In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’m back to Bexhill, where I was on a writing retreat with my sister in law at the end of September/beginning of October. These were a number of pictures I took throughout our stay. And in the final morning, before we started packing to leave, we had breakfast on the balcony, watching the sunrise as a final farewell from Bexhill to us…
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with FORESTS OR JUNGLES. I’ve selected Hatchet – Book 1 in the Brian’s Saga series by Gary Paulsen.
This offering was produced by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in April 2000, but as it is one of the default covers for this successful book, over the years a number of publishers have used this design. I can see why – the young protagonist is featured on the cover with the thick Canadian wilderness in the background and the hatchet featured as an overlay. The blocky treatment of the artwork ensures that it stays eye-catching even when in thumbnail and the blue title font is still readable. That said, I don’t particularly love it – and it isn’t the cover that induced me to buy the book for my son, when he was a struggling reader and I was trying to encourage him to persevere.
Published in December 2006 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, this is the cover that came to mind when I saw this week’s FF theme. And the one on the cover of the book I bought my son all those years ago, as this is the other default cover. I love the forested landscape with the hatchet superimposed across it. It gives a sense of the scale of poor Brian’s plight in a way I don’t think the other one does. I also prefer the punchy title and author font. What I don’t like is that nasty silver blob that detracts from the overall design. Just look at the two covers without the blob and you can see the entirety of the designs and much better they look. This one is so nearly my favourite.
This edition, published in December 2006 by Simon Pulse books, has flipped the previous design into night-time mode – and what a difference it makes to the tone and mood of the book. I love it and think it is beautiful – but that’s why this one isn’t getting my vote. This cover sings out paranormal shapeshifter to me – which is completely the wrong genre.
This edition, published in 1996 by Macmillan Children’s Books, is a stunning cover. The hatchet isn’t being used to chop wood, or build shelters – a desperate Brian is using the hatchet to make fire… I love this one. It’s eye-catching, beautiful and absolutely sums up the struggle for survival. The notch in this blade is apparently designed for a ‘hardcore survivalist hatchet, underlining that this is probably the different between life and death for Brian. This one is my favourite.
This 30th Anniversary edition, published by Pan Macmillan UK in March 2017, is another fabulous cover. The huge grizzly, with the isolated landscape and the small plane flying against a setting sun is stunningly beautiful. I don’t like to nitpick – though I’m going to anyway – but I don’t recall this book being allll about a grizzly bear called Hatchet. And I think that’s the impression you might come away with, when you see this cover. Or perhaps, because it’s the anniversary edition of a much-loved book, the publishers figured most people buying it would know the basic story. But I don’t think that’s an assumption publishers can afford to make. What do you think?
In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’m back to Bexhill, where I was on a writing retreat with my sister in law. We’d been writing hard all day, when there had been a number of showers. And in the late afternoon, it brightened up so we decided to go for a walk. And this is what I found… And yes, those are rocks that have been sculpted by the sea. They are covered at high tide. On the return journey, the sun was starting to sink in the sky and that is why the statue is tinged pink – it isn’t that my camera is on the blink!
I loved the strange, rich world that Newman evoked in his first book The Deathless and when I realised that I’d somehow missed the release of this second one, I scooped it up. As luck would have it – the third book The Boundless has recently been released.
BLURB: The Rebel.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their rule to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.
And The Returned…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows its secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.
THE WILD HAS BEGUN TO RISE.
REVIEW: Yep. That’s the blurb – and unless you have read the first book, it will read as absolute gobbledygook for the very good reason that this is one of those series where you MUST read the first book to make sense of what is happening. While you might get the gist of the story – you will not be able to fully comprehend the stakes or what exactly is going on.
I thoroughly enjoyed this second foray into this weird, difficult world fraught with hidden dangers – and not-so hidden lethal creatures, ready to prey on any human who has the bad luck to end up in The Wild. And it didn’t take me very long to recall what had happened in the first book and who was doing what to whom – which is just as well, because all sorts of nefarious plots and double dealing naughtiness are going on. That isn’t good news for the long-term survival of the God road, or those perched above the Wild in their famous floating castles.
Newman has a cast of vivid characters – many of them not necessarily all that likeable, but there are one or two I have given my heart to – I so want Sa-at to find some peace and happiness, and dear Chandri who has had the thankless task of raising her bratty son, Satyendra all these years. And I also loved the reckless, rule-breaking Lady Pari and her desperate attempt to help her brother, while trying to figure out what is exactly going on with Lord Rochant, her former lover. Hm – and what is going on with Lord Rochant? It all seems to hinge on who he actually is and what he’s up to…
With a twisty plot, a marvellous, atmospheric world that is well established without screeds of decription and a cast of charismatic characters, this is an engrossing read that held me throughout. Any niggles? Well, I’m not a fan of cliffhanger endings – and this is one. While the story has definitely been progressed and we now know a lot more about some of the more mysterious machinations that power this world – I would have appreciated at least one storyline to have been brought to some sort of close. Which means I’m really looking forward to getting hold of the final book in this trilogy, The Boundless. Highly recommended for fans of strong, character-based fantasy set in a vividly depicted world.
Himself and I haven’t been away together for any kind of holiday since 2018, and were determined to get away for a few days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, especially as a family party was impossible. So we were delighted to find vacancies at a good hotel in Ashdown Forest of Winnie the Pooh fame.
This week on Tuesday Treasures, I am featuring the pics I took on our walk along Littlehampton beach on Sunday morning. And this time around, the tide was in. Some of the photos were taken on the small pier at the mouth of the River Arun – we were lucky with the sunshine, after a rainy, stormy week. And evidence of the storms is the seaweed strewn across the beach.
This week on Tuesday Treasures, I am featuring the pics I took on our walk along Littlehampton beach on Sunday morning. As you can see, the tide was out a long way…
I have already read The Kingdom of Copper, the second book in this classy sand and sorcery series, which is good enough that I wanted to backtrack and get hold of this one, before reading the final book, in order to do real justice to the series. I’m so glad I did…
BLURB: Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed Nahri as the main protagonist when I encountered her in The Kingdom of Copper, but discovering how she became that wary, stifled consort was a gripping journey that had me reading way into the early morning. I am a real sucker for this sub-genre, which tends to have a lethal set of magic around djinns and ghouls, a fast-paced story that often encompasses poetic descriptions of the desert and the fabulous cities that exist by life-giving rivers. Chakraborty hits every one of those necessary tropes and knocks them out of the field, by giving her own spin on the world, including a bloody backstory and long-lived demons with longer memories, who aren’t inclined to forgive and forget.
Who, or what, Nahri is becomes a major focus of the story. Yep – that trope, again… But there is nothing remotely clichéd or tired in Charkaborty’s treatment of this enjoyable, chippy character. I quickly bonded with her and found the ensuing adventure across the desert with Dara entertaining, though I did feel they should have arrived at the city just a bit sooner than they did. The steady growth of their relationship felt realistic and I was pleased the romantic thread wasn’t the driving force in this story.
I did find myself initially skimming some of the palace scenes with Ali, the conflicted younger brother, who is unhappy at having to witness the daily injustices inflicted on the half-human population in Daevabad. Idealistic and inexperienced, we realise that he is being manipulated by those around him, while still in his viewpoint, which is a tricky thing to pull off.
CONCLUSION: As I read on, I become more invested in the politics in Daevabad and once Nahri arrived, the pace picked up again and so did the momentum of the story. I didn’t see that ending though… And am now rereading The Kingdom of Copper, before I pick up The Empire of Gold – highly recommended for those who enjoy their epic fantasy gritty with sand and suffused with djinn magic.
I am a fan of this author – see my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series, The Tiger and the Wolf – Book 1 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echoes of the Fall series, Redemption’s Blade: After the War, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, and Spiderlight. So I was delighted to have the chance to read and review this offering.
BLURB: Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power? Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope. The Firewalkers.
I won’t deny that initially I struggled a bit with this one. This setting is brilliantly portrayed and therefore rather on the bleak side. Tchaikovsky’s depiction of a parched, dying world where not even heat-adapted animals and vegetation can any longer survive is very well done. As ever, he manages to weave in Mao’s back story in with the ongoing action so that I quickly bonded with this gutsy, capable youngster, struggling to keep himself and his family fed and watered in this harsh environment. The science is well done, again, without holding up the pace with chunks of indigestible information. And soon enough, I was caught up in the adventure as the three youngsters set off into the heat discover why the power from the solar panels isn’t getting back to Anchor.
I couldn’t see how this was going to end in anything other than a rather downbeat, grim message about what we were doing to the planet – and though I won’t deny that is wrapped up within the story – Tchaikovsky also manages to deliver an ending with plenty of hope, after a tale packed full of incident and well executed story twists. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of clif fi and coming-of-age stories in challenging settings. The ebook arc copy of Firewalkers was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
I was browsing through the Audible catalogue, when I came across this book on special offer and as I’d heard good things about the author, I decided to give it a go…
BLURB: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As you may have gathered by the blurb, this book is structured as a dual narrative. The main protagonists are Sean Kendrick and Park Connelly. When done well, this structure is one of my favourites, but the risk is that one character calls to me more than the other, so I end up skimming one of the main sections of the book. When listening as an audiobook, this isn’t an option, and I’m glad I didn’t have that choice because Sean’s voice was so much sharper and his storyline just that bit more gripping. I think I may have been tempted to do so. And if I had, I would have missed some important nuances about life on Thisby, which could only be accessed through Puck’s viewpoint.
The world building and atmosphere that Steifvater manages to achieve in this story is outstanding. The description of the island, the water horses, the sea and the hardship experienced when living on such a place was brilliantly depicted without any loss of pace or tension. Likewise, the characterisation was also exceptional. Sean in particular leapt off the page and although it took me a little while longer to properly bond with her, in the end I was able to get through Puck’s irritability and sharp edges to properly care about her too. However, there is a price to pay when an author produces such a fabulous world peopled by such outstanding characters – and that is the plotting and storyline have to be able to match it and I don’t think this particular story quite lived up to the awesomeness of the place. That said, I am aware that Steifvater is a victim of her own success. If she had not produced such a strong response in me to her marvellous setting and those magical horses which I could smell and touch, then this wouldn’t be a grizzle.
There was a slight anomaly for me and it will be difficult to address in this review without lurching into spoiler land, but I’ll do my best. Sean works for a highly manipulative and successful man and his son happens to be the main antagonist in this story. There is a particularly nasty incident that occurs in his yard with his full knowledge that was both shocking and barbaric. All the staff must have known about it – and yet, the perpetrator apparently gets off completely unscathed. Given that love of horses permeates the whole island and the culture, I cannot believe this incident would have been allowed to go by, unregarded in the way that it appears to have been. This jarred sufficiently to yank me out of the story and make me question the power dynamic within the book. I also wasn’t totally convinced by the ending, which I felt was just a little bit to tidy for such a gritty read.
However, you will see by my final mark that this one got right under my skin. I wandered around in something of daze, a bit emotional and strung out after I’d finished the book. I’ll definitely be hunting down more books by this author, because while maybe this story didn’t tick all my boxes, that amazing setting, those fabulous water horses and tough, sturdy Sean Kendrick stole my heart when I wasn’t looking. Highly recommended for fans of powerfully written fantasy worlds.