Marc Turner, ‘Dragon Hunters’ (review)


Dragon Hunters is the exciting second instalment in Marc Turner’s Chronicle of the Exile, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite fantasy series of recent years.

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner (UK cover)Dragon Hunters is thoughtful, hilarious, and even more entertaining even than its predecessor. Turner once again demonstrates a master’s grasp of the slow-build: he pulls each separate character’s story arc steadily and irrevocably into the central conflict, then flings obstacles at them whilst pushing them irresistibly towards one another in an epic, action-packed convergence.

The four main PoVs in Dragon Hunters are all compelling in their own ways. That said, it’s easy to pick a favourite (or two): Karmel, a naïve but feisty Chameleon priestess; and Kempis, a jaded Storm Guard with a healthy lack of respect for authority . . . and a somewhat laid-back approach to upholding the law. The secondary characters are no less intriguing, and I for one look forward to learning more about Mazana Creed, Caval, Mili and Tali in future books.

In my review of book one, When the Heavens Fall, I mentioned how skilfully Turner managed to  convey the sheer scope of his Lands of the Exile without going overboard with the details. He achieves the same thing in Dragon Hunters, painting a mysterious backdrop of unknown elements – titans, old ruins, dragons, water magic, stone-skins – without elaborating overmuch. In doing so, he creates the impression of a terrifyingly vast amount of history and unknown lore that’s just straining to burst into the story and cause untold chaos. (And he does all this without the use of info-dumps, and without straying from the main plot very much at all.)
Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner (US cover)
I can say for sure that Turner’s second book feels much more accomplished than his debut (which was nonetheless excellent). The entirety of Dragon Hunters feels much more cohesive than Heavens: right from the start I had the impression that all four main characters were going to converge at some point, and I enjoyed accompanying them on their various journeys. New readers may want to consider using this book as an entry point to Turner’s work: Dragon Hunters takes place in an entirely separate part of the Lands of the Exile than the first book, and can actually be read and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the series. However, certain subtle hints and sly mentions add an extra layer of fun that only readers of the first book will be able to appreciate.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve read the first book, I’d highly recommend Dragon Hunters to any fantasy fan who enjoys irreverent protagonists, wry humour, epic worldbuilding and mercurial politics.

Oh! And dragons.

Janny Wurts & Raymond E. Feist, ‘Daughter of the Empire’ (review)


At the beginning of last year I embarked on a re-read of Raymond E. Feist, beginning (obviously) with Magician and the rest of the Riftwar Saga. But all the while I kept urging myself to read faster. Why? Because I couldn’t wait to revisit one of my favourite series of all time: the Empire trilogy.

The Empire trilogy is a stunning collaboration between Feist and fellow epic fantasy writer Janny Wurts. A drastic departure from Feist’s Middle-Earth-ish Midkemia – with its forests and its mud and its grey skies – we now see the world on the ‘other side’ of the rift. Kelewan: hot and exotic and home to the Tsurani society, an intriguing race who place great emphasis on honour, political maneuvering and social standing. For a Tsurani, public displays of emotion are deemed shameful; treachery is shunned only if the perpetrators are clumsy enough to get caught; and slavery and ritual suicide are the norm.

Daughter of the Empire cover imageForeign, dangerous, exciting: Kelewan is bizarre and colourful, and its inhabitants even more so. The rich and powerful consider it a mark of wealth and status to dress extravagantly, even gaudily, to the point where even their soldiers wear coloured armour to announce their loyalty. Tsurani society is organised into strict hierarchical family units, with the more powerful of these families referred to as Houses. There are hundreds of these Ruling families, each with their own colours and allegiances, and the authors really  manage to convey an authentic sense of a sprawling, ancient hierarchical empire.

To survive in Tsurannuani, all Houses must embroil themselves in the endless political struggle known only as the Game of the Council. Daughter of the Empire introduces Mara, the new Ruling Lady of House Acoma, and follows this untested young woman through the first two years of her rule. Mara strives to protect her ancestral family name, and to gain enough strength and standing to enter the Game of the Council. Daughter of the Empire focuses solely on Mara’s social, emotional and political journey, from sheltered temple initiate to independent Ruling Lady.

Mara is a sympathetic and admirable protagonist. Beginning the Game from a frighteningly weak position, she must use her wits and resources to strengthen her House – making many sacrifices along the way. Worse, her enemies undermine (and underestimate) her since she is a member of the ‘weaker sex’, and she’s forced to compensate by exercising exceptional skill in all aspects of politics, business and high society.

Unlikely as it may sound, readers should expect to be fascinated by the social implications of (seemingly) trivial things: clothing, jewellery, eating, drinking, bowing, smiling, and other things besides. And as Mara becomes more accomplished at handling the various nuances of Tsurani life, so too does she take more risks in order to preserve the honour of her House . . . and often struggles to deal with the moral conflict that comes with orchestrating schemes that are necessary, but also ruthless.

Daughter of the Empire is immersive and flowing, and is thoroughly engaging for its setting and atmosphere as much as its plot. The Riftwar Saga is good, and there’s no denying that Feist has created a beautiful and deadly world here . . . but Janny Wurts really brings it to life. Each page bursts with the rich and vivid settings of Kelewan, evoking smells and sounds and colours. You can hear the calls of the bargemen and see the bustle of the markets when Mara travels to the city. You can smell the akasi blossoms in the evening and hear the needra being brought in from pasture when she returns to the peaceful Acoma estates.

It’s true that there’s little in the way of action (there are very few scenes in the book that can be described as fast-paced!), yet Daughter of the Empire is never plodding or arduous. Many scenes are fraught with a tension that’s just as exciting as outright conflict; and of course, after all the maneuvering comes the payoff. I can assure you it’s well worth the wait to see Mara’s plots finally coming to fruition after hundreds of pages of plotting and pain.

Re-reading Daughter of the Empire after so many years has reaffirmed this trilogy as one of my favourites of all time. Knowing how the rest of the series pans out only makes me more eager to continue with the series, and more enthusiastic in recommending it to others.

Seriously: it’s magnificent.

(Review originally posted over at halfstrungharp.com on 28 March 2015).

Susanna Clarke, ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ (review)


Gorgeous. Enthralling. Captivating. Mesmerising. These are all words I certainly didn’t use when I first attempted to read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell a few years ago, finally abandoning it around the 600-page mark. I remembered little about the book, except that I quite enjoyed it at first but found that it soon became dry and laborious. However, I recently came to realise that I might be the only person in existence who has a problem with the book, and so resigned myself to give it another go . . . and WOW am I glad I did.
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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is, ostensibly, a tale of two magicians named Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. But this is far too simplistic a description for what is actually a lengthy, beautiful, meandering tale of magic and ambition and rivalry and friendship, told over the span of a decade and often focusing on subplots and minor characters as much as on its two main protagonists.

In Clarke’s alternative nineteenth-century England, magic is considered a lost art. Not since the disappearance of the Raven King – a legendary magician who once ruled the North – and his successors have there been any true magicians. That is, until Mr Norrell makes himself known as the only practical magician in England, and possibly the world. The fashionable people of London are delighted by such a novelty, while the government see in him an opportunity to gain advantage in the war against Napoleon. When a second magician presents himself to Mr Norrell as a pupil it seems everything is going splendidly . . . but it doesn’t take long before professional disagreements, a string of tragedies, and the interference of a mysterious gentlemanly antagonist begin to make both Strange and Norrell think twice about their ambition to restore magic to England.

Clarke’s story, and the alternative England in which it takes place, is incredibly detailed and ambitious, astonishingly so when considering that this is the work of a debut author. Although the plot itself is anything but focused, this is clearly an intentional quirk that only adds to the novel’s charm, and the sense of unexpectedness created by the winding series of events is just one of the things that kept me reading. Though meandering, the story is nonetheless coherent and engaging. Each chapter is titled with the month and year in which it takes place, which is particularly helpful in keeping track of events; and an abundance of footnotes alternately provides the reader with additional information, historical references and fascinating anecdotes, adding further charm and depth to an already rich and satisfying reading experience.

Furthermore, the pages are filled with beautifully vivid and evocative descriptions: of magical forests and city streets in winter, of candlelit libraries and dark landscapes, of ruined castles and mysterious roads. The author doesn’t just set the scene; she dazzles the reader with striking imagery and envelops them in an atmosphere both hauntingly magical and poignantly melancholy.

Clarke bravely and successfully attempts to emulate nineteenth-century novelists in both subject and tone. The result is a delightful hybrid of Austen’s droll social satire and ironic commentary and Dickens’s comical caricatures and perceptive observations of city life. On the other hand, the dry humour suffusing the whole is, I suspect, entirely the author’s own, and it is this mocking, almost self-deprecating voice that provides entertainment at times when arguably nothing is happening plot-wise. I particularly enjoyed the satirical portrait of Mr Norrell that continues throughout the novel: Norrell is somewhat despicable what with his jealous hoarding of knowledge, rudeness to others and egotistical sense of his own superiority, not to mention his hypocrisy; and yet he is also clever and fascinating, and I found myself turning page after page just to see what he would do next.

Of course, both protagonists are entertaining in their own way, but it’s the brilliantly varied cast of secondary characters that really helps them to shine: Drawlight is despicable yet strangely sympathetic; Lascelles is clever and manipulative; Stephen Black is noble yet naïve; Childermass is wry and enigmatic. And (naturally) none are quite as secondary as they first appear, least of all the spectacular villain known only as the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.

Despite Mr Norrell’s ongoing attempts to categorise it in lists and trap it in books, the magic of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is ephemeral, mutable and largely unexplained. In this day and age, where works of fantasy are too often judged by how fastidious and logical their magic rules and ‘systems’ are, I can’t stress how refreshing it is to read a work instead suffused with nebulous magic, myths and legends, where the limits and possibilities and, indeed, reasons for magic remain mostly unknown.

I’ll admit that I became a little disheartened not long after beginning the book, largely because it seemed to be taking so long to read. However I soon realised I was more than happy to linger over each page, to take the time to appreciate each word, and even to re-read lines and passages that particularly appealed. By the time I finally approached the end I deliberately slowed my pace even further, to savour the final moments of this extraordinary book that I once disliked but now utterly adore and admire. I’m running out of ways to express how much I loved this book, so I’ll end with an incoherent string of adjectives. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is gorgeous. It’s enthralling. It’s surprising. It’s captivating. It’s mesmerising. It’s hilarious. It’s heart-breaking.

It might even be the best book I’ve ever read.

(Review originally posted over at halfstrungharp.com on 17th May 2015)


Blurb

The year is 1806, England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains, the reclusive Mr Norrell, whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French.

Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very antithesis of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms that between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Marie Brennan, ‘A Natural History of Dragons’ (review)


I’ve got nothing against dragons, especially when they play such a vital part in so many awesome fantasy series. After all, dragons are integral to the whole mythos of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen; dragons feature prominently in such celebrated fantasy works as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle; and of course the entire plot of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit couldn’t have existed without that most iconic of dragons: the mighty Smaug.
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This is all well and good; I’ve no objection to a few dragons here and there so long as they’re serving some kind of function within the story, be it as an awesome plot device or as a way of setting the scene. But when their presence in a novel seems to serve no other purpose than just sort of existing . . . well, that’s when dragons start to feel kind of stale. And ‘stale’ is not a word that should be used when referring to giant flying monsters.

And this is where the first of the Memoirs by Lady Trent makes its grand entrance. Here, Marie Brennan has accomplished something extraordinary: she has made dragons fresh and exciting again, no easy feat in today’s competitive and draconian-saturated SFF market. Remember when you first discovered fantasy, and felt that awesome thrill of wonder and possibility? A Natural History of Dragons takes us back to that giddy moment through the wonderful character of Isabella, and the captivating tale of her childhood passion for dragons.

Unlike so many modern female fantasy protagonists – who are often termed ‘strong’ characters as a result of their skills in either weaponry or manipulation – Isabella is strong in that she remains true to her own nature in the face of her male-dominated surroundings. Despite her outwardly ‘outrageous’ behaviour, Isabella retains her girlish charm and naïveté; she never compromises her femininity, in spite of her ongoing struggle against the social restrictions of a strictly patriarchal society; and most importantly of all, she continues to cling to her lifelong passion – the study of dragons – even when the pursuit of this passion seems like an impossible dream. She is, quite simply, a hugely likeable and sympathetic protagonist. Furthermore, Brennan’s narrative voice is beautifully elegant and consistently engaging. In fact, the entire novel is suffused with the observant wit and wry humour of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, with the fantastical subject matter providing an intriguing vehicle through which the author probes issues of class, gender and morality – though it never once sounds preachy.

Add to all this a delightful cast of secondary characters, continually subtle yet vivid settings – particularly the eastern-European-esque wilderness of Vystrana – and frequent injections of self-deprecating humour, and you have the essence of Marie Brennan’s wonderful tale. A Natural History of Dragons is always engaging and entirely charming, and abounds with moments of tension, humour and emotion. Isabella may just be my new hero, and the Memoirs by Lady Trent my new favourite series.

(Review originally posted over at halfstrungharp.com on 10th October 2015)


Blurb

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Mark Lawrence, ‘The Wheel of Osheim’ (review)


Have you ever wanted to applaud upon reaching the end of the last book in a series – and not because you were glad it was over? In recent years there have been two outstanding books that have made me want to do just that. The first was Emperor of Thorns. The second is The Wheel of Osheim.
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Yes: that jammy bastard Mark Lawrence has done it again; and by ‘it’ I mean casually rolled out another stunning conclusion to another fabulous trilogy.

I was lucky enough to win a (signed!) ARC of this book via one of Mark’s many and varied competitions. Incredibly lucky, in fact, since if I’d had to wait another two weeks until the release date I would probably have died.

Well. Maybe.

The Red Queen’s War is the second trilogy set within the sprawling dystopian Broken Empire, a setting I can’t get enough of. The first book, Prince of Fools, saw main character Jal dragged to the ends of the earth. Book two, The Liar’s Key, saw him dragged all the way back again and eventually through a doorway into Hell.

This grandest of finales follows a similar pattern, though the journey is much more rewarding. The Wheel of Osheim finally lets us see the slowly-growing fruits of all that travelling in the form of our protagonist’s subtle transformation. For me, this is the point where Jal finally becomes ‘real’: the things he’s experienced have stripped away much of his shallow persona to finally reveal the potential of the man inside. Everything about him feels more natural: as the story progresses his witticisms become a little wiser, his internal monologues a little less self-conscious, and his actions less self-interested. And as he finally begins to accept the burden of responsibility (however selfish or cowardly the reasoning behind it!) he becomes much, much more sympathetic . . . whilst never completely giving up his old roguish habits.

Jal may not be someone you’d describe as a typical fantasy hero. But at its heart The Wheel of Osheim is essentially an epic fantasy tale – complete with unlikely heroes, overwhelming odds and a quest to save the world – cunningly disguised as an insanely exciting travelogue. The pacing is absolutely spot on: there are so many potential ways this book could have spiralled out of control, but Lawrence keeps things cohesive even when the adrenaline is flowing. He treads the subtle line between fast-paced action and breakneck chaos with even more finesse than usual, making this his most well-balanced work to date.osheim-ARC-signed

Another area in which Lawrence consistently demonstrates finesse is in the structure of his novels, and The Wheel of Osheim is no exception. Here, the author cleverly alternates past and present timelines to fill in the gaps since the abrupt ending of The Liar’s Key. He uses the same technique to weave a surprising amount of backstory in amongst the action and intrigue, and in doing so creates a gradually rising tide of pathos and hope that beautifully underscores each individual’s struggle against both good and evil in search of what is right.

Though he seems far too incorrigible to be contained in one trilogy, The Wheel of Osheim is an admirable conclusion to Jal’s saga. Though not as shocking or as visceral as the end of Jorg’s tale, Osheim is somehow more satisfying, tying off each thread with gentle finality – including Snorri’s heartrending tale, woven in and around the main story since book one.

Our protagonists find closure, yes, and although they’ve had to wade through months or even years of sadness to get it not once does the going feel heavy for the reader. The tone remains mostly light and humorous throughout, even when the mood is tense or the subject matter dark. And it hardly even needs to be said that Lawrence’s writing makes every page a pleasure to read: his prose is poetic and flowing, frequently beautiful and never less than engaging. Lawrence is without doubt one of the finest voices in modern fantasy, and The Wheel of Osheim his most outstanding contribution to the genre . . .

. . . so far.


Blurb

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.
 
Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.

Review: ‘Half a War’ by Joe Abercrombie


In the run-up to the Gemmell Awards I thought it’d be fun to jump on the virtual bandwagon and re-post my own reviews of the titles I’ve read from the Legend longlist. Starting with Abercrombie!

Up until Half a War I’d been kind of ambivalent towards the Shattered Sea trilogy. As a huge fan of Abercrombie’s six First Law novels I entered his latest series with humongous expectations . . . and ended up feeling a little underwhelmed by it. The characters in Half a King and the story in Half the World felt, to me, distinctly lukewarm: there never seemed to be any doubt as to whether the main characters would achieve their goal, and it never once felt as though they were in any real danger.

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Not so in Half a War. Despite its title, this book doesn’t do things by half. Half a War is packed from cover to cover with full-on danger, full-on violence, and full-on excitement. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been: the events of the first two books have finally come to a head, and the Shattered Sea is embroiled in outright war. The High King’s army are marching, and standing against them is the small but dogged alliance of Gettland, Vansterland and Throvenland. But it’s an alliance of necessity rather than friendship, and the leaders of each nation must learn to co-exist for the greater good of their people.

I simply can’t praise Half a War highly enough. This is the Abercrombie I know and love: the Abercrombie who writes killer action scenes and breathless, adrenaline-fuelled battles; the Abercrombie who loads his pages with dark humour and gritty violence; the Abercrombie who creates flawed yet likeable characters whose witty yet realistic dialogue dances off the page and whose fates we as readers become genuinely invested in. This Abercrombie is not afraid to place his characters in dangerous situations, and to force them to make decisions in which they must weigh their own needs against the needs of others. Neither is he afraid to hurt his characters – or, by extension, his readers – and I feel like this is the first time in this trilogy that the ‘true’ Abercrombie really shines through the YA veneer.

In the same vein as the second book, Half a War has characters who previously featured as main protagonists taking something of a back seat, allowing a new set of characters to come to the fore. So, while Father Yarvi and Thorn Bathu both have their fair share of page time, the real focus here is on two new protagonists: Skara, a deposed and recently orphaned princess; and Raith, bloodthirsty swordbearer to the legendary warrior Grom-gil-Gorm. Both characters are remarkably different to one another, yet both are extremely likeable, and I personally sympathised with both of them a lot more than I did either Thorn, Brand or Yarvi. Still, each and every character has a role to play, and when the full extent of certain characters’ involvement with the ongoing conflict is revealed it makes for a delightfully outrageous surprise.

The only aspect of the series I’m still not entirely convinced by is the notion of ‘elf magic’, which to me seems kind of shoehorned into Half a War given that it was only hinted at subtly in the previous two books (rather than made an integral part of the world as in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire). However, it does allow for incredible plot opportunities; and although I feel that the storyline involving the ruins of Strokom could perhaps have been fleshed out a bit more, I can’t deny that it results in some madly incongruous and awesome imagery (one particular scene involving the elderly Mother Scaer is both hilarious and terrifying, and will likely stick in my mind for a very long time).

Half a War is fast-moving and highly entertaining. It’s a fairly intense read, full of action and twists, and is led by sympathetic yet unpredictable characters who constantly surprise us with their decisions, eventually leaving us with an optimistic yet by no means fairytale ending. All in all, a stunning finale to a really enjoyable fantasy series. I would absolutely love to see more of the Shattered Sea in the near future.

(Review originally posted at halfstrungharp.com on 25th July 2015.)


Blurb

Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

Gemmell Awards 2016: Longlist Voting OPEN!


It’s that time of year again! On September 24th the British Fantasy Society will be hosting the eighth annual David Gemmell Legend Awards at Fantasycon. The ceremony recognises and rewards outstanding achievements in fantasy fiction, as well as commemorating the legacy of David Gemmell and his contribution to the genre.

Since their establishment in 2009 the awards have been presented to a succession of extremely talented authors, including Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, John Gwynne, Mark Lawrence, Brian Staveley and Andrzej Sapkowski.


Ravenheart-Award-by-Lee-Blair

The Ravenheart Award trophy

The awards fall into three categories:

The Ravenheart award for Best Cover Art
The Morningstar award for Best Debut
The Legend award for Best Novel

The longlists are now opened for voting, and will remain so until 24th June. So if you’re keen to see some of your favourite books from 2015 make it to the shortlists (which will open on 8th July) then GET VOTING!

The longlists for each category are as follows:


The Ravenheart Award (vote HERE)

(I *strongly* urge you to visit each page to check out all of these amazing covers!)

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This is one of my personal favourites. I’m utterly in love with this cover!

James Annal for Uprooted by Naomi Novik  (Pan Macmillan)

Tommy Arnold for Skyborn by David Dalglish  (Orbit)

Kerem Beyit for The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron  (Gollancz)

Jason Chan for The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence  (Harper/Voyager)

Wendy Chan for Swords and Scoundrels  by Julia Knight  (Orbit)

Alejandro Colucci for The Boy Who Wept Blood  by Den Patrick  (Gollancz)

Bastien Lecouffe Deharme for The Darkling Child  by Terry Brooks  (Orbit)

Krzysztof Domaradzki for Old Man’s Ghosts  by Tom Lloyd  (Gollancz)

Larry Elmore & Carol Russo Design for Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

(Baen)

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I’ve always been a fan of bold, striking covers

Mark Ferrari for The Flotsam Trilogy Omnibus by Peter M Ball  (Apocalypse Ink

Productions)

Christopher Gibbs for The Cathedral of Known Things  by Edward Cox

(Gollancz)

Sam Green for Shadows of Self  by Brandon Sanderson  (Gollancz)

Manuela Hackl for Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Mohamad Hani/Archangel Images for An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

(Harper/Voyager)

Teddy Eduardo Iglesias for The House of Shattered Wings  by Aliette de Bodard

(Gollancz)

Patrick Insole for The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams  (Headline)

Jaime Jones for The Vagrant by Peter Newman  (Harper/Voyager)

Nik Keevil & Nick Castle for Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan(Orbit)

Patrick Knowles for Foreign Devils by John Hornor Jacobs  (Gollancz)

Laura B for Spinning Thorns  by Anna Sheehan  (Gollancz)

Tim McDonagh for The Hunter’s Kind by Rebecca Levene  (Hodder & Stoughton)

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Stylised covers like this are neat and eye-catching, but readers’ tastes differ wildly

Chris McGrath for The Aeronaut’s Windlass  by Jim Butcher  (Orbit)

Jackie Morris for Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb  (Harper/Voyager)

Lauren Panepinto for The Fifth Season  by NK Jemisin  (Orbit)

Lauren Panepinto, Gene Mollica & Michael Frost for The Autumn Republic by

Brian McClellan  (Orbit)

Rhett Podersoo for Those Above by Daniel Polansky  (Hodder & Stoughton)

Larry Rostant for The Skull Throne by Peter V Brett  (Harper/Voyager)

Larry Rostant for Black Wolves  by Kate Elliott  (Orbit)

Larry Rostant for War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin  (Orbit)

Larry Rostant for Reign of Iron by Angus Watson  (Orbit)

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So. Damn. Gorgeous.

Duncan Spilling for Angel of Storms by Trudi Canavan  (Orbit)

Steve Stone for Battlemage by Stephen Aryan(Orbit)

Steve Stone for The Dagger’s Path by Glenda Larke  (Orbit)

Raymond Swanland for Archaon: Lord of Chaos by Rob Sanders (Black Library)

Andrew Unangst for Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu  (Gollancz)

Stephen Youll for The Silver Kings by Stephen Deas  (Gollancz)

Paul Young for Ruin by John Gwynne (Pan Macmillan)

Paul Young for Acendant’s Rite by David Hair  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Paul Young for Valkyrie’s Song  by MD Lachlan  (Gollancz)


The Morningstar Award (vote HERE)

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The new Morningstar Award trophy

Stephen Aryan, Battlemage  (Orbit)

Seth Dickinson, The Traitor  (Pan Macmillan)

Francesca Haig, The Fire Sermon  (Harper/Voyager)

Lucy Hounsom, Starborn  (Pan Macmillan)

Peter Newman, The Vagrant  (Harper/Voyager)

Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes  (Harper/Voyager)


The Legend Award (vote HERE)

Joe Abercrombie, Half A War  (Harper/Voyager)

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Who else thinks it’s a crime that poor Joe has yet to win a Snaga?

Bradley Beaulieu, Twelve Kings  (Gollancz)

Peter V. Brett, The Skull Throne  (Harper/Voyager)

Terry Brooks, The Darkling Child  (Orbit)

Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass  (Orbit)

Miles Cameron, The Dread Wyrm  (Gollancz)

Trudi Canavan, Angel of Storms (Orbit)

Larry Correia, Son of the Black Sword  (Baen)

Edward Cox, The Cathedral of Known Things  (Gollancz)

David Dalglish, Skyborn  (Orbit)

Stephen Deas, The Silver Kings  (Gollancz)

Aliette de Bodard, The House of Shattered Wings  (Gollancz)

Sebastien de CastellKnight’s Shadow  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Kate Elliott, Black Wolves  (Orbit)

David Guymer, Gotrek & Felix: Slayer (Black Library)

John Gwynne, Ruin  (Pan Macmillan)

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The most coveted award of all: the Snaga

David HairAscendant’s Rite  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Joanne Hall, Spark and Carousel  (Kristell Ink)

Markus Heitz, Devastating Hate  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Robin Hobb, Fool’s Quest  (Harper/Voyager)

John Hornor Jacobs, Foreign Devils  (Gollancz)

NK Jemisin, The Fifth Season  (Orbit)

Drew Karpyshyn, Chaos Unleashed  (Del Rey)

Julia Knight, Swords and Scoundrels  (Orbit)

Snorri KristjanssonPath of Gods  (Jo Fletcher Books)

M.D. Lachlan, Valkyrie’s Song  (Gollancz)

Glenda Larke, The Dagger’s Path  (Orbit)

Mark Lawrence, The Liar’s Key  (Harper/Voyager)

Rebecca Levene, The Hunter’s Kind  (Hodder & Stoughton)

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Will the Red Queen come back fighting after last year’s double defeat?

Tom Lloyd, Old Man’s Ghosts  (Gollancz)

Alex Marshall, A Crown For Cold Silver  (Orbit)

Gail Z. Martin, War of Shadows  (Orbit)

Brian McClellan, The Autumn Republic(Orbit)

Naomi Novik, Uprooted  (Pan Macmillan)

Den Patrick, The Boy Who Wept Blood  (Gollancz)

Daniel Polansky, Those Above  (Hodder & Stoughton)

Steven Poore, The Heir to the North  (Kristell Ink)

Anthony Ryan, Queen of Fire  (Orbit)

Rob Sanders, Archaon: Lord of Chaos  (Black Library)

Brandon Sanderson, Shadows of Self  (Gollancz)

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If Williams makes the shortlist, d’you think she’ll let the Copper Cat attend the awards ceremony?

Anna Sheehan, Spinning Thorns  (Gollancz)

Brian Staveley, The Providence of Fire  (Pan Macmillan)

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guns of the Dawn  (Pan Macmillan)

Ian Tregillis, The Mechanical  (Orbit)

Angus Watson, Reign of Iron (Orbit)

David Weber, The Sword of the South  (Baen)

Django Wexler, The Price of Valour  (Del Rey)

Jen Williams, The Iron Ghost  (Headline)


What. A. List. HUGE congratulations to all the nominees!

Voting will remain open until 24th June. And remember, if there’s a book you think should be on there, members of the public still have two more weeks to submit nominations.

Now for the hard part: choosing who to vote for . . .

See you in July for the shortlist announcement!DGLA Logo