Category Archives: troubled hero

#Teaser Tuesday featuring #Gwithyas: Door to the Void – 23rd May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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:

Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe
20% Old, yellow paper that crumbles, so I have to hold it carefully. The first words, in elaborate old-fashioned handwriting, are: ‘I will mourn you forever, my love.’
I put it aside. Too labour-intensive to read, and way too depressing. At the moment I don’t want to learn about the miserable fates of my pathetic ancestors. I feel bad enough as it is, and really don’t need to be reminded of how hopeless our situation is, how impossible it is that Mum will ever live in the nice, sunny house she so desires, that my sisters will ever go to school, that Dad will ever smile. Or that I will ever live the life of a normal boy.

BLURB: Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy.
It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student.
It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…

This is a delightful, quirky read that I’m really enjoying. It reminds me more than a little of Matt Haig’s The Radleys as this teenage boy in the middle of paranormal mayhem is yearning for a normal existence. I have yet to discover if his dream comes true – I’m going to guess it probably doesn’t.

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Sunday Post – 20th May, 2018

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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.

My sister has moved back to her own flat, which is really good news as she is hopefully now on the road to recovery. Though I am missing her – if the road works would allow it, she is only ten minutes away.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time poking the Marketing Monster with a big stick, which is both terrifying and enjoyable. Other than that, I’ve been busy line editing Breathing Space with the help of Dragon’s dictation tool, as I follow the manuscript with a cursor. It’s time-consuming, but I don’t know another way to do it, as my speed-reading habit isn’t conducive to weeding out those fiddley mistakes that dog my writing.

Yesterday, I went over to my sister’s and we watched the Royal Wedding together, having great fun critiquing the outfits while quaffing tea and jam doughnuts. It was a wonderful service and I wish the couple all the very best in their life together.

This week I have read:

Crimson Ash by Hayley Sulich
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

This was certainly a dystopian world, leaving a trail of devastated, broken people in its wake and the writing was intense and fast-paced.

A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
At St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, the historians don’t just study the past, they revisit it.

Behind the strait-laced façade of a conventional academic institution, the secret of time travel is being used for ground-breaking and daring historical research, taking the historians on a rollercoaster ride through history. Meanwhile, within St Mary’s itself, there are power struggles and intrigues worthy of a book in themselves.

Max and Leon are reunited and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.
From 17th-century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th-century Southwark, Max and Leon are pursued up and down the timeline until, finally, they are forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where a new set of dangers await them.

After the darkness of my previous read – I wanted something with humour, so I turned to this offering on my TBR pile. It didn’t disappoint. Packed with adventure that had me laughing aloud and nearly weeping, I finished this one buzzed and re-energised. Nobody does it like Jodi…

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry. And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

I have read and enjoyed all the previous books in this series, so hoped that this one would bring all the plotlines to a satisfactory conclusion. It was a delight to plunge back into this world for ending to work so well.

The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

This novella takes us back to the amazing world Bujold is rightly best known for writing – what a treat this little gem is. The only grumble I have is that it ended too soon.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th May 2018

Review of Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by Julie Kagawa

Teaser Tuesday featuring Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Sage by Lois McMaster Bujold

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

Friday Face-off – I’m freeee… featuring Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

Review of Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

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

5 ways you should not react when an annoying friend says they don’t read https://thisislitblog.com/2018/05/13/5-ways-you-should-not-react-when-that-annoying-friend-says-they-dont-read/ Yes… I’m aware this was published over a week ago – but I’ve only just caught up with it and figured you would still want a giggle over your Sunday cuppa…

Get Caught Reading https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/get-caught-reading/ I’m spreading appreciation for my favourite hobby – and this is a great scheme to promote a love of books…

A Summary and Analysis of the ‘Bluebeard’ Fairy Tale https://interestingliterature.com/2018/05/13/a-summary-and-analysis-of-the-bluebeard-fairy-tale/ I love the insights offered in the articles produced by this cracking site…

Thursday Doors – Jacobean https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/thursday-doors-jacobean/ This is another lovely set of doors, windows and graves… there isn’t anything more evocative than the ruins of a long-ago building.

Fabulous opportunity to get hold of over a 100 sci fi books featuring feisty females… https://claims.instafreebie.com/gg/rvyoTzZB9pvCEbrw2lN4 There is a wonderful spread of books featured for fans wanting more ebook goodness in their lives of the science fiction kind.

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 #Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I’ve followed this series right from the start, thoroughly enjoying the mayhem and the humour that Hearne has created, so it was with some sadness that I picked up this final book in the series – see my review of the first book, Hounded, here.

Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

This book features the three main protagonists listed in the blurb above and I’m very grateful to the author for providing a ‘story so far’ summary covering the whole series. I just wish other authors writing long-running series would provide similar assistance to their readers. Some of us have the memory of a goldfish…

I started this one with some trepidation – after all, the stakes are high. I have followed this series for the previous eight books and was concerned that if Hearne fumbled this one, it would spoil my experience of the complete Iron Druid series. In the event, I’d need not have worried. All three main characters still are appealing in quite different ways – my personal favourite is Owen, who started out as the archetypal grumpy old man and has considerably mellowed as he continues getting to grips with the modern world. While the apocalyptic Ragnarok loomed across the book – as well it should – there were a whole series of delightful interludes with my favourite being Owens new best friend, Slomo the sloth.

What appears to have split opinion amongst readers is the manner in which the book ends. As for Granuaile’s decision, I was really pleased. I felt it showed her increasing confidence and desire to extend her druidic skills and had a real ring of reality about it which I thoroughly welcome. As for the Iron Druid, Atticus, what befalls him is a real shock, but given the weight of prophecy promising bad things happening to him, I can’t see how this could have ended any better without compromising a major plot point throughout the latter half of the series.

All in all, I think Hearne has produced a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion to an excellent series which I particularly enjoyed as – unlike so many others – it didn’t become unbearably bleak by the end. Recommended for fans of godpunk and epic fantasy with a strong contemporary twist.
9/10

#Teaser Tuesday featuring #Scourged – 15th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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:

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
8% The fancy law is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and it says if ye have an isolated system, then entropy will increase and—gods damn it, let’s just say things turn to shite and be done with it, all right? We can call it the First Law of Owen.

BLURB: Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

As you can see, I’m right at the beginning of this one – and Hearne has done me a great favour by giving ‘The story so far’ roundup to remind me of what the stakes are with this one… I’ve just encountered Owen – see above – who has become my favourite character in this series.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring #Outcasts of Order – 9th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookreview

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

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 – Outcasts of Order – Book 20 in The Sage of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

#epic fantasy #magic #mage

Modesitt continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with his 20th book in the long-running series. Beltur began his journey in The Mongrel Mage and continues with Outcasts of Order, the next book of his story arc in the Saga of Recluce.

Beltur, an Order mage, discovers he possesses frightening powers not seen for hundreds of years. With his new abilities, he survives the war in Elparta and saves the lives of all. However, victory comes with a price. His fellow mages now see him as a threat to be destroyed, and the local merchants want to exploit his power.

There’s only one way he can remain free and survive—he’s going to have to run.

Some of the books I’ve recently featured on this meme, I’ve taken on spec. By contrast, this is an author I love and this particular spin-off series – The Mongrel Mage was the first book – provided a storming start to a new series in a world I already knew and loved. So, I’m all over this one. And if you’re gulping at the prospect of wading through 20 books – it isn’t a problem. The Mongrel Mage is an excellent introduction to this fabulous world.

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Bound – Book 8 of the #Alex Verus series by #Benedict Jacka #bookreview #Brainfluffbookreview

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This excellent series has been frequently compared to the Harry Dresden Files – and there are similarities. The protagonists both had bumpy childhoods where their abilities were exploited and are therefore edgy and distrustful. But where Harry is just plain powerful, Alex Verus is relatively weak as his ability lies in being able to see into the future, though only by a handful of seconds, sometimes stretching into minutes. That, so far, has been enough to keep him alive… As the series is now stretching forward and getting steadily darker, is it still as enjoyable as when it started?

Alex Verus can see the future. But he never thought he’d see this day. Manoeuvred by forces beyond his control, the probability mage has made a terrible choice: he’s agreed to work for his old master once more. Richard Drakh, the sadistic dark mage Alex escaped as an apprentice, has him in his clutches again. And this time, he won’t let go so easily.

While I have always enjoyed this series, – see my review of Fated – I think the last couple of books have nocked up the tension and pace so that once I started reading, they were difficult to put down. Moreover, if you have randomly picked this one up intending to read it, while you inevitably will have missed huge chunks of the backstory, given this is the eighth book in the series, you wouldn’t unduly flounder. Told in first person viewpoint, Alex’s terse narrative does a good job of explaining the stakes and any necessary information for new readers. I’m not sure if this book is specifically designed as an entry point to the series, but I think it could certainly work like that.

I used to wish I had magical abilities – but I’m very relieved I haven’t, if Jacka’s take on the British magical community is anything like the reality. The Council deals with policing mages and are supposed to be Light mages. But having witnessed the very rough justice they hand out with little accountability, it is clear they aren’t much better than the Dark mages, who are supposed to be the villains. Alex has spent all his adult life trying to stay out of the clutches of his former mentor, the powerful and very unpleasant Richard Drakh – and at the start of this book, he is right back where he didn’t want to be…

The world is well depicted with strong supporting characters who ping off the page, but what elevates this book from the rest is Jacka’s handling of Alex’s prescient abilities, particularly in a fight. I think the description and manner in which this particular talent works is just plain brilliant and if you enjoyed the Harry Desden Files, then give this series a go. It comes very highly recommended.
9/10

Sunday Post – 22nd April, 2018

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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.

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.

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

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I requested this one after being attracted by the eye-catching cover and reading the premise, which was very intriguing.

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters

So did this live up to my expectations? Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As to be expected with a story that starts in the middle of the Great Fire of London, this one starts with a bang. James Marwood watches the destruction of St Pauls Cathedral, with a vivid description of the heat and violence as the fire ripped through the interior and then destroyed the quantities of stationery and books that was stored in the crypt, in the belief that they would be safe.

Taylor has clearly done his research – there is a wealth of historical detail here woven into the everyday lives of the people caught up in the drama and terror. I was interested to learn that the official version – that there was a surprisingly small loss of life, given the ferocity and speed of the flames – is contradicted in this book. As the fire storms across tenements at a speed faster than a man can run, there is a general acceptance that whole families and communities were immolated. The reason why there is no official recognition of this loss of life is simply that the destruction was so thorough, nothing is left of the poor souls caught up in the conflagration but ashes.

That said, most of the action takes place in the days, weeks and months after the fire. I really liked this. That single event has caused havoc in the capital, which is nicely reflected in the political turbulence that is still being played out after the Civil War. Once Charles II regains his throne, one of his missions is to track down the handful of people responsible for executing his father. The young protagonist is caught up in this business – as are a number of other people in the story, even though they were either children or not yet born when the execution occurred.

I am conscious that I have managed to make this book sound as if it is some sort of historical account of the aftermath of both the Civil War and the great Fire of London, when of course, it’s nothing of the sort – it is a murder mystery adventure. That said, after the initial drama, the pace necessarily slows down. We are not in an era of fast car chases, or fast anything for that matter. This mystery reflects the fact that most people walk everywhere and the majority of tasks are still done by hand. So this mystery spools out over a period of time, which gives the denouement an extra kick as it takes place among the shattered remains of St Paul’s Cathedral. There were a number of intriguing twists, with one in particular I certainly didn’t see coming. I am delighted that this is the start of a series featuring James Marwell and I shall certainly be getting hold of the next book. Recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Ashes of London from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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

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For once, it wasn’t the cover that caught my eye with this one – it was the premise. I recall reading about these hospital ships with horror and reading a murder mystery that was based on one of these floating hulks seemed quirkily original.

Summoned to the riverside by the desperate, scribbled note of an old friend, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find themselves on board the seamen’s floating hospital, an old hulk known only as The Blood, where prejudice, ambition and murder seethe beneath a veneer of medical respectability.

Thomson does a marvellous job of vividly recreating the grim and effluvia of this stinking corner of London. At this point, the poor old Thames is little more than an open cesspit and London is generally draped in sooty smoke, with far more mists and fogs than you’d normally expect, caused by the runaway air pollution. Unsurprisingly, there is a high rate of illness, though The Blood specialises in the ailments brought into London from sailors and passengers who have returned from the Empire with all sorts of nasty complaints.

Jem Flockhart is an interesting protagonist – he is a young apothecary, continuing his father’s business and producing herbal remedies and medicines for the physicians coping with the high rate of illnesses. The team working on The Blood are mostly young medical practitioners without any money or support behind them, seeking to make a reputation by either publishing a brilliant paper on one of these new diseases, or catching the eye of an established medical man. However, the likes of Dr Proudlove, a black doctor whose mother ran a brothel, is highly unlikely to gain the reputation he wishes, despite being both clever and hard-working.
Jem teams up Will Quartermain, a young architect, when investigating this entangled case that lays open the seamiest side of London life, after they discover the body of a young woman in a derelict boatyard. While it’s evident she was drowned, the water in her lungs is clear, whereas she was discovered floating in a vile-smelling thick soup that could scarcely be described as water…

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Jem is a wary character who despite his obvious youth, clearly knows his way around this lawless, blighted area – and has an almighty secret of his own. This means that he is relatively free of many of the prejudices of the time – which also rings true. While there is clearly a rich backstory to his and Will’s current relationship, I had no difficulty in working out exactly what was going on and this book works well as a standalone, despite being the third in the series.

As for the mystery itself, it is one of those very twisty affairs, where one apparently solitary murder triggers a string of other incidents so that more people die, pulling in a wider circle of potential suspects. I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle and the vivid world unflinchingly on display – though I’m humbly grateful that I don’t live in that time and place. I’ve thought about this one a lot since I finished reading it and will be looking out for the other books in this series. Recommended for fans of vividly depicted historical fiction, especially Victorian noir.
9/10

 

Friday Faceoff – The more I see, the less I know for sure…

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As luck would have it – I was running behind and hadn’t completely written up my Friday Faceoff yesterday before the internet went down – for the rest of the day. Thank you Sky for picking and choosing WHICH of your customers got the advance notification that you would be messing around with the phone lines (my sister did get the warning text – I didn’t!). So this article didn’t get posted and please accept my apologies for the lack of interaction on the blog in general…

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 week the theme is a cover featuring a panorama, so I’ve selected Cryoburn – Book 14 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

This Hardcover edition was produced by Baen in October 2010. It’s a panorama of the edifice where thousands upon thousands of people are stored in cryogenic stasis, which is the setting for this particular murder mystery. It’s a classic Baen cover, with large, blocky lettering featuring the author and title font. In this case, it’s shame they are quite so large as they blot out a lot of the excellent cover art – but it’s Baen’s trademark and I can’t fault them for their astute marketing model.

 

This Kindle edition was published in May 20111 and is, quite frankly, horrible. The clunky, charmless effort gives no hint about the genre or the fact this book is part of a highly successful series and an awesome read.

 

This Croatian edition, published by Algoritam in 2010, has attempted to recreate the vast scale of the cryostasis repository with Miles walking down one of the aisles. I’m interested to see that there is some attempt to depict his physical deformities, which is something the US covers often don’t do – although he is still without his cane. However, it is rather crude, even though it’s miles better than that dreadful, blobby egg-timer shown on the previous cover.

 

This edition, produced by Blackstone Audiobooks in October 2010 has taken the original cover and tweaked it, so that the title and author fonts don’t cosh you between the eyes. The result is a far classier version of the original cover which also shows the wonderful artwork. This is my favourite cover.

 

This French cover was published in November 2011 by J’ai Lu. I really like this cover. The dark tones reflect the fact we are dealing with a futuristic cemetery and the birds-eye view creates an eye-catching effect. They have even managed to give an echo of the Baen treatment of the title font without blotting out too much of the action – this is a very close contender for the top spot for me this week – which is your favourite?