FICTION REVIEW: A Choir of Lies

Welcome to September, goblins! Yesterday was publication day for one of the prettiest books of 2019, Alexandra Rowland’s A CHOIR OF LIES, which I was so happy to get my hands on an arc copy of. To celebrate, I’m bringing you all my review. Trust me, you’re going to want this one on your TBR.

Three years ago, Ylfing watched his master-Chant tear a nation apart with nothing but the words on his tongue. Now Ylfing is all alone in a new realm, brokenhearted and grieving—but a Chant in his own right, employed as a translator to a wealthy merchant of luxury goods, Sterre de Waeyer. But Ylfing has been struggling to come to terms with what his master did, with the audiences he’s been alienated from, and with the stories he can no longer trust himself to tell.

That is, until Ylfing’s employer finds out what he is, what he does, and what he knows. At Sterre’s command, Ylfing begins telling stories once more, fanning the city into a mania for a few shipments of an exotic flower. The prices skyrocket, but when disaster looms, Ylfing must face what he has done and decide who he wants to be: a man who walks away and lets the city shatter, as his master did? Or will he embrace the power of story to save ten thousand lives?

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This is a gem of a book full of grit-teeth, open-eyed hope in humans’ ability to pull themselves up off the ground and do the right thing, even when the chips are down. It’s also full of snarky storytelling rap battles, tulip mania, whirling auction houses, lies that catch fire and almost take the teller down with them, and some grade A flirting. I’m so pleased to have gotten an ARC for review.

I loved so much about this book. I loved the slow unraveling of half-forgotten myths, the stories from faraway places dispersed throughout, the crowded canal city where our sweet, sensitive protagonist Ylfing finds himself living. Tender, introspection male protagonists are in short supply in any genre, but Ylfing is so wonderful and richly drawn. The strong, vibrant, morally complex middle aged women he finds himself surrounded by gave me life, and I fell in love with his problematic, smooth-talking, hedonist beau.

I’m not usually a fan of second world fantasy; one look at a string of fantasy place names and proper nouns and my eyes start to glaze over. But Rowland has pulled off a very clever magic trick here in making a complex, detailed fantasy world feel cozy and folkloric. They do this by feeding the audience world-building in tiny, tasty bites, like they’re guiding us through a cheese plate. A lot of people have already talked about the metatextual elements of this book (we have footnotes from an annotator reading the memoir of our protagonist about events they both experienced! your faves could NEVER!) but even those clever moments of commentary insertion feel naturalistic, effortless. Hell, Rowland can even make economic commentary RIVETING. Want to see how bubble economies are hatched, nurtured, and then grow big enough to threaten the safety of entire merchant city-states? Yes, you do. Trust me.

This is a book that takes you by the hand and spins you a yarn that grows bigger and wilder than you can ever imagine, but you don’t want to pull your hand away, not even for a second, because you trust somehow that you want to end up on the other side of wherever it’s going. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

AMAZON: tinyurl.com/yxpwgemo

BARNES AND NOBLE: tinyurl.com/y2hqzv34

INDIEBOUND: tinyurl.com/y6pxw6jd

GOODREADS: tinyurl.com/yxfjjptq

ODD SPIRITS is on 99¢ sale through the month of October!

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This novella will be on sale for the ghoulishly low price of $5.99 for paperbacks and 99¢ for e-copies until All Hallows Eve. You’ll never see it at a lower price, so grab your ticket to flirty tarot readings, folk religion, and mysterious hauntings today! 

It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a modern ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits. Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.

This diverse paranormal romance novella is perfect for fans of The Raven Cycle and The Haunting of Hill House!

“Like a lovingly-prepared home-cooked meal, Odd Spirits compels its reader to both devour and savor…Gibson’s background as a poet allows her to deftly create richly-drawn little moments.” –Rouges Portal

See what people are saying about the novella on Goodreads!

Odd Spirits is Available for Purchase

Welcome to publication day! Odd Spirits is now available for digital purchase in the Amazon kindle store and (if you don’t feel like giving Jeff Bezos 30% of your purchase) on Smashwords for only $2.99! That’s less than your morning latte!

It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a modern ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits. Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.

This diverse paranormal romance novella is perfect for fans of The Raven Cycle and The Haunting of Hill House.odd spirits

Can I read the digital copy without an e-reader? Absolutely! You can read it on your phone, laptop, or tablet for free without any special software

I only read print books. Will there be a paperback edition? Yes! As soon as Amazon approves my submission we will be in the paperback business. I will also be selling print copies direct from me if you prefer to bypass Amazon and get a free autograph out of the deal.

I pre-ordered a book and my order was cancelled? Sorry to hear that! Due to technichal difficulties, Amazon cancelled and refunded many pre-orders. DM and I’ll get you hooked up with your copy!

I’m strapped for cash right now; is there any other way I can support you? Reblogging this post is a great help to me! Also, if you’ve received a copy of the book, reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are a blessing to me.

I’d like to donate some spare change to your writing so you can turn out more books. Do you have a Patreon? Yes! Every donation helps, even one dollar, and I’ve got cute bat-themed prizes for my Patrons.

Thanks for your support, and happy reading!

Genre Spotlight: ElfPunk

BookRiot recently put out an article that had my little faery-loving loving heart all a-flutter, an introductory reading list in the fantasy subgenre elfpunk. Hallmarks of elfpunk include a modern urban setting, new spins on old folk beliefs about the fae, fast cars, a dollop of teen angst, and lots and lots of rock and roll. Elfpunk tends to skew towards Western European folklore, and never seems to get tried of staging ballads of lost love in hazy nightclubs or pitting roving gangs of sidhe punks against each other in back alleys. I would call it my guilty pleasure but there’s nothing guilty about it; elfpunk shaped me into the writer I am today, and it’s still my favorite genre to read, full stop.

Emma Bull is among the authors on this list, and should be as one of the originators of the genre, and so is Holly Black, an author who remains almost unflaggingly loyal to stories of fae and humans in the modern day. But one huge piece was missing, the sprawling, enchanting originator of the entire genre: The Borderland Series.

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The Borderland series is a collection of short story anthologies and spin-off novels set in the shared universe of Bordertown, a city on the border of Faery and a large American metropolis. Bordertown is a shifting, dangerous place full of buskers and runaway teens and rock bands looking to strike it big in clubs crawling with feuding species. The original anthologies captured the wild dirty color of youth culture in the eighties, and were so successful that a follow-up anthology was published in 2011 featuring writers who had cut their teeth reading  Borderlands books as kids, heavy hitters like Catherynne Valente, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Charles DeLint.

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I checked the 2011 reboot out from my library three times in high school. Three.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the ripples Bordertown has made in the fantasy world; some people say it kicked off the urban fantasy genre wholesale. It’s inspired in part by Terri Winding’s experience of being a young artist in the mean streets of New York, which is an excited/terrified/starry eyed bouquet of emotion that so many of us can relate to. Everything Windling touches turns to gold, especially her anthologies, but the Bordertown Series is by far the most iconic.

So if you’re looking to get into some anachronistic, enchanted reads, don’t pass up this series. It’s really true what they say: even after all these years, Bordertown is always there waiting for you.

Indie Book Radar: Hemlock

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I don’t usually have the patience for all the page-views and mouse-clicking that goes into reading webcomics, but I devoured Josceline Fenton’s Hemlock.

The series follows Lumi, a witch who spends her days hawking spells to townspeople, travelling through the land in the shell of a giant snail, and brewing up poisons to keep her monstrous husband in a soporific stupor. Lumi is a dry and plucky protagonist, and I so enjoyed learning about her entanglements with blood magic, Baba Yaga’s dynasty of witch-prince sons, and the ne’er do wells of the witching world. Every new character introduced into the story is beautifully dressed, morally ambiguous, and full of secrets, which is just how I like them, and the 19th century setting in the forests and icy wastes of Scandinavia is absolutely enchanting.

I read all four volumes of Hemlock in two days, and now I’m addicted. The bad news is that the comic remains unfinished, since Fenton is holding down a day job as a cartoonist and animator, but she does update regularly.

The great news is that if you hate squinting at your computer screen during the nail-biting bits of your favorite comics, you can purchase bound copies of all four existing volumes of Hemlock. This is a must-read for fairy tale enthusiasts and fans of Catherynne Valente’s Deathless.

Got any favorite fairy tale inspired books? Tell me about them so I can add them to my TBR!