Category Archives: mages

Sunday Post – 2nd February, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

This week was the first since Christmas which was just routine – and I was very grateful for it. I’ve now recovered from my stomach upset, other than the occasional uncomfortable twinge. Other than that, so far we are both okay healthwise, which is a plus with all the nasty colds and illnesses going the rounds. I taught Tim as usual on Monday, which went well. Though I missed Pilates – again! Something always seems to come up on a Monday afternoon, but at least I made Fitstep on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Himself and I had breakfast together at the Look and Sea centre, enjoying the river views, although I’m not convinced by the refurbishment. At least the food was good. On Friday, I spent the day with my daughter and little Eliza, who is full of cold. I had a lovely time with them both and also managed to stay long enough to see the older grandchildren, too. Yesterday I worked all day on an editing project with a friend and had a lazy lie-in this morning, listening to a lovely audiobook…

Last week I read:

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It was a really solid finish to an unusual and dark-toned space opera adventure that featured on a sibling relationship, rather than a romantic one.

 

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
Once an outlaw spellslinger, Kellen Argos has made a life for himself as the Daroman Queen’s protector. A little magic and a handful of tricks are all it takes to deal with the constant threats to her reign. But when rumors of an empire-shattering war begin to stir, Kellen is asked to commit an unimaginable act to protect his queen…
I have thoroughly enjoyed this quirky fantasy series featuring a young failed mage and his ferocious squirrel cat, so put off this one in case it didn’t bring the whole adventure to a proper conclusion. However, I needn’t have worried – it was wound up with plenty of adventure and flourish, leaving me with a lump in my throat. Review to follow.

 

Ribbonworld – Book 1 of The Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee
Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome.
The murder mystery was well plotted, though nothing extraordinary – but the worldbuilding of the ribbonworld described in this story was amazing.

 

AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong. A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.
I really enjoyed this twisty space opera thriller, which really drilled down into what it means to have your brain chemistry altered to suit society’s needs. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Foreigner – Book 1of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Series I Completed in 2019

Sunday Post 26th January 2020

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

My Favourite Books of 2019 https://notesfromareaderholic.com/2020/01/20/my-favorite-books-of-2019/ I got a shoutout with my reviewing hat on, as someone who regularly recommends authors Jan enjoys reading. Even better – Mantivore Dreams made her list of favourite reads of the year! Thank you, Jan😊.

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #7: Chosen https://platformnumber4.com/2020/01/22/fantastic-find-at-the-bookstore-7-chosen/ Becky clearly has a nose for finding books – but this is remarkable discovery…

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for-4/ This award-winning library site is always worth a visit…

The Benefits of Sensory Deprivation for Writers https://writerunboxed.com/2020/01/27/the-benefits-of-sensory-deprivation-for-writers/ I particularly noticed this one, as I’m writing a character whose senses of smell and colour are heightened – and found it fascinating reading…

Splitting a Novel http://melfka.com/archives/30282 As someone who has frequently felt obliged to perform major surgery on my manuscripts, it was interesting to read someone else’s experience…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Series I Completed in 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesICompletedin2019

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Queenslayerbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series to date – see my review of Spellslinger here, so was delighted to discover that the fifth book was already out – and even more delighted when Himself made me a present of it…

BLURB: Kellen and Reichis have just finished fighting a duel in the desert when Kellen inadvertently smears blood on the Daroman flag – an act of treason for which the Marshals have no choice but to arrest him. Just before he’s put before the Queen to be executed, Kellen is given a strange piece of advice from one of his fellow prisoners: kill the Queen and he’ll be given clemency by those who take power. But when Kellen comes face-to-face with the eleven year-old monarch, he realises she’s vastly smarter than he expected – and in a great deal more danger.

I settled back into this one with joyous expectation as Kellen was every bit as sneakily desperate and Reichis as snarkily bloodthirsty as before. Kellen is now confronted with court politics and to be honest – he’s way outside his comfort zone. As he tries to keep himself, his squirrel cat and a number of other random folks alive, he finds himself up against all sorts of foes. Including his sister… By now, there is a hefty backstory that has built up and my firm advice is not to jump into this series midway, but go back to the beginning and savour all the magical madness and mayhem from the first book, Spellslinger.

Kellen now has a major mission – he is trying to find a cure for the magical affliction that is dogging his steps and will leave him dying horribly. So he views all the court politics with a certain amount of detachment, until he’s forced to get involved or watch an innocent be killed… I followed the twisting plot with great enjoyment, until about two-thirds of the way through the book there was a certain incident involving a mage, poor old Kellen and a serving girl. I found it very shocking – as did he, so I expected it to be a major gamechanger. It wasn’t – not really, given that while he was shaken and talked about it changing everything, that was as far as it got.

The trouble was, this was just such a major issue that all the ongoing problems Kellen was facing shrank in the face of it and when yet the next round of survival shenanigans kicked off, I found I was a lot less involved.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s me, or if the pacing and narrative arc is really compromised, but while I didn’t dislike what came next, I found I was a lot more emotionally detached from the rest of the story. It was wound up with de Castell’s usual flourish and I definitely want to the read the final instalment, but I think this book is the weakest of the series so far.

It says a lot for the overall quality of the Spellslinger series that this book still earns a reasonable score. The series is recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring an accident-prone protagonist and regular dollops of humour.
7/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMidnightQueenbookreview

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I’d like to take credit and claim that I was the one that stumbled across this gem – but it was Himself, once again, who unearthed this enjoyable read, though if I’d come across it, I certainly would have succumbed, given the gorgeousness of that cover…

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover . . .

Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning as soon as possible to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

That is the start of this story – we’re tipped right into the middle of the disastrous expedition that impacts so badly on Gray’s life, to the extent that I did wonder a couple of times whether this was the second book in the series. I’m conscious that some readers don’t enjoy this approach, but I happen to love it – so long as I’m not left floundering for too long – and I wasn’t. While I enjoyed the characters – Gray’s diffidence and cleverness are well portrayed in third person POV – what particularly enchanted me is the world.

This version of Britain doesn’t have Christianity sweeping through the country and wiping away the variety of pagan religions that proliferated before. So there are mentions of the Roman pantheon, along with several of the old Celtic deities and magic is also tied up with the worship of them. The historical era is Regency and while the story isn’t particularly original, there are plenty of twists and turns that held me right to the ending.

There is a slow-burn romance bubbling away throughout and if the book had been all about that, then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much, but as the viewpoints swing between the two main protagonists, Sophie and Gray, with a few extra characters giving their points of view from time to time – we get to see their relationship mature. This is a main subplot to the narrative driving the story – that of a shadowy conspiracy against the Master of Merlin College, that, perhaps goes even higher than that…

I found this one difficult to put down as the sense of tension held me throughout and while many elements of the plot were familiar, I enjoyed how Hunter played with our expectations and tweaked some of them. The climax of the story was suitably exciting and all the dangling plotpoints were all tidied away very neatly – a tad too neatly for the first book in a series, I felt. Because there is no way that I believe His Majesty is going to be content to let things lie as they’ve been arranged – but I’ll have to read the next book to see if I’m right, which I’m looking forward to doing. Recommended for fans of British-based fantasy with a splash of romance.
8/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDarkLordofDerkholmaudiobookreview

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I had bought this one for my dyslexic grandson back in the day when he relied on his Audible reads to keep in touch with the world of books – but I didn’t have a kindle back then that could cope with audiobooks. I have now…

Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.

I know this one is advertised as a children’s read – but it certainly didn’t feel that way to me. Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties are portalled in from another, non-magical world (which sounds very much like our own…) where the pilgrims are promised – and expect – the full fantasy experience. Each group has a wizard guide as they are ushered around to take part in various skirmishes with pirates, avian monsters and a final full-scale battle against the forces of the Dark Lord, who they help overthrow. However, all these tours are taking their toll on the fabric and people exposed to this series of tourist incursions. While this is characterised as hilarious, and I found it both clever and witty – I wasn’t all that amused. I kept thinking of how the locals must feel on the Greek islands when they are overrun by hordes of British youngsters looking for loud music and drunken revelry… And they don’t have a Derk to deliver them from the constant, ongoing invasion. That’s only one example – I’m also aware of places like Indonesia where alongside five-star hotels are staff working long, thankless hours for a pittance as most of the income is hoovered up by the large multinational companies exploiting the natural beauty of the location.

Derk struggles to deal with numerous nit-picking organisational problems and as I continued painting the bathroom, I listened to the unfolding muddle, excellently narrated by Jonathan Broadbent. It was yet another joy – I am so enjoying my audiobook experience! This one is very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys intelligent fantasy adventures – but I shan’t be introducing it to my younger nine-year-old grandson, yet. Clever and precocious though he is, he simply won’t be able to fully appreciate the issues Wynne Jones is addressing in this clever, thoughtful book for another of handful of years.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheUnboundEmpirebookreview

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, – see my review here – I thought the premise was a really smart one. The idea that lethal magic-users need to have their power curtailed from the time their talent becomes evident makes complete sense – as do the inevitable consequences following from that necessity… I recently read and reviewed the second book, The Defiant Heir, and liked it even more, so was delighted to be approved to read and review The Unbound Empire

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

As with the second book, the political and personal stakes in this book continue to ramp up. Amalia continues to grow from the shy academic, whose real passion was studying magical practices, to a political player in her own right, determined to push through a piece of legislation that will impact every magic-user in the Empire. I love her character progression – along with the changes that every other major character undergoes. Caruso makes that aspect of writing a series look a lot easier than it is.

All the characters work well, but two in particular stand out – Ruven is a particularly satisfying villain, who I loved to hate. His arrogant dismissal of anyone non-magical and his tendency to inflict horrible tortures just because he can – as well as his targeting of our protagonist – makes him creepy and revolting. The cleverness in the writing is that Caruso manages also make the reader aware of what is powering his nastiness, so that he doesn’t come across as a pantomime villain. The other character I became a little in love with is one of those enigmatic, dangerous Witch Lords, Kathe. His entourage of crows, his courage, his love of games and his gradually emerging more vulnerable side made him very endearing. His odd courtship of Amalia made the romantic thread running through this series thoroughly entertaining.
Caruso’s other superpower is the pacing – I found The Unbound Empire almost impossible to put down because the narrative arc works so well. I quickly became caught up in her political fight – which then turned into something else far more challenging. Caruso’s ability to ramp up the stakes compelled me to keep reading far longer than I should. The final denouement in a series needs to be able to wrap everything up and give each of the major characters an ongoing path, so the reader gets a sense of their probable future, given the life-changing events they have undergone. Caruso manages to achieve this, making this trilogy one of my favourite, most memorable fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.

Please read these books in the correct order, though – it would a real shame to mess up such a well-crafted progression by crashing midway into this outstanding series. The ebook arc copy of The Unbound Empire was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Bloodfire – Book 1 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #Bloodfirebookreview

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I’ve read and enjoyed Helen Harper’s books before, having thoroughly enjoyed The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series – see my review of Slouch Witch. So when I saw this offering on my Kindle, I tucked in…

Mack might be, to all intents and purposes, a normal looking human, but she lives with a pack of shapeshifters in Cornwall in rural England after being dumped there by her mother when she was just a young child. She desperately wants to be accepted by her surrogate family, not least because a lot of them hate her for merely being human, but for some reason her blood just won’t allow the transformation to occur.

That’s the first half of a rather chatty blurb and my advice would be not to read it as it gives away too many of the first plotpoints. Mack is certainly short-fused. All sorts of things make her angry, some justifiably and some not so much. Do be warned, though, part of her annoyance is expressed in her colourful swearing. I enjoyed her as a protagonist, as her determination to learn to fight well and her loyalty to her alpha are laudable – I also liked her glorious disregard for rules, which makes entire sense once we realise exactly what is going on. I also enjoyed the world and the setting. Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the world and while we weren’t overwhelmed with details of the countryside, there was sufficient for me to be able to clearly visualise what is going on.

While I’ve read a fair few shape-shifter stories over the years, it’s not my go-to genre but I really liked the world depicted, where mages and shapeshifters don’t like or trust each other very much. It’s a world, indeed, where the Lord Alpha, who rules the Brethren, responsible enforcing law and order amongst the shapeshifters, is regarded with dread throughout the community. No one wants to come to his attention…

Unsurprisingly, Mack does. The story cracks on with plenty of action, some enjoyable snark which mostly is generated by Mack’s chippy personality and an interesting cast of supporting characters. I loved Julia and would have liked to know more about her backstory, too. The only main niggle I had was that I got to a point where Mack’s obliviousness to the real situation became rather annoying. I wholly accept her ability not to see what is in front of her nose – I’ve watched people all my life manage to ignore the blindingly obvious – but it did impinge on my enjoyment as I kept waiting for that particular shoe to drop and for the purposes of the overall pacing, I think it went on just a tad too long.

Overall though, this paranormal shapeshifting adventure was an entertaining page-turner and I shall definitely be getting hold of the next book, Bloodmagic.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKnifeChildrenbookreview

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Those of you who are regular visitors to my blog know that Himself and I are huge fans of Bujold. So it was a given that we had pre-ordered this novella in The Sharing Knife series, which was completed a number of years ago.

Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.

Bujold’s claim that this novella can be read as a stand-alone is correct. While I suddenly recalled exactly who Barr was about a quarter of the way in, it really didn’t matter. As ever, Bujold absolutely nails the story. She has written a series of successful novellas, getting the story progression, characterisation and pacing spot on – something the majority of authors who attempt this writing form don’t often achieve in my experience.

I have always had a soft spot for this particular world, where mages a long time ago let loose terrible magical creatures who feast on living energy, growing stronger and evermore powerful with every victim they consume. Theses malices can only be stopped by the death energy of a Lakewalker, who are the descendants of those irresponsible magic-users. Unsurprisingly, there is a gulf between the non-magical community, mostly farmers, who are at major risk from the malices and the Lakewalkers, who are the only people able to kill the malices – but at a very high cost to themselves.

This story, where Barr is forced to confront the consequences of his wild past and try to fix things, drew me in from the first line and wouldn’t let me go until the final full stop. Like most of the other people who have reviewed this book, my main regret was that it ended. However, it was brought to a fitting conclusion that I found unexpectedly emotional. This is Bujold at her awesome best and is highly recommended for any reader with a pulse, particularly if they enjoy well written fantasy.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr #Brainfluffbookreview #Endgamesbookreview

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When I saw this offering on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved – see my review of the first book, Imager. No… I haven’t read all eleven of the previous books in this series – I think I got as far as eighth book. However, although I have a few issues with this book the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two in this particular story arc wasn’t a problem.

Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.

I always enjoy Modesitt’s protagonists and Charyn is no exception. He has the steady good sense and even temperament that is the hallmark of many of this author’s main characters. As ever in a Modesitt book, we get a progression of everyday details alongside the ongoing drama which tends to build slowly. I don’t know anyone else who writes fantasy in quite so much detail and gets away with it. However, the question has to be with this particular offering – is there just too much detail silting up the pace?

Unfortunately, I would have to say yes. While there were still many elements that I enjoyed and I found it difficult to put this book down, I also found myself skipping the love letters that passed between two of the main characters, along with the long-winded philosophical questions they discussed. I don’t dive into a high fantasy adventure to read several pages about the nature of evil being discussed between the protagonists – I would rather it was played out within the action. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and at no time was I tempted to DNF the book because I still cared about the characters and I really wanted to know how it was going to work out.

I was surprised at where the story went, with real poignancy during the aftermath of the action. This is one of the aspects that Modesitt handles really well – because we are pulled into his stories by following the day to day routines of his characters, it matters when bad things happen to them. Overall though I enjoyed this one and know that the next time I have an opportunity to get hold of another Modesitt book, I will jump at it. He may not always get the balance absolutely right, but he remains one of my favourite authors.

While I obtained an arc of Endgames from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10