Friday Firsts: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan


Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?


| Friday Firsts: May 26 |

The Waking Fire

Book One of The Draconis Memoria

by Anthony Ryan

Fantasy | 594 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2016


| First Paragraphs |

REPORT TO: BOARD OF DIRECTORS IRONSHIP TRADING SYNDICATE HOME OFFICE FEROS HOLDINGS

Report by: Lodima Bondersil – Acting Director, Carvenport Division, Arradsian Continental Holdings

Date: Settemer 29, 1578 (Day 166 of Company Year 135 by the Corporate Calendar)

Subject: Events surrounding the demise of Mr. Havelic Dunmorn, Director Carvenport Division, Arradsian Continental Holdings

Esteemed Sirs and Ladies,

By the time this report reaches your hands you will, no doubt, have received word via the Blue-trance of the demise of my immediate superior, Mr. Havelic Dunmorn, and an initial estimate of the associated deaths and considerable material destruction accompanying that tragic event. I have compiled this written account in the hope and expectation it will obviate any asinine and ill-informed rumours spread by competitors or Syndicate employees (see addendum for a list of recommended dismissals and contract terminations). It is my intention to provide a clear and unbiased account of events so as to better inform the deliberations of the Board and any subsequent directives they may see fit to issue.

The incident in question took place in and around the Harvesting and Dockside quarters of Carvenport on Settemer 26. The Board will recall Mr. Dunmorn’s Blue-trance communication on 12 Dimester which described the successful capture of a wild Black by the Chainmasters Independent Contractor Company, following a lengthy expedition to the south-western regions of the Arradsian Interior. I also refer the Board to the previous ten quarterly written reports from this Division concerning the increasing attrition rate amongst pen-bred stock, with Blacks proving the most short-lived of all breeds. I am sure the Board requires no reminder of the ever-decreasing potency of product harvested from inbred and youthful stock. Therefore, the capture of a live and healthy wild Black (the first such capture in more than a dozen years) was greeted with considerable excitement throughout the ranks of Syndicate employees, in that it offered the prospect of thickened blood lines and quality product for years to come. Unfortunately such expectations were soon revealed as premature.

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| First Impressions |

I cannot even describe how much I already love this book… but first… first impressions! Opening with a report from Lodima Bondersil, The Waking Fire creates tension and excitement from the very start, throwing the reader into the chaos of an historic event before confronting them with the repercussions further down the line.

The prologue reveals an interesting and gripping opener, raising question after question following the apparent disaster revealed almost immediately. The writing style is formal, owing to the nature of the report, yet fluid enough to engage with the reader from the start; and the introduction of key events and figures gives the reader a number of clues that will ostensibly tie in with the rest of the novel. So far, so awesome! I just wish I had more time to read it!

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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The Friday Face-Off: Of All The Words of Mice and Men


Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.


The Builders by Daniel Polansky


Welcome to the Friday Face-Off! For this week’s comparison we’re on the look out for covers which feature mice (though all rodents are welcome!).

Published by Tor globally and by Acheron in Italy, The Builders by Daniel Polansky features two incredibly striking covers that just beg for you to turn the first page. Take a look at these two artistic beauties and see which one is your favourite.


Tor – Cover #1

Cover Art by Richard Anderson

Acheron- Cover #2



| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

I’d like to say the choice was incredibly difficult this week – the runner-up is, after all, an absolutely amazing piece of art – but I can’t help but be seduced by the sheer beauty and atmospheric qualities of Richard Anderson’s artwork. Needless to say, due to my quite clear bias, it was an unfair contest from the start.

But let’s not overlook the details. The Tor cover is dramatic, gritty and gives the reader an immediate feel for the dark (if humorous) writing within while the Acheron cover speaks of comic western violence with its bold, selective palette and blocky typeface. I love the ink-like splatters and watercolour wash of the former and the styalised figures of the latter. But most of all, I love that both covers have instantly recognisable characters and that both transport you instantly into Polansky’s writing. Amazing covers. Amazing book.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

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Post LinksNext week’s theme is:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars

A cover which features the moon

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes


| Links |

Lynn @ Lynn’s Books

Sarah @ Brainfluff

Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O


Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine.


| Waiting on Wednesday: May 24 |

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O

by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland


You think you know how the world works? Think again.

From bestselling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller that questions the very foundations of the modern world.

1851 England

The Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace has opened, celebrating the rise of technology and commerce. With it the power of magic – in decline since the industrial revolution began – is completely snuffed out. The existence of magic begins its gradual devolution into mere myth.

21st Century America

Magic has faded from the minds of mankind, until an encounter between Melisande Stokes, linguistics expert at Harvard, and Tristan Lyons, shadowy agent of government, leads to the uncovering of a distant past.

After translating a series of ancient texts, Melisande and Tristan discover the connection between science, magic and time travel and so the Department of Diachronic Operations – D.O.D.O. – is hastily brought into existence. Its mission: to develop a device that will send their agents back to the past, where they can stop magic from disappearing and alter the course of history.

But when you interfere with the past, there’s no telling what you might find in your future…

Written with the genius, complexity, and innovation that characterize all of Neal Stephenson’s work and steeped with the down-to-earth warmth and humour of Nicole Galland’s storytelling style, this exciting and vividly realized work of science fiction will make you believe in the impossible, and take you to places – and times – beyond imagining.

To be published by The Borough Press on 15th June 2017

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Teaser Tuesdays: May 23


Teaser Tuesdays 2Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker.


| Teaser Tuesdays: May 23 |

The Waking Fire

Book One of The Draconis Memoria

by Anthony Ryan

Fantasy | 594 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2016


“The Pale-Eyed Preacher strikes again, she thought with a small grin, knowing full well such a myth would already be raging through every grimy alley and wine-shop. For all the poverty and violence she had witnessed here, she still retained a perverse fondness for the Blinds.”

~ p. 51 | The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan


| Synopsis |

Claydon Torcreek is a Blood-blessed, able to channel the powers contained in the blood of wild drakes. While his brethren serve as elite spies and assassins, Clay prefers the life of a small-time criminal in the dangerous slums of Carvenport.

Yet war is coming, and it seems Clay is going to end up on the losing side – unless he can track down a legendary drake, whose powerful blood might just be enough to achieve victory. Clay has handled many things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation’s future.

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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The Friday Face-Off: The Airplane Takes Off Against The Wind, Not With It.


Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.


Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding


Welcome to the Friday Face-Off! This week we’re comparing covers which feature planes… so naturally I chose very loosely and went for a cover and artist that I absolutely love!

Published by Gollancz, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, the first book in his Tales of the Ketty Jay series, has (at least one) cover to die for. Take a look at this quite radical comparison to see which one is your favourite. For me, it’s not contest.


Gollancz – Cover #1

Cover Art by Stephan Martiniere

Gollancz – Cover #2



| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

With this Face-Off there truly is no comparison. Although the second cover has a flare for the dramatic with its vivid colours, bold border and dramatic figure (who almost steps out of the screen!), the cover by Stephan Martiniere is unbelievably beautiful. The attention to detail, glorious palette and beautiful typeface come together to frame an impressively colossal airship. This is an incredibly awesome cover for a ridiculously good book!

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


Post LinksNext week’s theme is:

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’…

A cover which features mice

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes


| Links |

Sarah @ Brainfluff

Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum

Louise @ Bookasaurus

Lynn @ Lynn’s Books

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Mother’s Day Special


Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


| Top Ten… Mother’s Day Special |

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! In celebration of Mother’s Day, and in honour of the single biggest influence for my love of books, this week I’ve brought my own mother on board with her favourite books of all time. Over to you Mamma Proxy!
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| 1. |

The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnettheart

I re-read this book several times as a child and thought it magical. ‘The Secret Garden’ began a life long love of gardening – being out in the fresh air and creating something beautiful. Therapeutic! heart

| 2 |

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austenheart

It was diffiult to choose between ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Persuasion’ but I went with this one as it was the first Austen I read (and re-read many times) from the age of eleven. Witty, clever prose and an engaging story with well-developed characters make this book an all time favourite.heart

| 3 |

The Return of the Native

by Thomas Hardy

heart‘The Return of the Native’ was my first introduction to Hardy as I studied this book for English Literature A-Level and went on to read everything he had written. Set in the wild, brooding landscape of Edgdon Heath, it balances the comic aspect of the local characters with the doomed future of the hero and heroine, and eventually ultimate tragedy.heart

| 4. |

The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien

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I read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy whilst travelling around the Greek Islands in my early twenties. It is so well-known now that there is no need to describe it. It is an exciting epic; magical, tragic, joyful and moving.
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| 5. |

North and South

by Elizabeth Gaskell

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I read this book long before it was serialised for the television. Gaskell was well aware of the English North/South divide of the mid 19th Century, a division still apparent in many ways today. Conscious of the social and economic problems suffered by the poor, Gaskell weaves them into a story of complex relationships and difficult problems.heart

| 6. |

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

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Another social history novel, ‘Middlemarch’ is complex, intelligent and detailed. An epic story full of tragedy, realism, social comedy and a sense of idealism, ‘Middlemarch’ needs reading more than once to fully appreciate its subtle complexities.
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| 7. |

The Moonstone

by Wilkie Collins
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‘The Moonstone’ is a 19th Century mystery involving the theft of a priceless diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war. An enigmatic detective, Sergeant Cuff (based on the famous Inspector Whicher of Scotland Yard) is brought in by the family to ingeniously solve the mystery, and the diamond is eventually returned to its rightful place in India.
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| 8. |

Little Dorrit

by Charles Dickens
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It was difficult to choose between this novel and ‘Bleak House’ as Dickens was such a master story-teller. ‘Little Dorrit’ is a great satire on poverty and riches, unravelling as a compelling mystery of fraud, blackmail and a rich inheritance. Great attention to detail and well-developed characters involve the reader in a complex story which greatly criticises the era.
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| 9. |

The Barsetshire Chronicles

The Warden | Barchester Towers | Doctor Thorne | Framley Parsonage | The Small House at Allington | The Last Chronicle of Barset

by Anthony Trollope
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I’m cheating here as there are six books in this series but the stories and characters are so intertwined that it is difficult to just choose one! With a keen eye for intense human observation, Trollope uses wit and perception to portray life in 19th Century England in a series of engaging stories.heart

| 10. |

The Improbability of Love

by Hannah Rothschildheart

I thought that I should include a more recent work of fiction so this is it! Fast paced, clever, satirical but humorous and very thoughtful, this novel pokes fun at London’s super-rich and the pretentiousness of the art world. ‘The Improbability of Love’ is almost Dickensian in its portrayal of the many varied characters and of London life.heart

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers and assorted inspirational women everywhere! If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Teaser Tuesdays: May 16


Teaser Tuesdays 2Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker.


| Teaser Tuesdays: May 16 |

The Tropic of Serpents

Book Two of The Memoirs of Lady Trent

by Marie Brennan

Fantasy | 331 Pages | Published by Titan in 2014


“I cannot say whether, given the chance to revisit that choice, I would change my mind. I know now, to a very precise measurement, how great the dangers would be, and how narrowly I escaped them. But I also know that I survived.”

~ p. 50 | The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan


| Synopsis |

The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s The Tropic of Serpents…

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell… where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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Review: Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak



Black City Saint

by Richard A. Knaak

Fantasy | 390 Pages | Published by Pyr in 2016


| Rating |


This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review

Despite an extensive back-catalogue of fiction, my introduction to Richard A. Knaak’s work begins with Black City Saint, an urban fantasy set in prohibition era Chicago. Eloquent and addictive, Black City Saint is an exciting foray into alternative history, a fantasy whose setting lends it incredible scope for Knaak’s imagination. In a world where dragons hitch-hike on the souls of saints, and long-dead emperors haunt the temples of God, Knaak has created a landscape blighted by darkness in this fast-paced adventure.

For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.

Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.

Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.

The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.

1920’s Chicago; a city of bootleggers and mobsters, where convention is defied, loyalty is bought and sleepless nights are a dime a dozen. But appearances can be deceptive. Behind the veil of guns, liquor and the roaring twenties lies a much darker world: Feirie.

Feirie, however, is not a place of playful sprites and charming tricksters, its sinister inhabitants are twisted to the core, delighting in torture and forever seeking passage into the human realm.

The only thing containing the darkness is the Gate – the Gate which Nick Medea has guarded, alongside his unwilling and unwanted companion, for the past sixteen hundred years. But as tensions flare and evil awakens one thing becomes certain – only a Saint could prevent hell from breaching Chicago’s borders.

In a narrative populated by molls, mobsters, gents and dames, the spirit and atmosphere of 1920’s Chicago is brought to life through architectural description, societal evolution and a protagonist who has seen the changes wrought by time. With hauntings from long dead Roman Emperor Diocletian and the legends of Nick’s own past, Black City Saint has far more depth than its 390 pages would suggest.

Populated by a delightfully disturbing cast, Black City Saint never fails to put protagonist Nick through his paces. While love interest Claryce remains in a state of perpetual demise, and as a character possibly suffers for it, Diocletian’s desperate need for salvation; the unpredictability of the dragon Eye, both a help and a hindrance to Nick; and Fetch the witty shapeshifter are part of a motley group who lend a darkly humorous air to the novel.

Knaak impresses throughout this novel with his lively and engaging writing style, a style which hooks the reader  from the opening chapters and retains a relentless pace from start to finish. With rich detail and snapshot imagery of 20th Century life, Black City Saint is a wonderful example of how first person perspective needn’t be at the expense of detail and description.

In the first in what looks to be an incredibly promising new urban fantasy series, Richard A. Knaak has created an instantly compelling protagonist on a backdrop of dark magic and mob violence. Thoroughly deserved of a reputation as a successor of this sub-genre, Black City Saint is an absorbing, inventive and humorous read which already comes high on my list of urban fantasy favourites.

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