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A standalone alternate history book set in a secondary fantasy world which was inspired by the Byzantine Empire and the lives of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora.

Publication year: 2016
Format: epub ebook
Page count: 464
Publisher: Book View Café

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.
The book has mostly two narrators: Marcus and Simonis. Simonis is born to a poor bear keeper and Marcus’s uncle is wealthy. They both live in Visant, the City of Gold but experience it quite differently.

When Simonis is five years old, her father Batzas comes to the great city of Visant with his family because he has gotten a job as assistant bear keeper to one of the leading charioteer groups, the White Jewel. The city is huge and somewhat intimidating to the small family but Batzas is ambitious and willing to work hard and he dreams about bettering his life.

However, within a year Simonis’ father is dead and Simonis herself has found out how utterly dependent she and her family are on the benevolence of the rich and powerful. She resents that fiercely. When she catches the eye of a scarred soldier who has a network of spies, dancers and courtesans, Simonis eagerly agrees to work for him. When she’s 12, she’s already an accomplished dancer and starts her training as a courtesan. She’s determined to make a better life for herself in the only way she can.

Marcus is the son of a farmer who can read and, he reads a lot. His mother’s brother, Leontes, has risen high in the hierarchy of Visant: he’s the leader of the palace guard and now a count. He and his wife have no children so he sends for Marcus with the assumption that he will adopt the boy as his own heir. At age 15, Marcus leaves the life he’s always known and goes to Visant. He’s well cared for but because of his poorer upbringing, he makes few friends and is often humiliated. However, Leontes keeps his word and adopts him. Marcus takes a new name suitable for a Patrician: Maxentius. He works hard but some of the men in the palace don’t like his success.

This city and the surrounding countries are strongly inspired by the Byzantine Empire. In Visant, women don’t participate in public life: they’re essentially property, owned by a husband or a father. As part of the very lowest class of people, Simonis is actually freer to make her own decisions even if her options are very limited. As a courtesan, she has the chance of getting some wealth even though she can’t choose her clients. She’s also very loyal to her friends.

There’s a mention of a religious schism between the followers of the One God in Visant and in another city, Rhakotis. It appears that the religious orthodoxy practiced in Visant is, at least partly, responsible for women’s low position in society. In this world, there are also other cultures and other religions.

Marcus is pretty much on the other end of the spectrum: he becomes embroiled in court intrigue almost against his will. He’s also honest which is not a good trait in the court. Emperor Valerian is old and everyone is expecting him to name a successor, but he doesn’t have any children. He does have three nephews, generals, and other men willing to take on the imperial diadem.

The book is full of adventure and it’s very entertaining. It’s split in three parts and the latter half of the book has a couple of other narrators but mostly Simonis and Maxentius. The world-building is deep and the characters are complex. I enjoyed it a lot.

Fantasy short story collection.

Publication year: 2010
Format: ebook
Page count: 362
Publisher: Book View Café

A diverse collection ranging from urban fantasy to ancient world historical fantasy. My only complaint is that none of the stories have a dragon lord and only one has a dragon. 🙂 But there are plenty of fierce women and even a female wizard or two.

The book is divided into several sections according to the subgenre of the stories. The first section is High fantasy.

Eagle’s Beak and Wings of Bronze or Something Unusual Happens to Allis by Deborah J. Ross: Everyone says that Allis is a slow and stupid girl and she knows it, too. Everyone in her family can change into a were-creature but her change comes later than most. And a bit stranger.

One Small Detail by Katharine Kerr: Eladana is a wandering wizard. One day, she meets a very kind and friendly innkeeper and his young daughter. She decides to stay, for a while, at least.

Hero by Sherwood Smith. Tam has left his boring home and is searching for a way to become an adored hero. But what is required to become a hero?

The next section is Fantastical Others.

Kind Hunter by Pati Nagle. Torril has been raised to abhor killing anything alive. But now he’s hunting a nightwalker.

The Merrow by Steven Harper. Fisherman Jack Dougherty meets a merrow, a sea creature who claims to have been Jack’s father’s and grandfather’s friend in both life and death. But is he really?

Night Harvest Cuvée Rouge by Vonda N. McIntyre. A very short story about hunting.

Repo Babe by Jennifer Stevenson. Young Jane has gotten a temp job in her aunt Heather’s firm. This story has only dialog so it’s a bit hard to follow in a few places.

The section is Modern fantasy.

Grow your own by Brenda W. Clough. A witch’s familiars are plants. Unfortunately for the witch, the plants have her disagreeable personality, too.

East of the Sun, West of Acousticville by Judith Tarr: The narrator is in a musical afterlife which is a bit strange because he (or she, we never find out) wasn’t interested in music in life. But when music and even sounds just fade away, the souls investigate the situation. This means traveling into other afterlives.

Headless Over Heels
by Chris Dolley: Brenda can see dead people. To her, that’s just an annoyance because they complain a lot. Then one ghost warns her than she will be killed next.

Somewhere in Dreamland Tonight by Madeleine E. Robins: Ruth’s only child Peggy has started to go out a lot, with boys, and Ruth is very worried. She comes across a dress from her “wild summer” and relives the reason why she’s so worried.

Daddy’s Big Girl by Ursula K. Le Guin: Jewel Ann is the narrator’s younger sister. Everyone is so happy when she’s born but when she continues to grow quickly, people start to treat her like a freak.

Fantastic Merlin has two stories inspired by the ancient wizard.

Taco Del and the Fabled Tree of Destiny: A merlin’s tale by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff: Taco Del is the merlin of Hismajesty. Tale set after the modern civilization has mostly fallen.

The Thief of Stones by Sarah Zettel: Uther Pendragon sends Merlin Ambrosius to Eire to King Berach Ui Neill. But Merlin is there for his own machinations, looking for a way to get more power.

The stories in the Ancient Fantastics section have something to do with the Ancient world.

Not My Knot by Irene Radford: Monica is an archeologist working for her Ph.D. She has already had experiences with magic and now when she finds a Celtic knot design etched on the ground, she’s willing to try her luck and see where it will lead her.

Dusty Wings by Nancy Jane Moore: When she was writing her dissertation Corinne went to Guatemala and what she learned there shook her badly. Now, when she sleeps she often has nightmares about what happened.

Heart of Jade by Amy Sterling Casil: Great Lord of the Mayan City of Coban has only one child, a Daughter who is called the Lady. She comes to Two Frog with a curious request: to carve a jade amulet for her father and make him a god. Two Frog is a lowly jade carver but he knows some magic although not that kind. Still, he must obey.

Feather of the Phoenix by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel: The story of Sinbad’s youngest daughter Laylah who has inherited her father’s love of adventure.

The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea by Vonda N. McIntyre and illustrated by Ursula K. LeGuin: An essay about the sea people who were called sea monsters for a time.

I liked a lot several of the stories, such as the very first one, Smith’s, Clough’s, Tarr’s, Casil’s and Kimbriel’s stories. Most of them have clever twists and some have unusual settings, too. Very good for people looking for diverse fantasy collection.

I’m a member of Audible and I love audiobooks so this is very exciting news:


Audible acquires audio rights to more than 100 works by award-winning and nominated authors in multiple genres

August 21, 2013 — Book View Café (BVC), the author-run publishing company, today announced an agreement with Audible, Inc., the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word content. The worldwide English-language audio rights deal, which includes a substantial part of BVC’s rapidly growing catalog, will make more than 100 works of romance, science-fiction, fantasy, young adult, mystery, as well as nonfiction titles available as audiobooks to a global readership. Book View Café’s impressive line-up of author-members includes Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick award winners and New York Times bestsellers.

“Having our titles available at Audible is further evidence of the momentum Book View Café has gained in the past year,” says Pati Nagle, BVC president. “In that period we’ve launched our new online bookstore, signed distribution agreements that are getting our ebooks into libraries and online booksellers worldwide, published 113 works, taken on six new members, and seen our first New York Times ebook bestseller for a BVC original.” She adds, “It’s a huge win for BVC, enabling us to outsource our audiobook services and give our authors immediate access to a vibrant and growing market segment.”

BVC’s business development manager Chris Dolley agrees. “This is the first of more such deals,” he says. “We look forward to making other titles we acquire available at Audible going forward. We want all of our authors to benefit from more exposure to Audible’s engaged and increasingly significant audience of book lovers. ”

“We are delighted to add titles from this strong group of Book View Café authors to the Audible catalog,” said Audible EVP and Publisher Beth Anderson. “Our members, who download an average of 18 books a year, will especially welcome this increased selection among many of their favorite genres.”

About Audible

Audible, Inc., an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the Internet, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible’s mission is to establish literate listening as a core tool for anyone seeking to be more productive, better informed, or more thoughtfully entertained. Audible content comprises more than 150,000 audio programs from content providers that include leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Audible is also the preeminent provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes® Store.

About Book View Café

Book View Café is an author-owned cooperative of over forty professional writers, publishing in a variety of genres including fantasy, romance, mystery, and science fiction. In 2008, BVC launched a website, bookviewcafe.com, initially offering free fiction and gradually moving to selling ebooks of members’ backlist titles, then original titles. The cooperative has gained a reputation for producing high-quality ebooks, and is now moving into print editions. Book View Café may be found online at http://www.bookviewcafe.com.

For more information about BVC, please contact Sue Lange at media.relations@bookviewcafe.com

Exciting news from Book View Café:

February 12, 2013 — Book View Café (BVC) is pleased to announce its first wholly owned title to hit the New York Times bestseller list (http://nyti.ms/ge6V1A). Chris Dolley’s FRENCH FRIED, a hilarious memoir detailing the author’s experiences with identity theft in the south of France, is listed with this week’s top sellers in nonfiction ebooks.

While most of Book View Café’s authors are major award nominees or best sellers, Dolley’s FRENCH FRIED marks the first title published by Book View Café to make the NY Times list.

Dolley credits BVC for much of his success. “Working with Book View Cafe is an author’s dream,” he says. “A publisher who listens, supports, advises and innovates. And has 40 of the savviest brains in publishing only an email away.”

Book View Café has been growing steadily since its inception in 2008. The number of authors joining the group has grown along with the number of books published. With authors such as Sherwood Smith, Patricia Rice, and Judith Tarr regularly publishing their backlists and new titles too, BVC is able to put out over forty new titles a year.

BVC ebooks are available at more than 25 online retailers worldwide including Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, and Waterstones. The publisher has recently begun offering their books through libraries as well, establishing relationships with Overdrive and Wheelers. They sell directly to libraries such as Douglas County Libraries, too. Their books have been distributed through libraries in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and Singapore. And soon select BVC titles will be translated into Chinese.

For more information on Book View Café or its authors, contact media.relations@bookviewcafe.com.

Visit the website at http://www.bookviewcafe.com.

A steampunk short story collection.

Publication year: 2009
Page count: 427
Format: ebook, pdf
Publisher: Book View Press

The collection has the following 9 stories:

“The Accumulating Man” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
“The Persistence of Souls” by Sarah Zettel
“The Soul Jar” by Steven Harper
“Zombi” by Pati Nagle
“A Princess of Wittgenstein” by Jennifer Stevenson
“The Savage and the Monster” by Nancy Jane Moore
“The Water Weapon” by Brenda Clough
“The Sisters of Perpetual Adoration” by Judith Tarr
“Shadow Dancer” by Irene Radford

All of the stories have different main characters and the main story lines but the themes evolve and the setting changes which I liked a lot. In the first story the main character, Mary Shelley, (yes, she who wrote the Frankenstein) finds out about new science which she thinks is abdominal: it can transfer a human soul to another body. We get to see the consequences of this science in the other stories. Another scientific achievement is done by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; they create machines in the shapes of men. The metal men become more and more common, and are programmed for more and more varied tasks.

Many of the stories contemplate the way souls and machines are intertwined in this setting. Some of the characters wonder if a machine can have a soul. And if machines can feel and think for themselves, are they not slaves? “Zombi” especially explores the similarity and difference between humans slaves and the machine men. The story is set in New Orleans where slaves are still kept. “The Savage and the Monster” asks who is really the monster and why.

My favorites were the first story, “The Accumulating Man” because of the famous characters, yes, but also because of the way that Mary grows less timid during the story, “Zombi” because of the main character, and “A Princess of Wittgenstein” which was written in pure dialog. “The Soul Jar”, set in a circus, was also memorable. And the last one was delightfully unexpected.

While many steampunk works are fun and fast paced, this one has weighty themes and makes you think.

Book View Cafe has a sample: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/sample/the-shadow-conspiracy-sample/

On Tuesday, November 22, Book View Cafe (BVC) is launching the ebook version of Tritcheon Hash by Sue Lange. To celebrate BVC is giving away five subscriptions to the book. The subscription comes with unlimited downloading and sharing of multiple formats (mobi, epub, or pdf).

Tritcheon Hash is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Tritcheon-Hash-ebook/dp/B005SJRCVI/), Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94746, and at the publisher’s website (http://bookviewcafe.com/).

Tritcheon Hash is a test pilot in the year 3011. She’s got it all: brains, guts, and a fast jet. But can she survive a mission to planet Earth?

“Against a vivid sci-fi backdrop, Lange brings a light touch to heavy material, with a fast-paced, funny story to boot.” — Kirkus

“Funny, perceptive and hard-hitting by turns – welcome to a new and witty voice in sf satire.” –John Grant, co-editor, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

To punctuate the weird science in the book, Lange is starting a 31 day blogging marathon on the subject of weird science at her Singularity Watch blog, [http://suelange.wordpress.com]. She plans to mine the far reaches of the Internet to find the strangest stories from the world of science, proving that no matter how strange science fiction is, nothing is more entertaining, weird or strange than reality.

This novel is available for free for registered users at Book View Café’s science fiction section.

This is an alternate history novel set in the court of Louis XIV. The vast majority of the book is historical, including most of its characters. The only exception is that sea monsters are real.

The Sun King has funded an expedition to bring sea monsters to his court. Alive if possible but dead if not. Father Yves de la Croix is a scientist and a priest, and his curiosity has driven him to lead the mission. He succeeds and is able to bring back one live sea monster, a female, and one dead sea monster, a male. This triumph makes him the Sun King’s premier scientist which turns out to be a rather precarious position.

However, the main character of the book is Yves’ sister Marie-Josèphe who is also a scientist. When they were children, Yves would study various animals and Marie would help him and also draw the autopsied animals.

But now they are both older and have been apart for years after their parents’ death. Yves sent Marie to a convent where she was very unhappy. Yves has started to think that it’s not proper for a young woman to assist him. However, nobody else is as knowledgeable and skillful so they fall back to their childhood roles.

Marie-Josèphe helps her brother any way she can; she feeds the live sea monster and tries to tame her, when her brother performs an autopsy on the dead sea monster (in front of Louis XIV and his court) she draws his findings, she tries to help him become more used to the court life, and she also tries to look presentable. She is also trying to fit in with the court but that’s not easy for a woman who was born and raised in Martinique and then lived for years in a convent. Many men notice her or use her to torment his own lovers.

Amidst all this, she starts to slowly realize that the sea monster might not be just an animal. However, the Church has declared sea monsters animals (rather than demons), so she doesn’t have any allies when she tries to desperately save the captured sea monster from death.

The Sun and the Moon is definitely a historical book. The level of detail about the king, the pope Innocent XI, and their respective courtiers is just amazing. There are also a lot of descriptions about Versailles and the gardens. The people also have sensibilities and opinions that truly belong to the age. To everyone in the court the King is the only person who matters and everything flows from him. Marie-Josèphe belittles herself constantly and humbly receives the sharp comments about how she, as a woman, is worthless and should be silent. While Marie-Josèphe has a curious mind and is especially interested in natural sciences, she can only study them because the men around her have allowed it. During her time in the convent the nuns forbade her everything, even the study of mathematics because they thought it was sorcery.

Most of the book has been written from the point-of-view of Marie-Josèphe but occasionally we see the point-of-view of others as well. Lord Lucien, Count de Chértien is one of those characters. He’s the King’s son out of wedlock although the King has acknowledged him and made Lucien of his closest advisors. Lucien is also a dwarf and his body gives him a constant ache and sometimes even sharp pain. He is absolutely loyal to the King. He’s also an atheist.

The third point-of-view character is Yves although very briefly.

Pope Innocent XI arrives to the court to seal his alliance with Louis XIV and enjoys the King’s hospitality for a while. He is very hostile to Marie-Josèphe.

The book has many plot threads in addition to both Marie-Josèphe’s and Yves’ growths and the story of the sea monster. One of them is Odelette, who is Marie-Josèphe’s slave. The nuns told her that it was a sin to own another human and yet they wanted her to sell Odelette and give the money to the convent. She refused. Odelette becomes very popular in the court because she’s very good at making ladies hair dresses. We also hear the story of the sea monster race and their unhappy history with land people. I also enjoyed very much the characters of Monsieur (the King’s brother), Madame (Monsieur’s wife), and Mademoiselle (their daughter).

This is an excellent historical tale (except for the sea monsters, of course) but it’s not an adventure book. The pace might be a bit on the slow side especially in the beginning.

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