The Dawn of Limcat: Back Cover Blurb & Excerpt

Cover Blurb

Limcat and her father – the renown sorcerer, Ganagui Valrulius – fled Saya The Night of Blue Fire. The night the sorcerers of The Hand, sworn to serve Emperor Octalamus, staged a coup and took control of the empire. Years later Limcat and her father live a in exile, concealing their power and true identities. But when Emperor Sanazer Tibaxum hears of a possible sighting of Ganaqui in Chinchora, he resumes his quest to eliminate the surviving members of The Enlightened. This treachery draws Limcat into a quest for a relic her father once possessed and an adventure that will take her and her motley band of companions to the isle of Pinchee and ultimately to The Land of Teeth – The Eater of Men. There, a race of beings, long thought eradicated, have harnessed a terrible power. A power that awaits the arrival of the young sorceress. . .

Meanwhile, within in empire’s capital of Paladyne, Emperor Sanazer is informed of a new foe that has made itself known – possibly from across the Endless Sea. Naevia, a powerful sorceress and the Emperor’s consort, takes her first steps to consolidate all religious power within the empire and be worshiped as a living goddess. Kaygar, the Commandant of The Trident, plans his own expedition to The Land of Teeth – The Eater of Men, well aware no one has ever returned from its shores, but the mystery of its power is too much to ignore.

Excerpt

     “Construction of your temple is ahead of schedule, Empress. But the Vespacian priests have – they have made inquiries.” Zale, the Empress’ First Counsel wore a blue sari, ornamented with silver embroidery and held the plans for the temple under an arm. A mutation in her eyes gave Zale an exotic look for a Sayan, as her left eye was blue and her right eye green. Years ago, people had teased her that she had barbarian blood, but no one dared mock anymore. She was a woman of power now and the truth was, her eyes were the envy of many. For while she did not possess classic Sayan beauty, her features did have an allure, magnified by the confidence of her psyche and those peculiar hetrochromian eyes.

“The Emperor has cautioned me about inciting a religious war,” Naevia said with a smile. “I suppose it was inevitable. But they will do nothing.” Naevia moved in front of a full length mirror. She adjusted her red silk robe, which, embellished with gold trim, flowed to and draped the floor. “They well remember the fates of the priests who condemned sorcery.”

Zale set the temple’s plans down upon an oak table. “They will no doubt view your temple as an attempt to supplant their faith. They will feel a need to act.”

            “Yes, they will seek to hold onto their faithful and secretly condemn my temple. I will win over the rest of the population first-”

“Perhaps,” Zale said, moving behind the Empress and placing her hands on Naevia’s hips. “They would conspire to do more.” Their eyes met in the looking glass.

“You suggest the assignation?” Zale answered with her eyes, strange, gorgeous, and shrewd. “You attribute these priests more daring than I,” Naevia said, breaking their embrace and suddenly turning away from the mirror. Assignation. Would they dare?

“Desperate men, even pious men, perform desperate acts.”

“You are right of course. We will keep a watchful eye on the Vespacians.”

“Such a plot,” said Zale, quickly glancing at the large double mahogany doors that lead into Ciceran Hall, “real or imagined, could hasten the downfall of the Vespacian faith.” She embraced Naevia once more, reaching into the Empresses’ robe, her arm snaking around Naevia’s naked waist. “Something to consider. Public trials followed by flaying in the arena?”

Naevia kissed her, savoring the wet warmth of Zale’s mouth. “As delicious as that sounds, best not martyr them before the eyes of their devote. I will give the mob something better. My cult will -”

The large mahogany doors groaned as they were swung open. “Empress, we are ready for you,” spoke a centurion of the Imperial Guard.

“Thank you centurion. You are dismissed.”

“For glory and Saya,” the centurion said, crossing both fists over his chest. He then disappeared back into Ciceran Hall.

As Zale escorted the Empress into the hall, a door at the far end closed behind the exiting Imperial guards. While only the third largest hall in the palace, Ciceran Hall felt massive with its high ceiling and all the tables and chairs removed. Mammoth tusks stood upright in each corner of the hall, mounted in bronze supports. Three hearths were aflame, equally spaced out along the western wall. A triangular tapestry featuring the knowing eye of house Tibaxum hung over the center hearth. A mural of the champion Ciceran The Great at the battle of White Sands, adorned the eastern wall. Torches burned in sconces mounted about the hall.  A white marble bathing tub with three steps leading up to it was positioned in the center of the hall. Directly above the tub, three adolescent Jakartan girls hung by their feet. They were naked, their throats cut and slick with scarlet gore. Their eyes were frozen in wonder.

Suddenly a girl with auburn hair and freckled skin twitched and the pulley above her creaked as she swayed on the rope suspending her.

“It is a cruel truth,” Zale said.

“What is?” Naevia asked moving toward the steps to the tub.

“That the price of immortality is paid with the blood and lives of the young.”

“Yes, a cruel truth,” the Empress said ascending the steps. She paused at the top step and shrugged off her robe into Zale’s arms, then looked over her naked shoulder, revealing a wicked grin. “Yet, it is a price I can afford.”

Naevia turned and scrutinized the Jakartan girls, their fingertips and hair now within her reach. The auburn haired girl had hazel eyes, full breasts, and her tongue sagged from her mouth. An amber haired girl, perhaps a year or two younger, was slighter of build with blue eyes and only the buds of breasts. The third, also with long flaxen hair, but of  a more robust build, hung facing the other end of the hall. The Empress searched the dead blue eyes of the youngest girl, yet found nothing behind the frozen gaze of awe. Did Tazmeel embrace you in the afterlife? What did you see, Jakartan?

Zale stepped back as Naevia descended into the crimson pool. A pulse of  preternatural energy emitted from her skin and ran across the surface of the the blood, causing the fluid to momentarily shimmer and bubble. The Empress sunk to her knees and washed the blood over her body, concluding with her face and hair. “Vorko malbejus suwetu,” she repeated in the ancient tongue, her arms now extended out before her. “Vorko malbejus suwetu.” Quickly, a rift appeared and grew – asymmetric and glowing white – no more than twelve paces in front of Naevia.

This ritual always aroused Zale. True, Naevia excited her more so than any other woman she had known. Yet, this necromancy quickened her heart and heated her blood so. Here a mortal sorceress was renewed a goddess and so very few eyes were privileged to witness it. What did the arena have to compare?

Naevia now stood upright, her firm, bronze skin sheathed in the blood of the Jarakatans. A goddesses’ body thought Zale. “Vorko malbejus suwetu. Ratasha!” Suddenly a sweetness permeated the room as an air stream swept the hall stirring the flames of the hearths and torches. It is here. The warm current swirled around Zale’s left leg and ran up her back, driving her long black hair aloft, then spiraled over her shoulder and agitated the Jakartan bodies. Then, in front of the Empress, the thing appeared. It was a blur: a translucent creature hovering before Naevia. The bulk of the creature’s head and body shimmered as if obscured by a wave of heat.     

“Ratasha!”

“Naevia of Saya,” the thing hissed.

“Bestow this body what must be granted,” the Empress commanded, “and take what is yours to take.” There was a silence between the two: blood slick sorceress and demon spirit. Then, Ratasha transformed, no longer a spirit without depth, now a thing of definition and mass. It maintained its position in front of the Empress, webbed wings half folded at its sides. Tiny cunning eyes looked down a long snout. Withered breasts hung above a protruding rib cage while short atrophied legs were tucked under its torso.

“Now, Ratasha,” Naevia commanded.

Ratasha spread her wings and cried, “Ratasha grants.” With the demon’s mouth open wide, came a blaze of light, striking the Empress’ body and  encapsulating her in a blue field of sorcery. Naevia’s body tensed and her eyes fluttered as the magic permeated her cells. And as Ratasha persisted, holding the magic on Naevia, the Empress appeared to convulse. Then, when the blood enshrouding her exhibited a supernatural sheen, Ratasha released her. She was now a vision of both a dread and magnificence: her hard bronze body painted in the glimmering blood of her enemies, her black hair slick and matted with the scarlet gore. The whites of her eyes beamed and a pale blue shimmer of the demon’s magic surrounded her exposed physique.

What was is it Ratasha took from her? Zale had wondered ever since first witnessing this necromancy. Or was it from the blood itself the demon spirit extracted its price? The Empress had never cared to say.

“Ratasha grants,” the demon spirit said once more.

“Yes, Ratasha grants,” Naevia said with a smile, tossing her head back and reveling in the moment.

Then Ratasha relinquished its form, a translucent thing again, then in the air as a current, furiously tearing about the hall, once more stirring the flames, violently rocking the Jakartan bodies, and sending the pallu of Zale’s sari horizontal, flapping like a flag. Again, that sweet fragrance filled the room. Then, quickly as it began, the demon spirit was gone, the rift closed, and the hall still.

Zale stood tantalized as she beheld her Empress. This sorceress who would consolidate all religious and political power and be worshiped as a living goddess!

Ankle deep in the crimson pool, Naevia held out a bloodied arm, the pale blue sparkle of necromancy still strong about her. “Zale, come to me.”

Gardens of The Moon – The Opening Chapter In A Truly EPIC Series

In the hands of two authors and spanning fifteen novels and counting, The Malazan Book of The Fallen is epic in scope and ambition.  So it is a daunting thing to step up to Stephen Erikson’s Gardens of The Moon and open the door to this massive series.  But, it is also an exhilarating thing, like visiting a strange land rich in mystifying history and culture.

Some common observations or rather criticisms of this novel and Erikson’s writing in general, is that he is not one to spoon feed the reader information and that he tends to introduce a large cast of characters rather quickly, which collectively, can overwhelm the reader.  While this is true, this sense of bewilderment is a temporary one.  In the opening pages of Gardens the reader is air dropped into the siege of the city of Pale and left to fend for him or herself.  No summary narrative and exposition here to fill in the gaps.  Take cover and figure it out.  Yet, after the first few hundred of pages, now somewhat immersed in the Malazan universe and most players introduced, the reader enjoys an embracement of a coming together of story threads and an understanding of universe inhabited.  Now this doesn’t mean there aren’t mysteries ahead; there are. Erikson’s drops just enough bread crumbs – tasty morsels of history and hints of intentions and motivations – to tease the reader and dare them to unravel all that hidden within the layers of this novel.  Gardens is one of those novels that earns greater appreciation upon the second reading.  Foreshadowing, that may have been construed as merely myth building or atmosphere on the first read, is more easily identified with the second reading.

Originally conceived as a role playing board game, The Malazan Book of The Fallen was always envisioned as an ensemble cast of characters and factions encompassing a massive world.  Hence, the world building is extraordinary and on par with the best in the field.  Erikson may not spell out the laws surrounding various systems of magic like Sanderson, but the Malazan universe is richly detailed and original, inhabited by intriguing Gods and non-human races like the T’lan Imass,  Tiste Andii, and Jaghut.  Moreover, the world is gritty and dark akin to Scott Bakker, Glen Cook, and George R.R. Martin.  Conflict is between characters of all shades of gray.

Some of these memorable characters include the cunning and powerful sorcerer, Kruppe, who passes as a modest and affable, pastry loving, Darujhistan.  Another is Sorry, a fifteen year old girl possessed by the god, Cotillion, and in the service of the 2nd legion as a killer. And there is, of course, Anomander Rake, Lord of the Moon Spawn and leader of the Tiste Andil. 

There are moments of genius here, marred by some uneven pacing.  Yet, this should not repel the potential reader.  Gardens of the Moon is the opening of grand and brilliant series that should be on” To Read” list of all Fantasy fans.  Those that endure and grow accustom to Erikson’s style, will be rewarded.

The next two novels, The Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice, are largely considered the series’ best.  I look forward to getting into these and beyond.

Image

Looper Review

Looper is getting a lot of review hype i.e. “groundbreaking!,” yet is it really worthy of such praise?  In a word, no.  The premise of the movie is that in the near future time travel is possible, but outlawed.  However, in the near future, disposing of a body is also very difficult.  So, crime lords do in fact use time travel to send people back in time who they would like bumped off and have assassins called loopers kill them there (or then?).

Mmm so it is next to impossible to dispose of a body in the future.  Really?  No incinerating with fire, no acid in the bath tub, or the old tried and true hack up and dispose at sea?  Really?  can’t be done? Time travel is the only sure fire way to safely dispose of a body.  The movie does nothing to sell us on this notion.

And time travel is possible, but the only people using it are criminals and they only use it to send back people they want killed.  Really?  Wouldn’t criminals find more lucrative uses for time travel?  Wouldn’t governments and other factions have an interest in time travel, even if it was outlawed?

And don’t get me started on the ridiculous notion of requiring the loopers to one day personally execute their older self.  Really?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to assign this task to any other looper, anyone other than the same person, only younger?  Yes of course it would.

Finally, does Joe Simmons’ choice in the end really change anything other than his own future? Will the Rainmaker still not rise in the years to come? One may argue that Joe’s fate ensures it as the older Joe will not be available to travel back in time to kill the boy before he becomes the Rainmaker.

I could go on about the lack of near future feel – the year is 2047 – other than a new recreational drug administered via eye drops, but I will cut to the chase: save yourself the time and effort and go buy 12 Monkeys instead, a much better – in fact awesome – Bruce Willis time travel movie.

Image

Review of Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

I first discovered Thomas Ligotti in the pages of Weird Tales and was happy to see this collection available. There is a sense of “Lovecraftianess” to Ligotti’s style of prose, yet unlike lovecraft’s work, you will find no tentacles or tombs here. The strange and quirkiness of these stories lies beneath the ordinary much like Rod Sterling’s Twighlight Zone. Teatro Grottesco is a worthy collection of the dark and weird and a satisfying introduction to Ligotti’s short fiction.

Game of Thrones Review: Masterpieces Are Coming

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones cover

If writers are Gods – and they are – then George R.R. Martin is Zeus, King of Gods. Martin flawlessly weaves a tale of epic fantasy to launch, which is arguably the best fantasy series ever ( I know The Lord of The Rings and The Malazan Empire have their fans). Game of Thorns achieves not only because of a great plot, which does not stagnate, but because of the intriguing characters, both male and female, that are brought to life through Martin’s skill.  Tyrion, Sandor Clegane (the Hound), Cersei, Arya, and Daenerys are particularly memorable.

This first installment is not heavily loaded with magic and the supernatural. Other than the appearance of a supernatural race in the opening pages and again briefly later on, and the emergence of other mythological creatures in the closing pages, Game of Thrones is devoid of magic and the supernatural. The conflict is among men and women, noble houses positioning themselves for the throne of a Kingdom. The book is laden with political intrigue, conspiracy, ambition, and hidden family secrets.

Still, while the great houses maneuver for control of the throne, the reader is ever aware of a long dormant evil, that may rise to threaten the populace of the seven kingdoms.

I am looking forward to getting into Clash of Kings & Storm of Swords and beyond.