I was drawn to the appealing cover and rather quirky blurb – would this one provide the upbeat, engrossing escapist read I was looking for?
BLURB: Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company.
But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy and family drama mix with an unexpected murder, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future…
REVIEW: I’ll be honest – I’ve been a bit bemused by the negative reviews for this entertaining and really different fantasy adventure. But I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of reviewers picked it up because of the allusion to the telepathic cat – and most fantasy adventures with a telepathic pet don’t generally come with steamy sex scenes. So I think this is more of a case of readers opening up this book thinking they were getting one type of story – and instead were confronted with something quite different. While that cover certainly didn’t help, given that it also doesn’t give any clue of the erotic charge running through this adventure.
As for me – I found Shine beguiling and enjoyed the rather claustrophobic, dangerous edge to this adventure as the Family, both mundanes and mages, gather for the annual fertility festival, where consenting adults get together for the purpose of creating more children. Routley’s worldbuilding is impressive as she creates a large family, riven with factions and infighting as the most powerful, entitled mages jockey for the prime positions. Shine is well down the pecking order, as she watches the man she has given her heart to flirt with other girls – and tries to keep away from her more unpleasant, bullying cousins. I kept waiting for her to discover that she had unexpected magical powers… And no, I’m not going to reveal if she does – but this one has lodged in my head and despite the fact that I’ve subsequently completed two other books, it won’t leave me alone.
As for the sex – yes, there are a couple of uncharacteristically raunchy scenes, but I didn’t find them unduly gratuitous. This is a society with a very relaxed attitude towards sex, especially at this time of the Festival, for it is important that there be more female children within the family, as it is female mages with most power. And the fact that Shine is a mundane with an unfortunate bloodline means she is regarded with contempt by many family members – there is nothing cosy about this bunch. But despite the fact it deals with some quite dark subjects, there is a bouncy energy and a lot of snarky humour that stopped it being a bleak read.
I will be reading more from this intriguing author – and if there is a sequel to this book, which feels as if there should be – then I’ll be hunting it down. While I obtained an arc of Shadow in the Empire of Light from the publishers 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.
A very Happy New Year to everyone! I’m conscious I’ve been AWOL over the Christmas break. We had planned to have a quiet Christmas with just Himself, my sister and me. But because of the introduction of the Tier system, my daughter and grandchildren were unable to spend the Christmas break with their other grandparents. And that meant we were buzzing around like blue-bottomed flies trying to organise a Christmas Day suitable for seven, with the youngest being two, instead of the low-key, relaxed affair we’d been expecting. We managed it and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, which is the important bit.
And we’ve also had the grandchildren to stay since then, this time around, it’s included little Eliza, who has never stayed overnight with us before. It is always full-on when there is a lively toddler in the house – but she is an absolute poppet, very even tempered and coped well without her mother.
Last week I read:
Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones.
Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds… This multiverse adventure is great fun and while the narrative is fairly straightforward – what sets this apart is the sheer variety and originality of alll those worlds poor old Zax ends up visiting. Review to follow.
Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company. But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy and family drama mix with an unexpected murder, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future… I’d seen a number of critical reviews for this one – but it turned out to be a delightful surprise, despite a couple of rather steamy sex scenes. However, I loved the character, the worldbuilding and the plotting. Review to follow.
Spirited by Julie Cohen Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her – and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye. . .
Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them – but Victorian society is no place for reckless women.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight.
Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom? This love story teeters on the edge of sentimentality – but there is an underlying core of grittiness that prevents it from descending into mush, thank goodness. That said, it is well written, the characters ping off the page and the ending worked well. Review to follow.
I Shall Wear Midnight – Book 4 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her. This is an utter joy. I laughed and wept with this one, as I listened while rushing around getting the house toddler-proofed and cranking Christmas up several gears to give the grandchildren a worthwhile day to remember. Review to follow.
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, happy holiday – and whatever is going on in your life, let’s hope 2021 is MUCH better than 2020! Take care. x
I picked this up as the cover intrigued me and the first couple of pages drew me in with the narrative tension and strong characterisation.
A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained blood red. A woman whose very existence has been erased. A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself. A deadly price that must be paid. The day of reckoning is here.
As blurbs go, it certainly doesn’t give away much of the story. So, given I’d plunged right into the middle of a long-running, established world, was it much of a struggle? No. Singh is very deft at providing enough context so that I quickly grasped the important aspects of the world and the laws that were now in place given humanity has evolved, with two lethal sub-species in the mix.
The narrative engine of this story is the tale of Kaleb and Sahara. That they have a tangled and rather fraught past is complicated by the fact that Sahara, for a variety of complex and spoiler-connected reasons, cannot recall this past. Another difficulty is that Kaleb is insanely powerful, with a mind that can teleport him anywhere on the planet in the blink of an eye. So what can undermine and cause havoc to such a very powerful protagonist? His fierce, single-minded love for a girl who may grow to hate him, once she becomes well enough to remember what he has done, that’s what. It’s a nifty plot device.
Singh writes with the brakes off, her prose is drenched with emotion and the tumult of her conflicted main characters. In less skilful hands, this could have descended into a parody of itself. But Singh manages to pull it off, because she writes with focus and conviction. This is mainly a love story and while I generally avoid books featuring romance, I was held by this particular narrative due to the sheer originality of the setup.
As far as the world went, it seems to hang together well enough, though details are somewhat sketchy – but that is more of an observation, rather than a criticism. Does the romance work and did I believe in it? Oh yes. But do be warned – the sex in this book is dialled up to steamy with a number of explicit scenes, and if you have a youngsters in your household in the habit of picking up your fantasy offerings, this may be one you wish to keep out of their reach.
Another reason I kept reading, although romantic and erotic fantasy aren’t generally sub-genres I enjoy, was that the actual love story is tender with a strong emotional connection between the characters. There is also plenty of danger and some good action scenes – other than those in the bedroom – which were also well written and enjoyable. Overall, I can well see why Singh is a New York Times bestselling author with this series. If you taste runs to sexy protagonists with more than a hint of danger around them, set in an interesting world, then track down this series, though I’d recommend to get the best out of it, head for the first book, Slave to Sensation.
I’ve read a slew of above average urban fantasy novels recently, and this is yet another to add to the list.
Cassandra Palmer can see the future and communicate with spirits – talents that make her attractive to the dead and the undead. The ghosts of the dead aren’t usually dangerous, they just like to talk… a lot. The undead are another matter. Like any sensible girl, Cassie tries to avoid vampires. But when the bloodsucking Mafioso she escaped three years ago finds Cassie again with vengeance on his mind, she’s forced to turn to the vampire Senate for protection. The undead senators won’t help her for nothing, and Cassie finds herself working with one of their most powerful members, a dangerously seductive master vampire – and the price he demands may be more than Cassie is willing to pay…
Yes, I know this all sounds very familiar – and I’m not going to claim that Chance is breaking the mould, but she has nevertheless provided a streetwise heroine whose wary, smart attitude chimes realistically with an orphan regularly besieged by horrifying images and ghosts. In such circumstances, surely you’d either become a gibbering wreck, or start adopting a cool sceptical stance to the world around you. And it is a fairly grim world, belied by Cassie’s laconic first person narrative.
Urban fantasy is usually often interspersed with violence and some sex, but if you do have precocious pre/early teens interested in your reading tastes in the household, do be aware that both the violence and sexual content of this book are dialled to adult tastes. Though I would also add that doesn’t mean the writing is in any way crude and while Chance describes some fairly hardcore scenes, she doesn’t go out of her way to shock.
There is also a cast of interesting characters. I like the fact that while the vampires are all dangerous, some are a lot more dangerous than others. The supernatural world has a set of rules that make sense and Chance allows us to discover them without holding up the narrative. The flashbacks Cassie experiences are well handled and never cause any confusion regarding the timeline, which is a far harder trick to pull off than Chances makes it look. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was in the hands of an experienced, skilful author, so I relaxed and allowed the story to roll forward. The climax and ending nicely tied up the narrative, while leaving Cassie in a sufficiently interesting place that I wanted to know how she’ll cope with her new situation.
All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining read – and certainly a great deal more fun than some of the clunkers I’ve recently been hurling across the room.
Being shallow and easily led, book covers really matter to me… And this one is wonderful – with an intriguing one-liner – This is where all stories start, on the edge of a dark wood. But is scooping up a book on the flimsiest of reasons a solid foundation for a really entertaining read?
Ever since moving to Fairwick to take up a teaching post at the local college, Callie has been having vivid, erotic dreams about a man made out of moonlight and shadows. Dreams she begins to fear as well as anticipate… I’m not relaying the rest of the back cover blurb as it reveals too much of the plot.
Firstly – for those of you with youngsters interested in reading your stuff – be aware that this is an erotically charged book, as her dream lover is interested in more than just gazing into her eyes… There are a number of bedroom scenes which, while not overly graphic by modern standards, are fairly steamy and brooding sensuality pervades the atmosphere of the book. However the appearance of her dream lover causes complications – one of them being that she is engaged to someone else. There are also some disturbing consequences to her dream lover’s attentions…
It won’t be a huge shock, I’m sure, if I disclose that things aren’t all they initially seem in the seemingly quiet, peaceful town of Fairwick. Callie is a well-rounded and appealing protagonist – and her acceptance of the situation when everything starts to go spooky and supernatural around her is well handled. I could believe that someone with her background and belief system would easily fall into accepting the situation without too many quibbles – which isn’t always the case when otherworldly inhabitants visit a primary world setting – I get a tad irritated at the speed with which many protagonists accept a supernatural character bouncing into their lives. I also enjoyed the cast of supporting characters, which Goodman depicts through the filter of the first person narrative.
Some reviewers have been unhappy at the pace of the book – but I enjoyed the sense of claustrophobia and growing unease that Goodman took time to build, which gives the climax extra punch. The ending is entirely satisfactory with a couple of disclosures I didn’t see coming – and one I did… While it ties everything up, I believe that this is the first in a series and that Water Witch and Dark Possession are now available. Will I be hunting them down? Oh yes – if only to discover if my hunch about Callie’s dream lover is correct… This dark-edged tale definitely lodges in the head.