Category Archives: alien encounter

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far… #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

Now that we are more than halfway through 2018, what are my standout reads? So far this year, I’ve read 73 books and in no particular order, my top 10 favourites of the year so far are:-

The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
This whole series blew me away. The extraordinary viewpoint and the worldbuilding that takes a science fiction premise and pushes it right to the edge. It has an epic fantasy feel with a strong family dynamic and remarkable characters – and perhaps most important, concluded this series with sufficient drama and conviction.

 

 

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
This space opera adventure, set on an intergalactic cruise-ship liner, was an unusual and riveting setting for this alien encounter. I liked the fact that the protagonists came from both the crew and passengers and enjoyed the growing tension as things slid away into a major emergency.

 

 

Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis
I loved this one. A half-trained apprentice with loads of ability and no finesse finds himself having to stand against formidable antagonists. The chippy narrator and gritty take on this well-trodden path made this a memorably enjoyable read.

 

 

The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve been a fan of Williams’ vibrant, energetic prose since I picked up The Copper Promise, but this one is an awesome braiding of both science fiction and fantasy. No mid-book slump here!

 

 

 

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This space opera focuses on the characters with ferocious intensity and we get a ringside seat as layered, plausible people grapple with their own lives in amongst the stars. Needless to say, there is also politics, greed and the need for revenge and love blended to make this one unputdownable once I’d started.

 

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
This is one of the reading highlights of the year so far. Set in England and steeped in the myths and folklore of this ancient land, the story follows the fortunes of a half-dryad man trying to trace his lineage. Needless to say, he is pitchforked into the middle of something dangerous and old…

 

 

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
I loved the first book in this futuristic crime series, Lock In, where victims of a terrible illness leaving them completely paralysed are able to upload their consciousness into robotic bodies. Our protagonist is now working for the police, investigating the murder of a sporting star, who plays a savage version of American football. Mayhem and action all the way…

 

 

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
I’ve loved every one of these stories – and this one charting the fortunes of a woman newly arrived on a Martian outpost is another riveting read. It’s rare that motherhood is examined with any depth in science fiction stories – yet the protagonist has left a baby behind and is grappling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. There is a terrible twist that those who have read the previous two books are waiting for…

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
You won’t have read anything quite like this one. The cover alone tells you it is something different – and yet I plunged into it, thinking it was set on a near-future, post-apocalyptic Earth. I was devastated to learn it is set right now and based on the testimonies of children alive today…

 

 

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries novella series by Martha Wells
Hard enough to write a well-paced novella – writing convincingly as a security robot assigned to keep scientific teams out of harm is far more difficult. Yet Wells triumphantly pulls it off. A marvellous read – I just wish I could afford to read the rest of the series…

 

 

There were other near misses it hurts to omit – Isha Crowe’s quirky Gwithyas: Door to the Void, L.E. Modesitt’s Outcasts of Order and Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill to name but three. What about you – what are your favourite reads of the year, so far?

Advertisements

Sunday Post – 1st July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffSundayPost

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Sorry this is late – whether it’s the weather or the news below – I woke up with a dreadful headache and felt grim throughout the day, so I didn’t work at the computer screen for obvious reasons…

A momentous week! On Saturday evening, the latest member of the family joined us – my daughter gave birth to little Eliza. Mother and baby are both well. Needless to say, I’m thrilled and relieved that poor Rebecca is no longer so heavily pregnant in this heat and that Eliza has arrived safely. I’m looking forward to meeting her on Wednesday.

Other news – on Tuesday, I started my Poetry Workshop, which went really well – a relief. It was also my birthday, though the celebration went on hold as Himself was on late shift this week and it is so hot, we haven’t felt much like going out for the planned meal. On Wednesday, I met up with my sister who gave me her presents and we went shopping together. I also attended Petworth Festival with our writing group, where Geoff Alnutt was performing his poems as a homage to Dr Seuss. He was supported by two other great performers – Audi Masarati and Steve Tasane, author of the amazing Child I. On a wonderful sunny evening, we heard a marvellous variety of quality performance poetry. Mhairi came over on Friday as we monitored sales figures and planned the upcoming launch for Breathing Space which will be published on 8th July. And here is the cover – I’m delighted with it as I think it works really well with the rest of the trilogy.

This week I have read:

The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacemaker’s trilogy by Tanya Huff
Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She’s created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose. Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to be Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.
I was delighted when this one popped up on my Kindle, as Himself had pre–ordered it. Huff is one of our must-have authors… And this book brims with action and adventure, bringing this excellent military science fiction series to a triumphant conclusion.

 

Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré by Eric Brown
When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles?

Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge? When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …
If this one sounds as if it has a resemblance to Agatha Christie’s mysteries, you’re right – it does. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the backstory behind the murder mystery.

 

Truth Sister by Phil Gilvin
The year is 2149. The Women’s Republic of Anglia seeks to harness forgotten technologies from the time when men ruled the world. Naturals are second-class citizens, while women born through cloning are the true children of the Republic. When Clara Perdue graduates from the prestigious Academy, she is ready to do her part to support the Republic and bring about a better future for all.

But when she stumbles on information that the Republic has tried to keep hidden, she begins to realise that the society she has been taught to believe in and trained to defend is not all that it seems. A secret from Clara’s past puts herself, her family, and her friends in danger, and Clara must choose between subservience and rebellion.
This Brit-based near-future dystopian adventure is an engrossing read that takes Clara from a  priggish, narrow-minded bigot to someone who is convinced that men also have a right to live in the new Republic. This is a gritty read with plenty of adventure and food for thought.

 

My posts during the last week:

Sunday Post – 24th June 2018

Review of Windswept by Adam Rakunas

Teaser Tuesday featuring Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré series by Eric Brown

Can’t Wait Wednesday featuring Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step series by Morgan Llewelyn

Friday Face-off featuring Red Rising – Book 1 of the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacekeeprs trilogy by Tanya Huff

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Thursday Doors – Irish Bears https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/thursday-doors-irish-bears/ This is a must-see article – those underground pics are amazing…

For the love of libraries http://writerunboxed.com/2018/06/26/for-the-love-of-libraries/ Like a lot of people, libraries hold a special place in my heart…

Recap post – …if yeez had a good pair of fitba’ boots, Jesus wanted yeez for a sunbeam… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/06/26/a-recap-post-if-yeez-had-a-good-pair-of-fitba-boots-jesus-wanted-yeez-for-a-sunbeam/ Successful thriller writer, Seumas Gallacher has dusted off his memories of playing footy a lifetime ago in honour of a certain tournament going on somewhere…

Stop Lying! Everyone Knows You’re a Complete Fraud https://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/06/stop-lying-fraud-impostor/ Kristen Lamb’s confession rang a few bells with yours truly…

Worldbuilding – Creating your alien life http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/06/27/wordbuilding-creating-alien-life/ Those of you who know my writing will understand why I’m particularly drawn to this one!

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacekeeper trilogy by Tanya Huff #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePrivilegeofPeacebookreview

Standard

Himself spotted this was coming out and pre-ordered it. Quite right, too. We both love this series – question is, has Huff managed to tie up all the loose ends satisfactorily, given this is the last one in the trilogy?

Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She’s created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose. Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to be Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.

For those of you who have read the previous two books, terms like Big Yellow, the Silsviss and Big Yellow will be happy reminders of a strongly depicted world crammed with memorable characters and a twisting plot. However if you are scratching your head because you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this series, then don’t pick up this one – track down An Ancient Peace instead. There is simply too much going on in the longer story arc you’ll miss if you don’t.

Gunny Torin Kerr isn’t actually a gunny any longer – but that is something she tends to remember more clearly than some of those around her. She now heads up a team of Wardens, who are essentially intergalactic policemen, now the war has ended and the Elder Races are keen the job doesn’t get seconded to the military. Indeed, now that the war has ended and the Younger Races, including Humanity, are starting to wonder if they are welcome within the Confederation, now they are no longer fighting on behalf of the Elder Races. It is providing major opportunities for the terrorist organisation Humans First, who very much resent the fact that Humanity is taking orders from other species.

I love this series. Torin’s team are always there to provide plenty of snark and banter, even in the trickier moments – but that feels entirely realistic. Despite the fact we stay focused on the main characters, the wider political situation is always well covered so we know what the stakes are. Which steadily ratchets up during this action-packed book. You need to pay attention, because things are always happening, or about to happen and this book particularly offers plenty of pace and excitement.

The denouement was gripping and held me long after I should have put the book down – and Huff then continued to bring the series to an entirely satisfactory ending – no mean feat, given this is a spinoff from the previously successful Valor series… This series is highly recommended for fans of well told military science fiction – and a must-read for those of you who have read the previous two books.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – It’s a family affair…

Standard

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 week the theme is a cover featuring a family, so I’ve selected The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein.

 

This audio edition was produced by Full Cast Audio in February 2005. It’s a spacescape so I really like it – the character in the forefront being upside down is nicely dramatic. However, she looks rather bored by the whole business and as they are clearly performing some sort of maintenance task on the outside of the ship, I doubt if she would ever get to a stage where it would be quite so tedious to be floating at the end of a tether outside the ship. And I loathe the nasty strip along the bottom of the cover which is completely unnecessary, given this is a relatively modern design.

 

Published in February 1978 by Del Rey Books, I much prefer this version. There is plenty of drama as the twins are rushing around the spaceship, trying to gather up all these tribble-like creatures. I also think the font is rather funky and attractive, contrasting well with the bright interior of their ship. This one is my favourite, though I don’t like all the chatter cluttering up the author and title.

 

This edition, published by Baen in March 2009, has by contrast a rather generic feel. It is clearly part of the house style, with the classic Baen fonts for the title and author, along with the obligatory spacescape. The trouble is that this scene could be any old ship with a couple of suited figures, who don’t particularly look as though they are part of a family unit.

 

This edition, produced by Ace in November 1970 definitely has a retro feel – that rocket and those suits are more reminiscent of the 1950s, when this book first hit the shelves. However, there is no sense that the crew are a family. While the orange font certainly pops, it is rather flat, again underlining the period feel of this cover. There is rather too much chat, again, spoiling the effect.

 

This Czech cover was published in 2003. I have a really soft spot for this one. The angle of the ship with the two suited figures working on it draws the eye onto the attractive and eye-catching title font. I also love the touch of having the title on the ship. This is a close contender for the top spot for me – but what about you? Which is your favourite?

Review of Indie Ebook Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabina Chase

Standard

I picked up this offering on Himself’s recommendation as he knew I was on the lookout for well-written, entertaining space opera adventures that didn’t necessarily feature a lot of romance.

The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

And that’s the blurb. Really. I can fully understand why Chase hasn’t included anything else as the story spans the complete trilogy and I don’t think there is much she could add without lurching into spoiler territory. A warning – if you did crash midway into this series, I don’t think you could ever fully work out the complete backstory or who was doing what to whom. Given it is such a treat, the only sensible approach is to start with the first book, The Long Way Home. Consequently, I will not be discussing much of the plot points. But I will add that the story follows the fortunes of Moire and the best way to give an idea of what is going on is at this stage to provide the blurb for the first book…

Webspace pilot Moire Cameron is one of the best–but even she can’t fly her way out of a catastrophic drive failure that triggers a time-dilation bubble. Left suddenly eighty years out of date, she is on the run in a world she no longer knows, caught in the middle of a human-alien war while agents of Toren hunt her for the information only she has–the location of the pristine world of Sequoyah.

This is the starting point – Moire is not only struggling to cope with a future world where the customs and technology have dramatically altered, she is also in possession of information wanted by nearly every major powerbroker in the galaxy. This puts a huge target on her back – and the trilogy provides the story of what happens next.

Of course, if she isn’t likeable, there wouldn’t be much tension. I found myself warming to her very quickly. She is highly trained to cope in emergencies and that training is giving a thorough workout as she ricochets from one crisis to another. Her adventures include tangling with the secret service; being involved in a number of firefights; rescuing some lost souls; involved in a major salvage operation and tripping over an alien in an unexpected place – and that’s only some of what happens… We also get to know the cast of characters who she encounters on her adventures, some of whom become her companions.

Chase has the knack of writing appealing, memorable characters who I quickly bonded with, so whenever they were in danger, I found I really minded. As the dangers piled up and the stakes grew ever higher throughout the three books, I did wonder how the third book would be able to resolve everything. To be honest, I have slightly delayed picking this one up in case the ending didn’t live up to the rest of the series. I needn’t have worried. Chase is clearly capable of delivering and Queen of Chaos manages to successfully keep the action moving forward at a good clip right until the exciting denouement.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one – it is the triumphant conclusion to an excellent space opera trilogy and I thoroughly recommend it.
9/10

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

Standard

Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, sat down to write a series of very ambitious targets for 2018 when the year was only a few days old. After the success of the last few years, I have become a real fan of this process as it has given me clear targets to work towards throughout the year and then at the end of every month, hold myself to account in fulfilling these goals. So how did I do in February?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, I am hoping to have my rewrite completed by the end of March, using the feedback from an agent who has shown interest in the manuscript. She further suggested that I send it to a professional editor before resubmitting it to her, which I intend to do.
 As is often the case, now that I have the completed manuscript, I can see how to improve it further. Though I shall be glad to finish this one – it rides on my shoulders like a demon… I have contacted an editor who is willing to plough through the manuscript in June – so I now have a hard deadline to work to, which is always a help.

• Learn to market my books
I conducted my first giveaway for Running Out of Space along with an Amazon ad and given it was only for 24 hours, I was pleased with the result. I have some extra keywords to add and I’m going to be tweaking my description on Amazon. I have also added the covers for my two self-published novels to my blog site.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I read 13 books in February – and the standout ones for me were the space opera adventures – Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon; The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher Nuttall and Queen of Chaos by Sabrina Chase.
I have undertaken to read at least 24 books this year written by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. In February, the 4 books I’ve read towards my Discovery Challenge 2018 are:-

Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson
Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
An entertaining parallel dimension adventure that really got going after an unexpected twist halfway through which I found original and engrossing.

Going Grey – Book 1 of The Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will…
Tense contemporary sci fi thriller tale with plenty of action and adventure. While the writing is good, there were aspects regarding this book that I didn’t like, so I decided not to review it.

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
I really liked how this story draws on the myths of the Celtic gods and goddesses and look forward to reading more about this world.

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death. Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?
I loved this one, which firmly follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie’s whodunits in realising the time and the intricate plotting. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.

• Continue teaching TW
We are now working on the final elements of this two-year syllabus for Tim’s COPE project, which needs to be handed in by Easter, so it’s a rather stressful time. Tim is also in the throes of editing the film that was shot last autumn and making very good progress with that. When I see what he now achieves on a daily basis and measure that against what he could manage only a couple of years ago, I cannot get over just how much he has progressed and continues to do so.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I have now resumed my Pilates and Fitstep classes – I wish they weren’t on the same day, but at least I get to jig around once week. With the continuing cold weather, I have gained more weight than I wanted, though I’m hoping to lose most of it for the summer. My hip has been a bit grumbly during the cold, but it is easily sorted out, these days.

I have read a total of 24 books this year, including 7 towards my 2018 Discovery Challenge and 5 towards my Reduce the TBR Pile Challenge. My wordcount for the month, including blog articles and teaching admin as well as work on my novel, was just under 43,000, bringing my yearly total to the end of February to just over 86,000 words.

Friday Faceoff – Like a puppet on a string…

Standard


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 week the theme is a cover featuring puppets or dolls, so I’ve selected The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein.

 

This Japanese cover, produced by 早川書房 in December 2005, is one of my favourites. There is plenty of drama in this cover, with the puppet girl on the poster in the background as our gallant investigator is swathed in the police tape as he goes undercover…

 

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey/Ballantine books in January 1990 and is a really attractive. I love the backdrop, which is beautiful and detailed, while the man in the centre being strung up like a puppet is a really disturbing image. My only grizzle is that there is rather too much chatter.

 

Published in February 1990 by DelRey/Ballantine books, I also really like this one. The greens really stand out and those three marionettes look wonderfully wrong… However, I don’t like the ugly white box along the top which cuts across the artwork, effectively shortening the cover.

 

This edition, published by Baen in July 2010 has gone for the retro feel, while keeping the typical Baen house style. I quite like the detail on the cover – I can never resist a spacescape, anyway. The snag is that this cover feels rather generic – yes… there are aliens, but they are in the process of invading Earth and the artwork doesn’t give any indication of that.

 

This first edition, produced by Doubleday & Co in December 1951 is simply a fabulous piece of artwork. The muted palette, odd stance of the figues and staring eyes give us a really creepy insight into what is going on. This is my favourite, but which is yours?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber

Standard

Being the shallow sort, once more I was led into this one by the scrummy cover – I do love a gorgeous purple cover – and the fact it was a YA science fiction adventure…

Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese. But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.

Of course, the snag with being swept away by a gorgeous cover is that I tend to crash midway into a series. Sometimes I get away with it and other times, because the action seamlessly continues from one book to the other, I flounder. This second book in the series falls into the latter category and it took me a while to work out who was doing what to whom. Once I sorted that out, however, I became invested in the characters and caught up in the very difficult situation facing humanity.

Sofi and Miguel are appealing protagonists and while romance isn’t generally my go-to genre, Weber writes this relationship with lyricism and conviction that swept me along. The Delonese aliens are suitably imperturbable and smugly superior with their intimidating technical superiority and the character I most empathised with was poor Inola, who is trying to hold this political situation together. The action was gripping throughout and there were a couple of deaths that winded me with their unexpectedness, while keeping me on my toes.

Any quibbles? While the climactic action scene was engrossing and convincing, the aftermath did seem to wrap things up just a tad too tidily. But this is really a very minor issue, and certainly didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this one – though my firm advice would be to go and track down the first book in this duology, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, before tucking into this one. While I obtained an arc of Reclaiming Shilo Snow from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams

Standard

There has been much excitement amongst the book-blogging community about this one, as Jen Williams has become a solid favourite among epic fantasy fans with her unique blend of clever pacing, vivid characters and the sheer energy of her writing. But what had everyone waiting for this one was that twist at the end of The Ninth Rain – see my review here – that turned this into a genre mash-up.

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever. Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

For starters, if you’ve picked this one up without having first read The Ninth Rain, then put it right back down again and rush off to get hold of the aforesaid first book in the series. It took me a while to get into this one, because I don’t reread books and as The Bitter Twins picks up more or less where The Ninth Rain left off, I was frankly floundering. If I hadn’t read the first book in this series, I think it would have taken me far too long to sort out who was doing what to whom to fully appreciate the writing and the story.

However, once I was back in the groove – this one was a joy. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, so that our gutsy heroes and heroines have flaws and weaknesses, and even characters we have written off as wrong ‘uns are capable of selfless acts. I loved the storyline regarding the origins of the Eborans, which worked really well and nicely mirrored what is happening on the Corpse Moon where unsettling transformations are taking place.

One of the recurrent themes within the epic fantasy genre is the role of history and how it defines people’s own identity within their culture and race. Williams treatment of this theme in this series is an interesting one, overlaid as it is by the insertion of another genre and how that both plays with and subverts the idea of cultural identity, particularly by the Eborans, who are teetering on the verge of extinction. As the inferior race, the human protagonists within the story have their own baggage and, in some cases, scores to settle. My favourite character is Vintage, the delightful human scholar whose insatiable curiosity has hauled her right into the middle of the current mess.

I don’t want you to go away with the idea, however, that this book spends pages discussing or worrying about the above, as it’s all about the adventure and such considerations are fully embedded within the plot. Events are moving fast, threats abound, and our intrepid band of protagonists are constantly having to react to yet another sticky situation. The pages flew by as I found it hard to break off and get on with the growing stack of chores – so I didn’t. After all, this was a Jen Williams read – which means it’s something special. While I obtained an arc of The Bitter Twins from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – After every storm the sun will smile…

Standard

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 week the theme is a cover featuring the sun, so I’ve selected Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift series by David Brin.

 

This cover, produced by Bantam Spectra in July 2010, is certainly full of drama. They certainly have the tone of the novel nailed – bossy aliens and overwhelmed humans clearly on the back foot. The artwork is dramatic and pleasing, though it’s pity about those blocks of brown topping and tailing the cover.

 

This edition was produced by Orbit in December 2011 and is a copy of their 1996 design, which I actually prefer because I think the shadowed lettering stands out far more successfully. Unfortunately, because it is a photo of the cover, the definition is poor. But for all that, this is my favourite. That torus is just so beautiful against the sizzling heat of the sun…

 

Published in November 1981 by Bantam, I also really like this one. Where the previous cover is all about drama, heat and fire – this one is darker with shadows and… things lurking there that may or may not be threats. The sphere looks suitably otherworldly, too. The big problem with this one is the lettering – it blends into the artwork far too much.

 

This French edition, published by Le Livre de Poche in June 1995 is another good effort, with all those swirling solar winds. I like the rather quirky font, too. However the overall effect is rather crude which is why it isn’t my favourite, though I do have a soft spot for this one…

 

This German edition, produced by Heyne in February 2014 is another very pleasing effort. I love the simplicity of the design, which really pops in thumbnail size and the fade effect on David Brin’s name is very effective. It is wasn’t for that amazing torus, this would probably have got my vote this week. Which is your favourite?