Tag Archives: Amir Zand

Unreality Junction: Goodies for the Holidays!

I’m still dealing with the fallout of this last part of the year, but here are the book goodies I got (not that I necessarily need an excuse to get them, but you know, it looks better when you have a handy gift giving seasonal cover.)

1. White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland

The third novel in Rowland’s contemporary fantasy series about Louisiana morgue attendant and zombie Angel. I read the first one of this series, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, and liked it, though I thought the ending seemed a little rushed and overly heightened. But then I got the second book, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, where Angel starts to find out a lot of info about being a zombie and the ending of the first novel made more sense from that. This third installment ups the action even more than the first two as Angel has to deal with a zombie film shoot, mysterious deaths, the local zombie syndicate, the return of various antagonists, rain and flood, taking the GED, etc. Rowland is great at combining her small town frame with Angel getting her life together, with essentially a spy thriller. This novel has a bit less humor than the first two, but also an increasingly confident Angel. My only complaint is that the heavier spy thriller aspects meant less cop and morgue time this go round. Rowland is a former cop and morgue worker, so she does that stuff very well, as well as a really interesting take on zombism and the strange mix of pathos and advantage therein.

2. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

Moving on to the new titles I haven’t read yet, is the second novel in Hines’ new contemporary fantasy Magic Ex Libris series about a libromancer, Isaac, who can pull things from books and helps guard the world from magical threats. The second book focuses more on Lena, the dryad dragged from the pages of an old pulp fantasy novel, who is Isaac’s bodyguard and sometime lover. New enemies are after Lena’s powers, and that can mean some very bad things for everyone. The first novel, Libromancer, made quite a big splash, has a lot of humor and interesting stuff, and also let Hines bring in his fire spider from his Jig the Goblin novels, so I’m looking forward to this one.

3. Nysta: Duel at Grimwood Creek by Lucas Thorn

Continuing with the sequels is book two of Australian author Lucas Thorn’s Nysta series, a secondary world western, D&D epic, satirical dark fantasy revenge quest mash-up of awesome cussing proportions. I featured the cover art for the first volume, Nysta: Revenge of the Elf, on my blog, by artist Amir Zand, then got the first book and featured the next two covers. The Nysta books read exactly like westerns, except they are about elves, wizards, gods and magical forces in really interesting landscapes. The first book was violent, rough, slyly funny and quite moving all at the same time. Nysta, the central character, is an elven destroyer out to get the gang of elves who killed her husband. In the second book, she is closing in on the Bloody Nine but dealing with strong magical forces and monsters in the Deadlands. (I’m hoping that Thorn and Zand can get some sort of comic book spin-off going on this world sometime — great fun.)

4. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Not a sequel, but a continuing world novel, and a western to boot, in this novel Abercrombie expands his First Law world by traveling to a new frontier land in which presumed dead Northern barbarian king, the legendary Logan Ninefingers, has been hiding out on a farm under the name Lamb. The central character is Shy, his stepdaughter, who sets off after her kidnapped brother and sister with Lamb/Logan in tow. Other characters from Abercrombie’s previous novels make appearances and probably there are clues to the mysterious past of wizard battles that seems to subtly affect everything in Abercrombie’s secondary world. You probably don’t have to read the First Law trilogy and standalones Best Served Cold and The Heroes first, but it would help to get the full effect. Abercrombie’s mix of brutal war, black humor, and fascinating mythology is a hoot but it’s his characters who sing — each has a distinct voice that lets him try out one type of story after another. Interesting to see what he will do with the western one.

5. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Lynch broke on the scene with the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, to much acclaim. The satirical dark crime thriller fantasy about con artists in a remarkable city had a few minor plot issues for me, but the writing was lovely with its dual chronologies and the scenery sublime. The sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, had some plot issues too, but expanded the world of the story in interesting ways, plus pirates! Lynch ran into some personal issues that delayed this third book in the series, and it may be the last, but I think it may also be the most interesting. A poisoned Locke has to become a pawn in a battle of mages that pits him against the long gone con-woman he loves — Sabetha, whom we finally get to see. So fun and I had to get.

6. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

Wendig’s first book in this Miriam Black series, Blackbirds, was another book whose cover art first drew my attention to it. It’s a contemporary fantasy series about a sarcastic and desperate young woman who, when she touches someone, knows when and how they will die. In this sequel, Miriam is trying to do the settling down thing with her truck driver boyfriend and has achieved more control over her powers, but then she sees a death that may change everything. Wendig has a deft hand, a sensibility with looney and weird characters, and a central character with a great voice. It also has some genuine mystery to the suspense and interesting supernatural elements.

7. Feed by Mira Grant

I read Grant’s contemporary fantasy novel, Rosemary and Rue, written under her main name Seanan McGuire, and liked the writing (she’s a Campbell award winner,) but wasn’t quite as blown away by the world and focus of that story. So I decided to try her horror science fiction with this first book in her Newsflesh trilogy. Feed got a ton of attention and a Hugo nomination. It’s a near future zombie thriller that takes the mutated virus approach to zombies, with a dark satire of political campaigns and conspiracies, news media and blogging, horror films, medical research, etc. Grant has a very sharp eye, so I suspect I will like it.

8. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I am a huge Atkinson fan. She has occasionally dipped into fantasy, magic realism style, and her standalone bestselling novel Life After Life is a full out fantasy novel that has been nominated for the Orange Prize and probably will pick up quite a few of the major nominations for the year. The novel is about Ursula, who continually dies but in alternate overlapping universes lives as the world marches towards World War II and a fate that Ursula’s unique repeating life may affect. That’s going to be rich toffee, the way Atkinson writes, so I shall probably save it for a bit later when chaos declines a little, but I am looking forward to it, even though WWII is not my favorite era.

9. Shadow’s Sun by Jon Sprunk 

Technically this wasn’t a new goodie for the holidays, but it was a book temporarily misplaced in our move last year, so now I’ve got it recovered finally and can tackle it. It’s Sprunk’s debut secondary world fantasy novel, with divine cover art, about an assassin named Caim, who finds himself, as assassins frequently do, a pawn in a complicated and high stakes plot. But this particular assassin has some unusual aspects to his life — ever since he was a child damaged by tragedy, Caim can call shadows to cloak him, a magic that haunts him and he distrusts, and he has been visited by a ghostly, mercurial and mysterious spirit named Kit who sometimes helps him out. The writing style has a traditional, grand feel to it, but with bickering, a combination I think I’m going to like. It reminds me a bit of some of Glen Cook. Sprunk has started a new series, The Book of the Black Earth, which sounds interesting, so I will have to catch up over time. But I think I will enjoy Caim’s tale first.

My mother was astonished that my husband and daughter were watching the end of How to Train Your Dragon, a favorite animated film of ours. I was astonished that she hadn’t seen the movie, as it’s tailor-made to be the sort of movie my mom would like. So we sat down and watched the film and she did indeed love it. There is also a cartoon spin off; if you’ve got young kids you might as well try it out. And the sequel film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, comes out next year; we’re looking forward to it. Here’s the trailer:

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The Next Amir Zand Cover for Lucas Thorn’s Nysta Series

So I’ve become a big fan of artist Amir Zand because of his book cover work on Australian author Lucas Thorn’s Nysta series. Nysta is a really fascinating, sometimes raw, secondary world fantasy series. The narrative of the novels is pure dark American/Aussie Western, deliberately classic and bloody in the way the characters speak, act, and in much of the plot and setting. But this is then blended with an also deliberately game-style epic fantasy world of gods who command armies and then disappear, monsters, elves, goblins, kings, assassins, sorcerers, etc. And on top of that blend, Thorn layers in a level of gentle satire that pokes some loving fun at the mythos of westerns, fantasy and gaming. The mix of those elements creates a pretty unusual dark fantasy with streaks of black humor and horror — and lots of cursing. If you like mash-ups, this is a real mash-up and Thorn makes it work.

In Nysta: Revenge of the Elf, the first novel, Nysta is an elf with an unusual history living in exile who then pursues her husband’s killers, a gang of outcast mercenaries on a mission with dangerous consequences. That chase leads her into even darker territory and a life changing encounter with a magical force. In the second book, Duel at Grimwood Creek, Nysta has her chance at revenge — after she deals with a collector of souls and other creatures in the Deadlands who want her head. In the newest novel, When Goblins Rage, Nysta is fighting for control of her own mind and against forces ranging from vampires to armies of goblins who see her as the key to reaching the gods. Good clean fun, really.

For each of these books, Zand has done a cover in a different style and color palette, giving each its own look but connected through line and other elements to build a general atmosphere that is a bit Asian, a bit western, and a bit surreal. They are really beautiful; what I love about them is the sense of movement to each image. You can see the previous covers here and here. The new one for When Goblins Rage is below. This one plays up the epic fantasy aspects more than the earlier ones with a brighter color scheme, but still has that chaotic mix of light and shadow and shifting ribbons of the others.

Nysta: When Goblins Rage by Lucas Thorne. Cover by Amir Zand.

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Amir Zand and Lucas Thorn ride again

A few months back I highlighted a book cover I thought was interesting for Australian author Lucas Thorn‘s first book in a western-flavored revenge tale of elves: Nysta: Revenge of the Elf. The book cover was done by Iranian artist Amir Zand. Zand has done a new cover for the next book in the series, Duel at Grimwood Creek, in which Nysta continues to hunt down the Bloody Nine who killed her husband while facing creatures and mysteries out in the Deadlands. Where the first book’s cover went with brash color, this one nods to that color in a more black and white patina. I think both are swell. Here’s the cover (unable to make the image larger apparently):

 

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More Pretty Things for Lucas

Australian author Lucas Thorn pingbacked my blog yesterday because I’d mentioned his novel, Nysta: Revenge of the Elf re Amir Zand’s very cool bookcover art for it. He got the name of my blog wrong, though. It’s The Open Window, Lucas, not Pretty Things. (Although Pretty Things is a pretty good name for a blog, don’t get me wrong. Also “This is Why We Can’t Have Pretty Things” would be a good blog name and somebody probably has it. There are about 500 blogs plus a famous short story called The Open Window — the more, the merrier.)

Anyway, I realized that I forgot to mention in the last post that I had actually read the opening pages of Thorn’s novel, through the Amazon U.S. “Look Inside” feature that Thorn paid for or wiggled out of Amazon. And those pages were good, in my opinion. Lot of atmosphere, dry humor, an immediately appealing character in the Prologue made all the worse because you knew he was going to buy it pretty soon.  So I was actually recommending the book to the extent that one can do so from just having read an excerpt. (And if it provides further inspiration on doing Book 2, Lucas, I’ve been a book editor in one way or another for a reeaaallly long time.) The book is unfortunately not available on all the Amazons, but may be in other spots on the Net, and in Amazon U.S. (and I would assume Amazon Australia,) you can get it as an e-book or a more expensive trade paperback print edition. So this may be going on the birthday list for me. You all can check it out. It is apparently #18 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases of Epic Fantasy, which means it is selling well and other people are burbling about it. And yes, Lucas Thorn is apparently his real name. So there you go.

As for Amir Zand’s lovely artwork for the book, that will be going up on the Positivity Cover Art thread at SFFWorld.com in the Fantasy Forum, with mention of what book it is to, once I get a minute to do it and some other bookcovers I like, which I’ll also reproduce here. There are lots of people over there and we have lots of Australian members  too, so swing by.

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Pretty Things — More Artwork

Back in the spring, I mentioned Scottish painter Paul Cadden who does work in a genre that is called hyperrealism, with paintings and drawings that look amazingly like photographs.  Another hyperrealist painter who works in acrylics is Canadian Jason de Graaf. De Graaf, among other subjects likes to play with glass, metal and reflections, with lots of color. Here are some of his really interesting works, or you can check out lots more at his site:

Another, different sort of artist I’ve learned about is Iranian painter, photographer and graphics artist Amir Zand. Some of his work is towards the realism part of the spectrum, but others are more of a distinctive style that uses elements of comics art, Asian styles and his own jagged look. He has worked for outfits like Black Label Comics, and his prints and posters are pretty reasonably priced. He also works in video and animation and you can check out his gallery at Deviant Art. I first saw his work for the cover of Australian author Lucas Thorn‘s first novel in his Nysta series, Nysta: Revenge of the Elf, an excellent looking secondary world Western style fantasy action thriller (sort of Dark Tower territory,) about an elf who goes after the elves who killed her husband. (Can’t think of a better handle for a writer of Western style fantasy than Lucas Thorn really.) Check it out:

Other works of Zand’s:

And because we haven’t had one in awhile, some new works from my pal, writer and graphics artist Cynthia Radthorne (still trying to figure out what I want her to do for the banner header on my blog; feel free to make suggestions in the comments.) By the by, that work of hers I displayed earlier, A Test of Skill, was bought by a health magazine for their cover, so way to go, Cynthia!

This one I think got commissioned for a book called Starheart by Greta Van Der Rol:

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