock

I can't tell you how much I adore this series so far - In Midnight’s Silence (Part One) and Without Light or Guide (Part Two). T. Frohock has written engaging characters with an extremely well thought out mythology while at the same time making them confront deeply human emotions and conditions. Diago Alvarez who is half angel and half daimon struggles with this conflict in his nature and the way others perceive him. The relationship between Diago and Miquel (his lover) is gentle and loving and rings with veracity. The writing and pace are gorgeous. The machinations of humans, Nefilim and others create a great backdrop for Diago's story. I can't wait to see what happens in the Part 3 of this series.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Planetfall by Emma Newman

I am a big 3D printing fan with 2 printers running most of the time at home. Newman takes 3D to new levels in Planetfall - where most everything that the settlers use on a new world is 3D printed. While this part of the novel charmed me, it's not what kept me reading. This story of betrayal, lies, religion, science, and extraordinarily flawed characters is fantastic. Newman pulls off the neat trick of making me empathize with characters that I often did not like, in particular Renata Ghali. Things really go sideways for Ren during the 22 years she and the rest of the settlers have been living on a planet far from earth. Newman slowly peels back the layers of lies and mysteries that surround planetfall and the colony giving readers a fascinating look at human behavior.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

Hands down this is the best thriller I read in 2015. Holm bends the hired killer trope to give us a fascinating look at hit man who kills hit men. Getting inside the mind of our 'hero', Michael Hendricks, was a blast if often somewhat disturbing. The cat and mouse game between Hendricks and the hitman hired to take him out is nerve wracking and exciting,  The action scenes are often breathtaking. The writing is top notch. The Killing Kind kept me on the edge of my seat. Hendricks is the morally challenged good guy that you'll come to really like.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Silver on the Road
The Devil's West 1
Saga Press, October 6, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

A heroic fantasy by an award-winning author about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?

Isobel, upon her sixteenth birthday, makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel circuit through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is chaos…and death.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Harper Voyager, August 18, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

An exhilarating thrill-ride through the underbelly of cyber espionage in the vein of David Ignatius’s The Director and the television series Leverage, CSI: Cyber, and Person of Interest, which follows five iconoclastic hackers who are coerced into serving the U.S. government.

An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.

But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.

Can the hackers escape their federal watchers and confront Typhon and its mysterious creator? And what does the government really want them to do? If they decide to turn the tables, will their own secrets be exposed—and their lives erased like lines of bad code?

Combining the scientific-based, propulsive narrative style of Michael Crichton with the eerie atmosphere and conspiracy themes of The X-Files and the imaginative, speculative edge of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, Zer0es explores our deep-seated fears about government surveillance and hacking in an inventive fast-paced novel sure to earn Chuck Wendig the widespread acclaim he deserves.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
In Midnight’s Silence
Los Nefilim: Part One
Harper Voyager Impulse, June 23, 2015
eBook, 128 pages

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can't get to him directly, they do the one thing he's always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover's life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world's next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock's In Midnight's Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he'll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Without Light or Guide
Los Nefilim: Part Two
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 3, 2015
eBook, 128 pages

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons…and a half-breed caught in-between.

For although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don't trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon—the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path.

Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim's suspicions—including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

The second novella in T. Frohock's Los Nefilim series, Without Light or Guide continues Diago's journey through a world he was born into, yet doesn't quite understand.

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
Roc, November 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thornscomes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Qwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015
The Killing Kind
Mulholland Books, September 15, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
Trade Paperback to be published September 1, 2016

A hitman who only kills other hitmen winds up a target himself.

Michael Hendricks kills people for money. That aside, he's not so bad a guy.

Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. He left behind his old life--and beloved fiancée--and set out on a path of redemption...or perhaps one of willful self-destruction.

Now Hendricks makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts--he only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he'll make sure whoever's coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living--but a great way to make himself a target.

Interview with Simon Kurt Unsworth and Review of The Devil's Detective - March 16, 2015

Please welcome Simon Kurt Unsworth to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Devil's Detective was published on March 3rd by Doubleday.

Interview with Simon Kurt Unsworth and Review of The Devil's Detective - March 16, 2015

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

Simon:  Thanks for the invite, Qwillery!

As for the ‘when’, I can pinpoint that pretty accurately – in school, at 13, I wrote a story for an English class and the teacher gave it a high mark. It was a Stephen King rip-off, but the teacher’s praise made me think I could write and from then on I was hooked. I’d loved writing the story, so for someone to like something I’d loved doing was hugely pleasing, and that’s pretty much when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’d always written stories, but that was the first time I’d had them responded to so well (it was especially pleasing that doing this thing I loved, basically making stuff up, got me good marks at school – I mean, this was homework but it felt like something I’d do to avoid homework!). As for the ‘why’, that’s both more complicated and easier to answer: the complicated bit is to say, I had to write because of teachers and lessons and exams and I enjoyed it and started to think I was pretty good at it and I enjoyed it and I practiced and I got better at it, but the easier answer is this: I never really had a choice. The stories are in my head and I have to get them out.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Simon:  Pantser, absolutely! I start, and then somewhere in the middle I tend to have to stop and work out where I am and where I’m going. At the beginning of any given project I usually have one or two images in my head, different scenes from different points in the plot, and my initial job is to try to connect them and fill in all the gaps that appear whilst creating the connections.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Simon:  Being strict enough with myself to do it. Working from home, it’s too easy to wander off and make a coffee and then watch an episode of Bones or The Blacklist and eat biscuits, or go out for a walk - I live in the Lake District, in the UK, which is one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my experience anyway, so a walk for me is to be exposed to beautiful, dramatic scenery that makes me feel good about myself and my space in the world. Sometimes, I can lose hours just wandering around the hills, time I should be using to write.

When it comes to writing, there are sometimes scenes that are tough or plotlines that I struggle to sort out, but mostly it comes fairly easily; it’s my concentration and attention-span that cause me trouble. I start a sentence and then….oh shiny things….

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

Simon:  Well, obviously Stephen King – I can't think of anyone that writes horror who isn't influenced by the King. Even if you write stuff that’s entirely unlike him, I still think you’re reacting to the influence he has over everyone in the field and over the field itself. Personally, I think King’s earlier stuff (‘Salem’s Lot in particular) is untouchably magnificent and I’m happy to wear his influence on my sleeves! M.R. James is a major influence on the kind of ghost stories I write, as is T.E.D. Klein, and Junji Ito’s Graphic novels (especially Uzumaki) are key shapers on how I think good, intricate bleak fiction should look and feel. Outside of horror, I’m influenced (especially in my worldview) by comedy, so Spike Milligan, Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall, Bill Hicks, Billy Connolly and Robin Williams have definitely moulded by my approach to things and this gets reflected in the kind of fictions I create. Music is important to me, so groups like The Sisters of Mercy, Jane’s Addiction, The Bad Shepherds and Bellowhead all add their moods and tones to my writing, and I can often tell what I’ve been listening to when I read my stuff back later.

TQ:  Describe The Devil's Detective in 140 characters or less.

Simon:  The detective novel goes to Hell…

TQ:  Tell us something about The Devil's Detective that is not in the book description.

Simon:  Male human prostitutes that get bought and used by demons are called “Genevieves”. Demons feed by chewing the flesh of humans to release the dark emotions it contains, so the more fear and pain and unease they cause, the more they have to eat. Feathers are important.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Devil's Detective? What appealed to you about writing a genre blending novel - thriller, noir, horror?

Simon:  The basic idea for The Devil’s Detective (including the main character’s name and the ending but very little else of the plot, curiously) has been kicking around my head for around twenty years, but the actual inspiration came from my best friend, Steve. I rang him one day and asked him which novel I should start as I could couldn’t decide – the haunted children’s home one, or the weird one about the policeman in Hell? He said he liked the idea of the one in Hell, so that’s what I did… As for writing a genre-blending novel, I didn't set out to do that – I thought I was writing a horror novel that happened to use some of the narrative tricks and wear some of the clothes of noir and detective novels. It was only when I’d finished it that other people told me that they thought I’d written a thriller that used the narrative tricks and wore the clothes of a horror novel! For me, it was just about writing the story I wanted to write, it wasn’t supposed to be anything…

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Devil's Detective?

Simon:  Honestly, very little. Because the Hell I created is fairly idiosyncratic, I had lots of freedom and wasn’t too bothered about any kind of accuracy towards existing depictions of the afterlife. The majority of the background work I did was so trawl through various dictionaries of demons and superstitions and witchcraft and pick the names and descriptions of creatures and myths and obscurities that I like, all of which I then cheerfully corrupted to my own ends and stuck into the story.

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

The Man of Plants and Flowers was the easiest. He appeared on the page fairly fully-formed, and his voice was always very clear in my head as I wrote him. I like creating grotesques so most of the demons came out easily and felt relatively simple to flesh out, and I think (I think!) I managed to give them separate personalities. As for the hardest, probably Fool as he’s the character that changes the most and has the most complex role in the story (from my perspective, at least). There’s another character involved in the novel’s end (who I won’t name for fear of giving something away) who I had to be careful with – not because they were hard to write but because I had to use a very light touch to make sure I didn't make their role in the end of the story too obvious early on. Whether I managed it remains to be seen…

TQ:  Which question about The Devil's Detective do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Simon:  Would you like us to pay you a million dollars to make a film of your book? Yes please!

And more seriously: is the Devil’s Detective actually a commentary on some element of the society? And the answer is, not intentionally, no - but I think it does contain a commentary on how I see things going at the moment, and that it reflects a certain disgust I feel about the direction of travel that the UK’s politics (at the very least) is taking and the kind of society it risks creating.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Devil's Detective.

Simon:  “The house was blind but not mute, and it screamed at them” is one of my favourite lines from the novel. “Even demons have souls, Fool, and can become prey to those further the hierarchy” is probably the other line I like most that doesn’t give anything away about the story. See? It’s all about pain and being a victim…

TQ:  What's next?

Simon:  Generally: spending time with my wife Rosie and stepchildren Mily and Lottie, playing zombie board games with my son Ben, walking the hills above Sedbergh, wine, good food and horror movies. In writing terms, next is the sequel to The Devil’s Detective, which has the working title of The Devil’s Evidence. After that, I really don’t know – a lot will depend on how these two books do and whether anyone wants to read any more novels by me! At some point, I’d like to write a full-blown haunted house novel and bring back the main character from my portmanteau of ghost stories, Richard Nakata, and there may be another Fool novel bubbling somewhere in my head. I’m writing a horror movie script with the actor Ian Brooker (go and watch The Casebook of Eddie Brewer), which I hope to have finished in the next few months, and I owe a couple of short stories so I should probably do them at some point soon. I don’t really plan, not anything more complicated than ‘tomorrow I eat pizza’ anyway, so the best I can say is, watch this space and time will tell.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Simon:  My pleasure, and thanks for having me!

The Devil's Detective
Doubleday, March 3, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Simon Kurt Unsworth and Review of The Devil's Detective - March 16, 2015
Debut novelist Simon Kurt Unsworth sends the detective novel to Hell. In The Devil's Detective, a sea change is coming to Hell . . . and a man named Thomas Fool is caught in the middle.

Thomas Fool is an Information Man, an investigator tasked with cataloging and filing reports on the endless stream of violence and brutality that flows through Hell. His job holds no reward or satisfaction, because Hell has rules but no justice. Each new crime is stamped "Do Not Investigate" and dutifully filed away in the depths of the Bureaucracy. But when an important political delegation arrives and a human is found murdered in a horrific manner—extravagant even by Hell's standards—everything changes. The murders escalate, and their severity points to the kind of killer not seen for many generations. Something is challenging the rules and order of Hell, so the Bureaucracy sends Fool to identify and track down the killer. . . . But how do you investigate murder in a place where death is common currency? Or when your main suspect pool is a legion of demons? With no memory of his past and only an irresistible need for justice, Fool will piece together clues and follow a trail that leads directly into the heart of a dark and chaotic conspiracy. A revolution is brewing in Hell . . . and nothing is what it seems.

The Devil's Detective is an audacious, highly suspenseful thriller set against a nightmarish and wildly vivid world. Simon Kurt Unsworth has created a phantasmagoric thrill ride filled with stunning set pieces and characters that spring from our deepest nightmares. It will have readers of both thrillers and horror hanging on by their fingernails until the final word. In Hell, hope is your worst enemy.

Qwill's Thoughts

The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth presents a different view of Hell. This is not Dante's Hell but a very desperate Hell, where people have jobs to do and, as the book description points out, having hope is what makes this Hell so hellish.

Thomas Fool is a bureaucrat in Hell, an Information Man, who barely has a job to do until he's asked to investigate a ruthless killing. Normally he'd not investigate a murder but his boss wants him to find out what is going on. The demons too want him to find out what is going on. There is an important delegation visiting Hell and they often tag along to see how Fool will find the killer. Fool has no idea what he is doing really, but learns how to investigate as the story progresses. He's the everyman (if the everyman was dead and had no idea who he was) caught in a situation not of his making. His journey and transformation over the course of the novel is riveting and unexpected.

The murder mystery is well done. Unsworth writes a suitable series of red herrings into the narrative to keep you guessing. The murders are monstrous even by Hell's standards. While Fool is clearly the lead, the supporting cast is equally intriguing. Unsworth creates some very memorable characters from the grotesque to the fanciful.

Unsworth's descriptive powers are exceptional - whether he's describing a particularly gruesome murder, or the way Hell looks, how information is retrieved from a dead body, or Hell's bureaucracy. Unsworth brings his version of Hell alive in extremely dark tones. He does not shy away from the horrific elements of the story.

I really love how Unsworth writes. It's lyrical and carries you along what is really a very, very bleak story. The ending of the novel surprised me, but also made perfect sense in the Hell Unsworth created. The Devil's Detective is grim, often gruesome and a genuinely terrific debut.

About Simon

Interview with Simon Kurt Unsworth and Review of The Devil's Detective - March 16, 2015
Photo by Irena Vettese
Simon Kurt Unsworth was born in Manchester in 1972 and is beginning to despair of ever finding proof that the world was awash with mysterious signs and portents that night. He lives in an old farmhouse miles from anywhere in the Lake District with his wife, the writer Rosie Seymour, and assorted children and dogs. His neighbours are mostly sheep and his office is an old cheese store in which he writes horror fiction (for which pursuit he was nominated for a 2008 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story). He is irritatingly tall but after years of frowning is no longer grouchy, owns a wide selection of garish shirts, several pairs of cowboy boots, six bolo ties and a magnificent leather waistcoat. His beard is growing truly wild and he spends most of his life in need of a haircut.

His latest collection, Strange Gateways, is out now from PS Publishing, following 2011’s critically acclaimed Quiet Houses (from Dark Continents Publishing) and 2010’s Lost Places (from Ash Tree Press). His stories have been published in a large number of anthologies including the World Fantasy Award-winning Exotic Gothic 4, the Gray Friar Press’s Terror Tales of the Cotswolds, Terror Tales of the Seaside and Where the Heart Is, the Ash Tree Press’s At Ease with the Dead, Shades of Darkness and Exotic Gothic 3, Stephen Jones’ Haunts: Reliquaries of the Dead, Ellen Datlow’s Hauntings and Lovecraft Unbound, and Salt Publishing’s Year’s Best Fantasy 2013. He has been in six of Stephen Jones’ The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and he was also in The Very Best of Best New Horror. He has a further collection due, the as-yet-unnamed collection that will launch the Spectral Press Spectral Signature Editions imprint. The Devil’s Detective is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @skunsworth

Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood

Author:  Jonathan Wood
Series:  Arthur Wallace / No Hero 3
Publisher:  Titan Books, March 10, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $14.95 (print)
ISBN:  9781781168110 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood
When it rains it pours… monster machines. That attack during a funeral and ruin everyone’s day. MI37—the government department devoted to defending Britain from cosmic horrors—is under siege, so Arthur Wallace and his team must travel to Area 51, ably—and oddly—assisted by Agent Gran. But their travels don’t end there, not when there’s an Arctic town populated entirely by spore zombies and the 2.0 version of Clyde has some funny ideas about how to save the world..

Qwill's Thoughts

Anyone who has read The Qwillery for a while knows that I am a fan of Jonathan Wood's Arthur Wallace/No Hero series, which starts with No Hero, continues with Yesterday's Hero and fortunately does not conclude with Anti-Hero. (Look for Broken Hero in October 2015).

Anti-Hero starts with the most unusual funeral I've read about in a novel ever. The MI37 team - Arthur, Felicity, Kayla, and Tabitha - are at the funeral for Clyde (well a version of Clyde) when all hell breaks lose. Someone is trying to kill them with extreme prejudice. The team survives the attempt and ends up heading to New York City to help the CIA battle another version of Clyde - a really despicable and evil version who wants to do something really despicable and evil. At the CIA MI37 primarily liaise with Agent Gran, who is very laid back for a CIA agent. The MI37 team and Agent Gran are led on a merry chase from New York to Mexico to a famous US National Monument to deep in the Arctic. The goal - save the world...again! The CIA has some absolutely cool tech that is deployed at various times throughout the novel. The science is often implausible but fun and entertaining. There is magic of course and combined with science it creates a terrible threat to survival of humanity.

In between the insanity that MI37 is dealing with Wood delves deep into the relationships of the MI37 members. There are heartbreaking emotional moments and relationships evolve and change. I was thrilled to see this evolution and changing dynamic among the team. These characters are not perfect - they are flawed, make mistakes, and continue to be believable. Wood puts the team through the wringer both emotionally and physically. There is a lot of soul-searching in Anti-Hero. What does it mean to be a hero is a central theme.

Anti-Hero (like the preceding novels) is absolutely an ensemble piece and is told from Arthur's point of view. Arthur is a very unlikely hero. When he gets in a really tight spot Arthur asks himself "What would Kurt Russell do?" He seems to be moving somewhat away from having to ask that. However, Arthur could not do what he does without the support of the rest of MI37 (all 4 of them). Conversely the team would be much, much less without Arthur. They are an oddball collection who fit together wonderfully - even when they think they don't like each other, when it matters most they pull together and get things done.

Wood has a knack for taking over the top scenarios and making them work beautifully. I would not expect anything less from an Arthur Wallace novel. The writing is crisp and the pacing breathtakingly fast. Tempering all the crazy, all the emotion, all the will they save the world again is just the right amount of humor. There are definitely laugh out loud moments.

Anti-Hero starts off with a bang and has its foot on the accelerator until the nail-biting and extremely satisfying conclusion. It's an action packed Urban Fantasy with more than a touch of weird and a great ensemble cast lead by the very capable Arthur Wallace. Anti-Hero is frightening, fun and fabulous!

Note: While you probably could read Anti-Hero without reading the prior two novels in the series, I suggest you do read them first.


No Hero
Arthur Wallace / No Hero 1
Titan Books, March 11, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
Previously published by Night Shade Books

Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood
"What would Kurt Russell do?" Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot. Because Arthur is no hero. He's a good cop, but prefers that action and heroics remain on the screen, safely performed by professionals. But then, secretive government agency MI37 comes calling, hoping to recruit Arthur in their struggle against the tentacled horrors from another dimension known as the Progeny. But Arthur is NO HERO! Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?

Review here.

Yesterday's Hero
Arthur Wallace / No Hero 2
Titan Books, September 9, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood
Another day. Another zombie T-Rex to put down. All part of the routine for Arthur Wallace and MI37—the British government department devoted to defending Britain from threats magical, supernatural, extraterrestrial, and generally odd.Except a zombie T-Rex is only the first of the problems about to trample, slavering and roaring, through Arthur’s life. Before he can say, “but didn’t I save the world yesterday?” a new co-director at MI37 is threatening his job, middle-aged Russian cyborg wizards are threatening his life, and his co-workers’ are threatening his sanity.

As Arthur struggles to unravel a plot to re-enact the Chernobyl disaster in England’s capital, he must not only battle foreign wizards but also struggle to keep the trust of his team. Events spiral out of control, friendships fray, and loyalties are tested to their breaking point.

Review here.


Broken Hero
Arthur Wallace / No Hero 4
Titan Books, January 2016

Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood
Arthur Wallace and the MI37 team confront their complex personal relationships as well as robots originally created to aid the Nazi’s invasion of Russia, leading to a trip for the team to the Himalayas, which takes them to a Nepalese death cult, then back to London for the final assault – amidst assorted relationship break-ups, hangovers and pregnancy scares…

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015

Please welcome Tonya Kappes to The Qwillery. A Ghostly Undertaking is published today by Witness Impulse. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Tonya a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery! You've written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, has your writing process changed (or not) from your first novel to your most recent? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tonya:  I have learned a ton from the first novel to my most recent. In the beginning I didn't take the time to create more of a setting for the readers to get lost. My small town setting have become just as much of a main character as the protagonist.

The editing process is the most challenging part of my writing process. By the time my editor sees it, I have read and reread and reread a million times over the novel. Though I love my books, rereading them over and over is a little trying at times, but I know it's necessary to put out a great product readers are going to fall in love with.

As a craft, I'm always learning and growing. If I wasn't. . .I'd get really nervous.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

Tonya:  I'm a panster. I come up with a possible story idea and I let that sit in my head for a couple of months. It rolls around as the characters and setting begin to form in my head and I begin to jot down tidbits. By the time I sit down to write the first word, I have a great idea of where I want to start the novel and how I want to end the novel.

Since I'm a mystery writer, I tend to write backwards and plow through. The characters talk to me and the ideas I had in the beginning are much different than the end product.

TQ:  Your most recent novel is A Ghostly Undertaking (A Ghostly Southern Mystery 1). What inspired you to write mysteries with paranormal/supernatural elements?

Tonya:  There are so many cozy mysteries out there where the protagonist is in some sort of craft and I wanted to write a mystery where there was something different. When I decided on a funeral home director, I let that hang around my head for about two years and played the "what if" the funeral home was haunted which turned into "what if" the ghost is/was a client/pillar of the community. It snowballed from there. Immediately I began to write down different plots and story lines for a series. Plus ghosts can be scary or funny and I picked the funny because I don't like to be scared! I knew if I enjoyed writing the Ghostly Southern Mystery Series, my readers were going to love it too.

What makes the mystery a "Southern" mystery?

I grew up in a small southern town and being southern is ingrained in me. The waving neighbors, the front porch rocking chairs, the boutique shops along main street, the parades, small town gossip, going to every funeral and birthday party, and the slang was my life. When I was world building my small southern town, I made sure I incorporated all of those elements into the storyline and plot. The charm, the gossip, the small knit community, quirky characters, and a murder make for a great southern mystery.

TQ:  Do you base your paranormal/supernatural elements on existing lore, make things up or both?

Tonya:  Definitely both and then add the question of "what if." In every one of my novels I pull a little bit of my life and my imagination or folk lore. Once I have the paranormal element in mind, I put a spin of "what if" this happened. Since I write with humor, the crazier the better. I find myself giggling a lot.

TQ:  What sorts of research have you done for the Ghostly Southern Mysteries? What is the oddest bit of information that you’ve come across in your research?

Tonya:  I have a friend who is an undertaker. It's a family business that's trickled down from her grandparents, her parents, and now her son is working there. She has a lot of stories and great knowledge of the industry. Plus she had a lot of strange requests from families of her clients that are a hoot.

Burial has come a long way throughout time, as well as the actual burial ceremony. I have been fascinated by the different types of burials in different cultures. The tomb stones have also come a long way. And the idea of being buried alive is just downright frightening for me. During my research of how they determined someone was dead, I found out the statistics of someone being buried alive was high. So much so, they began to add a bell to the top of the gravestone with a rope dangling down into the ground and in a small hole of the wooden casket. If the person was buried alive, they were able to pull the rope and ring the bell, signaling they were buried alive. I knew I had to use that image on a cover and HarperCollins loved the idea too. You will see A Ghostly Murder, the fourth book, has a gravestone with a bell on top. Love that!

TQ:  Tell us something about A Ghostly Undertaking that is not in the book description.

Tonya:  The reader will laugh out loud at some of the very colorful characters in A GHOSTLY UNDERTAKING.

TQ:  In A Ghostly Undertaking who was the easiest character to write and why?

Tonya:  Definitely the ghost, Ruthie Sue Payne. She is a spitfire and I love writing a snarky, funny, eccentric character. It makes writing so much more fun when I can let loose and let my characters have a personality.

The hardest and why? It's not the characters that was the hardest to write, it's the relationship between Emma Lee Raines and Sheriff Jack Henry Ross. I'm not a romance writer and I forget to put the little spark between them.

TQ:  What's next?

Tonya:  I'm thrilled the next three books in the series are going to be released this year! I'm excited the readers aren't going to have to wait for a year or so to get the next ones. A Ghostly Grave will be released in March, A Ghostly Demise in August, and A Ghostly Murder in September.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tonya:  Thank you for having me! I truly appreciate your kindness.

A Ghostly Undertaking
Series:  A Ghostly Southern Mystery 1
Publisher:  Witness Impulse, February 24, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780062374646 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015
A funeral, a ghost, a murder . . . It's all in a day's work for Emma Lee Raines . . .

Bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she's suffering from “funeral trauma.” It's trauma all right, because the not-so-dearly departed keep talking to her. Take Ruthie Sue Payne—innkeeper, gossip queen, and arch-nemesis of Emma Lee's granny—she's adamant that she didn't just fall down those stairs. She was pushed.

Ruthie has no idea who wanted her pushing up daisies. All she knows is that she can't cross over until the matter is laid to eternal rest. In the land of the living, Emma Lee's high-school crush, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, isn't ready to rule out foul play. Granny Raines, the widow of Ruthie's ex-husband and co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Inn, is the prime suspect. Now Emma Lee is stuck playing detective or risk being haunted forever.

Qwill's Thoughts

A Ghostly Undertaking is the first in the new Ghostly Southern Mystery series by Tonya Kappes. Emma Lee Raines with her sister run the family business - the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. Emma can see and communicate with ghosts after being hit on the head by a falling Santa. While 'being hit on the head and can now see ghosts' has been done before, Kappes adds a very nice touch with Emma being able to touch and be touched by ghosts.

Emma is handling Ruthie Sue Payne's funeral when Ruthie reveals to Emma that she was murdered. Emma is out of her depth when it comes to sleuthing and she often puts herself at risk, but she is trying to help Ruthie and her own granny who is under suspicion for Ruthie's murder. Things get more and more complicated as the story progresses as there is more than one reason that Ruthie might have been murdered. On top of trying to solve the mystery, Emma contends with everyone thinking she is crazy, coming to grips with her talent, and co-running a funeral home.

The setting of Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky is very well done. I got a real sense of community, of people who had known each other their entire lives. There is an interesting cast of characters - each different and engaging (mostly).  I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. There is also a lovely romance developing that was nicely done and did not overwhelm the mystery.

A Ghostly Undertaking is a fast paced and very fun mystery filled with Southern charm and characters that I can't wait to spend more time with.


A Ghostly Grave
A Ghostly Southern Mystery 2
Witness Impulse, March 31, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015
There's a ghost on the loose—and a fox in the henhouse.

Four years ago, the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home put Chicken Teater in the ground. Now undertaker Emma Lee Raines is digging him back up. The whole scene is bad for business, especially with her granny running for mayor and a big festival setting up in town. But ever since Emma Lee started seeing ghosts, Chicken's been pestering her to figure out who killed him.

With her handsome boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, busy getting new forensics on the old corpse, Emma Lee has time to look into her first suspect. Chicken's widow may be a former Miss Kentucky, but the love of his life was another beauty queen: Lady Cluckington, his prize-winning hen. Was Mrs. Teater the jealous type? Chicken seems to think so. Something's definitely rotten in Sleepy Hollow—and Emma Lee just prays it's not her luck.

A Ghostly Demise
A Ghostly Southern Mystery 3
Witness Impulse, August 25, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015
The prodigal father returns—but this ghost is no holy spirit

When she runs into her friend's deadbeat dad at the local deli, undertaker Emma Lee Raines can't wait to tell Mary Anna Hardy that he's back in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, after five long years. Cephus Hardy may have been the town drunk, but he didn't disappear on an epic bender like everyone thought: He was murdered. And he's heard that Emma Lee's been helping lost souls move on to that great big party in the sky.

Why do ghosts always bother Emma Lee at the worst times? Her granny's mayoral campaign is in high gear, a carnival is taking over the town square, and her hunky boyfriend, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, is stuck wrestling runaway goats. Besides, Cephus has no clue whodunit…unless it was one of Mrs. Hardy's not-so-secret admirers. All roads lead Emma Lee to that carnival—and a killer who isn't clowning around.

A Ghostly Murder
A Ghostly Southern Mystery 4
Witness Impulse, September 29, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015

About Tonya

Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015
Tonya Kappes has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky. Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all of her guys’ high school games with a pencil and paper in hand. Come on over and FAN Tonya on Goodreads.

Wesbite ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest
Twitter @tonyakappes11

SPFBO Finalist Review: The Gods of Men by Barbara KlossSPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas SPFBO 2018 - The Qwillery's MethodQwill's Favorite/Best Books of 2015Review: The Cozy CookbookInterview with Simon Kurt Unsworth and Review of The Devil's Detective - March 16, 2015Review: Anti-Hero by Jonathan WoodReview: Horse of a Different Killer by Laura Morrigan and Giveaway - March 3, 2015Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015Review: Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

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