You may have noticed a lack of presence on my part over the past week and particularly this past weekend. That's entirely my fault, as I've had quite a planned out (music festivals and such) which took over a considerable amount of my time. Yes, that means I was absent on the 1st of July and missed posting LBR's Chosen Few for the coming month. Never fear, though late, my selection of SFF novels is all ready for your perusal. You'll notice this is quite a hefty selection, but I do plan on having more time to dedicate to reading, so hopefully I'll be getting through all of it. Before reviews of any new releases, you'll find some reviews that I originally intended for June - the books are already read, so you'll soon see reviews of Darren J. Guest's Dark Heart, Andrew Mayer's The Falling Machine and Simon Morden's Degrees of Freedom. I think everyone can guess which is the biggest title below, without a doubt George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons, but the new M.D. Lachlan, Jon Sprunk and Col Buchanan - amongst others - will, I expect hold their own.

The Immorality Engine, George Mann (Snowbooks)

George Mann's 'Newbury & Hobbes Investigations' are one of the outstanding steampunk series of the past few years. Blending twisted investigations and vast amounts of steampunk technology, the first book in the series, The Affinity Bridge, introduced us to the brilliant Sir Maurice Newbury and his charming assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes and when it came the time to plunge into The Osiris Ritual, the second novel, I was glad to be back in their company. The second volume was a bit more uneven than the first, but I believe Mann has the capacity to pull off a third novel that betters its predecessor. I will be getting to this one very soon.

The Goblin Corps, Ari Marmell (Pyr)

Ari Marmell is not an author I've had the chance of reading yet. His The Conqueror's Shadow and The Warlord's Legacy tempted me, but I never bit. His arrival into the Pyr clan, however, made me a whole lot more interested. It's no secret by now that I think Pyr are a safe bet I you're looking for a good read - I've had a few disappointments with them, but one the whole, almost every single one of their titles tempt me. Beyond it's publisher, The Goblin Corps also has a pretty interesting premise to bolster it. The blurb reads to me a old school sword & sorcery with a promise of badassery - what more could we want?

Shadow's Lure, Jon Sprunk (Pyr)

Last year, I felt that Jon Sprunk's debut, Shadow's Son, was a well-written, fun-oriented novel about a fantasy assassin, but that unfortunately it wasn't much more than that. Perhaps it was too short, perhaps Sprunk didn't want to bog the story in details in the first novel of the trilogy, but nevertheless though I certainly enjoyed it, Shadow's Son could have been better. This is why I'm looking forward to see if any growth can be observed on Sprunk's part with this second novel, Shadow's Lure. One already promising sign: Shadow's Lure sits roughly twice as thick as it's predecessor.

Ghosts of War, George Mann (Pyr)

I guess I will be getting a lot of Mann this month as this is already his second appearance on this list, this time with a different series. Set in a noir steampunk-infused 1920s, Ghosts of Manhattan was a flawed read - I count it as one of the few disappointments I've had with a Pyr title. The tale of a rich man protecting the city as a masked vigilante (the 'Ghost') was too familiar and was told too shallowly. Since I hadn't read his Newbury & Hobbes stuff when the first 'Ghost' novel came out, and having now seen what Mann is capable of, I am increasingly excited for Ghosts of War, though I remain somewhat tentative. We'll see.

A Dance With Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Voyager)

Do I really need to say anything about this one? I haven't really talked much about my relationship with George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series on the blog, but I should probably mention at this point that it is hands down one of my favorite series. Like for many other readers I'm sure, these are the books that introduced me to, and got me into, darker, grittier fantasies. I had the chance of coming to these books relatively late, and so have not had to suffer the wait between the previous installment, A Feast for Crows, and this one. Nevertheless, this is a title I'm really, really looking forward to. I'll be jumping right in the moment it lands in my hands.

Heaven's Shadow, David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt (Tor UK)

I figure I need a bit of science fiction amidst all the epic fantasy, sword & sorcery and steampunk that make up the rest of this list, and what better choice than Heaven's Shadow? Written by none other than David S. Goyer, better known for his scriptwriting most notably as co-writer for Christopher Nolan's much loved Batman movies and the upcoming Man of Steel Superman reboot. This is essentially enough for me to be convinced to pick up the novel. I don't have too many expectations for this title other than having a good time.

Fenrir, M.D. Lachlan (Gollancz)

M.D. Lachlan's fantasy debut of a year ago, Wolfsangel, was a riveting tale deeply rooted in Norse mythology and set in those lands. I enjoyed that first novel and expect much the same from Fenrir. I'll be honest, I don't have much more to say about this one, let's just hope Lachlan does a good job once more.

Stands a Shadow, Col Buchanan (Tor UK)

Col Buchanan made his entrance onto the fantasy scene with last year's Farlander a very enjoyable novel, but one that could very easily be improved. Adorned with some truly gorgeous cover art, Stands a Shadow looks to be the perfect candidate for Buchanan to prove to us that his books really deserve a place on our bookshelves. Regardless, even if it is only as good as its predecessor, Stands a Shadow should be a fine read. We'll see what happens to Ash and his struggle against the Holy Empire of Mann in just a couple of weeks.

Den of Thieves, David Chandler (Voyager)

It seems that July is to be the month of the assassin fantasies - after Shadow's Lure and Stands a Shadow comes Den of Thieves, the fantasy debut of author David Chandler who has previously written horror as David Wellington. If you'd like to get to know him a bit better before trying his book I recommend you check out Civillian Reader's interview with him from not too long ago. Anyways, this new fantasy trilogy, to be published at one months intervals throughout the summer, looks very promising. Voyager is not putting a whole lot of publicity backing behind it, but it does look like the type of book that might please a lot of readers - not unlike Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves from earlier this year - so look out for it too.