Category Archives: feisty heroine

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Waste of a Life – Book 3 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WasteofaLifebookreview

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I always enjoy Brett’s twisty plotting and sardonic view on contemporary life in England – see my reviews of Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. I also have enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations. But I’ve a particularly soft spot for his current heroine, Ellen Curtis in the Decluttering Mysteries, see my reviews of The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So I was delighted to discover that another book in this entertaining series is hitting the shelves.

BLURB: Declutterer Ellen Curtis has been working to bring order into the life of Cedric Waites, a recluse in his eighties who hasn’t left his house or let anyone inside it since his wife died. On one of her regular visits, Ellen finds the old man dead.

Sad but, given his age, perhaps not unexpected. Nothing to get worked up about . . . until the police raise the suspicion that Cedric might have been poisoned! The cause seems be something he ate, and as Ellen cleared away the old man’s food containers, she is under suspicion. As is Dodge, who works for Ellen and has unhelpfully done a runner . . .

Meanwhile, a rival declutterer is out to sabotage Ellen’s reputable business, her two grown-up children are back home and in crisis, and she has a potential love interest. Ellen’s life has taken on a chaotic turn of its own! Can she uncover the killer and bring order back to her own life?

REVIEW: Before I go further, I need to mention a trigger warning – in Ellen’s past there is a suicide. While this book doesn’t go into huge detail about the event, ten years later it still reverberates through Ellen’s life in a poignant and realistic manner.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, don’t be deterred from enjoying this one. Like many murder mystery series, while there is a narrative arc for the main protagonist, each whodunit is resolved within the book so you won’t be left to flounder. And an author of Brett’s skill and experience doesn’t do such things to his readers, anyway. I have huge affection for Ellen. She is at an age where she is of the middle generation squeeze – still looking after grown-up children, neither of whom are particularly thriving, as well as confronted with an ageing and increasingly frail mother. It doesn’t help that she isn’t on particularly good terms with her mother or her daughter.

I like Brett’s unsentimental approach to family life. There is often a rather unrealistic gloss around the key relationship between mothers and daughters in genre fiction, unless it is the darker psychological sort, or gritty murder mysteries. But while there is definitely a bedrock of love and concern in the relationship between Ellen and her children, she is also extremely careful to step around their adult sensibilities. The result is often poignant and humorous. In amongst all this family angst, Ellen is having to continue her daily routine – also refreshingly realistic.

The murder mystery in this story is a slow burn that gradually gains momentum. I won’t claim that the murderer is a huge surprise. But I wasn’t sure they would be satisfactorily uncovered so the police could step in – and I’m not telling you if that happens, as then we’d be lurching into Spoiler territory. Once more, I was pulled into this story to the extent that I didn’t put it down until I’d reached the end, so I read it in two greedy gulps. Highly recommended for fans of the gentler sort of murder mystery that nonetheless has an edged look at modern life. While I obtained an arc of Waste of a Life from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TreadofAngelsbookreview

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I enjoy Rebecca Roanhorse’s writing, see my reviews of Trail of Lightning and Black Sun. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of the arc of this intriguing novella, I jumped at the chance.

BLURB: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector…

REVIEW: I have cut short the rather chatty blurb and recommend that you give it a miss if you don’t want your reading experience Spoilt. Given this isn’t a long read, you really don’t want to go into it knowing more than the bare essentials.

I quickly bonded with Celeste, who hasn’t had an easy time of it. Her overwhelming need to keep her sister safe within a rapacious society where the Fallen are automatically at the bottom of the heap shines through. I found her protectiveness endearing, especially when I realised the price she’d already paid to keep looking after Mariel. This drive certainly informs her actions throughout the rest of the book, when a grisly murder occurs and Mariel is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hadn’t initially appreciated that this was a novella, or I had and then completely forgot about it by the time I got around to reading it, which is probably more likely. But it’s a tricky length to write well and only a relatively few authors manage to pull it off entirely successfully, in my experience.

I was impressed at how much of the world and scene setting unfolds within the narrative, as Celeste desperately scrambles to exonerate her sister. It’s a fascinating world, where the Fallen are immediately identified by their eye colour and because their ancestors happened to be on the wrong side of a heavenly war – they are automatically a downtrodden underclass. However, it’s the Fallen who can identify the valuable remains of Abaddon, whose body fell to Earth during the war. While the Elect reap the financial rewards, it’s the Fallen who have to mine the precious element that powers their Divine inventions. This tension is played out within Celeste’s family, as her Elect father took her away from the rough mining town that is Goetia to mix with respectable Elect society while Mariel and their Fallen mother had to stay behind. Once their father died, Celeste immediately returned to look after her sister feeling guilty and ashamed at having abandoned her and promising never to do so again.

I was swept along by Celeste’s increasing desperation – and a bit floored by the ending. While it certainly works and has had me thinking a lot about the outcome, I’m also left with wanting more. The world is interesting and I found Celeste and Mariel’s adventure riveting, but ultimately also a tad frustrating, as I felt the story ended a bit abruptly. I want to know how both Celeste and Mariel cope with the sudden change in their circumstances. I very much hope that Roanhorse will revisit this world in the future – more please! While I obtained an arc of Tread of Angels from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of NETGALLEY arc The Ivory Tomb –Book 3 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheIvoryTombbookreview

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I’m a huge fan of Caruso’s writing – see my reviews of her Sword and Fire series – The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire. And the misery of lockdown and Long Covid were eased more than a tad by the first two books in this Rooks and Ruin series – see my reviews of The Obsidian Tower and The Quicksilver Court.

BLURB: The Dark Days have returned. The Demon of Carnage mercilessly cuts through villagers and armies. The Demon of Corruption poisons/rots the land. The Serene Empire and the Witch Lords race towards war. And in the middle of it all stands Rxyander, the Warden of Gloamingard.

Burdened by conflicting loyalties and guilt, Ryx searches desperately for a way to defeat the demons before the world she loves is completely destroyed. To find answers, she’ll have to return to where it all started…the black tower at the heart of Gloamingard.

By blood the Door was opened and only by blood will the Dark Days end.

REVIEW: Firstly, whatever you do – don’t plunge into this slice of the adventure without reading the previous two books in the series. Caruso’s writing creaks with tension, plot twists and dangerous, unpredictable characters so that you won’t be in a position to appreciate the full awesomeness of the worldbuilding and some telling developments if you don’t have a full picture of what came before. And no… the helpful summary at the beginning of the book is designed to bump-start your memory, not act as replacement for reading the previous books.

One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about the above point is the glorious manner in which Ryx develops throughout the series. She goes from being shunned and desperately lonely without knowing why she has been so cursed at the start of the first book, to coming to terms with who she is and what she’s done by the end of the final book. There is a major reveal that explains a lot about her character and the formidable talent she has for causing mayhem during the second book, which also impacts on the action during The Ivory Tomb in a major way.

In epic fantasy, there nearly always is an overarching threat to the world. Most of the time, the fullest extent of said threat doesn’t come to pass. However this time around, the hammer has fallen and the world is reeling from devastating attacks on several fronts. This keeps the action and tension full on, as Ryx and the Rooks race from one crisis to another in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. Sometimes, such ongoing full-scale devastation comes at the expense of characterisation and description – not so in The Ivory Tomb. Caruso’s skill is evident as she manages to keep all those vital plates spinning, while keeping the pacing dialled up and the action thick and fast. I stayed up far later than intended to discover what happens and whether the denouement and ending matches the eventful, risk-ridden journey. It does.

It’s always something of a wrench when a much-loved series comes to an end, but Caruso brings the Ruin and Rook series back home in triumphant style, with real poignancy and emotion. This wonderful finale is one of my outstanding reads of 2022 and very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of The Ivory Tomb from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Children of Memory – Book 3 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ChildrenofMemorybookreview

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I was blown away by Children of Time see my review, which I think is one of the best terraforming adventures I’ve ever read. So I was especially keen to read Children of Ruin, which I didn’t think was so successful, though that was partly because it was extremely ambitious – see my review. It goes without saying that Children of Memory is one of my must-reads of the year – for starters, I was intrigued to see where Tchaikovsky was going with this story and how many of his highly unusual cast in this series would appear.

BLURB: Earth is failing. In a desperate bid to escape, the spaceship Enkidu and its captain, Heorest Holt, carry its precious human cargo to a potential new Eden. Generations later, this fragile colony has managed to survive, eking out a hardy existence. Yet life is tough, and much technological knowledge has been lost.

Then Liff, Holt’s granddaughter, hears whispers that the strangers in town aren’t from neighbouring farmland. That they possess unparalleled technology – and that they’ve arrived from another world. But not all questions are so easily answered, and their price may be the colony itself.

REVIEW: I loved the early section of the book which quickly drew me in. Liff is a delightful and sympathetic character, who is just at the age when questioning the status quo is what she should be doing. Unfortunately, this isn’t a society where any form of dissent is welcomed, particularly where her uncle is concerned. Sometimes, this merely causes a bit of family tension, other times her questions are met with blows and punishment. Time is highly mutable in this tale and we revisit key events with very different outcomes.

I enjoyed once more meeting Kern, Portia, Paul and Miranda in their current iterations as they grapple with the puzzle that lies at the heart of the colony. But about of the third of the way through, the pace stuttered. Obviously in a book dealing with time loops, there is a degree of repetition. But I did feel that there were just too many dialogues between the ravens that essentially ended up with them being stumped. And while their back and forth was initially amusing, by the final section I frankly hoped that someone in the colony would shoot the wretched birds and save me from yet another conversation between them.

Fortunately, Liff’s predicament and Miranda’s quirky character kept me turning the pages, along with the examination of memory, guilt and the role of outsiders within a closed society, all of which were nested within the story. The pace once more picked up again in the final section as Tchaikovsky drew all the elements together. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, which left me moved. I don’t recommend you tuck into this one if you haven’t read at least one of the previous books in the series. Besides, Children of Time is definitely a treat if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. And while in my opinion, neither of the subsequent books in the series quite reach the same heights, both are interesting and thought-provoking reads. While I obtained an arc of Children of Memory from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Terraforming Mars: Edge of Catastrophe – Book 2 of the Terraforming Mars series by Jane Killick #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #EdgeofCatastrophebookreview

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I read and reviewed the first book in the series, In the Shadow of Deimos, and thoroughly enjoyed it – see my review. So when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I was delighted to be given an opportunity to scoop up the arc.

BLURB: Return to the Red Planet as the saga of Terraforming Mars continues, in a sweeping science fiction thriller of planetary progress, set in the universe of the award-winning boardgame

In the 26th century, Mars is thriving: the huge crater made by the crashed moon of Deimos is now a vast domed city, buzzing with industry and a burgeoning Martian-born and immigrant workforce. Ecoline scientist Mel Erdan is at the forefront of vital research to feed and maintain Mars’ increasing population. But when her viral enhancer transforms lush green plants into a blackened swathe of dead crops, it triggers a wave of violent unrest across Deimos City, and Mel is accused of deliberately sabotaging Mars’ fragile viability. With resources rapidly dwindling, conspiracy theories flying, and criminal gangs rioting, Mel must prove her innocence, uncover the truth, and revitalise Mars’ harvest before it’s too late – for everyone.

REVIEW: As mentioned in the blurb, this book series is based on the popular boardgame Terraforming Mars – a fact that I hadn’t realised until I came to review the first book. And if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know on reading the book, so please don’t give it a thought, unless you’re a particular fan of the game and want to spend more time in the world.

As you might think from a spin-off, the world is well established with a strong backstory and believable history, with a nicely detailed social and political landscape that collide as tensions grow and food supplies dwindle. I really like Mel, whose dedication and sense of duty drives her to try and put right the horrible error that creates the virus. However, this time around there is a sub-plot around a group of young workers who are deeply unhappy with the status quo and want Mars to have more freedom from Earth. In the earlier stages of the story, I found it difficult to fully sympathise with their actions – although I’m well aware that the stunts they pull are all too realistic.

I guessed who the main villain was behind the troubles well before the denouement, although that didn’t particularly impede my enjoyment as by that stage the story is rocketing along at a fair lick. While this story doesn’t have quite the tension and finesse of the previous book, it still provides plenty of excitement and page-turning action that had me sorry when it all came to an end. While I obtained an arc of Edge of Catastrophe from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Murder Most Royal – Book 3 of Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series by S.J. Bennett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #MurderMostRoyalbookreview

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I was in the mood for something a bit different, when this offering caught my eye. I was initially a bit hesitant – until I saw that Samantha Bond was narrating this one which gave me confidence to go for it. I particularly didn’t want to plough through some second-rate parody of Her Majesty, especially in the wake of her sudden death.

BLURB: December 2016 – A severed hand is found washed up on a beach next to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Elizabeth has become quite accustomed to solving even the most complex of murders. And though she quickly identifies the 70-year-old victim, Edward St Cyr, from his signet ring, the search for his killer is not so straightforward. St Cyr led an unconventional, often controversial life, making many enemies along the way in the quiet, rural world of North Norfolk, where everyone knows each other’s business.

But when a second man is found dead, and a prominent local woman is nearly killed in a hit-and-run, the mystery takes an even darker turn. With the Christmas break coming to an end, the Queen and her trusted assistant Rozie must race to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Or the next victim may be found even closer to home.

REVIEW: I’m so glad that I went for this one. It’s a joy. Although it’s the third book in the series, I was blissfully unaware of the previous two books until I came to write up this review so don’t worry if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other books – neither have I. Yet.

Set in 2016, the Queen is a battling a head cold as she and Prince Philip travel to Sandringham for the usual Christmas festivities. I loved the little additions, like the Queen’s chat with the PM. In fact, Bennett’s writing is enormously clever – she manages to avoid pinning the Queen down to any strong political opinion, which is entirely realistic. But neither does Her Majesty come across as too wishy-washy either. The only moment when I wasn’t completely happy with the depiction of the Queen is when she chooses to go wandering across the field, when the sensible option would be to stay in the Range Rover. But that is a minor niggle set against the rest of the book. In addition to the Queen, I loved Prince Philip’s character and the staff. I thought the relationship between the Queen and the royal household was very well done, particularly Rozie Oshodi, her Assistant Private Secretary.

As for the murder mystery, it’s a slow burn affair that throws out all sorts of puzzling details which at once stage had me wondering how the murder mystery was going to be wrapped up. I needn’t have worried. Bennett is clearly an experienced and able writer, who delivers a thoroughly enjoyable denouement. There were times when I listened to this with a lump in my throat for the loss of the amazing lady who ruled over us for a whole generation. Highly recommended for fans of quirky murder mysteries that is also well researched with a wealth of historical detail. I’m looking forward to tracking down the previous two books. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Murder Most Royal from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc And Justice for Mall – Book 4 of the Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series by E.J. Copperman #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AndJusticeforMallbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous books I’ve read in this entertaining cosy mystery series – see my reviews of Inherit the Shoes and Witness for the Persecution – so when I spotted this one on the Netgalley dashboard, I immediately requested it.

BLURB: When Riley Schoenberg strides into family lawyer Sandy Moss’s office without knocking and coolly sits down, Sandy’s more irritated than amused. She has a client meeting to prepare for, and being interrupted by an eleven-year-old girl is not on her to-do list.
But then Sandy hears Riley’s pitch, and it’s a killer one: Riley’s father’s been convicted of murdering her mother . . . and the oddly intimidating pre-teen will do anything to get him out of jail.

Sandy, in turn, will do anything to get Riley out of her office. Which includes agreeing to look into her dad’s case for free. A decision she regrets when it turns out Riley’s inheritance has made her a multi-millionaire. Still, Sandy’s determined to get Riley the answers she needs. There’s just one tiny problem: Riley might be convinced her father’s innocent, but Jack Schoenberg is insisting he did it.

REVIEW: Yet another legal tangle for our feisty heroine, Sandy Moss, to solve. It could so easily be full of fraught, angsty emotions – after all there isn’t anything at all funny about a pre-teen with a murdered mother desperate to get her convicted father out of prison. But somehow, Copperman’s protagonist manages to make almost all the situations she gets herself in genuinely funny – without diminishing the upset surrounding said situations.

Young Riley certainly tugs at our heartstrings – though not because she breaks down and weeps. She’s had a hard time of it since her mother’s death and doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. I found her tough front particularly poignant, given that children of her age shouldn’t have to be so streetwise and wary of their emotions. So when she does crack, it’s a big deal and I thought Copperman dealt with her character really well, having spent time with children of her age who have also suffered a similar lack of love.

As for Sandy, she is also house-hunting with the love of her life, gorgeous actor Patrick McNabb. It rapidly gets very complicated, as Sandy is frankly overwhelmed with the outlandish luxury that Patrick is accustomed to, yet she also is mindful that he’s got a lot of stuff that needs room. So they need to find somewhere large enough for their needs, but not too large and overblown – and she’s also aware that if she finds something that she wants, Patrick will immediately agree to it whether he likes it or not. I found this sub-plot endearing and a bit of light relief when events take a sudden, darker turn. Perhaps it’s Copperman’s gift of making sure there are lighter moments while the rest of Sandy’s investigations are getting dangerous that keeps the humour coming, without it appearing crass or insensitive.

I thought the denouement worked well and that the main murder mystery was successfully tied up. There’s a possible cloud on the horizon regarding Sandy’s happiness that I may have spotted… I’m hoping I’m wrong. But I can’t wait to dive into the next book, anyway, because there’s bound to be tension and adventure, alongside Sandy’s lovely dry humour. Recommended for fans of legal murder mysteries with a splash of ironic humour. While I obtained an arc of And Justice for Mall from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 23rd November, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – The Luminaries by Susan Dennard – release date – 26th January, 2023

#YA #magic adventure #feisty heroine

BLURB: Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you…

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town―and the rest of humanity―from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal―and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie must enlist the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for. Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

I thoroughly enjoyed Truthwitch and Windwitch, so when I saw this one on Tammy’s blog, I immediately nicked across to Netgalley to see if it was available – and was delighted when I was approved for an arc. It sounds as if there’s a slight Hunger Games vibe going on, which I’m happy about if it’s being handled by an experienced author like Dennard.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK arc The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheThirty-OneDoorsbookreview

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I’ve a weakness for country house historical murder mysteries and that intriguing cover set in a very snowy landscape caught my eye. So I was delighted when I received an audiobook arc for this tale.

BLURB: Scarpside House is famed for its beauty, its isolation and its legendary parties.
Tonight, it hosts the Penny Club soiree, an annual gathering of lucky men and women from all walks of life, coming together to celebrate their survival against the odds.
But this year, their luck is running thin. Accidents do happen, after all….
And some are long overdue….

REVIEW: The premise is a very familiar one – there’s a country house full of guests with murky pasts which make them either liable to murder their fellow party-goers, or be murdered due to something they’ve done. And no… when it becomes obvious that there’s a serial murderer on the loose, they can’t just rush to the front door and summon their chauffeur, because this house can only be accessed by a funicular ride. And someone sabotages it after our plucky detective arrives.

I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. Hulme’s prose is lush and highly descriptive, both of her characters and Scarpside House, evidently going for a gothic vibe. However this sub-genre demands loads of tension and fraught sense of wrongness, tipping into horror at times. That means that the reader needs to be invested in at least the main character, so that when Detective Sergeant Frank Glover is in peril, or at least struggling with the investigation – we need to care. Despite David Morley Hale’s excellent narration, I never really bonded with Glover. I found his initial aloofness towards the recently bereaved guests rather off-putting. We spent a great deal of time in his head as he roamed around Scarpside House on a ceaseless hunt for clues, when he mused about the loss of his mother as a small boy and his feelings for a young woman who was caught up in a previous case he was working on. I thought him rather self-absorbed and didn’t like him all that much. This was a problem as we are clearly supposed to care about him when he gets into several dangerous situations. Whereas I worried more about poor Dotty.

The other issue is the constant over-description of the house. Hulme clearly has a vivid visual imagination, but I really didn’t need an intricate description of the colour of the walls in every single bedroom or the curtains, cushions and carpets. It defuses much of the tension built up by the growing body count. The creepy atmosphere caused by the snowstorm and the knowledge that there is at least one highly dangerous person roaming around the building is also compromised by the over-long descriptions as it slows the pace far too much and took my attention away from what really matters.

I wasn’t convinced that Glover would have co-opted Dotty, the servant in quite the way he did – but I was prepared to suspend my disbelief on that score as she is the only person in the book I really liked. The tone of murder mystery did seem rather overblown at the beginning, instead of building up that sense of dark wrongness that permeates a gothic thriller, so I wondered if Hulme would pull off a successful denouement that adequately explained all the rather elaborate and varied styles of killing. I think she manages it, just about.

I’m aware that writing a classic murder mystery these days, with a nod to those who went before, takes a great deal of technical skill. While I was never tempted to DNF this one, as I was invested sufficiently to stick to the end to discover whodunit, I do think Hulme’s editor should have been more rigorous with the red pen and murdered a few more of her descriptive passages along with the various victims. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Thirty-One Doors from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Sorcerer’s Edge – Book 3 of The Tethered Citadel series by David Hair #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #SorcerersEdgebookreview

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I loved the first two books in this highly readable epic fantasy adventure – Map’s Edge and World’s Edge, so I was delighted when the publisher contacted me and asked if I’d like an arc of this final book.

BLURB: After all they’ve suffered, rebel sorcerer Raythe Vyre and his fortune-seekers are still empty-handed, but they’ve found real treasure: peace.

Deep inside the Ice wastes, Raythe’s people stumbled upon Rath Argentium, the legendary Aldar city, and the long-lost Tangato people. After fighting through betrayal, treachery and powerful magic, they forged a hard-won treaty with the Tangato and their extraordinary queen, Shiazar. Now they’ve put aside their dreams of wealth and revenge and embraced something better: a life outside the tyrannical Bolgravian Empire. But the Bolgravian Empire never gives up.

The empire hasn’t forgotten Raythe Vyre, and his enemies know where he is. Guided by Toran Zorne, the implacable imperial assassin, they are coming to claim Rath Argentium for themselves. Raythe and Shiazar know all too well that courage and cunning won’t be enough this time: they are outnumbered, out-gunned and out of time. Faced with total annihilation, it’s up to Raythe to find an edge . . .

REVIEW: In many ways, this epic fantasy has a slightly old-school feel. That isn’t bad by any means – I’ve loved the strong story-telling, the constant plots twists and intelligent character progression throughout. And I particularly enjoyed The Story So Far… summation at the start, which nicely reminded me of a number of details that I’d have forgotten. A pity that other authors don’t do it – though I suppose they are worried about readers coming across this one without having read the previous books and thinking that a condensed account would suffice. If you do encounter this one without having read the previous books, despite the handy catch-up notes, my firm advice would be to put this offering down and track down Map’s Edge instead. This classy, well-written adventure is far too good to compromise by not reading it in its entirety.

Over the previous two books, there are a handful of outstandingly unpleasant antagonists that I’ve loved to hate. So it was enjoyable to be confronted with them again – and this time around in far more detail, so that I got to know exactly what their motivations were. Once more, Hair has taken some of my assumptions, played with them and bounced them on their head, which put a certain powerful woman in a completely different light. I love it when that happens. The story starts with a bang and goes on delivering yet more surprises and shocks so that instead of going to bed at a reasonably sensible time, I stayed up faaar too late into the night to discover what happened next.

The setting is vividly realised, the characters nicely complex and changing in reaction to the privations and danger they’ve been undergoing, and the plotting masterfully handled. All in all, this is a cracking ending to an excellent epic fantasy adventure that I’ve loved from start to finish. Very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of Sorcerer’s Edge from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10