Posts Tagged: Free Readin’

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Daniel Abraham. So, in my ever increasing efforts to promote the genre’s second-hardest working author (because, let’s be honest here, no one can hold a candle to Brandon Sanderson), and one its best-kept secrets, here’s an exclusive excerpt from The King’s Blood, the second volume in The Dagger and the Coin. It’s a tremendous novel and improves on its predecessor in almost every way. If you’re interested, you can read my review of The King’s Blood.

The King’s Blood is available now in the UK and North America from Orbit Books.

THE KING'S BLOOD by Daniel Abraham

Cithrin bel Sarcour

Cithrin bel Sarcour, voice of the Medean bank in Porte Oliva, stepped out of the bank's office with her head high, her features composed, and rage burning in her breast. Around her, Porte Oliva was entering its springtime. The bright cloth banners and glittering paste jewels of the First Thaw celebrations still lay in the streets and alleyways, slowly decaying into grime. Snow haunted the shadows where the midday sun couldn't reach. Cithrin's breath plumed before her as if her heart were a furnace belching pale smoke, and she felt the bite of the air as a distant thing.

Men and women of several races bustled on the cobbles before her. Kurtadam with their slick, beaded pelts; thin-faced, pale Cinnae; brass-and-gold-scaled Jasuru; black-chitined Timzinae; and fleshy, rose-cheeked Firstblood. Some nodded to her, some stepped out of her way, most ignored her. She might represent one of the greatest banks in the world, but as far as the hazy sky over Porte Oliva cared, she was just another half-Cinnae girl in a well-tailored dress.

When she stepped into the taproom, the warm air caressed her. The related, yeasty scents of beer and bread tried to gentle her, and she felt some of the knot in her gut begin to ease. The anger slipped, showing itself only a mask for the despair and frustration beneath. A young Cinnae man came forward to take her shawl, and she managed a tight-lipped smile as she relinquished it.

"The usual table, Magistra?" he asked.

"Thank you, Verril," she said. "That would be kind."

Grinning, he made an exaggerated bow, and gestured her on. Another day, she might have found it charming. The table was at the back, half hidden from the main room by a draped cloth. It cost a few coins more. When she felt capable of civil conversation, she would sometimes sit at the common benches, striking up conversation with whoever was there. There were more sailors and gossip of travelers farther south at the docks, more word of overland trade north where the dragon's road opened to the main square and the cathedral and the governor's palace, but the taproom was nearest to her bank–her bank, by God–and not every conversation needed to be a bid for advantage.

The Kurtadam girl who most often served in the daytimes brought a plate of cheese and brown bread with a tiny carved-wood bowl full of black raisins. More to the point, she brought a tankard of good beer. Cithrin nodded sharply and tried to make her smile genuine. If the girl saw anything odd in her, the soft fur of her face covered it. Kurtadam would make good card players, Cithrin thought as she drank. All of them wearing masks all the time.

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Cover Art for A MEMORY OF LIGHT by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, mocked up by Aidan Moher

Bayrd pressed the coin between his thumb and forefinger. It was thoroughly unnerving to feel the metal squish.

He removed his thumb. The hard copper now clearly bore its print, reflecting the uncertain torchlight. He felt chilled, as if he’d spent an entire night in a cold cellar.

His stomach growled. Again.

The north wind picked up, making torches sputter. Bayrd sat with his back to a large rock near the center of the warcamp. Hungry men muttered as they warmed their hands around fire pits; the rations had spoiled long ago. Other soldiers nearby began laying out all of their metal—swords, armor clasps, mail—on the ground, like linen to be dried. Perhaps they hoped that when the sun rose, it would change the material back to normal.

Bayrd rolled the once-coin into a ball between his fingers. Light preserve us, he thought. Light… He dropped the ball to the grass, then reached over and picked up the stones he’d been working with.

“I want to know what happened here, Karam,” Lord Jarid snapped at his advisor. Jarid stood nearby, in front of a table draped with maps. “I want to know where they are and how they drew so close, and I want that bloody, Darkfriend Aes Sedai queen’s head!” Jarid slammed his fist down on the table. Once, his eyes hadn’t displayed such a crazed fervor. The pressure of it all—the lost rations, the strange things in the nights—was changing him.

I didn’t expect Tor to release an excerpt from A Memory of Light, given its importances and the frothing demand for its release in early 2013, but, well, here it is. Remember when they used to charge fans $2.99 to read the prologue? This is the same excerpt read by Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow, at JordanCon. It’s and excerpt from the prologue, and not told through eyes of one of the main characters, though I’m sure no Wheel of Time fans are surprised by that.

What did you think of the excerpt?

Railsea by China Mieville


THIS IS THE STORY of a bloodstained boy.

There he stands, swaying as utterly as any windblown sapling. He is quite, quite red. If only that were paint! Around each of his feet the red puddles; his clothes, whatever colour they were once, are now a thickening scarlet; his hair is stiff & drenched.

Only his eyes stand out. The white of each almost glows against the gore, lightbulbs in a dark room. He stares with great fervour at nothing.

The situation is not as macabre as it sounds. The boy isn’t the only bloody person there: he’s surrounded by others as red & sodden as he. & they are cheerfully singing.

The boy is lost. Nothing has been solved. He thought it might be. He had hoped that this moment might bring clarity. Yet his head is still full of nothing, or he knows not what.

We’re here too soon. Of course we can start anywhere: that’s the beauty of the tangle, that’s its very point. But where we do & don’t begin has its ramifications, & this right now is not best chosen. Into reverse: let this engine go back. Just to before the boy was bloodied, there to pause & go forward again to see how we got here, to red, to music, to chaos, to a big question mark in a young man’s head.

Another year, another China Mieville novel. This one is a re-telling of Moby Dick, in the future, with trains and moles replacing boats and whales. Yep, sounds like Mieville.

You can find the whole excerpt of Railsea, with illustrations from Mieville, on the Tor UK website.

REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl looked out the window of Earth Dock, the Universal Union’s space station above the planet Earth, and gazed at his next ship.

He gazed at the Intrepid.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” said a voice.

Dahl turned to see a young woman, dressed in a starship ensign’s uniform, also looking out toward the ship.

“She is,” Dahl agreed.

“The Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid,” the young woman said. “Built in 2453 at the Mars Dock. Flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. First captain, Genevieve Shan. Lucius Abernathy, captain since 2462.”

“Are you the Intrepid’s tour guide?” Dahl asked, smiling.

“Are you a tourist?” the young woman asked, smiling back.

“No,” Dahl said, and held out his hand. “Andrew Dahl. I’ve been assigned to the Intrepid. I’m just waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

The young woman took his hand. “Maia Duvall,” she said. “Also assigned to the Intrepid. Also waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

“What a coincidence,” Dahl said.

Despite being somewhat unsatisfied with Scalzi’s recent novels, I still look forward to his yearly releases, and Redshirts is no different. For those looking forward to the novel, or those curious about Scalzi’s work, is hosting a five-chapter excerpt from Redshirts, which is set for release on June 5th, 2012.

ORB, SCEPTRE, THRONE, a MALAZAN novel by Ian Cameron Esslemont

In the nameless shanty town rambling westward of Darujhistan, an old woman squatted in front of her shack carving a stick beneath a night sky dominated by the slashing lurid green banner of the Scimitar. Her hair was a wild bush about her head tied with lengths of string, ribbon, beads, and twists of leather. Her bare feet where they poked out beneath her layered skirts were as dark as the earth the toes gripped. She droned to herself in a language no one understood.

An old woman living alone in a decrepit hut was nothing unusual for the shanty town, peopled as it was by the poorest, most brokendown of the lowest class of tannery workers, sewer cleaners and garbage haulers of Darujhistan. Every second shack seemed occupied by an old widow or grandmother, the menfolk dying off early as they do everywhere – the men claiming this proves they do all the hard work, and the women knowing it’s because men aren’t tough enough to endure being old.

And so this woman had lived in her squalid hut for as long as anyone could remember and none remarked upon it, except for all the surrounding old widows and grandmothers who amongst themselves knew her as ‘that crazy old woman’.

Squatting in the mud before her hut she brought the thin stick she was carving close to eyes clouded by milky cataracts and studied the intricate tracery of curve and line that ran end to end. She crooned to herself, ‘Almost, now. Almost.’ Then she glanced fearfully, and rather blindly, to the starry night sky and its intruding alien banner, muttering, ‘Almost now. Almost.’

Malazan fans are wide and plenty these days, so surely there’re a few people out there who will ravenously gobble up this excerpt from Ian Cameron Esslemont’s bizarrely titled Orb, Sceptre, Throne, the latest instalment in the overarching Malazan story. Me? I’m not one of them, for various reasons.

You can find the excerpt from Orb, Sceptre, Throne on