Imagine, if you will, the dark streets of Boston. Trouble is afoot, a revolution against the wealthy and the authorities. Equality and justice are demanded by protesting crowds, some of which get out of hand at times, leading to smoky, dark nights. Add to that ghosts and dark magic at hand, a secret sorcerer working his will in the midst of the chaos. Sounds like a pretty good urban fantasy, right?
Now imagine all this is occurring during the Stamp Act uprising in the 18th Century. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, the original Tea Party, the Colonists stirring against the British Crown.
D.B. Jackson’s debut alternate history novel is the tale of a thieftaker, one who hunts down stolen property for a fee and returns it to its rightful owners. What separates him from his competition, however, is Ethan’s gift for conjuring. He was born with the gift, inherited from his mother, and now Ethan Kaille is called upon to investigate the theft of a brooch off the neck of a murdered daughter of one of Boston’s wealthy merchants. Murders are not the sorts of crimes men like Ethan typically get involved with, but the girl’s cause of death is undetermined and some believe conjuring was involved, and so Ethan promises to find the stolen brooch and return it, revealing what he also discovers about the murderer in the process.
But once he gets involved, finding himself haunted by ghosts and voices of not just the dead daughter but others who’ve died in similar fashion, attacked by his main rival, Sephira Pryce, a thieftaker who rules the city in ways less honorable than Ethan and many of her trade, and hunted by the authorities. Drawn into an unfolding mystery by his compulsion to understand and his desire to set things right, Ethan uncovers a dark conspiracy that brings him into encounters with the British leadership, upper crust merchants, and even Samuel Adams himself.
Jackson is the nom de plume of a well respected fantasy writer with numerous fantasies under his belt. And his skill at prose, worldbuilding, and character development shine through on every page. Add to this his degree in history and passion for that, and you have a book that drips with authenticity, despite the fantastical elements wove into the historical narrative. Colonial Boston really comes alive here, and the story draws you in quickly, compelling you to read onward with every page.
Alternate history is as tricky as working in a contemporary setting because so much documentation and knowledge exists that one has to study hard and tread carefully in order to use history both responsibly, meaningfully and fairly in weaving a fictional tale around and within it, while still crafting elements which would appeal to the genre fans for whom the book will be primarily targeted. But my opinion is that any fan of history, particularly Revolutionary War America, would love Thieftaker. And I think it’s a not to be missed start of a new not to be missed series.
Jackson is scheduled to follow next year with Thieve’s Quarry and everything from the beautiful cover art to the prose, dialogue and settings works together to bring this charming, authentic, well paced tale to life. It’s unique and yet familiar. And it’s one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far. Highly recommended!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
The tour will run through July 31st and also have another interview at Adventures In SciFi Publishing podcast amongst others. Links will be added to this post as things develop. My heartfelt gratitude to all who have hosted and helped make this tour a success.
And in case you missed it, here’s the posts we did in Part 1 of THE RETURNING Blog Tour:
Also, you can still get The Returning at 33% off for a limited time from me in either print or ebook (both signed) here.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Star Wars/Forgotten Realms author Paul S. Kemp has this to say about my next novel The Returning: “The Returning blends themes of faith with classic space opera tropes and the result is a page-turning story that takes off like a rocket.”
Here’s more info, including the previous blurb, and I expect a cover image in the next two weeks:
“The Returning has romance, assassins, tension, both modern and classic science fiction notions, and very smooth writing. What more could you want? Bryan Thomas Schmidt keeps improving. As good as The Worker Prince was, The Returning is better.” – Mike Resnick
“A fun space opera romp, complete w/ intrigues, treachery, dastardly villains, and flawed but moral heroes.” Howard Andrew Jones (Pathfinder: Plague Of Shadows, The Desert Of Souls) on THE RETURNING
Sequel to The Worker Prince, The Returning is forthcoming this June. Book 2 in the Saga Of Davi Rhii, the back cover copy reads as follows:
The Vertullians are free and have full citizenship but that doesn’t mean they’re accepted. Now someone is sending assassins to kill and terrorize them and it’s riling up old enmity all over again. The new High Lord Councilor, Tarkanius, Lord Aron, and Captain Davi Rhii find themselves fighting all over again to preserve the unity of the Borali Alliance, while forces from within and without work against them in an attempt to tear it apart.
Meanwhile, Davi and Tela are struggling to keep their romance alive in the midst of busy lives filled with drama and stress and Miri’s adjusting to her new status as a non-royal. The action packed, emotional, exciting Davi Rhii story continues.
Although it’s not out until June, you can preorder The Returning today for $10.11 at Barnes & Noble (31% off the cover price).
Well, I got my first publishing related mention in Locus. Sometime last year I was listed in a photo caption for Rainforest Writer’s Village despite not actually being there for the picture (so that doesn’t count). The announcement of the sale of my second novel showed up yesterday with mention of my editor, Randy Streu, and some other cool people like my friend D.W. Grintalis, who sold her debut novel, Mike Resnick, who’s sold too many to count, etc. It’s a good feeling, because Locus is the industry zine (for those who don’t know) and it makes me feel more officially a part of things. It’s like a step on the ladder.
Another rung occurred when I sent review copies to Library Journal, Kirkus, Locus and Publisher’s Weekly. Didn’t get that done for The Worker Prince, to my regret. But good reviews from those would really boost credibility and sales, so here’s hoping they feel as good about book 2 as I and Randy do. I did send The Worker Prince along to Locus, since they don’t rule out reviewing books which have been out for a while. We’ll see. More waiting begins.
Cassa Fire, Space Opera, Dancing Lemur Press, 2012. Tpb/ebook $15.95/$4.99
An enjoyable read with well drawn leads that takes a while to suck you in but ultimately rises above its faults to provide a compelling and enjoyable read. I have not read book 1 in this series. So let me say some of my quibbles with it may well not be shared by those who have.
The action was well written and Cavanaugh uses some invented SFnal ideas here, including mental powers for two races, one limited to men, the other expanded by the entry of women. The developing relationship between the humans and Tgren as a result of this development makes for interesting drama and asks interesting questions. It also provides good fodder for further storylines.
His worldbuilding is very solid. The starships are well thought out and created well. You can definitely feel an 80s SF influence, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in particular, although I suppose Star Wars and Star Trek could be found in it as well.
The prose itself is solid. Cavanaugh is quite good at weaving description and dialogue and keeping things moving well. He handles multiple POV characters well and does a good job transitioning between scenes and chapters.
Action scenes are well written and handled and have appropriate pacing and tension, avoiding the silly dialogue which sometimes ensues.
Now for the quibbles:
First, the story didn’t hook me until Chapter 4. In part, I felt there wasn’t much going on at the beginning. The real action didn’t take place until later on. There were a number of passages with routine day to day character routines which I could have done without that slowed down the pace as well. The worldbuilding is solid but I wish the writer had found a way to get us into it with a bit more excitement. The result is a dragging pace until chapter 4 when it picks up more and more as it moves toward the middle and end.
Second, other than Byron and his love interest, I didn’t find the other characters very well drawn. They didn’t seem to have arcs of their own. Perhaps they were from book 1 and developed more fully there, but I think he could have added a bit more development in them to make it more interesting. The uncle of the love interest, however, does change a bit in his attitude, which was a nicely handled touch. I just would have liked to have seen more with other supporting characters for a richer, fuller canvass.
Third, because the story doesn’t have as much action as I expected from the cover (my fault not his but the cover did set expectations somewhat), I’d compare this more to a storyline from Star Trek:TNG or a thoughtful TOS episode than I would to something more action packed like Star Wars or Buck Rogers or even BSG in storyline/plot. I would have liked a bit more action. This last note, admittedly, is personal preference and not the writer’s fault. There’s just rich potential in the ships, characters and world for some really good action. Perhaps book 1 provides more of that. I do intend to read it.
Ultimately, I am giving this four stars because I think despite any flaws it’s well worth your time. Don’t let the pacing keep you from digging in. The SF ideas, cultures, and world are well developed and interesting. I would look forward to more stories. I do hope next round he’ll give us more action. And I hope he’ll develop some of the other characters as well. Regardless, if you like old fashioned space opera, this is a family friendly fun read. Recommended.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Recently my friend reviewed my book at SFSignal. I never expect anything less than an honest review from reviewers, especially friends. Anything is unhelpful because people tend to see through it anyway and because honest evaluation is the only thing a writer can rightfully expect from anyone. You hope they love the book. It’s hard if they don’t. In this case, the reviewer liked it but had some hard criticisms of a few aspects. Nonethless, I went on the site, said I was sorry it didn’t all work for him, linked to the B&N Year’s Best mention of the book, and thanked him for reviewing it. My friend, instead of taking my thanks as appreciation for his work, thought I was upset with him and it made him very uncomfortable. We’ve now sorted that out but it really got me thinking about how we respond to reviewers as writers and here are some thoughts:
It’s that time of year again. And I find myself reflecting on a year filled with books. I read 52 books a year just for SFFWRTCHT alone. And this year, between guest blog posts, reviews, research, and more, I added at least 23 more books on top of that. I lost count, truthfully, and I’m not going to go through Goodreads to find out. So we’ll say I read 75 and call that close enough. In any case, this list is not a ranking of everything I read. Instead, I’ve chosen to list books which most impacted me as far as opening my eyes to possibilities. The books on this list either showed me new genres, new ways of looking at old genres, or new approaches to them in ways which have stuck with me and left me thrilled and challenged as both writer and reader. With that in mind, here’s my 2011 Personal Top Reads:
1) The Flying Machine by Andrew Mayer — Okay, steampunk’s been done already. Cherie Priest mastered it, we’ve all heard. Gibson, Powers, Jeter and Blaylock launched it. But wait. Here comes a new writer whose not only done it but added superheroes and written a tale the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jules Verne? The Society Of Steam series launched with The Flying Machine and steampunk has never been so fun. A great read, with fun characters, good action and good humor.
2) Soulless by Gail Carriger — And speaking of humor, nothing made me laugh more than Gail Carriger’s Soulless, the first of four Parasol Protectorate books in her original series and now she’s just about to launch a new one. Werewolfs, vampires, Victorian England, even the Queen herself appear amidst the quirky characters. This is fun and funny. A great read.
3) Greywalker/Downpour by Kat Richardson — Harper Blaine was just your average, small time Pacific Northwest PI until a man beats her to death. In those two minutes, while she’s dead, something changes her forever. When she comes back, Harper can see dead people. Not in a ‘Call Bruce Willis, Mommy, this is odd” kind of way but a “Hey, Drac, you been taking your vitamins? You’re pale as a ghost kind of way.” Vampires, Ghosts, magic and witches transform her life. Written in 2006 I can easily understand why this urban fantasy novel took off, and the sixth book, Downpour, from 2011, is just as good. Harper’s now used to her powers, so to speak, and so are the undead used to having her around. This time she witnesses a ghostly car accident whose victim blames a nearby small resort community. When Harper goes to check it out, she finds a sinister cabal gathering forces with a dark art and she must stop them before it’s too late. Great characters, great use of Pacific Northwest locations, great mystery elements and pacing that carry you suspensefully through to the end.
4) Diving Into The Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch — Kris Rusch is no stranger to most of you, she also writes mysteries as Kristine Grayson and edited the mighty Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for several years. In this great new space opera series of which two books are out this year and another follows in early 2012, the protagonist, Boss loves to dive historical ships found adrift between the stars. Sometimes for money, but mostly as a historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It shouldn’t be here. It can’t be here. And yet, it is. Boss is determined to investigate and so hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, but the past won’t give up its treasures without blood. Really good stuff based on several short stories which have appeared in Analog.
5) The Disappeared/Consequences (Retreival Artist) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch — her other series started from short stories, about former cop turned retreival artist Miles Flint starts with The Disappeared and continued through 7 novels with an 8th coming out this month. Flint helps hunted innocents, convicted of crimes against alien races which they don’t really understand and didn’t intentionally commit, to hide themselves and start new lives, to disappear. But somehow his clients turn up dead. Someone is hunting them or revealing their identities and Miles has to stop them. Great books with a combination of space opera SF and mystery-police procedural elements. A whole lot of fun. With some well developed, interesting alien cultures.
6) The Unremembered by Peter Orullian — A musical magic system where spells are sung? Need I say more? Well how about this, if you’re mourning the coming end of The Wheel Of Time, you’ve got seven books ahead of you in Orullian’s Vault of Heaven series. Yep. And this first one reminded me how much I love epic fantasy. It’ll remind you too. Great characters, great worldbuilding, epic good v. evil. And musical magic. Who could ask for anything more?
7) The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams — Ok this one’s been around a while. 1988 copyright. But I’d never read it and I am having a ball. It’s a long, dense book with lots of characters and description and there are three more books to follow, the last in two parts, but there’s a reason this series has been hailed as epic fantasy on a Tolkien-esque scale. An epic evil is rising and two brothers are fighting over their father’s throne, threatening to divide a kingdom. Great stuff, rich settings, action, and characters with politicking, dragons, trolls and more.
8 ) Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell –Ari Marmell has written D&D adventure packs and tie-ins, but in Goblin Corps he writes a heroe’s adventure with the bad guys as heroes. That’s right, top goblins including an orc, a kobol, a bugbear, a troll, a doppleganger, an ogre and a gremlin are sent by the Goblin king to recover objects of power that will reverse the course the Dark Lord’s defeat, only to uncover a more sinister plot that threatens them all. They’re not the easiest group to like or root for yet Marmell pulls it off and never stops entertaining with good action and humor along the way.
9) Black Blade Blues by John A. Pitts — John A. Pitts’ urban fantasy series about apprentice blacksmith Sarah Beauhall was one of the best surprises of the year for me. Anyone who’s ever hung out with SCA members or gone to a Ren fest will appreciate this story, about dragons taking over the financial power as brokers and businessmen who come up against an ancient dragon killing sword when Sarah uncovers it while doing props for a movie. They come to destroy it and try and destroy her in the process and Sarah fights back to save her lover and her friends. Great coming of age drama, good humor, and a lot of fun. A great read all around. And book 2 arrived late this year.
10) Pathfinder Tales: Plague Of Shadows by Howard Andrew Jones — Howard Andrew Jones, Managing Editor at Black Gate Magazine and editor of many anthologies of classics from the likes of Harold Lamb, etc. burst onto the scene with two terrific novels this year, Desert of Souls, with Asim and Dabir–follow ups coming in 2012 and beyond– and this Pathfinder Tales D&D tie-in. I’d never read any D&D books before and I imagined silly stops in the action for the characters to roll dice and other game-play nonsense but there’s no such thing. This is good adventure, sword and sorcery fantasy with strong characters, a well thought out world and magic system, and a lot of fun. I had a blast. Made me want to get back into D&D regularly again after twenty years and I’ve read several others since. Good stuff for the fantasy lover in this line.
11) Firebird by Jack McDevitt — The third SF title on my list is part of an ongoing series about the antiquities agent Alex Benedict and his assistant Chase Kolpath as they help wind up the estates of the deceased deep in a distant solar system only to uncover deeper mysteries surrounding the objects and the people themselves. This time reknowned Physicist Christopher Robin has disappeared and left a trail of interstellar yachts flown far outside the planetary system where they too vanished. Following Robin’s trail into the unknown puts Benedict and Kolpath in danger. McDevitt writes like a classic Golden Age writer, which anyone who’s read my posts here knows sold me right away. Just a lot of fun with good SF elements to boost the mystery.
12) The Black Prism by Brent Weeks — Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world, high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. When he discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart. Great magic system. Great characters. Great action. Epic fantasy in a unique setting with lots of tension and excellent pacing. Weeks was new to me but he already has the best selling Night Angel Trilogy and you won’t want to miss this new one either. Book 2 comes in Fall 2012.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.