Category Archives: Victorian

Sunday Post – 3rd December 2017

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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.

I’m now ready for the upcoming blog tour for Dying for Space and busy working on the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course entitled, What’s the Time and is it Raining? Setting and why it Matters. I’ve also started my major rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest again as I’m beginning to turn into the witchbitch from Hell due to not writing creatively. The signs are all there – difficulty sleeping because my brain is itching… short-tempered… suddenly finding myself wanting to cry inappropriately – at a dance on Strictly for instance… So I had better start writing something more than blog articles and teaching notes before Himself decides to spend Christmas sorting out the loft.

On Friday, my granddaughter Frances turned thirteen. She has had her hair cut into a bob and donated her thick, curly, waist-length hair to the Little Princess Trust which makes wigs from donated hair for children who have lost their hair with cancer treatment. She looks beautiful, now taller than me and turning into a feisty teen full of opinions, which is brilliant. We went for a meal at The Dragon in Rustington with her parents and my sister to celebrate, then took the grandchildren home with us. Yesterday they helped us decorate the house for Christmas – we haven’t yet quite finished as all our lights seem to have disappeared, as we apparently put them a very safe place last year. Or they have been transported into another dimension by a being that needed lights, but not baubles, a tree, nativity scene and yards and yards of tinsel…
Today is the Wrap Party to celebrate the end of the filming with the cast and technical crew of Tim’s film Hoodwinked 3. Frances and I will be attending and we’re really looking forward to it.

This week I have read:

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of the Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle
“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.
I couldn’t put down this well-written, engrossing Victorian mystery with a twist of fantasy and will be hunting down the first book in this series in the new year.

 

Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner
The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district indicates a tragic yet familiar scenario. But this marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke told her mother she was visiting a school friend. Who was she really going to meet? Detective Inspector David Vogel is led towards three very different principal protagonists, each of whom grows increasingly chilling. But are they what they seem? And is any one of them capable of murder?
This twisty psychological thriller was a real page-turner and the denouement was a complete surprise – I’ll be remembering this one for a while.

 

Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
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.
Another cracking read about this well-written prescient mage, whose life just doesn’t get any easier…

 

Blue Shift – Book 1 of the Second Species series by Jane O’Reilly
The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . . Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .
I really enjoyed this entertaining space opera. Jinn is an engaging protagonist with some hard options ahead of her – along with the rest of humanity – and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the sequel as I want to know what happens next.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 26th November, 2017

Review of Mother of Eden – Book 2 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fade Out – by Patrick Tilley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of the Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

Friday Face-off – The pen is mightier than the sword featuring Assassin’s Apprentice – Book 1 from The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

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

8 Years Ago Today https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/8-years-ago-today/ Bloggers occasionally write about things that are very personal – and when they are passionate and effective with words, the result can be humbling and awesome…

The Stag and the Dragon II https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/02/the-stag-and-the-dragon-ii/ Now we are deep into winter, the magic of a beautifully crafted photographic tour is even more appreciated.

#Bookreview: A Ragbag of Riches by James Chilton https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2017/12/01/bookreview-a-ragbag-of-riches-by-james-chilton/ With Christmas around the corner, I’m on the lookout for books that would delight the word nerd in your life – and this looks like a real gem…

A Story of Snow https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/a-story-of-snow/ Articles by this talented author are always worth reading – and this one is no exception.

Weekly Writer Wisdom: Ursula K. Le Guin’s National Book Award Acceptance Speech https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2017/11/28/weekly-writer-wisdom-ursula-le-guin/ These wonderful words from one of the most famous authors in the SFF community are worth listening to…

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

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

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My attention was snagged by this title and Lisa Tuttle is an author who is been on my radar for a while, so I requested it.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane. According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but while I have clearly missed a slice of the adventure, that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment of this story. Tuttle doesn’t hang about – she tips us straight into the case which I appreciated. While this series has been compared with the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I don’t think that Miss Lane, the narrator of this case, is all that much like John Watson. She isn’t overly gushing about Jasper Jesperson’s detecting skills, for starters – indeed, there are times when she is quite sharp about him, which I enjoyed.

The other aspect that I hadn’t expected and very much liked – while both Jesperson and Lane are middle-class and reasonably comfortably off, that doesn’t prevent Tuttle from lifting the façade on apparent Victorian respectability by depicting a young serving girl’s plight after suffering a rape. The detective duo also uncover a shocking lack of respect towards women who have the temerity to refuse or thwart a couple of apparently eligible men, who portray themselves as perfectly reasonable, educated gentlemen. Miss Lane isn’t particularly happy about the state of affairs, but isn’t overly surprised. What it reinforced for me is how much women were simply not regarded as on a par with men. Not only did they not have the same protection in law, they were not felt to be capable of the same understanding or intellect as a man – so when a woman demonstrated any independence of spirit, she frequently incurred anger at her temerity – how dare she defy him!

That said, I don’t want you to go away thinking this entertaining, engrossing whodunit is focusing on the gender inequality of the time – it is a mere side issue in this adventure. An adventure full of twists and turns as Lane and Jesperson then find themselves desperately looking for a baby. And the resolution to that puzzle had my jaw dropping…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be tracking down the first instalment in this series. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their historical crime series with a twist of fantasy.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 8th November, 2017

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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 – The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle

#mystery #fantasy adventure #historical #Victorian #witchcraft #magic

The paranormal answer to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Jesperson and Lane are turning the Victorian era upside down in this bewitching series from John W. Campbell Award winner Lisa Tuttle.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft.

I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one – it sounds great fun. I don’t know the author so am also pleased to be adding another candidate to this year’s Discovery Challenge, where I undertake to read at least 30 books by female authors previously unknown by me. This book is due to be released on 28th November by Hydra Publishing. What are you looking forward to reading?

Friday Faceoff – You have nice manners for a thief, and a LIAR!

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the one we prefer. This week the theme is dragons, so I’ve chosen Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton.

 

This cover, produced by Tor Fantasy in December 2004, is a rather splendid dragon. Definitely eye-catching and I like the fact that he is clearly expecting to be served. If I’m going to be picky, the backdrop looks like a generic fantasy landscape – and this book is set in an alternate Victorian England where dragons are vying with each other for power and influence after the style of Trollop. So the backdrop doesn’t line up very well with the content. Other than that, I think it’s a solidly good cover.

 

This offering was produced by Orb Books in January 2006. I have to say my first instinct is ‘how boring’. A WHITE cover… really? And that very generic dragon didn’t really take a lot of effort. There’s nothing innately wrong with it, but when I consider just what an awesomely sharp, funny and memorable book this is – the cover simply doesn’t measure up.

 

This cover from Corsair was published in February 2013 and is far more like it! The deep rich crimson and embossed gold lettering and wheeling dragon is both classy and eyecatching. This is the edition that I read, so that also may affect my reaction to it – but the reason I picked it up off the shelf was because the cover caught my eye…

 

Produced in September 2017, this French edition by Denoël also features gold lettering and decoration. The background is darker, but I suppose they are going for a classic Victorian feel. I also like the visual impact of this one, though I doubt it gives the reader much idea about the story or genre of this very quirky, entertaining book.

 

This edition, published in 2006 by Triton is my favourite. I love the wonderfully detailed illustration. The power and menace emanating from that dragon is palpable, while the lettering looks beautiful. And the fact this dragon is engrossed in a book gives a major clue about the story. What about you? Which one of these do you prefer?

 

AAAND… some of you may know that my debut novel, Running Out of Space was published this week. Today I am featuring in a guest blog at Second Run Reviews talking about growing up during the space race – and how I felt when it all came to a halt.

Review of Smoke by Dan Vyleta

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I picked this one off the shelves because I loved the look of the cover and the idea that this book filled a gap left by J.K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman appealed.

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real. An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.

This book is set in a Dickensian England in an alternate time when any negative emotion appears as either soot or Smoke. The aristocracy and upper classes generally don’t show any signs of such debased behaviour, whereas the lower orders are steeped in it. London, with its factories and crowded living conditions, is a byword for degradation and filth as a perpetual cloud of Smoke infests its streets. We follow the fortunes of three youngsters – two boys who are pupils at the boarding school – Charlie and Thomas and a girl Livia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way this book opened and found the initial tension and questions surrounding Smoke pulled me into the story. However, while it continued to be enjoyable and there was never any risk of my not finishing it, the readability factor that initially hooked me began to dissipate. Vyleta seemed to need to thoroughly explain his world and that was the factor that began to drive the story, rather than the other way around. It is, indeed, a fascinating premise. But I did find the continual addition of random characters who we never saw again giving us slices of their viewpoint rather jarring and it diluted the characterisation and strength of the initial protagonists, who became rather generic. The love triangle also seemed an oddity and didn’t sit at all well with me, given how it cuts right across the gothic atmosphere and managed to diminish the story into a will-they-won’t-they romance while also trying address some really big and interesting themes.

I’m conscious that it sounds as if I thought this was a bad book and it’s not. There premise is original – Vyleta handles the subsequent class divide really cleverly – and at times, the writing is wonderful. But I have a feeling that this book is trying to be a gothic, Dickensian read while having a wide YA appeal and in trying for both goals has managed to fall short of the original greatness this book promised. Having said that, I’m glad I’ve read it and would be interested in reading other works by this author – he certainly has a fertile, original imagination.
8/10

Sunday Post – 17th September 2017

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

I started the week spending half the day in bed recovering from a virus. On Wednesday, I no longer felt like a piece of chewed string so drove over to Northbrook to photocopy all my course notes in readiness for my Creative Writing courses which start tomorrow. On the way home I popped in to see my sister and catch up. We ended up at the Harbour Lights café for a cuppa and a HUGE slab of lemon drizzle cake – yum! In the evening I attended Writing Group where the lovely Sarah Palmer gave me loads of useful advice regarding where to take Miranda’s Tempest.

On Thursday, Mhairi and I did our tax returns together, which worked really well. I always find this online business stressful, but going through the document with a buddy feels a whole lot less lonely. As a reward for having completed a really grotty job, we sat down to watch Sharknado 5 which had us howling with laughter.

I finally started teaching Tim a whole week later than I should on Friday. It was all about the film rehearsal which I attended most of Saturday. Frances accompanied me and I helped with the blocking and line rehearsal for several scenes. It’s lovely seeing Tim’s film script being acted by an enthusiastic, energetic cast. Today my sister is coming over for lunch and as the grandchildren are staying over this week-end, it should be a noisy, enjoyable affair. I love having plenty of folks sitting around our kitchen table talking and laughing as we eat. I hope you have a lovely week, hopefully with some of that fine September weather we’re owed.

This week I have read:

The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of Their Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
This Eastern epic fantasy tells the story of two young women and their adventures through the letter of one of them to the other. The language is lush and the story full of demons, magic and destiny…

 

The Paper Magician – Book 1 of The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
An entertaining, smoothly written fantasy that I mostly enjoyed, though I did have a bit of an issue when the teacher and apprentice fall in love. Hm…

 

 

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.
An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.
This world is fascinating, where the presence of Smoke defines and hardens class barriers. This alternate history is enjoyable and thought provoking.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th September

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

Teaser Tuesday featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Dazzling Heights – Book 2 of The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

Friday Face-off – Checkmate… featuring Blackout – Book 1 of the All Clear series by Connie Willis

Shoot for the Moon – August roundup

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

Goodbye is not an Option https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/goodbye-is-not-an-option/ Ginni is a talented poet and this moving poem written in collaboration with a grieving widow is beautiful and brave.

Generational Time Machine https://scvincent.com/2017/09/09/generational-time-machine/ This lovely article is about a first day at school and the memories it evokes…

Inspirational David Mitchell Quotes http://logicalquotes.com/david-mitchell-quotes/ David Mitchell is one of my favourite authors and this article reminded me why…

10 of the Best Poems about Friendship https://interestingliterature.com/2017/09/13/10-of-the-best-poems-about-friendship/ This is a lovely selection of poems about the positive relationships that enhance our lives.

Different Ways To Organise Your Bookshelves https://aspiringwriter22.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/different-ways-to-organize-your-bookshelves/ Half of these ways of classifying my book collection never occurred to me, what about you?

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

Teaser Tuesday – 12th September, 2017

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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:
Smoke by Dan Vyleta

p. 286 ‘Our captain wants to be a gentleman,’ I say to Poppy, watching van Huysmans mince around the deck.
‘A gentleman!’ Poppy replies enthusiastically, not catching my tone. ‘Imagine it! Clean sheets, nobody cussing you out or even raising their voices. No pushing and shoving. A soft world.’

I snort. ‘Always thinking before you speak. Inspecting your bedding in the morning. Keeping your farts in, lest they trigger something. A life lived with your arsehole clamped. Never letting rip.’

But the boy is adamant, forgets for a moment that I am his senior and his prophet, his shipside god.
‘What’s so great about coarseness and dirt?’ he asks.

And when I don’t answer (for he’s hit upon a point, I suppose) he adds, now wet in his eye. ‘They’ll go to heaven, sir. And you and I shan’t.’

BLURB: Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as thick smoke pouring from your body and soot on your skin. With society controlled by an elite who have learned to tame their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas’s father was accused of murder and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London – a forbidden city shrouded in darkness – they learn that all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to find the truth, and to learn what lies beneath this world of smoke, soot and ash…

I’m just over halfway through this intriguing book. The premise is a great one and I’ve really enjoyed the start – right now we’re enmeshed in the middle of the plot with it all going to hell in a handbasket. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Voyage of the Basilisk – Book 3 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

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The discovery of this series has been one of my reading highlights – and the reason I haven’t powered through all the books is because they are too good. I want to savour each one after I’ve read it and reflect on it for a while, before once more diving back into this rich, beautifully evoked world. That said, the gap between The Tropic of Serpents and this one was longer than I’d planned.

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

The tone and writing is pitch perfect. Isabella Trent epitomises those gutsy Victorian lady explorers who endured hazardous journeys to distant corners of the world in primitive conditions – often still wearing corsets and long skirts. Although Isabella does adopt trousers for their practicality in scrambling over ruins and running away from enraged dragons. This time, most of the book is spent aboard the ship Basilisk as the expedition she is heading attempts to garner more information on sea dragons, amongst other breeds living inconveniently long distances away from Scirland.

The first third of the book is necessarily episodic as the expedition gets under way – but once events start to spin out of control, as they invariably do for Isabella and her companions, the pace picks up along with the stakes. While she would love to devote all her attention and resources on tracking down and learning more about dragons, the politics of the region has to be taken into account – particularly in relation to her own country’s ambitions and she has learnt the hard way that this is an aspect of her travels she cannot afford to disregard.

The long-running narrative arc regarding the issue of dragon bones being stabilised and used industrially continues to gain momentum through this book. While I think all the books can be easily read as a standalone, it is always gratifying to have at least one ongoing thread to reward readers who follow the series. The climax in this book kept me reading until the end – I simply couldn’t put it down. And while I am not going to dive straight into the next book – I want more time to fully absorb and appreciate Basilisk goodness – I certainly don’t want to leave it too long before I once again delight in revisiting this world with the next book in the series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes. Highly recommended.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Tropic of Serpents – Book 2 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

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I started this delightful series last year – see my review of A Natural History of Dragons – and have left it far too long to dive back into Lady Trent goodness.

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career. Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics. The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Lady Trent, now an elderly lady and a well-known authority on dragons, is writing her own memoirs, partly as companion pieces to the scholarly tomes she has produced on her beloved dragons – and partly to set the record straight, as she has been the object of much censure and gossip throughout her life. This is her account of the eventful second expedition she undertook. As the blurb already mentions, the jungle where the swamp-wyrms live is a political hotspot.

This is, if anything, even better than the first book. I love the first person narrator – Lady Trent is a feisty, unconventional woman driven by an insatiable scientific curiosity and a real concern that dragons will shortly be driven to extinction. Brennan has effectively captured the persona of a number of intrepid Victorian ladies who sallied forth to some of the most inhospitable places in the world – like Marianne North, the noted artist, who has provided us with a record of beautiful oil paintings of rare and unusual plants in their natural habitat, for instance.

Brennan paints such a vivid picture of this world, there were times I had to remind myself it is entirely fictitious. The privations the expedition endure in the jungle are utterly engrossing and just as I thought I knew what was coming next – or settled into the rhythm of the daily routine, the plot would suddenly take off in a completely different direction. The pages seemed to turn themselves as I read waaay late into the night, unable to put this one down. I held my breath as she attempts a death-defying leap and felt suitably indignant when she turns up at the gates of a colonial outpost, underweight and wearing the rags of her former clothes – and is dismissed with derision.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way Brennan wraps this one up – and I completed the book with a sigh of satisfaction and a firm promise to myself that it won’t be so long before I revisit this world and track down The Voyage of the Basilisk.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

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I was delighted when I got notification from the local library that this book had come in. Having read the first two books in the trilogy – read my review of The Falconer here – I was more than keen to see where May would take this exciting story to its conclusion.

Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

Firstly, my firm advice would be not to open this one if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne. While you may well be able to pick up what is going on, there is so much backstory you’ll have missed, you will not be getting the best out of this climactic instalment if you do not know what has preceded this final adventure.

After all Aileana has been through during the first two books, we first meet up with her as she newly emerges after her death. She has no idea who she is or what has happened to her. This is more difficult to pull off than May makes it look. The concluding scene of the previous book, The Vanishing Throne, left our protagonist on a real cliffhanger – therefore, it would have been all too easy for the start of this one to have dropped the energy and tension so successfully built up. Fortunately, May is too canny for that to happen. Aileana’s plight immediately gripped me and despite several months elapsing since reading the previous book, I was at once transported back into this shattered, dying world.

As this is the last book, I am unable to comment much on the details of the storyline as I do not wish to provide any spoilers. However, readers who have already enjoyed this series so far, will be relieved to know that Aileana still possesses all her feisty aggression. One of the major causes of tension is the knowledge that her new formidable power comes at a very high price – every time she uses the deadly magic gifted to her, it continues to kill her. In short, she is little more than a primed weapon forged by one of the Fae desperate to avoid the inevitable apocalypse brought on by an ancient curse. May’s detailed world building and magical rules pass almost unnoticed as I grappled with Aileana’s impending doom. For nothing can be taken for granted as May has already shown us she is not afraid to kill off important characters.

The pages flew by as I followed Aileana’s desperate efforts to save the world. Indeed, it is such a struggle, she finds herself allied with characters I would have expected her to kill on sight. Would she prevail? Would she have to sacrifice those she loves most? And what would happen to her should she succeed? It is one thing to set up such a tense dynamic – it is something else to bring it to a fully satisfying conclusion. I can report that May triumphantly succeeds.
10/10