Friday Firsts: The Builders by Daniel Polansky


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


| Friday Firsts: March 09 |

The Builders

by Daniel Polansky

Fantasy | Novella | 226 Pages | Published by Tor in 2015


| First Paragraphs |

Reconquista was cleaning the counter with his good hand when the double doors swung open. He squinted his eye at the light, the stub of his tail curling around his peg leg. “We’re closed.”

Its shadow loomed impossibly large from the threshold, tumbling over the loose warped wood of the floorboards, swallowing battered tables and splintered chairs within its inky bulk.

“You hear me? I said we’re closed,” Reconquista repeated, this time with a quiver that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.

The outline pulled its hat off and blew a fine layer of grime off the felt. Then it set it back on its head and stepped inside.

Reconquista’s expression shifted, fear of the unknown replaced with fear of the known-quite-well. “Captain . . . I . . . I didn’t recognize you.”

Penumbra shrunk to the genuine article, it seemed absurd to think the newcomer had inspired such terror. The Captain was big for a mouse, but then being big for a mouse is more or less a contradiction in terms, so there’s not much to take there. The bottom of his trench coat trailed against the laces of his boots, and the broad brim of his hat swallowed the narrow angles of his face. Absurd indeed. Almost laughable.

Almost— but not quite. Maybe it was the ragged scar that ran from his forehead through the blinded pulp of his right eye. Maybe it was the grim scowl on his lips, a scowl that didn’t shift a hair as the Captain moved deeper into the tavern. The Captain was a mouse, sure as stone; from his silvery-white fur to his bright pink nose, from the fan-ears folded back against his head to the tiny paws held tight against his sides. But rodent or raptor, mouse or wolf, the Captain was not a creature to laugh at.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

This is the second time I’ve read The Builders by Daniel Polansky and I already love it just as much as the first time, if not more. This is where grimdark meets The Wind in the Willows and I can’t get enough of it.

The opening paragraphs are exemplary of the character of this novella; and with gritty descriptions flowing seamlessly around a cast of perfectly wrought misfits, The Builders etches out a secret world of cut-throats, snipers and gambling stoats in which I can’t wait to be lost.. 

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

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Friday Firsts: The Iron Ghost


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


| Friday Firsts: March 02 |

The Iron Ghost

Book Two of the Copper Cat Trilogy

by Jen Williams

Fantasy | 544 Pages | Published by Headline in 2015


| First Paragraphs |

It was Siano’s turn to walk the sky-chain.

She touched the tips of her fingers to the pitted rock of the cliff face behind her, taking satisfaction in its familiar solidity. Below her the tiny province of Apua crowded within its crevasse, the stacked red bricks of the monasteries fighting for space, and on the far side, the twin to the cliff she now perched on sat like a thick bank of storm cloud. Between the two cliffs hung the greatest of the sky-chains; the sky-chain for the Walk of Accuracy.

The chain itself was a wonder, each link a foot wide, and made of gold. Or at least, that was what Father Tallow said, although personally, Siano suspected the gold was only a covering and, underneath, the chain was made of something a little more reassuring. It stretched away from her and dwindled to a fine golden line high above even the tallest of the monasteries, until it met the far wall. Beneath it, Apua was teeming with people going about their daily lives, but you could be sure that there would always be a few pairs of eyes looking up, because you never knew when someone might attempt to walk a sky-chain. You never knew when someone might fall.

Siano had walked all three chains more times than she could count.

She stepped out from the small platform built into the rock and placed her foot on the first great link, testing its strength, feeling the soft thrum as the wind pushed against it, and the slower, more gentle rocking underneath that. She had taken her boots off and her bare foot looked warm and brown against the sun-bright gold.

‘Are you going to take all day, Siano?’ came a voice from behind her. She glanced back to see Leena grinning at her, nervous energy making her step from foot to foot. She was another of Father Tallow’s pupils, but she had yet to walk a single sky-chain or take a single life. Siano pitied her.

‘Please.’ Siano stepped fully onto the chain, the drop yawning away beneath her feet, and sketched a brief bow. ‘If you have finally gathered your courage, you are more than welcome to go first.’

She watched a grimace spasm across Leena’s face.

‘Just get on with it.’

Siano smiled and turned back to the chain in front of her. To either side the other sky-chains stretched into the distance: black iron for the Walk of Silence, blistered lead for the Walk of Secrecy. Taking a deep breath, she let herself feel the weight of her own body and its place in the universe. She let herself feel the texture of the link under her feet, warm and rough and solid. And then she walked.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

With the second book in The Winnowing Flame trilogy just around the corner, it was high time I continued my journey with Jen William’s debut fantasy –  The Copper Cat Trilogy.

Just a short way into the book and those expectations seem to be confirmed. The Iron Ghost opens with some beautiful worldbuilding, and already features new characters and new locations. This detailed and fast paced opener is characteristic of the style I so loved in The Copper Promise and I haven’t been able to put it down since!

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

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Friday Firsts: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell


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


| Friday Firsts: February 16 |

Spellslinger

Book One of Spellslinger

by Sebastien de Castell

Fantasy | 416 Pages | Published by Hot Key Books in 2017


| First Paragraphs |

The old spellmasters like to say that magic has a taste. Ember spells are like a spice burning the tip of your tongue. Breath magic is subtle, almost cool, the sensation of holding a mint leaf between your lips. Sand, silk, blood, iron … they each have their flavour. A true adept – the kind of mage who can cast spells even outside an oasis – knows them all.

Me? I had no idea what the high magics tasted like, which was why I was in so much trouble.

Tennat waited for me in the distance, standing inside the seven marble columns that ringed the town oasis. The sun at his back sent his shadow stretching all the way down the road towards me. He’d probably picked his spot precisely for that effect. It worked too, because my mouth was now as dry as the sand beneath my feet, and the only thing I could taste was panic.

‘Don’t do this, Kellen,’ Nephenia pleaded, quickening her step to catch up with me. ‘It’s not too late to forfeit.’

I stopped. A warm southern breeze shook the flowers from pink tamarisk trees lining the street. Tiny petals floated up into the air, glittering in the afternoon sun like particles of fire magic.

I could have used some fire magic just then. Actually, I would have settled for just about any kind of magic. Nephenia noticed my hesitation and unhelpfully added, ‘Tennat’s been bragging all over town that he’ll cripple you if you show up.’

I smiled, mostly because it was the only way I could keep the feeling of dread crawling up my stomach from reaching my face. I’d never fought a mage’s duel before, but I was fairly sure thatooking petrified in front of your opponent wasn’t an especially effective tactic. ‘I’ll be fine,’ I said, and resumed my steady march towards the oasis.

‘Nephenia’s right, Kel,’ Panahsi said, huffing and puffing as he struggled to catch up. His right arm was wrapped around the thick covering of bandages holding his ribs together. ‘Don’t fight Tennat on my account.’

I slowed my pace a little, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. Panahsi had all the makings of one of the finest mages of our generation. He might even become the face of our clan at court one day, which would be unfortunate, since his naturally muscular frame was offset by a deep love of yellowberry sweetcakes, and his otherwise handsome features were marred by the skin condition that was the inevitable result of the aforementioned cakes. My people have a lot of spells, but none that cure being fat and pockmarked.

‘Don’t listen to them, Kellen,’ Tennat called out as we approached the ring of white marble columns. He stood inside a three-foot circle in the sand, arms crossed over his black linen shirt. He’d cut the sleeves off to make sure everyone could see he’d sparked not just one, but two of his bands. The tattooed metallic inks shimmered and swirled under the skin of his forearms as he summoned the magics for breath and iron. ‘I think it’s sweet the way you’re throwing your life away just to defend your fat friend’s honour.’

A chorus of giggles rose up from our fellow initiates, most of whom were standing behind Tennat, shuffling about in anticipation. Everyone enjoys a good beating. Well, except the victim.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

Only a short way into the opening chapter and I’m already hooked! Spellslinger dives straight into the action with a conversational narrator whose self-deprecating humour and frequent asides bring a sense of realism and more than a few laughs to this series opener.

With mages and magics a-plenty – though perhaps not in the case of Kellan – Spellslinger definitely looks like a book I’m unlikely to put down until I’ve reached the very end.

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

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