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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

The 2017 Compton Crook 35th Award - Winner

The winner of the 2017 Compton Crook 35th Award has been announced.
The members of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. (BSFS) created the Compton Crook Award in 1982 to honor the best first novel of the year written by an individual author (collaborations are not eligible) in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre. Since its inception, the award has been presented at Balticon — the four-day annual Maryland regional science fiction convention produced by BSFS, currently held on Memorial Day weekend in the Baltimore, MD area.

The Award was named in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. Professor Crook was active for many years in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and was a staunch champion of new works in the fields eligible for the award. The first Compton Crook Award was presented in 1983 for Donald Kingsbury's debut novel Courtship Right, a work published in 1982.

Too Like the Lightning
Terra Ignota 1
Tor Books, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
Trade Paperback, January 24, 2017

The 2017 Compton Crook 35th Award - Winner
Short-listed for the 2017 Hugo Award Best Novel category, Ada Palmer's political science fiction, Too Like the Lightning, ventures into a human future of extraordinary originality

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...

Interview with Marie Brennan

Please welcome Marie Brennan to The Qwillery. Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the 5th and final Memoir of Lady Trent, was published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.

Interview with Marie Brennan

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery! The first of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons, was published in 2013 and now Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the final Memoir has been published. What are your thoughts on ending this series?

Marie:  I'm sad to see it end -- but I also am glad to be finishing while I am sad, rather than after I've grown tired of it. Or worse, after my readers have grown tired of it.

TQWhen we first spoke I asked if you were a plotter or pantser and you replied "...somewhere in between." And now, 4 years later, how would you answer that question? Has anything changed about your writing process?

Marie:  I'm a bit less linear than I used to be, but ultimately, I'm still in between on the question of outlining versus improvising. For example, I knew going into Sanctuary what Isabella was going to find, but the specifics of how she found it and what happened afterward? Those mostly got made up as I went along. I still have fixed points I want to hit, and those get added to along the way, but a lot of it is still discovery, me figuring out how I'm going to get from where I am to where I want to be.

TQYou are both an anthropologist and a folklorist. Have you based any of the dragons that have been documented by Lady Trent on anything in the fossil record?

Marie:  Oh, definitely! The drakeflies in The Tropic of Serpents were inspired by a dinosaur called Microraptor, which had two sets of wings. They were probably connected by a membrane rather than being separate like a dragonfly's, but that didn't stop me from running with my own version. And the idea that a swamp-wyrm at different stages in its life cycle might look like very different organisms also came from a theory about certain dinosaurs -- apparently I was reading a lot about dinos while I worked on that book!

TQAnd do you have a favorite dragon from folklore?

Marie:  My favorite dragon overall is Maleficent, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to call Disney's decision to turn her into a dragon an element of genuine pre-modern folklore. I'm also quite partial to the Wawel dragon of Kraków -- but that's more a matter of liking the story of how the dragon got defeated, rather than the dragon itself. So let's go with the quetzalcoatl of Aztec folklore, because feathered dragons are cool. (As are feathered dinosaurs!)

TQWhat is the most unusual thing that Lady Trent has discovered in Books 1 - 4?

Marie:  I am so tempted to name off some random detail about people! Part of the idea behind the series is that the places she travels to are every bit as interesting as the dragons she studies there. But since I suspect you meant something dragon-related, I'll say the odd quirk of draconic development Isabella figures out at the end of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, via the honeyseeker breeding project. I can't really be more specific without spoilers, though.

TQPlease describe Within the Sanctuary of Wings in 140 characters.

Marie:  Intrepid lady adventurer nearly gets killed in the Himalaya discovering awesome dragon stuff!

TQPlease tell us something about Within the Sanctuary of Wings that is not found in the book description.

Marie:  There's a whole lot of linguistic fun around the efforts to decipher the ancient Draconean language. And I love the fact that fans of this series are the kinds of nerds who really will find that fun -- it's like a puzzle, and the characters have to get really creative to solve it.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Marie:  "In the history of scientific discovery, it is my opinion that insufficient credit has been given to the behaviour of the humble yak."

TQPlease tell us a bit about the 4 dragons on the gorgeous cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings?

Marie:  Todd Lockwood and I were discussing the covers a year or two ago, trying to figure out what else we could do that would fit the "scientific" theme of the images, without being a rehash of what we'd done before. He was the one who suggested an evolutionary series, like those pictures you see of a chimpanzee getting bigger and more upright until it's a modern human being. The idea is that you're seeing how a much more lizard-like creature eventually became a beautiful Yelangese azure dragon.

TQWho has been your favorite not main character in the Memoirs? And which character has given you the most trouble?

Marie:  Oh, man -- you're going to make me pick? I'm going to cheat and say my favorite is a tie between Tom and Suhail. The former because I loved developing his partnership with Isabella over the course of the series, and the latter because he's an archaeologist and in some ways my self-insert character. Most trouble was Ankumata, the ruler of Bayembe, because he required me to think through a lot of political calculus to figure out how he should act.

TQWhat's next?

Marie:  On May 30th will be publishing Lightning in the Blood, the sequel to Cold-Forged Flame. That series is more in the epic fantasy vein than the historical/scientific flavor of the Memoirs, but I've had a lot of fun with the worldbuilding for it.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marie:  Thank you!

Within the Sanctuary of Wings
The Lady Trent Memoirs 5
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Marie Brennan
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the conclusion to Marie Brennan's thrilling Lady Trent Memoirs

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

About Marie

Interview with Marie Brennan
MARIE BRENNAN is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She is the author of several acclaimed fantasy novels including A Natural History of Dragons; The Onyx Court Series: Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire; Warrior; and Witch. Her short stories have appeared in more than a dozen print and online publications.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @swan_tower


A Natural History of Dragons
The Lady Trent Memoirs 1
Tor Books, February 4, 2014
Trade Paperback,352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 5, 2013

Interview with Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one's life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

"Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on A Natural History of Dragons

An NPR Best Book of 2013

The Tropic of Serpents
The Lady Trent Memoirs 2
Tor Books, February 14, 2015
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 4, 2014

Interview with Marie Brennan
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world's premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Voyage of the Basilisk
The Lady Trent Memoirs 3
Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 31, 2015

Interview with Marie Brennan
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk . . .

Devoted readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now.

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella's in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella's life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes
The Lady Trent Memoirs 4
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 5, 2016

Interview with Marie Brennan
In the Labyrinth of Drakes, the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review
A Lady Trent Story
Tor Books, May 18, 2016
eBook, 32 Pages

Interview with Marie Brennan
After risking the neck of her loved ones and herself during her perilous sea voyage aboard The Basilisk, and the discoveries made at Keonga, Isabella, Lady Trent, returns to Scirland with the aim of publishing her research. And yet, given the level of secret knowledge she now posses, she is reduced to waiting to reveal her new academic discovery until royal decrees can be lifted and a fraught political situation avoided. In her idle frustration, Isabella vents her spleen upon the shoddy research published by lesser men with swollen heads in local journals. Enjoy the following collection of letters, found in a trunk of mislaid scholarly documents left behind when she removed to Linshire for the season.

Interview with Robyn Bennis, Author of The Guns Above

Please welcome Robyn Bennis to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Guns Above , the first Signal Airship Novel, was published on May 2nd by Tor Books.

Interview with Robyn Bennis, Author of The Guns Above

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

Robyn:  I started writing in grade school, because I needed somewhere to put all the ideas that didn't fit inside my head. I mean, it's a pretty large head—people at movie theaters often complain—but I would be sitting in class, dreaming up so many worlds and fanciful situations that I couldn't keep track of them all without writing them down. Of course, that gradually evolved into writing actual stories.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Robyn:  I'm a plotter, and I plot hard. That's not just a glib response, it's also going to be the tagline if they ever make an action movie about me.

I won't start chapter one unless I have a full, scene-by-scene outline prepared and annotated. Sometimes I have to deviate from it, but it's always there when I need it, waiting to bring me home. (That'll be the tagline of the sequel.)

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Robyn:  Like many writers, the hardest part for me is sitting down and doing the thing I love more than almost anything else in the world. It's weird, right? Getting the next scene started is often one of the hardest challenges a writer faces.

If I may be allowed to play amateur psychologist for a moment, I believe it's because writing is very much an exercise in free association. You have to open up every corridor of your mind and let whatever's in there spill out, to be poked at and combined until the right words present themselves.

Now, once I get going, there's no stopping me, because it's a fun exercise and I love my characters. But getting into that state—going through the transition period between the protected mind of daily life and the wide open mind of creativity—is stressful, and it's easy to develop an aversion to stressful things, even if they lead you straight to something you love.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Robyn:  Oh, finally someone has asked that question without the word "literary" stuck in there! I've been waiting for this chance to reveal the true font of my writing: my family. They are the wildest, weirdest, rottenest bunch of miscreants and lawbreakers that you'll ever meet, and they are collectively my muse.

TQDescribe The Guns Above in 140 characters or less.

Robyn:  I'll do you one better! I'll describe it with less than 140 characters, in haiku.

Explosions and wit.
That Lady Captain shot me.
Don't you love airships?

TQTell us something about The Guns Above that is not found in the book description.

Robyn:  I had a blast writing it. I set out to make the sort of military fiction I enjoy reading, like Hornblower, Aubrey-Maturin, and the Sharpe series, and I loved almost every minute of writing it. I'm not sure many authors can say that about their novels, so I consider myself a very lucky book-momma.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Guns Above? What appeals to you about writing what your publisher describes as "military fantasy"?

Robyn:  I've often answered this by citing Poe's "Great Balloon Hoax", but my inspiration also stems from a story I wrote years ago. The only things my beta readers liked about it were the dialogue and the action scenes, which they absolutely adored. So I thought, "Well, what kinds of books have a lot of both?" The rest is history. Somewhere along the line, I must have gotten good at plotting and character, or I wouldn't have been picked up by Tor, but the genesis was simply a desire to write a lot of what I'm best at.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Guns Above?

Robyn:  Wow. What research didn't I do? Because I did all the research. Everything from reading old War Department airship manuals from cover to cover, to actually going up in a real Zeppelin—the Eureka, flying out of Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. I purchased or borrowed every book I could find on airships and airship service, and I spent months with my nose in them, taking notes and doing my own calculations on ballast, horsepower, and estimated top speeds of various airframe and engine combinations. And let me tell you, I was in heaven.

TQPlease tell us about The Guns Above's cover.

Robyn:  It's beautiful, isn't it? That is one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen, and I'm still having trouble believing that it's on my book. I cannot thank Tommy Arnold enough for his work on it. His art captured Josette and Bernat so perfectly that they could have been ripped from my own mind.
The scene it depicts is near the end of the book, so I won't spoil the context, but readers will know it when they get there. Then they can turn back to the cover and just gawk at it for a while, before reading on.

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

Robyn:  Josette was the easiest, which is odd now that I think of it. She's just about my opposite, a woman of action and resolve. Yet, all I have to do is let her loose, and she practically writes herself. I guess there must be a small part of Josette hiding in me, like the wolf hiding in every dog.

The hardest character was the ornery bitch herself, His Majesty's Signal Airship Mistral. The ship is very much a character in The Guns Above. It has its own sort of personality, quirks, and habits. That was tough to pull off, to give life and depth to a mere thing. It took a lot of work, but I think I managed it pretty nicely.

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

Robyn:  The question I wish someone would ask is, "How many mansions did you buy with the money from this book?" Or, I suppose, I wish someone had cause to ask that.

My answer would be, "So many mansions I've lost count. I haven't even been inside most of them, you know. I just use them to store the cryogenically frozen bodies of all the celebrities I've hunted for sport. Why cryogenically freeze them? So that I may revive them and hunt them again and again, over the next ten thousand years."

Hey, I can dream, right?

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Guns Above.

Robyn:  Here's one of my favorite moments from the first half of the book:
“Private Corne, what the hell are you doing?”

Corne looked up from the pigeons, but continued to rattle their cages with both hands. “Er, Corporal Lupien told me I had to keep the pigeons flying, so we’d be light enough to stay in the air, sir. He said we’ll crash if more than half of them land at once.”

Despite the noise of the engine and the airscrews, Bernat could hear snickering coming from the hurricane deck.

“And you believed him?” Dupre asked.

Corne swallowed. “Er—no, sir.”

She put her hand on her hip and took a deep breath. “Then why are you harassing those birds, man?”

“Well, you see, sir, he is my superior, sir. That and, well, better safe than sorry?”

Dupre seemed to consider this. “Very well, Private. Carry on.” She walked aft along the catwalk.

Bernat followed. “You’re just going to let him keep at it?”

“Well, I don’t want the ship to crash.”

TQWhat's next?

Robyn:  My editor, Diana Pho, and I are currently polishing up the sequel. Tentatively named By Fire Above, it will continue the adventure and delve deeper into some of the characters. Beyond that, I'm trying not to think too hard about my next steps. I just want a chance to catch up on my reading, to be honest. Over the past couple years, I've gotten hooked on some amazing novel series by Geonn Cannon, Garrett Calcaterra, S. Usher Evans, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Suzanne Lazear, but haven't had the free time to finish them, which is a kind of torture.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Robyn:  Thank you for having me!

The Guns Above
A Signal Airship Novel 1
Tor Books, May 2, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Robyn Bennis, Author of The Guns Above
In the tradition of Honor Harrington and the high-flying Temeraire series, Bennis’s THE GUNS ABOVE is an adventurous military fantasy debut about a nation's first female airship captain.

They say it’s not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.

So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?

“Full of sass and terrific characters. Great storytelling. Loved it.” —Patricia Briggs

About Robyn

Interview with Robyn Bennis, Author of The Guns Above
ROBYN BENNIS works in biotech but dreams of airships. She lives in Mountain View, CA, within sight of the historic Hangar One at Moffett Airfield. The Guns Above is her debut novel. You can learn more about Robyn Bennis at or follow her @according2robyn and RobynBennisWriteringPun on Facebook.

Website  ~  Twitter @according2robyn ~  Facebook

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$25.99 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765389879 (print); 9780765389893 (eBook)

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Review

Pyrre Lakatur must kill seven people in fourteen days or she will die. Pyrre however, is not afraid of death- rather, she is troubled by the thought of failure. Killing seven people would be easy for Pyrre, who belongs to a religion known among the populace as Skullsworn. She is accomplished in the many ways a life can be offered to Ananshael, the God of Death. However, to become a priestess, she must adhere to certain requirements; one of which is to kill the individual she loves. Love is something Pyrre has never experienced, so in desperation she has chosen Dombâng, the city of her youth for her Trial. There she will attempt to rekindle the passion she shared with former lover, Ruc Lan Lac, who now presides as constable over the troubled city. Accompanying Pyrre as witnesses are vivacious and deadly Ela, a legendary priestess of her order, and Kossal, a gruff older priest. Her Trial hinges on the hope that Ruc will let her get close enough so they can fall in love. Then she can kill him.

Skullsworn is set in the world of Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. Although Pyrre had a part to play in that trilogy, this standalone novel takes place years before those events. I like that Pyrre tells her own narrative in first person. It allows the reader to fully appreciate her history, motivations, and inner workings. She is a distinctive protagonist who is definitely more comfortable with her blades than her emotions. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Ela, whose lessons are a delightful combination of philosophy, humor, and combat.

The city of Dombâng plays an integral role in the story. It still seethes under the martial law imposed upon it by the Annurian Empire centuries ago. Worship to its fierce gods is outlawed, but its people still believe in the forbidden sacrificial rituals, which leaves it ripe for rebellion. The deadly deltas and marshes that surround it are rife with a plethora of creatures that survive by preying on the weak. I really enjoyed the political intrigues and colorful, yet lethal locations that kept the action progressing in unexpected and exhilarating ways.

Because of her devotion to her deity, Pyrre's heartfelt journey of self-discovery is unlike any that comes to mind. Skullsworn kept me mesmerized from start to finish. I love the story's epilogue; it took me by surprise and left a smile on my face. Brian Staveley is both a master of the English language and an accomplished storyteller which makes this book a pleasure to read. Unique, bold, and exciting, Skullsworn is not to be missed.

Interview with Brian Staveley

Please welcome Brian Staveley to The Qwillery. Skullsworn will be published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.

Interview with Brian Staveley

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery again. What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy and are there any other genres or subgenres in which you'd like to write?

Brian:  I love the scope of epic fantasy, the chance to include the mythic, the historical, the religious, the philosophical at the same time as writing some bloody battles and backstabbing intrigue. That said, I’m writing a novella now. It’s the first time I’ve worked at that length, and the first time I’ve written anything outside the world of the Unhewn Throne, and I’m loving both the intimacy of the form and the chance to be more stylistically experimental.

TQYou've written 100s of pages in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe. What is your method for keeping your facts straight?

Brian:  I have no method. I have random documents strewn about my computer that are only vaguely organized. Occasionally I need to go back and dig around in one of my books for some obscure name or fact. I am absolutely certain that there are better, easier, more efficient ways to do this, but no one ever accused me of doing things the easy way.

TQThe 3rd novel in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy, The Last Mortal Bond, was published in 2016, with the Trade Paperback out last month. How did you feel wrapping up that Trilogy?

Brian:  Massive relief. A trilogy is sort of like a hockey game: kicking ass for two periods doesn’t matter if you let everything go to shit in the third. And I’ve read a number of trilogies in which this happens. I’m thrilled that most readers seem to have really enjoyed the conclusion to the tale, that I didn’t inadvertently ruin everything that came before.

TQBut, you've returned to that universe with Skullsworn which is a standalone novel. Where does Skullsworn fit temporally with The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire and The Last Mortal Bond?

BrianSkullsworn is set about twenty years before The Emperor’s Blades, and it takes place in a city—Dombang—that doesn’t appear (outside the occasional, casual mention) in the trilogy at all. It was great having the chance to flesh out the physical world, and also to take a look at the Annurian Empire from a different angle—many inhabitants of Dombang see the Empire as a sinister occupying force. They’re certainly no fans of the Malkeenians.

TQPlease tell us something about Skullsworn that is not found in the book description.

Brian:  The setting is more important to this book than any of the others. Dombang is a city built on a river delta, a city of a thousand bridges and canals, while the delta is teeming with deadly flora and fauna—poisonous plants, venomous snakes, jaguars, crocodiles. I wanted to create a location for this story that felt beautiful but also rotten, hot, and claustrophobic. That’s crucial to the political climate of the city, but also to Pyrre’s personal psychological journey.

TQPyrre Lakatur is the main character in Skullsworn. Where has she appeared in the trilogy?

Brian:  Pyrre is in her mid-forties in the trilogy. She’s a pretty significant secondary character—definitely a fan favorite—but I don’t want to say too much about her for people who haven’t read The Emperor’s Blades. I guess it’s obvious from Skullsworn itself that she is very, very good at killing people. It’s worth mentioning, though, that she’s quite a different character in Skullsworn than in the trilogy—younger, less certain of herself.

TQCan you tell us about the world in which Pyrre finds herself?

Brian:  As I mentioned above, Dombang is nominally part of the Annurian Empire—it was conquered two hundred years before the time in which Skullsworn is set—and yet, unlike most other parts of the empire, Dombang still seethes with revolution. Part of this is due to the city’s isolation. Even more is due to the local religion, which the Annurians have attempted to stamp out. The locals believe that a trinity of brutal, bloody gods inhabits the delta and keeps the city safe. They’re even willing to offer human sacrifice to those gods…

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Skullsworn.

Brian:  Rich Anderson’s cover art for the US version doesn’t depict a specific scene. Our goal was to capture a) something of Pyrre’s character and b) something of the city itself. We actually considered a few versions that had Pyrre front and center in the frame, but those struck me as wrong. Not only does she fight from the shadows, but she’s not emotionally ready to stand in the middle of a book cover when this story takes place. The Pyrre of the trilogy would happily recline straight across the cover, but she’s not there yet in Skullsworn.

The UK cover, by contrast, does a really nice job capturing the feel of the delta. There are no huge cliffs like that, but I like the ambience of the cover, the way it suggests a wild and dangerous world beyond the limits of Dombang.

Interview with Brian Staveley
US Cover
Interview with Brian Staveley
UK Cover

TQWill you be writing more stories set in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, perhaps bringing back another fan favorite?

Brian:  Absolutely. As soon as I wrap up this novella, I’m getting back to another in-universe stand-alone. This one involves another female character that a lot of readers have grown to love, although I don’t think she’s going to be a POV character in the novel. Stay tuned!

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery!

Brian:  Thanks for having me!

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

About Brian

Interview with Brian Staveley
Author Photo: Laura Swoyer
Brian Staveley is the author of the award-winning fantasy trilogy, The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, he began writing fiction. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The entire trilogy, which includes The Providence of Fire and the The Last Mortal Bond has been translated into over ten languages worldwide.

Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order.

Website  ~  Twitter @BrianStaveley  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy

The Emperor's Blades
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Tor Books, August 26, 2014
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 14, 2014

Interview with Brian Staveley
In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

The Providence of Fire
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2
Tor Books, December 8, 2015
Trade Paperback, 624 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 13, 2015

Interview with Brian Staveley
The Providence of Fire is the second novel in Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, a renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

The Last Mortal Bond
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 3
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 672 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 15, 2016

Interview with Brian Staveley
The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley's The Last Mortal Bond

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1 - 3
Tor Books, Dec 6, 2016
eBook Bundle

Interview with Brian Staveley
Includes: The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, The Last Mortal Bond, and an excerpt from the forthcoming Skullsworn

“An enchanting union of old and new, Staveley's debut will keep you turning pages late into the night.” Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising

The emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

The Emperor’s Blades — Three siblings: Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery. An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral. At the heart of the empire, Adare hunts those who murdered her father.

The Providence of Fire — Kaden infiltrates the Annurian capital, while Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion compels the rival forces to unite. Unknown to Adare, Valyn has allied with the invading nomads.

The Last Mortal Bond — The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; capricious gods walk the earth in human guise, but the imperial siblings at the heart of it all soon understand that there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
The Emperor's Blades
The Providence of Fire
The Last Mortal Bond

Other books in the world of the Unhewn Throne
Skullsworn (forthcoming)

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors

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

Laura Lam (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Yoon Ha Lee (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Poore (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award Winner - All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

The William L. Crawford Fantasy Award was presented at the 38th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts which was held March 22-26, 2017 at Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside, Orlando, Florida.
The IAFA Crawford Award each year recognizes an outstanding new writer whose first fantasy book was published during the previous calendar year. It is not specifically a first novel award. The award was established with the support of the late Andre Norton, who also helped establish the criteria and who continued to support the award over the years. from the IAFA website
The Crawford Award Winner for a novel published in 2016 is Charlie Jane Anders for All the Birds in the Sky!

Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky
Tor Books, April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 26, 2016

The IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award Winner - All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
From the former editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the worldand the beginning of our future

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky is a deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

My review

It's hard to explain All the Birds in the Sky - it's a story with magic; it's a story with science; it's a story about the impending apocalyptic end of the world. It's all those and a story about love, friendship, and finding your place in the world. It's also an absolute joy to read.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are awkward pre-teens with parents who do not understand them. They barely understand themselves. Their lives intersect when they are in middle school (where horrible things happen). They are both captivating and interesting for entirely different reasons. Laurence is a person of science; Patricia is a person of magic. They are friends and not friends, but they always seem to have each other's backs in middle school. For years they don't see each other. They grow up and reconnect as the world is more and more falling apart - superstorms, famine, water wars, disease, etc. Patricia is a powerful witch who doesn't understand everything she can do yet despite her training, but is working to save the world. Laurence is a genius also working to save humanity through science. Obviously they have different approaches to what that means.

All the Birds in the Sky is deeply character-driven. Patricia and Laurence are such vibrant characters it seems that they could have carried the story on their own, but Anders populates their world with wonderful secondary characters that add layers of depth to the story, marvelous magic and cutting edge/weird science.

Anders writing is spellbinding - she transports you deeply into this fabulous story. All the Birds in the Sky has everything I look for in a novel - great writing, wonderful characters and a fascinating, deeply engaging story. I was upset when the book ended because I wanted more! All the Birds in the Sky is an exhilarating, exuberant, magical novel that I very highly recommend.

Originally posted here: Interview with Charlie Jane Anders and review of All the Birds in the Sky

Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Author:  Bracken MacLeod
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 4, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  USD$24.99 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765382436 (print); 9781466887381 (eBook)
Genre:  Supernatural Thriller

Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
In the spirit of John Carpenter's The Thing and Jacob's Ladder comes Stranded -- a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems by Bracken MacLeod.

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah's warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Brannigans' Review

This is my first time reading Bracken MacLeod’s work. I like to dabble in thrillers from time to time to reset my reading palette. For me the Thriller genre is a big unknown. I don’t read the big names in the genre, and I don’t tend to read multiple books from one author in the genre. I like it this way. It keeps things fresh and mysterious. It keeps me on my toes while vacationing in this unfamiliar environment.

MacLeod does a fantastic job with his descriptive detail. I immediately felt submerged in his world of the open ocean and later the frozen wasteland we find our protagonist in. It opens in a storm at night and we get a real sense of what the characters have to do to survive in these harsh conditions. It also immediately tells you as a reader that the environment is never going to be friendly or pleasant.

MacLeod brings his characters alive just as fast as we quickly learn how much every member on the Arctic Promise hates Noah Cabot. It takes some time to learn what our protagonist did to make everyone so mad. MacLeod is a patient man and releases information slowly to the reader. I enjoy this skill as a writer, since it takes skill to know when to give out information at the right moments in the book. The Antagonist of the book is a double billing between Mother Nature and her harsh conditions and Noah’s father-in-law and Captain of the Arctic Promise, William Brewster. No one hates Noah more than William. This is one of the secrets that MacLeod takes his time unfolding, which only leads to more secrets. MacLeod does a masterful job at connecting his characters to the reader. There’s at least one or two things about each of the men in the book that you can find some similarity to.

I would really like to tell you more about the plot of the book and its many mysteries, but, since it’s a thriller, I really don’t want to ruin anything for you. So I will say it starts off with Noah and his crew mates on a job to resupply an oil platform in the norther sea above Russia when their ship becomes trapped in ice. Then, things start happening.

My one warning to people looking to read this book is about pacing. It starts off slow the first 200 pages and then really takes off the last 100. I really didn’t mind the slow build as it does wonders in connecting to characters and getting a feel for the world before all the action. However, I hear from a lot of people how much they dislike slow books, so I feel obligated to alert you to this fact.

My only problem with the book is the lack of female characters. I know being a sailor and working on oil platforms is physically challenging work, but I would have enjoyed see more diversity in the characters. It would definitely add the story by offering different view points.

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod is a solid thriller ride through a frozen sea. It builds to a stunning conclusion. I would only recommend this book to adults as there is adult language used throughout and at times graphic violence as well as some very frightening scenes. For anyone that likes a thrill ride in their books with a strong environmental presence and solid character development, I would pass this book on to them.

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows

Please welcome Erika Lewis to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Game of Shadows is published on February 28th by Tor Books.

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

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows

TQWhen did you start writing and why?

Erika:  When I was about 8 years old my best friend and I would pass journals back and forth. We didn’t go to the same school, so during the week we’d write in composition notebooks, journaling notes to each other. Sometimes stories, sometimes diary entries, it changed depending on the week. Then we’d trade on the weekend. I was going through a tough time. So was she. Lots of changes on the home front. Writing stories was an escape.

Over the years, during and after college, through my first job as an intern at CNN during the first Gulf War, then after moving to Los Angeles and started working for studios and networks in production, I just kept writing. Now, after getting my shot to do what I love, I still just keep writing. It’s addictive!

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

Erika:  I would call myself a disenfranchised plotter. LOL! I write an outline, sometimes extremely detailed then about half way through writing the story, the characters throw me for a loop and want to go in a totally different direction. That means having to do more research many times if I’m working with a particular mythology, like in Game of Shadows, but the characters always know best! So, I tend to listen.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Erika:  I tend to prefer to write in first person or close third. A recent challenged for me has been the protagonist’s point of view, meaning which character would be the most interesting to tell the story. In a new project I’m working on, I originally wrote it from one character’s perspective only to realize I was missing out on a much more interesting point of view. A character who at first seems like she should be the antagonist, someone I wanted to hate. But as I kept writing, I realized that she wasn’t the person I thought she was, and as it turns out, she is the voice that I personally think will make everyone else listen. Okay, all that was rather cryptic, I know. Sorry. But the point is that I then had to start over. Through the painful process comes something that is vastly more satisfying for me, and hopefully will be for the reader as well.

TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing? How does your prior work in TV influence (or not) your novel writing?

Erika:  Life experiences tend to influence my writing the most. I would think that’s a common thing. I lived in the U.K and spent a great deal of time in Ireland. I fell in love with the landscape, the warmth of the people, and the rich history. But by the time I started to play around with the idea of writing a story about where those mythical Celtic races and magical druids disappeared to, I was living in Los Angeles. So I wanted to find a way to bring the two things together, so Ethan Makkai is living in Los Angeles when we first meet him in Game of Shadows.

Television has, for good or bad, influenced the pacing of my novels. I love a plot to move. It needs to stand still just long enough to suck me in emotionally, connect me to each and every character, but then keep the train moving. Not that quiet moments can’t keep up a solid pace too! They lull you into a false sense of security, as if nothing bad could happen at least for a few more pages, then bam!

TQDescribe Game of Shadows in 140 characters or less.

Erika:  Haunted and desperate for independence, Ethan Makkai has no idea his gift makes him the most wanted guy on the planet. #RadharcRules

TQTell us something about Game of Shadows that’s not is not found in the book description.

Erika:  The story is told from multiple POVs, not just Ethan’s. Tor Books has been an amazing partner, understanding that, to me, in order for this book to truly show off the distress in Tara, other voices needed to be heard. Ethan races through the different realms in Tara, trying to get to his mother before they kill her. But his story happens simultaneously with Tara itself going on red alert that this villain is back and preparing for onslaught. Not to mention a few chapters from the pathological villain himself.

When I think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I found it so satisfying that the story wasn’t just following Frodo, and finding out what happened after he throws the ring into the running lava in Mount Doom. It was truly epic for all of middle-earth!

TQWhat inspired you to write Game of Shadows? What appeals to you about writing fantasy and specifically Celtic Mythology?

Erika:  My time in Ireland inspired Game of Shadows, and a love for young adult stories lead me to Ethan being the entry point into the hidden lands of Tara. Many years after returning home from living abroad, I started researching the different cycles of history in Ireland, and focused in on the Mythological Cycle. I wondered what happened to the ancient races and magical Druids after the gods and goddesses lost the war to humans and vacated? Known as the Tuatha Dé Danann, followers of the mother goddess Danu, they left through the fairy mounds, but there was no mention of what happened to the on the Ravens, Faoladhs, Fomorians, and the others in Game of Shadows. I had a thought…maybe they’re still here…

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Game of Shadows?

Erika:  Oh boy…so much research. Books, online, but also I worked with an incredible Celtic Lecturer at Berkeley. She would read my chapters, and generally laugh at what I’d done with the different legendary races, and help me linguistically with ancient Irish. But I altered the language a bit with the idea that through time all languages change.

TQPlease tells us about the Game of Shadows’ cover art.

Erika:  My editor Elayne Becker at Tor had this idea for the cover, and I just love it. It’s more than meets the eye. Ghosts plague Ethan, yes. He hates it. They make him look insane all the time because he’s not allowed to talk about his gift, or them.

His power called radharc, gives him the ability to see ghosts, but it’s so much more than that. Not to spoil anything but the ghost chasing after Ethan represents more than just a ghost. It’s his nemesis…and his destiny.

TQIn Game of Shadows, who was the easiest character to write, and who was the hardest?

Erika:  Easiest was Lily Niles. I love her. I knew her from the moment she attacked Ethan. She’s a strong female character with a take-no-prisoners attitude. My husband calls me five-feet of fury, a nickname I’ve earned, mainly when I think someone is being wronged. I can’t help myself. If a bully is on the attack, no one should stand by and watch, and typically, I don’t. Lily’s fierce with a sword (wish I was,) but also knows what she wants and goes after it. That includes Ethan.

The hardest character was King Fearghus in Gransmore. He rules the Fomorians. His daughter was murdered, and he blames himself for what happened. Ethan realizes how much his powers are a gift when he’s able to give Fearghus a little relief. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Fearghus is a character that you just want to hug every time he appears, though you won’t feel that way at first!

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Game of Shadows?

Erika:  In my humble opinion, social issues are in everything writers’ write, whether we realize it or not. We take inspiration from our lives, cultures, and the times we live in. When I started Game of Shadows, violence in America was and still is a huge issue. Ethan, in seeing ghosts and communicating with the dead, feels the permanent great divide between those who have passed on, and those left behind in the living world. For that reason, he is not someone who easily wields a weapon.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, in what he thought was a fairly safe environment, Ethan never experienced true life or death situations until the day his mother is kidnapped. He’s had jerks at school giving him grief, but never felt like his life was in danger. Much later in the book, in the last act, Ethan trains with someone he looks up to above all others (no spoilers.) A great warrior, a person who has battled for most of his life, he tells Ethan, “No one can beat down an enemy with compassion.” But compassion is a part of who Ethan is at his core. Circumstances do change of course, but it’s up to Ethan in the end how he will react when things turn deadly. As Bran says in the opening prophecy, “For in darkness there is always light, and in the face of death a reason to fight.”

TQWhat question about Game of Shadows do you wish someone would ask?

Erika:  About the incredible artwork inside: I was so lucky to have two very talented comic artists make the Celtic marks of Tara, and the map. Megan Hutchison ( created the shield that incorporates the realms individual marks. These are an integral part of the story. When a Tarisian leaves Tara, they must take the shadowwalker’s oath, a promise of secrecy. The pledge’s remnant is a permanent tattoo of the Tarisian’s realm’s mark on the underside of the wrist. Ethan’s family is from Landover, and their mark is the triple spiral. His mother has it as if branded into her flesh on the underside of her wrist. But Ethan wasn’t born in Tara, so does Ethan have it? Well, no spoilers here, right? Here’s a look at the shield of Tara.

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows

Megan took inspiration from ancient Ireland in creating the marks. Fun fact: The triple spiral, Landover’s symbol, is found chiseled into the stones at Newgrange (, a more than 5,200 year-old mound in the Boyne Valley in Ireland.

The map of Tara was as important for me as a writer as it is for the reader. I drew a fairly pathetic sketch that Eric Gravel ( then turned into what you see in the book. Here’s the colored version!

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows

In writing the long journey for Ethan, Lily and Christian through Tara, I used this map frequently. Being a visual person, I needed to literally see where they were going, and now everyone who reads the book can too!

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

Erika:  Non-spoilery, huh? There’s a fair bit about Ethan in the summary of the book, so how about a little introduction to Lily. This quote comes from chapter 5 when they meet for the first time.

“Ethan’s knees strained, gripping the saddle, trying to stay on. Devlin pivoted right, trying to avoid a white horse that suddenly appeared in front of him. Ethan slipped down in the saddle. He didn’t know how much longer he could hold on. Panicked, he looked for help from the rider on the white horse a second before she catapulted onto him, sending him crashing to the ground.”

And one more from Lily’s own mouth.

“You know, your father said he’d confine you to your house for two weeks if he caught you out again.”
Lily glanced sideways at him. “No. He said if he found me on the castle grounds. These are not the castle grounds.”
“You like to live dangerously, don’t you?”
“Always.” She kicked her horse.

And perhaps a little from Ethan’s and Tara’s enemy, Sawney Bean. In this chapter he’s talking to a ghost inside his prison cave. Twisted, she continuously prattles on, pining for her lover, Torin, who betrayed her. Is Bean evil? Oh yes, but with a touch of sarcasm that leaves me wondering what it would be like to hang out with him for a night:

“Have you ever noticed that both ‘love’ and ‘hate are four letter words? On opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and yet connected at their very core. In order to fully understand hate, one must have felt love. And if love is a noble cause, isn’t hate then just as noble? Harnessing hatred for those who tossed you out and considered you worthless? Is there any more noble cause? And thus by default, isn’t revenge the proper course of action, rather than reconciliation?” He paused his scribbling and turned to face her. “Revenge on Torin should be what you seek, Kiara, and yet, you, even in death, continue to seek love.”

TQWhat’s next?

Erika:  The sequel to Game of Shadows. I’m so excited to dive in. I spent time this summer in Ireland doing a ton of research, and writing the outline. The story grows so much, and Ethan and Lily’s lives move in directions neither they nor I ever saw coming.

On the what’s coming out, this summer my graphic novel, The 49th Key will be released! Also, Jessica Chobot’s ( and my comic series Firebrand will continue to publish chapters on LINE Webtoon (

There’s a few other things too in the comic world, but can’t talk about them yet ☺.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Game of Shadows
Tor Books, February 28, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows
A young man plagued by the ability to see ghosts races to save the mythological land of Tara from a terrible fate in Erika Lewis's stunning debut, Game of Shadows.

Thousands of years ago in Ireland, an ancient race fought a world-changing battle—and lost. Their land overrun, the Celtic gods and goddesses fled, while the mythical races and magical druids sailed to an uncharted continent, cloaked so mankind could never find it. This new homeland was named Tara.

In modern day Los Angeles, Ethan Makkai struggles with an overprotective mother who never lets him out of her sight, and a terrifying secret: he can see ghosts. Desperate for a taste of freedom, he leaves his apartment by himself for the first time—only to find his life changed forever. After being attacked by dive-bombing birds, he races home to find the place trashed and his mother gone.

With the help of a captain from Tara who has been secretly watching the Makkais for a long time, Ethan sets out to save his mother; a journey that leads him to the hidden lands, and straight into the arms of a vicious sorcerer who will stop at nothing until he controls Tara.With new-found allies including Christian, the cousin he never knew he had, and Lily, the sword-slinging healer who’d rather fight than mend bones, Ethan travels an arduous road—dodging imprisonment, battling beasts he thought only existed in nightmares, and accepting help from the beings he’s always sought to avoid: ghosts. This L.A. teen must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother, the fearless girl he’s fallen for, and all the people of Tara.

About Erika

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows
Photo by Peter Konerko
ERIKA LEWIS graduated from Vanderbilt University, and went on to earn an Advanced Certificate in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University. She has had a successful career in television production for the past fifteen years, working with Sony (V.I.P, Strong Medicine), with Fireworks Television (La Femme Nikita, Andromeda, Mutant X, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High), with Fox (On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Ambush Makeover) and with G4 (Attack of the Show, X-Play). Erika is the author of The 49th Key, currently running in Heavy Metal Magazine, with the trade out soon, and the recently released Firebrand with Legendary Comics. Game of Shadows is Erika’s debut novel. Find out more at:

Twitter @ErikaElyLewis  ~  Facebook

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner

The winner of the February 2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly from Tor Books. The cover art is by Victo Ngai.

Tor Books, February 7, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner
From author Lara Elena Donnelly, a debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup

Trust no one with anything – especially in Amberlough City.

Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.

Cyril participates on a mission that leads to disastrous results, leaving smoke from various political fires smoldering throughout the city. Shielding Aristide from the expected fallout isn’t easy, though, for he refuses to let anything – not the crooked city police or the mounting rage from radical conservatives – dictate his life.

Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, a top dancer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Aristide’s runner, who could be the key to Cyril’s plans—if she can be trusted. As the twinkling lights of nightclub marquees yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means — and people — necessary. Including each other.

Combining the espionage thrills of le Carré with the allure of an alternate vintage era, Amberlough will thoroughly seduce and enthrall you.

"James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde." —Holly Black

"Sparkling with slang, full of riotous characters, and dripping with intrigue, Amberlough is a dazzling romp through a tumultuous, ravishing world." —Robert Jackson Bennett, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Award

"An astonishing first novel!" —World Fantasy Award-winning author Ellen Kushner

The Results
2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner

The February 2017 Debuts
2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner

The 2017 Compton Crook 35th Award - WinnerInterview with Marie BrennanInterview with Robyn Bennis, Author of The Guns AboveReview: Skullsworn by Brian StaveleyInterview with Brian StaveleyCovers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC AuthorsThe IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award Winner - All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane AndersReview: Stranded by Bracken MacLeodInterview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner

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