jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I'd like to point out that second book in Anton Strout's Spellmason Chronicles urban fantasy series, which is all about gargoyles in New York City, has just been released! Here's the cover art and cover copy, for those that might be interested.





Cover Copy: Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business… until she discovered her true legacy--a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.

With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry--even with the help of her dedicated friends--are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.

But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her--and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
As part of the promo for the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar release, I figured I’d highlight all of the contributors to the anthology individually. And while we’re at it, run a contest as well! So here’s the deal, to enter the contest you have to either friend the [livejournal.com profile] afterhoursurbar community here on LiveJournal OR you have to like the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar Facebook page (search for the title of the anthology to find the page). If you do both, you’re entered into the contest twice! The contest will end March 31st, 2011. Prizes will include copies of the contributors books (sometimes entire trilogies), After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar M&Ms, and perhaps other prizes. They will be awarded by random drawing from those who’ve liked or friended the appropriate pages. If you’ve already friended or liked the pages, then you’re already entered into the contest! Find out more about the anthology at its website!





And now for the fifteenth contributor: Anton Strout ([livejournal.com profile] antonstrout)! Anton’s contribution to the anthology is the short story Izdu-Bar, which sets the Ur-bar in a possible, post-apocalyptic zombie future. Here’s the official description:

"Idzu-Bar" by Anton Strout: In a future world terrorized by zombies, one bouncer discovers that letting someone in after hours may be the worst mistake of his life.

I hadn’t met Anton in person until we did a signing together, when his first book came out. Turns out, he also works at Penguin, the company that distributes my own books, as part of the sales division. Suddenly he’s my best friend! *grin* Here’s his author bio from the anthology:

Anton Strout remembers his early days of barhopping in New York City, making The Slaughtered Lamb an old favorite of his thanks to the drinks, dungeon, life-sized werewolves and fake lightning storms. He is best known as the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series including Dead To Me, Deader Still, Dead Matter, and Dead Waters. He has also appeared in a variety of anthologies. In his scant spare time, he is an always writer, sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the world’s most casual and controller-smashing video gamer. He can be found lurking the darkened hallways of www.antonstrout.com.

We’ll be giving away the first three books in his Simon Canderous series as prizes in the contest.



jpskewedthrone: (Default)
Today is the release day for Anton Strout's fourth Simon Canderous novel Dead Waters! I managed to get an advance copy of the book so I could read it ahead of time. Here's my review!

Dead Waters is the fourth Simon Canderous novel from Anton Strout and when I first started reading it, I was beginning to think that it wouldn’t be as good at the third novel, Dead Matter. And it isn’t, at first. The book takes a little time before it kicks into gear, so if you’re reading Anton Strout for the first time, I’d say give it some time. Because when the book DOES kick into gear, it gets good.





The main premise is that Simon and friends must investigate the murder of one of the department’s head honcho friends, who apparently drowned while in the middle of his apartment. Getting that investigation started is the part of the novel that’s slow. But once Simon gets a lead, the plot picks WAY up and things kick into action. And the plot has many, many twists and turns, more so than in any other Canderous novel in my opinion. I also feel that the plot is more tightly woven here. Most of the "looseness" that I had issues with in previous books is gone. And while this book doesn’t have as much of the character development as the previous one (it was more focused on plot), there are some good character issues here, mostly dealing with Simon and his girlfriend Jane. Again, those issues are rocky at the beginning, but I felt that they were handled well once the book took off.

One of the aspects of Simon Canderous novels that I’ve liked is the use of some of the New York City setting and history. We got glimpses of this in the previous books, with one of them even using Bryant Park and its history to great effect. Here, though, I think Anton has upped the ante, bringing in the Hell Gate Bridge and its history and actually using it for a significant portion of the book and the plot. And then there’s the slew of characters and creatures that feature in this book. I’d mention some of them, but each is discovered as the plot progresses, and I don’t want to spoil anything.

THEN there’s the major twist at the end . . . which I also can’t mention. *grin*

So, a good book, definitely one of the best in the Simon Canderous series so far, with a few minor drawbacks: it takes a while to really get the plot moving, and I didn’t really need to be reminded over and over and over again that some of Simon’s actions were being influenced by the experience with the ghost in the first chapter. But those things aside, much tighter plotting here, and some interesting bad guys all around.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
I finished Dead Matter the other night and I have to say that Anton Strout is definitely improving as a writer as this series progresses. With the first book, I thought there were some "debut book/new writer" issues (of which I suffered from myself with my books). Mostly these were things like a little bouncing around and looseness in the plot and a few odd emotional reactions from the characters. Things like an extreme mood swing that wasn't properly motivated, etc. In the second book, the plot issues smoothed out tremendously (although there were a few bumps in the road), and the character things weren't so extreme although I did think Simon Canderous, the main character, got angry too often for extremely minor issues.





The third book is much more solid. The plot (involving vampires, but not the expected way for an urban fantasy) was very straight forward without any odd twists and turns. There were twists and turns, of course, but they didn't feel thrown in. Everything happened for a reason and for a purpose and the actions of the characters were dictated by the plot, so there was no random "Simon goes here for no apparent reason" kinds of things. (OK, there was ONE spot where I felt that three scenes could have been accomplished in just two, but this is minor.) As I said, the plot was tighter in the second, but it was MUCH tighter and fluid in Dead Matter.

But what really impressed me most about this third book was the advancement in the characterizations. The beginning of the book focuses in on Simon and his relationship with his partner Connor. This is what drives the plot forward at first. We also deal with Simon and Jane's relationship. These relationships aren't necessarily complex, but the plot depends on them, whereas in the past two novels the plot didn't. Simon gets angry here, again, but not as extreme and his reasons for getting angry make sense (again, there are one or two places where this slips, but those are rare). This improvement in characterization doesn't just apply to Simon, Connor, and Jane either. The main conflict comes down to one of the Enchancellers named Allorah, and her back story and emotional state are integral to the plot.

In addition, this book has some significant connections to what happened in the second book. So overall, the characters and the plots are getting much more complex, and the writing itself is improving dramatically in each book. I'm looking forward to the fourth novel, Dead Waters, coming at the end of February.



jpskewedthrone: (Default)
Fellow author (and contributor to the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar anthology coming in March I might add) has a new book in his Simon Canderous series hitting the shelves at the end of February called Dead Waters. I figured I better try to catch up on this series, so just finished the second book, Deader Still.





I read the first book, Dead To Me, a while ago and felt it had some "first book" issues, in that it was Anton's debut novel. It didn't feel as cleanly plotted as I would have liked, with some plot elements appearing out of nowhere toward the end, and some looseness with the events and plot in general. The main character was generally sound, with a cool power--psychometry, the ability to discern past events by touching an object--but I never felt that the power was being used as effectively as possible in that book.

I'm happy to say that in the second novel, many of these issues with the first book have improved greatly. The plot, that begins with the Department of Extraordinary Affairs discovering a boat full of dead lawyers that appear to have been drained of blood, is much cleaner and less loose. It takes twists and turns that don't come out of the blue, and it's much easier to see where and why the characters are getting their ideas and motivations. The subplot regarding an ex girlfriend of Simon's, come to ask him to revert back to his criminal behavior, ties in nicely with his problems dealing with a long-term relationship (which he's never had due to his power) and the main plot as well. So a tremendous leap forward regarding the plotting.

The characters are also more grounded here and easier to follow. I still think that there are smoothing issues that need to be addressed regarding the emotions of the characters though. Some of the changes--from irritation to anger, etc--come too quick or come across as too extreme in some situations. And there were a few spots where I just wanted the characters to just TALK to each other, and thus resolve the problem with a few sentences, instead of saying nothing and remaining angry instead, to keep the tension high. BUT, that said, there was massive improvement in characterization in this book as well.

I still feel that some of the plotting needs a little work--it's rough around the edges--and obviously feel that the characters haven't completely settled yet . . . but all of that is easy to leave by the wayside while reading. Because the Simon Canderous novels aren't supposed to be deadly serious urban fantasies. They're supposed to be fun, and if you go into the books with the idea that you're going to get a wild ride, then you'll have fun. The plot doesn't have to be perfect for the reader to enjoy it. (Whatever happened with the Rough Guide to Supernatural New York City anyway? Simon searches it out, finally gets it, and then it vanishes from the book.) The plot can take bizarre twists, as this one does at the end, but that's part of the fun. (Bryant Park? Really? Although cool fact about the park.) The Simon Canderous novels aren't supposed to be horribly dark reads. They're humorous and crazy and slightly whacked.

So, if you're looking for a little light reading (meaning fun) in the urban fantasy genre, something with zombies, animated bronze crabs, and some cool and interesting ties to objects and places around New York City, then I'd recommend the Simon Canderous novels. I've already stared the third novel, Dead Matter, so expect a review of that one soon.

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Joshua Palmatier

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