“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” by George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Gary Gianni (Bantam, 2015)

In addition to the main events in his Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin has also written a couple of novellas set a century before the events of the series about a fledgling hedge knight. They’ve been published in anthologies, but are collected here for the first time, with some great illustrations by Gary Gianni.

In the first story, “The Hedge Knight,” readers get to meet Dunk for the first time, who is burying his late lord and master whom he was apprenticed to. Before the man died, he knighted Dunk, as was his right. Now Dunk spends his days traveling from town to town in search of jousting tournaments in an effort to earn some coin as well as notoriety as a mystery knight. Along the way he also gains a most unusual squire in Egg, a young boy whose head is completely shaven; he also belongs to a very interesting family.

“The Sworn Sword” features the unlikely duo dealing with an issue involving a river during a very hot summer where Dunk meets a vivacious young redhead. In the final tale, “The Mystery Knight,” Dunk and Egg once again find themselves at a jousting tournament, but there is a lot more going on here than just a number of knights titling at one another.

In some ways, these stories are on par and perhaps a little better than the lengthy books, for they are simpler, more straightforward and Martin seems to be having more fun in this world when it’s not tied up with the giant, overwhelming series. Though the fun is also in reading familiar names and knowing the important people in history they will become. As for the illustrations, they are numerous and appear on almost every page, giving life and vitality to the entertaining book that is A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Originally written on December 4th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, 2015)


Welcome to a fairytale for the twenty-first century. Uprooted has it all: wizards and witches, good and black magic, joy and suffering, highs and lows, and a menacing dark forest, the Wood, that will have you making wide circuitous routes around trees perhaps for the rest of your life. It is Brothers Grimm meets A Wizard of Earthsea.

The Dragon is an old wizard who lives in his tower, guarding and protecting the realm from the forest. Those who stray into the forest rarely ever come out alive; those that do come out changed, twisted, evil things looking to hurt and kill. Every ten years the Dragon chooses a girl from the valley and takes her to his tower and she is not seen for a decade, and then when she returns she is different somehow and soon leaves the village she spent most of her life in to travel elsewhere. The Dragon is looking for someone special.

Agnieszka is a plain, ordinary girl who has a beautiful best friend, Kasia. They go everywhere together, but as the day of choosing approaches for their village, both girls enjoy their final times together, knowing that Kasia will be chosen. They knew from when she was very young that she would be chosen and she has prepared for it her whole life. And then the day arrives and after some contemplation, as the selected girls quiver in terror, the Dragon goes past Kasia and chooses Agnieszka.

And so begins her journey to the tower and learning about why the Dragon does what he does, and more importantly why he chose her when it was supposed to be Kasia. In time she will become a powerful witch under the tutelage of the Dragon and then play her part in protecting the valley and fighting against the Wood.

Uprooted sweeps you up from the first page and takes you away to a magical land you won’t want to leave. The characters are complex and fascinating, the world entrancing and inviting, the Wood dark and scary, and the magic simplistic yet impressive. Uprooted feels like a lengthy fairytale that Naomi Novik discovered in some long forgotten tome and then brought it to life with its themes and meanings. You’ll feel your heartstrings being pulled, while shivers of fear run up and down your spine. Uprooted is a tale to be read privately in the confines of one’s own mind, and to be read aloud to each other in a group. Like all good tales that last for eons, it is a seemingly simple story that when finished keeps unraveling its secrets within your mind.

Originally written on April 14, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds” by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell (William Morrow, 2014)

Truth is a Cave in teh Black Mountains

Neil Gaiman’s novelette “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” was originally published in the collection Stories: All New Tales edited by Gaiman, which went on to win an award. It is now reprinted and made available in this beautifully illustrated and collectible version. This four-color edition is illustrated by renowned artist, Eddie Campbell.

It is the moving story of one man’s journey with an untrustworthy guide in search of a specific cave in the black mountains of Scotland where they hope to find gold. Along the way they meet some strange characters and face daunting odds. Told with the powerful, haunting words of Gaiman showing his talent for the craft, the illustrations help to make the story fuller and more complete. Sometimes the illustrations show small scenes of the ongoing story, other times they simply add to the feel and emotion of the page. A mixture of media and color help to enhance the story and make a journey for the reader also.

Originally written on August 1, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Unbound” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2015)


In the third installment of the Magic Ex Libris series, it get real. After things were essentially left in shambles at the end of Codex Born, with the Porters in disarray and Guttenberg severely unhappy with our unlikely hero, Isaac Vainio has now been stripped of his magical powers, setting up for what should be a pretty lame story, and yet Unbound turns out to be the most thrilling book of the series so far.

Vainio already feels bad about having the girl he was looking to protect kidnapped, and now it is revealed that Jeneta Aboderin has been inhabited by Meridiana, a would-be queen who has been banished for a millennium. With the power of her ereader, Meridiana seems unstoppable with her magic. Thankfully, Vainio gets help from an old friend in the sorcerer Juan Ponce de Leon.

Much like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, Magic Ex Libris is a sort of reading crack that you just can’t get enough of. Hines never holds back in what his characters do, but also in what happens to them. He remains true to the story, as well as doing some really crazy stuff, like launching Vainio into space to get some blood for a vampire. A third book in a series can be tricky as it has to build from the second book but not go too far to be just ridiculous. Unbound straddles this tricky ground well and keeps the reader interested throughout with new characters, an expansion of the world and turning the whole concept of the Porters and the magic system on its head. As with all great series, readers will be left wanting more.

Originally written on February 11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Unbound from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Slow Regard of Silent Things” by Patrick Rothfuss (DAW, 2014)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

If the author on the cover doesn’t grab you, then the wonderfully evocative title should. For fans of Rothfuss who are waiting for the third volume of The Kingkiller Chronicles, you may be a little surprised with The Slow Regard of Silent Things. For one, it is a short novella weighing in at 176 pages; for another, it’s not your usual story with a beginning, middle and an end, but more of a peeking into an incredible character’s life and world.

Readers of Rothfuss are already familiar with the special and unique character, Auri, and in this slim volume they get to see her in daily life, in her familiar abode deep below the university and the world we have come to know. Auri is very particular about the place she lives, naming each of the areas and rooms in her own special way. She knows that she will have a special guest coming to see her in a few days and wants everything to be as perfect as possible for Kvothe.

This is the story of Auri preparing herself and her home for a visitor, of how she finds him a special gift, of how she gets everything ready, and how everything needs to be just perfect. It is also the story of this truly unique person and how she functions in everyday life, how she sees the world and acts and reacts in it.

Rothfuss does a splendid job of creating a definitive voice for Auri and the reader really gets to understand her with this point of view, whether it’s about getting her bed ready, traveling to new and scary places, or how she goes about making a new candle. To some it might seem like a dull read, but told in this captivating voice, it is a wonderful story that whisks you away to this special world.

In the afterword Rothfuss admits to feeling very nervous about releasing this story; how it was something that came to him and was very personal about a character who is clearly very special, and how he had little intention of ever publishing it, but was convinced by his editor and agent and friends. It is a story he really wanted to write, and unsurprisingly it turns out be something wonderful and shows a different side to this epic fantasy writer.

Originally written on January 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Slow Regard of Silent Things from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2014)

Skin Game
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For the fifteenth novel of the Dresden Files, bestselling author Jim Butcher decided to go for the ultimate “What if?” for urban fantasy that fans might’ve thought he would’ve tackled in an earlier book in the series, but as the saying goes: “Better late than never.” Fans of the series will gobble Skin Game up, as they have the whole series, even if Butcher seems not to be that big of a fan of his female characters.

As the winter knight to Queen Mab, Dresden has certain obligations he must fulfill. Mab makes up a solution for Dresden who’s dealing with his big headache problem that he knows will eventually kill him if he doesn’t do anything about it. In exchange for an earring that will minimize the pain he has to grant her a favor. This involves entering into a heist operation with a number of unlikeable characters including a rogue warlock, Hanna Ascher, a shapeshifter named Binder and an old enemy, Anna Valmont. The whole operation is being run by Nicodemus Archeleone. Dresden isn’t happy with any of this by any means, but he knows he is under the honored agreement with Mab and can’t say no, or will have to suffer the consequences. He does at least enlist Karrin Murphy to watch his back and help him however she can.

The plan is to open a way into Hades and steal something from the vault of the devil himself. No biggie, right? In return each member of the group will get millions, as well as their own ability to steal whatever they want from Satan’s vault in hell. Dresden is sure he smells a trap, but he also has his own revenge plans. Ultimately, there will be a lot of double-crossing and even triple-crossing before the book is done, but Butcher clearly had a lot of fun throwing his characters into a heist setup within an urban fantasy universe. As with all Dresden books, there’s plenty of conflict so the reader never gets a chance to grow bored, and unlike some of the other Dresden books, Harry doesn’t get quite as much thrown at him making it seem a little less farfetched.

The failing of the book is in what Butcher does to his female characters. Murphy has an unfortunate accident and is out for most of the book, replaced by the familiar face and sword of Michael Carpenter. As for the other female characters, they either meet untimely ends or get put through the ringer to the extent one wonders if Butcher has something about doing cruel things to his female characters. Nevertheless, Skin Game is a run romp to Hell and back, with Dresden biting off way more than he can chew; fortunately he has the winter mantle to keep his strength up, but that will only last to a point, and it if ever gets taken away, he’ll quickly learn just how human he still is.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Skin Game from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Indexing” by Seanan McGuire (47North, 2014)


Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye urban fantasy series, as well as the author of some great biological horror books like the Newsflesh trilogy and Parasite under the pseudonym Mira Grant. In Indexing, she brings her two worlds together in a way, employing elements of the urban fantastic, but adhering to the rules of genetics and viruses.

In this world there are those that live their everyday, expected lives and nothing happens, but there are those who don’t know they are a part of something bigger and magical, who can suddenly have their existence affected by a memetic incursion, finding themselves playing a lead role in a fairytale as one of its characters. And these aren’t the happy Disney tales we’ve become used to, but the darker, original ones filled with blood and death. Whether it’s a Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Stepsister or Evil Queen, once the incursion has begun it’s very hard to put a stop to it.

Fortunately, there is a group known as the ATI Management Bureau that takes care of these incursions. They are trained professionals with a crack team in all areas, from research to communication when an incursion has begun, to sending out the right team to deal with said incursion. Of course, a number of the team are fairy tale characters who have had their memetic incursions held at bay or controlled and so know full well what they’re dealing with. But because this is a Seanan McGuire novel, nothing ever goes according to plan.

McGuire has taking an interesting premise, using her knowledge and research (she holds a degree in fairytales and mythology), as well as what she has learned from her other series, and brings it all together in a fun adventure story that turns many of the fairytales we consider ourselves very familiar with completely on their heads. She amps the drama and keeps the conflicts cropping up and building from chapter to chapter.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Indexing from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.