About me

I am a bookseller-turned-librarian with a deep love for reading fantasy, and all of its sub-genres. I have also been known to dally with a historical or literary novel or two now and then. I review for Library Journal and Netgalley, and have my nose into all manner of books, large press and small. If there is something you would like me to take a look at, please do drop me a line. aprilmsteenburgh @ gmail. com

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Diary of a Dragon by Tad Williams

“Dear Diary, Went out shopping today. Picked up half a dozen sheep, two pigs, and a princess.” –Diary of a Dragon, Tad Williams pg 7.

Thus began the most enjoyable jaunt with a chapbook I have ever had. It’s a short, fun treasure for fans of Tad Williams, or anyone who grew up loving the rather skewed relationship between Dragons and Princesses that is woven through the fantasy genre. I was raised on Patricia C. Wrede, so I have a certain fond spot for Princesses who don’t end up being quite what a dragon would expect. The voice of his Dragon perfect, and Williams uses the diary format to really sell the reader on the grumpy shut-in personality.  A dragon who is comfortable in his cave, with his Diary, and all the livestock he can be bothered to snatch (though, his wings aren’t as young as they used to be).

He really should have eaten the Princess when he had the chance. Nothing quite as disruptive as a feisty princess.

Recommended for a bit of good fun. For veterans of the epic fantasy genre, it is laugh out loud funny more often than not. For casual fans of either Dragons or Princesses, or the things that happen when the two cross paths, it is definitely worth the read.

Available as a limited chapbook and eBook from Subterranean Press

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Felicity is the daughter of Princess Caution’s wetnurse, elevated beyond normal expectations to be a constant companion to Caution, a foil for her temper and a balm for her temperament. For Caution is anything but. She is a wild and willful princess, interested in intent only in the things that bring her pleasure and joy.

Like the witted Stable Master and his piebald stallion.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a fascinating account of where things went sour for Witted ones in the history of the Duchies. It is the story of a princesses love for a freed slave and the bastard son she got off him. It is the story of that son and the Wit he inherited from his father and the ability to love instantly and intently he inherited from his mother.

The long novella is told exclusively from Felicity’s point of view, but is by no means dry. We are granted a personal accounting of sometimes beautiful, often tragic events, and Felicity feels a reliable narrator throughout- she does not attempt to sway the reader, or win their sympathy. She is merely recounting what happened so that others may know and hopefully understand.

For fans of the Farseer novels, this is a must read. It sets the scene perfectly for the events of FitzChivalry’s life, and puts a lot of what happens, the attitudes and little abuses, into perspective. 

Available from Subterranean Press

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

Elle wants nothing more to be a simple pilot, flying her small air freighter Water Lily and ignoring social mores. But there is nothing simple about the package her French contact Patrice wants her to carry to London. Within minutes of taking possession of the small box, she is attacked and robbed, saved only by the intervention of Patrice’s associate Marsh. Simple is going to become a very rare word in Elle’s vocabulary as she is pulled deeper and deeper into Marsh’s world. In a world of divided Light and Shadow, where Absinthe faeries flit through bars and Alchemists move through the shadows, a deadly plan has been set in motion. And Elle may just be the key to it all.

If you think you might enjoy your steampunk with a dash of ancient Greek myth for spice, this is the book for you. Toss in enough romance to get my attention without any of the posturing and fussing that generally drives me to drink as a reader and the book, and its wonderfully well rounded characters, caught and held my attention.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists is a fantastic mix of steampunk and sleuthing. Ms. Schwarz has built a world that is rich with familiar fantasy denizens  as well as some nightmares and magic that is purely her own and breathes new life into the genre. It will appeal to fans of Gail Carraiger. It is a fast read- mostly because I was unwilling to put the book down.

Cover Reveal- 13 British Horror Stories by Rayne Hall

13BritishHorrorStories cover 16Feb13C

I have the distinct privilege of hosting the cover reveal for Rayne Hall’s Thirteen British Horror Stories. And what better way to host a cover reveal than to sit down and chat with the artist, Nadica Boskovska.  For more information on Thirteen British Horror Stories, please visit Rayne’s author page. Enjoy, and happy reading!

1. How long have you been an artist, Nadica?

– I’ve been painting ever since I can remember. There isn’t a long-standing artistic tradition in my family, but I’ve been blessed to have the support and understanding from my loved ones.
Painting is a truly important part of my life and it’s the best media to express my feelings. I paint the way some people write their autobiography and journals. It’s the movement of painting that interests me, the dramatic movement from one effort to the next, even if those efforts are perhaps not pushed to their ultimate end. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages of my journal, and as such they are big part of me.
2.You have a good number of book covers under your belt – how did you get started with this form of art?
– It was completely spontaneous. I love to paint and despite some side roads I’ve taken along the way, trying to make a career in other areas, I’ve always been brought back to my painting. Thanks to the love of art I’ve met so many inspiring people that share the same passion, but also some wonderful writers, who needed me to translate their thoughts and emotions and to create artworks, that will be complimenting and praising their books.
3. When a person commissions artwork from you, what sorts of details about the artwork do you need to create it? How closely do you work with the commissioner?
 I always dedicate time to my clients and have a brief conversation for their book. First of all, I need to know what genre the book is and what kind of theme it is elaborating. I also ask the writer for their personal opinion about how they imagine the cover to look like and once I have that base, I work around it and try to enhance it, so that it’s appealing for the readers and makes them want to get the book and read it.
4. Where can people find out more about you and your artwork?
– The best way to find out more about my artwork is to visit my deviantART gallery:

Strange Fates by Marlene Perez

Nyx Fortuna is the son of Lady Fortuna, the only son of the House of Wyrd. His Aunts, the Fates murdered his mother and have been hunting him ever since. Before she died, Fortuna hid Nyx’s thread of Fate, leaving him out of the reach of his Aunt’s gold scissors. Immortal, and long since grown underwhelmed with his condition, Nyx has traveled to Minneapolis to confront his Aunts and settle the score.

He did not intend on meeting a girl in a bar, or getting stabbed by her (current) boyfriend. He has always done better as a loner, keeping things simple, keeping anyone he could start to care about away from the attention of his ruthless Aunts. But here, in the city they call home, things are about to get a bit complicated.

Urban fantasy with a decidedly Greek flourish, Strange Fates is a fun and fast read. Nyx is quite the likable protagonist, and the book happily avoids the urban fantasy trope of everyone falling into bed with each other. That is not to say there is no sexual tension, it is just masterfully managed. Strange Fates is rotten with water hags, harpies, sorcerers, and necromancers. Double crosses, bar fights, and part time jobs.

Fortune’s Son has a rather full plate.

 

Available March 5, 2013. Orbit/Hachette books

Doctor Who III, Volume 1 by Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham

For those who do not know me personally, I am a Doctor Who fan of rather embarrassing enthusiasm. I have worked my way through countless audiobooks in addition to the television series, and have recently been thrilled to discover the comics.

Good comic adaptions can be hard to find, but Doctor Who continues its trend of being just as enjoyable as a comic as on the screen. For these characters in particular, the writing has taken care to keep the wit and affection that makes Amy, Rory, and the Doctor work so well. Nothing feels forced, dialog and banter is spot on and the art in this volume is just wonderful.

I love being spoiled between seasons of the television series, and this really hit the spot. Looking forward to reading more as it becomes available!

Available March 19th, Diamond Book Distributers

Dead Roads by Robin Riopelle

They are,  perhaps, not your typical family- Lutie, her brothers Baz and Sol, their ghost-hiding mother and ghost-catching traiteur father. But when Lutie decides she wants to catch herself a ghost, just like her mother, and enlists her brother Baz who can sing so that both the living and the dead pay attention to help her, she shatters the casual strangeness of their lives.

Taken away from home by her mother, it takes many years and the death of their father for Lutie to run into her brothers again. An angry ghost stalks the rail yards of the west, drawing the attention of Sol who has taken up at least part of his father’s ghost-catching and settling trade. As stubborn as he is to try and fight it out alone, it will take all three siblings, who have grown into three independent and alienated adults, working together to settle this ghost and the demon riding its back.

Dead Roads is rich is bayou lore- it swelters with the south even when the story is staggering its way through cold Colorado nights. It is much more than a ghost story, and far richer than the usual far horror fantasy/fiction has to offer. Even as it is doing its best to make you jump at every little creek of your house in the night it rings with a respect for the dead- we don’t have casual ghost hunters here. Sol is a reluctant doctor to the dead, a wonderful parallel to his day job as an EMT. The family trade of traiteur is a duty, not a hobby, and the author communicates that well to the reader.

It took a little to get moving, and there was some disjointed movement from POV to POV as the book started, but that did not take from my interest in the story or my desire to see what was going to happen next. I think my biggest concern was the sheer amount of French worked into the dialog- not just a word here and there but oft times full sentences. It did add to the atmosphere, but at the cost of comprehension. As a reader it pulled me from the story as I struggled to work out what was being said.  Again, not enough to deter me from reading, but enough for me to notice and become frustrated now and again.

Overall, a fantastic, atmospheric read. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and watching them move through a wonderfully unique and delightfully creepy plot. Recommended.

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

The Kingdom of Aydori is home to the Pack, a social structure of wolf shape shifters, and the Maqe Pack, their partners and members of their own magical hierarchy.

The Empire, guided by the scattered words of its soothsayers, makes Aydori its next target, specifically six pregnant mages that will either be the downfall or the saving of the Empire. The Emperor wants to control that power, and to do so, kidnaps the pregnant members of the Mage Pack. But there are only five.

The sixth mage is Mirian, a girl who considers herself to be of no magical distinction. Ignoring propriety and physical constraints, she sets off after the Mage Pack and their kidnappers, intent on setting them free.

The Silvered is riddled with spectacular world building. The culture Huff builds up around her shape shifters is utterly fascinating, and makes them breathe far beyond what the genre generally has to offer. Humor, horror, romance, magic, and violence- The Silvered has a little of something for everyone.

I am particularly fond of stand-alone novels in the middle of a genre that heavily favor series. The Silvered tells a complete story, start to finish. I would love to see more stories in the world Huff has created, but I am so very content with the story she wove this time around.

Highly recommended.

Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed

“Y’all ain’t got to believe me for it to be the truth” (‘Engraved on the Eye’, pg. 183).

But you will want to believe- in aloof bounty hunters who sing to stone and ribald ghul hunters who care far more than they let on.

From the city of Dhamsawaat Ahmed made familiar through ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’, to a meeting of super villains as viewed by a rather jaded member, ‘Engraved on the Eye’ is an absolutely enthralling collection of the familiar mixed with the exotic and the strange. Readers are introduced to a physician in exile asked to assist in a faith shattering case, a female Dervish who splits her lodge over a promise made to her mother- the fascinating, terrifying, and the beautiful all rolled into one.

If you are looking to dip your toes into Ahmed’s writing, definitely give this collection a try. They are short stories with meat- you will think and feel and you will not want to stop turning pages.

The Hound and the Falcon by Judith Tarr

Alfred is a monk of St. Ruan’s Abbey- devoted to his Brothers and his God, a scholar of rare talent, and very much more than a man. A foundling, he was taken in and raised by the Abbey as one of their own, and while his colleagues have grown to old men, he remains no more than a youth.

The quiet Abbey life that Alfred clings to is pulled away from him as he is sent out to the world, carrying a message of violence to the Richard Coeur de Leon. Once out of the Abbey’s comforting walls, Alfred cannot help but acknowledge something other than human blood runs through his veins. His eerie beauty and otherworldly skills catch the eye of the Hounds of God, who swear to purge him and all others like him from the Church, as well as the world itself.

From the temperate north to the sweltering heat of the Crusades, the Hound and the Falcon trilogy is a magnificent journey. There is a beauty, an acknowledgement of the sublime, that swells through every page. Pausing and closing the book was like coming up for air, almost disorienting, definitely displeasing as I wanted nothing more than to keep reading. Rarely have I been touched so by a book, but there is something bare, brutal and honest to Alfred and his search for identity and meaning that I could not help but be moved.

All else, all grand crusading and conflict aside, it reaches down to the root of identity and poses questions there that inflict an almost sympathetic bout of introspection upon the reader. And it is perfect.

Ms. Tarr has woven a depth of history and cultural detail in her books that make the world breathe. The characters and settings are whole, believable, and obviously lovingly researched.

Highly recommended.