Tag Archives: Alwyn Hamilton

Review of paperback book Hero at the Fall – Book 3 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton #Brainfluffbookreview #HeroattheFallbookreview

Standard

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – read my review of Rebel of the Sands here. So I was keen to see how Hamilton wraps up this entertaining Sand and Sorcery adventure.

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

What I’ve really enjoyed throughout this twisting, roller-coaster adventure in Amani’s first- person narrative, is the way her character has continued to grow and develop. She can look back at that gun-toting girl, desperate to escape a dead-end existence with some disgust and amazement – the way we often do when we look back at our own lives. Not that she has much time to ponder all that much – except how to get herself and her dwindling band of rebels out of the next awful bind they find themselves in.

Hamilton has a pleasing knack of tipping our feisty heroine from one disaster to another, while steadily upping the stakes. This gives the book a punchy, page-turning pace that meant it was very difficult to put this one down – except when I wanted to surface, gasp some sand-free air, before plunging right back into the maelstrom that is the final book in this series.

I kept waiting for the pace to slacken off… for Amani to have some sort of breathing space while she recollected herself and those around her fighting for freedom – and laying down their lives. What knocked the wind out of me was that characters I’d grown to like actually died. Reminding me that people who rebel against the status quo generally pay a very high price – in many cases, the ultimate price.

There were short, intervening chapters after a major event, where we were pulled out of Amani’s head into an omniscient narrator reciting what stories were told about it in times to come. Initially, I was a bit fed up as I’m not a fan of omniscient narration. But by the end, I found I was thankful for the lull and enjoyed the sense of historical impact this desperate struggle was having. As for the ending – yes, it worked. And make no mistake – this is a very big deal. Hamilton is building towards the major confrontation from the first page, so it has to matter and be sufficiently surprising, thrilling and engrossing to justify all those hair-raising escapades along the way. A suitable ending to an outstanding fantasy series that has lodged in my memory despite reading hundreds of other books along the way.

Recommended for fans of sand and sorcery adventures with a strong Eastern flavour in the writing – but whatever you do, don’t start with Hero at the Fall – first enjoy Rebel of the Sands.
10/10

Advertisements

#Sunday Post – 12th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

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 have been busy rewriting the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles series, Mantivore Preys, as I’d like to be able to self-publish the first three books about a telepathic alien in close succession. Other than that, my blogging buddy Mhairi spent Monday with me, as we loaded up the corrected proofs for the paperback version of Running Out of Space. And on Wednesday the print proof copy arrived! I leapt around the house, whooping with excitement and as luck would have it – I was able to show it off to my sister, when we met up for lunch, as well as some of my writing friends. Brenda prepared us the most delicious meal on Wednesday evening with lots of lovely veggie dishes. On Thursday evening, I went to Chichester Theatre to see a performance of the world premiere of The Meeting – a really interesting play about a Friends’ Meeting House and how they react when a fleeing soldier pitches up in their midst…

On Friday, some of my students had planned to have a picnic at Marine Gardens in Worthing and invited me along. In the event, we were a select group – and we certainly weren’t picnicking as gale-force winds and torrential rain battered the coastline. We ended up in the café, chatting about writing, the world and everything over a yummy bowl of homemade soup. And on Saturday, Himself, my sister and I went for a walk along the River Arun in Arundel – I love the sound of the wind in the reeds…

I got a nasty shock this week. During our cosy catch-up on Wednesday, my sister demonstrated her new blood pressure machine on me. Then blinked and did it again, as it turns out my bp is way too high. I eat sensibly, don’t drink or smoke so I’m guessing the culprit is my very sedentary lifestyle and the fact the weight has crept back on. Before I go to the docs, I’m going to give myself a month where I try to get it down with a regime of exercise and losing those extra pounds that have rolled back onto my hips and tummy when I wasn’t looking. Watch this space!

This week I have read:

Pirate Nemesis – Book 1 of the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
Mercy Kincaid is a fugitive from her own family. Her dangerous telepathic gifts make her a target. So is anyone she gets close to. When her best friend is captured and tortured, Mercy’s only hope is to reunite with the family that tried to murder her as a child. She trusts few among her blood relatives, but finds herself intrigued by an enigmatic and dangerous killer.

Reaper has spent a lifetime watching his people die. He’s vowed to kill anyone who jeopardizes their survival. Mercy’s gifts are the biggest threat they’ve faced in eleven years, since a biological weapon nearly annihilated the pirate colonies. But Reaper realizes her talents can either destroy them, or save them.
Entertaining space opera adventure with a really nicely creepy antagonist.

 

Hero at the Fall – Book 3 of The Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.
I loved the first two books in this entertaining sand and sorcery series – see my review of The Rebel of the Sands – and wanted to find out how it all finishes, given how very high the stakes have become. Review to follow.

 

Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron
An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?
Action-packed and engrossing debut to this interesting series. I will be reviewing this one tomorrow.

 

Anachronism – novella by Jennifer Lee Rossman
It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…
I loved this foot-to-the-floor adventure and rather lost my heart to Petra, the despairing young woman who discovers she has a shining destiny – if only she can survive to fulfil it. And there’s that twist… marvellous stuff!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 5th August 2018

Review of The Backworlds – Book 1 of The Backworlds series by M. Pax

Teaser Tuesday featuring Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan series by Rachel Aaron

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Review of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Friday Face-off – Behind every mask… featuring The Masked City – Book 2 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Review of novella Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman

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

50 Ways to Reward Yourself http://www.bryndonovan.com/2018/07/30/50-ways-to-reward-yourself/ Okay – put your hand up if you have recently given yourself a proper treat – no… I’m not talking about scoffing a sticky bun that you shouldn’t be eating, anyway. I’m talking about a proper reward to acknowledge an achievement. Hm. Thought so… you need to read this, then.

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – July http://melfka.com/archives/2864 I love these clever drawings – they don’t just sum up Joanna’s writing life. Many of us have the same issues…

Mash ups – it could work! https://lynns-books.com/2018/08/07/mash-ups-it-could-work/ I loved the idea of some of these – the idea of The Shining mashed with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe had me cackling with laughter…

Face Lift https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/08/06/face-lift/ Apparently we are hard-wired to recognise faces – but this is taking that ability too far, I feel…

A Short Introduction to the Haiku https://interestingliterature.com/2018/08/08/a-short-introduction-to-the-haiku/ We all know about this verse form, given we write these at school – right? Wrong, apparently – it’s not that straightforward, for starters…

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

Friday Faceoff – I’m freeeee… #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

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. This week the theme is a Freebie, where we choose our favourite cover, so I’ve selected Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series bys by Alwyn Hamilton. I loved the story – but I loved the covers even more…

 

This edition was produced by Viking in March 2017. It’s not my favourite, but it’s still a cracking cover. The female archer featured on the cover clearly means business – I like the fact she is shooting straight at us. But what lifts this is that stunning sky and the background with the flock of birds and the city in the distance.

 

Published in February 2017 by Faber and Faber, this is my favourite. I love the eye-catching pink, with that lovely Eastern fretwork acting as a window into this exotic, dangerous world. The distant cityscape is picked out beautifully and I love the night sky with the sickle moon which perfectly complements that wonderful title font. This cover actually made me tingle when I first saw it…

 

This Polish edition, published by Czwarta Strona in July 2017, is another gem. Those lovely swirling patterns and that wonderfully detailed desertscape featuring the silhouette of our plucky heroine and her horse is simply beautiful. For me, what slightly lets it down is the title font, which is rather ordinary by comparison.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by Destino in October 2017 is certainly a lot different to the other covers. Initially I disliked it – but apart from the figures which I still don’t like all that much, the rest of the lovely detail has really grown on me. There is a wealth of lovely detail in the artwork all over the book that has me repeatedly looking at it as every time I do, I see something more.

 

This Serbian cover, published in June 2017, is another attractive, eye-catching offering. The colours are lovely and though it lacks the detailed gorgeousness of the other efforts, the stylised, more simplistic approach has been very well done. It also works effectively as a thumbnail, which is an important consideration these days. So… which of these covers do you like best?

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

Standard

Over the past year, I’ve becoming increasingly conscious that I’ve getting into the habit of plunging into a series with a book that has caught my eye and simply not getting any further. Given my go-to genres heavily feature series books, which are always part of a longer narrative, this is a habit I’d like to break. So this year, I’ve decided to make myself more accountable by recording my progress with series that I have either completed, or brought right up to date – hence this post now that we’re more than halfway through this year.

The Tide Dragons duology by Sarah Ash
The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice and Emperor of the Fireflies
This delightful fantasy series is strongly influenced by Japanese mythology and culture, so as well as the wonderful dragons of the title, there are kitsume and demons, emperors and generals and a formidable goddess all weaving through this richly textured world. I loved it and Emperor of the Fireflies is one of my outstanding books of the year so far.

 

The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit
This science fiction space opera series made a big impact with the hit debut book which had a real vibe of the hit TV show Firefly as an ensemble piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second book featured one of the ship’s crew and a waif who needed refuge and while it is set in the same world as the first book, you don’t need to have read it to appreciate what is going on. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these two books and am keen to discover where Chambers next takes this series.

 

The Witchlands by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch and Windwitch
This epic fantasy initially features two young witches, Safi and Iseult, who manage to get themselves into an almighty scrape at the start of the first book, entangling them in a major plot. I like the fact that their friendship is one of the main emotional drivers throughout the story so far and that the magical system is structured with clear rules and involves a high price from magic-users. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Bloodwitch, due to come out next year.

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne
I love this sand and sorcery adventure! Hamilton’s punchy writing style and vivid scene setting means both of these books have stayed with me as memorably enjoyable, exciting reads and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully arrive next year.

 

 

Echoes of the Fall by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Tiger and the Wolf and The Bear and the Serpent
This epic fantasy adventure takes place in a pre-agrarian world where clans divide depending on what animal they shape-shift into. Both books are full of incident and tension, along with splashes of humour as Tchaikovsky’s vivid, three-dimensional characters leapt off the page and into my heart. I’m very much hoping there is going to be more of this amazing story…

 

The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May
The Falconer; The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom
This riveting series features a young, well-bred woman, Lady Aileana, who leads a double life – by day she is the wealthy heiress in an alternate Victorian society, while by night she hunts and kills the fae after witnessing her mother’s brutal murder. Violent and enthralling, this trilogy is one of the reading highlights of the year so far.

 

 

The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy is set in a brutal world ruled by twelve kings possessing great magical power – and the efforts of one lowly-born girl to overturn their stranglehold on the desert city-state. I loved the story so far and will be looking out for the third book, A Veil of Spears, due to be published next year.

 

Planetfall by Emma Newman
Planetfall and After Atlas
This dystopian science fiction series is amazing. Both books are set in the same world, but on different planets and can be read as standalones – I loved each one, though the tone and mood were quite different. After Atlas is my book of the year so far and I will be pouncing on the next book, Before Mars, just as soon as I can get my hands on it.

 

 

Luna by Ian McDonald
New Moon and Wolf Moon
This duology envisages that the industrialisation of the Moon has been divided between five families, all ruthless entrepreneurs who have taken capitalism to the extreme as they continue vying for yet more power – with shocking consequences. McDonald has called this series ‘a game of domes’. I loved the brutal, detailed world and the charismatic characters.

 

Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Penric and the Demon; Penric and the Shaman; Penric’s Mission; Mira’s Last Dance
This series is a joy. Each one of these engrossing, beautifully written stories gives us another slice of Penric’s adventures as he copes with the demon he accidentally acquired while helping an elderly woman at the side of the road. Fortunately, Himself is also a serious fan and immediately buys up these gems as soon as they published. Quite right, too.

 

 

Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
The Drafter and The Operator
Harrison explores a fascinating premise in this military science fiction thriller, where black ops agents are able to shift small amounts of time to kill or dodge attacks. The snag is that as they alter the timeline, they forget chunks of their lives with the aid of a drafter who helps them avoid a catastrophic neural overload that occurs if they remember more than one version of reality. This is really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining duology.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes
This lush, eastern-influenced classic fantasy duology is another one of those which is set in the same world with a few linking characters, but follows different storylines. Each one is a delight, full of incident and beautiful descriptions that pinged off the page and lit up cold rainy days as I read.

 

 

The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens
This delightful portal worlds adventure is gritty, wise and astonishing. It is one of my favourite series with its emphasis on a number of nuanced, feisty female characters of all ages. This one has lodged in my head and won’t leave – particularly the poignant ending…

 

There are more to come – but I’ll be rounding up the others in another article.

Sunday Post – 5th February 2017

Standard

Sunday Post

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’ve had a more normal week, having fortunately recovered from the never-ending Headache Hell – thank you everyone for your good wishes and sympathy. Last Monday I had an unexpected treat in the form of Frances accompanying me for the day as her school had an Inset Day and Rebecca’s arrangements for her care were blown apart at the last minute. Unfortunately, it’s my busiest day but she was an absolute sweetheart, uncomplainingly sitting in the corner of Sally’s lounge reading and drawing as I taught Tim, then coming along to Fitstep, where she joined in. We had some time together in the afternoon before she went home and I had to start getting ready to teach again in the evening.

On Wednesday evening I managed to make my writing group for the first time this year – it was lovely to touch base with writing friends getting much-needed feedback, accompanied by cups of tea and fabulous home-made cake. Mhairi and I met up on Friday afternoon as we hadn’t seen each other for faaar too long. We sat in the Sea Lane Café, watching the white-caped waves pounding the shore through a grey rainy veil while we put the world to rights.

As you can see from my blogs – I’ve rather binged on NetGalley and had a series of new releases all coming out in quick succession, but I’m delighted at the quality and variety of the books I’ve been reading recently. I’ve also managed to get a bit more writing done, thank goodness.

It has been raining every day this week, except Saturday and Himself says the Arun has flooded around Pulborough – not a surprise given how saturated the ground is. Still, at least it isn’t snow…

This week I have read:

Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a traitortothethronemythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

This one was a joy. I loved Rebel of the Sands but Hamilton has produced an even better sequel, managing to provide an interesting dynamic in amongst the kidnappings, mayhem and murder where Amani is forced to consider the consequences of what she is doing. This was an aspect of the story I particularly appreciated. And that ending – what an amazing twist right at the very end! I’m now waiting impatiently for the next slice of this adventure.

 

Griffen: Shadows of a Mirror Realm by A.J. Blakemont

griffenShe has nothing—not even a roof above her head. She has unimaginable powers, but these powers come at a price: she has to feed on the mental energy of human beings, killing them in the process. Her name is Griffen and she is a newborn. She is a copy, a paranormal twin of a young woman, Letitia. Griffen is not the only one of her kind—there are others like her, living among humans or hiding underground. Romantics called them doppelgangers, ghostly twins, the harbingers of death. Scientists who know that they exist call them simulacra. They call themselves mirror souls. Who are they and what are their goals?

The above blurb caught my attention on NetGalley and the worldbuilding in this paranormal adventure is the book’s strength – I really enjoyed learning about Blakemont’s superbeings. However, I didn’t particularly bond with Griffen until well into the book.

 

The Turn – prequel to The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison returns to her beloved Hollows series with The Turn, the official prequel to the theturnseries that will introduce fans and readers to a whole new side of Rachel Morgan’s world as they’ve never seen it before! Can science save us when all else fails?

This is a wonderful treat for those of us who have real any of Harrison’s The Hollows series and followed Rachel’s adventures in a world where humanity was decimated by a virus. And in this book, we discover exactly how that happened… A great introduction to this series if you haven’t yet had the pleasure – and if you have, don’t miss this one. It’s Harrison at her awesome best. I shall reviewing this one in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 29th January 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Radio Boy by Christian O’Donnell

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2017 – January roundup

Friday Faceoff – Welcome to the Hotel California… featuring Hav by Jan Morris

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Griffen: Shadows of the Mirror Realm by A.J. Blakemont

 

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

Meet Guest Author Richard Ankers https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2017/02/04/meet-guest-author-richard-m-ankers/ Regulars who read this spot will know I frequently post Richard’s quirky short fiction. This moving and well written article explains what persuaded him to try his hand at writing.

10 Classic Children’s Poems Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/03/10-classic-childrens-poems-everyone-should-read/ And every poem featured here is a gem. Some have entertained generations of children – some are more modern, but I love them all…

Save Money on Professional Edits – 6 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Own Manuscript
https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/save-money-on-professional-edits-6-easy-ways-to-clean-up-your-own-manuscript/ Any advice by the great Kristen Lamb is worth reading – but she’s right, this article could save you cold hard cash as good editing is expensive and you don’t want your editor to waste time on issues you can fix.

Increasing Discoverability – The 2017 Challenge https://hierath.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/increasing-discoverability-the-2017-challenge/
After reading Jo’s article a few years ago, I started taking part. As a result I have encountered a number of talented authors who deserve to be better known.

Creative Writing and Resources for Writers: an Interview with Teacher and Sci-Fi Author S.J. Higbee https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/interview-s-j-higbee/
I was a bit poleaxed when Kristen first approached me, asking for an interview. But I really enjoyed answering her questions and sharing some tips I’ve picked up after 8 years of teaching Creative Writing classes.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

Standard

I fell in love with reckless, danger-loving Amani in Rebel of the Sands when I seemed to be the last person on the planet to have read this highly praised book, so would I enjoy the sequel?

traitortothethroneMere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Firstly, a huge thank you to NetGalley. I requested this one more in hope than expectation and was thrilled when I was granted permission to read it – only to discover that I wasn’t able to download it. The techs at NetGalley were on it, unfailingly helpful and persistent until they sorted out the problem and Traitor to the Throne duly turned up on my trusty Kindle.

And I was even more grateful once I tucked into this gem, for as much as I relished the first book, I loved this one even more. Hamilton has a very nifty trick for those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first book – she gets Amani to recite a tale about her exploits to date at the start of the story. While I would highly recommend those of you who may not have read Rebel of the Sands to do so, if you pick up Traitor to the Throne first, I can guarantee you won’t be adrift. And the abbreviated blurb is spot on – everything does change in this next slice of the adventure.

For starters, the rebels are having a tough time of it. Life is hard and dangerous as they are unceasingly harried and their comrades continually foray forth on life or death assignments and all too often don’t return. Until it is Amani’s turn to volunteer – and she finds herself in more trouble than she knows what to do with and one of the biggest mistakes she made in escaping her town now rebounds on her.

Amani is put in a position where she is forced to consider the consequences of her actions and question if what the rebels are doing is right for the inhabitants of Miraji. I really loved this aspect of the story. Firstly, considering her situation, I thought it psychologically was spot on and I also liked the extra spin it put on the worldbuilding, when we get a ringside seat as to the motivations of the antagonist. It raised the stakes, winding this adrenaline-fuelled adventure up another notch.

I thought I could see how this was going to end – until Hamilton suddenly threw a massive spanner in the works and pulled yet another game-changing plot twist right at the end. Marvellous stuff. While ending that particular storyline satisfactorily, once more everything has been thrown up in the air – and I will be fretting for another slice of this wonderful world for the rest of the year.

While I obtained the arc of Traitor to the Throne from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

Standard

After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

Standard

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but despite December being a really busy month I managed to continue reading more than two books a week. As for my Discovery Challenge, which I undertook after reading this post by Jo Hall to read and review at least two books a month by women authors previously unknown to me – I managed to read and review five books during December, though one of those reviews hasn’t yet been published.

Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the World series by Tessa Elwood
splitthesunThe Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him. Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?
I really enjoyed this one. Foot-to-the-floor, action-packed dystopian sci fi adventure with an appealing spiky heroine, I was scooped up into the middle of this world and didn’t want to pull away until the last page. Great fun – see my review here.

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.
There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel. See my review here.

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her everthehunteddays tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.
It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads. However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father. See my review here.

The City of Ice – Book 2 of The Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
thecityoficeDeep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise. The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages. As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
It took me a while to get into this genre mashup, where epic fantasy meets a steampunk-type world using magic to power machinery. However there are unforeseen consequences to harnessing such power in that particular way… I love the intricate, layered world with a number of interesting creatures including the tyn, powerful godlike rulers who nevertheless are somewhat down on their luck – and a number of ambitious humans trying to get what they can. Altogether, this becomes an engrossing world with a number of fascinating stories – I’m definitely going to be looking out for the sequel. See my review here.

It was also a good month for my other reading challenge of the year – Tackling my TBR as I read and reviewed five books from my teetering To Be Read pile, which were:-

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin’s unusual eyes. When thornyholdthe child becomes a young woman, she moves to Thornyhold where she is thought by the local community to be a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. And not everyone who initially greets her is as friendly as they seem…
An enjoyable, initially slightly eerie read that becomes a more conventional romance – as ever Stewart’s writing is a joy. See my review here.

 

 

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.
This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem and you can find review here.

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
judgedKit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . . Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop. In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
I really enjoyed the previous two books in this series, Vowed and Banished so was pleased to be able to wrap up Kit’s adventure before the end of the year. Though whatever you do – don’t start with this book, go back to the start and experience this charming series in the right order. See my review here.

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.
This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton
thekingspeaceSulien ap Gwien was seventeen when the Jarnish raiders came. Had she been armed when they found her, she could have taken them all. As it was, it took six of them to subdue her. She will never forgive them. Thus begins her story—a story that takes her back to her family, with its ancient ties to the Vincan empire that once ruled in Tir Tanagiri, and forward to Caer Tanaga, where the greatest man of his time, King Urdo, struggles to bind together the squabbling nobles and petty princes into a unified force that will drive out the barbarian invader and restore the King’s Peace. King Urdo will change Sulien’s life. She will see him for what he is: the greatest hope the country has. And he will see her for what she is: the greatest warrior of her day. Together they will fight and suffer for an age of the world, for the things that the world always needs and which never last.
I loved this version of the King Arthur story. As ever, Walton took me somewhere different and engrossed me in the life of someone with other values and ideas. Another great addition to a wonderful reading year…

What about you – how did your December reading targets go?