Category Archives: alternate history

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter #Brainfluffbookreview #ASeasonsofSpellsbookreview

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I’d read and enjoyed the previous two books in this series, The Midnight Queen and Lady of Magick, so was pleased to see this third one was available – I love the depth of this enchanting world, where Christianity didn’t sweep through and wipe out all the pagan religions, which now exist in this Regency era alternate history.

BLURB: Three years after taking up residence at the University of Din Edin, Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting the heiress of Alba to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Sparks fail to fly between the pragmatic Lucia of Alba and the romantic Prince Roland, and the marriage alliance is cast into further doubt when the men who tried to poison King Henry are discovered to have escaped from prison…

And that’s as much of the chatty blurb I’m prepared to include. I firmly advise you to read the previous two books in this series before attempting this one. The world where the UK and France are still fractured into a number of states, where the Roman and pagan gods exist side by side, which provides a complex backdrop to the action.

Things have moved on for Sophie and Gray and in this book, there is far more in the viewpoint of Joanna, Sophie’s feisty younger sister and her very close friend and the love of her life, Gwendolyn. I really liked their relationship, which is sparky as they also have to negotiate the social norms of the time, which does not approve of, or acknowledge their love.

What worked really well for me was how Lucia and Roland’s relationship had to unfold. It’s an arranged marriage, providing peace, stability and more prosperity for the population of two kingdoms and it’s unthinkable that it won’t go ahead. But when they meet, Roland in particular, is underwhelmed at Lucia’s attitude. Reading how they had to negotiate this issue, I was aware that it isn’t often an arranged union is looked upon as anything other than a bad thing in fantasy novels. I also was delighted just to once more sink into this unique world Hunter has created and which I really love, given the care and detail she provides in her magic-making and the political strains that a fractured kingdom causes – nicely done.

Any niggles? I’ll own to being a tad frustrated that poor old Gray and Sophie were once more wrenched apart – I do enjoy seeing them together. Though it did underline just what danger everyone is facing when the threat from the continent becomes clear, that he is sent on such a hazardous mission. I also found the pacing towards the end of the story a tad uneven, in that the build-up was brimful of tension and the denouement did wrap everything up rather rapidly. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. And if Hunter decides to turn this trilogy into a quartet, I’ll happily read the next one, too. I just love the world she has created. Recommended for those who enjoy interesting alternate historical settings with their fantasy adventures.
8/10

Series I Completed in 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesICompletedin2019

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The High King’s Vengeance – Book 2 of Malessar’s Curse duology by Stephen Poore
The duology takes the classic ingredients of an epic fantasy, gives them a jolly good shake and tips them out… I loved the way we find the protagonist is as much the most convenient fool in the neighbourhood as the special chosen one. And that she discovers in the second book that most of the assumptions she’d made in The Heir to the North were wrong. Disastrously so, as it happens. Both The Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance are highly recommended – despite the dodgy covers.

 

The Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron
This epic fantasy comprises The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, The Dread Wyrm, A Plague of Swords and this concluding book – The Fall of Dragons. This high fantasy swords and sorcery adventure is chockfull of action with the battle scenes being particularly outstanding. Cameron wears armour and takes part in historical martial arts – and his own experience means he writes those aspects very well. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy and brilliant battle scenes.

 

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan
This gave the whole series an enjoyable twist as a huge development occurs in this particular book that is a complete gamechanger. I’ve loved following the feisty Lady Trent through all her adventures, comprising A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, The Voyage of the Basilisk, In the Labyrinth of Drakes – as well as this final instalment. This is historical fantasy adventure is completely original take on dragons and is very highly recommended.

 

No Going Back – Book 5 of the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name
You’re going to think I mostly read five-book series… But once I finished this military sci fi thriller, where a mercenary teams up with a discarded sentient warship, published in 2012 by Baen, I was really sad to see there were no other books featuring these two likeable, battle-scarred characters. The series comprises Jump Twist Gate, an omnibus edition of the first two books – One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack, Overthrowing Heaven, Children No More and No Going Back – review to follow. Highly recommended if you like your military sci fi on the quirky, thoughtful side.

 

 

The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve always enjoyed the sheer mapcap energy that pings off the page with Williams’ writing, but this trilogy is where she showed what she could really do in this genre mash-up, where science fiction and fantasy collide in a magnificent shower of sparks… This series comprises  The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins, in addition to The Poison Song. Very highly recommended.

 

 

The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso
I loved these books right from the first line onwards. Caruso pulled me right into the middle of her delightful world, where each magic-user needed to be bound to a controller. So what happens when this happens by accident, rather than by design? The intense, assured writing won me over, and it was with real pain that I took the decision that this one couldn’t make the final cut in my 2019 Outstanding Reads list. This series comprises The Tethered Mage and The Defiant Heir as well as The Unbound Empire. This YA fantasy is very highly recommended.

 

 

AUDIO The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This outstanding children’s alternate fantasy, where people who have died in troubled circumstances turn into feral ghosts who are capable of appearing at night and killing the living. And only children are able to see and fight them… Lucy tells her gripping tale throughout these books, which are funny, poignant and genuinely frightening in places. This series comprises The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, The Creeping Shadow as well as The Empty Grave. This outstanding series is very highly recommended.

 

 

A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
It’s the world that Hunter has created here that makes this one stand out. I’ll be honest – I think the first book is the best one. But I’m glad I also read the other two, as they added breadth and depth to this intriguing and complex version of Regency Britain, where Christianity never prevailed, Roman gods are acknowledged and the country is still a patchwork of smaller kingdoms loosely united by treaties. This series comprises The Midnight Queen and Lady of Magick in addition to A Season of Spells – review to follow.

 

 

AUDIO How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
Written for reluctant readers, this children’s epic fantasy adventure featuring a small, very ordinary-looking Viking boy, who isn’t all that good at most of the Viking pasttimes. And whose hunting dragon is very small and very, very naughty drew me in from the first by the sheer quality of the characterisation and plotting. I have read these adventures to both children, until they both decided they wanted to complete the books on their own. So I finally finished listening to the last handful of books on my own. Hiccup’s exploits were funny, gripping and ultimately absolutely heart-breaking, so I wept as I listened to the epilogue of this instalment, feeling like I’d lost a cherished friend. This series comprises How To Train Your Dragon, How To Be a Pirate, How To Speak Dragonese, How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale, A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons, How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm, How to Break a Dragon’s Heart, How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword, How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel, How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero as well as How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury. Very highly recommended for children of all ages, who believe in dragons ages…

 

The Violent Fae – Book 3 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams
Lynn of Lynn’s Book Blog recommended this series – and I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky urban fantasy adventure with a difference. Letty the foul-mouthed fairy who bounces right back became a solid favourite with me. This trilogy comprises Under Ordshaw, Blue Angel as well as The Violent Fae. Recommended for urban fantasy fans who are looking for something different.

 

 

 

AUDIO The Last Olympian – Book 5 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
This children’s re-telling of the Greek myths, updated and made fresh when told through the eyes of young dyslexic half-blood, Percy Jackson. Frankie absolutely loved this series and so I thought I’d better discover what all the fuss was about. This clever, entertaining series comprises Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth as well as The Last Olympian. Highly recommended for those who enjoy teenage coming-of-age fantasy adventures. I didn’t review any of these books on my blog, as I felt most of what I had to say had already been covered about this very popular series.

 

 

AUDIO Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, with forewords written and narrated by Stephen Fry
This marvellous collection of the four novels and all the short stories provided over seventy hours of quality listening as I was decorating the bathroom during the summer. I broke it up, listening to other books in between each of the six sections, stretching it out as long as I could – so it was with a real sense of loss that I finally arrived at the last section. Overall, I was impressed at how well much of Conan Doyle’s canon stood the test of time, although there were a handful of horribly racist stories I simply skipped.

These were the series I completed during 2019. I’ll be posting another article charting those I’m intending to continue throughout 2020. What about you – have you read any of these and did you enjoy them, too?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #ALongerFallbookreview

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I loved An Easy Death, as Charlaine Harris has been a solid favourite of mine for years – see reviews of Grave Sight, Dead Reackoning, Shakespeare’s Landlord, Midnight Crossroad, Day Shift and Night Shift, so I was extremely excited to hear that A Longer Fall was due and Himself insisted that we pre-order it. I do love that man!

BLURB: Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen…

The blurb goes on for a bit longer, but you get the gist. I love Rose and the way we are right inside the character from the first page – Harris has a knack of drawing me right into the middle of her worlds in no time flat and this time around was no exception. This dystopian, alternate history where the Russian monarchy managed to flee before they were all massacred and are now living in a corner of a very different America, works really well. The magical element is also deftly introduced and I enjoy the tension and dislike that surrounds these magic-users, which makes complete sense.

I was hooked and read late into the night and early morning to discover what happened next. Rose teams up with a former colleague while plot twists come thick and fast as they fend off a variety of threats. In the meantime, there is also an interesting romantic thread running alongside the adventure which somewhat complicates things for Rose. One of the delights of this one, is that I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next.

However, I wasn’t completely won over by the MacGuffin that very abruptly stopped all the mayhem and violence. I recently had a rant about female protagonists in fantasy books who suddenly are riding into battle alongside the men, without there having been any real attempt to explain what dynamic has changed to make this possible. I felt in a similar fashion here, that a whole bunch of deep-seated, difficult issues in the small town of Sally were given a flimsy makeover in order to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t convince me. It didn’t mean the book went flying across the room, and I still very much enjoyed Rose’s personal journey, which was brilliantly explored throughout the book – but I have knocked a point off for the way the main plot gets wrapped up. That doesn’t prevent this being an action-packed, western-flavoured fantasy adventure well worth picking up – and we’ll certainly be pre-ordering the next instalment.
8/10

Sunday Post – 29th December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been madly busy and great fun… Yes – I know I used that line last week, but it also nicely sums up this last week. Himself was working until 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so it was something of a blur to get presents wrapped and all the cooking done. My son arrived on Christmas Eve, just in time to start tucking into the homemade vegan mince pies and we had a lovely natter together. Christmas morning was spent cooking – Himself was in charge, despite struggling with a terrible cold. My sister and nephew joined us for lunch and stayed for the evening. We had a lovely time – Rob and Michael hadn’t seen each other for far too long, so were able to have a good catch up. After lunch was eaten and cleared away, we opened presents and played a couple of cracking games – Ticket to Ride and Scotland Yard.

On Boxing Day, we were due to drive over to my daughter’s for the afternoon to play yet more games, when she phoned me to say the conditions on the A27 were horrendous and she didn’t want me driving over. So they bundled into their all-weather terrain jalopy and came to us, instead. She then made a meal for eight in my kitchen before we played the Present Game and I subjected the family to my Christmas Quiz. So much laughter – the walls rang with it…

We have been taking it easy since, while Himself is trying to recover from his cold. He is off work until New Year’s Day, which is a real treat. Rob went back to Cambridge yesterday evening, so the house is a lot quieter… I can’t quite believe it’s all over.

Last week I read:

The Zig Zag Girl – Book 1 of the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series by Elly Griffiths
Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the Ruth Galloway series by this author, so was intrigued by this series set in a city I know quite well. This entertaining, historical whodunit did not disappoint. Review to follow.

 

Recursion by Blake Crouch
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

I was lucky enough to win this lovely hardcover edition from Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy in one of her international giveaways. I tucked into it as a Christmas treat and despite not having all that much time, once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. It truly is an addictive page-turner… Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Friday Faceoff featuring Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Christmas Trivia 2019

Christmas has come early – thank you so much, Tammy!

Sunday Post 22nd December 2019

Huge apologies – with all the festivities and my son staying over, I simply haven’t been online enough to interact, comment or be able to recommend any articles. Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Review of KINDLE EBOOK Lady of Magick – Book 2 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Izzo Hunter #Brainfluffbookreview #LadyofMagickbookreview

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I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, The Midnight Queen, which charts the fortunes of Sophie and Gray and if you haven’t yet read this first book, then I recommend you do so before plunging into this one.

BLURB: In her second year of studies at Merlin College, Oxford, Sophie Marshall is feeling alienated among fellow students who fail to welcome a woman to their ranks. So when her husband, Gray, is invited north as a visiting lecturer at the University in Din Edin, they leap at the chance. There, Sophie’s hunger for magickal knowledge can finally be nourished. But she must put her newly learned skills to the test sooner than expected. All is not well in the Kingdom of Alba, and before long the Marshalls find themselves beset by unexpected dangers.

And that’s as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to divulge – I read a stream of reviews complaining on how the pace dragged in the first half of the book, which I found rather surprising. Until I read the blurb after I finished the book and realised that it gave away a major plotpoint that occurs just over halfway through the book – which the author clearly intends to come as a nasty surprise to the reader. However, not if you started the book expecting it to crop up from the first page…

Hunter does a good job of depicting a world where Christianity didn’t gain ascendancy, so there are a variety of religions, including some of the Roman deities and a lot more, besides. Latin is the lingua franca and magic is part of the everyday, though not everyone has magical ability and as we are in an alternate Regency period, women don’t have much agency, though if they are particularly magically gifted they do have more opportunities.

Hunter is a beguiling author – when I’m in the middle of her tales, I find I’m swept along by the intensity of her writing and the nuanced characterisation. It wasn’t until I put this one down with a sad sigh and had cleared my head a little, I realised that the lassitude that afflicted two of the main characters did flatten the pace of the story at times – and I’m not sure how that could have been avoided.

I did thoroughly enjoy watching Joanne coming into her own and finding her feet, after all the hardship and emotional turbulence of the last couple of years. I do like the spiky relationship she has with her sister, and also the sense of loss she feels now that Sophie is no longer there. She is the character who comes to the fore and is by far the most successfully depicted in this book, I think. Not that any of the characters fail to convince – apart from her portrayal of a complex, conflicted world, Hunter’s strength is her characterisation.

While I don’t agree that the pace drags during the first half, I do think that the game-changing climactic scene in the grove near the end is a tad rushed. But I am definitely going to continue reading this enjoyable, engrossing series – it’s worth it for the worldbuilding alone… Recommended for fans of Brit-based fantasy with roots in our rich, historical past.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Doing Time – Book 1 of The Time Police series by Jodi Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #DoingTimebookreview

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I have been a big fan of Taylor’s writing since Himself stumbled over this immensely talented author when he picked up The Nothing Girl and after that, we discovered the popular Chronicles of St Mary’s – see my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another – though you’ll also find reviews for the next four books in the series if you use the Search box at the top of the right-hand column and enter Jodi Taylor’s name.

BLURB: At some time in the future, the secret of time-travel became available to all. Chaos ensued as people sought to take advantage. Because there will always be nutters who want to change history… And so the Time Police were formed. Internationally sanctioned thugs whose task it was to keep the timeline straight by any and all means possible. And they succeeded. The Time Wars are over. The Time Police won. But who will win the peace? Doing Time follows three hapless new Time Police recruits – Jane, Luke and Matthew – as they try to navigate their first year on the beat. It’s all going to be fine. Obviously.

The book is in multiple viewpoints – Jane, Luke and Matthew all tell parts of their first testing days while training for the Time Police, though I like the fact that we don’t get to know exactly why they joined at the same time.

There is Taylor’s trademark humour, along with moments of real lump-in-the-throat poignancy – I don’t know anyone else who can swing the mood around from tears to laughter and back again with such conviction. What has been reined in a tad in this first book of a new series, is the anarchic mayhem that regularly breaks out in a St Mary’s book as those historians get an idea they want to test. I found it significant that the only time Taylor cuts loose in the same way, is when one of the characters finds himself back at St Mary’s for a short while. I was pleased to see that the more restrained, repressive atmosphere of the time police force has filtered into the writing.

That didn’t stop the tension being tight-wound to the point that I couldn’t put the book down as one character’s life becomes badly impacted by a ruthless antagonist. The sudden resolution to the situation didn’t have me wanting to break off, either. Taylor’s pacing, as ever, is brilliantly handled and I loved the way our initial bonding or otherwise with the main characters goes on altering and developing throughout the book as we learn more about each of them.

Once more, I reached the end of the book with the story having been satisfactorily concluded, but nonetheless feeling a real sense of loss that there wasn’t more. This tends to be my default emotion when getting to the end of one of Taylor’s books – and it’s a struggle to keep from plunging straight into the next one.

Highly recommended for fans of near-future, character-driven stories where time travel features, but isn’t necessarily the engine powering the narrative. The ebook arc copy of Doing Time was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffbookreview #TheEmptyGravebookreview

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It took me a while to summon up the courage to listen to this slice of Lockwood & Co’s adventures, because it’s the last book in the series – and I so very much didn’t want the awesomeness to end…

BLURB: Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family’s past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle.

As is apparent from the blurb, this isn’t a series you can easily crash into. As each of the stories, while standalone for each of the mysteries they pose, adds another piece of the puzzle that Lockwood and his young associates are struggling to solve – what caused the Problem in the first place, some fifty years ago. Why did ghosts suddenly take to infesting the world of the living, causing fear, havoc and so many countless deaths?

By now, I am thoroughly at home with Lucy, the main protagonist whose dry humour leavens the creepier moments, and her companions – the dashing young Anthony Lockwood, clever, spiky George, precise and poised Holly and acerbic Kipps – not to mention Flo Bones and the Skull, who Lucy carries about in a rucksack in a jar. While this apparently a children’s book, there are plenty of moments that are genuinely creepy – sufficiently so that when my grandson was listening, he decided that he’d rather hear them during the day rather than when he was trying to get to sleep. In my opinion, this series is definitely more suited to the eleven to fifteen age-group, though this rather picky granny absolutely loved it.

There is a layering in the characterisation, a real sense of poignancy when dealing with Lockwood’s loss of his family and a depth of scene setting and worldbuilding that is a solid delight throughout. While I loved the Bartimaeus series, I’ve enjoyed Lockwood & Co even more, given those footnotes got a bit annoying halfway through.

As it is the final book in the series, there isn’t much to say that won’t immediately lurch into Spoiler territory – but don’t start at The Empty Grave, please do begin with the first book, The Screaming Staircase. Right now, I wish I had a timeturner so I could give it a twist and begin allll over again. I’m feeling drained and a tad emotional… the way you do when a world has sunk its hooks right into your heart and you know that even if you reread the story, you can’t ever experience it in quite the same way again. Highly recommended for everyone and an outstanding ending to an outstanding series.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 2nd October, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWW

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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 – Doing Time – Book 1 of The Time Police by Jodi Taylor

#Time travel #near future #spinoff series from the Chronicles of St Mary’s series

BLURB: At some time in the future, the secret of time-travel became available to all. Chaos ensued as people sought to take advantage. Because there will always be nutters who want to change history…

And so the Time Police were formed. Internationally sanctioned thugs whose task it was to keep the timeline straight by any and all means possible. And they succeeded. The Time Wars are over. The Time Police won. But who will win the peace?

As soon as I saw the cover and the blurb, it was a no-brainer that I’d request this one. I love the madcap adventures of the other nutters – the history buffs who inhabit St Mary’s – as they visit a variety of momentous occasions throughout history for the purposes of research, see my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another. And I won’t have long to wait. This offering is being released on 17th October – yippee!

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheWhisperingSkullaudiobookreview

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I loved Stroud’s Bartimaeus series – so tucked into the audiobook version of the first book, strongly encouraged by The Cap, who loved The Screaming Staircase – see my review here – to find it a joy. So it was only a matter of time before I treated myself to this, the second book in the series…

BLURB: In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom…

That is as much of the blurb as I’m willing to share – but I would say that if you have encountered this book without having yet had the pleasure of reading The Screaming Staircase, then don’t go any further. This is a complex, layered world and Stroud has designed these books to build on the narrative arc, therefore you’ll miss far too much that is important if you crash midway into this series. And yes… I regularly crash midway into series, so when I say ‘don’t’ I mean it.

This alternate contemporary world, where if someone dies violently or in unhappy circumstances, their ghosts can linger and at their most lethal, kill those unfortunate to encounter them. Adults and most children cannot see or sense these dangerous spirits, but a handful of children gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see, sense or hear these ghosts are employed by agencies to help neutralise them. Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle are three such teenagers, who prefer to work on their own instead of being directed by adults who can no longer take part in the really dangerous part of the work.
Artefacts which are strongly associated with a death can be possessed by one of these dangerous spirits. The authorities charged with trying to find a solution to The Problem, as this sudden widespread haunting is called, are keen to possess all such artefacts – but there is also a thriving black market in such objects. Lockwood & Co are aware of the fact, but when the job they are working on ends in sudden chaos and danger, they are charged to track down a particular artefact. Though it rapidly becomes apparent that this is a very dangerous undertaking.

However, the threat of death is never far away in this job, anyway… Stroud’s vivid, darkly threatening world once more pulled me in and Katie Lyon’s narration, while not quite as brilliant as Miranda Raison, is still gripping and effectively portrays Lucy’s first person viewpoint. I would add that as well as being genuinely creepy in places, Lucy’s sharp-edged observations are also very funny. All in all, this series is turning into one of the highlights of the year to date and I’m thrilled to discover that I have the other three audiobooks just waiting to be read. Lucky, lucky me!
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #TurningDarknessintoLightbookreview

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When I saw this spinoff novel in the world of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, I immediately bought it, even though we’re officially broke. There are limits, after all… we can always exist on fresh air and sunshine for a couple of weeks – but to go without a book like this? Nope – can’t do it.

BLURB: As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study. When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

Despite claims that this would be a good entry point to the Lady Trent series, my firm advice would be – don’t touch it until you have read the complete series, apart from anything else, the book contains big spoilers to Within the Sanctuary of Wings and frankly, because of the nature of the narrative, I think you’d be floundering a great deal of the time if you tried plunging into this world via this book. As it has an epistolary structure, containing diary entries, letters, notes and translations of ancient Draconean tablets, I think you need to already have a good idea of the world and the political structure.

That said, I really loved this one. Brennan’s writing talent pings off the page as I quickly bonded with Audrey, brought up to disregard the rigid conventions of polite society, and passionate about the Draconean civilisation. She also happens to have been born into a family of high achievers – her grandmother, Lady Trent, blazed a trail with her insights into the life cycles of a variety of dragon species and her father is a world-famous translator of ancient languages. Audrey, notwithstanding her youth, is desperate to also make her mark – more particularly since she was robbed of a claim to fame by someone she’d trusted. This need drives her more than it should – and leads her into making some major mistakes. Cora, unloved and disregarded, is also someone I fell for in a big way, as well as dear, kindly Kudshayn, the draconian translator who helps Audrey with her huge task in translating these tablets.

The translations are beautifully done and the scholarly exploration of the ancient religion compared with the modern variant is perfectly achieved, with the mythological stories so well written, it was a struggle at times to remember they were a fantastic conceit nested within a novel. The initial pacing is leisurely, but once the enormity of what is going on began to emerge, I simply couldn’t put this one down. While the theme of prejudice and bigotry was all too evident, the theme that caught my attention, was the way that intellectual arrogance is also a snare that caught most of the main characters in some way.

I found this a fascinating read that crawled under my skin – I’m sure it will be one of those that stays with me and the only reason it isn’t getting a solid 10 from me, is that I did find myself skimming some of the myths, particularly at the beginning. Highly recommended for fans of the Lady Trent Memoirs series.
9/10