From the Editor’s Desk: The Night Girl by James Bow

Well, hey, look at that. I managed to do a second post before two years had passed this time. I did tell you I’d try to be back more often. Huzzah!

Much like the last one, this one features a cover reveal / mini-book review of a title I’ve had the privilege to help find its way down the long, winding halls of the publishing pipeline. As a reminder, this series contains my own, non-compensated and purely voluntary insights into what it is I loved about this project, both as an acquisitions editor and as a reader. We good? Good.

First, check out this fun cover designed, as ever, by the talented Ashley Ruggirello:

The official back cover copy is still being finalized, so for now, it’ll have to remain a mystery. But if you’re super intrigued (as well you should be), I’d suggest heading on over to the author’s website, where he’s posted a press release that will certainly give you a taste of what to expect from this quirky, yet surprisingly resonant and timely novel.

Bow makes a great point in his afterword (which you’ll all get to read, if you’re so inclined, in just a few short days, as this one’s springing onto shelves this coming Tuesday, September 10th), that his hometown of Toronto is every bit deserving as a setting as the more prolific Los Angeles, London, or New York. But to say this novel is Toronto-centric would be a disservice to what Bow has masterfully created. One of the hallmarks of great urban fantasy is, of course, it’s setting, but I’ve never read one where the city itself was so much a presence in the tale as to almost become the MC itself. Bow’s love for the town he grew up in is obvious, as Toronto breathes, hulking and massive and ever present, on the page. It’s honestly one of the things I loved best; you literally could not tell this story set someplace else.

Sure, some of the plot points could be universally applied to any urban backdrop, but there’s something magic in the way Bow has crafted the setting that makes it feel intrinsic to the tale of Perpetua Collins and the paranormal underbelly of a town humans take for granted. But while Perpetua’s story deals with a lot of heavy, timely themes, there’s something almost . . . innocent in the way in which it’s told. This is very much the modern equivalent of a fairy tale. I hesitate to say it has an almost Disney-esque sparkle, because many of you will consider it a detriment, but there’s something about it that keeps drawing me back to that comparison. I could easily see this among Disney’s roster, and not just because of the goblins, trolls, and faeries. No, it’s an essence to the prose itself, an ineffable, yet utterly familiar quality to the light of its cinematography.

Don’t let that comparison fool you, though. Bow has packed this novel with fair folk who make the Celtic traditions proud, a narrative of struggle and poverty that’s all too familiar to anyone born below the age of forty (yes, millennials, I might be looking at you), and a conflict rife with prejudice and injustice that makes this tale an extremely relevant, timely allegory to our countries’ shared political state. I might not be Canadian, or ever set foot inside the city limits of Toronto, but there was much in this tale that I could overlay on American cities and soil.

I walked away from this one satisfied, happy, but with a sobering, thoughtful view of today’s societal views. And that, my friends, is one difficult combination to pull off. So, if you’re in the market for a read that’s both quirky, thought-provoking, innocent, and dark, I would definitely consider checking this one out. Add it to your Goodreads TBR today!

From the Editor’s Desk: The Skylark’s Sacrifice by J.M. Frey

Why, hello there! Remember me? I know, it’s been an age since I last posted. Trust me, the cobwebs I had to break through to get in here were embarrassing in their thickness. But don’t worry. I brought a hefty broom and cleaning supplies and will soon be posting with regularity again. So, if you’ve happened to miss reading my random musings on all things publishing (with a smattering of martial arts, book reviews, and art-related stuff), you might want to keep an eye on your inboxes. I have some big things planned in the coming months.

And what better way to kick that off than to share an upcoming release I’m so, so excited for? As you recall—if you recall—From the Editor’s Desk was a feature where I could showcase titles I’ve been lucky enough to assist with. Unlike a regular book review, I have in-depth experience with these titles, and I wanted to be able to share some of that insight with all of you—not as a means of financial gain (I’m not being compensated for my reviews, and the opinions here are entirely my own), but as a means to support the authors who entrusted me with their book babies, and to introduce you to books I think are deserving of the precious space on your TBR.

So, now that everyone remembers what it is we’re doing, let’s dive in, shall we?

First, check out this amazing cover, designed by the lovely Ashley Ruggirello:

Cover Image for The Skylark's Sacrifice by J.M. Frey

Robin Arianhod is on the run. Trapped behind enemy lines, her only choice is to lose herself in the sprawling capital of Klonn. But hiding in the shadows is a disservice to the rocket pack she escaped with, and to the man she once considered foe. Instead, she’ll enact his plan, harness the incredible power of the pack, and stop the war from the inside.

Wanted posters stalk her every move as rumor fuels the Skylark’s rise, and her attempts at vigilantism attract the attention of more than just the city guards. Robin finds herself embroiled in the machinations of a mysterious underground rebellion—Klonnish citizens as tired of the war as she is. 

But are they really her allies, or are they using the Skylark as bait? And can she really trust that her former archnemesis turned his coat? Or will the secret of his true identity lead Robin, and her newfound friends, to their deaths?

Rife with high-flying action, subterfuge, and deception, The Skylarks Sacrifice is the explosive conclusion to the saga of war-torn Saskwya, and the one pilot who can change it all.

Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s also just freshly revealed, as of today. 😉

I’m also sure that many of you caught that this is the second title in the series, the first having been released while I was off on my prolonged hiatus. Why, then, did I choose to feature this one when I did not feature the first?

Well, once in a great while, a series comes along that is more than just enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always honored beyond words for the opportunity to work on anyone’s book baby. But I’m also human, and have my own preferences as a reader that have nothing at all to do with my task as an editor. And this series perfectly encapsulates nearly everything I have ever wanted in my reading experience.

Cinematic in a way that’s just begging for a graphic novel or film adaptation (and has inspired more than few fan-art ideas in a mind that has rarely ever given in to that temptation), it resonated with me on a level that was half satisfied joy, and half jealousy. It at once feels like something I would have written, and something that I would be ecstatic to even halfway manage to emulate, if I were to try.

Rich world-building, high-flying action sequences, subterfuge and deceit, enemies-to-lovers romance, a twisty and clever narrative arc, and emotional resonance that is off the chart, it comes amazingly close to earning the title of my perfect read. It’s definitely among my all-time favorite book series, for sure.

Releasing into the world on September 3rd, 2019, I really cannot recommend it enough. Filled with social commentary that is relevant and timely, characters who crackle to life on the page, and Frey’s signature ability to just absolutely gut a reader, it’s a stellar experience. I can’t say anything more without risking spoilers, so please, just go read it for yourself. I would dearly love someone to discuss it with, once the obligatory spoiler-free period is over. 😉

The Skylark’s Song (Book 1)

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Smashwords // REUTS Store // Goodreads

The Skylark’s Sacrifice (Book 2)

Amazon Kindle Pre-Order // Goodreads

From the Editor’s Desk: Ghosts by J.M. Frey

Welcome to the resurrected Book Review Wednesday! I have a whole slew of amazing books to review and share with you all, so rather than detract from the content I know many of you have been missing (the articles on publishing/editing/writing), I decided to add a posting day. Or, rather, to resuscitate one. So Friday will be returning to the snark-filled, sometimes-helpful articles you’ve all grown to love over the years, and Wednesday will be reserved for sharing book information, should I happen to have something to share. Sound good? Good.

Today’s offering is the newest release from J.M. Frey. Some of you may remember my review for the first book in this series, The Untold Tale, from a few months ago. Well, this is the next installment, a prequel novella that’s nothing short of fantastic.

Ghosts

by J.M. Frey

Ghosts

For seventeen years, Bevel Dom has been the author of his own story. Or, rather, he’s been the author of The Tales of Kintyre Turn, the illustrated scrolls chronicling his adventures as first the squire, then the colleague, and then finally the friend of legendary hero Kintyre Turn. But there are some stories that Bevel doesn’t write down, doesn’t tell to eager audiences of bright-eyed boys and sighing bar wenches in taverns. Some he simply folds into his heart and keeps. This is one of those tales.

In this prequel novella, fans of The Accidental Turn Series are offered a glimpse into the lives of Bevel Dom and Kintyre Turn shortly before their arrival at Turn Hall and the events that follow, further expanding upon the world and characters seen in The Untold Tale and the the upcoming sequel, The Forgotten Tale, coming Summer 2016.

First, let me just say that I adore Frey’s work. Not only is it intelligent, inclusive, and well-written, it’s also a refreshingly solid addition to the fantasy genre and a heck of a lot of fun. It’s the perfect example of fantasy written for modern times, with all the charm and appeal of its predecessors, and none of the staleness. And as a long-time fan of the fantasy genre, that trait alone is highly appealing.

But I think the thing that truly sets Frey’s work apart is the depth of emotional resonance she manages to pack into everything, be it novel or short story — or, in this case, novella. Written in the same fluid, yet classic-feeling style as the rest of the series, Ghosts gives readers a look into the inner mind of one Bevel Dom, sidekick to the infamous Kintyre Turn. Happening just before the events of The Untold Tale, Ghosts lays the groundwork for one of the novel’s “twists,” and expands upon the richly textured world of the series as a whole.

Bevel’s voice sings off the page with lively (and sometimes crass) wit, a stark contrast to the more refined notes Frey gave us in Forsyth, and the ensuing shenanigans paint a layer of the ridiculous over what is actually a rather heart-wrenching tale. Those who have read the novel will find the insight into the lives of Forsyth’s heroic brother and his lesser-known squire to be a satisfying extension of the arc seen in The Untold Tale. But you don’t have to read the novel to enjoy this small taste of the series. It can most definitely be read as a standalone, and I highly recommend that anyone looking for a new voice in fantasy give this novella a try. It packs a lot of punch for little investment and will introduce you to what is potentially one of the best new fantasy series out there. And I don’t just say that because I happened to have the honor of editing it, I truly believe that Frey’s work is not to be missed.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

 

From the Editor’s Desk: Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke

I’ve been kind of slacking on those book reviews I promised at the start of the year, but don’t worry, I’ve got a great one for you today. From the moment this author approached me about working on Dissolution, I knew I was going to love it. And when I read it, I was blown away by their talent. So it’s been hard for me to keep quiet, waiting for it to release. Thankfully, that moment has finally come and I can tell you all just how much I recommend you go buy this immediately. 😉

But first, here’s a little more info about this amazing novella:

Dissolution

by Lee S. Hawke

Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke

What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head, and your entire city might turn out to be a lie . . . what would you sell yourself for?

Now, I know what you’re thinking — yay, another dystopian to add to all the other dystopians flooding the market. But trust me, this one is unlike anything you’ve read. Yes, it does have some shades of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even a bit of The Giver embedded in it, but the premise underneath those elements is refreshing, different, and thought-provoking. Everything a good science fiction tale should be.

Hawke’s world is dominated by corporations, and a person’s value is entirely dependent on how much they can give — what their productivity is likely to be, how their skills rank against the corporations’ needs. They’re not people, they’re drones, slaves. Licensed IP to be bought and traded and sold. It’s chilling, and a cautionary message to the workaholics of the world.

But while there is a very strong thread of social commentary running throughout, it takes a back seat to the larger tale, which is an action-packed cyberpunk thriller in the vein of Phillip K. Dick.

Madeline (Maddie) has spent her entire life dreaming of escape from ANRON Life Limited, pegging all her hopes on the possibility of being purchased by MERCE, the more technology oriented corporation where she can put her modding skills to good use and where she’ll no longer be a human lab rat. But after years of rigorous trials and tests, competition, and an interview process that feels more like an interrogation than an interview, she finds that there was never any chance for escape. Her life has always belonged to ANRON, and now, they want it back. They’re revoking her license, sentencing her to death in the name of science.

And she’s having none of it. Alone, disconnected from the technology that serves as a lifeline for most of the city’s denizens, and on the run, she learns the true difference between good and evil. And in the process, she discovers that the corporations aren’t as untouchable as they seem.

Brilliant, emotional, and intelligent, Dissolution is a highly satisfying read. It is a novella, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s a complete, self-contained, and moving tale that will challenge you to rethink your own views on corporations and technology in general. It’s a smart, well-written, amazing piece of storytelling and should not be missed.

And if you’d like a little additional incentive to check out this book, the author is hosting a crowdfunding campaign at the moment to help support The Royal Society of Victoria, an organization that promotes science education in Australia. So head on over there if you’d like to support a fantastic new author while also donating to a worthy cause.

For everyone else, here are the pertinent book links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

From the Editor’s Desk: From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey

 

Welcome to my first book review of the year! There will be lots more in the months to come, but I’m super excited that this one happens to be first. Yes, I may have some particular vested interest in it, seeing as its one I had the privilege of working on and its written by a talented author I’m lucky enough to call friend, but more than that, I just plain adored this one. Toward the end of last year, I found a string of amazing fantasy novels, including Uprooted by Naomi Novik and The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey, and Spivey’s offering fit right in.

So let’s get to all the reasons you should run out and read this book immediately, shall we?

From Under the Mountain

by Cait Spivey

From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey

As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.

But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.

Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.

Darkly cinematic, From Under the Mountain pairs the sweeping landscape of epic fantasy with the personal journey of finding one’s voice in the world, posing the question: how do you define evil, when everything society tells you is a lie?

There is so much to love about this novel that I almost don’t know where to start. But first, let me say that although Amazon and other retailers seem to be primarily classing this as f/f romance, it is not. There is romance, yes, and it does feature a beautifully rendered f/f love story, but this book is, in fact, a brilliant example of dark fantasy done well.

Spivey establishes her prowess in the genre right from the first page, where we’re introduced to protagonist Guerline standing over the decaying, yet alive, bodies of her parents. This horrifying, slightly gruesome scene is merely a harbinger for what’s to come though, as Spivey proceeds to kill off the entire Imperial family — with the exception of Guerline, of course — by the end of the first chapter.

Suddenly thrust into a role she never expected to fill, the young empress has to navigate not only the intricacies of unraveling her own identity from what others expect her to be but the nuances of running a country poised on the brink of war. Humanity is turning against the witch-lords who have guarded the empire’s borders for centuries, and Guerline finds herself dealing with radical opinions on both sides. But the rift between human and witch, magic and politics is only the beginning of Guerline’s problems, as a creature that has been sealed away from the world for a millennium is finally about to get its revenge.

Spivey’s writing sings off the page with a cinematic flair that evoked the feel of a Studio Ghibli film, but the rotating, more traditional approach to the POV and fact that no one is as safe as they seem brought up visions of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. And I have to say that the blending of those two is nothing less than stunning.

But the thing that has always resonated most for me in Spivey’s work is her ability to create a fully realized cast of diverse characters and a world so richly textured it makes you want to live there indefinitely. Arido’s plight may encompass the standard sprawling map of high fantasy, but every detail is painstakingly accounted for, and the repercussions of what seem like small acts are felt throughout in an impressive example of the butterfly effect.

All in all, this is a gorgeous debut by an author who has clearly only begun her to literary stardom, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re a fan of high fantasy rife with political intrigue and the classic good vs evil scenario, if you enjoy dark fantasy with a fantastically creepy edge, or if you simply wish to escape into a world that treats everyone — regardless of gender or race or sexual orientation — with respect, then this is the book for you.  Seriously, go read it. It’s amazing.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads