Ryan Van Loan - Tor/Forge Blog

$2.99 eBook Sale: June 2022

Hot! Hot! Hot! We’re talking about summer of course, because it’s June, but we’re also talking about eBook deals, because we’re serving up some sizzling discounts this month ⛱🌊🍦

Check it out!

Image Placeholder of - 39The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove

Since the Big Bubble popped in 1929, life in the United States hasn’t been the same. Hotshot wizards will tell you nothing’s really changed, but then again, hotshot wizards aren’t looking for honest work in Enid, Oklahoma. Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And sometimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid. But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”–and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers.

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Poster Placeholder of - 52The Affinity Bridge by George Mann

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by unfamiliar inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, while ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen, and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side….

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Image Place holder  of - 35The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few. It’s been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city’s trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her. Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker’s ship….Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans. Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc.

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Placeholder of  -88The Sword of Midras by Tracy Hickman & Richard Garriott

Abandoned by the mighty Avatars and their Virtues, the people who remained were left defenseless in an untamed land. That is, until the Obsidians came. Through dark sorcery and overwhelming force the Obsidian Empire brought order to chaos, no matter the cost. Aren Benis is a Captain in the Obsidian Army who has seen enough of what a world without Virtue looks like and is willing to do whatever it takes to establish a lasting peace. But after finding a magical sword that only he can wield, a sword his trusted scout, Syenna, claims is a blade once used by the legendary Avatars, Aren is thrown into a far more unfamiliar battle. One fought with whispered words and betrayal instead of swords and arrows.

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Place holder  of - 67My Real Children by Jo Walton

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know-what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev. Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

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Every Book Coming From Tor in Summer 2022

Ready to discover the hottest reads of summer? Get ready, because this year, our list is SMOKIN’. Check out everything coming from Tor Books in Summer 2022 here!

June 14

Image Place holder  of - 24The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

As a Witness for the Dead, Thara Celehar can speak to the recently departed: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty to use that ability to ascertain the intent of the dead and to find the killers of the murdered. Celehar’s time in the city of Amalo has brought him both friends and enemies—and no little notoriety. Now, when solving the murder of a marquise raises more questions than it answers, he finds himself exploring Amalo’s dark underside.

June 21

Place holder  of - 3In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan

Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out. Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire.

June 28

Image Placeholder of - 47Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

Raine can see—and speak—to the dead, a gift that comes with a death sentence. All her life she has hidden, lied, and run to save her skin, and she’s made some spectacularly bad choices along the way. But it is a rare act of kindness—rescuing an injured woman in the snow—that becomes the most dangerous decision Raine has ever made. Because the woman is fleeing from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king, and who will stop at nothing to reclaim what she’s stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation force Raine to enter the citadel and live among the Draoihn. She soon finds that her secret ability could be the key to saving an entire nation.

Poster Placeholder of - 37The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Lotus Kingdoms are at war, with four claimants to the sorcerous throne of the Alchemical Emperor fielding three armies between them. Alliances are made, and broken, many times over—but in the end, only one can sit on the throne. And that one must have not only the power, but the rightful claim.

Placeholder of  -93Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

The world of Dune has shaped an entire generation of science fiction. From the sand blasted world of Arrakis, to the splendor of the imperial homeworld of Kaitain, readers have lived in a universe of treachery and wonder. Now, these stories expand on the Dune universe, telling of the lost years of Gurney Halleck as he works with smugglers on Arrakis in a deadly gambit for revenge; inside the ranks of the Sardaukar as the child of a betrayed nobleman becomes one of the Emperor’s most ruthless fighters; a young firebrand Fremen woman, a guerrilla fighter against the ruthless Harkonnens, who will one day become Shadout Mapes.

July 5

Flying the Coop by Lucinda Roy

In the disunited states, no person of color—especially not a girl whose body reimagines flight—is safe. A quest for Freedom has brought former Muleseed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Silapu to D.C., aka Dream City, the site of monuments and memorials—where, long ago, the most famous Dreamer of all time marched for the same cause. As Ji-ji struggles to come to terms with her shocking metamorphosis and her friends, Tiro and Afarra, battle formidable ghosts of their own, the former U.S. capital decides whose dreams it wants to invest in and whose dreams it will defer. The journeys the three friends take to liberate themselves and others will not simply defy the status quo, they will challenge the nature of reality itself.

The Albion Initiative by George Mann

Victorian England comes fully alive in true steampunk fashion, with dazzling inventions and airships flying over the city, while clockwork automatons race across the streets. But there’s a sinister side to all this new technological progress. George Mann’s Newbury & Hobbes steampunk series concludes as our special agent heroes discover a plot of empire-changing proportions in The Albion Initiative. 

July 12

The Memory in the Blood by Ryan Van Loan

When her quest to destroy the Gods began, Buc was a child of the streets. Now she is a woman of steel, shaped by gaining and losing power, tempered by love and betrayal, and honed to a fine edge by grief and her desire for vengeance. A perilous, clandestine mission to a hidden library uncovers information that is key to destroying both the Dead Gods and their enemy, the Goddess Ciris. Ciris’s creation, Sin, who lives inside Buc, gives her superhuman abilities and tempts her with hints of even greater power. With that power, she could achieve almost anything—end the religious war tearing her world apart, remake society at a stroke—but the price would be the betrayal of everything she has fought for . . . and the man she loved would still be dead.

Cover of Mythago Wood by Robert HoldstockMythago Woods by Robert Holdstock

The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain’s last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley’s entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation. For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, “mythagos” that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams…and may drive you insane.

July 19

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be? There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

July 26

cover of A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz MeadowsA Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead. Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock. With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Three Miles Down by Harry Turtledove

It’s 1974, and Jerry Stieglitz is a grad student in marine biology at UCLA with a side gig selling short stories to science fiction magazines, just weeks away from marrying his longtime fiancée. Then his life is upended by grim-faced men from three-letter agencies who want him to join a top-secret “Project Azorian” in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean—and they really don’t take “no” for an answer. Further, they’re offering enough money to solve all of his immediate problems. Joining up and swearing to secrecy, what he first learns is that Project Azorian is secretly trying to raise a sunken Russian submarine, while pretending to be harvesting undersea manganese nodules.

The Eye of Scales by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott

Aren Bendis, former soldier in the Obsidian army, has managed to protect a rebel city from his former friends and now finds his fate bound to a weapon once wielded by the Avatars themselves. Now, he is being secreted away to the capital of the last alliance of free nations with the hopes that the Hero of Opalis will lead their army against his former masters. What Aren doesn’t know is that his former friend Evard Dirae, a Craft Master of the Obsidian Order, is seeking Aren out. Worried that Aren is being manipulated against his will by the magic of the Avatars, Evard seeks to find the sword and break its hold over Aren once and for all.

August 2

cover of The Book Eaters by Sunyi DeanThe Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories. But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

Full House by George R. R. Martin

In hardcover for the first time, Full House brings together the Wild Cards stories that have been previously published on Tor.com, including works from Daniel Abraham, Cherie Priest, David D. Levine, Walter Jon Williams, Paul Cornell, Carrie Vaughn, Caroline Spector, Stephen Leigh, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and more!

August 9

Councilor by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 

Continued poor harvests and steam-powered industrialization displace and impoverish thousands. Protests grow and gather followers. Against this rising tide of social unrest, Steffan Dekkard, newly appointed to the Council of Sixty-Six, is the first Councilor who is an Isolate, a man invulnerable to the emotional manipulations and emotional surveillance of empaths. This makes him dangerous. As unknown entities seek to assassinate him, Dekkard struggles to master political intrigue and infighting, while introducing radical reforms that threaten entrenched political and corporate interests.

August 16

The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

The first book in this fast-paced, worldbuilding series, The First Binding, tells the story of Ari, an immortal wizard hiding as a storyteller. Ari’s buried villages, killed gods, stolen magic, and knows he is a monster for it. On the run and seeking obscurity in a remote tavern, he and his companion, a singer, soon find their pasts aren’t forgotten, and neither are their enemies.

Dance with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Tobias Richter, the fearsome VP of Security of the TechCorps is dead. The puppetmaster is gone and the organization is scrambling to maintain control by ruthlessly limiting Atlanta’s access to resources, hoping to quell rebellion. Our band of mercenary librarians have decided that the time for revolution has come. Maya uses her wealth of secrets to weaken the TechCorps from within. Dani strikes from the shadows, picking off the chain of command one ambush at a time. And Nina is organizing their community—not just to survive, but to fight back. When Maya needs to make contact with a sympathetic insider, Dani and Rafe are the only ones with the skill-set and experience to infiltrate the highest levels of the TechCorps.


Excerpt: The Memory in the Blood by Ryan Van Loan

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Placeholder of  -19The Memory in the Blood is the pulse-pounding conclusion to Ryan Van Loan’s The Fall of the Gods series, featuring sea battles, hidden libraries, warring deities, old enemies, and one woman’s desire for liberation and revenge.

When her quest to destroy the Gods began, Buc was a child of the streets. Now she is a woman of steel, shaped by gaining and losing power, tempered by love and betrayal, and honed to a fine edge by grief and her desire for vengeance.

A perilous, clandestine mission to a hidden library uncovers information that is key to destroying both the Dead Gods and their enemy, the Goddess Ciris. Ciris’s creation, Sin, who lives inside Buc, gives her superhuman abilities and tempts her with hints of even greater power. With that power, she could achieve almost anything—end the religious war tearing her world apart, remake society at a stroke—but the price would be the betrayal of everything she has fought for . . . and the man she loved would still be dead.

In the middle of this murderous, magical maelstrom, a coded message smuggled out of the heart of the Dead Gods’ cathedral reveals that the Dead Gods intend to destroy Ciris—and much of the world with her.

This. Will. Not. Stand.

If Buc has to destroy all Gods, eat the rich, and break the world’s economy to save the people, she will do it. Even if it costs her everything.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Memory in the Blood by Ryan Van Loan, on sale 7/12/22!


Rage is a winter’s gale so cold it burns, filling your veins with a liquid hotter than the sun. Not living fire, but something far deeper. Harder. Brighter. I discovered that when I lost Eld and everything within me burned away in the frost that froze my chest and lungs. Now it burns within me so brightly that I wonder any can look upon me and not be struck blind. Once, I was Sambuciña “Buc” Alhurra, now I am become Incandescence, Goddess of Rage.

Eight months ago, I left Servenza, bent on revenge and convinced I knew what rage was. Then I lost Chan Sha, nearly lost my mind, and discovered what rage truly was, a freezing fire that seared away the fog and let me see clearly for perhaps the first time since I’d taken Sin into my mind in a ritual on a deserted island to defeat a horde of Shambles and the Ghost Captain who commanded them. Only, that wasn’t the truth. Leastwise, not all of it. The full measure was I’d done it to save Eld and in so doing brought an enemy between us. An enemy buried deep within my once-brilliant mind. Sin hadn’t meant to betray me. It was in his nature to want to reunite with his Goddess. To convince me to complete the Rite of Possession. A rite that would have turned me from demi-Goddess in my own right to little more than one of the slaves the Burnt were said to keep in their sandblasted lands. I’d thought I was winning when in truth I was being played, and it took falling out with Eld, defeating Sicarii who was but Chan Sha in disguise, and finally, fatally, losing Eld to realize how badly I’d been beaten.

Chan Sha giving me the slip had been the final olive pit cracked in the press that truly broke me, but with that breaking came insight. When I was ten and six, I sought the power to challenge the Gods and their hidden forever war, to break the chains they wrapped around the throats of the world and give people a chance to breathe on our own. When I was ten and seven, having found that power, I discovered what so many did before me: power is a conniving bitch.

Now I’m ten and eight and wiser for all my failures.

Alone, as I was at the start, after Sister passed and before Eld found me. Everything burned away save the knowledge that Gods can be bested. If they can be bested, they can be killed.

Aye, but it will take a special flame to consume both the Dead Gods and Ciris. I used to fear fire, but now I’m frozen and can’t be fucked to care. Incandescent. Rage. Me.

“You upset with me, amirah?”

I glanced down at the little girl, who was barely more than eight. A faded, pink rag was tied through her hair, which had been blond once and was now brown from dirt. I felt the heat of the sun’s harsh rays, though Sin’s magic kept me from sweating. It wasn’t the heat that made me move deeper into the alcove provided by the door, shifting my weight away from the child.

“No, little one,” I answered in Cordoban, shaking my head and setting the bangles threaded through my loose braid into motion. The words were strange on my tongue—another of Sin’s gifts. “You pulled me out of my thoughts, is all. They like to wander, same as you,” I added. You could have stopped me.

“I’d like nothing less,” Sin whispered in response to my thought, his voice echoing in my mind. “You muse on little else but anger and machinations these days, and the last time I tried to intervene, you locked me in a dark corner of your mind for a month.”

“It was a week,” I replied mentally.

“We were on Southeast Island one moment and when I came back, we were in Colgna!”

“Maybe it was a fortnight,” I admitted.

“So, little one,” I said out loud, forcing myself back to the moment. Sin wasn’t wrong; given half a chance my mind focused on either the rage fueling me or all the delicious paths I aimed to trod while spelling the ruin of the Gods. “You’ve word for me, Denga?”

“Aye,” Denga said, picking at a thread that had pulled loose of her brown dress. If she pulled many more, there wouldn’t be enough fabric left to earn the name, but she’d refused my offer of better clothes. After seeing a lad wearing silks above his station get jumped by half a dozen others and left with little more than his torn undergarments, I thought I understood. “I spotted another limper this morn.”

“Oh?” I started to lean forward, but my right arm—stretched behind me—protested. I held myself still. “Was it like the man with the sleeveless vest you saw last week, Denga?”

“I’m not dumb,” Denga said, pouting in a way that displayed her cracked lip.

My eyes burned with Sin’s magic, zooming in on her skin, but there was no bruise there. From the sun, then. Denga had decent parents whose only crime was being too poor to have a child. I guess that meant the father’s crime was being too slow to pull out, but isn’t that every man’s sin?

“And how would you know?” Sin asked with a grin I could feel in my mind.

“Why did I let you out again?” I felt his amusement turn to a sulk and I chuckled soundlessly.

“You said the stranger you wanted was a woman and this limper is a woman,” the girl continued.

“An old woman?”

“Older than you, amirah Buc,” she agreed.

“Aye, but as old as your ma’s ma or your ma?”


“Cordoban’s lousy with strangers, little fish,” I reminded her. “And the sun’s baked the bricks so badly they’ve cracked . . . limpers aplenty with streets like that.”

“You said this one would have her hair in braids down to her arse?”

“I did that.”

“And she’d probably hide her face beneath a hat?”


“To hide her missing eye,” Denga said, this time not making her sentence a question.

“Now that . . . ,” I said, straightening up so quickly that I felt something twist in the wrist I still held behind. It began to burn as Sin’s magic fixed the sprain I’d just given myself. “. . . is interesting. Very interesti—wait!” When Sin’s magic kicked in, my hearing went, and I’d missed a few of Denga’s words. “What’d you say?”

“You didn’t say that she’d speak Cordoban,” Denga repeated. Her sunburnt cheeks dimpled when she saw my expression. “Did I do good, amirah?”

“You did.” The cold maelstrom inside me was rising to tempest levels but I held the breakers at bay. The second sighting? In as many days? I couldn’t allow for hope, but this was worth further investigation. I tossed a coin to the girl; she whooped when she saw silver flash in the sun instead of copper. “Where did you sight said stranger?”

“Watching the harbor,” Denga said. “Lots of ships come in—Ma says on account of fighting twixt Servenza and some other place? Whatsoever ship she wanted, she didn’t find it because her face was . . .”

“Long?” I suggested.


“You’ve nothing to fear from that one,” I told Denga. “What’d she look like?” The child’s description matched the one I’d gotten yesterday—a divided riding dress in a shade of brown that nearly matched the woman’s skin and hid her limp from all but the most studious types: children. “You did good,” I repeated. “How’re you coming along in your studies?”

“The m’utadi says if I can find a word that I don’t mangle I will be able to read before next season’s rains.”

“And arithmetic?”

“She just sighs and says a word Ma said would earn me a lashing.”

I laughed. “But she does teach you.”

“Every other day,” Denga confirmed. “Ma doesn’t understand why one of the apprentices to the”—she said a word that even Sin couldn’t fully translate, rendering it as “Most Esteemed Knowledge Bearers”—“would bother teaching one such as me.”

“But she does teach,” I repeated. If Denga’s ma knew what leverage I had over said apprentice, she’d understand just fine— the Cordoban Confederacy understood blackmail even if they didn’t have a word for it. “And if you pay attention, you’ll be able to sit for the exams come summer’s end.

“Then I’ll be a m’utadi?”

“You will,” I promised her. “I’m going to stop by tomorrow, Denga, and you can read to me. Then I’ll tell you if your apprentice is right or not, aye?”

“As you say, amirah,” the girl said, her cheeks showing the first color other than dirt. Denga was impossibly proud of being able to read, however poorly, but embarrassed as well. Her parents were still trying to decipher my angle, but could see no harm in learning to read—which showed their ignorance. If Eld hadn’t taught me to read, I’d have never realized how fucked we were by the Gods and never set out to balance the scales. There were dozens who’d let slip their mortal coil who could tell Denga’s parents the dangers of my reading, but the dead can’t talk. Not without a Dead Walker, anyway.

“Call me Buc,” I told Denga. “Now, run off before you melt into the bricks. Oh”—my voice stopped her midturn—“if you ever want to skip out on your m’utadi, or wonder why you chose such a path when the maestros are beating the soles of your feet for mistranscribing a tome, just remember, Denga . . . that coin I gave you? Anyone with quick fingers or a blade can steal that.” I tapped my head. “But knowledge? That’s a wealth that can never be stolen, only squandered. Savvy?”

“I don’t ken that word?” Denga said, her accent suddenly heavy to my ears. “But I won’t let you down. I promise.”

“Don’t,” I told her. She bowed slightly and turned to leave. “And while you’re at it,” I shouted at her back, “don’t let yourself down either, girl!”

I waited until I saw her pink scarf, waving like a banner, disappear around the alley corner, then pivoted and caught the body I’d been using one arm to hold up out of her sight. The Sin Eater’s head lolled against my shoulder. A trickle of dried blood ran from her lips down to her chin like a faint scar against her mahogany skin, but elsewise she could have been sleeping. I eased her down in the alcove, setting her back against the brick with her feet blocking the door, her azure robes unwrinkled despite the abuse. Over the last six months, I’d learned, with Sin playing my own reluctant m’utadi, that one has to be careful when murdering Sin Eaters—take too long in the murdering and they’ll call others of their kind to them or, Gods forbid, Ciris herself.

“Ciris wouldn’t come in physical form,” Sin said. “For you, though, she might possess the Sin Eater.”

“Wouldn’t that be the same thing?”

“It would be semantical,” he confirmed.


I leaned the woman forward and her black, shoulder-length hair shifted, exposing the hilt of the short blade I’d driven through the back of her neck. It’s hard to call anyone, let alone a Goddess, when your brain stem’s been severed. The blade caught on a vertebra, and I had to twist it a bit to get it out, the woman’s head jerking back and forth and the sound of steel on bone loud in the silence cast over the alley by the oppressive heat. Give it up, woman. The blade pulled free and the Sin Eater fell back against the door with a dull thud, her sightless eyes slipping closed as I wiped the blade clean on her robes.

Ciris would realize one of her own was missing eventually, if the other Sin Eaters in Cordoba didn’t first, and one way or the other they’d trace her to this stoop. I was counting on it. After slipping the blade into its sheath beneath the thin jacket I wore, I tucked a scrap of paper into the fold of the dead woman’s collar, arranging it so the edge of a blade drawn in red ink that could have been blood was just visible. Sicarii’s calling card. Servenza thought Sicarii dead, but the Gods—both sides—knew she was still out there. For the past six months, Sicarii had been murdering their mages and . . . most deliciously of all, each side thought Sicarii was working for the other.

I straightened and inspected my green sleeves, bright as spring, but I’d put the blade where I wanted and there was no blood to give me the lie.

I couldn’t keep the grin from my lips as I stepped away. It’d taken me murdering my way through two enclaves of Sin Eaters and burning the Cathedral of Colgna down around a dozen mages of the Dead Gods—destroying some of the Dead Gods’ bones worked into their altar in the process—for actual war to break out between the Gods. Once it had, the clergy on both sides had set to with a motherfucking will, taking the world as their battleground.

As for Sicarii? She had been Chan Sha. Now she was a hollowed-out husk, on the run from me.

I’d lost her in that blur of the first month after Eld died, but at last I had her. She’d finally returned to the place I’d least expected, her old stomping grounds: the Cordoban Confederacy. Oh, I’d moved on, redoubling my efforts to destroy the Gods. I owed that to Eld, who’d died so that I might live. I owed it to Sister, who’d done the same many years before. And I owed it to the little street rat I’d once been, a girl who read a few books and dared to dream. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t spare a moment for Chan Sha if she’d gone to all this trouble to pay me a visit.

I rounded the same corner Denga had a few moments before and felt the sun pale before my black skin, bursting with rage. I was incandescent.

Copyright © 2022 from Ryan Van Loan

Pre-Order The Memory in the Blood Here:

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The Trouble with Writing (Too) Smart Characters

Place holder  of - 80How do you write brilliant, Sherlockian characters? Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel and the upcoming sequel, The Justice in Revenge, knows the struggle, and talks about his experience writing super smart characters like his protagonist Buc.

By Ryan Van Loan

“I’m not like other people; I’m the oddity, but to my eyes it’s everyone else who’s strange.”

That’s the protagonist from my FALL OF THE GODS series, Sambucina ‘Buc’ Alhurra, prenatural genius and autodidact street rat convinced she can save the world. She’s a double-barreled blunderbuss of fun to read, but a lot harder to write. Genius-level protagonists often are. Sherlock Holmes. Hermione Granger. Locke Lamora.  Cas Russel. Kvothe. Some of the sharpest minds in genre fiction and every one of them a delight to read on the page…but how does one go about writing them? I suspect if you’re a genius it may not be all that difficult, but what about mere mortals like present company? Come take a look behind the page with me and I’ll show you some of the tips and tricks I use when writing characters who are far smarter than I am.

If books are full of magic (of course they are), then authors are the magicians (I know that sounds grand, but I also scoop up my dog’s poop, so). The base layer of our magic is this: by simply reading a line, the reader internalizes the words on the page. Once you’ve let those words burrow into you, they’re hard to get out. That’s why books are so powerful…and dangerous. They can slip thoughts, notions, ideas into your mind that you’d never have considered, let alone held closely before. This is one of my favorite feats of legerdemain when writing genius-level characters: call attention to their genius. There’s a myriad of ways to do that, from the blunt: have other characters name them a genius, to the subtle: show our would-be Einstein continually frustrated with the failure of others to keep up with their thoughts and plans. Sprinkle that in early and often and we the reader now believe, or at least are open to the belief, that this character is smarter than we are.

Now that we have the reader open to suggestion, we need to harden that belief into firm reality. A favorite trick of mine is to think about a current dilemma facing our protag (it could be something as simple as a discussion or as complex as the climactic Act 3 showdown) and list the ways they could solve the issue. Immediately discard the first several that come to mind (but don’t throw those away, we’ll come back to them) because those are what your normies would think of trying. Now comes the hard part…waiting for some really intriguing, unique solutions to surface in your mind. Be patient. Go for a walk, grab a hot shower, read a book. Eventually you’ll get one (or even two or three!) that make you sit up and chuckle to yourself. Those are the ones you want to have your genius set into motion.

Remember those earlier solutions? Those are great for feeding through the mouths of secondary characters who are just like us. They’re also wonderful to have your protag pick apart early in the story to further establish their bonafides in the brains department. Okay, so now we know what our protag wants to do, but we all know ideas are one thing, execution another. Sticking with our magician angle, when I’m putting our genius’ solution into action, I like to use misdirection whenever possible. Show just enough of the solution that the reader thinks they know where our main character is taking this and then spring the reveal on them at the climactic moment. They’ll connect the dots, get that wonderful surprising-yet-inevitable feeling, and our protagonist’s genius will be forever cemented in their mind.

Talking about or showing our character’s genius and coming up with unfathomable solutions are two great ways to create smart(er) characters. What else? Vocabulary and speech are two obvious ones. Some feel that using fewer contractions can show intelligence, which is true, but you have to watch for stilted language at that point. I do like to sprinkle in some complex words and even have another character ask what they mean, but typically I rely upon syntax and contextual clues within the speech to demonstrate smarts. Research is always your friend, both in understanding particularly erudite pieces of science that you want to use and also in looking at what historically genius-level folks have gotten up to that you can then steal *ahem* borrow, and fit into your story.

I’ll wrap this up by reminding you that the author has as long as they need to practice their sleight of hand. Especially if you’re the type of author that likes to write by the seat of your pants…revision is your friend. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed (or worse, underwhelmed) with creating a genius protagonist, I find it comforting to remind myself I can fix this all in post. You can go back and tweak language, adjust scenes, tailor the set up so that your reveal is THAT much cooler. You’re the creator, so use your power to your advantage and hold the reveal close to your vest until you’ve got it down pat.

Those are some of my tips, what are some that you’ve seen other authors do or tried yourself?

RYAN VAN LOAN (he/him) served six years in the US Army Infantry, on the front lines of Afghanistan. He now works in healthcare innovation. The Sin in the Steel was his debut novel. Van Loan and his wife live in Pennsylvania.

Pre-order The Justice in Revenge here:

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Every Book Coming From Tor in Summer 2021

Summer is almost here and we’re so excited for warm weather, sunshine, and NEW BOOKS!!! Check out everything coming from Tor Books in summer 2021 here:

June 1

Place holder  of - 14The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

Image Placeholder of - 62Alien Day by Rick Wilber

Will Peter Holman rescue his sister Kait, or will she be the one to rescue him? Will Chloe Cary revive her acting career with the help of the princeling Treble, or will the insurgents take both their lives? Will Whistle or Twoclicks wind up in charge of Earth, and how will the Mother, who runs all of S’hudon, choose between them? And the most important question of all: who are the Old Ones that left all that technology behind for the S’hudonni . . . and what if they come back?

June 8

Placeholder of  -3Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe’s most remarkable work, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly.

June 22

Poster Placeholder of - 84Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

June 29

Image Place holder  of - 2When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path – your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains. But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

July 6

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used. In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates. But time is running out.

Joker Moon from George R. R. Martin

Theodorus was a dreamer. When the wild card virus touched him and transformed him into a monstrous snail centaur weighing several tons, his boyhood dreams seemed out of reach, but a Witherspoon is not so easily defeated. But now when he looked upward into the night sky, he saw more than just the moon . . . he saw a joker homeland, a refuge where the outcast children of the wild card could make a place of their own, safe from hate and harm. An impossible dream, some said. Others, alarmed by the prospect, brought all their power to bear to oppose him. Theodorus persisted . . .never dreaming that the Moon was already inhabited. And the Moon Maid did not want company.

July 13

The Freedom Race by Lucinda Roy

In the aftermath of a cataclysmic civil war known as the Sequel, ideological divisions among the states have hardened. In the Homestead Territories, an alliance of plantation-inspired holdings, Black labor is imported from the Cradle, and Biracial “Muleseeds” are bred. Raised in captivity on Planting 437, kitchen-seed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule knows there is only one way to escape. She must enter the annual Freedom Race as a runner. Ji-ji and her friends must exhume a survival story rooted in the collective memory of a kidnapped people and conjure the voices of the dead to light their way home.

The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping. It is a society where the wealthy few rule the impoverished many. Determined to change that, former street-rat Buc, along with Eld, the ex-soldier who has been her partner in crime-solving, have claimed seats on the board of the powerful Kanados Trading Company. Buc plans to destroy the nobility from within—which is much harder than she expected.

July 20

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes to stay hidden from her fate.

August 10

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt

After discovering her magical ability to see people’s souls, Alice Wyndham only wants three things: to return to the Rookery, join the House Mielikki and master her magic, and find out who she really is. But when the secrets of Alice’s past threaten her plans, and the Rookery begins to crumble around her, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to save the city and people she loves.

Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe

Sword & Citadel brings together the final two books of the tetralogy in one volume: The Sword of the Lictor is the third volume in Wolfe’s remarkable epic, chronicling the odyssey of the wandering pilgrim called Severian, driven by a powerful and unfathomable destiny, as he carries out a dark mission far from his home. The Citadel of the Autarch brings The Book of the New Sun to its harrowing conclusion, as Severian clashes in a final reckoning with the dread Autarch, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that will forever alter the realm known as Urth

August 17

Neptune by Ben Bova

In the future, humanity has spread throughout the solar system, on planets and moons once visited only by robots or explored at a distance by far-voyaging spacecraft. Three years ago, Ilona Magyr’s father, Miklos, disappeared while exploring the seas of Neptune. Everyone believes he is dead—crushed, frozen, or boiled alive in Neptune’s turbulent seas. With legendary space explorer Derek Humbolt piloting her ship and planetary scientist Jan Meitner guiding the search, Ilona Magyr knows she will find her father—alive—on Neptune. Her plans are irrevocably altered when she and her team discover the wreckage of an alien ship deep in Neptune’s ocean, a discovery which changes humanity’s understanding of its future…and its past.

The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes

The Sentinels narrowly escaped the collapsing edge of the Divide. They have mustered a few other surviving Sentinels, but with no engines they have no way to leave the edge of the universe before they starve. Adequin Rake has gathered a team to find the materials they’ll need to get everyone out. To do that they’re going to need new allies and evade a ruthless enemy. Some of them will not survive.

August 31

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha

Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget. Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered. When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps. And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, they are running out of options and allies. The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward’s army, she pushes forward with her experiments. Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn’t even sure if being human is something he wants.

September 7

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that’s just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance. But, some wars can’t ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren’t content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.



Excerpt: The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan

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Image Place holder  of - 11Featuring boardroom intrigue, masquerade balls, gondola chases, street gangs, and shapeshifting mages, Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge continues the Fall of the Gods series as Buc and Eld turn from pirates to politics and face the deadliest mystery of their career.

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping. It is a society where the wealthy few rule the impoverished many.

Determined to change that, former street-rat Buc, along with Eld, the ex-soldier who has been her partner in crime-solving, have claimed seats on the board of the powerful Kanados Trading Company. Buc plans to destroy the nobility from within—which is much harder than she expected.

Stymied by boardroom politics and dodging mages at every turn, Buc and Eld find a potential patron in the Doga, ruler of Servenza. The deal: by the night of the Masquerade, unmask whoever has been attempting to assassinate the Doga, thereby earning her support in the halls of power. Blow the deadline and she’ll have them deported to opposite ends of the world.

Armed with Eld’s razor-sharp sword and Buc’s even sharper intellect, the dynamic duo hit the streets just as the shadow religious conflict between the Gods begins to break into open warfare. Those closest to Buc and Eld begin turning up with their throats slit amid rumors that a hidden mastermind is behind everything that’s going wrong in Servenza.

Facing wrathful gods, hostile nobles, and a secret enemy bent on revenge, Buc and Eld will need every trick in their arsenal to survive. Luckily, extra blades aren’t the only things Buc has hidden up her sleeves.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan, on sale 07/13/2021. 


The steps to the main entrance to the cathedral, two dozen paces away, began to teem with a flood of worshippers. All to the good. Servenza took a dim view of magic in the streets, and if the Doga was in attendance—for today was the start of the increasingly elaborate celebrations that would culminate in a fortnight with the Feast of Masks on Midwinter’s Day—she wouldn’t tolerate a Veneficus attacking citizens. I hope. As if my thoughts were a command, the woman appeared at the head of the steps with half a dozen guards, bright in their crimson-and-gold ceremonial uniforms.

Eld straightened his coat so it aligned with the red vest beneath and looked at me. “How’d you know they poisoned the tea?”


I’m quick on my feet and even quicker in thought. I used to have to smoke kan to keep my thoughts from tumbling into one another and driving me half-mad, but with Sin I was able to harness those thoughts and keep them pulling evenly in their traces. Save when it came to talking about magic. Eld and I had had one almost-but-not-quite-open conversation about what I’d done back on that island, and Eld hadn’t spoken to me for a fortnight after, until I invited him to see my plan for taking over the Company. That plan had gone up in flames and by the time the ashes settled, the opportunity to discuss my magic was little more than ash itself. Eld hated all magic; he’d hate mine, too, despite our friendship. I searched my mind for an answer to his question, but none came, and Sin didn’t help either, the bastard.

“You told me to stay clear of this,” Sin reminded me.

Eld was still looking at me expectantly, his eyes a brilliant blue in the sunshine. For a moment I considered not answering, just staring, but he deserved a reply. I couldn’t give him the truth. . . .

“I, uh, let’s just say a little voice told me?” I said finally. “And it turned out to be right.”

“Oh,” Eld said, then realization bloomed in his eyes. “Oh.” He looked away, his cheeks turning a red that had nothing to do with the sun.

I bit back a curse and turned to look toward the stairs. An unending stream of people parted around the Doga, who seemed to have taken up residence at the top of the steps, her dark hair and skin nearly a match for my own, though I guessed much of her color came from the sun. I had to give it to the woman, she had presence, her gold crown placed within her ochre locks so that it looked a part of her. Thread o’ gold braided in as well made her hair shimmer in the light, and while she eschewed the latest fashion—a flaring jacket over tight trousers—her dress was still in style. The fabric, in a purple soft enough to be lavender, spilled down to her heels and was sewn up at one side to reveal gilded lace.

The crowd, some carrying crutches or heaps of bloody bandages they no longer needed after receiving healing by the Dead Gods, bowed as they passed. Judging from the Doga’s smile, their obeisances were deeper than the ones they’d given to their Gods.

Beyond the Doga, a man and woman were working their way against the crowd, perhaps heading for the next healing service. They were fools to not wait until the cathedral had cleared out. The man was jostled by another and nearly fell, his dark jacket billowing behind him, drawing a few curses from those around him. He pulled his jacket back around him and I saw a short-barreled pistole in his hand. Past him, a score of paces away, strode a woman in a similarly dark jacket, gaze fixated on . . . the Doga.

“They’re going to assassinate her.”

“What?” Eld turned away from the canal; he’d been watching for our gondola to arrive.

“The Doga.” I pointed. “Those two in the brown rags are trying to kill her. Sin, let’s go,” I said, the last spoken only in my mind.

I leapt into the crowd, letting Sin guide me deeper into the swirling maelstrom of humanity. I kept my eyes on the man. He was past middle age with an unkempt look; bristling hints of a white beard and greasy grey hair jutted out from his ill-fitting tricorne. Even with Sin’s help, it was difficult to move against the crowd. Two steps forward, one up, one back, and another two steps forward wasn’t going to get us there fast enough. Right hand inside left jacket pocket, left hand down to pouch sewn in the belt. Eight paces. The great thing about being able to wear a jacket and pants was that the pockets gave me so many options that I didn’t need to carry a purse unless I needed extra ammunition. Or makeup. Today I needed neither. “Ready?” I felt Sin’s nod and smiled. “Then let’s do this.”

I dropped my left hand inside my jacket and found the smooth handle of my new slingshot, its dark wood reinforced with bands of steel so it could handle the stronger rubber draw I could pull with my Sin-enhanced strength. My other hand went to the small lump hidden on the side of my belt and twisted the pistole ball free. I kept marching forward, Sin guiding my heeled boots. The assassin had no clue I was coming for him—his attention was focused on the Doga—and I couldn’t keep the laughter from my lips as I drew the slingshot up in line with his head.

“Easy,” Sin said as I drew back on the band. “That far and you’ll take his head off and hit another beyond him.” I let slacken the rubber and Sin grunted, “Better.”

My eyes burned with his magic, the rest of my senses disappeared, and everything slowed for a single, crystalizing, perfect moment. The man had the pistole half-raised, preparing his shot. I released the ball and heard its angry whine, followed a breath later by the sound of the assassin’s skull cracking. A spray of blood and bone paired with a plume of smoke and flame as the pistole boomed against the stairs. A woman screamed, followed by a chorus of other voices. People decided bolting was the better part of valor, and suddenly I found myself fighting to remain close to the woman in the brown jacket, who had broken into an awkward run, still trying to reach the Doga.

“Again, Sin,” I muttered, drawing another ball. I felt my eyes burn and movement still, but a lad with a shock of red hair blocked my shot. “Let it go.” Time and sound returned with a fury and everyone began running again. “Now.” This time it was a woman in a ridiculously tall, heavily feathered hat who saved the would-be assassin. “Let it go,” I growled. “We’re going to have to push through the crowd.”

“Can’t,” Sin said.


“Because, the strength required would mean you’d seriously injure, perhaps even kill, at least half a dozen people in getting to the woman. And she’s going to reach the Doga in a dozen paces while you’ve more than thrice that to cover. Wait for the shot, it will come.”

“Aye, or it won’t,” I muttered. I shifted my vision, let myself take in the full scene, and grinned. Of course.


He was standing above me, near one of the columns that formed the entryway to the cathedral. Where I’d leapt right in, Eld had worked his way to the top of the stairs by moving along the edge. Sin growled and I laughed.

“Eld!” I shouted again, gesturing toward the gilded cistern that stood between him and the Doga’s guard. This was where worshippers cleansed their hands, mouths, eyes, and ears before entering. But it’d do for a distraction as well. Eld leapt over a woman who’d tripped and fallen, and bellowed as he lifted the monstrosity overhead.

The Doga’s guards had drawn blades and circled her protectively. Oblivious to the real threat, they took note of Eld, who jumped down a pair of steps with the cistern held overhead. He teetered on landing, then heaved the massive vessel. Water sluiced out in an arc and the cistern crashed down the steps. I cursed when I realized it would land short.

Most of the water crashed against the guard, but a bit of spray carried on past, hitting the assassin full in the face. She was running toward the Doga, hands reaching for something in her belt. She cried out in surprise when the water hit her, drawing the attention of the Doga’s guards.


A moment later the woman’s cry turned to one of pain and something shimmered through the air around her. Smoke? The woman ignited in a hissing, sputtering ball of flame that surged into the air and sent the Doga’s guards scurrying back with cries of their own. The woman fell, collapsing in on herself as she turned into a ball of pure fire. Eld caught up the cistern from where it had come to rest and, with another roar, tossed the remaining water onto the woman. She went out with a smoldering hiss. A breeze carried the perverse scent of spiced meat toward me.

Eld’s grunt was loud in the crackling silence that followed. “Well, that’s new.”




The Doga’s eyes bored into mine, her proud, hooked nose making her look a sea hawk observing its prey. Around us the last few score of worshippers were fleeing in absolute pandemonium and the Doga’s guards were shouting at people to keep back, steel leveled, searching for the next attack. I inclined my head slightly. The Doga’s lips twitched and she returned the gesture. Between us, the woman’s corpse sent wisps of smoke into the air.

“Buc, it’s past time to be gone.” Eld grabbed me firmly but gently, despite all the strength he’d just shown, and turned me around. From the corner of my eye I glimpsed the Doga’s guards doing the same with Her Grace, moving her quickly away. We ran like the few fools still remaining down the steep, marbled steps of the cathedral and onto the stone dock beside the canal, leaping into our waiting gondola.

At Eld’s shouted instructions, Joffers, our gondolier, pulled the tie rope loose and shoved the gondola away from the dock, making it tip from side to side. Eld and I stumbled into each other, more falling than ducking beneath the tented canopy in the center of the boat. For a moment neither of us spoke and I let myself relax into one of the dark crushed-velvet seats. It wasn’t as soft as I’d have liked, but while we had money now, we weren’t made of minted coin and this gondola had come third- or fourth-hand. Still, better than walking or trying to find a carriage for hire at this hour. If only the guild would allow private carriages. My thoughts drifted for a moment until Eld cleared his throat.

“What was that about?” he asked.

I released the breath I’d been holding. He didn’t ask about my magic. Tension lifted from my shoulders. “I’m not sure,” I said. “Someone wants the Doga dead.”

“Clearly,” Eld said dryly.

I made a noise in my throat and closed my eyes. “The man was ill dressed and unkempt—was he disguised or a distraction so the real assassin, the woman, could get close?”

“She seemed the more dangerous of the two.”

“She did that,” I agreed. “Women usually are.” I heard him shift and bared my teeth without opening my eyes. “But I don’t understand how she went up in flames so quickly.”

“An explosive device of some sort?”

“Likely, but if it was then she must have rigged it wrong because she didn’t explode so much as implode.”

“Unless that was the point,” Sin chimed in my ear. “A suicide mission to burn the Doga alive.”

“Perhaps,” I whispered back in my mind. “That would certainly send a message.”

“But to whom?” Sin asked. “For what?”

“Those are the questions.”

“If you allowed me to Possess you, Buc, we could share our knowledge with the Goddess. It has been one hundred and eighty-seven days without her guiding hand. Unlike those undead fools, her knowledge truly is legion. She’d have the answers.”

“Not a fucking chance,” I said, pushing away his mental protestations.

I’d taken Sin from an artifact in a centuries’-old shipwreck, doing it to save Eld from magic that was killing him and to defeat the Ghost Captain who’d used said magic. It had worked, but only just. Sin claimed his powers were at a fraction of their usual strength and that I was cut off from a huge base of knowledge and wisdom because I wouldn’t allow him to Possess me and complete Ciris’s ritual. I couldn’t tell if he was lying or not, but if he was, even the fraction of power currently granted to me was frightening.

“So a coordinated attempt to ensure the Doga was only leaving the scene in pieces,” Eld mused, bringing me out of my head.

“Crispy pieces. That failed when our valiant hero dumped cold water all over her plans,” I added. “Literally.”

I opened my eyes and laughed at the look of consternation on Eld’s face. “I’d only hoped you’d distract her long enough for me to get a clear shot or for those loutish guards to notice her. You continue to impress, Eld.”

“I try,” he said, unable to keep the smile from his lips. Or his eyes.

“It’s been an eventful morning,” I said, settling back against the seat again. “The Board will want to hear of this.”

“Aye.” Eld dug into his vest and pulled out his pocket watch. “And we’re already late, so maybe the exciting news will assuage them.”

“You know it won’t,” I sighed.

“Remind me, why do we care about them again?”

“Because, my dear, simple Eld, I—we—intend to use them to drive the growing wedge deeper between Ciris and the Dead Gods, to force them into open war. But that won’t happen unless we get them dancing to our tune.”

“They don’t seem to like the music we’ve been playing so far.”

“That’s because they’ve no ear for genius,” I growled.

Now it was Eld’s turn to laugh. There was something in that sound that never failed to make my heart leap. It’s a Godsdamned thing, Sambuciña Alhurra, to be in love with a man who sees you like the sister he never had. A sister tainted by magic he hates with every fibre of his being.

“Fuck me,” I whispered, my words lost in Eld’s laughter. Tension settled around me like a cloak pulled so tightly that I could barely manage a breath. It was a weight I’d grown used to over these months and I hated both the tension and its familiarity.

Fuck me.

Copyright © Ryan Van Loan 2021

Pre-order The Justice in Revenge:

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VIDEO: In conversation with Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

We can’t wait for The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan to hit shelves on 7/13, so we’re doing a throwback to pre-COVID times when Ryan visited the Tor Books office and answered alllllll our burning questions about The Sin in the Steel. Check it out here!


Transcript of Video:

In conversation with Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

What is your favorite location in the book?

RVL: You know, I think my favorite location is the port, it’s this pirate’s shanty town and in the book they talk about the fact that it’s named because of the glint of gold in the sun. But at the same time, one of the other characters brings up the fact that blood glints the same way, and I think that’s a pretty good representation of it. It’s a place where there’s always a good time lurking around every corner, but some of those good times might involve a blade or two so you really have got to keep your eyes sharp.

Who would you rather have your back in a fight, Buc or Eld?

RVL: I love Buc, but she has a really strong sense of self-preservation, and she’s pretty small, so I think I’m going to go with Eld. He’s not going to run away, and he’s a pretty beefy dude, bigger than me, so he’s going to be a good bullet catcher for me, I think.

If The Sin in the Steel was a game, what type of game would it be?

RVL: You know, I love those sprawling single RPG player games, like Skyrim or The Witcher 3 or the Assassin’s Creed ones, they even have a pirates one in there that’s a lot of fun to play, so I think The Sin in the Steel would definite be some sprawling, single player RPG where the real hook is what’s over the next horizon, and sometimes what’s over the next horizon might be a pirate ship, or a hoard of undead, or 30-50 feral hogs, you never know.

Where do you draw inspiration from in the world you created here?

RVL: Yeah, that’s a good question. You know, I started with a character and so I knew that I wanted to tell a story about a young woman who was breaking chains in her world, but I didn’t know what those chains were right away. And then I realized that I really wanted to play with the concept of empire and trading companies and capitalism, and so then I started thinking about different settings and age of sale, and mercantilism really came into play. So then I started thinking about where are these melting pots of culture, because I always think that’s really interesting, different cultures meeting together. So I think Venice and the Mediterranean, the Umayyad Empire in Córdoba, Spain back in the day, the South China Sea, the Caribbean, all these different places. I’ve been fortunate to visit a few of them, and so that really gave me this idea of this island empire and this Mediterranean, quasi-Caribbean feel that I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of in fantasy lately, and that’s what got me really excited and where I drew my inspiration from.

What is your favorite city that you’ve visited?

RVL: I think my favorite city is Paris; I love Paris. The first time I went, I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did, and then I just fell in love with France, so I’ve become a bit of a Francophile. But I think the most beautiful place I’ve been is Thailand. We got to spend time with this elephant rescue park. It was me, my wife, and the guide and just these two elephants in the middle of the jungle, it was magical and the people were so nice. Thailand, France, Mexico is another one, Puerto Rico, those are some of my favorite places for sure.

Did you always know you wanted to write a pirate story?

RVL: So I always loved pirates, as a little kid I would make my mom draw on me with magic marker, skulls and crossbones and anchors, and wear bandanas and climb trees, yell ‘ahoy.’ I think I read Treasure Island at an impressionable age, so that’s where that bit came from, and maybe I regret that a little bit. I know my mom regrets drawing on me now, because then I went and got a bunch of tattoos. But I don’t know if I set out to write a pirate story, I set out to write a story that had ships in it and sailing and canons and swords, so that kind of brought pirates into it.

What is the strangest thing you had to research for The Sin in the Steel?

RVL: So I got to do some cool things, there are some gear-powered ships in the world that go faster than what wind and sail allow, and so I had to figure out the physics of that and the engineering. There’s magic involved so you can kind of ‘wink wink’ a little bit. But I think strange wise, figuring out if a slingshot is powerful enough to sever a brainstem is one, and then probably the effects of urine on hemp rope, that’s probably the strangest.


Order The Sin in the Steel here!

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Order The Justice in Revenge here!

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The Sequels We’ve All Been Waiting For….

They’re almost here…the books we’ve all been waiting for. After so many incredible series starters, we’re excited to finally dive into the next books of some of our most popular SFF series. Check out which books are hitting shelves near you in 2021 here.

book-9780765331458Into the Light by David Weber and Chris Kennedy (Out of the Dark series, coming 1/12/21)

The Shongairi conquered Earth. In mere minutes, half the human race died, and our cities lay in shattered ruins. But the Shongairi didn’t expect the survivors’ tenacity. And, crucially, they didn’t know that Earth harbored two species of intelligent, tool-using bipeds. One of them was us. The other, long-lived and lethal, was hiding in the mountains of eastern Europe, the subject of fantasy and legend. When they emerged and made alliance with humankind, the invading aliens didn’t stand a chance.

book-9781250302137Vengewar by Kevin J. Anderson (Wake the Dragon series, coming 1/19/21)

The Three Kingdoms are shattering under pressure from an inexperienced new King who is being led by an ambitious regent to ignore the threat of the Wreths, in favor of a Vengewar with Ishara. His brother and uncle can see only the danger of the Older Race. In Ishara, the queen lies in a coma, while an ambitious priest seizes power. But he has neither the training nor the talent to rule a nation— or even a city. Ishara is in deadly peril, and the Wreths have not even appeared on their continent.

book-9781250165299Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett (The Bounceback series, coming 1/26/21)

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution. However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up.

book-9781250215505Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne (The Memory War series, coming 2/9/21)

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

book-9780765387752Silence of the Soleri by Michael Johnston (The Amber Throne series, coming 2/16/21)

Solus celebrates the Opening of the Mundus, a two-day holiday for the dead, but the city of the Soleri is hardly in need of diversion. A legion of traitors, led by a former captain of the Soleri military, rallies at the capital’s ancient walls. And inside those fortifications, trapped by circumstance, a second army fights for its very existence.

book-9781250186461A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Teixcalaan series, coming 3/2/21)

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger . . .

book-97812502226191The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan (The Fall of the Gods series, coming 7/13/21)

Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge, book two of The Fall of the Gods, turns from pirates to politics as Buc learns to navigate society and finds that having power doesn’t mean it’s easy to use it…

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in the Servenzan Empire. Teenage Buc is a former streetrat, a smartass, sarcastic super-genius. Eld, her patient partner in crime-solving, is a calming influence…who is nonetheless capable of deadly violence. For the right price, these heroes for hire solve mysteries, fight crime, and battle monsters.

book-97812502938242The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes (The Divide Series, coming 8/17/21)

The Sentinels narrowly escaped the collapsing edge of the Divide. They have mustered a few other surviving Sentinels, but with no engines they have no way to leave the edge of the universe before they starve. Adequin Rake has gathered a team to find the materials they’ll need to get everyone out. To do that they’re going to need new allies and evade a ruthless enemy.

Some of them will not survive.

book-97812502093823The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha (Mercenary Librarians series, coming 8/31/21)

Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget. Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered. When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps. And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.

book-97812502938244Wanderers of a Mortal Kind by Kel Kade (The Shroud of Prophecy series, coming 11/9/21) 

No more heroes. The wealthy and powerful. The kings and queens. They all abandoned the world to fate when the chosen one died. All except a small group of broken people. Through dogged determination and maybe a bit of stupid bravery, Aaslo and his friends fought on. They continued the fight even when far greater heroes had given up. Now, Aaslo must turn the tides. In a world swifly falling to chaos, Aaslo is determined to win this war…at any cost. He’s made a deal with fickle fae, setting him and his friends on a collosion course with the gods themselves.


VIDEO: Rapid-fire Questions with Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

We are OBSESSED with Ryan Van Loan’s debut The Sin in the Steel. Who wouldn’t love a fantasy world filled with dead gods, a pirate queen, and SHAPESHIFTERS! Before COVID-19 had us all working from home, we sat down with Ryan for some super important, very professional rapid-fire questions to get to know him a little better. Check out his responses here!

Excited for the book? Order The Sin in the Steel here!

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Transcript of Video:

Rapid-fire Questions with Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel 

Question: Pirates or Mages?

RVL: Uh, mages.

Question: Magic or science?

RVL: Science is magic!

Question: Cannons or swords?

RVL: Cannons is probably the smarter answer, but I love swords and how it feels in your hand so I’m going to go with the sword.

Question: Buc or Eld?

RVL: Ahhh, both.

Question: Blood or Gold?

RVL: I’m going to go with gold.

Question: Sin or steel?

RVL: Sin sounds a lot more fun.

Question: Waffles or pancakes?

RVL: I don’t think waffles are a real thing so I’m going to go with pancakes.

Question: Cats or dogs?

RVL: I’m a huge dog person. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see, I think I post my pittie and my boxer about 1 million times throughout the course of the month, so sorry to the cat people but I really love dogs.

Question: Sidekicks or heroes?

RVL: I think it depends on who the sidekick or hero is, but it’s hard to beat a good hero. I’m thinking Storm, Wolverine, Captain America, so I think I’m going to have to go with heroes.

Question: Which is a better reward, money or rare books?

RVL: I think money so I can hire someone to translate the rare books that I won’t be able to read.

Question: Would you rather face 30-50 wild hogs, or a horde of undead?

RVL: Oooo, uh, the undead are pretty scary but the idea of 30-50 wild animals that are 400 pounds chasing after me, I think I could stand a chance against the undead a little bit better.

Question: What’s the best pirate ship?

RVL: Oh, so that’s easy! The best pirate ship is in the Princess Bride, Dread Pirate Roberts’ the Revenge.



Chaos and Cosmos: Bookish Horoscopes!

We’ve been giving our Chaos and Cosmos authors a run for their money with all these delightfully chaotic questions, but today we’ve given them their most daunting task yet…WRITING HOROSCOPES! From meeting handsome strangers to fleeing vengeful pigs, check out what our authors predicted here.

Write a horoscope based on your book

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Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun

Today you will face an obstacle and an opening. Keep your temper in check. Charge right in.

May Robinette Kowal, author of The Relentless Moon

Today watch out for accidents. You will find yourself in close quarters, far from loved ones. Trust your friends to be there for you.

Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

Remember that harissa-rubbed pork shoulder you enjoyed? Today, the porcine will have their revenge.

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Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Trouble the Saints

Someone has committed a great wrong against you and your people. It’s your choice: fight alone, or fight together. The truth, and the power, is in your hands.

Jenn Lyons, author of The Memory of Souls

Change is in the air, and you know what they say: adapt or die! It’s a tough world out there, and it’s not always easy to see the dragons in your path until they fly right into you. With Kimeron in retrograde, be careful of family gatherings, as it’s going to be especially easy to say the wrong thing to a loved one. You may find such reunions to be a little disagreeable, even cut-throat. Remember not to take what people say at face value — everyone had their own motives.

Most of all, be prepared to make sacrifices to get what you want.

Kit Rocha, author of Deal with the Devil

Today, a tall, handsome stranger will ask you to team up. You can’t trust him. Do it anyway.

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Andrea Hairston, author of Master of Poisons

Today everything will be upside down and inside out, unpredictable, dangerous. If you work together with folks you love and folks you can’t stand, you might make it to tomorrow.

Christopher Paolini, author of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Today you will encounter adventure, tentacles, and cosmic wonder. Today dreams and nightmares will find unity.

S. A. Hunt, author of I Come With Knives

Don’t feed the wildlife today. Embrace your nature and let your impulsive side take over for a little while. Don’t attend any dinner parties your neighbors might be throwing. A new challenge will present itself in the form of a Mesopotamian death-goddess.

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S. L. Huang, author of Burning Roses

You’re going to have to decide whether you can kill your friend’s son today. Also, it turns out gods and monsters exist, and you might be the monster.

Stay tuned for even more Chaos and Cosmos!

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