Read the First Chapter of Elizabeth Bear’s The Red-Stained Wings

The Gage and the Dead Man brought a message from the greatest wizard of Messaline to the ruling queen of Sarathai, one of the Lotus Kingdoms. But the message was a riddle, and the Lotus Kingdoms are at war.

Hugo Award–winning author Elizabeth Bear returns to the epic fantasy world of the Lotus Kingdoms with The Red-Stained Wings, the sequel to The Stone in the Skull, taking the Gage into desert lands under a deadly sky to answer the riddle of the Stone in the Skull. Available May 28th from Tor Books. Read chapter one below, and continue with chapter two on the Tor/Forge blog.

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Place Your Titan-Sized Bets on the Final Trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters

“My God…”
“ZILLA!”

It’s difficult to pin an exact tone on Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s that delightful exchange between Bradley Whitford (we are here for all of his commentary) and Kyle Chandler. But there’s also a soulful instrumental rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to announce the return of 17 (and counting!) titans amid the final showdown between King Ghidorah and Godzilla himself. And we’re not sure if the “ONE KING TO RULE THEM ALL” tagline is a joke for Lord of the Rings fans, but we were tickled regardless.

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Compelling Contemporary Fantasy: Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell

I’m much more familiar with Gareth L. Powell’s science fiction than with any work he’s previously done in the fantasy vein. Embers of War and Fleet of Knives are his most recent work, part of an interesting space opera trilogy, and although I haven’t read his Ack-Ack Macaque, its BSFA-Award-winning status offers some endorsement as to its quality.

Ragged Alice is a low-key contemporary fantasy. DCI Holly Craig has had a successful career with the London Metropolitan Police, albeit one marked by her isolation from colleagues, her lack of meaningful relationships, and her alcoholism-as-coping-method. Orphaned young, she was raised by her grandfather in the small Welsh coastal village of Pontyrhudd, a place she left as soon as she could—a place where a brush with death-by-drowning on the eve of her departure for university gave her the ability to see the shadows on people’s souls. (An ability she never wanted and finds really difficult to cope with.)

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Everything Happens Too Late To Matter in Game of Thrones Season 8

The well-worn trope of characters facing their possible last night alive borders on cliché—so much so that a character saying anything to the effect of “this could be our last night on earth” is barely even subtext for suggesting a sexual liaison. This trope is nearly always used to bring simmering plot points to a boil and challenge long-established elements of the status quo. The last night on earth is a last chance, a culmination, a high point. Not so on this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” Here, the episode works to show viewers that it is far, far too late for the climaxes and resolutions offered to hold any lasting meaning.

This is accomplished in numerous ways—perhaps most notably through the use of the haunting “Jenny’s Song” to suffuse melancholy and woe into all of its proceedings. Jenny of Oldstones, the subject of Podrick’s (and Florence + The Machine’s) song, is a complicated and tragic figure from George R.R. Martin’s novels. She is best known as Westeros’ answer to Wallis Simpson, the commoner for whom a Targaryen prince abdicated the throne. She is long dead by the time of the books, but her song is used to mark moments of somber reflection in the text. The song is less interested in her love story than it is in her status as a (possible) survivor of the tragedy of Summerhall. In brief, the tragedy of Summerhall was a conflagration that destroyed the Targaryen Winter Palace and killed not only Jenny’s husband (Duncan Targaryen), but a whole host of other Targaryens and their retainers, ending the golden age of the dynasty and paving the way for the Mad King to ascend to the throne. In “danc[ing] with her ghosts” “high in the hall of the kings who are gone,” Jenny of Oldstones is an object lesson in what happens when you outlive your own story. She is mired in the past, clinging to undoubtedly worthy things that are, unfortunately, too long gone to make a difference.

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Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Conversation Tony Stark and Thanos Should Have Had

EXT. TITAN—DAY

THANOS strides out of a wormhole onto the ruined surface of the planet TITAN. Crashed spaceships and broken towers rise from a desolate waste.

Thanos looks tired.

STARK (O.S.)

Now, see, you are much more of a “Thanos.”

Thanos turns in mild surprise to TONY STARK, taking the place of Doctor Strange in this fic because the author is an Iron Man fan. Iron Fan? Anyway.

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Rereading The Ruin of Kings: Chapters 30 and 31

Greetings and salutations, Tor.com! In tribute to your awesomeness, I give you: blackmail! Torture! Really bad parenting! Huzzah!

This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 30, “Family Reunion”, and Chapter 31, “Tyentso at the Beach.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.

Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!

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Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Snapture vs. Rapture: Where Avengers: Infinity War Sticks With Biblical Lore, And Where It Departs

We were talking about how the remaining Avengers found Fury’s beeper.

Let me back up. The ending of Avengers: Infinity War draws on imagery from a rather surprising corner of popular culture, and I want to dig into it, but but I’ll need to get into very spoilery territory for the Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel, so click through only if you’re caught up!

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Reading the Wheel of Time: Choosing Who You Want to Be in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 9)

Hello again, dear friends. I know I told you that we were going to spend this week on Egwene’s Accepted Trials, but as it turns out, I had so much to say that I had to break it down into two different posts! You all seem to enjoy my non chapter-specific ramblings, though, and seems like it was about time for one.

Before I get into that, however, I’d like to thank you all of your insightful comments over the course of this read. I’ve enjoyed interacting with you, and even if I didn’t comment myself, I was reading along and loving all of your thoughts and pointers. You’ve been working so hard to keep those comments spoiler-free while still giving me new angles to ponder. It’s been great fun for me, and I think it also contributed to making the subsequent posts richer.

That being said, as the books get more and more complicated, so does spoiler-free commenting! The Tor Dot Powers that Be and I have decided to change the policy, allowing all commenting to be as spoilery as you like. We do not seem to have any commenters who are reading along with me for the first time. And while I’ll miss your discussions and banter, freeing up the comments section allows you all to spend less time worrying about what counts as a spoiler and dealing with white-outs, and more time getting into the nitty-gritty of the story you love.

[But what does it mean to be chosen?]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 4 and 5

Welcome back to Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga! Schools in Massachusetts get the week starting with the third Monday in April off, because of the Boston Marathon and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, so I’ve been on vacation this week. It’s been amazing. I took my dog out in my kayak! Chapters four and five of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen get much farther out in the wilderness than I have this week, and also follow up on chapter three’s long series of conversations about life, the universe, and parenting.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Magic for Liars Sweepstakes!

Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey, available June 4 from Tor Books—and we want to send you a copy!

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine.

She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

[Read on for more about the book, and comment in the post to enter!]

Touching Magic with Andre Norton’s The Hands of Lyr

One of the really interesting things about reading and rereading an author with a career as long as Andre Norton’s is the ability to see how her work evolved over decades—and how it stayed the same. Jumping ahead from the Sixties and Seventies to The Hands of Lyr, published in 1994, turns out to have been less of a leap than I expected.

All the classic Norton elements are there. The misfit protagonist—in this case doubled: Nosh the war orphan living with a wisewoman in an apocalyptic wasteland, and Kryn the heir of a broken noble house (complete with ancient sword). The dualistic cosmology: light versus dark, good versus bad, good gods versus bad wizard/demigod. The city of merchants and the criminal mastermind who preys on them. The love of gems and crystals tied in with an avowed belief in psychometry. The animal companions: the lizards called zarks, the water-buffalo-like varges (including one large varge), the alpaca-like, camel-like Ushur. The awkward character interactions and abrupt romance, and the rapid rush to the ending after a long, long, long, slow buildup.

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5 Reasons Pike and Spock Star Trek Spinoff Should Happen (And 3 Reasons Why it Shouldn’t)

If you’d never seen a Star Trek series before Discovery, you may have assumed that the season 2 finale opened a wormhole for the exit of the titular starship, while opening a door for a new show about Captain Pike, Spock, Number One and the crew of the USS Enterprise circa 2257. Because the original Star Trek doesn’t happen for another eight years in the established timeline, the idea that we could see the adventures of the Enterprise before Captain Kirk took over isn’t that all that crazy. Even before the season 2 finale of Discovery, fans began petitioning for a new spin-off series featuring Spock and Pike aboard the classic Enterprise with Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn reprising their roles from Discovery.

Here are five reasons why this retro-spinoff is a great idea, and three reasons why this starship needs to stay in spacedock.

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Parts 1 and 2.”

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Hey, Star Wars: Episode IX — Don’t Retcon Rey Into a Skywalker

Star Wars: The Last Jedi left many fans with the answer they’d been hoping for—Rey is not a Skywalker! In fact, Rey’s parentage is of no importance whatsoever. It seemed like we got lucky and the new generation would not be related to this dominant clan of hyper-capable Force-users (with the exception of Kylo Ren). But now Episode IX is sneaking up on us, and according to director and writer J.J. Abrams: “I don’t want to say that what happens in Episode 8 [didn’t happen]. We have honored that. But I will say that there’s more to the story than you’ve seen.”

So… there’s still more to the “Rey’s parents” saga ahead.

Can we still just say no to this?

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Donato Giancola Is the Caravaggio of Middle-earth

When I visited Venice last year, I was overcome by the quality and quantity of the art filling the great halls of the famous Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). The works of Italian Renaissance painters like Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto surround you and nearly overwhelm you in that place. Saints, kings, soldiers, philosophers, angels, and gods throng the walls, ceilings, and frescoes. But you know, if someone could sneak in an armload of paintings by artist Donato Giancola—paintings like “Gandalf at Rivendell,” “Boromir in the Court of the Fountain,” or “The Tower of Cirith Ungol”—and scatter them around the palace, I bet it would take a good long while for some snooty art historian to notice and complain.

Hell, I probably wouldn’t double-take, either, because those paintings would be perfectly at home there among the masters. I suppose if you put up enough of Donato’s masterpieces in the Louvre or the Met, maybe tourists would eventually wonder why Satan looks an awful lot like a Balrog or ask who all those stressed-out, grey-robed, pipe-smoking old men are, and hey, what’s that blonde lady doing with a sword and, whoa, is she facing off against a headless, mace-wielding black knight who’s just been unhorsed from some kind of pterosaur? What Greco-Roman myth is that even from?!

Personally, I was sold on Donato Giancola’s work the moment I first saw his illustrious and mesmerizingly expansive “Beren and Lúthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian.” I later contacted him to ask if I could include some of his art in The Silmarillion Primer. Not only was he cool with it, he turned out to be a surprisingly down-to-earth fellow, and it was only a matter of time before I roped him in for an interview. Good timing, because he’s got a great new book out, too.

[‘Dear me,’ he went on. ‘Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures?’]

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