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Review: Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold - May 18, 2013



Dangerous Gifts
Author:  Gaie Sebold
Series:  Babylon Steel
Publisher:  Solaris, January 29, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
Price:  $8.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781781080801 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by Publisher

Review: Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold - May 18, 2013
Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war, currently owner of the Scarlet Lantern, the best brothel on Scalentine, city of portals, has been offered a job; as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, the latest candidate for the Council of Incandress; and as spy for the Diplomatic Section, the barely-acknowledged government of Scalentine.

She doesn’t want it. Incandress is on the verge of civil war. Enthemmerlee represents the hopes or fears of a large portion of its population and is a prime target for assassination. And on Scalentine racial tensions and economic stresses are boiling up, with Babylon’s lover, Chief Bitternut, trying to keep the lid on.

But circumstances conspire to send her to Incandress. There, what with attempting to turn Enthemmerlee’s useless household guard into a disciplined fighting force, dodging the Moral Statutes, the unwilling presence of a very annoyed member of the Diplomatic Section and the need to keep both herself and her client alive, things become rather too interesting. And that’s before Babylon realises that the situation is far worse than she thought, and is driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences…




Melanie's Thoughts:

Dangerous Gifts is the second book in the Babylon Steel series which takes our plucky heroine far away from her home and friends to Incandress in order to guard the new counselor Enthemmerlee. Tensions are mounting at home as humans create discord and shifters are being  killed. No matter how much she would like to Babylon, finds she is unable to refuse the job despite wanting to stay at home to protect her friends and be with her boyfriend 'The Chief'. Political intrigues, shoddy soldiers plus a ban on anything sexy are big challenges for the former avatar of a god and owner of the best brothel in town.

Babylon herself, is an interesting character as she has quite the colourful past and an even more colourful job as a part time body guard, prostitute and brothel owner. Her sexual proclivities are quite subtle and it’s almost as if Babylon pops into the office to type a few memos rather than going to ‘service’ a few clients. I liked this about Sebold’s writing style as the book could have veered towards erotica. Instead, sex was almost incidental to the story rather than the focus. I wasn't totally convinced with Sebold's portrayal of Babylon as a protector or body guard but like the sex in the story, action and violence played second fiddle to character interaction. Character development, especially of Babylon appeared to take priority for Sebold in this story although sometimes at the expense of the plot.

The plot was fairly typical with Babylon given the task of protecting Enthemmerlee and figuring out who would want to see her dead. I actually guessed who the ‘baddy’ was quite early on but still enjoyed seeing how the plot would play out. I didn't feel I was stretched either with the plot or with the characters as the story just seemed to glide along.

I hadn't read Babylon Steel, the aptly named first book of the series, when I started Dangerous Gifts. Normally, I always try to read all the books in the series. I however, made two incorrect assumptions: 1) that the Sebold would, as many authors do, recount large parts of the  plot of the previous book in the subsequent one  2) by reading reviews I could adequately get a picture of who the main characters were.  Instead I was too excited about having a new book with an interesting cover so I dug in and read it.  Even though I thought I had quite a good grasp of ‘who was who’ I still was a bit surprised at how much the plot of the first book played a part in the second. In retrospect, I should have put Dangerous Gifts down and and started from the first book. For the first few chapters I felt I was always reading in catch-up mode. There are many different races and species in Babylon’s world.  I often lost track who had scales or a tail or who sprouted fur every full moon. I would then go back and re-read a chapter or two in order to figure this out which meant that it took me slightly longer to read than it would have normally. Despite this, Dangerous Gifts was a pretty quick, easy read. I don't think I missed out that much about Babylon or the other main characters not having read book 1.

I liked Dangerous Gifts although I am not sure I liked it enough to continue the series. If you like a quirky character in a fantasy setting then I recommend starting at book 1 of the Babylon Steel series.

Interview with Gaie Sebold and Giveaway - January 17, 2012

Please welcome Gaie Sebold to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Babylon Steel, Gaie's debut, was published on January 5, 2012 in the United Kingdom and Canada and on December 27, 2011 in the United States.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Gaie:  I’m not sure I have one! A tendency to write four or five hundred words in an hour then obsess about getting one word exactly right for twenty minutes? Is that a quirk? I also often wear fingerless gloves to work in, but that’s because my hands and feet turn to ice if I sit still for long. It’s not Reynaud’s or anything, I just have a really rubbish thermostat.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Gaie:  Terry Pratchett, definitely, on both counts. Not that I think I could be like him – only Sir Pterry is Sir Pterry, and besides I’d rather be me than a pale imitation of someone else – but I admire him immensely. Angela Carter, Stephen King, J R R Tolkien, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman, Nora Lofts, Georgette Heyer…I should stop now. It’s difficult to say who has had the most influence. I think everything I’ve read and loved has probably influenced me to a different degree, non-fiction as well as fiction. Films and graphic novels have definitely also contributed to the way I write, the characters I develop and the subjects I want to write about.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

Gaie:  Mainly a panster, certainly when I start on a book. I seem to work best by starting with a character and a fairly basic idea or two, and letting things develop from there. About a third of the way in I have to start working out where everything’s going, at which point I stop and plot in much more detail. And then it all changes again, and then it all changes again in the rewrite. I write an awful lot of words that don’t end up in the final draft. One of the most important things I’ve had to learn is that you have to be prepared to waste stuff. I have heaven knows how many scenes and characters stuffed into various ‘cut’ files because I loved them to bits but they had no place in the story as it ended up, and I couldn’t quite bear to throw them away completely. The great thing about electronic memory is that I can do that without filling up cupboard space I can’t spare. But now, with deadlines and so forth, and working on a collaboration on a different project with someone who is very much a plotter, I am having to do a little more plotting up front.

TQ:  Describe Babylon Steel in 140 characters or less.

Gaie:  Agh, a Twitter blurb! Here goes…

Brothel-owning ex-avatar of sex and war faces death, taxes and her lethal past in a city of many portals. Includes girl on lizard action.

(That last bit is nicked from the 'tart cards' Solaris did for me, which look like the cards that working girls used to leave in phoneboxes. The phrase 'girl on lizard action' seems to make people sit up and take notice more than anything else, funny that...)

TQ:  What inspired you to write Babylon Steel?

Gaie:  That would be very hard to say. The idea of a brothel in a city with links to other dimensions or planes has been hovering for many years, and I already thought of the madam as someone tough, but basically decent, who cared about her customers and particularly about the people who worked for her. It took a long time to coalesce, though, and my own ideas about sex and sexuality and confidence in writing about those things had to develop a lot. That’s not all the book is about, but those turned out to be things that, rather to my own surprise, I wanted to talk about.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?

Gaie:  I’m very fond of the scenes describing the city and the portals, because I just let my imagination off the leash and all sorts of weird stuff came out, some of which I hope to have great fun with later in the series; and I admit I’m rather proud of the sex scenes. I was desperate to get those right, and I’d never written anything graphic before. From the responses so far, they seem to have ended up working the way I wanted them to.

TQ:   What sort of research did you do to create the world of Babylon Steel?

Gaie:  Not a lot specifically for this book; I’ve always done a lot of reading on all sorts of subjects, so I had some knowledge of sex work and swordfighting from that. I did do a class in longsword for a couple of years; the people who taught it really knew their stuff and you got a free lesson in historical fighting styles and the realities of fighting with every class, so that was very useful indeed!

TQ: In Babylon Steel, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?

Gaie:  I don’t think it was a single character that was particularly difficult; making all the secondary characters feel fully rounded was probably the hardest thing. It was pointed out to me during a critique that some of them were inconsistent, and some of them were simply rather flat. It’s not the first time I’ve had to realise that I had a clearer idea of my characters in my head than had turned up on the page.
The easiest was Babylon. She had a very strong voice as soon as I started writing, and she didn’t change much, even through a very thorough critique, rewrites, and several rounds of edits.

TQ:  How many books are planned for the series?

Gaie:  It’s not been planned out in that sort of detail at this stage. Somewhere between three and five, possibly, is the closest I’d like to get at this point.

TQ:  What's next?

Gaie:  Oh, I have several things in mind! I’m working on the sequel to Babylon Steel at the moment. Once that’s done I want to get back to a collaboration I’m working on with my partner, which is also fantasy but a very different style from Babylon, and I have at least one other project which is in more of a high-fantasy vein. A lot depends on time, to be honest. I have great admiration for writers who can produce several books a year; I’d like to get that fast, but at the moment I’m still coping with having deadlines for one book at a time. Also, of course, I do have a full time job!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Gaie:  Thank you very much for inviting me.


Read Gaie's guest blog - Things I Didn’t Know - by clicking here.


About Babylon Steel

Babylon Steel
Babylon Steel 1
Solaris, December 27, 2012 (US); January 5, 2012 (UK/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages

Interview with Gaie Sebold and Giveaway - January 17, 2012
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She's not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it's tax time, and there's not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night's takings are at risk when Babylon's hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.


About Gaie

Interview with Gaie Sebold and Giveaway - January 17, 2012
Gaie Sebold was born in the US, lives in South East London, and works for a social change charity. She has had several short stories and a book of poetry published. Her debut novel Babylon Steel is due out from Solaris on 27 December (US). ("Ingenious, gripping, and full of pleasures on every level. Exceptional." Mike Carey.)

She began writing shortly after learning to read, and has produced a large number of words, many of them different. She has worked as a cleaner, secretary, till-monkey, stage-tour-manager, editor, and now works for a charity and runs occasional writing workshops.

She is an obsessive reader, enthusiastically inefficient gardener and has been known to run around in woods hitting people with latex swords and declaim poetry in public, though not usually at the same time. She is currently working on a sequel to Babylon Steel, another novel in collaboration with her partner, writer Dave Gullen, and a romance, with orcs. She likes orcs.

Gaie's Links

Website
Twitter
Babylon Steel on Twitter


The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  Five commenters will each win a copy of  Babylon Steel from Solaris. UK/US/Canada ONLY

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Which books or movies are you looking forward to in 2012?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a United Kingdom, Canadian or United States mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 24, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog by Gaie Sebold - November 29, 2011

Please welcome Gaie Sebold to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge guest posts. Gaie's debut novel, Babylon Steel, will be published in the United Kingdom and Canada on January 5, 2012 and in the United States on December 27, 2011 by Solaris.


Things I Didn’t Know

Dear Sally

Thank you for inviting me to guest blog.

Guest blogging is one of the many things I am still finding my way at; it seems to be an essential part of being a debut author in these techno-savvy times. Unfortunately, I’m more techno-idiot than techno savvy; and the fact that I would have to learn to use Twitter (badly, so far) is only one of the many things I didn’t know about being a debut author.

I didn’t know that I would write two novels (not to mention a couple of 30,000 word false starts and innumerable scraps, fragments, ideas and occasionally just titles) before I got an agent. I didn’t know that all the shrieks of glee and popping of champagne corks which accompanied getting an agent would have plenty of time to die away, because it would be several years and two more whole novels before I got a deal with Babylon Steel. I think if I’d known how old I would be before that happened, I might have given up long before – which would have been a pity. (At least, I think it would have been a pity, but I’m still waiting for the first reviews of Babylon Steel …)

Nor did I realise that the inevitable corollary to all this passing time was that when I did get a deal, the team I would be working with would all be delightful, enthusiastic - and rather frighteningly young. (Not to mention capable of spotting a plot-hole at 300 yards).

I didn’t anticipate that I would end up getting published with a novel which is, among other things, about sex and sexual attitudes, and that this fact would alternatively delight me and terrify the life out of me.

I didn’t know how utterly essential my critique group would be (T Party Writers – http://t-party.org.uk/ - nothing to do with the other T Party in any way) They got me up to standard, kept my nose to the grindstone, and provided endless ideas, support, commiseration, cheerleading etc. as required. They’re like one of those dispensers that produces whatever drink you need, from espresso to hot chocolate. They produce actual drinks, too, for sorrow-drowning or celebration as required – and what more could one ask?

I didn’t expect that I would get fits of inappropriate grinning every time I remembered that Babylon Steel was actually going to be published.

I didn’t anticipate the occasional flurry of rampant panic at the thought of strangers I’m never going to meet reading what I’ve written; not just the sexy bits, any of it. Which is daft, considering it’s what I’ve been working for all this time.

I didn’t expect the sense of unreality which continued to make me believe that this wasn’t really happening, until the very moment I received my author copies and realised Babylon Steel really did exist, a book, an actual thing, separate from an idea in my head. Of course, it’s not actually published yet, so I continue to be haunted by the fear that something will happen to prevent it ever reaching readers. If the zombie apocalypse occurs before the release date, I am going to be seriously cross, but somehow, not entirely surprised.

Because all of the above applies to being a debut author whose book hasn’t actually been released. Which is another thing I didn’t realise – how many stages there are to publication, even after you’ve written the book and got it as polished as you possibly can. Agent – whoop! Deal – hallelujah! Then there are press releases and you see it for the first time; ‘BABYLON STEEL…debut novelist Gaie Sebold.’ And you squee a lot. Then your book title appears on the publisher’s website. Then there’s cover design. Possible release dates. First edits. Cover design again. More edits. Getting blurbs. Actual cover appearing on the publisher’s website. More edits. And writing the dedication and acknowledgements, and getting the actual release dates. Each stage is exciting, each brings the book a bit closer to reality. It may sound tedious, but to be honest I’ve loved every minute of it; possibly I’m strange. But I have a book. Babylon Steel, by…me. It really exists. And I thought I knew how cool that would be, but I didn't. It's amazingly cool.

And it still will be, even if there is a zombie apocalypse.


About Babylon Steel

Babylon Steel
Babylon Steel 1
Solaris, December 27, 2012 (US); January 5, 2012 (UK/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Gaie Sebold - November 29, 2011
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She's not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it's tax time, and there's not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night's takings are at risk when Babylon's hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.



About Gaie

Guest Blog by Gaie Sebold - November 29, 2011
Gaie Sebold was born in the US, lives in South East London, and works for a social change charity. She has had several short stories and a book of poetry published. Her debut novel Babylon Steel is due out from Solaris on 27 December (US). ("Ingenious, gripping, and full of pleasures on every level. Exceptional." Mike Carey.)

She began writing shortly after learning to read, and has produced a large number of words, many of them different. She has worked as a cleaner, secretary, till-monkey, stage-tour-manager, editor, and now works for a charity and runs occasional writing workshops.

She is an obsessive reader, enthusiastically inefficient gardener and has been known to run around in woods hitting people with latex swords and declaim poetry in public, though not usually at the same time. She is currently working on a sequel to Babylon Steel, another novel in collaboration with her partner, writer Dave Gullen, and a romance, with orcs. She likes orcs.

Gaie's Links

Website
Twitter
Babylon Steel on Twitter


Look for an interview with Gaie in January 2012.  Keep up to date with the 2012 Debut Author Challenge at the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Page.
Review: Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold - May 18, 2013Interview with Gaie Sebold and Giveaway - January 17, 2012Guest Blog by Gaie Sebold - November 29, 2011

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