LoneFire (Sept 2015)

Posted in Books | Temp

Half cyberpunk, half space opera, half  Tourettes Syndrome, LoneFire was started a long long time ago by a younger me. It’s raw in places and not as refined as it might be in others but always had a soft spot for this one. It’s not like most of my other work, but if you read and liked Empires, maybe there’s a connection there. Maybe in the swearing anyway.

There’s an excerpt here, so you can see what you’re letting yourself in for.

So what this is is a bit of an experiment while other projects are going about their usual business through more conventional means. Venture Press, as best I can tell, sit somewhere between conventional publishing and self-publishing.You can sort of see that from the cover and I dare say there’s a typo or two more than usual. Nevertheless here it is, so make what you will of it. I’m interested in criticism of the formatting and production and I’m interested to whether anyone actually buys a copy. If this works out then it could be a means to put out something more closely related to the Memory of Flames books.

Here’s the cover. Enjoy or not as your tastes take you. In the desperately unlikely event that I find any reviews that aren’t Amazon or Goodreads, I’ll be sure to put them up LoneFire coverhere…

The Protector (July 2015)

Posted in Books | Temp

Summer1646. The First Civil War is over and England licks its wounds. But the killing is not yet done.

William Falkland, former favourite of King Charles turned reluctant investigator for Oliver Cromwell, seeks his missing family. Time and again his hopes are destroyed; but Cromwell is not finished with his former intelligencer. Summoned to London, Falkland is introduced to a young man of letters – a polemicist and pamphleteer by the name of John Milton. His cherished sister Anne has vanished, apparently abducted by supporters of the king.

Falkland’s task – to identify the culprit and return Anne unharmed – will lead him to a brutal murder buried in the maelstrom of the War and to a secret that must be snuffed out at all costs.

Protector_visual low res

The Protector was published in hardcover on July 30th 2015. Early reviews have been entusiastic.

“I was captivated from the first sentence…” Linda’s Book Bag

“…a thoroughly enjoyable and involving Civil War mystery…” For Winter Nights

“I heartily recommend both books to you.” Dorinda Balchin

“The Best 5 historical books of the season.” Sunday Express

The Silver Kings (June 2015)

Posted in Books | Temp

Published in the UK on the 18th June and appears to be available in the US as well via internet vendors.

There is no warmth in the ancient fortress of the Pinnacles, timeless bastion against the dragons. The dragon-rider Hyrkallan is a harsh king with a loathing venom for all who practise alchemy. His consort is the mad queen Jaslyn, who once woke a hatchling dragon because she thought there could be peace between men and dragons without the poison of alchemy, a madness that came to her after Speaker Zafir beheaded her mother. The union between this king and queen once carried the desert realms of the north to war and victory, but there is neither love nor desire nor affection between them. Hyrkallan dreams of glories he will never see returned. Queen Jaslyn thinks of the simple things she cannot have. To be with her sister Lystra. To be with a dragon and fly once more. To be left alone and never be touched.

Together and apart Hyrkallan and his queen lay tattered claim to realms now ruled by monsters. They make their home with a thousand souls inside the Moonlit Mountain, above the fire-gutted dragon-wrecked majesty that was once the Silver City. Safe within their fortress they search the endless tunnels for relics of the Silver King, the ancient half-god sorcerer who once tamed dragons. It is said, in whispers, that the old queens of the Silver City were one by one driven mad by the half-god’s Enchanted Palace, whose white stone walls shimmer with their own inner light.
The last of those queens was Zafir, vanished when the dragons shattered their chains of alchemy.

The Black Moon has returned, Zafir is coming home and the dragons are waiting. Will anyone be able to stop them?

silver king7-1 low res

The Silver Kings is a direct sequel to The Splintered God. Read it on its own and it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. Or maybe it’s utterly wonderful, who knows. But it’s the tenth book in a series and draws on all of what has gone before, soI’d be surprised if it works well on its own.

Excerpt: in which Zafir returns to the world in which she was born.

Be honest: you’re not going to read this unless you’ve ready some of the rest, not the last volume of a series like this. And I’ll be honest too – nor should you. It won’t make a great deal of sense. So reviews are unexpected and largely by the by – at this point you’re either in or your out. But I’ll post them up as and when i stumble across them anyway.

“No one does dragons like Deas…” Upcoming4me

Empires: Extraction

Posted in Books

“This groundbreaking collaboration between two Gollancz authors tells of the invasion of Earth by two different alien races – at the same time. Two men become aware of the threat, and must work to sabotage the invasion plans and see off the aliens. Each book follows one hero, uncovering the threat to humanity and the world from their point of view. Each book can be read on its own, and will give the reader a complete, kinetic, fast-paced military SF story. But read both books and the reader gets something else – another view of (some of) the same events and crossover points, culminating in [redacted, but the cover might be a clue]. The two books can be read in any order, but together they tell the story of humanity caught in the crossfire between two deadly alien races, who have made Earth their battleground…”

So there’s the blurb from the publisher about what Gav (Gavin Smith) and I were trying to do with these two books.

“Two alien races have fought a long and bitter war among the stars. And now their conflict has bought them to our world, and the end of humanity is nigh. We have something they want, something which can’t be found anywhere else in the universe. Neither side can afford to show their hand too early and attract the attention of their enemies, but their plans are in place and their agents are at work. When two men – a soldier and a policeman – stumble into the alien plots, their investigations will lead them to the aliens and, eventually, to each other. And to war.”

And there’s another. I think that about covers it. Speaking of covers…

Covers 4

Hopefully it’s clear enough that these two novels are joined at the hip. Gavin wrote Infiltration and also a couple of short scenes  in Extraction.

The opening chapter of Extraction is here.

“A neat idea, neatly executed.” The Financial Times. Presumably because we didn’t flatten the City after all.

“Once the action kicks in there is some brilliantly realised military science fiction on offer.” The Book Bag. (This is one of those irritating reviews where someone actually pays close attention and is critical and says stuff to which an author ought to pay attention. Yes, I did cherry-pick this quote).

“Taken as a whole the books just about work. EMPIRES INFILTRATION is the better by a country mile.” Frightfest. Le sigh.

“Fast-paced and blackly humerous with a spattering of decent characters, and the crossovers add to the fun.” SFX (more quote cherry-picking – if you prefer you can have “One tenth Iain M Banks-lite … 90% is half urban thriller, half Michael Bay’s Transformers” I’m not sure that was meant in a good way, but I’m shallow enough to like it).

“All round a cracking piece of fiction and something that a lot of Science Fiction fans can really get behind especially as the tales not only keep you hooked but leave you wondering throughout if mankind can triumph against such odds. Magic.” Falcatta Times (a review of both Empires books at once)

And finally a few odds and sods. Articles and the like.

A few fun facts about neurotransmitters. Sci-Fi-London

Gav and I interview each other. Wondrous Reads. And criticise one another… SFFWorld

Another extract at GeekPlanetOnline

The Royalist (September 2014)

Posted in Books

William Falkland is a dead man.

A Royalist dragoon who fought against Parliament, he is currently awaiting execution at Newgate prison. Yet when he is led away from Newgate with a sack over his head, it is not the gallows to which they take him, but to Oliver Cromwell himself. Cromwell has heard of Falkland’s reputation as an investigator and now more than ever he needs a man of conscience. His New Model Army are wintering in Devon but mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp. In return for his freedom, Falkland is despatched to uncover the truth. With few friends and a slew of enemies, Falkland soon learns there is a dark demon at work, one who won’t go down without a fight. But how can he protect Cromwell’s army from such a monster and, more importantly, will he be able to protect himself?

Royalist-cover-201x309

The Royalist is published in hardcover on 25th September, and in paperback early next year. Here’s the opening chapter.

Reviews:

“There are no rose-tinted glasses in this tale, and for me that’s its brilliance…” Parmenion books

“The Royalist is a fine novel, immersing us so deeply into the dark and dirty world of Cromwell’s Model Army during one particularly cold and chilling winter”
For Winter Nights

“A perfect read for fans of Shona MacLean and C.J. Sansom.” We Love This Book

“Deas … integrates history and narrative knowledgeably, with wisdom that shines through in Falkland’s voice based on his experience of the tragedy of war.” The Historical Novel Society

“a very enjoyable and refreshing read that gave you a new understanding of the time and the New Model army and how it was anything but united” Reality is a Bore

“The author writes with clear understanding of the period in which the book is set and makes the characters believable.” Jaffareadstoo

This is a clever, convoluted tale steeped in historical detail.” Lovereading

“Deas has delivered an intriguing, drama-laden, heart-thumping crime thriller with historical accuracy and authenticity. I found myself sorely disappointed at the last page; not with the ending, but that it had ended!” Storminthestacks

I try to post the critical reviews that are actually thoughtful too.

“The hero has promise for future adventures but the ‘modern man’ personality needs to be amended.” (off Amazon)

Yes, my protagonist is world-weary and no, I don’t think the “modern man” personality is likely to change. But it’s a fair review.

The Splintered Gods (June 2014 UK)

Posted in Books

Published in the UK on the 19th July and appears to be available in the US as well via internet vendors. Once upon a time I had an ambition to write a fantasy murder mystery. This isn’t it, though it does have a trace of that origin in it. Zafir doesn’t own this story quite the way she owned Dragon Queen, but she has her claws in it pretty deep still.

So stuff happened at the end of Dragon Queen, and there are going to be some consequences now, and either everyone will band together to ensure the best is done for the greater good of society at large or maybe they’ll just claw each other apart to see who gets to be king of the ash-pile. Arbiter Red Lin Feyn is supposed to make sure it’s the former, not the latter, but she might have her work cut out for her.

splintered gods cover

The Splintered Gods is a direct sequel to Dragon Queen. You could probably read it on its own without reading Dragon Queen and it would still make sense, but you’d lose a lot of Berren, past and Zafir too.

Here’s chapter one, in which Tuuran and Crazy Mad do some looting and play with gunpowder.

The Splintered Gods reads a little like a a courtroom drama, a little like a fantasy epic and a little like an adventure story.” Nerdly

“If you are a fan of dragons, this series is an absolute must read. Deas’ incarnation of this timeless beast is fresh, fascinating and one of the best I have encountered.” Fixed on Fantasy.

“The writing is always to the point, it gets to the meat of the matter and with some of the subtle hints and wordplay within generates a story that is pretty unique out there.” Falcatta Times

Elite: Wanted (May 2014 UK)

Posted in Books

A tie-in book for the forthcoming Elite: Dangerous game became available to download in e-book form on 15th May 2014. A hardback version will be release later on the 16th October, by which time we should all be busy murdering and pirating each other through the beta release of the game at the very least. Please buy it so I can afford a new PC with which to actually run the damn game…

Here’s an extract and here’s the cover.

wanted cover - lo res

There are the usual Amazon and Goodreads reviews kikcing about. To be blunt, I never expect a tie-in novel to get any sort of review coverage beyond that, but here’s what’s come up do far:

“I’ve enjoyed “Wanted” much more than I was supposed to enjoy any tie-in novel. Deas and Smith spin a mightily interesting yarn and I’ve especially enjoyed the way personal lives of characters influenced their decisions and often completely changed the course of events. This is in spirit of the original Elite which was not about heroes as such – it was more about small people trying to find their place in an endless, violently merciless environment. Having said that, the story does end up rather abruptly. Final 30-40 pages are some of the finest sci-fi I’ve ever read and admittedly I wanted to read more.” Upcoming4me

I’m not going to say anything about the ending except please don’t blame the editor. He hated it. It’s a very marmite last page.

a joy to read for those into action SF www.concatenation.org

This one actually feels like it’s set in the Elite: Dangerous universe for a start. The characters and situations are a bit more credible. And there’s a lot of fighting in spaceships. What more could I ask for? opinionatedgeek.com

“…a fast, frentic space opera that pays homage to Elite in the best possible way.” SFbook.com

Bulldog Drummond (April 2014 UK)

Posted in Books | News

A couple of weeks back I signed off on another Bulldog Drummond novella. I might have made more of a fuss of it at the time, only there was another announcement about to come out that then didn’t and then was going to and then got delayed . . . an announcement which sort of merited a little more fuss.

Here’s an extract from the first one.

I was in two minds, back right at the start of last year when Bulldog Drummond came my way. On the one hand it’s writing to someone else’s tune; on the other, I had some free time coming up over the course of the year (which then got used up when Sekkrit Projekt came along, and yes, that’s writing to someone else’s tune too but never mind that… SEKKRIT PROJEKT!). To be fair to Piqwiq, they weren’t at all prescriptive about what needed to be done. I think they would have been quite happy to have a great-grandson of the original Bulldog Drummond running around in the dying days of the cold war having Bond-like adventures. Even sticking with the nineteen twenties setting, I’m not sure they would have been that troubled one way or another by how closely I stayed with the originals.

Which is probably just as well, although it was initially my intention to try and stay true to the original. Well over a dozen Drummond novels originally published in the twenties and thirties and nearly as many movies, and they’re mostly out of copyright and a good few of them are available for free via the internet. I have read and watched bits and I can’t really recommend much of it. Product of their time. They’re just . . . a bit dull. And original Drummond as a character . . . he’s a bit not my cup of tea. I’m entirely fine with the whole action hero thing and the Moriarty-style super-villain and there’s a nice bit of wit here and there but I never quite picked up what makes Drummond himself stand out as actually interesting to a modern eye. And yes, England in the nineteen twenties wasn’t a picture of equality and social justice but even within that setting, original Drummond is pretty conservative. I don’t necessarily mind that – a reactionary hero trying to cling to old ways and values while the world around him is changing and leaving him behind is a trope any writer can have some fun with and I don’t see anything particularly wrong with having a bigoted and prejudiced lead character provided that the narrative challenges that view of the world rather than continually supports it – but original Drummond . . . doesn’t.

I will admit to having played a bit fast and loose with the source. What I’ve aimed for, in the end, is to maintain a character who echoes the likes of James Bond (for whom the original Drummond was an inspiration) and Indiana Jones but with a little more of an awareness of the world and how it’s changing back in those times. Why? Because history interests me. Why do it at all? Oh, because who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned fast-paced action-adventure in which villainous master-criminals embark on grand schemes and are thwarted (or not) through gritty resolve, wily thinking and the careful application of a good right hook. And if you’re reading this and find yourself thinking ew, not me then these stories, my friend, are indeed not for you.Stephen_Deas_Drummond1_Dead_Mans_Gate_250

In Dead Man’s Gate, the story begins with an explosion at the Bank of England as dozens of anarchists and Bolsheviks pour into the building, something more akin to a riot than a robbery. As the unrest is subdued and as the last of the anarchists are either restrained or make good their escape, we see a man walking calmly away. In his hand he tosses a very large and old-looking key. This is the enigmatic Mr Crabbleston, and it’s down to Drummond to infiltrate London’s anarchists and Bolsheviks to uncover Crabbleston’s dastardly plan to bring the British Empire to its knees as he stages the most daring theft in modern history. I have no idea who the woman is on the cover for this one, but does Drummond look a bit like Bond in this cover art? Rumour has it that the model is/has been Daniel Craig’s body double.

I kind of like all these covers. They’re simple but have a nice forties feel to them. I can see Humphrey Bogart in them. Well . . . if I close my eyes and use my imagination I can.

There are a few reviews kicking about (other than Goodreads and Amazon) for Dead Man’s Gate, but only a few.

“I devoured it very quickly and was completely immersed in the tale throughout” Boolikes

“It is no easy task to revive a vintage property, particularly when society’s mores and attitudes have changed radically since its commercial heyday. Deas acquits himself honorably and leaves me looking forward to Books Two and Three over the course of the next year. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of John Crabbleston.” Black Gate (kind of nice and kind of alarming to be reviewed by someone who clearly knows the original source materials considerably better than I do).

In The Faceless Men, the death of a government Secret Intelligence Service agent draws Drummond into the opium dens of Limehouse in pursuit of a mysterious Chinese Triad lord, a far-off conflict between nationalist and communist forces and the shady world of international espionage while all the time umm-ing and ah-ing about getting married. I had a lot of fun in this one with my Chinese spy, Wei Li. Wei Li might have to come back in something again one day.

In the Jaguar Mask, the story begins at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Yale university, sponsored by Senator Hiram Bingam, have allowed a quantity of Incan artefacts to be put on display. At a private party at the museum the night before the exhibition opens, Senator Bingham is the guest of honour. He finds himself in conversation with an unknown Englishman who calls himself Crabbleston, who seems to know a great deal about the Incas, about the fabulous golden Jaguar Mask that’s the centrepiece of the exhibition, and also about the general political instability that blights Peru as a whole in these troubled times. After the stranger takes his leave, Bingham goes to take a closer look at the mask again. Something is wrong. Right in front of a hundred people, the real mask has been stolen and replaced it with an expert fake…

Actually I haven’t written than one yet. Drummond may or may not  be married (yes, the author is umm-ing and ah-ing too). But it definitely sees the return of Mr Crabbleston, because he was WAY too much fun in Dead Man’s Gate, and if the first two were Bond movies in disguise, this time we’re going for Indiana Jones.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Um . . . hum the Bond theme as you leave. Or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Oh, and here’s a very short extract. And a picture of  a Supermarine Southahmpton, because I had to look up seaplanes, and because it’s kind of like a banana with wings and a tail.

Supermarine_Southampton

The Crimson Shield, Cold Redemption, The Last Bastion (Summer 2013 UK)

Posted in Books

The Crimson Shield is the first of a trilogy written under the pan-name Nathan Hawke. The dragon books might owe their politics, their spread of viewpoints and their emotionally troubled and retarded characters to the New Wave of Grimdark or whatever we’re call it these days, but Nathan Hawke has no truck with any of that. The Hawke books belong to an older time when fantasy was a little more straightforward. Gemmell, Lieber, Howard, the heroic fantasy and swords and sorcery that, to be honest, has always sat a little more comfortably as a reading pleasure for me. Maybe it’s the literary equivalent of simple peasant food (I think maybe that’s what you were trying to say, SFX?). Well I wouldn’t want to eat simple peasant food all the time but I wouldn’t want a rich man’s feast every night either. So this is simple, straightforward, bloody and hard-nosed. I hope you enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The second book in the series, Cold Redemption, came out on the 8th August. The Last Bastion came out on the 12th September.

And damn, but that’s a fine piece of cover art. This really is the cover, too. No words, no title, no name, just Angry Man With Axe

cover lo-res

Cold Redemption Cover

cold redemption cover lo-res

The Last Bastion cover

Cover artwork lo-res

The Crimson Shield is a fast-paced and full of bloody battles.’ SFX

“Shades of David Gemmell… It’s about time someone good took up the torch for heroic fantasy. Inspiring characters, great plot and culture. I read this in one session, utterly absorbed” CONN IGGULDEN, bestselling author of the EMPEROR and CONQUEROR series of historical novels, and THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS

“A great mix of bloodied axes and brave warriors, an honest hero and the war that gets in his way” TOM LLOYD, author of the TWILIGHT REIGN series and the forthcoming MOON’S ARTIFICE

THE CRIMSON SHIELD is at once a huge adrenaline rush and a thoughtful examination of the destructive nature of war. The key protagonist, Gallow, is a cleverly constructed hero, full of conflict, confusion and bravery, a man who is unsure where his loyalties truly lie. A man driven by his upbringing and his love for his wife and family – factors that make very uncomfortable bedfellows. Mind you, he’s handy in a fight, very handy. Hawke has created a world with enough history, myth and folklore to make it believable. His prose is fluid, his dialogue crisp and his action very well-handled and visceral. It is not a long read and all the better for it. Entertaining, sometimes moving and always eminently readable. Highly recommended.” JAMES BARCLAY, author of the RAVEN and ELVES series of fantasy epics

“Reminds me of the tales that made me want to write novels in the first place” GILES KRISTIAN, bestselling author of the RAVEN historical books

“The simple fact the book has me guessing and speculating rather than ploughing into the next read is again testament to its quality of plot and story telling. I really do recommend this book, to fantasy or Historical Fiction fans.” ROBIN CARTER, Parmenion Books

“Bloody and interesting” Edi’s Book Lighthouse

“…a book that treads its own path to the readers imagination.” Falcatta Times

“…a strong foundation for the rest of the series.” Fantasy Book Review

“There were in fact so many battles, some readers may find this to be all consuming, but the story and character development effortlessly takes place through the structure of combat.” NudgeMeNow

“As with most heroic fantasy, the plot builds up to a climax at the end, though the entire book is paced very well and had chapters that were short enough to turn “just one more chapter” into an all-nighter. Gallow is a great character who tries to do right in a world where people like to do the opposite and I need to get my hands on the sequel, Cold Redemption, as soon as possible. If and when you end up reading The Crimson Shield, you without a doubt have to read to the final page, including the epilogue and prologue to the sequel, and if you’re like me, the final line will put an ear-to-ear grin on your face.” A Biter Draft

“at times it was a bit too action filled for me.” Books for Life. Yeah, it has a lot of fighting.

“good story and good character development.  The only thing I didn’t like was the romanticism.” Reader Reading. The reviewer doesn’t explain quite what (s)he means by that, but take that NOT to mean romance, because there isn’t any. It’s true that all three books do kind of romanticise the notion of personal values.

“I have long yearned for a book that properly portrays the Norse culture and it is kind of funny that it comes in the form of a fantasy book.” Benign Guy

“Martin says that the great theme in his fantasy work “is the existential loneliness that we all suffer.” That big idea is not evident in ‘The Crimson Shield.” What does come through is a rollicking good tale. It is a hybrid work, closer to Gemmell than Martin. Its strength lies in its battle scenes and well-wrought characters.” Red Rook Review, which was one of the more entertaining reviews to read.

“Gallow is an enigmatic and interesting protagonist, but sadly I never felt that I got to know him beyond the tough warrior exterior.” Fantasy Book Review. Oh. Bugger.

“I need to get my hands on the sequel, Cold Redemption, as soon as possible.” FantasyLiterature.com

And so far just an early Goodreads review for Cold Redemption from Robin Carter: “I dearly hope that this series not only gets nominated for a Legend award but wins, for the cover art which is exceptional, but more for the story that is a combined series in my top 5 stories this year, and if it keeps up this standard could make my all time top 10.”

Dragon Queen (August 2013 UK)

Posted in Books | News

Dragon Queen is now published in the UK and available as an e-book in the US. In principle it should be available in paper form in the US from Trafalgar Square but I don’t see it listed as of the start of September. Maybe that’s changed.

Dragon Queen lo-res cover

Just as The Black Mausoleum was intended largely as a standalone work in the same universe as The Memory of Flames (how well it worked in that regard is something readers can judge better than I), so Dragon Queen rather ambitiously aims to be a both a new point of entry into the world and, to some extent, a continuation of previous stories. it’s definitely NOT a sequel to The Black Mausoleum. Arguably it’s a sequel to The Order of the Scales for at least one character, to The King’s Assassin for another and to The Adamatine Palace for a third. But it’s as much as anything starting anew[1]. In some ways it’s maybe what The Adamantine Palace would have been if I’d paid considerably more time and effort on the characters and gone to town on the world-building. The result is something that isn’t nearly as fast and furious (except for the last act which partially aims to be Call of Duty: Dragon Warfare) but maybe has a bit more weight to it. Or maybe not. For better or worse it’s as long as The Adamantine Palace and The King of the Crags combined.

For anyone who’s been reading the series so far, here’s a teaser: Remember Bellepheros? Remember how he mysteriously disappears half way through The Adamantine Palace? Not so mysterious any more.

And here’s another one: Remember how the Taiytakei get a tiny fleeting mention in The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. . .  Guess who’s back!

No prizes, by the way, for guessing who the Dragon Queen is.

Dragon Queen’s first review was from Falcatta Times: “If you love a book that has fantasy elements, political double dealing and proceeds to give manipulate the reader then you really have to read Stephen’s work. The story is dark, it has a cracking pace and when you add into this an author who knows how to manipulate not only the reader but also the characters to showcase both their strengths and their weaknesses all round makes this compulsive reading.”

“If you like dragons and subtle story telling, then this is for you.” Fantasy Book Review

“I loved this book and I felt it was refreshing, action packed, destructive. It contains some great dialogue and a finale any author would be proud of.” Slightly Foxed

“The brooding menace of Diamond Eye builds and builds” Walled Kingdoms

“In short, Dragon Queen is a masterpiece of fantasy and easily Deas’ best work to date.” Fixed on Fantasy

Review in full from Publishers Weekly, 2015: “In prose sometimes as elegant as a gold and glass airship, or as stark as a dragon destroying an entire city, the worlds Deas carefully built in his previous Memories of Flames novels are slowly torn apart. Bellepheros, Grand Master of the alchemists’ Order of the Scales, is kidnapped by Taiytakei slavers so their sea lords can exploit his control over immortal dragons. They need a dragon rider, so they capture the fallen dragon queen Zafir. The Taiytakei have also enslaved Tuuran, former soldier in the Adamantine Order that answered to Zafir, and Berren the Crowntaker, a warrior cast into another’s body through sorcery. Bellepheros is charmed by the compassionate witch Chay-Liang into building a dragon eyrie, Berren seeks to undo his curse with the help of Tuuran’s skills and companionship, and revenge-bent Zafir swears to destroy all Taiytakei everywhere with her dragon, Diamond Eye. All of them race toward a major clash that may appear in future books but is only hinted at in this installment. Deas’s dense tale unfurls a fantastic multiverse where a queen can become a slave but a slave can change worlds.”

[1] Or so it was intended. The various reviews suggest maybe this doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped, and in part because of the uncertainty as to what a reader was *supposed* to know. I hadn’t thought of that.

The King’s Assassin (October 2012 UK)

When Berren makes the mistake of stealing a purse from a thief-taker, it should have condemned him to a short and brutal life in the slave-mines. When the thief-taker offers to train him as an apprentice instead, he can’t believe his luck; but the thief-taker has secrets of his own, scars of a faraway war filled with mercenary soldiers, necromancers who brew potions that can change your destiny, and a psychotic girl-princess with a penchant for cutting pieces out of her lovers’ souls.

kings assassin new

First review from Fantasy Book Critic is pleasantly flattering: “…arguably the author’s best at least since his still awesome debut The Adamantine Palace…”

The Black Mausoleum (August 2012 UK)

Posted in Books

There’s Karatos, the alchemist sentenced to death for being what she is. There’s Siff in the next cell. His death sentence is for killing four soldiers with his bare hands even though he has no memory of how he did it. There’s Skjorl, the Adamantine Man whose job it is to watch over them.

Thing is, though, Siff knows something. He knows something that might just change the fate of the world and right now, any change at all is looking like a good thing. So Kataros has to get him out, so he can show her what he’s found, and never mind that he’s likely going to stab her in the back the first chance he gets. To get him out, she needs Skjorl, even if the Adamantine Man would rather stab himself than help someone like Siff, and that’s only the start of what he’d do to her.

And then there’s the dragon. The dragon doesn’t hate any of them. It’s a dragon. It simply wants to eat them.

The Black Mausoleum. Someone’s going to die.

Chapters 1 and 2 are available online

TBM Cover de-rezzed

Actually, it’s probably that guy on the cover, isn’t it.

Review from the British Fantasy Society: “a cracking pace throughout … Well told, nippy, and chock full of twists and turns.”

Review from the Falcatta Times: “characters that step from the page into the readers mind with such a vivid presence that you’ll form attachments with them all whether you love or loath them”

Review from A Fantasy Reader: “…if you like action and character driven plot with scorching fire around the corner, you’ll be satisfied.”

Review from Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews: “…a tautly-plotted action-packed story, with perfect pacing and a terrific blend of character-driven incident and convincing world-building, a totally enjoyable read that I raced through in a couple of days because I just didn’t want to put it down. A good four stars.”

Review from the Ranting Dragon: “Deas has a knack for writing dark and morally ambiguous characters that even George R.R. Martin should envy. Most of all, though, his novels are pure, high-speed whirls of action, suspense, and drama, written with formidable, horrifyingly vivid prose.”

The Warlock’s Shadow (October 2011 UK)

Two years have passed. Berren is becoming a man and learning the thief-taker’s trade; But the thief-taker’s own past is about to catch up with both of them.

Read an excerpt here.

warlocks shadow cover - shrunk

First review up was Liviu Suciu at the Fantasy Book Critic: “…a highly recommended novel that stands well on its own until the cliffhanger ending…” I Thank you, Liviu. I do try to avoid cliffhangers, but the temptation overwhelmed me on this occasion!

Next up, LEC Book reviews: Dragon-monks, assassins, necromancy and enemies long-forgotten are all at the rendez-vous in this greatly entertaining novel.”

“…a lovely relaxed storytelling style…” Lowly’s Book Blog

This is such a great little series that requires little time and investment for a great return so I recommend it to all fantasy fans! Fixed on Fantasy

The Order of the Scales (May 2011 UK, 2012 US, Fr, Ger)

Imagine you’re a dragon. Monstrous, tireless, ageless. You have seen the world broken into pieces and assembled back together again. You have travelled the lands of the living and the dead. You know what lurks in both and you have no fear of anything that you have seen, because you are a dragon and nothing is your equal.

Imagine there are men. Little scurrying things that run on two legs instead of four. They are unremarkable prey – small and slow – save for one thing. They think. They understand what you are when you come for them. They feel fear, hope, dread, despair and you have come to savour the taste of those things. They are delicious little treats, rewarding, even if they are hard to winkle out of their holes.

Now imagine that something has changed. Imagine the men have learned a trick. Imagine they have found a way to make you stupid. They no long scurry and hide and fear you, no – now you are their pet. They feed you and nurse you and ride you. They wear your skin for their armour and make bows from your bones. They make you dull, like a dog, with their alchemy. They strip you of your power and and your glory and your rage. For hundreds of years, they grow rich and fat on the back of you. They make you forget what you are and then they forget themselves, and the fear and the dread are all gone and everything is made drab and meaningless.

Imagine you wake up. Imagine you remember. All of it. Imagine the fury.

Now imagine there are thousands of you.

ORDER OF THE SCALES draft cover

A long time ago, I made some comment about this trilogy coming in layers. The Adamantine Palace shows the surface of what’s going on, glittering and shiny but superficial. The King of the Crags peers beneath, and the Order of the Scales takes you to the heart. That’s the way it was supposed to be, at any rate. I think it has more depth than King of the Crags and I think it flies at a pace to put The Adamantine Palace to shame. I think this is the best of the trilogy by far. If you found the other two fun, I’m quietly hoping this book will blow your mind.

I may, of course, be entirely deluded.

The Order of the Scales comes out in the UK on 19th May. The dragons are by Domonic Harman again. You can read the first chapter here.

Reviews:

“But it’s not the battles or the monsters that captivate, it’s the characters” SFX

“…a fast-paced and violent conclusion to an interesting series, epic in scope but low in bloat, marked out by memorably vicious characters (scaled and unscaled).” The Wertzone

“Great Stuff” Falcatta Times

“enthusiastic … brilliantly executed … heart-thumping dragon action” LEC Book reviews

“The final chapters however are bliss.”  “I’m glad to have picked it up and I think you should give it a try. A Fantasy Reader

“This is how epic fantasy should be: horrifying dragons, political intrigue, mystery, epic world building, neck-breaking pace, interesting magic and breathtaking battle sequences. There is no wrong or right, there are no heroes; there is only blind ambition, blind devotion, and a struggle to survive. With all its layers and subplots, and a different agenda for pretty much every character, The Order of the Scales proves to be a complex story that will never grow dull.” The Ranting Dragon.

“This is a book that bears some thinking about.” Lowly’s Book Blog

SfSite have a review of the trilogy as a whole: “If you don’t want to get bogged down … and like your fantasy on the dark side you’re going to really enjoy Stephen Deas.

a strong bloody finish to the Memory of Flames fantasy trilogy according to Alternative Worlds

“unremitting violence at a blistering pace” from Kirkus reviews, but beware, for “also almost everything … is mystifying if you haven’t read the previous books” Yeah. Book three of three thing going on and I didn’t do a recap. Because recaps are BORING.

“The dragons are brilliant…” (Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews, who would definitely like some of the characters to live longer. And possibly be nicer too).

Media Culture have a fairly comprehensive review up

“Pacing aside, it’s very difficult to resist getting caught up in the cold, calculating behavior of Stephen Deas’ majestic and determined dragons.” Citybookreviews stand out from the crowd by finding the story moves too slowly.

A riveting, relentless and violent war of wings, Deas’ dragons are the scariest thing in fantasy today … to be savoured again and again. Fantasy Book Review.

Blood and fire. A must for dragon lovers everywhere. Antipodean SF

US Cover (artwork by Stephen Youll):

Order+of+the+Scales+USA Cover art

French cover (Alain Brion)

Order of the scales french cover

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (August 2010 UK, 2012 Pol)

When Berren makes the mistake of stealing a purse from a thief-taker, it should have condemned him to a short and brutal life in the slave-mines. So when the thief-taker offers to train him as an apprentice instead, he can’t believe his luck. But Berren’s new master has secrets of his own, and thief-takers and their apprentices are wont to make enemies far more readily than friends.

thieftakers apprentice cover

The first Thief-Taker’s Apprentice was written as a stand-alone book back in 2006, largely. The Taiytakai and the Moon-Sorcerers of the Diamond Isles were both conceived back then. As of May 2009, Thief-Taker is now due to be published as a trilogy of short novels with the first, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice coming out in the UK on 26th August 2010. An early excerpt (chapter one) is here for those as are interested. The second and third books, The Warlock’s Shadow and The King’s Assassin followed in 2011 and 2012. For some of the stuff in the blurb, there, you have to wait until books two or three.

Other covers: Polish

Polish cover (lo-res)

[Has] the clear potential for a great series if the foreshadowing and hints of much deeper stuff materialize in further installments.” Fantasy Book Critic

A rather nice review from Locus (you have to put up with scanned hardcopy for now):

TTA locus 1

TTA locus 2

“An engaging tale” SFX (although noting that teenage boys can be, well, really quite annoying company at times. Yes they can.)

9.5/10 - “a gripping read, with engaging characters, that bodes well for future books in the series (and it has me that little more eager for ‘The King of the Crags’)” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review. Not going to argue with that.

… a cracking fantasy that deserves to be widely read and enjoyed. – My Favourite Books. With “sharp dialogue” and a “rich setting.

“This apprentice has potential. Please, Mr Deas, can I have some more?” Yes, International Writers Magazine, you may.

“This is very well realised and written fantasy.” Civilian Reader.

The characters are solid and the setting believable, and though the story takes a little while to get off the ground, the narrative developments are engaging, and there’s enough action and revelations to keep the pages turning. The Thief Taker’s Apprentice is the perfect adventure story for teens.” Total SciFi “Online

“…great pace and some impressive depth…” The Wertzone

“…a story for all ages to enjoy…” SFSite

“like Oliver meets Graceling The Bookette review

Or  very well written and full of action and adventure. The Fringe.

Some “truly brilliant moments” for The Booksmugglers.

“A good solid fantasy for all ages.” Books for Life

The Fantastical Librarian “really enjoyed The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice”

“Tautly told, this gripping adventure tells how following one act of outrageous boldness a young cutpurse becomes apprentice to the city’s thief taker, a man driven by a powerful need to settle an old score …” www.lovereading.co.uk

“As a YA read I give this one top marks” – Fixed on Fantasy

“The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs.” www.nudgemenow.com

Is the thief-taker more interesting than his apprentice? And how much, I wonder, does that depend on who you are? Or how young you are? See, the thing is, unless you are in your teens, the main character, he’s not meant for you. LEC book reviews tries to consider the novel from both an adult and a YA perspective:

“With writing, plot and characters on par or above any other YA fantasy I’ve encountered, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is an exciting start to a new series. This book deserves to find its way onto many, many bookshelves, be that of younger or older readers.

“…a great reintroduction to the fantasy genre: a well-written tale that well deserves a read.” Jaime Reviews

“a slow-burning but skilfully crafted affair” Quippe

A couple from Australia too: “The characters are interesting and even mysterious … a good, well-written story for teens.” Ysfetsos

“realistic, complex characters, with a realistic, complex relationship and adventures to match” Specusphere

But the world is a big place, filled with diverse opinion. here’s another Australian: “The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice’ by Stephen Deas is another example of mediocrity that shouldn’t have been let past the editor’s desk,” Yes. Stupid editor. Blame him, but don’t worry, the hose is quickly turned on me. We could also call it “very soggy and misshapen cake, or book, depending on how far we’re taking this analogy.” Why? Well because it plot has been “thrown against the wall like the proverbial pasta to see if it’ll stick” with “one contrivance after another” and “Nothing is explained, everyone acts entirely unrealistically, and by the end of the book the characters you have been reading have as much depth as a sheen of water on the driveway.” Crikey, Fantasy Book Review. That sure sounds like a that sucked as a reading experience. And I kept you up late and made you miss sleep and everything, even though you skimmed and skipped large chunks? I guess we weren’t made for each other, eh?

And now some actual YA reviews (I think):

“I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was written very well and I really enjoyed how the author moved the story along quite quickly … I would recommend this book for young adults who enjoy fast paced books with lots of action. I would not recommend it for people who enjoy books that are happy and optimistic.” from the Little Book Room.

Hmmm. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recommend ANY of my books to people who want happy and optimistic.

The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs. Bookgeeks.

What amounts to a ’suitability for its target audience’ review for Thief-Taker from Readplus in Australia: The novel does contain positive messages and meaningful themes for teenagers about growing-up too fast and wanting to live in an adult world before they are fully prepared to deal with the full consequences.

“Great combat, some magical twists and an author who plays for keeps which makes this title a book that really was a real joy to read.” Tattys Treasure Chest

“…highly enjoyable and gripping.” Scottish Book Trust

“…Berren’s imaginary city is full of recognizable people and emotions all of which are brilliantly conveyed in Stephen Deas’s spare and powerful storytelling” www.lovereading4kids.co.uk

“It doesn’t necessarily change the genre in any groundbreaking ways; but what is available within it is pulled off so well, you can hardly blame him for it … any reader, young or old, should give this a try and see what I am talking about.” Literary Musings

“…gripped me enough that I want to read the sequel! Great, unique storyline with well-crafted characters.” Chicklish

“I would suggest this book to anyone who likes a darker world with very little magic and heroes who are not at always winning the fight.” - KJ

Yup. Reckon I’d go with that.

King of the Crags (April 2010 UK, 2011 US, Fr, 2012 Ger)

“…rapid battle scenes which stand out as some of the best dragon fights I’ve ever witnessed.” SFbook

King of the Crags picks up right where The Adamantine Palace left off. There are a couple of major characters who now appear and one or two of the minor figures from TAP get a bigger role. The pace is maybe a little more measured than TAP. OK, a maybe *tiny* bit more measured. There are deaths, oh yes. And burning. Much, much burning. There are a couple of characters who might be mistaken for the ‘good’ guys, although I’m not saying how long they last before they get eaten. And a few secrets of both the dragons and the alchemists are beginning to leak out.

Ideas from early drafts for a lengthy chapter on dragon anatomy and a cameo appearance by a flight of were-ducks have been ditched; however they may reappear… elsewhere.

For the truly dedicated, there is a map here and the ALL-NEW alternate prologue here

UK Cover with dragons by Domonic Harman:

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...
Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons…

US cover art by Stephen Youll:

Oh look! Snow!
Oh look! Snow!

French cover by Alain Brion

Le_Roi_des_cimes cover

Reviews:

“As sharp as anything by George RR Martin or Joe Abercrombie . . . the new fantasy has another new star.”SFX

Look, they said the ‘M’ word. THE ‘M’ WORD! Frankly who needs more?

“A fiery, eventful read” .. “refreshingly fast paced”SciFi Now

“Beautifully written, excellently plotted and above all a descriptiveness for the world that is almost photographic.” Falcatta Times.

“I can only hope Deas returns to his world, not with rosy visions of restoration, but to give his humans some reason not to pack it all in…” Locus

“Fans of grim epic fantasy will find these intrigues engrossing.” Publisher weekly

“…characters like Jehal and Kemir shine, the world feels more solid and interesting, the battles are well-described and the various plots twists are more ruthless and startling than anything else this side of Paul Kearney and George RR Martin…” The Wertzone

“Stephen Deas has combined all that’s good in fantasy and spun it around in a thriller-paced tale that will leave you breathless.” The Ranting Dragon.

“Prince Jehal … is brilliant. One of the most complex, twisted and ultimately human characters I’ve read … When I think back over what I’ve read this year … I’m hard pressed to find one I enjoyed more than this one.” SF Crowsnest

“Overall, a very strong sequel and one of the best second entries in a trilogy I’ve had the chance to read. In the final paragraph of my Adamantine Palace review I said that The Adamantine Palace was not top notch…well…forget that. It might have been on its own but with The King of the Crags as its sequel it now certainly falls into that category.” LEC Book Reviews (see that bit about The Adamantine Palace – a series should be more than the sum of its parts).

“This is, quite simply, some of the best fantasy writing I’ve read in quite some time. This series is highly recommended.” CA Reviews.

“Stephen Deas successfully delivers another wonderful and exciting fantasy novel, just as enjoyable as his previous one” SFF Chat

Another review of TAP/KOTC

“The first book was a marvellous debut.  The second book trumped it hands down.  The excitement, thrills and spills anticipated in the final book promise to be an incomparable fantasy ride.” M/C reviews

“…filled to the brim with murder, revenge, double-dealings, politics and power grabs…” Monsters and Critics

The writing is still sharp, right to the point, without being excessively extravagant and just harsh and biting enough to give it some edge. … Bring on The Order of the Scales, I’m hungry for dragons eating useful food! A Fantasy Reader

The Booksmugglers seem to be converted. “Questions aside, I finished reading The Adamantine Palace only just about interested about reading this sequel. I closed The King of the Crags knowing for a fact that I will be picking up the final instalment in the trilogy come rain or come shine.”

Not the only one: “And I won’t be waiting to read volume 3 when it eventually arrives.” Lowly’s Book Blog (and that’s meant in a good way).

“…a wonderful follow-up to The Adamantine Palace and I enjoyed reading it even more than I did the first book.” Night Owl SF

So Crags is better than The Adamantine Palace? Not every one seems to think so.

“I also sincerely dislike the fact that I now have to wait for the next instalment to find out what happens next. *Pokes Stephen with a pointy metal stick* Write faster!!”

“. . . the tension that made The Adamantine Palace so addictive runs throughout this sequel . . . The Dragon War that rages throughout the final stages of the book is simply superb. . . An impressive sequel that boasts the same flare and excitement of its predecessor.” Total SciFi.

“…even more brutal that the first one, darker and more cynical with no-nonsense and sentimentality…” Fantasy Book Critic

“A fairly successful stab at viciously political fantasy.” Kirkus Reviews (who assert they are the world’s toughest book critics; although I take that with a pinch of salt, I’ll take the review too).

“the second best opening I’ve ever encountered after ‘Tigana’” (Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews, who would like some nicer characters I think)

Still not bad then. But then they did rather like the first one. However, for some, the slight change in style seems to have come as a real disappointment. I guess you can’t please everyone.

“In The Adamantine Palace Deas went all out and told an amazing story at a break-neck pace and that was lacking in The King of the Crags. While I still plan to continue reading the series I hope that Deas returns to a faster plot for the third book.”

Some reviews are simply… curious…

“Readers will appreciate soaring through the skies of the Realms” OK, but… “…this is no cozy.” Eh?

However, the most heartfelt reviews of all are those written by readers who are simply that and nothing more:

“You built an amazing world, populated it with a rich range of believable characters and peppered everything with minor NPCs and backstory galore — speaking as a roleplayer, I would love to be in any game you GMed.”

It’s not a wish I can fulfil, but it’s one I wish I could.

If there’s a plan for book three, it’s to rattle along like book one but with the depth of book 2. Best of both? Falling between two stools? Read it and see…

The Adamantine Palace (19th March 2009 UK, 2010 US, Fr, Ger)

Adamantine Palace (draft) cover art

View the trailer, read an excerpt or see the map

So how did this come about? You can thank/blame Simon Spanton at Gollancz, and my agent John Jarrold for sending him my way. I’d spend the last couple of years writing books far faster than anyone was reading them, I had a backlog of several years of submissions queuing to be looked at and I was looking for something else to do. I’d probably been annoying the hell out of John bugging him every few weeks about what was going to get sent out to whom and when. Patience, is one of those virtues where someone else got most of mine. Simon, meanwhile, was on the hunt for someone who’d write something sexy, snide and action-packed with dragons in it. No busty bimbo riders either (I think that’s a quote, but I could be wrong).

It just so hit the spot. It took me and my muse a weekend to sketch out the skeleton of a trilogy and everything to fit together perfectly almost first time (this happens more often than you might think). I think it took about a week to send a first pitch back to Gollancz. Five chapters, one trailer and one synopsis later and we had a deal. The day after that, the Germans bought it too. After two decades of getting absolutely nowhere, that big blue hand that works for the Lottery was finally pointing at me. Or that’s how it felt. Mostly still does.

TAP is finished now. Whether it’s sexy, snide and action-packed you can judge for yourselves, but the dragons kick ass. I think that’s one thing all the reviewers agree on.  They aren’t reasonable, rational, thinking creatures, they don’t speak in a clipped English accent, they aren’t cute and cuddly, you can’t bargain with them and they don’t have a convenient weak spot just under their left armpit. They were (and still are) a lot of fun to write.

I think this is a pretty comprehensive list of reviews as of June 2009, by the way, at which point I pretty much gave up keeping track. So sorry if you got missed out:

…the combination of the fantastic with keen observation and sheer impudence reads something like Anne McCaffery as filtered through the mind of Oscar Wilde.” Locus (and yes, I liked that one so much that I transcribed it)

“A fast, sharp, ruthless read.” Joe Abercrombie

“These are the predators; the ones that floss with velociraptors. … One of the best fantasy books of the year.” Blood of the Muse

“…will appeal to fans of both classic and contemporary fantasy. In short, Gollancz has discovered another winner” Fantasy Book Critic (who later list King of the Crags as one of their top ten anticpated novel of 2010)

“With a marvellous sweeping prose, a twisting plot and a lead character that is both venomous and awesome, this novel screams out for attention it rightly deserves.” SF Crows Nest

The book is an entertaining mix of Pern and Westeros, with the knowing characterisation of Abercrombie and the endearment of Novik.SFFworld.

“This is a terrifying appetiser from what will surely be seen as a landmark in dragon-orientated fantasy.” dwscifi

“…full of everything that I like about fantasy right now; strong characters, a complex plot and loads of dragons.” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review.

Roll over McCaffrey, there’s a new Dragon Lord in town.” (Gareth Wilson FALCATTA TIMES )

“The characterisizations and pace of the book are excellent. The dragons, especially, make for an interesting story all on their own. Bookgeeks

“…what I like most about The Adamantine Palace was the level of excitement that accompanies each moment of the book. This excitement grows with each page causing the reader to literally sit at the edge of their seat waiting for the exciting conclusion.” Whatchamacallit Reviews

“…an absorbing, satisfying read with plenty left in the locker for the future instalments … Dragons are back at the top of the food chain, in all their fire-breathing primal glory.” Speculative Horizons

A review of TAP and KOTC together: “The first book was a marvellous debut.  The second book trumped it hands down.  The excitement, thrills and spills anticipated in the final book promise to be an incomparable fantasy ride.” M/C reviews

Mike at King of the Nerds sums up what I was trying to achieve with the dragons perfectly: “Yes and while you might let out a cheer when you first meet [the dragon] it dies in your throat pretty quickly leaving you with an uneasy sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach and the sudden need to back away very very slowly.  I loved that.” Others may feel differently, but that’s exactly the reaction I wanted.

Or try this from SF Crows Nest:

“With a marvellous sweeping prose, a twisting plot and a lead character that is both venomous and awesome, this novel screams out for attention it rightly deserves. It’s a novel that clearly acknowledges its debt to the dragon sub-genre but is so strongly plotted through its characterisation that it pushes itself up into the realms of high political fantasy to threaten the likes of George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan.”

“Deas has a deft hand with worldbuilding and history. I absolutely loved all the strange and sinister little touches, like the Scales, that he put into his world. I could have gobbled up twice what he put in without blinking.” Smouldering Ink

“I highly recommend The Admantine Palace to all readers of fantasy. Even if it has been years since you last read a book about dragons, don’t hesitate to give this one a try. You will not be disappointed.” SFF Chat

“The blend of action and politics was a good one, just enough on both sides to make you anxious to get back to each piece as the point of view changed from chapter to chapter.” Tea and Tomes

“A word of warning: If you like this book by page 50, be sure that you have the next volumes at hand. You will want to continue reading after you finish this book.” Weirdmage Reviews

“It’s not a deep work, but I found The Adamantine Palace refreshing, unique, and engaging.” It Didn’t Happen

Now some people have read The Adamantine Palace and hated it, I guess. Maybe for exactly the reasons this reviewer loved it so much. But it’s still a real kick to read a review like this and know that there’s someone else who read my words and got out of it what I was trying to put into it.

It’s not all roses though. The other half of the world apparently would have liked another 100 pages to flesh out the world and the characters (The Ranting Dragon sort of sums up the dilemma: “Though you will immediately notice the depth of this world, it has not been given the attentions it deserves yet. However, that is what gives The Adamantine Palace its tempo, and I’m unsure if that’s such a bad thing.” Yes, the exploration of the world in TAP is skeletal. A deliberate choice that came with running the story on rocket fuel – interesting that there’s almost exactly a 50/50 split in opinion as to whether it was a good one or not. If you want to explore the world without the story, go help yourself to the free gazetteer and map). Generally they still generally say rather nice things. So I guess it’s a matter of what presses your buttons.

“A blisteringly well-written tale … an inspiring debut.” Sci-Fi Now

“First-time novelist Stephen Deas has certainly passed the Novik test.” SFX

“The story runs like a whippet.” Deathray

“a quick, fun political thriller on the same level as a Hollywood blockbuster or modern video game that uses dragons cleverly enough to feel somewhat original.” from Neth Space

“Short chapters, with alternating points of view, set a cracking pace from the outset. The language is vibrant with dialogue that moves the story briskly along, yet revealing the levels of political machinations throughout.” Temple Library Reviews

“If Christopher Paolini decided to go on a meth-fueled writing bender he probably still wouldn’t come close to writing his dragons so devilishly.” Oh, wait, not that bit… this bit “…short, tight chapters that push the story along in a Thriller type fashion. However, the pushing is at a sacrifice to the characters and the world-building.” from the Mad Hatter

“A promising start to a new series from an author worth watching.” Waterstones.

“The Adamantine Palace is a fast, furious and entertaining book that grabs hold of the reader and whisks them off like a rollercoaster. The dragons, as promised, indeed kick ass.” The Wertzone.

Mr Deas has, in my opinion, created the most terrifyingly natural and malign dragons to have ever graced the page.” AntiSF

“…fast, furious and action packed…” Vilutheril reviews

“In summary though this is an entertaining and enjoyable book that definitely left me wanting to know what happens next…” The Bookling

“a whole heap of rip-roaring fun and no mistake.” (Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews.)

In short: dragons, intrigue, poison, mercenaries and a Big Dark History. If you like that sort of thing then this is definitely worth a look. Sandstorm Reviews.

“It finally begins to come to life on page 135, when we get up close and personal with a wonderfully unusual dragon … If Deas can improve his world-building skills … [spoiler deleted] … future books in this series will certainly be worth reading.” Lisa Tuttle, the Times online.

“Deas’ novel reminds me of nothing less than the much-praised Song of Ice and Fire series… with dragons!” Libris Leonis, although finding the twists and turns of the last few chapters too much.

“The dragons are frighteningly compelling and the desire to see how all the political machinations play out make Deas’s debut a page-turner.” The San Francisco Book Review

“On the whole though, if you’re a fan of George R. R. Martin’s brand of intrigue-heavy plotting, or Joe Abercrombie’s style of heavy realism, or even if you just like dragons, you may well find this a worthwhile addition to your reading list.” The Specusphere

“…a fast, fun escape into a world with just enough political intrigue and some pretty nasty dragons.” Nethspace, who also is astute enough to observe that the enslavement of the dragons “has subtle parallels to aspects of our own world culture and leads to some interesting and troubling questions.” Yes. Indeed.

…a great book and well worth the read. Ty’s Book Review, but

“It can be difficulty to distinguish one villain from another as they all seem bent on outdoing one another.” Fresh Fiction Reviews

The book smuggler pretty much sums it up with “I swear that to read this book, is probably the closest you will ever get to being inside say, the Borgia’s inner circle.” and “…the plot in this book is utterly fascinating…” but “I am, essentially a character-driven reader who missed someone to connect with and to truly root for (or even against).” It’s true that most of the characters are selfish bastards. It’s pretty clear that for some people, this works, and for others, it really doesn’t. Alternatively: “If you are looking for a fast paced story, this novel will deliver. But if you also want characters you care about (either love or hate), or a new world with a deep history, like me, you might be disappointed.” Alright already. We have a sizeable body of opinion now. A character to root for. A bit more depth. Can it be done without losing the pacing? Only the reviews of King of the Crags will reveal the answer.

Some people just seem a bit bemused.

“[Dragons] … restored to all their scaly fire-breathing glory.” The Daily Telegraph

One person gets it but loathes it. There’s always one.

“It is all glitter.” Strange Horizons

True, perhaps, but very, very shiny…

OK, now it’s two (somehow I missed this one back in 2009. Probably as well):

“Stephen Deas’ commitment to telling a good story is laudable – it is hard not to appreciate the many individual twists and turns, even if they seem to be for naught. Similarly praiseworthy is the aggressive abandonment of traditional world-building, whether I’m comfortable with it or not.” But “Without understanding (or caring) more about the characters, it is impossible to understand how the pieces fit together – or what value they have.” – Pornokitsch

Shame, because I think he might have appreciated where the second and particularly the third book better, and a trilogy, done well, should always be more than the sum of its parts. But you have to judge each book alone as you see it too. Ah well.

Other covers: France

french-cover

America

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Americ Poland

polish cover