Preview: The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Emperor’s Blades, first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley, is being released by Tor on January 14, 2014. Just a few days away! The first seven chapters are available to read on Tor. Temper your curiosity by trying out the story and then go get it to find out what happens!

Available January 14, 2014

When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death. Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late.

When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling just to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral.

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The first seven chapters of this novel is available to read on Tor! Follow the links below to get a taste of the Emperor’s Blades.

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven

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Intrigued? Find out more information about the author and story by checking out Brian Staveley’s website.

Brian Staveley

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Sample: Duck Blood Soup by Frank and James Hofer

SSV is happy to give you a tantalizing peek at Duck Blood Soup and tease your reading appetites for more! The post has a snippet of three different chapters from the novel. Just enough to get you hooked!

The Story

When Eizenfeng’s leading wizards combine science with magic, the world changes dramatically. Technological advancements, coupled with racial and economic tensions propel the country toward war with a longtime ally. Jeunelux is oblivious to the building turmoil; scorching days harvesting tomatoes and her annoying older brother are more pressing concerns.

Suddenly, strange dreams that haunt her nights become reality. Jeunelux, along with two other untrained and unlicensed teen wizards embark on a quest to save the girl’s father, rescue a giant, and prevent a war.

o-o-o-o

Chapter 1

“For someone who loathes humans, you sure waste a lot of time trying to understand them.”

Kruk didn’t bother to look up from the tiny book. “It’s because I study them that I despise them. Have you ever read their literature? Volumes dedicated to violence, deception, and adultery. They write about emotions that they have no hope of ever understanding. Their history books are full of weak attempts to simultaneously justify self preservation and self destruction. It’s mind boggling. Besides, it’s no different than you and your spiders.”

“It’s completely different,” Lren said. “Spiders serve a purpose. They’re worth understanding. Look at a spider web some time. If the natural art doesn’t convince you, the mathematical intricacies must.”

Lren paused as a smile crossed his longtime friend’s face. Kruk had once again managed to change the topic. Defeated, Lren muttered, “At least you’ve never seen me crush a spider.”

o-o-o-o

Chapter 9

Lightning briefly lit the pitch black sky and trailing thunder masked the screams for just a moment. The glow of distant fires reflected off of the low clouds and revealed the nearby smoldering ruins. The stench of death and destruction filled the air. Jeunelux instinctively knew that she was both here and not here; that she was a part of, but distant from the scene around her. Smoke and rain mercifully hid the full extent of the devastation.

Jeunelux found herself walking along a strange river bank. Across the river’s black water she could just make out the silhouette of a town much larger than Genderalt. Rain fell around her yet her night dress was dry. Mud squished between her toes, but her bare feet remained clean. She wanted to move faster but her leaden legs had a mind of their own. Jeunelux sensed rather than saw others like her.

Groenendael ignored the massive club swinging toward his head. The weapon passed harmlessly through the wizard and found its target in the person of a shop owner standing behind him. The behemoth did not seem to care that it had missed him, and in fact did not seem to notice the wizard at all but instead.

o-o-o-o

Chapter 12

“DRAGONFLIES!”

It was the one word that brought dread to heart of every farmer in Eizenfeng. ‘Dragonfly’ would have been bad enough, but his wife Regle had yelled ‘Dragonflies’. She knew the important distinction between the two words.

One of the six-inch creatures might only destroy a few plants, but when their numbers grew they became far more destructive. A couple of dozen could destroy a whole farm — barn, house and all. A swarm could destroy a small town. Garimet looked out of the kitchen window. He couldn’t see how many dragonflies there were, but with his entire family out in the field one was too many. The farmer rushed out the back door of the house without bothering to drop his spatula.

Garimet wasn’t sure what he could do to help his family if there were more than a few dragonflies. The fields aren’t burning; that’s a good sign, the farmer thought. He could see his two youngest boys running toward the barn with Regle urging them along. She would try to protect the barn and its contents. The family’s livelihood depended upon it. A week’s worth of harvested vegetables were loaded onto wagons in the barn. If they lost those, there wouldn’t be enough money to cover the bills.

Regle stopped running once she saw Garimet. The normally strong woman was struggling to hold back her tears. “Teravus fell when we were running from the field. I think he might have broken his leg. Jeunelux was trying to help him, but there are so many dragonflies. Please Garimet, please save them. I can’t lose another child.”

Words alone wouldn’t comfort his wife. He wanted to hold her in his arms and let her cry on his shoulders. “Get the boys to the barn. If things get too bad, make your way to the root cellar. I’ll do what I can for Teravus and Junie.”

The farmer sprinted toward the fields, searching frantically for his children. The dragonflies’ buzz drowned out his shouts.

Garimet understood why his wife sounded so panicked. In his forty years he had never seen this many dragonflies. Hundreds buzzed above the fields, working themselves into a frenzy. Instead of feasting on the plants like they normally would, the insects darted back and forth, high and low. The bugs were most dangerous when they were agitated and he knew it wouldn’t be long before these started breathing fire.

In the middle of the swarm Garimet noticed an area devoid of insects. He ran to that spot, his fatherly instincts telling him that his son and daughter would be there. One of the dragonflies swooped down and with a small puff of fire singed the farmer’s hair. Experience told him that the worst thing he could do was swat at the bug. A crushed insect would give off an acrid scent that would provoke the entire swarm to attack anything and everything.

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Are you intrigued? Do you want more? Get the book! For more information about the Hofer brothers and their work, please check out their website.

The King’s Sword ~ C. J. Brightely

  • Title:  The King’s Sword
  • Author:  C. J. Brightley
  • Series:  Erdemen Honor #1
  • Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Author-provided review copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  A riveting tale of honor, courage, and friendship.

The King’s Sword is a gripping first-person narrative of a warrior’s honor and a friendship that shapes a nation. When retired, disillusioned soldier Kemen Sendoa finds the young prince fleeing a coup, he wrestles with questions of duty and honor as he reluctantly takes the role of mentor. An outsider, Kemen loves his country but has no place in it. Will he be able to keep the prince alive and carve his own place in the shadow of the crown?

Potential Spoilers

Review:  The King’s Sword has all the makings of a great adventure tale. A king dies and political treachery ensues. As a young prince flees for his life, he meets an honorable ex-soldier who decides to help. Danger abounds!

This is a tough book to classify. It is written at a level to be accessible to YA readers and follows a bit of a coming of maturity story, but it really isn’t YA at all. I would call it an easy to read adventure story. Yet, it has strong elements of violence and death. The story setting is based in classic swordplay of an imaginary realm, but it lacks the magical component that would traditionally characterize it as fantasy. My difficulty in classifying this book is not a criticism. Quite the opposite! The blending of styles works well for this book.

One thing that IS clear, The King’s Sword is a story about friendship. The strength of the book lies in the depth of the relationship that develops between the young prince, Hakan, and the aging outcast soldier, Kemen. While the relationship began as one of mentor and student, it evolved into one of mutual respect and admiration.

Brightley uses the challenges faced by Hakan and Kemen to allow each character to reveal their strengths and also to bare their vulnerabilities to one another. In the beginning, Kemen’s frustrated with Hakan because he’s a frightened and spoiled youth. Later, the soldier realizes the prince is afraid of failing his country. It is this sense of Hakan’s underlying sense of honor that spurs Kemen into the role of protector and mentor as they flee the assassins that seek to eliminate Hakan’s claim to the throne. At the same time, as Hakan’s confidence grows, he is able to recognize Kemen’s struggle to fit into a world that fears him and his commitment to a kingdom that abandoned him.

There were several key moments in the story that moved me, mostly centered on the relationship between Hakan and Kemen and the depth of their characters. I won’t be responsible for ruining any moments for you (I suspect you will recognize them when you come to them), but I will say that Brightley did a great job of using the plot to develop both characters.

There were times when the overall plot dragged a little and sometimes the author kind of beat a dead horse. Hakan will never be a great swordsman. Kemen is really self-conscious about that fact that he cannot read. I also felt that the ending was just the tiniest bit anti-climactic. Regardless, I would say The King’s Sword was an overall enjoyable read.

Cover note: I liked almost everything about this cover. It has a lot of really good elements. The background effect of aged parchment and the wooden texture of the same color lend itself to the setting of the story. The layout is well-balanced and the fonts were well-chosen. The concept of the mounted soldier silhouetted against the backdrop should play out well to capture the sense of honor and loneliness experience by both Kemen and Hakan, however the rider in the image lacks definition and the angles are bit awkward. Because the rider is such a focal point, it really takes away from the overall impact of the cover.

Cover Reveal: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

~ COVER REVEAL ~

SSV is excited to present a cover reveal for Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan. It’s a sequel to the popular novel, Blood Song. I really enjoyed reading the first book in Raven’s Shadow series and hyped to read the next addition! Below, we present you a look at the US Cover, UK Cover, story blurb and a note from Anthony Ryan.

Release Date July 1, 2014 ~ US Cover

In Blood Song, Anthony Ryan introduced readers to “a fascinating world of conflicting religions and the wars fought in the name of those faiths” (Library Journal). Now Ryan’s epic tale continues as Vaelin Al Sorna discovers that there is no escape from the call of destiny…

“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”

Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

~ Note from Author Anthony Ryan ~

Naturally I’m very excited and pleased that Tower Lord continues to progress towards publication, and appreciative of all the hard work put in by my editors at Ace in the US and Orbit in the UK, as well as the sterling work of their respective graphics departments in producing the covers. Although I’m often heard to complain about the effort required to write Tower Lord it was also a hugely enjoyable experience as well as a surprising one, sometimes even I don’t know how things will turn out in the end. I can only hope readers who responded so well to Blood Song will find the same enjoyment in Tower Lord, and come July 2014 I guess I’ll find out.

UK Cover

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Check out Anthony Ryan’s website for more information on the author and his work.

Insurgent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Insurgent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #2
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  One choice can transform you, or destroy you.

Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.


Review:   Insurgent, the second book of the Divergent series, picks right up where Divergent left off. The factions are at war, following the massacre of much of the Abnegation faction at the hands of the hypnotized Dauntless warriors. Having stopped the attack, Tris and Four find themselves outlaws on the run.

This book was just as much of a rush to read as the first, maybe even more so. There is plenty of action, as Tris and Four face danger trying to uncover the truth about what is going on. Roth takes the political undertones even deeper, creating a delicious tension throughout the story. It is a constant struggle to sift truth from lies, or more importantly, whose truth is more compelling.

As the plot thickens, the character also become more complex. It is no longer as simple as good versus bad. Roth reveals the good intentions behind some of the terrible actions of her “bad guys”, and that good misguided “good” characters have faltered onto dark paths. I am so tempted to mention some specifics here, but I think I will let you discover that for yourself.

Tris, herself, is very conflicted throughout the story. Her actions in the previous book have her questioning what kind of person she really is and erodes some of her recently won confidence. This internal struggle results in conflict and tension between Tris and Four. There is also continued tension among Tris and her new Dauntless friends.

I will say one thing for Roth, she didn’t really hold anything back. She is telling a dark and gritty tale and she’s not afraid for bad things to happen to pack the necessary emotional punch. Roth is by no means a George R.R. Martin (who seems to kill off characters just so the reader won’t get attached), but she does not shy away from the death of a likeable character.

While the first book focused primarily on the Abnegation and Dauntless factions, Insurgent gives a closer look at Amity and Candor. Herein lies the brilliance behind Roth’s unfolding saga. Each faction has its specific social mores, which are both a strength and a weakness when isolated without divergent thinking (um, yeah, guess that explains the series theme in a nutshell). Another theme throughout this book is how far people will go to avoid accepting a harsh reality out of fear, often failing to act and thus making them fall victim to that fear.

The cover for Insurgent is equally eye-catching as the Divergent cover. This time, it features the faction symbol for Amity with the Chicago skyline at the bottom. The color scheme and layout are complimentary to the Divergent cover, clearly identifying the series.

There is one bad thing about this book that I do not like so much . . . that I will have to wait until October for the third and final book of the series!

Rogue Touch ~ Christine Woodward

  • Title:  Rogue Touch
  • Author:  Christine Woodward
  • Genre:  Comics, Fantasy, Chick lit
  • Format:  ebook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating:  2 out of 5

Description:  “An interesting take on Rogue, as her powers take her down a path I never would have imagined.” –Chris Claremont, author of Dragon Moon and writer for seventeen years of Uncanny X-Men

Twenty-year-old Anna Marie was just fired for the third time–this time from a bakery. Why can’t she hold a job? Well, for starters, she dresses . . . differently. She looks like a Goth girl to the extreme, her shock of white hair contrasting with her head-to-toe black garb, her face the only skin she chooses to reveal. But Anna Marie doesn’t have a choice. Her skin, her touch, is a deadly weapon that must be concealed. She accidentally put her first boyfriend, Cody, in a coma when they kissed. Horrified, she ran away to Jackson, Mississippi, where she’s been living alone in a cramped apartment and scraping by on food stamps.

Then she meets otherworldly James and everything changes. He’s just like her–completely alone and also on the run. To elude James’s mysterious and dangerous family, the pair takes to the highway. As they cross the country, their simmering attraction intensifies and they both open up about their secretive pasts. James reveals that his true name is Touch and he christens Anna Marie Rogue. But with danger at their heels, they know they can’t run forever. Rogue must decide if she’ll unleash her devastating powers once again, which she swore never to do, in order to save the only person who seems truly to understand and accept her.

“A lost chapter from Rogue’s past, told with elegance and conviction and attention to detail. Really entertaining.” –Mike Carey, author of the Felix Castor novels and writer of X-Men: Legacy

Review: The Geek Girl movement is gaining ground and Marvel Comics has taken notice. I see what they are trying to do here, taking female superhero characters and giving them the chick lit treatment. It’s not a bad plan to try to appeal to the female demographic and maybe deflect criticism at their lack of female superhero leads. I am not sure that Rogue Touch is the novel to achieve this. The writing style is reminiscent of the Fifty Shades of Twilight books, shallow characters making their way through a weak plot that seems to be driven by an abundance of overreactions. I hear you saying, “But DarthVal, these books have sold MILLIONS of copies!” True that may be, but I posit that the gals of geekdom are seeking more intelligently written fare. At least THIS geek girl is!

The premise of the story itself was not bad. Boy meets girl. Girl can kill/main via her touch. Boy is not from this world. They are misfits on the run who can’t help but be drawn to one another. It is kind a sci-fi twist on the same old story. Kind of.

The pacing had a circular rhythm of attack, escape, and flee, over and over. You might be thinking that this is an indication of high adventure, but it just does not play out that way. The result actually felt like a bunch of random skirmishes that did little to move the plot forward interspersed by a couple of characters who were in sad need of some blessing of the hearts. After a while, I kind of just wanted them to be captured so that something different and interesting would happen in the book.

My desire for the capture of our heroes is probably the result of frustration over their ridiculous justification of stealing. Apparently, the author’s moral code is that all corporations (especially banks) are inherently evil and therefore it if fine and dandy to steal from them at will. This philosophy was kind of pounded into the story with the subtlety of a jackhammer. The characters were also guilty of frequent overreaction, which was one of the primary plot devices on which the author relies.

On the whole, I felt that the story was told in a rather sloppy manner. There was a scene where the author describe Lake Michigan as salty – um, the great lakes are fresh water. There is a tool called Google where one can easily verify facts about which they are unsure. There are other things that are sketchy, mostly having to do with the world of Touch/James (the main male character). I can’t go into detail without throwing out major spoilers, so I will just say that the explanations given were implausible at best. The origin mythology for Rogue was interesting, if lackluster.

On the bright side, the author does a good job of creating chemistry between Rogue and Touch. This is no simple feat considering the limitations of skin on skin contact. Some of the scenes are a little awkward, but how could they be otherwise? Regardless, the reader can definitely feel the attraction and longing between the two. If only that were enough to carry a book . . . specifically one that would hold appeal for the geek girl crowd.

Footnote: As you can tell from my review, I was not a fan of Rogue Touch. However, I also read and reviewed The She-Hulk Diaries, the OTHER Marvel comic-chick lit release and loved it. I really appreciate what Marvel is trying to do with these books, and I would love to see more. I hope that Marvel continues forward with this new genre giving it a real chance to take root and blossom.