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In order to provide timely reviews, we prefer to receive Advance Reader Copies of books when possible. Send books to Gayle Surrette c/o SFRevu, 16440 Baden Westwood Road Brandywine, MD 20613

Bantam

2012: Everything You Need To Know About The Apocalypse by Manda Scott (Bantam 08 December 2011 / £6.99) - My January SFrevu column tends to be an odd-box of titles that arrived too late for the Christmas listings and those that publishers are using to launch their new year.

It's traditionally a quiet time for releases - but Bantam have chosen to open their year with the cheery message that we're all going to die! Or at least, we're all about to expereince the beginning of the end...

2012: Everything You Need to know about the Apocalypse is a cheery stocking filler indeed from author Manda Scott, best known for her Boudica, Queen of the Iceni novels, as M.D. Scott, for a series of historical adventures set in ancient Rome. This small format hard cover is a rather pretty little illustrated production - something that rather goes against the thrust of its contents!

"The first thing you need to know about 2012 is that it's just like any other year.

And the second thing you need to know... is that it really isn't...

The Maya didn't make it their 'end date' for nothing...

2012 collects everything you need to know about how, why and what is going to happen in this apocalyptic year, as outlined in the ancient Mayan prophesies in a humourous and insightful way, the facts, the fantasies and the frankly extraordinary."

2012: The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott (Bantam 08 December 2011 / £6.99) - And in support of the above, Bantam are reissueing Scott's Mayan prophecy thriller 2012: The Crystal Skull - nice of them to publish in January, I think, as it gives us all time to finish the books before we're all consumed in the forthcoming con conflagration.

"21.12.12 - The date is set - Time is running out.

Hidden for four centuries, a crystal skull of exquisite beauty has just been found by Stella Cody, who also inherits its legacy of dark secrets, intrigue and murder.

Facing an increasingly implacable enemy, Stella and her lover, Kit, struggle to crack the code that hides the skull's intended resting place.

Their search takes them from the intellectual rigour of Cambridge University to the untamed wildness of England's prehistoric stone circles.

But time is against them, and they have only days - hours - left to uncover the secret that may yet save the world."

Berkley UK

Magic in the Blood (An Allie Beckstrom Novel) by Devon Monk (Berkley UK 05 January 2012 / £7.99) - Though one of the oldest and most established publishing houses, Penguin's new dedicated genre imprint is one of the newest players in a British market that is opening like a flower right now. Focussing in the short term almost exclusively on Urban Fantasy, Berkley UK are, for the moment, mainly bringing in material bought in from their US feeder imprints Ace and Roc - hence this second of Devon Monk's Allie Beckstorm novels, Magic in the Blood, published in paperback original.

"Allie Beckstrom knows better than most that there's a price to pay for using magic; she's suffered her fair share of migraines and gaps in her memory during her time working as a Hound, tracing spells back to their casters. But now Allie's been visibly marked by it with a mysterious iridescent tattoo. She's not only lost all memory of how she got it, but also of the man that she's supposedly fallen in love with. Oh, and as usual, she's completely broke.So when the criminal magic enforcement division of the police asks her to consult on a missing persons case, things start to look up.

At first, it seems to be a fairly straightforward way of earning some money but like most things in Allie's life it soon turns into a dangerous mix of underworld criminals, ghosts and blood magic. This time Allie is going to discover it takes more than magic to survive..."

Corvus

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus 01 January 2012 / £18.99) - The second title from Corvus by British writer Chris Beckett, who hit the headlines a while back when he was awarded the Edge Hill Short Story Prize for his collection The Turing Test, beating competition from the like of Anne Enright (a Booker winner) and Ali Smith (who won the Whitbread). Dark Eden is published in hard cover in July.

"You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds.

One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, beneath the light and warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of a startlingly alien, sunless world. After 163 years and six generations of incestuous inbreeding, the Family is riddled with deformity and feeblemindedness. Your culture is a infantile stew of half-remembered fact and devolved ritual that stifles innovation and punishes independent thought.

You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. You will be the first to abandon hope, the first to abandon the old ways, the first to kill another, the first to venture in to the Dark, and the first to discover the truth about Eden."

Orbit

Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R. Fultz (Orbit 05 January 2012 / £7.99) - Orbit open their 2012 campaign with a very strong début fantasy from US author John R. Fultz. Seven Princes is epic fantasy down to the marrow of its bones - ancient sorcerers, huge monsters, savage battles... you know the drill. Such ingredients only become clichés when not done well, and all indications are that this is a new author very much holing his own. The first of three Books of the Shaper, Seven Princes is published simultaneously by Orbit on both sides of the Atlantic.

"An ancient necromancer slaughters the king and his court in front of the unbelieving eyes of crown prince D'zan. From that moment, his life is consumed by one thought - to regain his throne. Others will join him, some will oppose him. In a world where men and giants fight side by side against ancient monsters and new powers, only one thing is sure - war is coming. Blood will run and princes will clash. Seven princes. Seven destinies. All will be legend. "

The Heir Of Night (Wall of Night #1) by Helen Lowe (Orbit 19 January 2012 / £7.99) - Orbit have a strong track record of spotting Antipodean talent and bringing it to readers in other territories. In recent years we've seen a whole host of fantastic fantasy writers from Australia and New Zealand emerge via the Orbit list - Glenda Larke, Jenny Fallon, Karen Miller, Trudi Canavan - and joining this list is Helen Lowe, whose new series begins with The Heir of Night. Published by Eos in the US, and already released by Orbit in the author's home territories, this first novel in Lowe's Wall of Night sequence is now published in this mass market paperback edition in the UK.

"The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her people garrison the mountain range known as the Wall of Night against an ancient enemy, keeping a tide of shadow from the rest of their world. Malian is expected to uphold this tradition, yet she's known little of real danger until the enemy launches a direct attack upon her fortress home. In the darkest part of the night, the Keep of Winds becomes a bloodbath. Women and children, warriors and priests, are slain by creatures with twisted magic flowing in their veins. And as the castle wakes to chaos, Malian flees deep into the Old Keep, her life at stake. Then when the danger is greatest, her own hidden magic flares into life. But this untapped potential is a two-edged blade. If she accepts its power, she must prepare to pay the price."

Unclean Spirits: Black Sun's Daughter: Book One by M. L. N. Hanover (Orbit 05 January 2012 / £7.99) - Daniel Abraham has been one of the busiest writers of the last twelve months - under his own name, he released The Dragon's Path - traditional, if gritty epic fantasy: along with writing colleague Ty Frank he published one of the most acclaimed SF titles of 2011, Leviathan Wakes, as by James S. A. Corey - and now under another open pseudonym, he offers up the first in an urban fantasy series - Unclean Spirits - the first book in The Black Sun's Daughter series. All of these are Orbit publications and it's great to see this publisher really backing to the hilt this talented and prolific author. Three further M.L.N. Hanover books will follow in the next three months.

"The first book in a bold and fast-paced urban fantasy series starring Jayné Heller. When college student Jayné Heller's uncle is murdered, she goes to Denver to settle his estate and mourn the loss of the only member of her family who has always been on her side. She discovers that her uncle has left her quite a legacy: a string of property across the world, several very full bank accounts – and an extremely unconventional business. It turns out Uncle Eric has been secretly fighting to rid the world of supernatural 'riders' – demons, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of other nasty parasites – since before Jayné was born. Now it's up to Jayné to avenge her uncle's death and continue his work – if she can survive her first week on the job."

PS Publishing

The Yellow Cabochon by Matthew Hughes (PS Publishing 01 January 2012 / £24.99) - The Yellow Cabochon by Matthew Hughes A Luff Imbry Novella Published by PS Publishing Cover Art: Ben Baldwin http://www.pspublishing.co.uk Jacketed Hardcover Limited Edition - 978-1-848632-91-2 100 copies signed by Matthew Hughes Price: £24.99 (see review)

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