Tag Archives: Anne Lyle

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

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There are a number of science fiction and fantasy – mostly fantasy, it has to be said – which are set in London, an amazing city, thick with history and yet still buzzing and vibrant. I have already suggested a number of well-written, quality series that use London as an effective backdrop in Part 1 and here is now the next section of the article, which would have been far too long had I published it in one go.

The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another ongoing series that is a solid favourite – I love the way this long-running series has theatrocityarchivesdeveloped to date.

Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…

The first book in this series is The Atrocity Archives.

 

 

Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod
thesweetscentofbloogThis is a sparkling series with a fantasy PI who pings off the page. I need to get back and catch up with this series!

My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers – and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities . . . and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals. My advice is to start with the first book The Sweet Scent of Blood.

 

The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five theamuletofsamarkandand sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.
This intelligent, well written trilogy may feature a wise-cracking genie, who is the main protagonist – but it is for older children, as the jaw-dropping climax left me wrung out… The first book is The Amulet of Samarkand – see my review here.

 

The Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann
theaffinitybridgeThe entertaining steampunk detective series has also grabbed me as I’ve enjoyed the progression of the characters.

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.

When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.

The first book in the series is The Affinity Bridge.

 

The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock
This gritty, urban fantasy has London singing off the pages as a magical personification that I found thecity'ssonenthralling.
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze. But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The first book in the series is The City’s Son – see my review here.

 

 

The Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina
magnificentdevicesThis is a steampunk, alternate history romp, featuring a feisty protagonist – and if you think it starts off reading like a typical period romance, do keep reading because it suddenly turns into something so much more intriguing…

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. The first book in the series is Magnificent Devices – see my review here.

 

 

 

The Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle
This is an historical genre mash-up, with a dash of science fiction thrown into the alternate world, whichalchemistofsouls gives an intriguing backdrop to the storyline.

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

The first book in this entertaining series is The Alchemist of Souls – see my review here.

 

 

Triumff , Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett
triumffThis is standalone genre mash-up swashbuckler has a premise that doesn’t bear too much close examination – but I found I didn’t really care, because it’s such fun…
Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker. Saviour? Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day. A new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure. Read my review here.

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Fantasycon 2015

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nottingham_venue_headerThis year Fantasycon was held on the outskirts of Nottingham at a spiffy Conference Centre with the adjoining Orchard Hotel available for those attendees wanting to stay for the duration.
As ever, the event was well organised, with plenty going on during all three days so that I found myself yearning, once more, for that clone to be able to attend more than one panel/reading/discussion.

Highlights
The overall quality of the panels was very high, with moderators well prepared and the contributors knowledgeable and articulate. I’m a sucker for this aspect of cons, as I love listening to good discussions. The standout panels I attended were:-

Blades, Wands & Lasers: Fighting the Good Fight-Scene
Clifford Beal, Juliet McKenna, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Jo Thomas and Dani Ware, moderated by James Barclay Fantasycon-bannerdiscussed all aspects of fighting, using magic, sharp pointy things and techie gismos. It was a wide-ranging, often funny and insightful exchange, ably facilitated by James Barclay. This was the gold standard of panels…

Stealing from the Past: Fantasy in History
Moderated by Susan Bartholomew, the panel of Jacey Bedford, Susan Boulton, Anne Lyle, Juliet E. McKenna and Toby Venables discussed how they use history or historical events within their writing. Again, this was an excellent panel where the contributors were knowledgeable and entertaining.

Sounds Like a Great Story: the Science and Psychology of Audio Fiction
Alisdair Stuart moderated and the contributors were Emma Newman, Chris Barnes and James Goss. This was a gem, and uncovered a whole world of podcasts that so far had completely eluded me… I came along because I spend a chunk of my hard earned dosh on audio books, principally for my dyslexic granddaughter, and was intrigued to learn how they are produced. But as with the best of panels, I came away with a whole lot more than I’d expected. Awesome stuff.

Round Robin Poetry Slam
Once more the wonderful Allen Ashley organised this event, which this year was held on Friday evening. The standard was higher than ever, with a great range of material and some amazing deliveries – I’m not going to forget the Moby Dick rap in a hurry… I read my poems ‘Sunspots’ and ‘Desertification’.

Readings
It’s always a pleasure to hear authors read their own work. This year I managed to hear Adrian Tchaikovsky read an111_4650 extract from a new shapeshifting fantasy series which sounds fantastic; Janet Edwards read from Earthgirl, which reminded me how awesome it is all over again – read my review of it here. Joanne Hall read from her latest novel Spark and Carousel which is next on my TBR list. And Frances Kay read extracts from her books Micka and Dollywaggler – a clearly accomplished and interesting writer. I also read an extract from Running Out of Space, my space opera adventure novel due to come out soon. Many thanks for those kind souls who turned up to support me during my reading. I was ridiculously nervous, but very glad to get it over with. Hopefully next time won’t be such an ordeal.

Conferences are all about meeting friends and making new ones. It was great to meet up with Janet and John Edwards again, catch up with Susan Bartholomew who was the very first person I spoke to at my first conference back in 2011, and talk to the actual versions of Joanne Hall and Sophie Tallis who I regularly chat with in bloggerland. It was a delight to make new friends, too, such as the awesome Carlie Cullen.

The Dealers’ Room
Packed with gorgeous books to drool over – and buy. Himself and I peeped in promising each other that we wouldn’t weaken and acquire anymore. After all, we ran out of places to put new books sometime last year. Until we came across several we couldn’t resist… It was something of a shock to find we’d come home with 35 additions to our book piles.

Regrets
There were, inevitably events I missed that I wish I hadn’t. The Atrocity Exhibition sadly clashed with the Poetry Round Robin – a shame, it sounded just up my alley. I am also more than a tad devastated to have missed teaandjeopardythe live edition of Tea and Jeopardy with Brandon Sanderson, after checking out the podcasts – marvellous geeky fun. If, like me, you were visiting the Moon when Emma Newman’s wonderful tea lair and her guests were being given crazy things to do, then do track it down. Beats Radio 1 hands down.
Also deeply saddened to have missed Adrian Cole’s lecture on Zombie Sky Sharks and the Fantasycon version of Just A Minute. Ah well, maybe next year…

Many, many thanks to all those hardworking folks who make Fantasycon possible – the organisers, the contributors, the panellists and other attendees. In particularI’d like to give the redcloaks a special mention – those willing souls were always on hand to help out in any way. Fantasycon 2015 was, as ever, a fabulous, friendly event for SSF fans that has come to be one of the high spots of my year.

Review of The Alchemist of Souls – Book 1 of the Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle

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I’d had Anne Lyle’s historical fantasy debut on my radar for a while, but when I got to meet her again at Fantasycon this year, I also picked up her book and tucked into it on the journey home…

When a Tudor explorer returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: Skraylings. alchemistofsoulsRed-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a Skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is appointed as the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal his soul.

This debut novel is an intriguing alternative historical fantasy adventure where Elizabeth I has married and produced two princes. The Skraylings – a mysterious and powerful New World race that is proposing an alliance with England at a time when formidable interests are ranged against the country raises the stakes in this involving tale of political manoeuvring and personal ambition. There are three main protagonists whose stories intertwine – Mal, a mercenary fallen on hard times; Ned, a scribe who works in the theatre and Coby, a girl posing as a young man working as a tireman for the famous theatre group the Sussex’s men. Going for three protagonists is always something of a risk – I often find there is one character’s storyline I skim in order to get back to my favourite. It didn’t happen in this case. All three stories held me sufficiently to want to follow each one to the climactic and satisfying conclusion.

What this isn’t, is some rollicking swashbuckler. Lyle’s London is too gritty and full of menace – in her attention to detail, I was at times reminded of C.J. Sansom’s depiction of Tudor London in his successful Matthew Shardlake series. And although this is a fairly hefty read at just over 500 pages, the book zipped along at a fair clip.
The heart of the story – just what exactly the Skraylings represent and how this is going to impact on all three main characters – is a strong story arc with plenty of narrative tension along with the period detail. The only caveat I have is that perhaps Ned would have felt a bit more tormented about the prospect of Hell due to his lifestyle and I wasn’t completely sure that Religion was important enough to all the protagonists at the time when hundreds of people were willing to die and kill for their beliefs. However, this one quibble didn’t prevent me from hugely enjoying this impressive debut and very much looking forward to the sequel.
9/10

Fantasycon 2012 – My Highlights

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It’s a whole year since I first dipped my big toe into the Conference scene – starting with last year’s Fantasycon held at the Royal royal_albion_1Albion Hotel in Brighton. It turned out to be my favourite – both Bristolcon and Eastercon were wonderful, but for my money Fantasycon is the one for a bibliophile, with its heavy emphasis on books, writing and authors. So, a year later would I still feel the same way?

This year I brought my husband along. John is also a speculative fiction fan, so I knew he wouldn’t be moodily mooching along at my side, wishing he were elsewhere. Have to say, the Royal Albion Hotel is also a firm favourite. Yes… I know the checking in procedure is a long-winded nightmare; that the subterranean rooms make a sauna feel chilly; that the whole place – frankly – has seen better days. But on a sunny day, the light streams through the huge sash windows in the Regency lounge and the view out to the pier and the sea is just fab. And while it isn’t the last word in efficiency, the staff are invariably friendly.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
Meeting up with friends I only get to see at conventions – like Mhairi Simpson, Justin Newland, Roy Gray and Susan Bartholomew is one of the main joys of coming to these events – as well as meeting new folks like Lynne Stephens, who managed to combine Fantasycon with a business trip from the US. Talking about science fiction and fantasy books to people who actually know the authors you’re on about is very empowering.

alchemistofsoulsI’d already started reading Janet Edward’s science fiction YA book, Earthgirl, before arriving at the hotel, but found it absolutely compelling – so found the time to finish it AND discuss it with Janet, which was great… I’ll be writing a full review of it in due course.

Another book I picked up while at the Con that I managed to complete, was Kim Curran’s Shift – another enjoyable read. And then started in on Anne Lyle’s historical fantasy The Alchemist of Souls, another thoroughly quality book, which I acquired while here. And one I will also be reviewing…

I bumped into Jaine Fenn (literally!) while bopping in the disco, author of the wonderful Hidden Empire series – and she asked me to do a review of Downside Girls, her new short fiction book where the stories are all related to the characters in Principles of Angels. Of course, I said YES PLEASE.downsidegirls

The Open Mic Poetry Event – I went along to support Susan – and had a really enjoyable time. The poems covered a wide range of subjects and were generally of an impressively high standard. Roy Gray actually allowed me to read one his poems – though I was kicking my stupidity in not bringing some of my own stuff. My highlight was the wonderful Tina Rath, who actually knew her work well enough to perform it – and her poetry is a superbly creepy and funny.

I attended a fair number of panels – although the heat in the Fitzherbert Room was something else – and I think it’s a testament to the endurance and professionalism of all the panel members that by the end of a sweltering hour, they were still speaking and thinking coherently, while I was just plain melting…

220px-Juliet_E_McKennaKeeping It Real – This, for me, was the outstanding panel of those I managed to attend. Juliet McKenna is always excellent – intelligent and amusing. Brent Weeks proved to be a confident and adroit Moderator, while Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jasper Kent both were able to speak with the authority of experienced, established authors and although Benedict Jacka was clearly nervous, he also had some interesting insights. I could have happily sat and listened to these five authors speak for the rest of the morning.

The Quiz – Just like last year, this was insanely difficult. And I contributed absolutely nothing to my team, which actually did well, thanks to the likes of Amanda Rutter and Anne Lyle… However, watching Sarah Pinborough and Joe Abercrombie try and keep control of the proceedings was hilarious.

 

Brent Weeks’ Reading – He not only endured the heat of Room 132, he overcame it to perform his reading in a tour de force that brent-weeks-credit-travis-johnson-photographyhad his fans all groaning aloud by the end of the session, as his protagonist died in a hail of bullets. It was on the edge of the seat stuff – before he confessed that particular scene wouldn’t be making it into his latest book. Probably…

The Editorial Process – This Masterclass by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz was excellent. She discussed the common faults authors make and how we can correct them, before moving onto to explaining how she approaches an author’s work, and the stages a manuscript goes through when being edited by a publishing house.

willhillHow To Write and Sell a YA Novel – Another high point. Will Hill was informative and very generous with his wealth of experience without being remotely patronising. As someone who is working on my first YA book, I found his advice invaluable – I think the Conference was worth it just for this particular session…

The Disco – This was a blast – I missed last year’s effort. Everyone was bopping around for all they were worth. And then, of course, there was that dance-off…

It’s always sad when feelings get trampled (actually, it was a minor miracle that no one ended up being squished underfoot when Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock went head to head…) Have to say, it was THE highlight of my Conference. Did the right man win? Anyone who has visited Joe’s blog recently will know his feelings on the subject. I bought him a drink the bar the following morning, when his devastation was apparent.  All I can say, is that if there was any kind of fix, I wasn’t aware of it. No doubt the inevitable Enquiry into the matter will produce a Report in Due Course. In the meantime – keep dancing, Joe…

My book addiction kicked in bigtime. John and I staggered onto the train home with 28 additional books in our luggage – which added to the 31 already stacked by my bedside means that my 2 year old grandson is now in imminent danger of being buried by a bookslide every time he scrambles off our bed.

And now that I’ve been back from Fantasycon 2012 for almost a week, my memories of the whole conference are backlit with the warm friendliness of everyone I encountered. A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible – it was great!