Daily Archives: August 16, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Penric’s Fox – Book 3 of the novella series Penric and Desdemona by Lois McMaster Bujold

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This series has become a firm favourite with both Himself and me, having been largely responsible for my renewed interest in reading novellas. So I was delighted when this one popped up on my Kindle as a pre-ordered release.

Some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman, Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.

The observant among you may have noticed that this latest addition to the Penric and Desdemona series does not follow on from the last book. However, it really didn’t make all that much difference to my enjoyment as there were no spoilers in the subsequent stories to compromise my reading experience.

Penric is inhabited by an old and very powerful chaos demon, Desdemona, who can provide him with supernatural powers and regularly needs feeding with the souls of dead creatures. Penric normally obliges by ridding any dwelling where he resides of fleas, lice, mice and rats. So he is shocked when he comes across the body of a fellow sorceress alone in the woods. The question then has to be – what has happened to her demon? In addition to tracking down a clearly dangerous and inventive murderer, Penric needs to discover what has happened to a traumatised demon who may be hitching a ride on a woodland animal.

Bujold is very good at packing a lot of story into a relatively short read. While I appreciate and draw on previous knowledge of the character, I believe that if anyone reads this book as a standalone, they won’t find themselves floundering. An extra twist to this tale is that Penric has the assistance of a couple of shape-shifting shamans who know the woods well. It was interesting to see how these differently talented characters fitted into this established world and worked alongside Penric.

As ever, the pacing of the story is well judged as the tension rises. This isn’t a classic whodunnit as we have a fair idea who the culprit may be well before the end. But the manner in which the denouement occurs and the story wrapped up is skilfully handled. This is another well-written, thoroughly enjoyable addition to this quality series and is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys first-class fantasy with a difference.
9/10

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Review of The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

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I recently completed The Invisible Library and loved it – see my review here. So I tracked down this sequel at our local library, full of anticipation as most of my blogging buddies said it was even better than the first book.

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Irene, the cool, rather detached protagonist who is starting to work her way up the Library hierarchy as her work is starting to come to the attention of those who matter – is no longer cool or detached. Her young, impulsive and very powerful assistant, Kai, has been kidnapped and she is tasked with the job of retrieving him. Just to add to the gravity of the situation, Kai is a dragon prince. And the immensely powerful dragons will take it as a declaration of war if they can prove it is the Fae who are at the bottom of the kidnapping.

I love the setup here. The dragon-controlled worlds tend to be very organised and logical, whereas those run by the Fae are infested with chaos, so by their very nature, dragons and Fae loathe and distrust each other. The Library and its staff try to keep neutral between the two factions – that’s the theory, anyway. But they, too, cannot cope with worlds permeated wholly by Fae-inspired chaos, which can twist and poison their purpose.

So Irene sets off in pursuit of Kai as part of Lord Silver’s entourage, a Fae lord, who is opposed to the faction who have kidnapped the young dragon prince. The world she ends up in approximates to a Victorian Venice, complete with St Mark’s Square and a Campanile. This story is brimming with incident and tension throughout – it would make a marvellous film – as Irene has to battle her way through a hostile landscape to try and discover where Kai is being kept. The slight steampunk flourishes that appear in the first book are given a fuller rein here, particularly during a marvellous chase in magical train.

It was almost painful to put this book down as the story pulled me in and held me captivated until the end, which is also very well handled. For fans of well-told alternate world stories with strong magical systems and lots of tension.
10/10