Category Archives: feisty heroine

Review of Hardback Edition #Still Me by #Jojo Moyes #bookreview #bookblogreview #Brainfluffbookreview

Standard

I loved the first book in the series, Me Before You – see my review here – and when I mentioned to my lovely mother that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading this offering, she sent it to me as a present.

Lou Clark knows too many things . . . She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London. She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down. Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt. Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

I enjoyed the previous two books in this series – particularly that first amazing book, so does this one live up to the dazzlingly high bar set by the worldwide success, Me Before You? Frankly, no. But that doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t a thoroughly enjoyable, worthwhile read anyway. Let’s face it, Me Before You is an extraordinary tour de force and it’s unreasonable to expect many of those to the pound from a writer even as talented as Moyes.

Lou, as ever, leaps off the page in all her quirky oddness, working in New York as an assistant, waiting hand, foot and finger on Agnes, the second wife of Leonard Gopnik, an insanely rich banker. It was a fascinating ringside seat into the world of the super-rich as Lou scurries around to smooth Agnes’s way as she struggles to negotiate the social scene where wealthy wives are expected to spend their days attending charity events. As you may expect, given this is Lou, the job and her long-distance relationship with the gorgeous Sam doesn’t go according to plan…

Once again, I found this remarkably difficult to put down as Moyes provides a warm-hearted insight into the faultlines of modern life – this time on the other side of the Pond – without any sentimentality. Indeed, her observations on social injustice and the inherent indignity of growing old in a society where youth and beauty are highly prized, are sharply pointed. Lou once more finds herself thrown back on her own resources when it all hits the fan and her plans fall in a heap. One of the refreshing aspects of this series is the strength and comfort that Lou’s family provides, even when they are unable to support her materially in any way.

As for the romance threading through the story, it is both funny and touching by turns as you’d expect from Moyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I’m hoping that in due course, Moyes gives us another instalment from Lou Clarke’s life. Recommended for fans of contemporary life and romance.
9/10

Advertisements

Sunday Post – 22nd April, 2018

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.

The sun is shining! The last few days have been glorious as Spring has finally sprung. Grey skeletal branches are now fuzzed with the vivid new green of unfurling leaves and Friday was actually hot. I finally got to take my sister to Highdown Gardens and we wandered around in a haze of cherry blossom and primroses, while the bluebells are readying themselves for what promises to be a wonderful show this year. We have several fabulous bluebell woods nearby and this year, I must take her to see them.

I’ve had one of those weeks where I’ve been working hard without much to show for it. On Tuesday, I was at Northbrook for our catchup session that was cancelled due to the blizzard in March, while Tim and I are rolling up our sleeves and working through past papers, so he is thoroughly prepared in just over a month’s time when he sits his exam. On Wednesday, I was supposed to be out in the evening for my writing group, but had to cry off as I was smitten with a headache – unusual these days, but just occasionally it happens. I still felt a bit washed out on Thursday morning, but when Mhairi came over and continued helping with my latest marketing effort and we were able to load the new Dying for Space cover, I suddenly felt a great deal better – she has done such a fantastic job on it.

On Friday, Sally and I had a meeting with our local school regarding the COPE folder, which needs a fair amount of work before we hand it in, but we needed further advice on how to tackle some of the issues regarding cross-referencing and record-keeping sheets. Today I will be hard at it, getting the last of my admin and paperwork prepared for my Summer term courses, which start this coming Monday – and all three classes are running again this term, which is marvellous. I hope the weather is finally warming up for everyone else, too – I can’t believe what a difference just a few days of warm sunshine has made. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

This week I have read:

Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.
I loved the first book in this series, Me Before You, and if you have read it then you’ll know that Lou has had a time of it… This book doesn’t perhaps hit the high emotional peaks and lows of that amazing read – but nevertheless, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable story with some interesting things to say about the faultlines in US society, amongst the mayhem and Lou Clarke quirkiness. I’ll be reviewing this one.

 

Head On – Book 2 in the Lock In series by John Scalzi

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.
I was definitely suffering withdrawal symptoms from science fiction goodness, so scooped this one up. And loved it. The worldbuilding is really interesting with a fascinating dynamic around the Haden’s Syndrome that sees sufferers trapped in their paralysed bodies and using robots to once more integrate into society. A worthy successor to Lock In – see my review here.

 

One Way by S.J. Morden

It’s the dawn of a new era – and we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the company that’s been contracted to construct a new Mars base, has made promises they can’t fulfill and is desperate enough to cut corners. The first thing to go is the automation . . . the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll send to Mars, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all.

Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission to Mars with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. But as his crew sets to work on the red wasteland of Mars, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all.
As regards the setting and the colonisation efforts, I felt this aspect of the book was very well done. I was less convinced about the thriller holding it all together, though.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 15th April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Blood – Book 3 of the Jem Flockhart series by E.S. Thomson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

Cover reveal – Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy

Friday Face-off – Where there’s fire there’s… featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Review of The King’s Name – Book 2 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

 

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

Women in SF&F Month: Claire North http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2018/04/women-in-sff-month-claire-north/ Claire North of 84K fame has written this punchy, thought-provoking article at Kristen’s marvellous blog site. If you celebrate, or abhor the trend for strong, warrior women in SFF, then this is required reading…

#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR @Authoright https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2018/04/20/bookreview-wheelchairs-perjury-the-london-marathon-by-tim-marshall-authorightukpr-%e2%80%8fauthoright/ I don’t normally single out book reviews in this section – but I’m making an exception for this one. I was shocked at just how much I didn’t know about this slice of modern history…

5 of the Best Literary Travel Guides to Britain https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/18/five-of-the-best-literary-travel-guides-to-britain/ Once again, this excellent site delivers…

From the ‘Predicament’ series https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/from-the-predicament-series/ A pictures tells a thousand words – and sometimes a handful tell a lifetime.

6 Important Money Management Tips for Kids https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/from-the-predicament-series/ As a former teacher, I always felt this was a woefully neglected subject at school – Wanda, as ever, provides sensible, helpful advice for parents trying to put children on the right track with managing their money in a world where gambling has become an acceptable hobby and we can buy whatever we want with the click of a mouse.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The King’s Name – Book 2 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

Standard

I read the first book, The King’s Peace, in this superb series the Christmas before last – and it has taken far too long to track down this second book in this wonderful retelling of the Arthurian legend.

“The peace of the nation of Tir Tanagiri had been bitterly won. But after years of fighting against rival kingdoms and Jarnish invaders, the warrior Sulien ap Gwien and her lord, King Urdo, had finally won it, through great strength of arms – and greater strength of vision. For Sulien was inspired by Urdo’s dream of a kingdom ruled by justice, whose subjects all were equal under a single code of law. But where many see a hopeful new future for the land, others believe they sense the seeds of a new tyranny.”

Soon the land faces the terrible blight of civil war, and Sulien ap Gwien must take up arms again. But where once her enemies were barbarian invaders and unrepentent usurpers, now they are former comrades and loved ones. And as the conflict tears her country and her family apart, and life-long friends go to meet their destinies, Sulien must fight harder and harder to hold on to Urdo’s shining dream. Sulien is now older, though still a mighty warrior and now a Lord who has a settlement to protect and administer. Her son is now grown. This should be a time when the hardwon Peace carved out from years of bitter fighting and enforcement against the lawless banditry that had prevailed should be enjoyed. But Urdo has implacable enemies – and some of them are far closer than they should be…

Once again I was pulled into this tale of Sulien, the woman warrior, who has devoted her life to protecting the weak against the strong. Walton’s prodigious talent is once more evident as this tale of betrayal and scheming slides inexorably once more into warfare. Sulien, writing her memoirs years later, is devastated. I love her character as her sense of hurt rings off the page when Urdo’s attempts to broker a council to reach an agreement between the different factions fail and the country is braced once more for war. I was absolutely gripped even though I had a fairly good idea what happens. Walton’s version of the court of Camelot is layered with Sulien’s forthright views on the nobility along with conjecture and gossip. If you have ever read any of the Arthurian legends and become fascinated with that particular time, then this is a joy. I particularly like her take on Urdo’s wife, Elenn.

I finished this book with a lump in my throat as once again, Walton magnificently succeeds in creating a wonderful, magical time that has passed into our folklore and legends. And this retelling is right up there with the best of them.
10/10

As promised – here is the shiny new cover for Dying for Space!

Standard

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – I now have a new cover for Dying for Space. But in addition to the revamped face where Lizzy is clearly not dead OR inappropriately enjoying herself – there is an exploding spaceship!

Getting the cover right for this series has been something of a journey – and now that Running Out of Space is finally on track, it’s great to be able to offer the companion cover for the Dying for Space in the Sunblinded series. If you missed the free offer for Running Out of Space and would like to give it a go without risking your hardearned cash, it is now available here for free via Instafreebie.

Teaser Tuesday – 17th April, 2018

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

p. 174 The thought of being alone for a few days felt like a little oasis.
‘What would you like me to do while you’re gone?’ I asked.
‘Have some days off!’ she said, smiling. ‘You are my friend, Louisa! I think you must have a nice time while I am away. Oh, I am so excited to see my family. So excited!’ She clapped her hands. ‘Just to Poland! No stupid charity things to go to! I am so happy.’
I remembered how reluctant she had been to leave her husband even for a night when I had arrived. And pushed the thought away.

BLURB: Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past.
Like a fair proportion of the planet, I’ve read the first two books in this series and was delighted when my lovely mother sent me this hardback edition as a pressie. I’m again thoroughly caught up in Lou’s adventures, enjoying this feisty, amusing protagonist and her take on life.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Standard

And yes – true to form, it was the cover that sold this one. I loved that gold on black effect, which worked really well. And after reading Kristen’s review on her blog, Metaphor and Moonlight, I went ahead and requested it…

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic. When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

This is part of the rather chatty blurb, but gives you a good idea of Teddy at the start of the story. She is definitely rather scattered, but what you don’t immediately appreciate at the beginning of the book, is the fear underlying her bolshie attitude. She could immediately sense when anyone was lying, right from when she was a small child – and that terrified her. I liked the flaws and her apparent flakiness, which we discover has a solid cause. As a result, the book does take some time before the story gathers momentum and really hits its stride.

While the story is told from first person viewpoint via Teddy’s character, we also get to know a number of the other students, though because she has a tendency to hold them at arm’s length, we don’t perhaps know them quite as well as we would like. But it also means that when the twists come, it is a surprise.

Himself, being the paranoid sort, immediately worried about who would be monitoring such a potentially powerful tool as an establishment where people with psychic powers can be trained and moulded into law enforcement officers. I was pleased to see this aspect is addressed as the book progresses and this bodes well for the second book in the series, which should give us more of the political landscape and open up the whole issue of psychic warfare as a wider subject.

This is an enjoyable start to a series that promises to continue gaining traction as it progresses and I look forward to the next book. Recommended for fans of mental powers and school-based stories. While I obtained an arc of School for Psychics from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Cover reveal – Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

Standard

As you may know, I changed the covers for the first two books in the Sunblinded trilogy. Immediately, I noticed an improvement in my sales for Running Out of Space. However, as we sat down and looked at the last six months, cover maven, Mhairi and I realised that the new cover for Dying for Space had absolutely no impact. Not a single person felt drawn to buy it after the initial flurry died down after the book launch blog tour.

 

I wondered whether this one looked a bit ‘death mask’ and that was putting off potential readers, given the title is Dying for Space. Mhairi speculated that with the pink tint and her closed eyes, Lizzy looked as though she was… um… having a very nice time. And as I haven’t been targetting a readership interested in erotic fiction in space, Mhairi thought the possibility might be disuading readers from giving this one a go.

 

So she’s come up with this one, instead. It definitely still has the same branding as the first book, with the advantage that Lizzy is clearly alive if a tad pensive – and there is no possibility that this can mistaken for anything other than a space opera adventure featuring a heroine, whose action scenes take place outside the bedroom… This one is going live on Thursday, but I thought I’d share it with you all, first.

Do let me know what you think!

Sunday Post – 8th April, 2018

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.

We had a fairly quiet Easter week-end, partly due to the weather which was atrocious. It rained unceasingly with a biting wind. We hunkered down indoors and I appreciated not having to turn out for lessons and plunged back into bleeping Miranda’s Tempest. This book is driving me crazy – as soon as I think I’ve nailed the story, another aspect suddenly occurs and I need to add that into the mix. I managed to get to my writer’s group on Wednesday evening. It was the first time I’ve made it in a month, where – after regaling my long-suffering writing buddies with yet another instalment – we were wondering whether turning Miranda into a porn story would work. Lots of hilarity ensued when we worked out that a number of torrid sex scenes could be set on the good ship Titania, culminating in the underwater orgy involving nereids… I really needed that chance to laugh at the whole thing and I don’t think it was an accident that the next time I got a real run at it, the writing suddenly went a lot better. Bless them – nothing like friends to help ground you…

And talking of friends – my mate Mhairi came over on Thursday with her arm in a sling, having broken her radius. It was great seeing her and having a chance catch up. Other than that, I’ve been working and spending time with my sister, popping out for cups of tea and the occasional sticky bun. We haven’t yet got to Highdown Gardens to see the spring flowers because I’m not up for trudging in the rain or braving the biting wind. We have the grandchildren staying over this week-end and we’re hoping to get there today – fingers crossed! In the meantime, have a lovely week and I hope Spring is finally warming up with you – it’s still on the chilly side here.

 

This week I have read:

Remnants of Trust – Book 2 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Corp denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders.
I love a really quality space opera adventure where characterisation powers the story through a detailed, interesting world – and that’s exactly what I’ve got with this engrossing second book. I’m delighted that the third one will shortly be on the library shelves, ready for me to scoop up.

 

School for Psychics – Book 1 in the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.
I’ve always got a soft spot for school–based adventures and I enjoyed this one, too. Though there were times when I did wonder a bit about the behaviour of the protagonist – she seems very impulsive and rather self destructive in her behaviour. But as the story progresses some intriguing aspects surface and she matures sufficiently to start trusting the team of friends and colleagues around her. I am keen to know how the dangling plotpoint will play out in the next slice of this adventure.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 1st April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Teaser Tuesday featuring School for Psychics – Book 1 of the School for Psychics series by K.C. Archer

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna

Friday Face-off – It’s a family affair… featuring The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein

Review of Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Running Out of Space is free today!

 

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

A Dictionary of Unusual and Preposterous Words https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/06/a-dictionary-of-unusual-and-preposterous-words/ If you are remotely interested in words, then this is something to check out…

Fatalism and Futility in Film Noir https://silverscreenclassicsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/fatalism-and-futility-in-film-noir/ This is a fascinating indepth article I came across that will interest anyone who loves the film noir genre.

Why are reviews unpopular as blog posts? #Bookblogger #Bookbloggers #Blogger #Bloggers #Blog https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/why-are-reviews-unpopular-as-blog-posts-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blog/ An interesting – and slightly depressing post – for those of us who write LOTS of books review…

Romance in Fantasy: Love is Not Dumb, it’s Dopamine http://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2018/03/romance-in-fantasy-love-is-not-dumb-its-dopamine/ I found this article really interesting – if you are a fantasy fan, it’s worth reading…

A Follycon comedy video and a podcast on The Green Man’s Heir http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2914 This is an article from Juliet McKenna, just pleased at the reaction for her stormingly good novel The Green Man’s Heir – but please also check in for the spoof panel on Men in Science Fiction Writing. Hilarious, but also with a real point to make. I haven’t seen women patronised to QUITE this extent over the years on panels at Cons – but at times, it’s been very close…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Running Out of Space is Free Today!

Standard

No… you don’t have to go on a bread and water diet to afford the princely sum of 99 cents or 99p – you can keep your hard-earned cash AND acquire a bit of space opera goodness in your life, as Running Out of Space, Book 1 of the Sunblinded trilogy is free today.

 

The blurb…

Lizzy Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

Lizzy and her friends weren’t looking for trouble – all they’d wanted was to prove that fertile English girls could handle themselves when on shore leave without being accompanied by a sour-faced chaperone and armed guard. Looking back, maybe taking a jaunt off-limits on Space Station Hawking wasn’t the best idea – but no one could have foreseen the outcome. Or that the consequences of that single expedition would change the lives of all four girls, as well as that of the stranger who stepped in to save them.

Now Lizzy has more excitement and danger than she can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

The opening…

Yeah, I know – Basement Level on Space Station Hawking – what were we thinking? But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of one chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than shipwear throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Jessica punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Lizzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alisha and Sonja started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even look our way, let alone thank us for making sufficient room.

Sonja and Alisha stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Sonja wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

 

Review of KINDLE Ebook Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Standard

This cool cover caught my eye a while ago, and as Rydill is also a Grimbold author, I added it to my Kindle. And there it stayed for far too long until I needed some fantasy in my life.

When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel.

That’s as much as I’m prepared to share of the rather chatty blurb, which gives the impression that it is a children’s book, due to the young protagonist. However, to be honest, that isn’t how it read. It doesn’t even have a YA vibe. Young Annat is extremely precocious – and like many youngsters growing up in difficult places at difficult times – very observant of the adults around her. Thus we get a sharp-edged look at tangled, often painful adult relationships through the eyes of someone not yet fully able to understand the power and misery of doomed love affairs.

I really enjoyed this perspective. Annat’s unfolding relationship with her formally estranged father is extremely well handled and certainly rings true to someone who also had an absent father when growing up. I am also impressed at the way Rydill approaches the shifting dynamic between Annat and her older brother. Previously, when they were both living with her aunt, her brother is the special one as he is singled out for his academic cleverness. However, once they are tipped into the middle of this adventure with their charismatic, unstable and magically gifted father, who drags them along on a journey filled with physical hardship and constant danger – it is Annat’s growing powers and stoical toughness that gets the paternal approval, while he merely sighs over her brother’s timidity and clumsiness.

I’m aware I may have given the impression that this is all about relationships within a family dynamic – perhaps clustered around the kitchen table. In reality, it is nothing of the sort. This book is full of adventure, ranging from action surrounding a steam train to a castle stronghold controlled by a fanatical lord, intent on executing anyone who doesn’t share his beliefs. Once I opened it up, it was always difficult to put this one down again. And since I have finished reading it, I have found myself thinking about those cleverly nuanced characters and wondering how I would have coped in those circumstances.

The good news is that this is the first in a series and I won’t be leaving it too long before once more getting back in touch with Annat and her family. Highly recommended for fans of quality fantasy.
9/10