“Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text” by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2015)


In 1997 Neil Gaiman published his first novel, Neverwhere, and to many fans (including me) it’s his very best. Now fans get something a little extra with a special edition of Neverwhere known as the “author’s preferred text.” In the introduction, Gaiman talks about the various versions that have been available over the years and that this one is his definitive, preferred text, featuring some extra details and scenes that make the story fuller and more complete.

This is the story of Richard Mayhew, who is an average London businessman, engaged to a woman he thinks is way out of his league, and has always kind of had trouble fitting in. Then one day a woman appears out of nowhere on the sidewalk seriously hurt. Richard brings her home and tends to her. As she is recovering he meets two very interesting people, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who are looking for a woman named Door. As the woman recovers to a sufficient degree, Richard learns that she is in fact Door, and then she is on her way, out of his life with barely a thank you.

As Richard steps back into his normal world he finds he is no longer part of it. Friends and family no longer recognize or even see him for that matter. It appears he doesn’t even exist to people in the real world. The only thing he can think to do is track down Door and find out what is exactly going on. And so begins Richard’s adventure in to the alternate world of London below. Along the way he will meet many strange and unusual people, some that wish to friend him, and some that wish him harm. All he wants is to get back to his old, boring, normal life.

Neverwhere is the perfect example of what Neil Gaiman’s mind can create. It is a story that sucks in the reader and never lets them go. In this special edition there is also an extra short story set in the same world, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back,” as well as some hints from Gaiman that he hopes to one day soon return to this world and write more in it.

Originally written on December 31, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Children of Earth and Sky” by Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL, 2016)


Bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay’s previous two books were fantasy-tinged sweeping works of historical fiction set within the Tang dynasty of 8th century China. In his latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky, he returns to his alternate quasi-medieval Europe that readers have come to know in his Sarantine Mosaic duology and The Lions of Al-Rassan.

Kay throws the reader right into the story by introducing them to the main characters as seen through their eyes. There is Marin Djivo, a merchant in an important family; Lenora Valeri, a disgraced woman who had a child out of wedlock is now a spy; Pero Villani, a talented painter who is being sent to do a portrait of the great Khalif and possibly assassinate him. They are traveling on Marin’s vessel with goods he is bringing to Dubnrovnik to trade. On the way they run into a marauding ship of pirates who attack them. The doctor who is Lenora’s fake husband is killed, but the young pirate Danica Gradek volunteers to go with them to atone for the blatant murdering of the doctor by one of the pirates who Danica promptly killed; she can now never return to her home without fear of being attacked by the family of the pirate killed.

And so begins this traveling tale that has a feel of the Canterbury Tales, as the characters meet and interact with other characters, sometimes working together, sometimes going it alone. This is a story about dipping in and out of these people’s lives. There are deaths. There are rejoices. There is suffering. There is laughter. There is sex. Children of Earth and Sky is a living tale of Kay’s invented world as he brings his characters and stories to the reader’s eye and passes it into the reader’s mind in his own unique style. Guy Gavriel Kay’s work can never be called nor considered a fast read, but is itself a long and, at times, hard journey that by the end is so worthwhile and rewarding.

Originally written on May 14, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Children of Earth and Sky from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)


Charlie Jane Anders is someone who has been very much a mainstay of the science fiction and fantasy world, is a co-editor of the science fiction blog iO9, and Emcees a monthly reading series Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. So it’s not surprising that she should write an interesting novel the blends the worlds of fantasy and science fiction in a delicious way.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are an unusual couple of kids who never really fit in with school and life and form a union because of this. But they are of different worlds: Patricia develops magical powers while Laurence has an incredible scientific mind and becomes one of the few people to develop a two-second time machine. Their worlds diverge and they go their separate ways.

Now they’re adults and living in the hipster mecca San Francisco and yet things are not going well with the rest of the planet, as the world brings itself to the brink of annihilation. Now an engineering wiz, Lawrence is working for a company that is trying help the world and those suffering through breakthrough inventions and technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of the Eltisley Maze, a secret academy for those magically gifted, where she has learned much, but also made at least one terrible mistake that cost people their lives. She works with a group of magicians also looking to help those in need by using their magical talents. But there is a prophecy, spoken of years ago, that the two would come together in a final battle and cause the end of it all.

All the Birds in the Sky has a lot going for it, with its complex and interesting characters and whirlwind plot. Plus for anyone familiar with San Francisco, Anders has fun taking readers around the scenic city. But at times the book has too much going on that loses the reader. There is a lot of jumping back and forth and around, to different characters and times, which at first is interesting, but as it goes on, also loses the reader and is at times confusing. The novel feels like it could’ve used another round of editing to make the ideas and points more coherent and fluid. Nevertheless, All the Birds in the Sky does some things no book of either genre has before, and is its own unique tale that won’t be found anywhere else.

Originally written on March 25, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of All the Birds in the Sky from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 13: Company Time” by Max Gladstone and Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2015)


CIA agent Dominic Alvarez just so happens to be an acolyte for the Flame, a detail that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the last episode, and he just happens to have kidnapped Maksin Sokolov, a Russian informant and powerful magical host, after the CIA managed to smuggle him away from the Russians and get him to a safe house. He’s scheduled to be on a specific plane and headed to the States, except that the pilot is still waiting around for his cargo who is late and doesn’t appear to be showing. Meanwhile, Alvarez and Sokolov are on a very different cargo plane flying to another destination, playing a game of chess.

KGB agent Tanya Morozova and CIA operative Gabe Pritchard meet to discuss their options for getting Sokolov back somehow. Once before they put their powers together, and with Gabe’s magical construct flaring inside him, and Tanya being a sorceress of the Ice, together they pack one heck of a magical wallop. It will require a big ritual, with lots of magical setup, and then their putting their powers together. But it’s their only hope.

While the season finale does have a hefty dose of magical action going on, the ending feels a little anticlimactic, and definitely leaves the reader and listener wanting more, but it certainly sets up hopes and interests for a possible future season in the continuing adventures of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Company Time from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 12: She’ll Lie Down in the Snow” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serialbox, 2016)


Things are coming to a climax in this penultimate episode to season one of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. Tanya Morozova knows she’s walking straight into a trap: she’s been ordered by her boss at the KGB to get the Russian informant back no matter what, but she also knows the safe house she’s headed to is guarded by a small army of CIA who know full well that she’s coming. Fortunately, Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet Ambassador and acolyte of the Flame has given her a protective charm to help keep her alive; she also reveals that Tanya’s boss, Sasha, happens to be an acolyte of the Flame, which is why he’s fine with sacrificing Tanya.

Tanya and her people enter the safe house and there’s a big shootout. Sokolov has already been moved and is in no danger, meanwhile the bullets are flying and lives will be lost on both the Russian and American sides. And at the end of the episode a big twist is revealed that changes everything and sets things up for a big season finale.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of She’ll Lie Down in the Snow from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 11: King’s Gambit Accepted” by Ian Tregillis (Serialbox, 2016)


After the heavy action of the previous episodes, Anchises, episode 11 is kind of calm that comes after an intense fight scene; readers and listeners get to explore the fallout of the aforementioned events and how the characters deal with the big developments that are now going down.

Maksin Sokolov is gone and purported to be dead, except Tanya Morozova is meeting with her boss, Sasha, and telling him how it went down and how the CIA “smuggled” the informant out via the river and used a recently placed corpse to distract the KGB, but Tanya isn’t falling for it. Sasha gives her an ultimatum, telling her she needs to get Sokolov back no matter what, and she can use whatever resources are necessary. With help from her coworker and fellow Ice acolyte, Nadia Ostrokhina, they use some good old fashioned magic to locate where Sokolov is, using a magically-spruced-up theodolite to track the contruct and see where Sokolov ended up.

Meanwhile, CIA agents Dominic and Josh are watching their informant and keeping him as safe and secure as possible, while Gabe is out getting some R&R. Killing time they talk about Gabe, Dominic wondering whether he can trust him, and more importantly whether he can trust Sokolov in Gabe’s hands. Josh admits he doesn’t know the man that well, but they do address his dark episode in Cairo.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of King’s Gambit Accepted from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Dream of Ice from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.