swan_tower: (Default)

Quoting just the key bits:

Brennan explores the power of memory, self-realization, and destiny in this mix of survival story and self-discovery tale. […] Brennan delights readers with this exciting, fast-paced start to a fantasy novella series.

Cold-Forged Flame will be out on September 13th. (As will the UK edition of A Star Shall Fall, as it happens.) I can’t wait!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Every so often a review for one of my books pops up in a foreign language. Of course, being a nosy author, I want to know what it says — so if it isn’t in a language I read fluently*, I hop over to Google Translate and pop in the address to get a look at it.

Of course machine translation isn’t great. </Scandianvian> Despite our best efforts to date, “vaguely comprehensible” is often the best we can do, because it turns out that language comprehension depends heavily on a million contextual cues that are really difficult to program for. But for my purposes that’s fine; mostly all I want to know is whether they liked the book or not. What amuses me, though, is the unexpected gender-queerness that sometimes greets me as I read.

“Isabella begins his life as a young wife”

Not every language handles personal pronouns the way English does. A lot of them (Spanish, for example) don’t always differentiate gender in the third person singular; the possessive in particular is often gender-neutral. So Google Translate, missing the contextual cues, proudly declares that Isabella is a man, railing against the restrictions he suffers as a woman. Or sometimes she’s a neuter “it” instead. Meanwhile, in other languages, all kinds of things that would be “it” in English frolick along as boys and girls, because their pronouns are gendered in the language of the review.

So for all the (many, many) flaws of machine translation . . . sometimes it amuses me. *^_^*

.

*Which is pretty much just English. Neither my Spanish nor my Japanese is good enough for me to really feel like wading through the hard way, especially when I’m pretty sure even machine translation does a better job of it than I will.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Review copy provided by the publisher.

I read the first book in this series last year, and quite enjoyed it. There’s a dearth of secondary-world YA fantasy out there right now, and I always like a good Ruritanian setting, where there’s interesting worldbuilding but no overt magic. And I very much appreciate a romance where, although it’s a strong element of the plot, it isn’t the driving force; there are things in the world the protagonists care about as much as — possibly more than — each other.

In this case, what they care about is politics. Kestrel is the daughter of a prestigious Valorian general, who grew up in the occupied country of Herran. Arin is a young Herrani man, raised in slavery, and up to his eyeballs in a conspiracy to rebel against Valorian rule. I don’t want to spoil The Winner’s Curse, but I will say the political situation there changes pretty radically at end of the book, in ways that leave both characters in even more precarious positions than they were before — which is saying quite a bit.

This book involves them teetering in those precarious positions. Kestrel is definitely the worse off for most of the book; she’s stuck in a Valorian snake pit, politically speaking, with very few resources she can rely on. As somebody who likes a tasty bit of intrigue, I quite enjoyed that. I think I would have liked to see Arin grappling more with his own responsibilities, but I recognize that under the circumstances, that would have meant running him and Kestrel in separate plot strands, without the two of them interacting much at all. The necessity of keeping the leads something like together means that Arin has less traction initially; his big difficulties don’t come until later, when his plot goes off separately from Kestrel. As such, his part of the story doesn’t carry quite the same weight as hers does.

Unsurprisingly, this feels very much like a middle volume. Matters changed drastically at the end of the last book; at the end of this one, it’s more that you can see the buckets of fecal matter lined up in front of the fan, ready to be flung in the third and last volume. But it doesn’t feel predictable: I know something will blow up, and I can see certain aspects of how, but I don’t know what the ultimate fallout will be.

This is because Rutkoski has done a good job so far of creating problems with no easy solutions. Even if you could kick Valoria out of Herran and be sure they would never retaliate or come back . . . Herran’s in a mess, and will take generations to fully rebuild. And that only fixes Herran, not the rest of the continent that Valoria is trying to conquer. Overthrow the empire? Maybe — but how are you going to manage that? And what kind of terrible hardships will that create for the ordinary Valorian citizens, who are not to blame for the imperialistic tendencies of their leaders?

Nowhere is this ambiguity more clear than in Kestrel and Arin’s relationship. Fundamentally, they have both done things the other would — and should — disapprove of. They’ve had to make political choices in situations where there’s no good choice, just “what will cause the fewest people to die?” When they have failures to communicate, I tolerate it much better than usual, because storming off without listening to somebody’s explanation is more understandable when the thing they’re trying to explain is why they caused a massive famine. I’m still left with the questions I had at the end of the first book, which are: does Rutkoski intend the two of them to live happily ever after? And if so, how the hell are they going to manage that?

It does feel a bit weaker to me than the first book, I think because there’s a stretch of it where Arin has very little to do. Had his interactions with Kestrel been tightened up, and the extra space used to develop another sub-plot for him, the book as a whole would have hit more strongly than it did. As it stands, though, it’s still enjoyable, and much more ethically complex than YA usually gets credit for. I’m very much looking forward to the third volume.

The Winner’s Crime is on sale as of <checks watch> yesterday. (I should have posted this sooner, but got hammered down by a sudden cold.) Many thanks to the publisher for providing the review copy.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

A number of these things have been piling up:

  • “Daughter of Necessity” is live at Tor.com today! Some of you heard me read this at FOGcon this past spring; well, now it’s out in the world. With fabulous art by Ashley MacKenzie — seriously, it is gorgeous and amazingly appropriate to the story and not a spoiler. Which is a remarkable balance to strike.
  • I just got my contributor copies for Zombies: More Recent Dead, which includes a reprint of “What Still Abides.” (Shhhh, don’t tell Paula Guran that I used to refer to that as my Anglo-Saxon vampire story. It’s as much a zombie story as it is a vampire story, which is to say it isn’t really either, but you can read it both ways depending on the angle you tilt your head at.)
  • The anthology made from the first four issues of Mythic Delirium‘s online reboot won’t be out until November, but it’s gotten a starred review from Publishers Weekly, with a specific shout-out to my story “The Wives of Paris.”

(Now I feel like there ought to be five things. But at the rate I do (or don’t do) short fiction-related stuff these days, that would mean delaying even longer, which is silly.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Things I’ve been saying in different places ’round the interwebz . . . .

“Seeing the Invisible” — this month’s post at SFNovelists is a review of Invisible, the ebook collection Jim Hines put together of guest posts and additional essays on the topic of representation. Proceeds from sales go to charity.

“The Gospel of Combat” — an excerpt from Writing Fight Scenes, which will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog. You can comment there for a chance to get a free copy of the ebook, though!

Interview at My Bookish Ways — in which I talk about a variety of things.

“The Dreaded Label ‘Mary Sue’” — guest post at Far Beyond Reality, talking about female characters who don’t apologize for their awesomeness.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: from the cover art for my novel The Tropic of Serpents (Tropic of Serpents)

1) The funny thing about having a release date early in the month is that it sneaks up on you. After all, we’re still in February. That means The Tropic of Serpents won’t be out for a while yet, right? Wrong — it’s out next Tuesday, i.e. March 4th. (For those of you in the U.S. and Canada, at least. UK folks, your street date is the 20th of June. After that, Tor and Titan should be publishing more or less simultaneously, so you won’t have the added wait.)

Kirkus, by the way, not only gave Tropic a starred review; they listed it as one of their Best Bets for March. They even used the cover art as the top image for the post, which is yet another sign that Todd Lockwood and Irene Gallo are awesome.

2) If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll have a chance to hear me read from The Tropic of Serpents at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 9th, at Borderlands Books. It’s my intent to also publicly announce the title for the third book there, as an added treat for my hometown peeps. ;-)

3) Also for Bay Area types, I’m going to be at FOGcon weekend after next. I unfortunately had to back out of one of my panels because of a karate belt test on Friday night, but I’ll still be doing several things that weekend:

  • Friday, 3-4:15 p.m. Narnia, Hogwarts, and Oz, Oh My!

    What are our favorite secret worlds? What do we love about them? Why is a secret world so useful for storytelling? What can we learn from the ways used to access these places? What about worlds which exclude some people from accessing them, such as adults or non-magical people–are these worlds problematic or necessary? Or somewhere between the two?

    M: Tim Susman. Marie Brennan, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Naamen Gobert Tilahun
  • Saturday, 10:30-11:45 Secret History and Alternate History; their similarities, differences, and how to write them

    Tim Powers, in books like Declare and The Drawing of the Dark, has brought us into the realm of secret history — the events that really took place around known historical facts. Harry Turtledove, Philip K. Dick, and many others have brought us into the realm of alternate history — the what-if-things-had-been-different. (Indeed, one could argue that Mary Gentle’s Ash is secret alternate history!) What about these works fascinates us, and how do we put them together?

    M: Bradford Lyau. Marie Brennan, Tim Powers, Tim Susman
  • Saturday, 4:30-5:45 Reading

    Marie Brennan, Alyc Helms, Michael R. Underwood

4) In non-Tropic-related news, I participated in the Book of Apex blog tour over at Books Without Any Pictures. There’s a review of my story “Waiting for Beauty,” a brief interview, and a guest post wherein I talk about how writing historical fiction helped me become better at worldbuilding in general.

5) And Now For Something Completely Different: I really love both of these art sets, one of Disney princess in historically accurate costumes (the last image is the best!), and one of celebrities cosplaying as Disney characters.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)

The Kirkus review is online now. I expect some portion of this is going to end up on a book cover eventually:

This, the second of Isabella’s retrospective memoirs, is as uncompromisingly honest and forthright as the first, narrated in Brennan’s usual crisp, vivid style, with a heroine at once admirable, formidable and captivating. Reader, lose no time in making Isabella’s acquaintance.

(Though my actual favorite part of it is the bit where they say “And during her adventures in the Green Hell—the book’s finest section—Isabella will find sociology as important as natural history…” Because yes: the anthropological side of things is indeed just as important as the biological side. Dragons cannot be separated from the way human beings view and interact with them.)

Two shiny bits of news regarding A Natural History of Dragons, to go along with the run-up to Serpents: it’s made both Booklist‘s Notable Books Reading List, and the American Library Association’s 2014 Reading List (via their Reference and User Services Association arm). I’m in company with V.E. Schwab’s Vicious in both those places, which makes me think I really ought to check that one out.

Also, this slipped out during the holiday season, and I only just noticed it now: the audiobook of Deeds of Men is on sale. (I’ve gone from no audiobooks to three of ‘em in the space of a few months. Heh.)

I think that’s it for now . . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

It’s four weeks and counting until the street date for The Tropic of Serpents. The talk is starting . . . .

1) Excerpt from the book on Tor.com

2) Liz Bourke’s review on Tor.com (which I believe wins the prize for being first out of the gate)

3) Publishers Weekly liked it

4) So did Kirkus, but I don’t think that one will go live for a few days. (Holy crap, that’s three books in a row of mine that they’ve liked. I think it may be a miracle.)

5) Brief interview with the UK site Female First, on A Natural History of Dragons

6) I’ve sent pronunciations to the narrator for the audiobook of TToS. I’m delighted to say that Kate Reading is continuing with the series, and this one will be out a lot closer to the print date than the last one was.

7) Speaking of the UK, it occurs to me that ANHoD will be out there very soon! I actually don’t know the precise street date, but I think it’s in the next two weeks. (Again, #2 should follow in quicker succession, I think.)

I think that’s all for now. But as we get closer to the street date, things will be picking up rather rapidly, I imagine!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)
I've been scarce around here because I'm head-down in the third book of the Memoirs, but I do feel compelled to brag a little bit more. :-)

The big thing is the Sword and Laser podcast (also posted here), which gives a brief but glowing review of A Natural History of Dragons. Why is this a big thing? Well, apart from the fact that they'll be interviewing me soon, check out the URL on that first link. They're partnered with BoingBoing, which means that for a little while yesterday, their review was posted on the front page of BoingBoing.

I don't know what that did to my sales, but I bet it was pretty good. ^_^

And then you've got Mary Robinette Kowal saying exceedingly nice things over on Book Smugglers, and Liz Bourke singled it out as one of her favorite books of the year, and so did Juliet Kincaid, and y'all, this is so totally the best thing I could have when we're nine days from the solstice and I'm in the Middle of the Book and everything is conspiring to make me have no energy and just want to sleeeeeeeeep. (Well, that and caffeine. Of which I have some in the fridge.)

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go chop a character's hand off.

(No, I'm not telling you whose.)
swan_tower: (natural history)
A number of you probably know about this by now, but: NPR has included A Natural History of Dragons in their Best of Year . . . Venn diagaram . . . Oort cloud . . . not-actually-a-list . . . thingy.

Basically, although it looks like a list, what they've done is go the tag route. That's the "science fiction and fantasy" tag, but if you click on ANHoD there, you'll find it's also tagged "love stories," "for history lovers," and "it's all geek to me." (You can also read Annalee Newitz' recommendation.) Anyway, this is pretty awesome -- like, "it has apparently had a measurable effect on sales" levels of awesome.

Plus there's also this: A Natural History of Dragons was picked as one of the top 15 books of the year by Slate.com's book editor Dan Kois. Put that together with the Goodreads semifinalist thing, and the fact that there are still new reviews coming in at a steady pace, and, well, see the title of the post. Quite chuffed. Quite, quite chuffed. It's good encouragement to have as I tackle the dreaded Middle of the Book for #3.
swan_tower: (natural history)
I meant to include this with my birthday post, since I have a long-standing tradition that I'm allowed to be unreservedly egotistical on my birthday. :-) The day before, Annalee Newitz posted this faboo review of A Natural History of Dragons on io9 -- which, given the magnitude of that site's readership, is quite a shiny thing to receive.

It will motivate me to crawl through the salt mines of page-proofing The Tropic of Serpents. :-)
swan_tower: (natural history)
Okay, this is really nifty. The blog Paper/Plates bills itself as "exploring the world through food and literature" . . . and someone there just posted a review of A Natural History of Dragons, followed by a recipe for a vegan alfredo sauce inspired by the book. (On the grounds that Isabella's lifestyle does not fit her culture's expectations.)

I think fanworks in general are cool, but I never thought anybody would make a pasta sauce for one of my books!
swan_tower: (natural history)
As with the Kirkus review I mentioned before, I can't quote the whole Publishers Weekly review at you, and it's behind a paywall. But I can give you a snippet:
Brennan’s stand-alone novel [...], written as Isabella’s memoir of her youthful adventures, and beautifully illustrated by Todd Lockwood, is saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity. [...] Brennan’s world-building is wonderfully subtle, rendering a familiar land alien with casual details.

They pick up on several of the little things I am doing with the setting, which makes me bounce in my chair. Oh, and did I mention it's a starred review?

Also, Nadine at Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Reviews praises the book for "Whimsical language, funny remarks by the narrator, and a love for science and dragons that touches the reader as much as the heroine," and also loves Todd Lockwood's art. I have to say, getting him to do the illustrations might just be one of the best things that has happened to a book of mine in, um, ever. ^_^

I suspect the trickle of reviews will start to ramp up pretty quickly in the next month. Also, I am going to be freaking everywhere on the internet in February and March; there's a blog tour scheduled that will have my typing the tips of my fingers off (right while I'm finishing the second book -- not good planning on my part). I'll try to keep the links collected so this doesn't turn into me spamming LJ with "pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!"

In the meantime, I'm off to write the bit of the novel that I have dubbed "Amateur Therapy Hour." I think this might be meaner to my characters than any of the diseases I've inflicted on them . . . .
swan_tower: (natural history)
Tor.com has posted an excerpt from A Natural History of Dragon.

It consists of Isabella's foreword and (if you click through to the second page) a bit of her early life, including the episode termed "an unfortunate incident with a dove." Also, one of Todd Lockwood's pieces of interior art for the book!

No, this doesn't bring the release date any closer (it's still February) . . . but it'll give you something to nibble on until then. :-)

Also -- and I could have sworn I posted about this before, but I've looked and can't find it -- A Natural History of Dragons is available through Netgalley at this point. So if you're a reviewer set up with them, you can get your hands on the book now. One of life's little perks . . . .
swan_tower: (*writing)
I am not, unfortunately, allowed to quote the whole Kirkus review for A Natural History of Dragons yet; they paywall it until two weeks before the book's pub date. I can, however, share this line: "Told in the style of a Victorian memoir, courageous, intelligent and determined Isabella’s account is colorful, vigorous and absorbing." And they really liked the whole memoir-style-pov thing. (Which is good, because it's one of my favorite things about writing this series.)

There's also a new review of With Fate Conspire, this one by George Straatman: "As has been the case with its three predecessors, With Fate Conspire is masterful in its depiction of life in London during the era depicted…both from a cultural perspective and from a geographic perspective, Marie paints a precise portrait of what it was like to live in the city during this tumultuous era."

And finally, a review for Lies and Prophecy, over at The Jeep Diva: "Ms. Brennan does a magnificent job of taking fantasy and weaving it throughout a story of typical college students, trying to find themselves not only in their pursuits of education, but in their personal lives as well."

Since three things only make three-fifths of a post, I will close out the remaining two fifths with something I've been forgetting to link to: my latest BVC entries. I diverted briefly from my discussion of folktale-like fantasy to lay out what tale types are (a subject on which I will have more to say later), and then came back to the point to talk about the grammar of a folktale plot. (Or, to put those posts in jargon shorthand: Aarne-Thompson-Uther, and then Propp. Next up: Luthi! Which reminds me, I need to write that post.)
swan_tower: (web)
1) As a reminder, the book sale will be running until next Thursday morning. I should mention that my goal is to downsize my stock until it actually fits once more in the official Box of Author Copies. And, um. We're not there yet. <gives stacks of books the side-eye>

2) Pati Nagle is donating $2 per sale from her book Dead Man's Hand to the Food Bank of South Jersey for the remainder of this month.

3) On a different charitable front, the Strange Horizons fund drive is in its last few days. All donors get entered into a draw for these prizes, which include a full-color ARC of A Natural History of Dragons.

4) Speaking of ANHoD, [livejournal.com profile] mrissa has a lovely advance review of it up on her blog. (I think this is perhaps slightly less of a tailored-for-mrissas book than A Star Shall Fall was, but apparently not by much.) Also, a review of Lies and Prophecy, which I've been meaning to link to for a while.

5) Finally, I'm blogging at BVC again today, on what makes a folktale. Go there to guess what makes some fantasy seem fairy-tale-like, even when it isn't actually retelling a fairy tale.
swan_tower: (Maleficent)
On a more cheerful note: today is the release date for Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear ([livejournal.com profile] matociquala).

She had me at "Central Asian epic fantasy." I have been eagerly awaiting this book since I first saw her mentioning it on LJ, oh, more than a year ago -- maybe two. THERE IS A SHORTAGE OF MONGOLIAN FANTASY IN THE WORLD, Y'ALL. Fortunately, this is the first book in a series, and so that means the lack is being addressed, at least in small part.

The most succinct thing I can say about this book is that it's rich, to a degree I haven't seen in . . . ever? Rich in culture, rich in fantasy, rich in politics. I don't know enough about the Mongols to tell where Bear diverges from their real society into her own invention, but her Qersnyk tribesmen are not Standard Fantasy Nomads, and the care and detail devoted to the horses in the story is both beautiful and necessary. Without that, I wouldn't believe in the culture. The political complexity laid out in this first book bears no resemblance to the "good guys vs. black-armored masses" dichotomy of older epic fantasy, and promises to bear interesting fruit as the story goes along. And then there are the touches that are just pure wonder: the sky above your head depends on who controls the territory you're in, and in Qersnyk lands, there is a moon in the sky for each member of the ruling family. Temur, the Qersnyk protagonist, looks up each night to see which of his cousins are still alive.

This is very much the first book in a series. The necessity of setting things up means the story is less plotty than I was expecting; Bear can't just wave vaguely in the direction of the usual epic fantasy tropes, but has to spend time developing her world and the societies Temur and Samarkar (a female wizard from Tsarepheth, and the other main protagonist) come from. There's a lot of foundation-laying going on, and the climax of this book doesn't particularly wrap anything up, even in the short term. (There is no blowing up of the Death Star 1.0 here.) But the richness is pretty entrancing all on its own, and I'm very eager to see what grows out of it in the later books.

(And I want to see more of Bansh. Because Temur's horse is the best horse ever.)

As I said, this is the release date -- yeah, I got an advance review copy; envy me! -- so hie thee to a bookstore and see if they have it in. Between the familiarly Europeanish tone of most epic fantasy and the real-world setting of urban fantasy, the difference of Bear's world is like a breath of fresh (and magical) air.
swan_tower: (With Fate Conspire)
Three recent reviews of With Fate Conspire:
Chris at The King of Elfland's Second Cousin has some very interesting things to say about the structure of the book.

Julia at All Things Urban Fantasy liked it enough to run out and buy the rest of the series, which is always encouraging. :-)

And a snippet from Faren Miller at Locus: "For more tales of a London based on history as well as sheer invention, try With Fate Conspire and its predecessors. Instead of the old-style fantasy of quests through green fields and dark domains, Brennan makes the most of one extraordinary city."


Also, BCS has released The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Two, which includes my Driftwood story "Remembering Light." You can download it in your choice of ebook format, from a whole variety of sources.

And it isn't available yet, but you can preorder the Intergalactic Awards Anthology, Vol. 1, which includes another Driftwood story, "A Heretic by Degrees." That one's print, and will ship in mid-December.
swan_tower: (With Fate Conspire)
The Library Journal's opinion of With Fate Conspire:
Brennan's characters breathe life into a landscape rich in detail and vibrant with imagination. This title should please fans of Mercedes Lackey's "Elemental Masters" series and Elizabeth Bear's "Promethean Age" series.


And if you're a Goodreads user, you can enter a giveaway there to win one of ten copies of A Star Shall Fall. It ends on the 22nd, so don't forget!
swan_tower: (With Fate Conspire)
Two more reviews came in recently:

Sophie Playle at Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders says, "It captures the dualistic spirit of Victorian London and creates an alternative fantastical history that the reader grows to care about just as much, if not more, than the real world it shadows. The rounded characters and intricate plot create an absorbing story."

Steve at Elitist Book Reviews says, "I love how believable her characters are. Everything in this setting is bleak, yet the characters never truly give up hope. They will go to any length to meet their diverse goals."

And I also did an interview on Rachel Ann Hanley's blog, about a whole variety of topics.

Enjoy your weekend!

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