Tag Archives: adventure

Friday Faceoff – The Year of the Rat… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffratcovers

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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 we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week the theme for finding covers is RATS in honour of the Chinese New Year, which is the Year of the Rat. I’ve selected a book from a sci fi classic book series The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge – Book 4 of the the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison.

 

This edition was produced by Ace Books in November 1986 and I just love that rat! Sadly, the rest sums up a lot of what I HATE in cover design. Someone went to the trouble of producing a really cool image. Then stuffed it in the bottom third of the cover, ensuring the rest of the cover is covered in a lot of chatter, interspersed with an uninspiringly pale blue title and author font.

 

Published in 1976 by Sphere Books, this edition is a far better effort. I love the horde of aliens sprinting towards us – an unusual tactic – but so very effective. The spaceships just add to the drama and incident, drawing my eye and keeping me riveted. And that isn’t the best thing about this one – it’s the wonderful bright colouring that sings out. The greenish hue around the alien warriors, looking threatening and the brighter orange shading around those ships – it’s so cleverly done. When looking down the list of covers, this one shouted at me. This is my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Bantam Books in July 1989, is another really striking effort. Again, I think the use of colour is both clever and effective in snagging readers’ attention. That bright yellow background is a fabulous contrast to the strong red title font. It’s interesting to note the ‘Bladerunner’ vibe in the styling of the cover design, particularly the figures.

 

This edition, produced by Berkley in February 1973, is frankly weird. Again the bright colouring pops, but what draws the eye here are those odd shapes. The man emerging from the mirrored metal female torso seems more disturbing, than anything else… I haven’t read this one, so I’m not sure what it is supposed to denote. Though many sci fi covers from that time made a point of featuring naked women, so perhaps this was as close as they could get…

 

This edition, published by Faber and Faber in 1971, is so nearly my favourite. I love the rat, looking suitably ferocious with a wind-up key in the side that adds an offbeat tone to the whole thing. And that funky font is clearly futuristic. This whole cover gives a sense of the genre with a strong humorous overtone – which as far as I can gather, is spot on as far as the book is concerned. What tipped the scales against it, is the rather dreary monochrome treatment – I would have appreciated more colour in this cover.

What strikes me is how remarkably different these covers all are, given they are for the same book! Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #ALongerFallbookreview

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I loved An Easy Death, as Charlaine Harris has been a solid favourite of mine for years – see reviews of Grave Sight, Dead Reackoning, Shakespeare’s Landlord, Midnight Crossroad, Day Shift and Night Shift, so I was extremely excited to hear that A Longer Fall was due and Himself insisted that we pre-order it. I do love that man!

BLURB: Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen…

The blurb goes on for a bit longer, but you get the gist. I love Rose and the way we are right inside the character from the first page – Harris has a knack of drawing me right into the middle of her worlds in no time flat and this time around was no exception. This dystopian, alternate history where the Russian monarchy managed to flee before they were all massacred and are now living in a corner of a very different America, works really well. The magical element is also deftly introduced and I enjoy the tension and dislike that surrounds these magic-users, which makes complete sense.

I was hooked and read late into the night and early morning to discover what happened next. Rose teams up with a former colleague while plot twists come thick and fast as they fend off a variety of threats. In the meantime, there is also an interesting romantic thread running alongside the adventure which somewhat complicates things for Rose. One of the delights of this one, is that I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next.

However, I wasn’t completely won over by the MacGuffin that very abruptly stopped all the mayhem and violence. I recently had a rant about female protagonists in fantasy books who suddenly are riding into battle alongside the men, without there having been any real attempt to explain what dynamic has changed to make this possible. I felt in a similar fashion here, that a whole bunch of deep-seated, difficult issues in the small town of Sally were given a flimsy makeover in order to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t convince me. It didn’t mean the book went flying across the room, and I still very much enjoyed Rose’s personal journey, which was brilliantly explored throughout the book – but I have knocked a point off for the way the main plot gets wrapped up. That doesn’t prevent this being an action-packed, western-flavoured fantasy adventure well worth picking up – and we’ll certainly be pre-ordering the next instalment.
8/10

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020! #Brainfluffbookblog #MyFirstReadsoftheDecade

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These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-

KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder #Brainfluffbookreview #NavigatingtheStarsbookreview

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I have enjoyed Snyder’s writing for a while – see my reviews of Poison Study, Scent of Magic and Taste of Darkness. This one somehow by-passed me completely, but when I saw the buzz about the second book in this YA science fiction series, I got hold of this one when it was one special offer…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.
… Make that twenty-two. As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future.

I shortened the rather chatty blurb, but you get a sense of the tone of the story at the beginning of this thoroughly entertaining, bouncy science fiction adventure. Lyra is an incredibly resilient character, whose initial grief at losing her friends when moving away with her parents, doesn’t stop her for long. Ultra-bright and with a low boredom threshold, she soon gets herself into some bother by illegally hacking (Snyder calls it worming) into the powerful information system, the Q-net. This has consequences… I will not go into further detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I was thoroughly held by the eventful story that whipped along with plenty of pace and action, while providing interesting characterisation along the way. I love it when an author manages to achieve a cracking good tale peopled by solidly rounded characters. The romance is well handled with some sweet moments, yet doesn’t hijack the story with too much angst. And thank goodness there is no love triangle.

Any niggles? I do think that Lyra is verging on being a Mary Sue. It’s her Q-net skills that trigger some major investigations and she also is the only one that is able to see a hidden, lethal risk to those living on the planet. But while I registered this issue, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and I relaxed into Snyder’s pacey storytelling, thoroughly enjoying the ride. And I will be looking around for the next book in the series, given that while the initial story was satisfactorily, concluded those dangling plotpoints leave me wanting more.

Recommended for fans of YA science fiction adventure with plenty of incident and excitement.
8/10

Review of The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMermaidandtheBearbookreview

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I have enjoyed the lovely photos of Scotland posted by the author on her delightful blog, Ailish Sinclair and when I discovered she had recently had a book published, I tracked it down to read and review it.

BLURB: Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.

Historical romance isn’t my go-to genre. But I was intrigued by the talk of faery castles and mermaids. Isabell is a delightful character who pings off the page. The first-person description of her struggles with seasickness is riveting and dramatic, establishing Sinclair as a talented writer with a flair for words. There is a lushness to the prose throughout, which could so easily have tipped into sentimentality, or just become a tad annoying. It doesn’t.

What Sinclair is able to do is write contentment and happiness with verve, making it engrossing in a way that is far harder to do than she makes it look. I had a hunch fairly early on the direction in which this story was going and at least for the first three quarters of the book, on many levels, it was not a surprise. Generally, that doesn’t endear me to a story as I like surprises and unpredictability, but the sheer quality of the writing, the level of detail in the world building and the cast of varied and interesting characters meant that I couldn’t put this down.

However, during the last part of the book I genuinely didn’t know where it was going. There is a core of grittiness at the heart of this book, which despite the celebration of strong love and friendship, also examines the consequences of bitter envy, greed and lust.

What happens when you become a victim of such people? How do you deal with the aftermath? These are gnarly questions that Sinclair didn’t sidestep for the sake of a cosy read and this beguiling, wonderful book is the richer for it. I will be looking out for this author – this is an accomplished story by a gifted storyteller and highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – I would love a robot butler… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffrobotcovers #@SciFiMonth2019

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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 we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring ROBOTS. I’ve selected Robots and Empire – Book 4 of the Robot series by Isaac Asimov. I’m also linking this post to @SciFiMonth2019.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in 1996 and you can clearly see the influence of the Terminator films in this iteration of the robot. I really like this offering. The artwork is uncluttered by a lot of chatter and there is something innately disturbing in watching him attach that arm. The author font – the main selling point – is also looking awesome, for a pleasant change.

 

Published in November 1986, this is one for those who like their covers old-school sci-fi. The detailed artwork, the figures in the middle of a dramatic moment and the lumpy font, complete with a flashy textbox adding some sales patter gives this cover a 50s/60s feel. I think it really works.

 

This hardcover edition, published by Doubleday & Co Inc in August 1985, features the font in a metallic, futuristic style that I love. This cover makes such a statement! I love the extra details of the robot and human protagonists depicted in those boxes, which are highlighted by the patterning. I love the clean, no chatter approach which means we get to enjoy the design without any needless distractions. I’d like to think this is a highly embossed cover. It is my favourite.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by Plaza & Janes Editories Sa in January 1991, instead, zooms in on the robotic face. It grabs our attention with that oh-so-human gaze. I also really like this one. But while I like the bright yellow colouring on the fonts and the quirky slant – I’m not sure exactly what that blue textbox is supposed to represent. It distracts my attention from that amazing face and yet doesn’t seem to be part of the overall design, which is a real shame. This one would have been contender, otherwise.

 

This hardcover edition, published in September 1985 by Grafton, is another gem. I love this classic old-school cover with those lovely Metal-Mickey type robots toiling away – the blue-grey is beautifully highlighted against that gorgeous orange/red backdrop. And that punchy font works fabulously well – yes again, no clutter, no chatter, no textbox *swoon*. I’m in heaven. If it wasn’t for that fabulous Doubleday offering, this would be my choice of the week. What about you – which one do you prefer?

Sunday Post – 10th November, 2019 #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.

Last week was another busy one – I taught Tim on Monday and Wednesday and spent Tuesday catching up with a number of reviews, emails and admin that stacked up during Mhairi’s stay. I was delighted to get a text from my son, Robbie, who is now back from LA, asking if he could come down the next day. I hadn’t seen him since last December, so it was a real treat. On Thursday, I was working with a former student on her poetry collection, which was lovely as I haven’t seen her in a while. I miss all my former students… Once I returned home, Rob and I – in between catching up – worked on an audition tape, which was quite intense but a lot of fun. However, everything caught up with me on Friday, because when I woke up, I felt absolutely wiped out with a sick headache, which was a real shame as I was supposed to be driving over to Brighton to visit my daughter, watch Eliza having her swimming lesson and take part in a birthday tea with Oscar, who was celebrating his tenth birthday – when did that happen? I’m sure it was only yesterday, he was bumbling around learning to walk, as Eliza is doing just now… Sadly, I had to cancel because I felt too dire to drive over to Brighton. Fortunately Himself was here to drive Rob to the station to catch his train back to Cambridge. I was really fed up that I’d been unable to make the most of his visit AND miss out on Oscar’s birthday tea.

At the beginning of the week, I got back the notes from my main beta reader regarding Mantivore Prey, so what writing time I’ve had has been spent working through those and listening to the manuscript while following the text on the screen – my final major edit. I picked up a sprinkling of niggling errors and one anomaly, and now feel it’s definitely ready to release at the end of the month. I will be making ARC copies available through Booksprout tomorrow. However, I haven’t written a word towards the current WIP, Mantivore Warrior, which has been rather frustrating – I really need that writing clone…

Last week I read:

New Star Rising – Book 1 of The Indigo Reports series by Cameron Cooper
Bellona Cardenas Scordina de Deluca, daughter of the primary Cardenas family, went missing ten years ago. Reynard Cardenas, Bellona’s father and head of the family, receives anonymous, unsubstantiated news that she has been found. He sends the most disposable person in the family to investigate—Sang, the family android.

Sang’s investigation trips off chain reactions which shift the generations-old luke-warm war between Erium and Karassia into a galaxy-wide conflagration which will engulf the known worlds, including the neutral, fiercely independent free states…unless a hero can be found who will fight to hold the line against the two colossal forces.
I thoroughly enjoyed the twisty plot to this space opera series and will be reviewing it in due course.

 

Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
A desperate gamble…
Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah’s empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world.

A race on the verge of extinction…
Dem’s only goal is to protect his people, especially since a deadly bio-weapon decimated their population. Only a handful of women survived, and every day is a fight to rebuild. With Sanah’s empathy and her sister’s rare ability to heal, they could be the salvation Dem and his people have been looking for.

A dangerous secret that could destroy everything…
But how can Sanah trust Dem with her life? Especially when he’d kill her if he knew the truth.
This was pure escapist fun, with lots of mayhem and tension around some powerful, telepathic personalities and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.

 

The Lost Plot – AUDIOBOOK – #4 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
In a 1930s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.
It’s been a delight to catch up with this entertaining series – I’m so glad that I also have the next book in the series waiting for me… Review to follow

My posts last week:

KU Sci Fi/Fantasy Event

Friday Faceoff featuring Cibola Burn – Book 4 of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

Review of First Flyght – Book 1 in The Flyght series by S.J. Pagonas

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Missing Diamond Murder – Book 3 of the Black and Dod series by Diane Janes

Teaser Tuesday featuring Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke

Review of The Switch by Justina Robson

Sunday Post 3rd November 2019

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

COYER Winter 2019 Sign-up Post https://unconventionalbookworms.com/coyer-winter-2019-sign-up-post/ This isn’t something I take part in – but a lot of bloggers I know do, so I thought I’d spread the word about this year’s event…

Bloggers Wanted https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2019/11/bloggers-wanted.html For those who want to take their book blogging to another level, becoming a Caffeinated influencer is a really good option – the blog always professional with a high quality of reviews and plenty of activity…

When You Lose Someone You Love by Joanne Fink https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/when-you-lose-someone-you-love-by-joanne-fink/ I don’t normally include reviews of books in this round-up, but this one felt important, for obvious reasons…

Pete Seeger, Eric Bibb, Johnny Rivers & Harry Belafonte: An Archangel, A Sacred River, A Spiritual & The Folk Process! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/11/04/pete-seeger-eric-bibb-johnny-rivers-harry-belafonte-an-archangel-a-sacred-river-a-spiritual-the-folk-process/ Thom is revisiting some of his most popular posts from his first year of blogging – if you enjoy popular music and haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting The Immortal Jukebox, it is a joy…

Read for the Record https://jenniefitzkee.com/2019/11/07/read-for-the-record/ It’s important for a whole host of reasons to encourage new generations to love books, too – so inspirational teachers like Jennie are to be treasured…

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

Review of INDIE Ebook First Flyght – Book 1 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas #Brainfluffbookreview #FirstFlyghtbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’ve read one of Pajonas’s books before – see my review of Removed – and enjoyed the quality of the writing, so while the cover on this one caught my eye, I wasn’t too sure about the reverse harem dynamic. However when it was part of a Book Funnel promo I’d joined, I decided to give it a go. I am also including this one in the @SciFiMonth2019 fun and frolics, here.

BLURB: Vivian Kawabata can’t wait to claim her privileged destiny. But when the heir to the family agricultural empire finds her bank account empty while shopping for expensive shoes, she’s horrified to discover that her own brother has financially stabbed her in the back. To stand a chance of restoring her rightful place in the universe, the honest and rule-following Vivian may have to break a few intergalactic laws…

I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb, as I think it provides way too many spoilers. I really enjoyed Vivian’s character which pings off the page. Hardworking and focused on pleasing her family, she has been a model daughter – to the extent that she has put her own wishes for her future on hold in order to become an heiress worthy of the family farm. I really felt for her when the rug is pulled from under her feet and I think Pajonas manages to tread the fine line between fully depicting the devastation she feels and having her lapse too much into victim mode. By this time, I should have put the book down and got some much-needed sleep, but that wasn’t happening – I gulped this one down in a single sitting, as the pages kept turning themselves.

I also liked the supporting characters in this entertaining, bouncy story which, despite Vivian’s travails, has a nicely upbeat vibe in the humorous asides amongst the crew. As for the developing reverse harem storyline, it clearly isn’t going to be anything too graphic or sleazy for my taste. These days, while I appreciate a well-written romantic plotline, I generally don’t pick up any book for the romantic content alone – and I liked the fact that while I think I can predict at least one of Vivian’s future partners, there is going to be plenty of feelings and affection displayed in these relationships.

I am definitely going to be looking for more of these books – I need to find out how Vivian is going to prevail, whether she catches up with that shifty brother of hers and how the hilarious ship AI is going to cope with a cargo of pigs…

Highly recommended for fans of entertaining, character-led space opera with a strong romantic element involving a reverse harem story.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 5th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday #SciFiMonth2019

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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:

Pirate Bound – Prequel novella to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke

1% What a waste, he thought.
Marcus had been a good man, a solid gunner, and a skilled telekinetic. Now he was dead, his body blocking the lift to the flight deck, his blood congealing on the controls. All because some selfish, manipulative woman had played him against his best friend. Former best friend. The antagonism between Marcus and Vic had been rising for weeks. Over a null, of all things. A beautiful null, but still.

BLURB: A desperate gamble…

Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah’s empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world.

A race on the verge of extinction…

Dem’s only goal is to protect his people, especially since a deadly bio-weapon decimated their population. Only a handful of women survived, and every day is a fight to rebuild. With Sanah’s empathy and her sister’s rare ability to heal, they could be the salvation Dem and his people have been looking for.

A dangerous secret that could destroy everything…

But how can Sanah trust Dem with her life? Especially when he’d kill her if he knew the truth.

I read and enjoyed the first two books in this entertaining space opera series – see my review of Pirate Nemesis – and when I saw this prequel available, I snapped it up. As you can see, it’s very early stages but the snappy, assured writing has already pulled me into the action. I’m linking this post to @SciFiMonth2019, as the series might catch other folks’ attention, 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