When playing catch with the youngsters in your life – whatever you do, don’t drop them.
Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.
I have Mage’s Blood on my bookshelves and to my shame, I haven’t yet managed to get around to reading it. I will be making time for it now, though. This cover caught my eye and when I saw it was the co-author of the amazing Olympus trilogy – see my reviews of Athena’s Champion, Oracle’s War and Sacred Bride – I requested it and was delighted to get hold of an arc. I’m so glad I did!
BLURB: Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him. So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked. But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation…
REVIEW: Well, this is fun! I quickly got swept up in the story as Dashryn is having to deal with brutal invaders crashing into his home and demanding he treat an injured patient. He isn’t someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, but it doesn’t take long to discover his loathing of the Bolgravians, who are responsible for smashing his life apart. He also has a teenage daughter to keep safe…
I was immediately hooked and stayed that way. This story quickly gains momentum as most of a village uproots itself and goes on the road in search of sufficient riches to change everyone’s future. I stayed up reading this one far into the early morning, unable to tear myself away from the sheer tension and adventure. All sorts of things go wrong on the road, from broken wagon wheels, to thuggish mercenaries who think women are good for only two things – and no… conversing with them intelligently as equal human beings isn’t on that very short list.
Dashryn has his own reasons for wanting to earn a large sum of money – which he can’t do without a lot of help. And despite his apparent breezy, can-do demeanour, I liked him a whole lot more when he agonised over the inevitable deaths and did his level best to ensure casualties are kept to a minimum. I also like his rather spiky relationship with his teenage daughter, who is wanting more independence. I’ve read far too many fantasy books where teenagers are either completely beaten down by intolerant parents, or are simply far too sensibly compliant to be remotely true. While my grandmother was fond of telling me that when she was growing up, teenagers were far too busy trying to earn a wage and learn the ropes from older work colleagues, who weren’t tolerant of mistakes to be rebellious – I am sure that in this context, a motherless daughter would be seriously questioning her father’s decisions. Which she does…
There are a number of vividly drawn, memorable characters in this story, including a twisty mercenary leader, a Priestess who’d rather study than preach a sermon, and a shape-shifting bear. Over the space of the book, I grew involved in their trek to seek out a better life and thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists and various setbacks they endured. The denouement was very well handled – taking the plot suddenly in an unexpected direction and leaving me desperate to read more.
In short, this is a cracking fantasy adventure that I highly recommend to all fantasy fans and I very much look forward to reading the next book. While I obtained an arc of Map’s Edge via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with FORESTS OR JUNGLES. I’ve selected Hatchet – Book 1 in the Brian’s Saga series by Gary Paulsen.
This offering was produced by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in April 2000, but as it is one of the default covers for this successful book, over the years a number of publishers have used this design. I can see why – the young protagonist is featured on the cover with the thick Canadian wilderness in the background and the hatchet featured as an overlay. The blocky treatment of the artwork ensures that it stays eye-catching even when in thumbnail and the blue title font is still readable. That said, I don’t particularly love it – and it isn’t the cover that induced me to buy the book for my son, when he was a struggling reader and I was trying to encourage him to persevere.
Published in December 2006 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, this is the cover that came to mind when I saw this week’s FF theme. And the one on the cover of the book I bought my son all those years ago, as this is the other default cover. I love the forested landscape with the hatchet superimposed across it. It gives a sense of the scale of poor Brian’s plight in a way I don’t think the other one does. I also prefer the punchy title and author font. What I don’t like is that nasty silver blob that detracts from the overall design. Just look at the two covers without the blob and you can see the entirety of the designs and much better they look. This one is so nearly my favourite.
This edition, published in December 2006 by Simon Pulse books, has flipped the previous design into night-time mode – and what a difference it makes to the tone and mood of the book. I love it and think it is beautiful – but that’s why this one isn’t getting my vote. This cover sings out paranormal shapeshifter to me – which is completely the wrong genre.
This edition, published in 1996 by Macmillan Children’s Books, is a stunning cover. The hatchet isn’t being used to chop wood, or build shelters – a desperate Brian is using the hatchet to make fire… I love this one. It’s eye-catching, beautiful and absolutely sums up the struggle for survival. The notch in this blade is apparently designed for a ‘hardcore survivalist hatchet, underlining that this is probably the different between life and death for Brian. This one is my favourite.
This 30th Anniversary edition, published by Pan Macmillan UK in March 2017, is another fabulous cover. The huge grizzly, with the isolated landscape and the small plane flying against a setting sun is stunningly beautiful. I don’t like to nitpick – though I’m going to anyway – but I don’t recall this book being allll about a grizzly bear called Hatchet. And I think that’s the impression you might come away with, when you see this cover. Or perhaps, because it’s the anniversary edition of a much-loved book, the publishers figured most people buying it would know the basic story. But I don’t think that’s an assumption publishers can afford to make. What do you think?
Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers, aka Cover Love. This week I’m featuring some of Charles Stross’ covers in honour of his release of Dead Lies Dreaming, a novel of The Laundry Files series. If you are interested in learning more about this unique series, here are my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex, The Rhesus Chart, The Annihilation Score, and The Nightmare Stacks. I have also provided reviews of Glasshouse, a standalone time-travelling adventure and The Family Trade, Book 1 of his portal fantasy, The Merchant Princes, which I recall absolutely loving – and I want to revisit this series and complete it. My reviews of The Labyrinth Index and Dead Lies Dreaming will shortly be available. I’ve chosen the Brit covers, because I think they absolutely rock and I love the unique branding they provide for this series. Which is your favourite?
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Dead Lies Dreaming – a Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross – release date 29th October 2020
BLURB: In a world where magic has gone mainstream, a policewoman and a group of petty criminals are pulled into a heist to find a forbidden book of spells that should never be opened.
A new adventure begins in the world of the Laundry Files.
Dead Lies Dreaming presents a nightmarish vision of a Britain sliding unknowingly towards occult cataclysm . . .
I am horribly behind with my arcs – and have only just finished the previous book in the Laundry Files adventures. It isn’t often in a long-running fantasy series that the hammer finally falls and the unthinkable comes to pass – but it has this time around. I’m fascinated to discover where Stross takes this next…If you are interested in reading more about The Laundry Files, which is truly a unique series unlike anything else I’ve read, here are my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex,The Rhesus Chart, The Annihilation Score, and The Nightmare Stacks.
Jean Lee is a fellow author I encountered after reading her amazing blog, which talks mostly about family life, writing, music and films. What has kept me coming back is her quirky view on Life and her wonderful way of putting things. So it was a no-brainer that I’d get hold of her first book when it hit the shelves – Fallen Princeborn: Stolen – see my review. And I was thrilled when she offered me an arc of this new release, the second book in the series, Fallen Princeborn: Chosen – see my review. I asked her to be a guest on my blog to celebrate the release of this second book, which is a major triumph, after a major setback. I’m delighted that she agreed and I am able to share with you a slice of her writing and an insight into her writing process. Enjoy…
1. You are crazily busy – three young children, including twins; a job and running a family – when do you make time for your writing? Are there any activities you use to help you maximise your time – playing music or lighting scented candles, for instance? Oh, I’m not going to lie—it can be Hades some days in finding the balance between family, work, and writing, and that was before life in lockdown with remote learning. The balance between teaching and writing is still in a BIG flux; I haven’t taught full-time since before Blondie was born ten years ago, so I’m no longer accustomed to working with over one hundred students. But with the right sounds, be it fall ambience or instrumental music, I can stir a few story things around in my mind while grading. Even if I don’t get to physically write that day, I’ve still been brainstorming a fight, working out the kinks of some dialogue, or revising a plot line.
Honestly, I look back to five years ago when my three B’s were tiny, and I have no clue how I got the writing in that I did. Now that Biff and Bash are, as they put it, “pre-tweens,” I can usually let them occupy themselves for at least a little while so I can work and write. Often this leads to Bash using up all the tape in the house to build robots or his own paper story books about robots while Biff is drawing collections of favourite characters or cars—whatever strikes his fancy. Once the battery runs out on the Nintendo (or is simply removed and hidden, mwa ha ha), Blondie grabs her pencils and paper and leaves us all behind with her comics about dragons and pet detectives. All three can be like this with books, too. I wonder how many parents around us have to say, “Would you stop reading and___”? Like, we actually have to make them stop reading to finish meals or clean their rooms. It’s a good problem, that.
2. Your main characters, particularly Charlotte, ping off the page with such vividness in Fallen Princeborn: Chosen. How did you stay so closely in touch with them, between writing Stolen and Chosen? Hmmm. I suppose it helps that large portions of the storyline have been in my head for a long time—ever since I first drafted Stolen back in 2010. This is largely why I couldn’t turn my back on the series and turned instead to self-publishing: I wanted to see these characters complete the journeys I’d imagined for them all these years.
It also helps that each of the major characters, in their way, connect to something I am, or aspire to be. And to be clear, this includes the antagonists. If a reader cannot relate to a story’s villain somehow, then that villain no longer feels real and is therefore no longer a threat. A villain made of lies and air is too easily waved away. So whether it’s Charlotte’s passion for music or Bearnard Artair’s utter refusal to accept he’s wrong (yes, I can be a stubborn bastard), there is something real, something of my human nature, inside both hero and villain. For better or worse, we’ll always be connected.
3. Your writing is so full of sensory input – touch, taste, and sounds, as well as the images – do you always put these descriptions down on the page during your first draft? Which is the sense that you most easily visualise when writing? I am a BIG fan of sensory detail! Often my rough draft is overloaded with detail I have to scale back for the sake of pacing. Sounds—or lack thereof—are usually my initial input I get down, followed by the visual. The smells of emotions and desires comes from an older place, where the sense of smell aided far more in survival. There’s something very ancient and instinctive about smell that just feels a bit dismissed, if that makes sense, which is why I love using that sense, too.
4. Which scene in Chosen was the easiest to write and why? And which was the hardest? Well I don’t know if it was “easy,” but I had gobs of fun writing the fight scenes. Being the action junkie I am, if there’s a chance to bring horrifying creatures of dark magic onto the scene to fight, I’m going to take it.
Hardest…there’s a lot of hard scenes in here. That tag line I put on Chosen’s cover of “The Bloody Days are soon returning” is not just about the return of Liam’s family; it is also a reference to what Arlen says to Charlotte in the first book about the difficulty of facing one’s own “bloody days.” Arlen studies Charlotte’s face for a long, quiet moment before he says, “We have all of us had our bloody days, Charlotte. For many it is easier to remain in them than to change. To change requires facing a past stained by screams.” Pause. “It is not an easy trial.”
Redemption is not given only because one experiences dark trauma. No. Redemption comes to those who battle through that darkness and change for the better, and in Chosen, Liam and Charlotte both must come to terms with their own bloody days in order to change—not just for their own sakes, but for each other’s and those they care about.
5. I loved meeting Liam’s terrible family, as it gave a real insight into his personality. Which of his horrible relations was the most satisfying to write and why? Ooooooh, that’s a toughie! Liam’s parents were both fun to write, especially when they interact together—I have a whole post about Ceasar Augustus and Ewoks and why Bearnard and Livia interact as they do. The most satisfying, however, would have to be the one remaining family member never mentioned in Stolen, but who comes with Liam’s parents to River Vine in Chosen. To avoid spoilers, I will only say this: Livia Artair is not the only one with a plan.
6. You use a lot of nature-inspired imagery in your writing – what is your own favourite natural place, where you feel inspired? This may sound a little strange, but there is something…something fascinating about standing at the border and not seeing what’s beyond. Ever since I was very small, trips in the car between small towns always meant driving through farmland and wilderness. It was a like a quilt, these squares of corn, pasture, and forest, stitched together by streams and tall grasses. I loved imagining what could live in those forests. I still do. Were I to physically walk into those wild places, the spell might break, so on the outside I remain. I walk along the road, or near river’s edge, the woods always in sight, but out of reach. That is where I feel storytelling’s potential at its strongest, imagining impossibility into reality.
7. As soon as I got to the end of Chosen, I was keen to know when the next one will be available! Have you started writing it, yet? And is there any spoiler-free teaser you can give us as to what is next in store for Charlotte, Liam and those relying on their success? The third book, Fallen Princeborn: Hidden is in a very, very rough state, but it’s there! At this point, I see a 2022 release so I can get some other projects taken care of (see my answer to the next question, lol). Let’s see, a little scene…how about visiting someone we didn’t get to see in Chosen—Jenny, the farm girl who lives just beyond The Wall?
The freak snow starts just after Jennifer Blair passes the wishing well. Flakes fat with cold tease her, melting onto her glasses and at the nape of her neck to slide in under her hooded sweatshirt. But does she go back inside for a proper coat? Of course not. It’s Wisconsin. A typical fall day can jump twenty degrees up or down, easy peasy. So Jenny runs on, leaves of red, gold, and brown sucking tight onto the souls of her sneakers as she makes her way across the farm yard, beyond the old white barn and the tractor shed to the woods that rim the eastern edge of the farm. A few blood droplets fall from the bag she carries, melting snow clusters as she goes. She dodges the poison ivy bush, sticks to the worn path to the nice little grove of maples that her dad finally agreed to tap this year because Jenny promised the wolves wouldn’t bother him. More snow runs down Jenny’s spine and she shivers, eager for some furry hugs, maybe even a sandpapery wolf tongue to lick the cold from her cheek. D always gave her so many happy welcome kisses that she’d laugh, and scratch his ears, and— Silence. The glen’s roofed in fiery colors among the trees, all the brighter for the snow clinging every leaf’s edge. The wind carries Jenny’s panting white breaths out of the glen, away from the tap tap of sap dripping from the maple trees on either side of her. A mound of fur huddles on the other side of the glen, but there’s no giant of black fur. No green eye paired with a blue eye. Just…normal looking wolves, speckled shades of winter woods. One lifts its head, flares its nostrils. Whimpers. “D’s still not here, huh?” Jenny tips her bag. Half a dozen cuts of venison slop into the bed of snow and leaves of bygone autumns. “Serves him right if I eat all my coffee cake by myself.” She talks snotty, but the crack in her voice, the whimper of another wolf—they say otherwise. Especially when they do not come for the morning treat. Jenny wipes her glasses clean even though the snow continues to cover her work. That shivering of the pack, it’s not just her blurred vision. “What is it, a bear?” She spins as she moves towards them, a scouting dance to check for marks of some sort. But nope—just the half dozen trees tapped. One’s lost its bucket, but nothing else is different than yesterday. There’s a bit of a stink in the air, too, but duh, it’s a farm. The air’s going to smell like manure sometimes. Only when she’s next to the pack does one separate to say hello: a half-breed runt, she wages, considering his size compared to the other wolves. His head’s a bit different, too—more pointed, like a collie, and fur much coarser than the others. One of his ear’s torn from a long-ago fight—the test to get into the pack, maybe? But D liked him, so the others accepted him. He licks snowflakes that land on her nosebridge, smothering her glasses with spit. “Dangit, I just cleaned those!” And Jenny giggles, because it feels way nicer to giggle than to cry over a missing friend. “I gotta check the taps quick. You grab your breakfast before the snow buries it.” The runt gives his family the once-over, then takes a few cautious steps toward the meat. The others follow, eyes darting from Jenny to the tapped maples. Even the biggest of them all, the one with holes in his fur marking an enemy’s bite, scratches at the ground like he’s searching for something before heading over. His whimpers trail him like winter’s pawprints. Jenny wipes her hands clean in the leaves and snow. No extra blood. No impressions in the ground. But still, Jenny bites her lip and checks her back pocket for her dad’s old jack knife. Something’s spooked her friends. Could it be… Jenny stands up, turns to the north. To the Wall. No snow sticks to it. Never does. No moss grows on it. No cement or mortar stuff. Just stones, smooth and round like from a river, all fitting just so to make a wall too high for a person to jump or peek over. Old as the farm, too, probably older. She’s tried to research it on national park sites. She’s gone through books and pamphlets on historical markers and tribe histories. She even tried that weird microfiche machine the library keeps of old newspapers. Nothin’ about a wall that just goes on and on in the middle of a forest in the middle of Wisconsin, or even the three-story stone fortress-type place her family converted to a farm house. How does no one ever mention stuff like this in the history of ever? Well Jenny has her guess, sure, not that she likes to dwell on it much. The fairy-animal things. They took her brother. Tried to make her come with them, with their creepy purple swirly eyes and the dreams they’d stick into her head. But D never let them get her. Never let her go over on her own, either. Any time she got close to following him, he’d turn right around and bat her to the ground and growl until she promised to stay away. Then off he went, bounding over the Wall like some horse into god knows what over in god knows where. Six months now, he’s been gone god knows where. Is he hurt back there? Dead? One fairy-animal appears on the ground before her now, orange-feathered and tiny. It chirps super short, like singing’s an after-thought for this songbird. But it always lands real nice in Jenny’s hands, and listens when Jenny talks about school all the way up until Jenny says thanks, and takes care to chirp once before flying off. Its purple eyes never swirl or glow at her like the bad fairy-animal things. “Any sign of D today?” Jenny always asks that first. The bird shakes its head. “Bad fairies?” The bird pecks the ground once, twice, three times, only it doesn’t pick up anything. “Sure wish you could talk.” Jenny kneels. The cold damp quickly seeps through her jeans and numbs her knee. She pulls out a handful of coffee cake crumbs from in her pocket. “Something’s spooked D’s pack. I was gonna look around after checking the taps. Wanna come?” The little bird hops into Jenny’s hand, chirps, then starts pecking away. “Thanks.” A little yip from behind—the runt half-breed’s finished first. He trots up to Jenny, smacking his chops. “Sorry, buddy, that’s it. Come on,” she pulls out her knife, breathes, deep, “let’s see what’s what around here.” The sugar maples for fall are pretty close, about as far as a kickball pitcher from home plate. It’s the last one with its bucket off, a weird happening since the hook is beneath the spigot. Wind shouldn’t be able to do that. A squirrel—a normal squirrel, anyway—wouldn’t have the strength. Raccoon, maybe, or a curious animal sniffing around. “You knock that off?” Jenny asks the half-breed. His tail’s between his legs, nose sniffing fast, steps slowing down. Too many leaves crunch as Jenny walks, the bird still and watchful in her hand. “How about you?” she asks the bird. It chirps twice, flies into the bucket to shake off the snow clawing at its wings. Pecks. Chirps. Hops onto the ground. Pecks. Shakes its head like it’s found a worm. “You found somethin’.” Jenny goes on without the runt and…oh yeah. She can smell it now. That ain’t a poop smell. It’s pee. Kinda faint, the sort when someone uses the bathroom but forgets to flush. “So…another wolf, maybe. Cuz if it were someone in the pack marking here, they wouldn’t be so spooked.” The bird shakes its head, pecks the ground again. Jenny follows the beak and picks up the snow clumps. Impressions. Half circle. Curvey rectangles. A boot. Two boots. Air freezes in Jenny’s chest. She has to look up from the ground, she’s gotta— —and sees the spigot. A few thin rust-ish lines rim the nozzle. She’s seen lines like that before when her dad drinks from a glass after a long day outside: cracked lips. Someone drank from the spigot. Someone is here. The bird circles the spigot before landing for a closer look. A branch snaps deep inside the wild brush. Jenny bolts upright. The runt growls, once and quick. The pack echoes, closes ranks. Could just be snow too heavy for a stick. Or not.
8. Have you any other writing projects you’re currently working on? Oh, it’s such a higgeldy-piggledy pile of WIPs! 😊 I suppose the one I’m most keen to complete and publish next year is my expanded edition of Middler’s Pride I started some years ago. It’s a fun little escape, this land of Idana, and writing a fantasy series that does NOT focus on romance but instead building identity and friendship while also kicking butt is something I think today’s girls—girls like my daughter—would like to read. In the land of Idana, where enchanted blades and goddesses can be found in the unlikeliest of places, no one wants to be a middle child. All the best inheriting goes to the firstborn, and all the best blessings in life elsewise go to the youngest. Meredydd was a middler, and therefore useless. Unlike her handsome heir of an elder brother, or her lovely little sister, Mer was…there. Well, not really there. She did her best to stay out of the manor as much as possible, preferring the company of others whether they preferred her company or not.
Because my brain has a hard time flowing creatively in one lane, my other big goal is to finish What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die, that NaNoWriMo project I started in 2019. It features some characters from the Fallen Princeborn universe, but is set in an isolated forest home in the dead of winter back in the 1960s. Trust me when I say this is no story for my daughter or any other child. Oh no. This story comes from the corner of my heart that loves a good scare with a splash of horror.
The kitchen itself wasn’t overrun with crows, at least. There were more pictures pinned to the walls, sure, but there weren’t feathers pinned to the cupboards or beaks in a bowl. It was actually pretty plain in there–wooden cupboards too old for their varnish lined one wall, interrupted only by a window and a sink. A long, narrow butcher’s block sat in the middle of the room, and a simple ovular table with four chairs sat over by a row of windows along the far wall–the back of the house, Chloe figured, since there was a back door, a pile of wood for the fire, and an axe. A big axe stained with blood. Stained with the same blood, maybe, as the blood on one of the kitchen chairs. On the furthest cupboards. In the sink. Maybe the same blood as that which sizzled atop a coating of grease, of oil, of God knows what else on the old gas stove where a kettle steamed.
In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’m back to Bexhill, where I was on a writing retreat with my sister in law. We’d been writing hard all day, when there had been a number of showers. And in the late afternoon, it brightened up so we decided to go for a walk. And this is what I found… And yes, those are rocks that have been sculpted by the sea. They are covered at high tide. On the return journey, the sun was starting to sink in the sky and that is why the statue is tinged pink – it isn’t that my camera is on the blink!
I stumbled across Jean’s amazing blog a while ago and have been a regular visitor ever since. Her writing leaps off the page, and over the years I’ve got to know this warmhearted, clever woman, who manages to keep writing while running a home, mothering three children, including twins, and holding down a demanding job. I loved her first book – see my review of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen and her novella Night Tooth, as I very much enjoy her immersive, sensory style.
BLURB: CHARLOTTE’S FAMILY MAY NO LONGER REMEMBER HER NAME, BUT HER ENEMIES WILL NEVER FORGET.
Charlotte just wanted to start a new life with her sister Anna out of the reaches of their abusive uncle. When their journey led to Anna’s disappearance from human memory, Charlotte hunted for her sister and the mysterious creatures that took her behind an ancient Wall that hid a land of magic the world had long forgotten. Charlotte woke the Princeborn Liam Artair, and with his return the conflict between factions of the magical Velidevour turned cursed and deadly.
Now Charlotte must end this conflict before the land of River Vine and the inhabitants she’s befriended are consumed by Orna, Lady of the Pits, who is still very, very eager to see her beloved return. And Orna is not the only one who wants hold of the Princeborn Liam’s heart. These Velidevour come armed with firey wings, crimson claws, and pale fire, and like dead magic, they know no kindness. The Bloody Days are soon returning, and they will not end until a choice is made, a choice that could tear the heart of River Vine apart.
REVIEW: Firstly, if you have stumbled across a copy of this one without first reading Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, I strongly advise you to put it down and get hold of the first book. This book is essentially a continuation of the story and you will spend far too much time floundering, rather than simply enjoying the story.
I fell in love with Lee’s immersive, richly sensuous style from the first time I read her work. So we have a strong sense of the tastes, smells, and the feel of her world, as well as richly vivid images for the world beneath the lake and the amazing Rose House. But though I admire accomplished writing, I wouldn’t have gone on turning the pages if there isn’t also a great story and strong, nuanced characters. Charlotte’s traumatic past has informed her penchant for violence, and she is regularly spiky, rude and provocative. That could become annoying really quickly, if she isn’t also fiercely loyal to those who she has come to admire and love within this alternate magical world. Her cussed refusal to yield or negotiate with those she regards as evil and her dogged determination to protect the shattered heir, Liam, runs through her core. I love Charlie!
Liam, the fallen princeborn of the title, was raised to be a monster by a monstrous family. And this book really leaps to life once we get to see his vile relations and just how sick they are. There isn’t anything gratuitous or unduly gory – but the vividness of Lee’s prose seeped into my inscape, such that Rose House and Liam’s truly terrifying mother had me holding my breath. The action scenes are well written and there is plenty of them, as the Lady of the Pits wants Liam back and Charlie dead, so a variety of monsters come after them. I also love shapeshifting Dorjan of the odd eyes and Arlen, Liam’s tutor who managed to teach him slivers of kindness and humanity, amongst the vile lessons his truly awful parents demanded that he learn.
In short, this second book took the story forward with all the richness and depth I’ve come to expect from Lee’s punchy, readable prose. This book finishes on a major cliffhanger, and I’m now impatiently waiting to discover how two of my favourite mismatched couples prevail against terrible odds. Highly recommended for fantasy readers who enjoy something genuinely different. The author provided me with an arc of Fallen Princeborn: Chosen in return for an honest, unbiased review. 9/10
I am a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s writing – see my reviews of Aurora and 2312. His habit of pushing the envelope regarding the structures of his novels, as well as his intelligent take on what is going on, and what is likely to happen, makes him required reading. I have included the complete blurb, even the hype which I normally delete, because it makes it clear what this isn’t, as much as what it is. For this isn’t some disaster, post-apocalyptic adventure. It’s far more original and thought-provoking…
BLURB: Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.
Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.
REVIEW: I initially struggled with this near future, cli-fi novel – I’m all too aware of what we’re not doing and where it’s likely to lead. So at times, the first quarter of this hefty tome made for harrowing reading – especially the terrible heatwave in India. Fortunately, Stanley Robinson isn’t interested in depicting apocalyptic outcomes – he’s far more interested in exploring ways Humanity can find ways out of the crisis we’ve boxed ourselves into. And this book, discussing our broken global fiscal system and uncontrolled capitalism, brings into being a Ministry For the Future, headed up by a gutsy lady, Mary Murphy.
She is the main protagonist in this sprawling, multi-viewpoint book that jumps across the globe, looking at a wide variety of possible fixes to sequester carbon, get our global temperatures headed back downwards, repair our eco-systems and rewild swathes of the world. While it doesn’t tip into a horrorfest of a destroyed civilisation, neither is it some wafty, unrealistic take on human nature – the bankers running the world’s finances are all but frog-marched into doing the right thing, for instance.
And if you’re wondering how the above turns into a tight, pacey story the keeps the pages turning – it doesn’t. Stanley Robinson doesn’t subscribe to providing the usual ingredients – while I quite like Mary, she isn’t innately appealing – too driven, self possessed, and frequently angry. But there’s no real overarching narrative, as the story keeps jumping from one scenario to the other and a few sections are just pure self indulgence – nope, I don’t want to read a first-person narrative from anything at a cellular level…
So why didn’t I hurl this one across the room for such nonsense? Partly, because the man can write. The prose is always punchy and readable. But mostly because the ideas he posits for possible fixes just keep coming… and coming… and coming. I’m fervently hoping that right now, there are committees not dissimilar to The Ministry For the Future – with futurists providing all sorts of ideas, scientific, sociological and societal to get us out of the looming climactic and environmental catastrophe we’re heading for. And that Kim Stanley Robinson is a member of at least one of them. Because if we are to get through the rest of this century as a species, we certainly need the kind of encompassing raft of changes Stanley Robinson advocates in this ambitious, thought provoking book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in looking at how to get the world out of the mess we’re in… While I obtained an arc of The Ministry For the Future via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
All my frenetic activity of last week was slammed into reverse after Monday’s Pilates class – as I woke up on Tuesday very stiff, with a sore throat which has progressed into a cold (I think!). But whatever it is, my Fitstep teacher and hairdresser don’t deserve to find themselves having to quarantine ‘just in case’. So I’m staying in until it goes away. And writing… Work on Picky Eaters 2 is going well, and is great fun to write, but because I’m feel fairly awful – I’m not getting as much done as I want! My life has lit up with binge-watching The Big Bang Theory – what I’m going to do when I finally get through all 12 seasons, I’m not quite sure… And hurrah for The Great British Bakeoff and Strictly Come Dancing, as well as Portrait Artist of the Year…
This week’s photos are from a walk I took along the beach at Bexhill.
Last week I read:
The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.
Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. Despite NOT being a post-apocalyptic horrorfest, the earlier stages of this interesting book did made tough reading. But I’m glad I persevered as it does provide a message of hope, along with a host of possible fixes. Review to follow.
NOVELLA Masquerade in Lodi – Book 9 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god. It was a real treat to turn to more Penric and Desdemona goodness – this is an engaging fast-paced story that I tore through in a single sitting. Review to follow.
Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel by David Hair Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him. So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked. But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation. But his past won’t let him be: the implacable Imperial Bloodhound Toran Zorne has caught his scent, and Zorne has never yet failed to bring his quarry to ground. At the edge of the map, there’s no going forward and no going back . . . If I’m a tad bleary-eyed today, it’s because I sat up faaar into the night, unable to put this delightful fantasy adventure down. It felt a bit like one of those wagon train Wild West stories I used to watch on TV when I was a girl – but with evil sorcerers, instead of corrupt sheriffs. Review to follow.