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Immodest Proposals for the David Gemmell Legend Awards

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I'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here.  And don't forget to vote.

I'm taking a brief break at the halfway point to stop talking about the books and talk about the Awards themselves. Please join in below.

There are two definitions of modest - "humble" and "small" - and generally when someone has a "modest proposal" they actually mean neither. So let's not beat around the bush here: this is about big changes, proposed arrogantly. 

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half-a-king-uk-mmpbI'm reviewing all ten of the finalists for this year's David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the list and my approach here, and vote in the Awards here.

Half a King (2014) is the first entry in a new series from Joe Abercrombie, one of the most well-established modern fantasy authors. It is hard to believe that it was only nine years ago that The Blade Itself hit the shelves or, that after six volumes in that series, the author has moved on to test his mettle in a new world. But, here we are - away from Logan Ninefingers and into the quasi-European world of Prince Yarvi and the Shattered Sea.

Yarvi is, as noted, a prince - the younger son of the King of Gettland. Born with only 'half a hand', Yarvi's ill-suited for combat, and doesn't fit in with the macho Viking culture of Gettland. Fortunately, a scholarly path is available to him, and Yarvi's happily studying to become a minister - a keeper of knowledge, an advisor to royalty, and an innocuous, forgettable nobody that will never have to lift a shield or lead soldiers.

Alas, fate intervenes. Yarvi's father and brother are killed in by the rival pseudo-Nordic Vanstermen. Not only is Yarvi suddenly elevated to the throne but also he's now a king at war. Despite an edict from the High King - the distant figure that owns all their fealty - Yarvi launches a raid on the Vanstermen. 

It doesn't go well.

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The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

The-mirror-empire-by-kameron-hurley-cover-artI'm reviewing all ten of the finalists for this year's David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the list and my approach here, and vote in the Awards here.

The Mirror Empire (2014) is the new novel from many-award-winning novelist and essayist Kameron Hurley. The first in a series, The Mirror Empire is an epic that spans - quite literally - worlds.*

On a world rich with predatory vegetation, magic comes from the stars themselves. Each heavenly body comes complete with a package of powers. People born with a connection to a star (or, more rarely, stars), can be trained in their magic. But now a new - or very old - star is ascendent. Oma arrives every few thousand years, and with it, destruction. Every ascension of Oma is timed to coincide with the descent of the other stars, and, historically, a cataclysmic invasion.

As Oma rises, a handful of plots - some in place for centuries - come to fruition. Lilia is a young girl, born in a remote village. When invaders destroy her home, Lilia is cast through a portal to a different land, to be raised in a temple - a simple, innocuous kitchen drudge (as if). The Kai - the ruler of her people - dies under mysterious circumstances, and her brother, an untrained and ill-suited teacher named Ahkio, is called upon to take her place. Meanwhile, Roh, a student at Lilia's temple, is determined to be more than his destiny. He desperately throws himself into one scheme after another, keen to become a hero of some sort. The new Kai attaches him to a curious diplomatic mission, taken to a far-off - and not entirely friendly - kingdom. 

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The Godless by Ben Peek

The GodlessThis is part of a series of of ten reviews, walking through the shortlists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the complete list here, as well as a bit about the awards, the books and the criteria I'm using. Voting concludes on 17 July.

Ben Peek's The Godless (2014) is the second of our five Morningstar* finalists, and, as you might expect from a fantasy debut, the first in a  new series. It is a very dense book, in an intriguing new world, with several full and rich themes.

In fact, here's a little game. Here's a book 'blurb' for The Godless:

The gods are dead. The moon is one god's corpse; a mountain range, another. The God-War's cataclysmic conclusion condemned the world as well; the lingering necrosis from the bodies of the divine permeating the soil, the water and the air. Humanity tries to rebuild and move forward, but the world itself has turned against them. Cannibals ravage the hills, settlements are disappearing, entire kingdoms have gone silent... Three outcasts unite in a doomed attempt to defend their home, the last spark of civilisation.

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PK Interview: David J Howe and Stephen James Walker of Telos Books

Death-of-the-Day-380x0The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, our guests are David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, from Telos Publishing.

Pornokitsch: Thanks for taking part! Could you tell us a bit about Telos, and the books that you publish?

David J Howe and Stephen James Walker: We are Telos Publishing Ltd, a small independent press run by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker.

We have two imprint areas: the main press, which specialises in non-fiction, particularly guides to film and television; and Telos Moonrise, edited by Sam Stone, which presents fiction in a number of different genres - horror/fantasy/science fiction/crime/romance/erotica - mainly for the e-book market, but also in paperback editions.

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Valour by John Gwynne

ValorI'm reviewing all ten of the finalists for this year's David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the list and my approach here, and vote in the Awards here.

The cauldron was a hulking mass of black iron, tall and wide, squatting upon a dais in the centre of a cavernous room. Torches of blue flame hung on the walls of the chamber, pockets of light punctuating the darkness. In the shadows, circling its edges, long and sinuous shapes moved.... It was utterly black, appearing to suck the torchlight into it, consuming it, reflecting nothing back.

There's a Black Cauldron, and it is really, really black. Very black. Very, very black indeed. Utterly black. 

There are possibly two key traits to Valour (2014), and they are both on display here: it doesn't shy away from tropes and it is more than a little repetitive.

Valour takes place in a sort of vaguely Western European mish-mash of a setting. The land was once ruled by giants, but now they're huddled away in a tiny corner, resenting the human occupiers. The human lands are a mess. They were a series of vaguely interdependent kingdoms with a nominal High King, but the events of Malice, the previous book, have upset the status quo. Now the kingdoms are collapsing into war.

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Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Traitor's BladeAnd we're off! This is the first of ten reviews, as I'll be going through the shortlists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the complete list here, as well as a bit about the awards, the books and the criteria I'm using. Voting concludes on 17 July.

Pretend, just for a moment, that you have attained your most deep-seated desire. Not the simple, sensible one you tell your friends about, but the dream that's so close to your heart that even as a child you hesitated to speak it out loud.

Thus begins Traitor's Blade (2014), and the opening lines do an excellent job of capturing the novel's overall tone. These wistful, deliberately florid lines are clearly a set-up for a joke - and, indeed, by the end of the first page, the romantic vision is shattered by a crude interruption. But there's also something genuine in these lines - the speaker might be overwrought and a tiny bit snide, but there's a truth at the core. A real dream, hiding behind sarcasm.

And thus goes Traitor's Blade - a novel that cloaks itself in satire, but has a firmly romantic heart. It is a tricky balance: not everyone can have their tongue in their cheek and their heart on their sleeve, but Traitor's Blade accomplishes it with surprising skill. Not unlike, of course, The Three Musketeers, which clearly inspired this novel in many ways. Dumas' novel is perhaps better known for its romantic side - the swordplay and the sacrifice. But unlike, say, The Count of Monte CristoThe Three Musketeers is a deeply, wonderfully snarky book, one that very rarely takes itself (or its protagonists) seriously.

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PK Interview: Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards of Alchemy Press

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, we're hosting Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards, from Alchemy Press.


Dead-water-cover-003cPornokitsch: Thanks for joining us - could you tell us a bit about who you are, and what bookish things you're doing?

Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards: We started Alchemy Press in the late 1990s with a National Lottery Grant, so we’re now over 15 years old. Our first book was a slim volume of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. The press won the BFS award for best collection in 2000 with Kim Newman’s Where the Bodies are Buried. And in 2014 we won the award for best small press, also from the BFS. Among our titles are the series anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Fiction and The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic.

PK: What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish?

PC & JE: There is no one genre or sub-genre. We’ve published fiction that ranges from science fiction to horror, heroic fantasy to the supernatural. I guess the underlining theme is “weird” – however one defines that word. And, of course, good writing, good characterisation, good stories. For example, check out our collections by Peter Atkins and Bryn Fortey and David A Sutton to get an idea of our tastes – and especially the stories in our anthologies, too.

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Friday Five: 5 Great Steampunk Writings that Aren't Actually Steampunk

This week's Friday Five host is Andrew Kane, co-creator, producer, writer, and voice actor for Rude Alchemy: serial radio theatre-style podcasts melding history, mystery, horror, and comedy available for free on iTunes, Stitcher, and www.rudealchemy.com. He has written plays for children and adults including The Resurrectionists (developed by 1812 Productions) and Little Red (developed by Montgomery Theater). He plays guitar and sings in the roots-punk band Old Town Wake.

He is also, judging by the list that follows, a man of impeccable taste...


In the land of speculative fiction, steampunk has blossomed from spunky upstart to sub-genre titan. Steampunk and its lesser-appreciated nieces and nephews cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc. have stirred the imagination of millions worldwide, spawning blogs packed with colorful stories, tumblr accounts dripping with gorgeous fan art, and conventions teeming with velocipede-riding, mustache-twirling, hoople-skirt wearing true believers. People, steampunk has its own World’s Fair.

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Reviewing the DGLA: Introduction and Criteria

Bardiches_and_Axes_SolnWe're back! They're back!

For those tuning in for the first time, this is my fourth year of reviewing all ten shortlisted books for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. (You can find the previous years here: 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

For those unaware of the DGLA, these are the prizes for epic fantasy, decided (mostly) by public vote. (The 'mostly' is because the books are submitted by publishers and 'cleared' by the DGLA admins, which leads to a bit of unavoidable weirdness. But we're past that now.) And the People Have Spoken!

We've just come out of two months-ish of voting, and, across the DGLA's three categories, over 17,000 votes were cast. 

[Updated 1 June with the finalists]

Legend (Novel)

Morningstar (Debut)

Ravenheart (Cover)

  • Laura Brett for The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Gollancz)
  • Mike Bryan for Half a King (HarperCollins)
  • Jason Chan for Prince of Fools (HarperCollins)
  • Sam Green for Words of Radiance (Gollancz)
  • Jackie Morris for The Fool’s Assassin (HarperCollins)

I'll be reviewing the ten books on the Legend and Morningstar lists between now and (hopefully) the voting deadline. It is a ton of fun, and I hope you join in.

Details on how I'll be approaching this most epic and fantastic of epic fantasy reading challenges below.

Continue reading "Reviewing the DGLA: Introduction and Criteria" »