There are so many characters to choose from in The Last Magician that you cannot help to love or hate. Whether it be Dolph or Esta or Harte or someone else, you really cannot go wrong. However, for me, it was always Viola.
Now I know what you are thinking, Viola is a secondary character in TLM and yes that is true. However, there is so much she says in the time we get to read about her. She communicates just as much as anyone with a look as with words. There always seemed to be more to Viola than we were allowed to see. A bright character just waiting for her moment to shine or kill, whatever may come first.
She can be as deadly with a blade as she can with her affinity or her stare. Trust me this is one woman you seriously do not want to cross. This is a calculating woman. One who feels like she is biding her time before striking at the most opportune moment. When, exactly, will that moment come and who will be her target are the questions?
Today I have the pleasure to introduce to you Sebastien de Castell. Sebastien is the author of the Spellslinger series and The Greatcoats series. His debut novel, Traitor's Blade, was shortlisted for both the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy and the Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats. You can find more information about his series on his website - https://decastell.com/
:Q We have been introduced to a lot of characters, both human and animal. Who was the easiest for you to write? Who was the hardest?
A: Ferius came naturally, not because she’s like me but because she’s this swaggering, enigmatic stranger who comes to turn Kellen’s life upside down, defying any mage she meets even though she’s got no magic of her own and relying on tricks and daring to survive. At the same time, she’s got this deeply conflicted philosophical side which is only slowly revealed throughout the story. With all that going on inside her, I found I always enjoyed writing her scenes.
Nephenia, on the other hand, was so off at first that my editor asked me to remove her from the final scenes. Her reasoning was spot on: Nephenia existed only through Kellen’s eyes and his expectations of her. However I’m obstinate as a writer, so instead of cutting her out I expanded her role in the story and exposed her own arc to the reader. When my editor read the final draft she asked if we could have Nephenia come back later in the series, which opened up a lot of new possibilities that I’ve enjoyed writing.
2. Which character most closely resembles you and why?
None of them, really, because in a way the trio is modelled after Freud’s three aspects of personality (I should note that I’m not a Freudian by any stretch of the imagination, but as a novelist the idea of the ego, superego, and id made for a compelling way to create three separate characters).
Kellen is the ego. He’s us, in a way, our conscious mind trying to make sense of the world and what to do. Ferius is his conscience, forcing him to learn things he’d prefer never to know. Reichis, of course, is the id: take what you want and kill anyone who gets in your way. The characters themselves are vastly more nuanced than that on the page, of course, but I like that symmetry.
3. Gitabria has been my favorite place so far in this series. Is Gitabria based off a location somewhere in the world today or did you create it from scratch?
Gitabria was one of the first settings I ever devised before writing the novel itself. I generally prefer to first write the story and then build the world around it. But with Charmcaster being the third book, I knew we needed something different from the settings we’d seen so far. I’m in a terrific writing group and they helped me brainstorm everything from the contraptions and devices to the massive mercantile bridges and coin magic.
4. If they existed in real life, which character would you invite to dinner? Who would be your best friend? Who would be your arch nemesis?
Ferius Parfax would be an outstanding dinner guest, other than the fact that she’d point out all your hidden bad behaviours. Reichis would be an excellent best friend so long as you didn’t mind him stealing your stuff. As to a nemesis? Well, I modelled Tennat after a kid I knew when I was young who used to bully me despite being smaller than I was. Little bullies – the kind who learn to protect themselves from being bullied by becoming more aggressive and vicious than everyone around them – are the worst. I can’t tell you why, exactly, but there it is.
5. Reichis is a squirrel-cat and Ishak a hyena. What made you choose those specific animals? Did you originally have them as different animals? If so, what did they start out as and how did you settle on a squirrel-cat and hyena?
Here in Vancouver where I live we sometimes have raccoons come visit in our backyard (mostly to steal things and sometimes take a bath in our little fountain and dry themselves off with our cushions.) So in 2011 when I first wrote Spellslinger, Reichis was a raccoon. Then 2014 came along and Guardians of the Galaxy came out and it felt like people reading the book wouldn’t be able to help but imagine Rocket. So my publishers and I went on this long trans-Atlantic process of debating various animals. I pushed for a hare (or jackrabbit as they’re known in North America), because I liked the idea of a rabbit who was convinced he was the apex predator of the animal kingdom. My publishers kind of wanted a wildcat. I suggested a giant flying squirrel, and they still kind of wanted a wildcat. So I went off and wrote a four page biological treatise on the squirrel cat, and everybody was happy. However Reichis’s ability to make his fur change colour comes from the jackrabbit, whose fur changes across seasons as camouflage, so I got my hare in the end. It’s actually been kind of amazing to see the response to Reichis and how quickly squirrel cat seems to be slipping into the lexicon.
As to Ishak, I knew right away that I wanted him to be a kind of hated animal rather than the “cool” ones we see so much in fantasy like foxes or lions or whatever. Nephenia’s changed a great deal when we meet her again in Charmcaster, and Ishak represents part of that change – from someone everyone desires to someone who doesn’t care how she’s perceived. I also liked that the yipping sounds of hyenas are sometimes confused for human laughter, so I gave him the ability to mimic any sound. He and Reichis make an excellent burglary team now.
6. I saw something that showed a new book in the series coming out every 6 months. Have you always had the series set on being 6 books?
I never really look ahead in those terms myself, but it’s a necessity for publishers now. The Greatcoats (my swashbuckling fantasy series) was originally going to be a trilogy simply because that’s what I was familiar with as a reader. However my esteemed publisher Jo Fletcher thought it should be a quartet, so once I started planning out the series in 2012 it was with the four books in mind. The same was true of Spellslinger. My editor felt six books was the right length for the series, and so that’s how I planned it out. Of course, now that the books have done well, there’s talk of what happens after the series is concluded. I have some very cool ideas brewing on that front . . .
7. I can only imagine how busy you must be with deadlines especially with having two books release per year. Are you able to find some time to read for pleasure? What are you currently reading? What is on the top of your To Be Read list?
Two books a year? Hah! Last year I had three books come out and next year will also be three. That means I also have to write an extra book each year so that my agent will have new things to pitch once my current series is concluded, and on top of that my own sanity demands I write a strange and likely unpublishable novel each year. All told I’m usually writing four books a year, only two of which people see.
As to reading, I try to read about twenty-five books a year. The mere fact that I have a number in mind tells you that it’s something I have to very intentionally carve out time to do. Anyone interested can see what I’m reading on Goodreads, though fantasy fans might be disappointed to see all the non-fantasy titles there. I find I draw more inspiration outside of the genre I’m writing in.
Best novel I’ve read this year so far is probably The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – a historical novel about friendship and the fight for one’s identity told across two different wartime eras. Fans of Code Name Verity should give it a try, and anyone who hasn’t read Code Name Verity should go do so now.
Best fantasy I’ve read this year is probably The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I never read urban fantasy fairy tale stuff because it’s just not my thing, but since I was doing an event with Holly in London this year I picked up the book. It’s an absolutely terrific story that I think anyone can enjoy. Dark and daring, with the fantasy always subverted by real human drama, as it should be.
8. I know it is way too early but can you give us a little tease about what to expect from Soulbinder later this year?
Soulbinder takes us on Kellen’s quest to rid himself of the shadowblack, and the discovery that when you’re an outlaw spellslinger there are worse and darker things you can turn into than a demon.
9. Are you working on any other projects that readers should be on the lookout for?
Some big things on the way, but I’m sworn to secrecy right now. I’ll be announcing a new series to my mailing list in the coming month (anyone who wants to can join on my website at www.decastell.com) and then publicly shortly after that.
Thank you very much for your time! We wish you nothing but success going forward. #TeamReichis
Book 3 of the Spellslinger Series has arrived and it is just beautiful to look at. This is book 3 of a
planned 6 book series. The covers of all three hardcover books in the series are fantastic! I know I keep saying it but there are times when I pick a book solely based on the cover. This would easily be one of those times. I do not think I could walk past this in a UK bookstore and have it not catch my eye.
Each book has brought the reader to a new land and I must say I am a huge fan of Gitabria. The
city is depicted in a way that you could easily place yourself on any of their 8 bridges taking part in
whatever each bridge has to offer. Let me tell you right now, each bridge is very different from the
other! I would welcome a trip to the Bridge of Dice in a heartbeat. My wallet might just be a bit lighter
by the time I left this bridge but I can see the appeal. The author has a way of describing each location
so it is extremely easy to picture you are right there along with our main character.
In Charmcaster, Reichis stole the show for me. For those who do not know, Reichis is a thieving
squirrel cat that only Kellen can understand. Kellen and Reichis are “business partners” but their
relationship has evolved as they continue on this journey from one city/town/traveler’s saloon to
another. I would compare Reichis to Mr. Kindly from the Nevernight series. Mr. Kindly does not
threaten to eat humans’ eyeballs or rip off their ears but to me the characters feel like they could be
brothers. Reichis’ lines do contain more than just threats to eat eyes. Each part involving Reichis and
his commentary are pure genius! At the end of the book, I was more adamant about my longing for a
squirrel cat business partner just like Reichis. My rabbit and dog might get a little jealous but Reichis
would be worth it.
Now traveling to new lands means you meet some interesting characters you have not been
privy to yet. There is no way I am going to ruin who you meet in Charmcaster but let me tell you there
are quite a few appearances that shock the reader. There was one character hidden behind a mask that I was able to guess the identities of all other new characters were mostly shocking. You never know who is going to show up at certain times in this series.
Kellen has evolved since book 1, Spellslinger, and it has been a joy to watch the character grow
as he tries to find his place in the world. Walking around with a magical warrant hanging over your head is hard to imagine. You have to constantly be ready to fight for your life every second of every day.
Kellen has had to make one tough decision after another. It has truly been a joy watching him continue to grow. This book was full of surprises. Each reveal seemed bigger than the next. The fast-paced action never seems to stop. It almost felt like each chapter contained extremely difficult, life changing decisions that needed to be made. Ferrius continues to be a guiding light for Kellen. Watching their relationship grow to be more than just teacher/student/friend has been a pleasure as well.
Charmcaster came out back in May of 2018 and the paperback is due out later this year. I have
only found these in UK bookstores. However, they have all been more than worth the shipping price to get them to the states. If you like magic and foul-mouthed, sarcastic animals then this series is definitely for you! I would easily recommend picking up this series now before it gets any further in. A series projection I saw showed there will be a new book in the series every 6 months so we are not far off from book 4, Soulbinder! With titles like Spellslinger, Shadowblack, Charmcaster and now Soulbinder, how could you not know they are going to be great before you even start reading? Add this series to your TBR list and you will not be disappointed.
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Wildcard by Lisa Maxwell as of one of my BEA 2018 pick-ups.
I feel I was in the minority last year when I did not love Warcross. While I thought the book was good, I was able to figure out who Zero was and mostly knew what would happen at the end well before I got there. For me, that took it down quite a bit. Wildcard on the other hand was utterly amazing! What a difference in my opinion from Warcross. There were so many twists and turns and reveals in this book that I am still trying to figure out just how to feel a week or so after finishing it. Get ready to have your heart pulled in multiple directions.
I am trying not to give away too many spoilers here as I do not want to ruin this for you. This book has your favorite characters back in Emika, Hideo and the Phoenix Riders. You are also introduced much more to Zero which was utterly fantastic. In addition, you are blessed with some other major characters who you will love and hate. I am not going to give away who the new characters are but it is safe to say that no one is who you initially think they are.
This is going to be a bit short because I do not want to ruin this and I am not sure how to fully review it without doing so. I will just say that the ending to Wildcard is fantastic!! I have often said that I feel it is sometimes hard to write a good ending. I imagine it is also difficult to provide enough shock in the big reveals that a reader has to take a step back and say “Whoa”. Wildcard provides both. It gives an ending that I did not see coming. It had enough twists and shock value at each reveal to make me pause for a moment just to soak it all in. Lastly, it has the greatness that only Marie Lu can provide to you. As much as I loved other books this year, this should easily be moved to the top of your TBR list and should be on the top of your pre-order list. There is way too much to love here not to take some time and give this a read.
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell as one of my BEA 2018 pick-ups. I started the line and refused to move for almost 40 minutes to ensure I got a copy of a book I was extremely happy to find out would be given away there. I mean seriously, just look at this cover again. After I thought the cover for The Last Magician was amazing, this outdoes it and takes a cover to an entirely new level. If you are sometimes like me and occasionally pick up books based on covers solely alone, then this has to be one of your 2018 pre-orders. Trust me you do not want to miss out on this epic and long second book in the series.
Since I receive an ARC I want to be sure not to give too much away to spoil things plus things can change when it comes time for the final copies to be printed. I will do my best to sell you on book two of this series, as it was truly epic.
Now we all know we were transported back to 1900s New York in The Last Magician. The beauty of The Devil’s Thief is while you are once again taken into the past, you are now taken into different cities, in different years! If that was not enough, you also get different character POVs! I mean seriously, some of the “secondary” characters from Book 1 wholeheartedly deserved chapters dedicated to them and in The Devil’s Thief you get just that. Now, I will not say exactly what characters get their own chapters but I can confirm that Viola is one of them. Since a snippet of a chapter from Viola’s POV has been released on https://www.thelastmagician.com/ I feel I am not really spoiling anything for anyone by repeating it here.
Part of what made this book special was truly feeling like you have actually been transported in time and place to the locations in the book. Lisa Maxwell does an amazing job of making you feel as if you are right in the middle of everything with vivid descriptions of characters and places. At times it felt as if I was no longer on a train to work in 2018 New York but rather in another location in a different century entirely!
Of course, our favorite characters are back in Esta and Harte, both of whom are again the main characters of this story. Have they finally learned to work together or are they still working “against” each other in book 2? Is Esta still reeling from all of the revelations we learned about in book 1 or has she comes to grips with everything life has thrown at her in a short time? Who will win in the end? This took a bit to read but trust me it is well worth your time. Add this book to your pre-order list for 2018 and you will not be sorry when it does release later this year.
posted by: Frank Miceli Jr
Let me start out by saying I am a big Jay Kristoff fan. The Illuminae files, co-written with Amie Kaufman, and the Nevernight series are utterly fantastic. Needless to say I had very high expectations for this book. Lifel1k3 starts out with a smash, progresses quickly and the twists just keep on coming. Then you have that ending which is just utter perfection in my opinion! I honestly cannot wait for the next installment because I am very curious to see where the story goes from here.
In Lifel1k3 you are presented with a post-apocalyptic world far in the future. I mean we are literally in the land where robots were created with the 3 Laws instilled and you have an honest to goodness I Robot flashback for a little while. Especially during that opening scene in the book in the WarDome. No, I will not go further into it to avoid spoilers but this book definitely starts out with a bang!
As far as back story goes, Mr. Kristoff does a great job of filling in the details of the main characters and the state of the world slowly. There are intersperses of a past event that one of the main characters cannot fully remember at the beginning of the story. This major event is filled in piecemeal and each time you get just a taste for it you are left wanting more. You want to know what happened on that fateful day and what events preceded it so badly. Trying to piece this puzzle together was part of what kept me going through this book so fast. The other part was that it was so damn enjoyable especially with the many twists and turns Mr. Kristoff throws in there.
Character-wise, your heart goes out for some of them. Just when you want to start hating someone or loving someone watch out! They might just turn out to be someone that is completely the opposite of what you thought they would be.
While not as adult themed as the Nevernight series and not yet as bloody as the Illuminae Files, you should know that not everyone you meet is going to survive this story. Whether they die in book 1, 2 or 3, you just know you are going to lose some characters along the way. Who makes it out alive to appear in future books? What twists has Mr. Kristoff found to keep on us our toes this time? Pick this up and be ready to have your heartstrings tugged and your mind blown!
posted by: Frank Miceli Jr.
I received a final copy of Hiding by Henry Turner in exchange for an honest review.
From the get go I was grabbed by this book. It is written in the first person perspective of a teenage boy who has spent his entire life “Hiding”. The real beauty of this book is the way it is narrated. I really felt as if I was sitting in front of the main character talking to him. The entire time it was just as if we were having a conversation one on one and he was telling me his story. Now his story involves doing something very, very stupid as most teenage boys tend to do. It is also easy to see that this boy is troubled right from the start.
I said above how this main character spent his life “Hiding” and it may beg the question, what exactly do you mean by “Hiding”. I would encourage you to read the book to find out as the only real way to understand what this term means is to have the main character explain it to you in his own words. It is something the author does an extremely good job of describing, painting a picture that is easy for the reader to visualize.
The real genius of this book is how it speaks to you. You might think a book narrated in the voice of a troubled teenage boy might not be good, but it brought out some very interesting questions as I was reading it. How many of us go through life “Hiding” in our own ways? How many of us fall into social norms? Or let the situation we are born into or our parents’ way of life define us before we really get a choice to choose for ourselves? How many of us do not give those who could be the most important people in our lives the right amount of attention? Who really understands what is going on in someone else’s head at any point in time?
I found myself thinking a lot about my own life and how I would answer some of these questions. It made me love the main character even more despite the stupid act he commits which makes you want to think otherwise about him.
There is a very, very good twist at the end which I did not see coming. The last few chapters were some of the best of the book. I tend to believe that it must be incredibly difficult to find a way to end a book. A book in a sense is like a painting. You are never truly done, you just decide to stop painting. Or in this case, writing. However, the ending was absolutely perfect in my opinion! I finished this in two days and did not want to put it down. It was a quick read, but well worth it.
Sometimes I get very lucky in life. One such instance was being given a review copy of Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller. While this book was initially not on my radar, I thank the person who gave a copy away because I could not put it down once I started.
For starters, you have a post climate collapsed world that has a structural marvel, the city of Qaanaaq. Qaanaaq is a floating city controlled by shadowy “shareholders” and in part by an artificial intelligence. It really is something to behold. At times I felt like I was in Qaanaaq. The world building was exquisite to say the least.
However, no one said living in the city was great for everyone. You still have your elite and your poor. Being transported from one section of the city to another as you share different characters’ POVs was something else. It was easy to see and feel just how different life was for certain sects of people. You could not help but feel for those living in the dregs of this society despite the fact that it is an upgrade from the way some homeless people currently live in NYC for example. Add in that space is at a premium in the floating city and mix in a deadly disease known as the “breaks” and you have a city that is on the cusp of revolution.
Just when you think you might have seen it all as a citizen in Qaanaaq, one day a woman arrives in the city riding an orca with a caged polar bear. To say the least this woman surely knew how to make an entrance as everyone quickly heard about the arrival of the orcamancer. What no one knows is why this woman is truly here however. This orcamancer is one badass grandma! Only the orcamancer knows why she is in Qaanaaq and needless to say something bad is bound to happen to those who deserve it.
The story is told through difference characters POVs. Ankit works for a politician on the verge of losing an election and longs to see her mother freed from the "Cabinet". Kaev is a fighter at the end of his career working for one of the city’s many crime bosses. Fill is a rich gay playboy looking for purpose in life. Last but not least you have my favorite character in Soq. Soq is a slide messenger who has an impossible to typify gender and generally wants to see Qaanaaq destroyed. While all of the main characters seem disconnected, events unfold to bring these characters together and show them they are all more closely related than they ever knew.
So many secrets unfold as the story continues to be told. Secrets that were meant to be hidden away forever are brought to light. A daring prison break, reuniting of families, old lovers working together and a father finding a child he never knew he had are all waiting for you throughout this story. This is one that you will not be sorry you took the time to read and one I bet you hate to put down even to sleep.
Posted By: Frank Miceli
Thunderhead by Neil Schusterman
Book #2 in the Arc of a Scythe Series
Right off the bat we know we are in for a treat just by looking at that phenomenal cover. You can see how the cover depicts two Scythes, our two main characters to be exact. Yes, Rowan and Citra are back to shake things up in the Scythedom.
In the first book, you are given a chance to see Rowan and Citra mature from kids into adults as they fought for a job neither wanted to begin with, to become a Scythe. While each chapter in Sycthe had excerpts from Sycthe's journals as an interlude, this time around we are given interludes that contain thoughts from the Thunderhead itself. It was such a great idea and I can only imagine just how difficult it was to write these while sounding like an all-powerful, dare I say "god-like", machine responsible for keeping all of the world alive outside of gleanings. The author pulled this off unbelievably! Each interlude gave you an introduction to the Thunderhead on a personal level, learning what it thinks and what it even feels.
Boy oh boy were there some very, very big twists and secrets in Thunderhead. The Scythedom is in trouble. Not only does it appear to be crumbling from the inside as different sections of Scythes vie for power but there is a Scythe "Lucifer" on the loose who seems to be gleaning and burning Scythes who have strayed. With all of the political angles at play now you throw in Scythe Lucifer and a new main character with whom we can root for, this book nails it on all fronts.
There was even a very nice surprise waiting at the end of the book. The author goes Chapter by Chapter and gives you a short snippet of what he was thinking when he was putting each chapter together. To get a bit of insight like that is always interesting. It was in a sense an interview that everyone gets to enjoy before saying goodbye to the series for now.
If you liked Scythe you are sure to like Thunderhead as well! This was one of those books I was able to fly through because it was so good but also be disappointed that you finished reading it so quickly.
Posted by: Frank Miceli
The New World by Scott K. Andrews
Book 3 in The Time Bomb Series
For those of you who take the time to read the reviews and follow my twitter account, @addicted2fantac, you will know that I have been a champion for this trilogy from the start. The premise of time travel is intriguing to say the very least. Compare that with three main characters being brought together from three wildly different time periods who must outwit an unknown foe from the future and you had a series that could be fantastic. Let me tell you here and now – the third book in this trilogy fully delivers on all fronts.
In the first two books you receive a look at each main character and their family, spend time in their own time period and get to know each on a personal level. You are allowed to see who each character is and why in a deep way. This is not something you are always afforded in a trilogy. However here it made each character’s growth throughout the series even more impressive.
What never failed was the world building the author was able to provide in each book. Whether it be in the past, near present or future, you were able to be immersed in worlds that felt real. The future was not some far-fetched idea that could not be envisioned. It was sadly a reality which could completely become plausible even if you discount the fact that one day time travel is possible for a select few individuals.
The one thing the first two books offered was, to me, a simple way of understanding some of the science behind time travel. Science and I have never gotten along so for someone to come along and present ideas in a way that I was able to understand them and not have it take away from the story was important. In the final installment there is a bit more of the technical presented and while it made me read a bit slower, it was still not something that was so over the top I was not able to follow along. This was key in that it needed to be done to keep the story intact and for the reader to completely understand one of the back stories in play while not being so complicated that it felt like reading a textbook.
While I will not ruin the end one thing I truly enjoyed was how this was all wrapped up. There are times where I find the way books or movies end is just not satisfying. I have no idea just how hard it is for an author to write a trilogy, let alone find an ending that fits while having to say goodbye to characters that they have created and been with for what I am sure is years. As readers we sometimes forget all the work that goes into these creations of art. However, this series ended absolutely perfectly! Everything was revealed in a way that made sense without taking forever to arrive at the conclusion. There was absolutely no better way I could have imagined this series ending!
Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of each book in the series if you have not already. Whether on e-book or in paperback, you will not be disappointed in your investment.
"I know my opinions will not always align with everyone else’s. I hope this blog serves as a way to introduce others to books they would otherwise not have read." - Frank Miceli Jr.
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