Winners of The Hammer and The Blade Giveaway

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner(s)! I  have randomly selected two winners for a copy of The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp.  And the winners are (drum roll, please)…

Steven Hill and Barry Paddock

I will be sending e-mails to confirm addresses and these beauties will be shipped forthwith.  I would like to thank everyone for entering and check back regularly for more contests.  This is the first of many, because the second best thing to reading a great book is giving it to someone.  I would also like to thank Angry Robot for contributing copies of the book.  Darren, you rock!

Faerun Feels Like Home

I have been a fan of shared world fiction for as long as I can remember.  Some of the first books I bought from TSR where the Endless Quest books (Mountain of Mirrors, Dungeon of Dread, Pillars of Pentegarn, to name a few) .  These were during my elementary school days playing TSR’s Dungeon and lusting over the red box Basic set.  Soon after moving from the blue box Expert set and into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Advanced rules I stumbled upon the Gord the Rogue series by Gary Gygax.  That was my first real foray into shared world fiction and I never looked back.  I loved reading the fight scenes and recognizing the magic items and spells.  I incorporated the descriptions of monsters and spell casting into my campaigns and the group loved it. I then moved on to the Dragonlance books and reveled in my numerous trips to Kyrnn, longing to read more of Raistlin and company.

Fast forward a few years later.  My gaming group had disbanded as we went our separate ways to college, and I was still devouring all the fantasy I could find (Tolkien, Brooks, Moorcock, Weis and Hickman).   I was perusing the shelves at my local bookshelf and stumbled across Homeland, book one of the Dark Elf series.   The term “Dark Elf” resonated with me and I noticed it was published by TSR and carried the “Forgotten Realms” logo.  I was vaguely familiar with the name Forgotten Realms through my DnD group but we never played there, we had our own homegrown world that we had played in for several years.  Reading that book was a life changing moment, not only because I was introduced to R.A. Salvatore and his amazing character Drizzt, but because I had stepped foot on new soil, I had arrived in Faerun.   This was before the days of Amazon and I had now idea how many books were published in the Forgotten Realms but I made it my mission to track them down.  I found catalogs, I had bookstores order new titles, and I frequented used bookstores looking for anything with the Forgotten Realms logo.  Even though I was no longer playing DnD with my group, I started picking up Forgotten Realms source books such as; the Forgotten Realms Campaign set, The Seven Sisters, The Code of the Harpers, Players Guide to the Forgotten Realms, and the Elves of Evermeet, to name a few.  I traveled the Dalelands, crept through the caverns of the Underdark and gazed upon the terrible wonder of Menzoberranzen, traipsed through the jungles of Chult, ran screaming from the undead horrors of Thay, walked the streets of the incredible city of Waterdeep, and so many, many other places .  I reveled in Ed Greenwood’s creation, I was home.

There are so many fantastic authors that have written books set in the Forgotten Realms.  Authors like Paul S. Kemp, R.A. Salvatore, Elaine Cunningham, Troy Denning, Erik Scott deBie, James P. Davis, Rosemary Jones, Richard Lee Byers, Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, James Lowder, Erin Evans, Jaleigh Johnson, and the father and creator of the Realms, Ed Greenwood.  There are so many, many others. Please forgive me for any I did not list here.  Every author that has written in the Forgotten Realms has left their mark in the realms and made it the marvelous world it is.

Here are a few of the books/series that I suggest.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a starting point.  There are many, many great books written in the Forgotten Realms by incredible authors that stand toe-to-toe with any speculative fiction author out there.  

If you look at my reviews you will see that the bulk of them are of books published by Wizards of the Coast.  This will not change as they publish the kind of books I like to read  in worlds that I have come to call home.  Some people still have a dim view of shared world fiction, citing that, at some point they read a book they did not like written in a shared world, and apply this generalization to all shared world fiction.  Are there some Forgotten Realms books that are better than others?  I would would turn around and ask this question of all speculative fiction.  Are there some books in the fantasy genre that are better than others?  In the end it all boils down to what you enjoy reading.  Read and share, put misconceptions aside, and give something from the Forgotten Realms a try.  I think you’ll like it.

In closing, I would like to say thank you, first to Ed Greenwood for creating and continually growing the Forgotten Realms, and second, to ALL the authors who have added their own personal touch to the Realms and make it such a wonderful place to come back to again and again.  Faerun, I am home.

PS – If Faerun is my home, then Eberron is my summer vacation spot.  I have recently been introduced to this fantasy noir setting by such incredibly talented writers like Marsheila Rockwell, Jeff LaSala, and Paul Crilley and can’t wait to read more in this world.  Be on the lookout for a post about Eberron soon.

Giveaway – The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp

Stefan’s Bookshelf is proud to announce it’s first giveaway contest.   The wonderful folks at Angry Robot have graciously supplied two copies of The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp.

I think this will be the landmark fantasy book of the summer so don’t miss an opportunity to win a copy.  For those of you not familiar with the book, here is a my review.

Contest Rules

  1. This contest is open for US residents only (sorry everyone else).
  2. To enter, send an e-mail with your name and mailing address to stefan AT stefansbookshelf DOT com with HAMMER GIVEAWAY in the subject line.  Only one entry per person please.
  3. The giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11:59 PM, and TWO winners will be randomly chosen and notified via e-mail.

Best of luck to everyone!

(Stefan’s Bookshelf is not responsible for random bouts of awesomeness brought on by the reading of this book.)

False Covenant by Ari Marmell

False Covenant

False Covenant (A Widdershins Adventure, Book 2)
Author: Ari Marmell
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: June 26, 2012 (Available now at
Format: Hardcover and ebook
Length: 250 pages

Book Description:

A creature of the other world, an unnatural entity bent on chaos and carnage, has come to stalk the nighttime streets of the Galicien city of Davillon. There’s never a good time for murder and panic, but for a community already in the midst of its own inner turmoil, this couldn’t possibly have come at a worse one.

Not for Davillon, and not for a young thief who calls herself Widdershins.

It’s been over half a year since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to Davillon. And in all that time, Widdershins has truly tried her best. She’s tried to take care of Genevieve’s tavern and tried to make a semihonest living in a city slowly stagnating under the weight of an angry and disapproving Church. She’s tried to keep out of trouble, away from the attentions of the Davillon Guard and above the secrets and schemes of the city’s new bishop.

But she’s in way over her head, with no idea which way to turn. The Guard doesn’t trust her. The Church doesn’t trust her. Her own Thieves’ Guild doesn’t trust her.

Too bad for everyone, then, that she and her personal god, Olgun, may be their only real weapon against a new evil like nothing the city has ever seen.

My Thoughts

(Note: This post will contain spoilers if you have not read the first book, Thief’s Covenant.)

To say that I loved False Covenant would be an understatement and I think the name Widdershins will be on the lips of fantasy readers everywhere this year and for many to come.  There are several things that make this book an excellent read.

The Setting – Davillon has a renaissance France feel to it. The city is rich, vibrant, and full of life.  I was easily able to picture everything from the cobblestoned streets to the church architecture due to Ari’s descriptive prose.  The city came alive and made me want to wander the streets and get lost in the crowds.  Based on what we have  seen of Davillon,  I can only imagine what wonders the rest of Ari’s world holds for us.

The Villain – Ari created one of the creepiest and most original “bad guys” I have read in some time. Scenes from The Ring and The Grudge came to mind as the creature skittered across the pages. I would love to know the thought process that went into creating this creature, or maybe not, reading about it was creepy enough, and it’s genesis might really give me nightmares. Even though there was a demon that had to be defeated in the first book, this creature brought things to a whole new level, requiring not only Widdershins and Olgun’s skills, but the help of friends and enemies alike. I love it when I read an unforgettable villain and it just goes to show Ari’s writing skill in making original and multi-dimensional characters.

The Characters – I know this one is rather obvious, as what is a story without the characters, but it still merits mentioning. Widdershins has been through so much it is hard to believe she is as young as she is.  Even with all the wise cracks and bravado there is a vulnerable side to Widdershins. There is some romance in the story but nothing over the top as to take away from the story.  It is quite sweet and endearing and adds to the character’s depth, to both Widdershins and the others involved.  I really like Widdershin’s banter with Olgun, it adds some levity to the book even during the most serious of times.  Their bond is such an interesting and intergal part of the story.  I mean, how cool is it to have your own personal god?  Ari’s characters, Widdershins, Robin, Julien, and Renard, are all people I can relate to, which further anchored me in the story.

The Ending – I will try not give anything away about the ending other than it was epic, and by far one of the best “endings” I have read in some time.  Did I want the book to end the way it did? No, but did I absolutely love the ending?  An emphatic yes.  I love when authors do this to me.  They draw me into a book and I fall in love with the characters (or at least a serious like),and then one leaves the story even though I want them to stay. This ramps up the tension and leaves me dying for more.  This is another thing I like about Ari’s writing, he is not afraid to sacrifice a character in order to craft a great story.

The first book, Thief’s Convenant, was a great read, but Ari shows that can make “great” even better with False Covenant.  I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers young and old (and anywhere in between).

This review was of an ARC I received from the publisher Pyr.

Guest Reviewer on Civilian Reader

I have been granted the wonderful opportunity to do a couple of reviews for the esteemed  Civilian Reader.  This is my first stab at guest reviewing and I am excited and more than a little nervous as the Civilian Reader has an outstanding reputation in the blogsphere.  I will be reviewing The Spirit War by Rachael Aaron, The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, and friends, and The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams.

Of the three I am most looking forward to The Dirty Streets of Heaven as I am a big Tad Williams fan, but I also can’t turn away from a good thief’s tale either, so I am looking forward to digging into these books.  Has anyone read any of them?  If so, care to offer an opinion?

New Releases in June 2012

June is going to be a great month for fantasy readers.  We have two fantastic sequels and Paul S. Kemp’s highly anticipated new swords and sorcery tale, introducing Egil and Nix.

Spinner of Lies  by Bruce R. Cordell
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Kindle and Nook ebook

Demascus returns in the sequel to Sword of the Gods  and the drow have arrived in Airspur with an insidious goal.  Read my review here.

False Covenant  by Ari Marmell
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover and Kindle/Nook ebook

Move over Thorn of Camorr,  Whiddershins is back!  I am almost finished with the ARC and it is just as fun and exciting as it’s predecessor Thief’s Convenant.

The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback and Kindle/Nook ebook

The Hammer and Blade is a highly anticipated  release from Paul S. Kemp and Angry Robot featuring his new characters Egil and Nix.  This was easily one of my favorite reads of the year.  Read my review here.

Fantasy fans should not lack for great summer reads this year.  I highly recommend all of these titles, you won’t be disappointed.

Happy reading!!

Spinner of Lies by Bruce Cordell

Memories of his past incarnations haunt Demascus, even as he searches for stolen portraits that contain the trapped souls of demigods. Meanwhile, drow creep beneath the city of Airspur, intent on precipitating war between Akanûl and a rival nation. As Demascus attempts to win freedom from the ghost of his murdered lover, he agrees to thwart the drow’s secret scheme, sending him on a trail that stretches between the Demonweb, Airspur, and an island that appears on no map.

Spinner of Lies is the sequel to Sword of the Gods and takes place a few months after Sword of the Gods. We meet back up with the cast of the previous book, Demascus, a divine assassin known as the Sword of the Gods, Riltana, a wise cracking windsoul genasi who steals from the wealth of Airspur, and Chant Morven, a pawn shop owner with a network of informants that keep him abreast of events in the city.  There is a new addition to the group, Jaul Morven, Chant’s son.  Their relationship is not on the best of terms and this provides a great side plot to the story.  I really enjoyed group’s interactions, especially Riltana’s scathing comments to Demascus in the heat of battle.  Bruce’s crowning achievement is his characters. He is able to weave a tight story but at the same time you get to hear the character’s inner monologues describing their hopes and fears.  Things like Demascus’s fear of losing his identity, Riltana’s hopes for her estranged lover, and Chant’s worry for his son, helped draw me in and really feel a kinship with the characters. Readers of Bruce’s Abolethic Sovereignty  will be happy to see Captain Thoster, the captain of the Green Siren, again.  There is also a reference to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons module, Tomb of Horrors, that longtime players will notice.  (I really enjoyed the reference).

There are lots of things going on in Spinner of Lies.  The first is Queen Arathane’s  request for Demascus and company to discover the reason communication has stopped to a mine on a secret island that left unchecked could lead to war with Tymanther, next is Demacus’s murdered lover that has come back to haunt him, then stolen paintings that hold the souls of demigods, and finally a potential drow invasion.  That is a lot of ground to cover in just one book but Bruce takes these plots and spins them (no pun intended) into thread that reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

Central to the plot are the drow.  The drow have been a favorite race of mine since I first read R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series years back.  Why are they lurking in Airspur and who are they in league with?  Spinner of Lies  is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Rise of the Underdark, an event that will have bold, sweeping ramifications across (and under) the Forgotten Realms.

Even with multiple plots going on there is still time to focus on the main character, Demascus.  He is a divine assassin, the “Sword of the Gods”, an instrument of divine retribution.  These words are inscribed on Demascus’s sarcophagus:

“Agent of Fate, Emissary of Divine Judgement, Cuttter of Destiny’s Thread. You died as you lived, and you will live again, Demascus, Sword of the Gods.”

Yet he is still only a shadow of his former self and without his artifact, the Whorl of Ioun,  he is more human than divine agent of vengeance.  But is this necessarily a bad thing?  Demascus wants to be more human, and not a tool of the gods, to control is own destiny.  He can feel the other part of himself, the part that revels in destruction, waiting to take over, and has to fight to keep it in check.  It would be so easy to let that part take over but it would truly cost him his humanity.  There is a scene where Demascus seeks divine counsel and things do not go well.  The dialog that occurs during that scene is fantastic.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I normally do not think on how well the title of a book fits a story,  I concentrate on the characters and the story itself, but this time the title really stood out to me.  Spinner of Lies is a very apt title as it perfectly describes the parallel plot lines in the book.  I will not go into detail as to spoil it for other readers, but it was very well done.

I have been a longtime reader of Bruce’s work and he continues to write books worthy of any fantasy reader’s bookshelf, and Spinner of Lies is no exception.  I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Spinner of Lies will be available in ebook on June 5, 2012 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This review was of an ARC from NetGalley.