Sunday, 30 November 2014

Week in Review

Greetings Everyone!

It has been another hectic week here at Smash Dragons... with lots of things happening in relation to the blog and speculative fiction in general. 

Firstly, my two part interview with author Matt Karlov went live! Matt was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions... and I have heard back from a number of people saying just how much they enjoyed reading his responses. Hopefully this will prompt more buzz and sales for his debut novel The Unbound Man, which I can't recommend highly enough! Do yourself a favour and check it out on Amazon. 

In relation to this I can also announce that the next author to be interviewed by Smash Dragons will be Justin Woolley. Justin has recently released A Town Called Dust, a post apocalyptic novel with an Australian feel. With cracking action, fascinating protagonists, and an interesting setting it is has all the marks to become a raging success. Oh and it has ghouls people... UNDEAD GHOULS! I loved it, and I can't wait to talk to Justin about it! 

Secondly, my stockpile of ARCs and books to read has grown steadily these past few days. Thanks to Netgalley, I now have the following two titles to enjoy and review:

I cannot wait to dive into both them. I have been a fan of Greig Beck's since he first released Beneath the Dark Ice, so I am salivating at the prospect of his latest effort. There will be reviews coming in the near future, so keep a look out! 

Finally, the first blog from the series 'Piercing my Cranium' will go live later this week. It will be a series of opinion pieces about topics that I feel strongly about. The blogs will range far and wide, and it is my hope to generate conversation and healthy debate with their posting. The first entry will be a personal piece about the impact of reading on my life, and how it has shaped and changed me over the years. I hope you enjoy it! 

And before I love you and leave you, in news...

Jim Butcher's new steampunk series The Cinder Spires is moving ahead at speed. The draft of the first book, The Aeronaut's Windlass, has been sent off for its first edit. 

A teaser for the next Star Wars flick has dropped... and boy has it divided fans... check it out at the link below and see for yourself - 

The Aurealis Award entires close in just over a week... be sure to get your work in on time! Also, please support the awards by donating your money or time (or even both!). Please visit their website for more information.

And finally, Anthony Ryan's Queen of Fire (US) cover has been released, and it is gorgeous! 

Thanks everyone... and remember...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Book Review - Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

At first this book sat in my to read pile for awhile. I always intended on getting to it, but some other book always popped up. Eventually I got around to picking it up, and boy am I annoyed that I didn't sooner! 

Among Thieves tells the tale of Drothe, an informant and 'heavy' for a local gang leader in the city of Ildrecca. When there is a problem (or suspected problem) within the organisation, Drothe is brought in to investigate and clean it up. When Drothe stumbles upon a much bigger mystery involving a relic whilst conducting one of these investigations, he finds himself caught up in a deadly and dangerous game that could shatter the criminal underworld of which he is a part.  

This book is, to put it simply, amazing. Brutal and uncompromising, it opens with a scene of torture that grabs you and then refuses to let go. As you read the novel you almost feel like your there standing next to Drothe, intimidating people and patting them down as you go about your business for the boss. At times I even found myself thinking about what move Drothe and I should make next. That is how immersed in the story I became. The fight scenes are, for lack of a better term, amazing. You can really tell that Hulick is a WMA practitioner with experience in fencing. I was delighted with how they played out, and again I found myself strategising on how I would handle the situations Drothe found himself in. The story itself is a ride of ups and downs and twists and turns. Witnesses and leads appear and then fall through, friends quickly become enemies, and we are always aware that things can quickly turn to shit fast! Drothe is a witty, funny, and likeable character despite the fact his business is usually involves torture and murder. His narrative had me glowing in pleasure, and the insights into his thoughts gave him a real depth of character. Yes, his business is bloody and hard, but god you still love him! By the end of the book I was just wanting more... and I found myself going back to sections just to reread a particular fight or turn of phrase.

I would happily reread Among Thieves tomorrow, and it has quickly jumped to be one of my favourite reads of the year! I will be hunting down the sequel quick smart. If you love Lynch, Abercrombie, or Polansky then you have to check this out! Seriously... if you don't... Drothe will get you! 

5 out of 5 Stars!

Disclaimer - image is the property of RoC.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Book Review - Murder at the Kinnen Hotel by Brian McClellan

Disclaimer - I received a copy of this novella from Brian McClellan in exchange for an open and honest review. I would like to thank Brian for that opportunity. The image is the property of Brian McClellan.

I am the first to admit that I am a Brian McClellan fan. I was blown away by his debut Promise of Blood, and I adored his follow up the Crimson Campaign. I will also admit that I have only recently started to explore his novellas (becoming a father took a lot of my reading time!). My first experience of the Powder Mage novellas (Forsworn) left me a bit flat. I sadly found I couldn't relate to the characters, and a lot of the excitement and tension that McClellan usually excelled at was absent. 

Murder at the Kinnen Hotel is the exact opposite. Focusing on Adamat, this novella is a fascinating insight into his former career as a police investigator in Adra. McClellan has weaved an intriguing tale of murder, politics, and sorcery into a small space. I was hooked from the initial pages, and couldn't put it down until I had read how the story unfolded. The main protagonist, Adamat, has always been a strange character for me. At times I have loved him and his journey amidst the upheavals occurring around him, and at other times I have found his parts in the novels to be lacking. 

I am happy to report that his novella has fleshed out his character more, and I can now look forward to rereading those parts in a new light. We are gifted a greater understanding of Adamat and his motivations, and are also shown an insight into his past (and at the same time future) relationship with Ricard and others. Adamat, despite his knack, is not perfect. He can be rash, pigheaded and prone to bouts of anger. He can also be hated amongst his peers, and even resented greatly despite his obvious prowess at police work. This made him seem so much more accessible to me.  

I loved the subtle 'crime-noir' feel of this novella, and how Adamat (the 'perfect detective' with his knack) was paired with White (Adran Royal Cabal operative) to hunt down a rogue powder mage amidst a great murder mystery. The action was explosive, and the conspiracy behind the murders taking place top notch. The story was really well paced and structured, and I found the conclusion very satisfying in how it linked up with the timeline of McClellan's Powder Mage universe. 

All in all this novella deserves its five star rating. It will please all of those fans of McClellan's previous work, and will draw new fans in due to its accessibility to readers. Highly recommended!

5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review - Low Town by Daniel Polansky

I first stumbled upon Low Town whilst hunting through boxes of second hand books at a garage sale. The title caught my interest, so I looked at the blurb. Detective thriller set in a fantasy world... within seconds I was handing over my money and salivating at the prospect of reading it when I got home. Unfortunately life got in the way for a few weeks, with work and a sick child taking precednece. However when I finally did get around to reading it I was not disappointed!

Low Town is set in a fantastical world that is dark, gritty, and bloody. The main protagonist, Warden, is a middle of the range drug peddler and user with a chequered past. When children start showing up murdered in Low Town, his past catches up with him as he is pulled into solving the mystery behind the murders gripping the city. Low Town reads like a crime novel. Warden is your typical over the hill detective... past his prime, weary of life, and generally bitter and cynical of the world around him. What makes him different from other crime protagonists however is how he is wielded by Polansky. Using first person narrative, we are immersed in the thoughts and motivations of Warden as he attempts to solve the riddles of the murders. We slowly learn about his past through his encounters, dreams, recollections and actions. We also learn just how little we know about him. Who is he really? Where did he come from? What is motivating him? These mysteries drive the story forward at a great pace, and keep the reader wanting more with every page read.

Combined with this narrative we have gripping action and bloody realism. Warden is not some all conquering hero, he cheats, lies, and plays dirty. Children die, innocents get caught in the crossfire, and Warden often gets the living shit kicked out of him by drug rivals and opponents. Polansky's world building is also top notch and gritty. I could almost taste the scents of Low Town, and feel the cold from the storms as they roared in. This realism added depth and tension to the story for me, and reminded me of Abercrombie and his work.

There were some flaws with this novel (use of stereotypes like and a twist that was relatively easy to work out), but they were so inconsequential to me that barely warrant mention. I was that entertained whilst reading this!

A bloody good debut. If you love fantasy or crime fiction then this is well worth your time.

5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer - Image is the property of Doubleday.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Interview - Matt Karlov (Part 2)

And here is part two of my interview with author Matt Karlov. I hope you enjoy reading! 

The fighting and action in your novel was, I thought, very realistic. One scene that springs to mind occurs early on in your novel where a magic user is overwhelmed and killed by assailants wielding swords. Do you think realistic and gritty action is more interesting, or even necessary in today’s reading environment?

I think it's possible to look at action and violence in fiction from several different standpoints.  We can think of it in terms of realism: for example, do we realistically show swordfights that only last a minute or two if you're lucky, or do we write about unrealistic but epic duels that go for hours?  We can think of it in terms of explicitness: do we describe every slithering organ spilling out of the dead man's belly, or do we elide some or all of those details?  And we can think of it in terms of truthfulness: do we show the inherent ugliness and horror of violence, or do we present it in a more superficial or cartoonish way?  There's a degree of connection between those standpoints, of course, but it's also possible to get them confused.  (An interesting writing exercise is to think about how you might convey one of those aspects without using the others: say, truthfulness without explicitness, or vice versa.)  And there's also the danger of focussing so much on any one of them that the reader gets jarred out of the story.

There's certainly been a turn toward grittier writing in recent years, particularly in fantasy with the rise of 'grimdark'.  People sometimes characterise these stories as being rooted in cynicism, but to me they seem more like expressions of anguish.  Steven Erikson has described his own writing as being, in some ways, a howl of despair; in Daniel Abraham's view, the power of George R. R. Martin's series derives from the sorrow infusing almost every scene.  My take on this is that fantasy is starting to leave behind its pre-modern worldview and embrace the existentialism that pervades our society.  In other words, I see this primarily as a search for truthfulness; that is, for stories that resonate with our experience of life.  Many people now can only believe in a story if the world in which it's set reflects the complexity and ambiguity — and, yes, the grittiness — of the real world.

That said, I think there's still plenty of people out there with an appetite for the traditional style of fantasy, and indeed for other styles beyond the traditional / gritty dichotomy.  In the end, even grittiness is only a partial view of reality.  The world is a big, complex place, and fantasy as a whole is increasingly coming to reflect that — and that's great!

I must admit, I am a sucker for maps in fantasy books! I was delighted to pour over those that were included in The Unbound Man. Did you design them yourself? And did you draw inspiration for them from any particular countries or continents?

I love a good fantasy map too.  One of the very first things I did before writing The Unbound Man was to sit down and draw a map of the continent that would eventually become Kal Arna.  My starting point was actually the northern coast of Australia, but inverted so that land became water and vice versa.  You can still kind of see the Cape York Peninsula in the shape of the Bay of Bracha.  I kept adding details to the map until it felt like the kind of place where interesting things could happen — and then I started thinking about what those interesting things might be.

The maps that come with The Unbound Man are the work of Maxime Plasse, a wonderfully talented freelance cartographic artist.  Max took my rough sketches and turned them into a beautiful set of maps which I think fit perfectly with the novel.

A question from left field... If you could steal and harvest the brains of three other fantasy authors to use for writing, who would they be and why?

Top of the list would have to be Steven Erikson.  The scale and scope of his stories, the depth of his themes, his mastery of the craft of writing — any one of these would be remarkable in its own right, and he's got all three.  After that the choice gets trickier.  Daniel Abraham, perhaps, for the deep empathy he has with his characters?  Joe Abercrombie, for his dark wit and compelling characterisation?  Janny Wurts, for her intricately detailed plotting?  Or maybe someone from outside the Western tradition for a completely different perspective on writing — Haruki Murakami, perhaps?

Of course, I'd only harvest those brains if I could put them straight back afterwards with no ill effects.  Otherwise it would mean no more books from some of my favourite authors, and there's no way I'd take that deal.

What was your first exposure to fantasy fiction? Mine, for example was when I was a kid and a neighbour gave me a tattered and beat up copy of The Hobbit.

The Hobbit came very early for me as well, courtesy of my father.  Another book I remember from childhood is Watership Down, which to me is like traditional fantasy in almost every way except that it's set in the real world.  Then came The Lord of the Rings, of course, which for a while as a teenager I would re-read about once a year.

I think I still have that copy of The Hobbit somewhere — it's a battered old green hardcover, the dust jacket long since gone, with some of Tolkien's original colour drawings included at various points in the text.

Branching out from that.. what do you think about the state of fantasy and speculative fiction at the moment? We seem to have a very diverse blend of subgenres and authors that are popular right now. Do you think that the Australian scene differs from the world in any way?

As a genre, fantasy seems to be in excellent health.  Popular interest in fantasy was given a huge boost by the success of the Lord of the Rings movies and Harry Potter, and we're now seeing a further rise in interest thanks to the Game of Thrones TV series.  I take the increasing diversity within the genre as another sign of health.  Fantasy is finally breaking free of its traditional roots, not only philosophically with the rise of gritty fiction and the like, but also culturally and even structurally.  It's an exciting time to be a reader and a writer of fantasy.

Australian fantasy is part of that, of course, and it's great to see more and more Australian SFF authors finding success.  I also think the Australian SFF establishment is much more accepting of self-published writers than is often the case elsewhere.  Mitchell Hogan and Jackie Ryan won Aurealis Awards this year, K. J. Bishop won one last year, and Andrea K. Höst has been a finalist on multiple occasions.  Perhaps the Australian scene is still small enough that we know we can't afford to get too caught up in how other SFF writers choose to publish.  Whatever the reason, I think it's a good thing.

What is sitting in your ‘to read’ pile right now? What future releases are you most looking forward to?

There are so many books I'd like to read that I'm not sure where to start!  I've been making an effort to fill in some gaps in my SFF reading by seeking out classics of the genre that I haven't yet read.  The next one in that category will probably be The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  As for new releases, I'm keen to read Steven Erikson's new novel Willful Child and find out what he does with a Star Trek spoof.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I'm working on the first draft of the follow-up book to The Unbound Man, tentatively titled The Lordless City.  I'm also polishing up a short story which is set in a slightly different part of the same world.  The short story will hopefully be published early next year; the novel will take a little longer!

In five years where do you see yourself professionally?

I've never really been the kind of person to make five-year plans.  Life just seems too contingent and unpredictable for that.  That said, I'd certainly like to have finished the Undying Legion trilogy by then and be well on the way to cooking up some new stories.  As for sales and all the other things that are usually seen as markers of success, ultimately that's out of my control.  Of course it would be great to give away the day job and write full-time, but will it happen in five years?  Who knows?

Finally, best writing tip you have ever received?

I don't remember where I first heard it, but one piece of advice that's stuck with me is this: write the stories that only you can write.  Each of us has our own combination of abilities and experiences, insights and obsessions, hopes and fears.  The only method I know to write something worth reading is to delve into that stuff that's deeply, uniquely yours and figure out how to put it on the page.  None of George R. R. Martin's fans like his work because he's 'the next Tolkien' — they like it because he's the first, last, and only George R. R. Martin, and he's worked out how to infuse his writing with the unique perspective that only he has.

Matt Karlov, thank you for talking to Smash Dragons! 

My pleasure! Thanks for having me! 

The Unbound Man is out now... and we here at Smash Dragons highly recommended it! Please click on the link below for more information.

Interview - Matt Karlov (Part 1)

Hello Everyone! 

I had the amazing opportunity to interview author Matt Karlov as part of our 'Aussie Authors in Focus' series. Matt has recently published his debut novel The Unbound Man, an epic fantasy tale full of intrigue and action. I personally loved it, and Matt was incredibly generous with his time fielding my questions. I implore you all to check it out (link provided at end of interview). 

Onwards to the interview! 

Matt Karlov, welcome to Smash Dragons. For those people who aren't familiar with you or your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your novel The Unbound Man? 

The Unbound Man is my debut fantasy novel.  It's about a former linguist turned poor-quarter scribe who learns that his wife's murderer, long thought dead, may in fact be alive. It's about a trade factor who's engaged in a private vendetta, and who returns home from an assignment to find herself promoted to the unlikely position of adjunct to the merchant house spymaster. It's about a sorcerer who, haunted by the unwelcome attention of a being he believes to be a god, commences a secret undertaking in defiance of his colleagues and at risk of his own life. And it's about a lost chamber that's been sealed for millennia, where an ancient empire's legacy lies dormant, awaiting the words that will rouse it from slumber — and change the world.

As for me — I'm a writer!  It took me seven years to think about, plan, and eventually write The Unbound Man, although that includes some false starts at the beginning before I really knew what I was doing.  To pay the bills, I've worked in software design, web development, and business analysis.  I'm also a fan of European-style board games and cryptic puzzles.

So how did the Unbound Man come about? What motivated you to write that story?

The seeds of The Unbound Man came from the Iraq War in the mid-2000s.  A lot of different countries sent soldiers to that war, and there was a period where the Iraqi resistance fighters started kidnapping foreign citizens and threatening to kill them unless the hostage's particular country withdrew its soldiers.  Most governments refused on principle, on the basis that yielding to that sort of coercion would just turn all their other citizens into targets the next time someone disliked what they were doing. But the kidnapped person's family and friends didn't care about the politics — they just wanted the government to do whatever they could to get their loved ones home safely.

It got me thinking: what if there was a person who responded to coercion the same way governments do?  Someone who would refuse to deal with anyone threatening their family or friends on principle, even to the point of seeing their loved ones killed?  What would that experience do to a person?  And if this person was morally consistent and refused to coerce anyone else either, how would that complicate their life if they were hit with a fresh crisis?  All of those thoughts stewed away in the back of my mind for a long time and eventually took shape in the form of Arandras, the main character in The Unbound Man.

What motivated you to self publish? Do you think self-publishing is a more attractive option for writers today, in the wake of success stories like Hugh Howey and Anthony Ryan?

For me it came down to a calculation of costs and benefits.  The main thing traditional publishing gives you that you can't easily get any other way is distribution to physical bookstores.  There are a few other benefits too, such as covering the cost of book production and a certain amount of marketing, but physical distribution is the big one.  The drawbacks, however, typically include a much lower royalty rate, a very slow production process, unfriendly contracts which often contain hidden nasties like non-compete clauses, and a loss of control over covers, pricing, and most other things -- and that's assuming you're prepared to spend years trying to get a traditional deal in the first place!

There are downsides to self-publishing, of course.  For one thing, you effectively have to be your own production manager and marketing director in addition to being a writer.  For another, you have to pay for editing, cover design, and any other service you require out of your own pocket.  On balance, though, I felt that self-publishing was a much more appealing proposition for a new writer.

There are certainly some highly successful self-published authors out there nowadays.  But it's important to remember that very few self-published authors will achieve the kind of success that Hugh Howey has, just as very few traditionally-published authors will achieve the kind of success that George R. R. Martin has.  I find it more interesting to consider the situation for 'midlist' authors: those who may never be bestsellers but who write well enough and consistently enough to sustain a career.  It seems to me that that level of success is becoming far more accessible via the self-publishing route than it is by publishing traditionally.  Of course, you still need luck even to get that far — but I think your chances of getting there are better if you self-publish.

So what is your writing process like? Are you, for example, an outliner like Brandon Sanderson or a gardener like Stephen King or George RR Martin?

I'm very much in the outliner camp.  I have to know where I'm going before I can write anything.  That applies on multiple levels: I need to know the end of the story before I can figure out the beginning, but I also need to know the end of a scene (at least in general terms), or the end of a character arc, before I can start writing it.

As a rule, beginnings are the hardest for me to write because there's so much about the story I still don't know.  Once I start getting some momentum, and once I've built up some context to play with, the story gets easier to write.  Endings are the most fun — by the time I hit those culminating scenes, I know the story inside and out and I have a whole story's worth of build-up to pay off.  There's nothing quite like reaching those final scenes and seeing the whole story come together right there in front of you.

One of things that struck me when I read The Unbound Man was how intriguing its characters were. Did you set out from the beginning to write a more character based story or did that evolve as a result of the overall plot?

I certainly made an effort to focus on characters first and weave them into an interesting plot rather than vice versa.  My foundation for The Unbound Man was really the three main characters: their starting points, their endpoints, their biggest struggles, and how those struggles would intersect.  Of course, I also needed a certain amount of plot and setting to establish the context and the wider stakes, but the characters were always front and centre in my thinking.

To me, the most compelling plot developments are those that represent a pivotal moment for a character.  Think about the ending of The Lord of the Rings.  The discovery that Gollum is still alive on the slopes of Mount Doom — well, sure, that's interesting, and it makes me want to know what will happen next.  But seeing Frodo claim the Ring for himself — that's gut-wrenching.  That's the kind of moment that lingers in the mind long after the story is done... or at least, it does for me.

When I purchased the book I noticed Saladin Ahmed had written a blurb for the cover. How did it feel knowing you had impressed a Hugo and Nebula finalist with your work?

It was great to get that endorsement from Saladin, and I was very fortunate that he was willing to give it.  I actually got a novel critique from Saladin on an early draft of The Unbound Man, which came back with plenty of constructive criticism but also a lot of encouraging comments.  Some time later I asked if he'd be willing to provide a blurb for the book, not knowing that he has a blanket policy against blurbing anything he's critiqued.  I was very lucky that he decided to make an exception in my case.

The level of world building in The Unbound Man is also detailed and rich. Do you think writers should focus more on characters (Sanderson, for example, believes a story with strong characters and weak setting will still be successful) or should they, as I think you have, try and find a good balance between the two?

As a reader, the books I love most are those that engage me on every possible level.  Character, plot, setting, theme: I want it all!  So I'd certainly say it's important to pay attention to each of those elements.  And of course, setting is particularly important in secondary-world fantasy, where you need to do a lot more 'building' just to make your world believable, let alone interesting.

All the same, I think Brandon Sanderson has a point.  Characters, I think, are almost always the most important element of a story, so if you had to pick just one thing to focus on it would have be the characters.  But fortunately there's no need to restrict yourself to just one element!

The Quill were particularly fascinating to me. I enjoyed how you examined the way organisations evolve and change as they grow. Was this based on your own observations of the world and how corporations and organisations behave?

The relationship between individuals and collective groups was definitely something I was interested in exploring with The Unbound Man.  In some ways, organised collectives are nothing new: tribes, city-states, guilds, and churches have all been around for a long time.  But in most of those cases, the purpose of the organisation (at least nominally) has been to work for the benefit of its members.  The modern corporation is an entirely different thing.  It doesn't even pretend to exist for the benefit of its people.  Rather, it exists to make use of its people in pursuit of some other goal.  (There's a reason why the personnel department is typically named Human Resources.)

I thought it would be interesting to populate the world of The Unbound Man with organisations of this type and to explore the effects of that on the setting and the characters.  Each of the three main characters has their own complex relationship with the organisation they belong or belonged to, and each character has their own personal biases in that area which influence the way they see things.  It's an interesting topic to me because there's no clear 'right answer' to many of the questions that come up in the course of the story.  I think we as a society are yet to really figure out what corporations are, in a social sense — but we know that modern society is impossible without them.  That to me is fertile ground for storytelling!


To purchase The Unbound Man, please click on the link below - 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Week in Review


It has been a busy week here at Smash Dragons! 

I have been snowed under with a multitude of ARCs and books being kindly gifted to me via Netgalley and various publishers. I have been amazed and humbled by the generosity shown by these groups. Some of the books I received include the following:

Dead New World - Ryan Hill
A Town Called Dust - Justin Wooley 
Willful Child - Steven Erikson 

I also, incredibly, received a preview copy of Brian McClellan's new novella 'Murder at the Kinnen Hotel'. As a huge fan of McClellan's I was very excited to receive this opportunity, and I have to say now it is a f****** awesome read (a more concise review is incoming)! An absolute must have for all those Powder Mage fans! 

What else has happened... oh yeah... I finally won something this week! I never win anything... except this time I did... free Audible copies of Mitchell Hogan's two Sorcery Ascendent Sequence books! Was over the moon! Thank you to Mitchell Hogan and Audible, and if you haven't yet read Hogans books do yourself a favour and go online and purchase them. Top notch stuff! 

In news... 

Ursula Le Guin received the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Awards. Her acceptance speech was a joy to watch, and if you missed it then I suggest you click on the following link quick smart:

Le Guin is one of my greatest inspirations. If you didn't get goosebumps watching that speech then you are either a Terminator or Cylon. 

The latest Hunger Games movie has been released. I will probably go and see it, despite still feeling meh about previous instalments. I suspect I have already seen the best bits just by watching the trailer! 

Vice Media Group has launched Terraform, a new weekly online magazine devoted to original SF. 

Fantasy Faction will be celebrating their 5th birthday next year, and are already looking to celebrate by hosting an event for authors and fans alike. Please see their webpage (link on sidebar) for more details.

Finally... Matt Karlov's interview is incoming for the blog! Matt has been extremely generous with his time and support of Smash Dragons, and we will be posting up his two part interview in the coming days. His novel, The Unbound Man, is available now via Amazon. I strongly recommend you purchase a copy, and support a great local author on the rise! 

Book Review - The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

I received an advanced readers copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Netgalley and Voyager for the opportunity to do this.

Blurb - 

100 years after a nuclear apocalypse, society is left without technology and all humans are twins. One of each pair is physically perfect, and they are called Alphas, while the other, the Omega, bears some mutation. The apartheid society forces the mutated twins to settlements, even though when one twin dies, so does the other. This is the relationship between a brother and sister twin, and what happens when he becomes a leader in the repressed society.

Review - 

At first this book excited me. I had heard people whispering on the grapevine, the next Hunger Games... a must read... etc etc. So I was stoked to get a chance to read it prior to its release early next year. After turning the final page I felt flat and a little disappointed. Now don't get me wrong, there are some great things about The Fire Sermon. It has a fascinating premise, interesting characterisation, and some intriguing plot twists. Where the story is let down, I think, is in its execution of these positives. The pacing of the story is off, with the first half of the book interesting and gripping, and the second half never really going anywhere. I loved Cass to begin with. I was hooked with her story and plight and where it was going to lead. By the end of it I found myself thinking that Haig had missed a good opportunity to take Cass to a higher level as a heroine (it is my hope that things get more interesting in the sequel for her). This really took the steam out of Haig's plot twists and revelations for me. By the time the story got around to dropping its bombshells I was a little bored and disinterested. This is a shame, because I can see the potential in this story. If Haig can tighten the plot, and work on some of the inconsistencies of her world-building, then I can see future books being very successful. 

If you can overlook its weaknesses, and are willing to be in it for the long haul (and future sequels) then The Fire Sermon will be a very enjoyable read. If, like me, you can't, then The Fire Sermon will be a missed opportunity and disappointment. 

2.5 Stars out of 5.

Note - Photo is the property of Harper Voyager. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Future at Smash Dragons

Morning all!

Just a quick post to bring you up to speed on things that are happening here at Smash Dragons.

Aussie Authors in Focus -

I've decided to start a series of blogs featuring interviews with some Australian fantasy and speculative fiction writers. I think at times we forget just how much talent we have here in Australia, and I want to highlight that through Smash Dragons.

Our first interview we have coming up is with Matt Karlov, author of The Unbound Man. It should hopefully be up for viewing sometime next week. Matt has been very receptive and friendly with his time, and we here at Smash Dragons appreciate that.

Piercing my Cranium -

I've also decided to do an opinion piece once a week... cuz I know how you all just love to hear me rant and rave (I maintain that I am articulate most of the time but my loving wife disagrees). In this series I hope to explore issues that I feel need exploring... like the dispute between Amazon and Hatchette.

Future Reviews -

Thanks to Netgalley, and the good people Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Pocket Books, and Tachyon Publishing I have the following books to read and review for you all...

- The Eterna Files by
- The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
- Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers
- The Very Best of Kate Elliot by Kate Elliot

Blog Makeover -

I know it's only early days, but I will be looking to modify, improve, fix, duct tape etc the look of the blog as time rolls on. Still relearning after 15 months of being a stay at home dad. Children have an uncanny way of soaking up all of your time!

I think that just about covers it... I will hopefully have more news on upcoming interviews for the AAiF (at first glance that looks like ASOIAF.. get out of my head GRRM!!!) series. If you have any particular Aussie authors you want to see interviewed by all means contact me.

Exciting times ahead... watch this space!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Book Review - Hounded by Kevin Hearne

This book was recommended to me by a friend of mine, so I finally decided to get around to reading it before I offended my friend! I'm glad I did. It reminded me of when I first stumbled across Stormfront by Jim Butcher, and how I felt after finishing that book. 

Fulfilled, in a totally non-weird way. 

Hounded introduces us to Atticus O'Sullivan, the last of the Druids. He lives peacefully in Arizona, where he owns and runs an occult bookshop. But all is not well, Atticus has in his possession Fragarach, a magical sword of great power, and an angry Celtic god wants it and will do anything to get it!

Hounded was incredibly well written and fast paced. As the story unfolded Hearne built a fascinating and unique world that brought many smiles to my face. I found the magic well thought out and interesting, and I especially loved the incorporation of other magical users and supernatural beings into the plot. What carries this story however is the incredible wit that is wielded by Hearne. The pop culture references throughout made me chuckle, and the dialogue had me having to put the book down at times to just have a good laugh! Attitcus is genuinely funny, and his interaction with his wolfhound is truly how I would imagine a conversation with my dog would unfold! 

Inevitably comparisons will be made between the Iron Druid Chronicles and the Dresden Files, but I think Hearne has written a unique, fun, and absorbing tale that I cannot wait to dive into more! 

4 out of 5 Stars!

Note - Image is the property of Del Rey.