Monthly Archives: July 2013

Review of The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany


This is a book that had a big impact when first published in Egypt – the original Arabic version topped the best-selling charts for two years in a row and has also been very well received since it was translated. It has been widely reported as showing a tolerance for homosexuality – though I’m not so sure. What Al Aswany hasn’t done, is actively rail against homosexuals as the author. However, homosexuals aren’t depicted as having a particularly happy time of it – but then, that applies to most of his other characters.

The narrative structure revolves around the inhabitants of a building in Cairo that was built during colonial times. However by the yacoubian buildingMaburak era when this novel is set, it has fallen on hard times.

Some live in squalor on its rooftop, others inhabit the faded glory of its apartments and offices – among them a womanizing aristocrat, and the secretly gay editor of Le Caire newspaper. Religious fervour jostles with promiscuity; bribery and exploitation with joy and elation; modern life with ancient culture. Taha, the son of the building’s doorman, has aspirations and dreams for himself and his childhood sweetheart Busayna. But when those dreams are dashed on the rocks of corruption, hope turns to bitterness – with devastating consequences…

So goes the blurb. I have to say that while I fully concur with the bits about the hope turning to bitterness and the bribery and exploitation – the joy and elation completely by-passed me. Al Aswany is an engaging writer, whose limited omniscient viewpoint gives a variety of deft pen portraits. His vivid descriptions certainly bring the Cairo landscape to life – and all I can think is that this has beguiled other reviewers to read more humour and joie de vivre into the story than I found. Or the original humour has been lost in translation…

Because I thought this was an extremely angry book. There wasn’t a single character whose life hadn’t been ruined or polluted in some way by corruption and the prevailing institutional injustices. Taha is certainly the outstanding example of a character whose life is particularly blighted – but no one seems to escape from the moral vacuum that seems to preside at the heart of this Cairo society.

As for Al Aswany’s reputed open-mindedness on controversial topics, such as homosexual affairs, or women’s sexuality – I wasn’t convinced about that, either. Throughout the book, I was always very aware that I was reading a book from a different cultural viewpoint. Many times, this added an extra piquancy to the narrative – but there were occasions when I just winced…
‘Homosexuals, it is said, often excel in professions that depend on contact with other
people, such as public relations, acting, brokering and the law. Their success in these fields is attributable to their lack of that sense of shame that costs others opportunities…’
‘They (women) do not love it simply as a way of quenching lust but because sex, and their husbands’ greed for it, makes them feel that despite all the misery they suffer they are still women, beautiful and desired by their menfolk.’

Oh really? Nothing to do with the divorce laws that mean once a woman is rejected by her husband, she can find herself on the streets without her children, I suppose. I’m aware that I am judging this book as a white European woman – but those statements plain graunched with me.

That didn’t prevent me from enjoying the moments of high irony, such as when a couple of crooked politicians who are busy stitching up a ‘public’ office, make constant pious allusions to God throughout their conversation. Or finding the scene between an ageing playboy and his young lover compelling, when he nostalgically recalls the glory days of the building – while the girl bitterly observes that the country is done for and if she had a chance, she’d leave. He is clearly shocked at her attitude – but this exchange was, for me, the heart of the book. Al Aswany’s characters are all suffering to some extent. The rather odd ending is an attempt to provide a sense that all is not lost, though I wasn’t fully convinced. However, it was a riveting read and a fascinating insight into another world – and I would happily read another book by this author.

Plants growing on Littlehampton Beach


These days, they don’t spray the shingle on Littlehampton beach with weedkiller, so during the summer the top of the shingle bank now has a strip of plants growing. They look beautiful, stretching the length of the beach – silver greens, reds and yellows… and that’s just the foliage. So I took my camera down to the beach one evening this week, after a long hot day. And this is the result…

Plantain & Sea Kale on L'ton beach Sea Kale on L'ton beach3 Sea Kale on L'ton Beach (2) Plants growing on L'ton beach Samphire on L'ton beach Mint on L'ton beach2 A grass on L'ton beach



Review of The Glass God – Book 2 of The Magicals Anonymous by Kate Griffin


This is the second book in Kate Griffin’s Magicals Anonymous series. Does it have the energy and humour that characterised the first book, Stray Souls?

glassgodSharon Li: apprentice shaman and community support officer for the magically inclined. It wasn’t the career Sharon had in mind, but she’s getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One With The City. When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only clues she has are a city dryad’s cryptic warning and several pairs of abandoned shoes… Suddenly, Sharon’s job feels a whole lot harder.

So that’s the blurb – and well done Orbit for managing to produce a snappy, inviting teaser that avoids lurching into spoiler territory. While the action and viewpoint revolve around Sharon, she is assisted in her quest by the cast of characters that I so thoroughly enjoyed in Stray Souls. While I have warmed to Rhys, my standout favourite is Sammy the goblin, who is also Sharon’s shaman tutor and is to teaching what a housebrick is to flying – he calls Sharon ‘Soggy Brains’.

Sharon’s determinedly fair-minded and positive stance is given a major workout as she comes up against a number of unpleasant nasties in her pursuit of the Midnight Mayor. Having by now got used to Griffin’s humour, I was struck this time around at how the grim backdrop that took such a starring role in the Matthew Swift series is still very much in evidence. Griffin hasn’t eased up one jot on some of the more revolting corners of London, as the story rolls forward with all the energy and slickness we’ve come to expect from this author. We find ourselves laughing as some of the macabre violence teeters into farce, often as members of the Magicals Anonymous attempt to live up to the high ideals set by Sharon, or in the case of Kevin, the OCD vampire, invariably manage to put their foot in their mouths.

We also have a few new characters to enjoy – chiefly, Miles’ the minion. Inevitably, the baddies are hugely powerful and as Sharon finds herself working against the clock in an effort to save London, the increasing tension and climactic set piece in a famous London landmark is suitably impressive. And as Griffin has shown in the past that she is capable of offing a major character, I was holding my breath in case one of my favourites – Sammy, for instance – was a casualty in the cause of keeping London safe.

Griffin’s success in making her antagonist lethal, unpleasant and yet also poignantly damaged is one of the many reasons why The Glass God serves to reinforce Griffin’s reputation as one of the best urban fantasy writers in the world.

Food, Glorious Food…


I always appreciate books that include food. Dickens is famous for it and while modern writing styles are far more pared back than Victorian floridly detailed descriptions, characters talking about food immediately connects readers with the universal experience of eating.

darkedenIn speculative fiction, food can be a really useful way of helping to set the world. I’m currently reading Dark Eden by Chris Beckett – I’ll be writing a review of it when I’ve finished as it is a really engrossing, interesting story – but one of the main plot engines is the constant and growing scarcity of food. In describing what the humans stranded on the alien planet are eating, readers immediately appreciate how much the small colony is struggling and emphasise the different nature of the flora and fauna they are forced to hunt and consume in order to survive.

It’s no accident that some of the most successful and well established authors in both science fiction and fantasy dodgeruse food as a way of showing how advanced the culture is – and how prosperous the protagonists are. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is renowned for the inventive and colourful world of Ankh-Morpok (think of Cut me own throat Dibbler and his pies) – but Pratchett’s YA book Dodger, an examination of the life of a Dickensian street urchin, gives us plenty of information on what Dodger eats – and what he’d like to eat given the chance.

ghosts of columbiaThe prolific writer L.E. Modesitt is most famous for his Recluse series, but my favourite is his excellent alternative historical fantasy trilogy, Ghosts of Columbia where Dr Johan Eschbach, academic and retired secret agent for Columbia, one of the major nation states that inhabit the continent we know as the USA, finds that ex-agents tend to suddenly get yanked out of retirement when a crisis flares. Eschbach isn’t a particularly flashy protagonist, but his fondness for good food is an endearing characteristic that helped me bond with him and established the fact that he is now at a stage in his life where he appreciates more comfort in his life.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s respected Miles Vorkosigan series also pays significant attention to food. There are numerouscivilcampaign meals depicted, ranging from formal banquets, family meals and food scrounged and crammed in the middle of a hectic adventure. Lois uses food to demonstrate how rigidly hierarchical Barrayaran society is. Miles, her driven and very alpha-male protagonist, suffers from a whole range of physical conditions due to an attack on his mother before he was born. Lois also uses food to show us how healthy Miles is feeling – he suffers from a reduced vampirestateappetite when unwell.

The best speculative fiction authors use food to give us a nifty insight into the way their society operates. By depicting the quality and quantity of food available, readers are able to immediately gauge how equitable, prosperous and sophisticated that society is – and as eating is a universal activity, we are also able to bond with protagonists who love chocolate, even if they are only partly human and kill monsters for a living, like Jessica Grant in Jane Lovering’s Vampire State of Mind.

What are your favourite foodie speculative fiction reads?

Review of The Path of Self-Publishing Success by Michael R. Hicks


I’ve been a Twitter follower of Michael for a while and we’ve exchanged the odd tweet, meantime my husband has downloaded and read a couple of his ebooks on Kindle and they’re now archived waiting for me to get to them. I came across this book and downloaded it after reading the Look Inside feature on Amazon, as I’m seriously considering self-publishing one of my science fiction trilogies.

self-publishing-cover01-300hThe writing style is friendly and approachable – Hicks delivers the advice as if you are sitting at a table across from him over a coffee or beer, so I was immediately drawn in. The books is clearly set out, starting with Hick’s own experiences of trying to sell his first novel In Her Own Name, to agents and publishers and finally deciding in 2008 to take the plunge and publish it himself. And after working away, in mid-2011 he hit the best-seller lists and by July of that year was close to making $30,000 in a single month. He then takes the reader on a step by step journey of what you need to do in order to successfully publish your work, starting with the writing and editing of your work, acquiring a good cover, how to obtain an ISBN number…

It isn’t a particularly long book and I devoured it in a single sitting. However, I’m very aware that it is a book I shall be regularly returning to when I’m in a position to turn my own work loose on the unsuspecting public.

He has made a point of labelling his chapters, so you can dive right in to the appropriate section if you wish to retrieve a particular slice of information – and acknowledging that this is a fast-moving industry with a lot going on, he also has produced links where he will regularly update developments for those of us who made the investment of £1.90 for his words of wisdom.

I came away from reading this book feeling inspired and energised. However, at no time does Hicks under-estimate the significant amount of hard work and effort it takes to acquire the amount of success he has attained. Which is a relief – I get a tad fed up with the horde of tweets and Facebook messages to the effect that so long as you tell yourself, ‘You Can!’ or some other equally anodyne sentiment, you’re more or less destined for J.K. Rowling success…

All in all, this book is excellent value for money and if – like me – you are thinking about self-publishing, or simply curious to see what all the fuss is about, then you can discover a lot of valuable information from an industry insider, who has taken the time and effort to smooth the way for those coming behind him.

The Adventures of Mike and SJ


This thread started on a forum Mike and I shared, when we started playing off each other about this alternative/fantasy persona we each gave ourselves. Since then, we’ve started writing a novel together and Mike has had a number of books published as Michael D. Griffiths (The Chronicles of Jack Primus, Part I, The Chronicles of Jack Primus, Part II, Eternal Aftermath) while I’ve been busy rewriting several books and establishing my Creative Writing classes at Northbrook College. But though he writes horror and I write sci fi, when we get together, we write… differently! So I thought I’d put a slice of our combined madness on my blog…

I feel like I hamburger exploded inside my head. Where am I? I can’t see a thing. augawip2 007

Oh wait, the Dungeon. Something weird must have happened…

Ouch!  Oh man… feels like I left my brain on the floor as I’m sitting up.  It’s blacker than SJ’s tempers in here – can’t see a freaking thing. Maybe I can use my cell to see a little bit. Oh wait, I have a text. It is from Jack. It says to get to “get the *bleep* outta there!”

Maybe we should. I’m going to try to stand. Why is this part of the floor so soft? Oh wait, I’m standing on SJ.  Urg – she won’t like that.  Or my muddy footprint on her back. But I need to get her up and outta here, I don’t know what is going on, but I have a feeling we might be in trouble again. Oh man, she sounds worse than I do. I hope-

Wait, what’s that? People are heading down the stairs towards us. This can’t be good. I’m going to take SJ and head deeper into this tunnel. Maybe there is another way out.

Huh, what is this doorway?  It wasn’t here before.  Was it?  Nah – think even I’d have noticed something like this – I don’t really have a choice, I have to take her this way.  Uhhh – heave ho!  Oh man – WHAT has she been eating?  She weighs a ton!  Must have lead bones…

What is that light up ahead? It looks like that Orb. Not only is it glowing.. .it’s floating! Well we’ve seen stranger, right SJ? Come on we have to follow that light, at least it will help us see, although I don’t like any of this. Those footsteps are still coming. I think we are in trouble.  Again. Why does this always happen to us?



Huh? Whassup – ow… My head… oooo my back… feels like my spine has been majorly redesigned – and not in an improving sort’ve way.   Ahh… I’m floating – in a – jerky sort’ve way-

Mike!  Hey – put me down. I’m not a sack of spuds – and you’re no fireman. Why did you sling me over your shoulder? Yeah – well I’m awake now, so you can stop moaning about how heavy I am and put me down. Thank you – that’s better… I think.

Where are we?  Hm – I gathered we were still under the castle. It being dark, narrow, muddy and stinky sort’ve gave it away. But, where – exactly? I mean – I’ve got the Guide Book, here. And there’s nothing about this underground passageway in it. Or that crypt we were in when everything went blank…

Orb?  Ha, ha… You and your yank humour. What say you that we find a way to the surface & get ourselves a nice cup of tea before we head back home? People – after us?

There!  What did I tell you – trying to pass yourself off as an OAP! It was bound to get us in trouble. Spect the Security guys are after us to get us to pay the full fee.  Oh – hang on, Mike.

That’s my mobile…

Hallo? Oh – Miss Snodgrass! I’m sooo sorry! You see, I’ve got this friend staying with me from the States… And what with all the excitement, I clean forgot about our appointment and-

Where are we now? Hm… Good question. When I know, I’ll let you know, ha ha… Excuse me? ‘Demand to know?’ Just a minute Miss Snodgrass – you might be my therapist, but I don’t see how that gives you the right to yell at me! As soon as I can, I’ll get back to you and reschedule… What d’you mean, you’re sitting outside my house right now – so you know I’m not there? That’s outrageous-

Mike! Give me back my phone – I was just about to tell her where to go – checking up on me like that. What a nerve! Hmm? Well, it is a good phone… but you’re right – there shouldn’t be any kind of signal down here. And… she did sound really, really clear. So… d’you think that maybe… she isn’t a therapist?

Yeah… maybe you’re right. We should keep going. Before they catch up with us. And – Mike? Um… could you hold my hand. Please? Just in case the other torch goes out, as well…

Talking About the Weather…


I tend to do it a lot on Twitter. During the last few years I’ve whimpered – online and at home – about the long, miserably gloomy winters we’ve endured and whined about the disappointing dank summers. I was always aware the weather affected my mood – but didn’t really realise just how much until this heatwave started.

summer photoI wake up with the sunshine blazing through the curtains and a grin crawling across my face before I’m properly awake. Things that would normally have me cursing under my breath and bad temperedly slamming kitchen cupboards now get a mere shrug in response. I’m ridiculously happy. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, I’m sweaty. But the light levels flooding the house and the luxury of having the back door open ALL DAY is just marvellous. I skip around the kitchen singing…

So when I read books where the weather hardly gets a mention, I’m aware there is a thinness in the scene setting – even if I don’t immediately realise why. And when books do a particularly good job of weaving the weather into the plot, it just feels… right.

In science fiction and fantasy there are a number of stories that hinge around major weather events, so they become the engine of the plot. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, where Joanne Baldwin is part of an elite secret force fighting to save millions from catastrophic meteorological events, is a classic example. Caine’s entertaining, snappy writing and high octane action makes this an enjoyable read, although like many long-running series, it does get steadily darker as it progresses.

Tim Lebbon’s The Island is an interesting offering – the cataclysmic storm that creates havoc brings another threat theislandalong in its wake and only one person in the devastated fishing community is aware of just how dangerous the newcomers may be. The storm is an agent of change and misery – and makes the community a whole lot more vulnerable to any kind of danger. Lebbon fully exploits that sense of nationshock and chaos – and rising sense of wrongness. Terry Pratchett’s Nation takes a similar event – a devastating tsunami – to reshape the lives of two young people who are literally flung together in a survival situation. It is supposedly a YA novel – though I think it should be required reading for every politician on the planet, but the vivid description of the killing wave was heart-wrenching and immediately ensured that readers felt sympathetic and protective of both young protagonists.

James Lovegrove’s Age of Aztec uses the stifling humid conditions to emphasise his unusual setting of a jungle-strewn London, dotted with ziggurats, and to also enhance the sense of pervading wrongness and menaceageofaztec. Britain, the last bastion of freedom against the Aztec Empire, has at last been conquered. The weather doesn’t present the kind of drama the other books I’ve mentioned have offered – but the oppressive heat effectively mirrors doomsdaythe subjugation of the population. And Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book gives the same energy to the action, by providing a strong feeling of rising tension in the bad weather that accompanies Kilvrin, a young Oxford-based historian who in 2054 travels back in time to explore medieval life. However, due to a number of factors, she ends up in the wrong time and place, entirely at the mercy of a tiny community in deep mid-Winter, who are suddenly afflicted by a terrible illness. Without any modern comforts, the bitter weather becomes a constant challenge.

What all these books have in common, is that they provide us with readable, convincing settings – including the weather. And if I ever need a reminder as to just how vital that ingredient is, I’ll just recall my sunny response to this year’s heatwave.

Review of The Man With the Golden Torc – Book 1 of the Secret Histories series by Simon Green


As soon as you see the title and cover, you know this book is mining a certain spy franchise and will be relying on our knowledge of the conventions surrounding said franchise. It isn’t even subtle. So… does it work? Or is this urban fantasy merely a tired hack job that doesn’t even have the merit of originality?

You know what? It’s all true. Everything that ever scared you, from conspiracy theories to monsters under the bed to ghosties, goldentorcghoulies and long-leggity beasties. The only reason they haven’t taken over the world yet is because my family has always been there to stand in their way. We guard the door, keeping you safe from the big bad wolf, and you never even know our names. Of course, there’s a price to be paid. By us, and by you. The username’s Bond. Shaman Bond. Licensed to kick supernatural arse.

And Bond – real name Eddie Drood – comes from one of the oldest families in England, a family that has been protecting Humanity from the forces of darkness for more centuries than anyone can remember. And Eddie Drood loved his job – until the day it all blew up in his face…

So that’s the cover blurb – no prizes for guessing which spy Green is basing Eddie Drood’s exploits on. The major difference is that Drood has a golden torc that transforms into golden armour that 007 would kill for – it makes him almost invincible. We watch him conduct his latest assignment, while he fills us in on his family history and why he chooses to live apart from the rest of the Drood tribe. And then a series of events kick off and we watch as Eddie’s world implodes.

Green manages to provide us with an enjoyable protagonist – a tad on the arrogant side to be sure, but all in all, we are convinced his heart is mostly in the right place. And non-stop action in a world where behind every apparently normal façade there lurks a series of odd creatures that urban fantasy fans have become accustomed to, along with one or two surprises. The breezy energy that is Green’s trademark is well suited to this book and ricochets through the engrossing narrative, keeping me up far too late to discover exactly who does what to whom.

I didn’t see the denouement coming and thoroughly enjoyed the twists – but did find that old golden armour has given our hero a great deal of power, which at times posed something of a problem. It needs a load of hefty power to overcome the Drood defences – and while it provides a lot of excitement and well written action scenes, I’m not totally convinced by some of the ploys used to even out the odds. Did that wrinkle significantly impact on my enjoyment of the book? Nope. It is a lot of fun – with some laugh-aloud dialogue and I found Eddie a sympathetic protagonist, whose adventures swept me up out of my own life and into somewhere a lot more colourfully exciting. Which is exactly what I want from my Fantasy. So I shall definitely be tracking down more in this entertaining series. If you haven’t already done so, give this book a go – it will certainly add a golden lustre to the glorious summer weather.

How Do You Like Your Heroes?


Well done – all crusty and seared on the outside, but with a core of soft idealism that every so often reveals itself to animals and small children?

Medium – a bit of a mixture? Not exactly the lantern-jawed version, because there are some major flaws such as a weakness for the alteredcarbonopposite sex, rather too fond of drink and a good time when our hero should be righting wrongs – and at times a reluctance to step in and do the right thing because it takes effort and often hurts. More like the rest of us, in other words. But when it all hits the fan this person will step up and put herself on the line for the rest of us.

thebladeOr rare… a mass of simmering resentment against a brutal, unfair world, who will kick against anyone standing in their way. But, who nonetheless, doesn’t steal from cripples or take advantage of defenceless young girls. Mostly…

In speculative fiction, many authors explore the idea of heroes in interesting ways. We have Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon, who is a classic anti-hero right on the edge of acceptability. Violent and out for what he can get – yet ensures that he targets the corporate fat cats. Joe Abercrombie’s torturer, Glokta in the First Law series is even less attractive. After being crippled, he gets even with the rest of the world by inflicting pain on other people for a living. It is his desert-dry wit that he is liable to turn against himself as well as everyone else that lets readers empathise with him, even if we’d rather never encounter him. As I read him, I find myself wondering how I’d feel in leviathansimilar circumstances, which is, I feel, always the mark of successful fiction.

But the most absorbing examination of heroes I’ve recently encountered is in James S.A. Corey’s space opera noir thriller, Leviathan Wakes. Miller is the burned out station cop who has become a professional liability – but when confronted with the unthinkable, steps up and does what is necessary. What makes this interesting is that he is juxtaposed with Captain Jim Holden, whose classic heroic stance causes almost as many problems as it poses in a politically fragile situation, where he crashes around with all the finesse of a super-nova… So which one of these men is the more effective hero?

madnessofangelsThen we have the urban fantasy versions – Kate Griffin’s half-mad and scarily powerful Matthew Swift in A Madness of Angels is one of the most memorable, set in the grubbier corners of London. He is classically powerful, driven by an over-developed sense of responsibility as he tackles all sorts of supernatural nasties. But, he’s not all that fond of humanity, either… He is riveting enough – but takes on another dimension when compared with Griffin’s later heroic straysoulsoffering in Stray Souls. Sharon is also something of an outcast and fundamentally nice in a way that many modern heroes aren’t – and has collected around her a little group of misfits, who have as much team spirit as a herd of cats. She spends a lot of time trying to get them to understand each other, while fighting Evil in a way that Matthew Swift just wouldn’t.

So… as readers, which sort of hero do you like? Who are your top three favourites? I’m principally interested in science fiction and fantasy – but if you have a classical hero you bonded with years ago, I’d like to hear about that one, too.

Review of The Rise of the Iron Moon – Book 3 of The Jackelian Series by Stephen Hunt


ironmoodThis steampunk epic has the rip-roaring enthusiasm that we’ve come to expect from this particular sub-genre, but given that I’d managed to pick up the third book in a series, would it be a constant struggle to understand what is going on?

Born into captivity as a product of the Royal Breeding House, lonely orphan Purity Drake suddenly finds herself on the run with a foreign vagrant after accidentally killing one of her guards. Her mysterious rescuer claims to have escaped from terrible forces who mean to enslave the Kingdom of Jackals as they conquered his own nation. Purity doubts the story, until reports begin to filter through from Jackals’ neighbours of a murderous Army of Shadows, marching across the continent and sweeping all before them.

But there’s more to Purity Drake than meets the eye. And as Jackals girds itself for war against a near-indestructible army, it soon becomes clear that the Kingdom’s only hope is a strange little orphan girl and the last, desperate plan of an escaped slave from a land far, far away.

The blurb has chosen to tease out one particular plotline running through this book – and while Purity is certainly one the main protagonists, there are also a handful of others that ensure this book is bristling with a variety of strong characters, each of whom arguably deserve a book to themselves. Which is probably what Hunt is providing with the other novels in this series… His world is detailed and – in common with many other books in this genre – bears a striking resemblance to the Victorian era. There are some entertaining additions, however. I particularly enjoyed Coppertracks and the notion of a race of sentient machines that have established their own independent Kingdom.

The characterisation is strong and each of these striking protagonists packs a punch – and is probably why the pace in the first third of the book was slightly slow, as far as I was concerned. There was a fair amount of scene setting and establishing the main players and hats off to Hunt – he didn’t see fit to resort to chunks of exposition. But that did mean that the actual story took a while before it really picked up the pace and got going.

However, at no point did I find I was floundering, despite that The Rise of the Iron Moon is the third in a series – so this is probably the price to pay for ensuring readers can do silly things like starting an established series in completely the wrong place. Once the story did shift out of second gear, though, it galloped forward at a breathless pace with more twists and turns than a corkscrew and had me hooked right to the end.

If you enjoy your Fantasy vividly epic, but are more than a tad tired of elves and dwarves trudging through a medieval landscape, then give Hunt’s world a go – you’re in for a roller-coaster ride.