The Qwillery | category: HarperCollins


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

The Andromeda Evolution Coming in November 2019


The Andromeda Evolution Coming in November 2019
New York, NY (February 2019) HarperCollins Publishers is thrilled to announce the publication of THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION, the sequel to Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking techno-thriller, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. The novel, a collaboration between CrichtonSun LLC and bestselling sci-fi author Daniel H. Wilson, will be published on November 12, 2019 by Harper US, UK and Australia simultaneously.

On the 50th Anniversary of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, the novel that made Michael Crichton a household name — and spawned a new genre, the technothriller — the threat returns, in a gripping sequel that is terrifyingly realistic and resonant of the original.

“It’s hard to believe that half a century has passed since the publication of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, particularly as the fears at the book’s core remain in the forefront of our collective consciousness; the title itself has become part of our culture – a shorthand for any global pandemic. Harper could not be more excited to publish the continuation to the book that launched Michael Crichton’s career,” said Harper President & Publisher Jonathan Burnham.

“Michael’s first benchmark novel, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, was ahead of its time in both subject matter and how it was presented to the reader,” said Sherri Crichton, CEO, CrichtonSun LLC. “It's exciting to be shining a spotlight on the world that Michael so brilliantly created and to collaborate with Daniel Wilson. This novel is for Crichton fans; it’s a celebration of Michael’s universe and a way to introduce him to new generations, and to those discovering his worlds for the first time.”

"As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” said Wilson. “It's a testament to Crichton's genius that the originality of The Andromeda Strain is just as exciting and relatable now as it was on the day it was first published."

Michael Crichton (1942-2008) was the author of the best selling novels The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Jurassic Park, Sphere, Disclosure, Prey, State of Fear, Next and Dragon Teeth among many others. His books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and have provided the basis for fifteen feature films. He wrote and directed Westworld, The Great Train Robbery, Runaway, Looker, Coma and created the hit television series ER. Crichton remains the only writer to have a number one book, movie, and TV show in the same year.

Daniel H. Wilson is a Cherokee citizen and author of the New York Times bestselling Robopocalypse and its sequel Robogenesis, as well as ten other books, including How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Guardian Angels & Other Monsters, and The Clockwork Dynasty. He recently wrote the Earth 2: Society comic book series for DC Comics. In 2008, Wilson hosted "The Works," a television series airing on the History Channel that uncovered the science behind everyday stuff. He earned a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Masters degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. He has published over a dozen scientific papers and holds four patents. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon.

HarperCollins Publishers is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 17 countries. With two hundred years of history and more than 120 branded imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year in 16 languages, and has a print and digital catalog of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize. HarperCollins, headquartered in New York, is a subsidiary of News Corp (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) and can be visited online at

CrichtonSun LLC is a publishing, motion picture and television production company founded by Sherri Crichton. It is the home of the Michael Crichton Archives, with a legacy of novels, non-fiction work, speeches, film scripts and television series the visionary left behind. Michael re-defined science-fiction into science fact, explored history and things yet to come, transforming the vision of science capabilities, past, present and future. Sherri Crichton and her producing partner Laurent Bouzereau continue Michael’s legacy through a variety of exciting projects, across all platforms, bringing his voice into the 21st Century and beyond.

Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!

Say Yes to the Death, the latest novel in the Debutante Dropout Mystery series by Susan McBride, is out today from Witness! Say Yes to the Death has high-society dropout Andrea Kendricks thrust back into things when her mom drags her to a fancy wedding. A wedding where, of course, somebody dies. And that's just the beginning!

Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!

Prologue, Say Yes to the Death, by Susan McBride

Millicent Draper yawned and nudged her owl-like glasses back up the bridge of her nose, leaving a smudge of ivory fondant on the tortoiseshell frames. Her plastic-gloved fingers were smeared with the stuff. Her knuckles felt stiff, and she could barely keep her eyes open. She’d worked through the night on a wedding cake for Senator Vernon Ryan’s daughter, Penny, and she hadn’t slept a wink.
        Olivia La Belle, the bride’s wedding planner, had phoned at six o’clock the night before— just as Millie was closing up shop— demanding an early delivery. “Sorry, Millie, but the ceremony’s been pushed up a wee bit,” Olivia had said in a honey-sweet twang that implied softness when Olivia was anything but.
        Four whole months was “a wee bit”? Millie thought with a groan.
        “We must have the cake by three o’clock tomorrow sharp,” Olivia had insisted, her sugared drawl turning hard. “The ceremony’s at five with a sit-down dinner reception to follow. If you don’t get this done, it will make me very unhappy. Do you understand what I’m sayin’, sugar?”
        Oh, yeah, sugar, Millie understood. Ticking off Big D’s premier event planner was a big no-no. Olivia might as well have said, “If you don’t get this done, you’re as good as dead in this town.” Ever since Olivia had done weddings for an Oscar winner and the spawn of a former president, her head had blown up as big as Texas. She’d become society’s go-to girl and, not only for Dallas royalty, but honest-to-God foreign royalty and Hollywood’s A-List. She’d even finagled her own reality TV show on a cheesy cable network and used it to promote herself and to punish those who displeased her. Anyone who dared defy The Wedding Belle risked hanging a “Going Out of Business” sign on the front door.
        Millie had seen it happen most recently to Jasper Pippin, a floral designer in Big D for decades. Fed up with Olivia’s lies and demands, he’d finally drawn a line in the sand. “She lied her tight little ass off and said the tulips I had flown in from Amsterdam for the mayor’s wife’s birthday were wilted,” Jasper had told Millie, moaning. “She threatened a drubbing on her TV show if I didn’t eat the cost. I’m going to lose my shirt if she keeps pulling these dirty tricks.”
        “What will you do?” Millie asked him.
        Jasper had drawn in a deep breath and said, “I’m going to let her have it. I am not going to give in.”
        So the always civil Jasper had finally squared his thin shoulders and stood up to Olivia, sure that other vendors who’d been jerked around would follow suit. Only no one dared, and Olivia had bad-mouthed him on her reality show. His orders dried up one by one until Jasper had to shutter his doors, claiming early retirement, though Millie knew better. He’d withdrawn, refusing to return her calls. She had no clue what he was up to, but she knew he wouldn’t give up so easily. Millie hoped he would rise like the phoenix and stick it to Olivia somehow.
        That evil woman had her French-manicured fingers in so many pies around Dallas that everyone who worked with her was scared to death. Even Olivia’s current assistant seemed skittish, and with good reason since the job seemed to involve a revolving door. The gangly twenty-something, Terra, followed her everywhere, taking notes. She never seemed to say anything but “Yes, Olivia” and “Of course, Olivia,” like a well-trained parrot.
        Millie wished she’d had the gumption to tell Olivia that she could take this impossible cake deadline and stuff it, but she couldn’t risk losing everything she’d worked so hard for. She’d started Millie’s Cakes in her own kitchen thirty-five years ago and had built her impressive client list from scratch. She wasn’t ready to give it all up because she’d ticked off the very fickle Ms. La Belle. Unlike Jasper, she had no intention of being forced into early retirement.
Millie swallowed, glancing at the clock on the wall. With a noisy tick-tick, its hands crept toward seven.
        She only had eight hours left and still had to attach the two hundred handmade sugar orchids she’d painted a delicate shade of purple. Her feet ached from standing, and her arthritis was acting up so badly that her fingers felt like unbendable sticks. If the shop wasn’t so busy, she would have turned the whole shebang over to her staff, but they had other orders to fill, cakes that had been on the docket for months and were equally important.
        No, this monkey was squarely on her back.
        If she blew this job for Senator Ryan’s daughter, it would be on her head, no one else’s. She tried to convince herself that she couldn’t blame the bumped-up time frame entirely on Olivia. It was Penelope Ryan who was truly at fault.
        “Silly girl got herself knocked up,” Millie muttered, having heard the gossip that the bride’s belly had begun to pop and that the senator— a button-down conservative if ever there was one— wanted his daughter legally wed ASAP. He couldn’t afford to have the nineteen-year-old college sophomore he’d painted as pure as the driven snow during his campaign get photographed walking down the aisle in a maternity gown.
        “You can put her in a big white dress and marry her off but that doesn’t change anything,” Millie murmured, and she pushed at her glasses again.
Was the senator going to pull one of those “the baby came prematurely” routines when his grandchild popped out in another five months or so? People didn’t seem to have a whole lot of sense these days, but most of them could count, so long as they had enough fingers and toes.
        Ah, well, Millie mused, there would always be brides who got knocked up before their vows. There would always be disappointed fathers who wanted to pretend their darling daughters stayed virginal until their honeymoons. And there would always be bitches like Olivia La Belle behind the scenes, wielding a phone in one hand and cracking a whip with the other, either telling everyone off or telling them or telling them what to do.
        Millie sighed. “Enjoy your moment while it lasts, Queen Olivia, because it won’t be forever,” she whispered, thinking of Marie Antoinette and her date with the guillotine. “As for me, I will let them eat cake,” she added, knowing that Olivia would get her comeuppance one of these days. Women like her always did. She just hoped she’d be around when it happened. Heck, she’d pay good money for a front row seat.
        But for now Millie blinked her bleary eyes and tried to keep her hand from shaking as she delicately affixed the edible orchids to the seven-layered concoction she’d created overnight.
        She would get this damned cake done or die trying.

Excerpted from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride. Copyright 2015 by Susan McBride. Published by Witness, an imprint of HarperCollins. Reprinted with permission.

Say Yes to the Death
A Debutante Dropout Mystery
Witness, September 29, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!
Someone old, someone cruel

Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?

Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don't. Though Andy's fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

About Susan

Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!
Photo by Sarah Crowder/Ladue News
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood, the first of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. The award-winning series includes The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. She's also the author of The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at her website or on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

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

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

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

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

What makes the mystery a "Southern" mystery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TQ:  What's next?

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

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

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

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

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

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

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

Qwill's Thoughts

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Tonya

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

Wesbite ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest
Twitter @tonyakappes11

Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean Russell

Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean Russell

Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean Russell
The One Kingdom
Author:  Sean Russell
Series:  Swan's War Trilogy 1
Original Publisher and Date:  Harper Voyager, January 1, 2001
Still in Print:  HarperCollins, eBook.
Formats and Length:  Hardcover, Paperback, Mass Market, eBook 544 pages (Hardcover 480 pages)
Availability:  eBook and used copies available online. I've also seen print copies at several used book stores in the past.
ISBN: 9780380974894 (Hardcover); 9780061862533 (eBook)

The cataclysm began more than a century earlier, when the King of Ayr died before naming an heir to the throne, and damned his realm to chaos. The cold-blooded conspiracies of the Renne and the Wills—each family desirous of the prize of rule—would sunder the one kingdom, and spawn generations of hatred and discord.

Now Toren Renne, leader of his great and troubled house, dreams of peace—a valiant desire that has spawned hostility among his kinsmen, and vicious internal plots against his life. In the opposing domain, Elise Wills's desire for freedom is to be crushed, as an unwanted marriage to an ambitious and sinister lord looms large. As always, these machinations of nobles are affecting the everyday lives of the common folk—and feeding a bonfire of animosity that has now trapped an unsuspecting young Valeman Tam and two fortune-hunting friends from the North in its high, killing flames.

But the closer Toren comes to achieving his great goal of uniting two enemy houses, the more treachery flowers. Nobles and mystics alike conspire to keep the realm divided, knowing that only in times of strife can their power grow.

And perhaps the source of an unending misery lies before an old king's passing, beyond the scope of history, somewhere lost in a fog of myth and magic roiling about an ancient enchanter named Wyrr—who bequeathed to his children terrible gifts that would poison their lives...and their deaths. It is a cursed past and malevolent sorcery that truly hold the land, its people, and its would-be rulers bound. And before the already savaged kingdom can become one again, all Ayr will drown in a sea of blood.

Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean Russell
The Isle of Battle
Author:  Sean Russell
Series:  Swan's War Trilogy 2
Original Publisher and Date:  Harper Voyager, July 23, 2002
Still in Print:  HarperCollins, eBook
Formats and Length:  Hardcover, Paperback, Mass Market, eBook 468 pages (Hardcover 480 pages)
Availability:  eBook and used copies available online. I've also seen print copies at several used book stores in the past.
ISBN: 9780380974900 (Hardcover); 9780061861017 (eBook)

Treachery and deceit run rampant throughout a devastated land, spawning dark alliances in the terrible war ignited by the enmity of two families. But unbeknownst to all, there are others who truly control the beleaguered kingdom's destiny—combatants emerging from eons of restless sleep to renew the bloody terror of a battle older than time.

Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean Russell
The Shadow Roads
Author:  Sean Russell
Series:  Swan's War Trilogy 3
Original Publisher and Date:  Harper Voyager October 12, 2004
Still in Print:  HarperCollins, eBook
Formats and Length:  Hardcover, Paperback, Mass Market, eBook 464 pages (Hardcover 448 pages)
Availability:  eBook and used copies available online. I've also seen print copies at several used book stores in the past.
ISBN:  9780380974917 (Hardcover); 9780061859755 (eBook)

The savage war between two mighty families has ravaged the kingdom both wish to rule—spawning treachery within the ranks of the Renné and Wills, drawing the brave, the innocent, and the malevolent alike into the bloody conflict. But a far more terrible consequence has arisen from the carnage—for Death himself has been roused from his dread domain . . . and is preparing to walk the world again.

Brief History

Sean Russell was born Jan. 1, 1952 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. By the age of 10, he knew he wanted to be a writer. He published his first novel, The Initiate Brother, in 1991, an Asian influenced fantasy. He has since written 16 books under the fantasy, mystery and historical fiction genres. Stephen R. Donaldson, has said, "[he] has proven himself a master of intelligent fantasy -- subtle, exciting, well-crafted." He has written under the names: Sean Russell, Sean Thomas Russell, S. Thomas Russell, T.F. Banks (with Ian Dennis).

Brannigan's Review

A co-worker recommend this series to me seven years ago. I attempted to read the first book shortly after that but got caught up in another book and never finished The One Kingdom. Being the dedicated reader I am, I recently returned to the series and I'm glad I did. Sean Russell is a very talented writer, especially when it comes to world-building and character development, which is his his focus in the three books—building a wonderful world that sucks the reader in and then taking time to explore it with some great characters. Russell is also wonderful at writing some great female characters. All of the characters develop and change and no one is left untouched by the end of the series. There's enough variety that anyone can find a character to relate to. I've read that he always wanted to stay away from High Fantasy as he never wanted to appear to be a Tolkien wannabe, but then he came up with a story that had to be told. I, for one, am glad he did. The Swans' War trilogy is a worthy addition to the High Fantasy sub-genre.

The One Kingdom is a great start to the series. The story pace is quick and exciting. At the beginning, we meet three young cousins (Toren, Fynnol, Baore) who seek a little adventure as they plan to travel down a river near their Northern home to the more populated south to buy horses and come back home men of the world. They quickly become entangled in a struggle between three long-dead siblings and two royal houses at war over a crown. The pace slows down a lot in the middle of the book where we're introduced to many supporting characters needed to tell an epic story. Normally, I hate it when a story slows down in pacing, but not this time since there's a lot of world-building and character development. Its the middle of the book that makes the end really matter, as you read as fast as you can to see how it comes to an end. There's a cliff-hanger ending, but thankfully the full series is out, so no waiting.

In The Isle of Battle, the majority of the characters spend their time in one location, which normally would worry me, but its in the second book that we really see the majority of the character development taking place. The second book for me is the most internal book of the series, where we see the effects of the conflicts changing all of our characters. The pace of this book is slow, but, in my opinion, it matches the struggles of the characters and the environment they find themselves in, so I actually enjoyed it. Russell is very skilled at using the terrain to influence the pacing of his story. I don't know if it's intentional or not, but I really felt it creeping into the pacing and the characters as they interacted with it. Book one was a meandering river book, with several different side paths. Book two takes place in a swamp and you really feel the characters struggling to make their way through it, both physically and internally as they struggle with how they are dealing with the war around them. The third book is all about the mountains and plains with highs and lows the characters face as the story comes to a crashing end.

The Shadow Roads concludes the story and doesn't feel the need to give a storybook ending to the tale. One of my favorite quotes from the series is found in the last book and I've included it below. I feel it explains how Russell ends The Swan's War trilogy. It might not be the most satisfying ending to some readers, and my initial response was to be a little bothered by it as well, but the more I thought about the quote and reality I actually enjoyed the ending more. We don't always know why things happen the way they do, and we don't always get an explanation why, and neither do the characters. Now, that's not to say we are left completely in the dark, I feel the readers get enough information to make their own conclusions.

The Swans' War trilogy will not be for every lover of fantasy. For those of you who like stories with elves, dwarves and such, you won't find them here. Neither will you find goblins, dragons, and other monsters roaming the wilderness. Russell uses humans as both the heroes and villains very skillfully. The second quote I have below shows how he sees mankind. The magic system in the world is very basic and limited to just a few people in world, so, for those of you who like a good wizard battle or interesting magic system, you'll need to look elsewhere. Lastly, as I've mentioned above, the pacing can be slow at times, so for those you who like a quick, action-packed read, be warned.

I really enjoyed The Swans' War trilogy and I hope Sean Russell returns to fantasy soon. I recommend that lovers of High Fantasy add these books to their collections and for any other fantasy-lover, look for the books on your friend's shelves or at your local library. I have no problem recommending these books to adult or teen readers. There is mild violence and little to no strong language and only the slightest adult situation.

Favorite Quotes from the Books

“There isn’t one story. There are myriad tales to be told, all different and puzzling. It is vain to ask them to makes sense. Just tell the tales. They will speak for themselves.” Cynddl in The Shadow Roads.

“We are not a peaceful people. It is the great tragedy of our race. War is in our blood.” Toren in The Shadow Roads.

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014

The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Jessie Burton's debut, The Miniaturist.

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014

Mid-October 1686
The Herengracht canal, Amsterdam

Outside In

         On the step of her new husband’s house, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud. No one comes, though she is expected. The time was prearranged and letters written, her mother’s paper so thin compared with Brandt’s expensive vellum. No, she thinks, this is not the best of greetings, given the blink of a marriage ceremony the month before—no garlands, no betrothal cup, no wedding bed. Nella places her small trunk and birdcage on the step. She knows she’ll have to embellish this later for home, when she’s found a way upstairs, a room, a desk.
        Nella turns to the canal as bargemen’s laughter rises up the opposite brickwork. A puny lad has skittled into a woman and her basket of fish, and a half-dead herring slithers down the wide front of the seller’s skirt. The harsh cry of her country voice runs under Nella’s skin. “Idiot! Idiot!” the woman yells. The boy is blind, and he grabs in the dirt for the escaped herring as if it’s a silver charm, his fingers quick, not afraid to feel around. He scoops it, cackling, running up the path with his catch, his free arm out and ready.
        Nella cheers silently and stays to face this rare October warmth, to take it while she can. This part of the Herengracht is known as the Golden Bend, but today the wide stretch is brown and workaday. Looming above the sludge-colored canal, the houses are a phenomenon. Admiring their own symmetry on the water, they are stately and beautiful, jewels set within the city’s pride. Above their rooftops Nature is doing her best to keep up, and the clouds in colors of saffron and apricot echo the spoils of the glorious republic.
        Nella turns back to the door, now slightly ajar. Was it like this before? She cannot be sure. She pushes on it, peering into the void as cool air rises from the marble. “Johannes Brandt?” she calls—loud, a little panicked. Is this a game? she thinks. I’ll be standing here come
January. Peebo, her parakeet, thrills the tips of his feathers against the cage bars, his faint cheep falling on the marble. Even the now-quiet canal behind them seems to hold its breath.
        Nella is sure of one thing as she looks deeper into the shadows. She’s being watched. Come on, Nella Elisabeth, she tells herself, stepping over the threshold. Will her new husband embrace her, kiss her or shake her hand like it’s just business? He didn’t do any of those things at the ceremony, surrounded by her small family and not a single member of his.
        To show that country girls have manners too, she bends down and removes her shoes—dainty, leather, of course her best—although what their point has been she can’t now say. Dignity, her mother said, but dignity is so uncomfortable. She slaps the shoes down, hoping the
noise will arouse somebody, or maybe scare them off. Her mother calls her overimaginative, Nella-in-the-Clouds. The inert shoes lie in anticlimax and Nella simply feels a fool.
        Outside, two women call to each other. Nella turns, but through the open door she sees only the back of one woman, capless, golden-headed and tall, striding away toward the last of the sun. Nella’s own hair has loosened on the journey from Assendelft, the light breeze letting wisps escape. To tuck them away will make her more nervous than she can bear to seem, so she leaves them tickling her face.
        “Are we to have a menagerie?”
        The voice sails sure and swift from the darkness of the hall. Nella’s skin contracts, for being right about her suspicions can’t banish the goose bumps. She watches as a figure glides from the shadows, a hand outstretched—in protest or in greeting, it is hard to tell. It is a woman, straight and slim and dressed in deepest black, the cap on her head starched and pressed to white perfection. Not a wisp of her hair escapes, and she brings with her the vaguest, strangest scent of nutmeg. Her eyes are gray, her mouth is solemn. How long has she been there, watching? Peebo chirrups at the intervention.
        “This is Peebo,” Nella says. “My parakeet.”
        “So I see,” says the woman, gazing down at her. “Or hear. I take it you have not brought any more beasts?”
        “I have a little dog, but he’s at home—”
        “Good. It would mess in our rooms. Scratch the wood. Those small ones are an affectation of the French and Spanish,” the woman observes. “As frivolous as their owners.”
        “And they look like rats,” calls a second voice from somewhere in the hall.
        The woman frowns, briefly closing her eyes, and Nella takes her in, wondering who else is watching this exchange. I must be younger than her by ten years, she thinks, though her skin’s so smooth. As the woman moves past Nella toward the doorframe, there is a grace in her movements, self-aware and unapologetic. She casts a brief, approving glance at the neat shoes by the door and then stares into the cage, her lips pressed tight together. Peebo’s feathers have puffed in fear.
        Nella decides to distract her by joining hands in greeting, but the woman flinches at the touch.
        “Strong bones for seventeen,” the woman says.
        “I’m Nella,” she replies, retracting her hand. “And I’m eighteen.”
        “I know who you are.”
        “My real name is Petronella, but everyone at home calls me—”
        “I heard the first time.”
        “Are you the housekeeper?” Nella asks. A giggle is badly stifled in the hallway shadows. The woman ignores it, looking out into the pearlescent dusk. “Is Johannes here? I’m his new wife.” The woman still says nothing. “We signed our marriage a month ago, in Assendelft,”
Nella persists. It seems there is nothing else to do but to persist.
        “My brother is not in the house.”
        “Your brother?”
        Another giggle from the darkness. The woman looks straight into Nella’s eyes. “I am Marin Brandt,” she says, as if Nella should understand. Marin’s gaze may be hard, but Nella can hear the precision faltering in her voice. “He’s not here,” Marin continues. “We thought
he’d be. But he’s not.”
        “Where is he, then?”
        Marin looks out toward the sky again. Her left hand fronds the air, and from the shadows near the staircase two figures appear. “Otto,” she says.
        A man comes toward them and Nella swallows, pressing her cold feet upon the floor.
        Otto’s skin is dark, dark brown everywhere, his neck coming out from the collar, his wrists and hands from his sleeves—all unending, dark brown skin. His high cheeks, his chin, his wide brow, every inch. Nella has never seen such a man in her life.
        Marin seems to be watching her to see what she will do. The look in Otto’s large eyes makes no acknowledgment of Nella’s ill-concealed fascination. He bows to her and she curtsies, chewing her lip till the taste of blood reminds her to be calm. Nella sees how his skin glows
like a polished nut, how his black hair springs straight up from his scalp. It is a cloud of soft wool, not flat and greasy like other men’s. “I—” she says.
        Peebo begins to chirp. Otto puts his hands out, a pair of pattens resting on his broad palms. “For your feet,” he says.
        His accent is Amsterdam—but he rolls the words, making them warm and liquid. Nella takes the pattens from him and her fingers brush his skin. Clumsily she slips the raised shoes onto her feet. They are too big, but she doesn’t dare say it, and at least they lift her soles off the chilly marble. She’ll tighten the leather straps later, upstairs—if she ever gets there, if they ever let her past this hall.
        “Otto is my brother’s manservant,” says Marin, her eyes still fixed on Nella. “And here is Cornelia, our maid. She will look after you.”
        Cornelia steps forward. She is a little older than Nella, perhaps twenty, twenty-one—and slightly taller. Cornelia pins her with an unfriendly grin, her blue eyes moving over the new bride, seeing the tremor in Nella’s hands. Nella smiles, burnt by the maid’s curiosity, struggling to say some piece of empty thanks. She is half grateful, half ashamed when Marin cuts her off.
        “Let me show you upstairs,” Marin says. “You will want to see your room.”
        Nella nods and a look of amusement flickers to life in Cornelia’s eyes. Blithe pirrips from the cage bounce high up the walls, and Marin indicates to Cornelia with a flick of her wrist that the bird must go to the kitchen.
        “But the cooking fumes,” Nella protests. Marin and Otto turn back to her. “Peebo likes the light.”
        Cornelia takes up the cage and starts swinging it like a pail. “Please, be careful,” says Nella.
        Marin catches Cornelia’s eye. The maid continues to the kitchen, accompanied by the thin melody of Peebo’s worried cheeps.

From The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Copyright 2014 Jessie Burton. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Miniaturist
Ecco, August 26, 2014
Hardcover and eBook,416 pages

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

About Jessie

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Photo by Wolf Marloh
Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and still works as an actress in London. She lives in southeast London, not far from where she grew up.

Web  ~  Twitter @jesskatbee

The Andromeda Evolution Coming in November 2019Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!Interview with Tonya Kappes and Review of A Ghostly Undertaking - February 24, 2015Retro Reviews: The Swan's War Trilogy by Sean RussellExcerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014

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