Tag Archives: apocalyptic fantasy

Review of The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May

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I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library.

thevanishingthroneAileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

Whatever you do – don’t start with this book. Go back to The Falconer, which ended on a devastating cliffhanger and pretty much picks up exactly where the first book left off. So if you start with this one, while you may not be floundering too much, you will definitely be missing an important chunk of the story. Having your main character being subjected to sustained torture can be tricky business, especially in a YA read, and needs careful handling. Fortunately May deals with it well and Aileana certainly is left with wounds that run deeper than the scars inflicted as the storyline progresses.

I was concerned that as the first book galloped towards an apocalyptic climax, the second book would necessarily be something of a let-down – and it proved to be nothing of the sort. May doesn’t ease up on the pace one iota and Aileana is immersed into another series of twists and turns that reveals yet more of the fae and their tortuous relationship with humanity reaching back millennia.

It was also a treat to meet up again with the strong supporting cast of characters who people The Falconer… I was very relieved that Derrick, the stroppy pixie, survives. Apart from anything else, the repartee between Aileana and Derrick provides some very welcome humour. Not that this is particularly downbeat – there is too much going on and too many issues for our protagonist to consider for the mood to become too gloomy. However, it is gritty – wounds cause scars. People sustain losses. And bear grudges…

Once more, I was swept up into this enticing, edgy world. Though as I approached the ending I became increasingly concerned that it could not compete with The Falconer’s shocking conclusion. But I need not have feared – as I got to the final page, I was scraping my jaw off the floor, while being very relieved that I shan’t have to wait too long for the final book, The Fallen Kingdom, in this exciting, entertaining series. Highly recommended.
9/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – January Roundup

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I know… it’s too far into February – but I got a tad carried away with my Netgalley requests so it’s been difficult to fit this post in. After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors previously unknown to me during the last two years. So how did I do in January? I read four books towards the 2017 Discovery Challenge. They were:-

The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May
She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the thefalconerMarquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

Yes… the blurb does go on a bit, but it does effectively set the scene for this interesting foot-to-the floor adventure. I’ve loved the first two books in this edgy, apocalyptic fantasy – and each book takes the plot off in twisty directions I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see how May will end the series this summer…

Strangers by Rosie Thomas

strangersSometimes the victims of tragedy are the ones who survive. Annie and Steve are from different worlds. She is a wife and mother, he is a wealthy executive with a stream of broken relationships in his wake. They do not know each other exists until one morning, on a shopping expedition, they becomes victims of a bomb blast, thrown together in the debris to fight for their lives.

The beginning of the book where the two of them are buried in the bomb blast is amazing. I loved the description – so visceral. Thomas absolutely nailed it. However, I decided in the end not to review this one.

 

Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

Once more, I’ve edited the rather chatty blurb, but Hill has taken on depression and suicide in this gutsy YA read. I am very impressed at how she approached the subject and managed to make this a readable, thought provoking story. Definitely One to Watch.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

oldbonesA young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be the resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again? The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

This is a gem if you like your police procedurals twisty, with a protagonist whose narrative voice is blessed with desert-dry humour that regularly had me sniggering aloud. Mum was right – this lady can certainly write…

 

Tackling my TBR pile – this month I only managed to read one book towards this Challenge:-

A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge asymphonyofechoesof disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a strong sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV.

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

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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.

Himself has had the week off work. We have mostly stayed at home, because my half term break is next week *sigh*… That said, we did manage to have a couple of days when we chilled together and had lunch at our favourite place.

The weather has been variable, starting cold and wet but steadily getting warmer and sunnier – yesterday was fabulous so we went for a walk over Kithurst Hill. The views were wonderful and for the first time this year, it felt more like spring than winter. I’m not kidding myself – I’m aware that next week it could quite easily snow, but still… there it was – a slice of sunshine! The bonus was during the walk I talked through my ideas for Miranda’s Tempest, as since Christmas I’ve felt like I was wading through concrete on the rewrite. J is a really good listener and together we discussed some of the issues that I’d got stuck on, so I’m hoping to make much better progress this coming week, when I can fully concentrate on it.

As you can see, I’ve had a great reading week with a tranche of entertaining and in one case, outstanding books to read – though it looks a tad more impressive than it is, given one was a novella and one was a children’s book.

This week I have read:

The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her thevanishingthronefriends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library. There’s no second-book slump here – May continues where the first book leaves off in this adrenaline rush of an adventure. I will be reviewing it in due course.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
mirandaandcalibanMiranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This beautifully written love story is mostly the prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest though you don’t have to know a thing about the play to become engrossed in the events of the enchanted island. I loved this one – it is my favourite book of the year to date.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at slowbulletsan end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

This space opera novella offers a cracking adventure with plenty of twists and turns, along with some interesting concepts. The slow bullets of the title are identity chips buried deep within a person that record all their major life events. They are impossible to change or over-write. So what happens in a crisis when your life and who you are can be read for all to see?

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries by Robert J. Harris
thegravediggersclubOne day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all – Sherlock Holmes. But right now, Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected?

This entertaining historical mystery adventure for children tripped along at a fair clip, with the main protagonist, Artie Conan Doyle, seeming very familiar with fans who have read any Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers’ series by Becky Chambers

Teaser Tuesday featuring Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Friday Face-off – Drivin’ Along in my Automobile… featuring Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle mysteries by Robert J. Harris

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

10 of the Best Wendy Cope Poems Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/17/10-of-the-best-wendy-cope-poems-everyone-should-read/ Once more this great blog has produced an entertaining informative article I really enjoyed.

Girl from Mars, on the telephone https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/girl-from-mars-on-the-telephone/ I love the sheer quirkiness of this pic…

Take My Hand, We Will Walk https://bitesizedhamma.com/2017/02/14/take-my-hand-we-will-walk/ I love the simplicity of this short poem, which also has been very apt this week. Himself and I had a walk just like this one – something we should do more often.

When Dedications Leave Something To Be Desired https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/when-dedications-leave-something-to-be-desired/ Oh, this is hilarious! I howled with laughter and then shared the fun with J…

Interview with Sir Kipling from the Lily Singer series by Lydia Sherrer http://lolasreviews.com/interview-with-sir-kipling-from-the-lily-springer-series-by-lydia-sherrer/ I’ve seen book characters interviewed before, but never with more entertaining snark than this gem…

Thank you 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 The Turn – Prequel to The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

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As soon as I caught sight of this one on the NetGalley catwalk, I knew I had to have it. Like many fantasy fans, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Hollows series – see my review of Every Which Way But Dead – where in each book Harrison invariably alludes to the game-changing catastrophe that brought the Interlanders out from the shadows. It is now a delight to have that keynote time actually charted in this entertaining read.

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?

I reserve the right to abbreviate book blurbs as I see fit, as far too many toss one spoiler in after another. But I’m not even giving you the beginning of the this one, as it immediately lurches into Spoiler territory – unnecessary as I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who have never read Kim Harrison and this is an excellent starting point. So long as you haven’t already been told half the story, already.

We are in the viewpoint of Trisk, a female dark elf and brilliant geneticist whose outstanding work is consistently passed over due to her gender – and her swarthy looks and lack of breeding. Elves are supposed to be blue-eyed, pale-skinned and blonde, like Kal, the spoilt, entitled jerk who made Trisk’s life at school a complete misery. Given that he, too, has gone on to study genetics, he continues to blight her life. And then they go their separate ways – until she makes a major breakthrough in a relatively small, human lab. Could this save the elves from the genetic damage inflicted by demonkind?

I loved this one. Harrison excels at writing nuanced, driven characters who frequently make disastrous mistakes. The worldbuilding is brilliant and the supporting cast every bit as charismatic – for Harrison fans, half the fun of this book is seeing familiar characters pop up at the start of their journey – or their ancestors. I loved Orchid, the gutsy pixy, desperately looking for a buck and refusing to believe that she is the last of her kind and seeing how the imperturbable Quen was before he got to be that way. While vampires regularly appear in urban fantasy reads, few writers manage to evoke the sheer terror and unpredictability of this creepy species the way Harrison does. As for Kal – I keep banging on about how important it is that we have a clear insight as to why the antagonist behaves the way he does and this is a masterclass in how to write one. He has been gifted with so much, but he knows only too well that what he lacks is that touch of brilliance Trisk brings to her work.

The way this book leads up to the disaster that overtakes the world and what happens next is masterfully handled. I very much hope that Harrison will be writing another in this series. I loved this one and it comes highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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I was delighted when I realised last month after reading the awesome The Annihilation Score – see my review here – that the next book in this outstanding series was due for release. And even more delighted when I managed to get hold of a NetGalley arc…

thenightmarestacksAlex Schwartz had a promising future – until he contracted an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret agency. His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. The thought of telling his parents that he’s lost his old job, let alone them finding out about his ‘condition’, is causing Alex more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses. His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student appearing in the local Goth Festival, who flirts with him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock. But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal . . .

First, a warning. For fans of Bob and Mo Howard, who are keen to catch up on them after their roller-coaster journey during the last two books – you’ll have to wait a bit longer to discover how they’re doing. This instalment is all about Alex, who we first met in The Rhesus Chart – see my review here. While Alex doesn’t have the dry wit of Bob, the storyline soon whisked me up and held me as we have the Charles Stross version of elves making a dramatic appearance and like his version of vampires, they are far more lethally compelling and unpleasant than Tolkien suggests.

I really enjoyed this break with the normal London setting, as Leeds is where Alex finds himself entangled in the latest incursion from another dimension in this smart fantasy/science fiction mash-up. Although I did miss Bob’s dry, world-weary commentary, there are still some lovely touches of humour – particularly enjoyable is Alex’s meal with his parents as they reel under the combined onslaught of his apparent demotion, Cassie’s oddness and his sister’s bombshell.

But the tone is a lot darker and those odd splashes of humour were very welcome in the final act, where there is chaos and mayhem in full measure. The battle scenes are full of drama and I found myself unable to put the book down as I needed to know what would happen next – I wasn’t sure that Alex would survive, for starters, as Stross is perfectly capable of mowing down a major character.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, though for me, it didn’t have the emotional punch of The Annihilation Score which is my all-time favourite in this series, so far. However, there is plenty of compelling action and those elven warriors rampaging across the English countryside on lethal battle steeds, wielding magical weaponry will stay with me for a while.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Annihiliation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Dr. Mo O’Brien is an intelligence agent at the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. But the Laundry is recovering from a devastating attack and when average citizens all over the country start to develop supernatural powers, the police are called in to help. theannihiliationscoreMo is appointed as official police liaison, but in between dealing with police bureaucracy, superpowered members of the public and disgruntled politicians, Mo discovers to her horror that she can no longer rely on her marriage, nor on the weapon that has been at her side for eight years of undercover work, the possessed violin known as ‘Lecter’. Also, a mysterious figure known as Dr Freudstein has started sending threatening messages to the police, but who is he and what is he planning?

I recently caught up with this excellent series when I got hold of The Rhesus Chart – see my review here – and this book is very much its companion piece. This extract from the Laundry Files is told in Mo’s viewpoint, rather than Bob’s, the usual protagonist who features in these adventures. Mo is Bob’s wife, who is sent out to regularly confront the grisly and terrible creatures with her bone violin. The sticker on the violin case THIS MACHINE KILLS DEMONS isn’t a joke… So it was treat to actually have her first person viewpoint.

I’ve read a few reviews complaining about what a bitch she is – but she’s teetering on the edge of full PTSD, while wrestling for control of her soul and psyche with the violin she uses as a weapon. If Stross had presented her as a softer-edged character, full of concerns about her husband’s woes while all this grief was piling up at her door, the book would have gone flying across the room. Of course, she’s taken up with her own concerns – I think Stross has done a first class job of writing her. The only grizzle I have is the rather constant harping on about middle-aged women turning invisible – given she’s beautiful (Bob has told us she is and I’ve no reason to doubt him) and only in her early forties, she shouldn’t be turning into wallpaper given the strength and charisma she displays in other situations. It grated because, while it can be a problem for women who have spent their vital years running around after spoilt children and a demanding spouse, Mo clearly doesn’t fall into that category so it struck a false note.

However, it’s a relatively minor niggle in a tour de force. Mo’s spiky tetchiness pings off the pages as she finds herself attending meetings and trying to defend her fledgling department’s performance. Being mired in office politics and powerpoint presentations while trying to save the world from the outbreak of superhero powers manifesting within the general population seems an all too realistic probability. I also really enjoyed the discussions about the uniforms they are supposed to be wearing. While Mo doesn’t have the sardonic, world-weary humour Bob regularly displays, there was plenty in this book that had me quietly grinning.

But her gritted desperation as she battles to hold it all together without Bob’s support is palpable. I found her timed crying jags very poignant – especially as there isn’t an ounce of self pity on display. The storyline worked well within the series, though I’m aware there is a steady heightening of the stakes and I do wonder how it plays out and whether they all survive intact. This particular crisis was brought to a satisfying end, though I have found myself pondering this book quite a bit since I finished reading it – always a strong sign I’ve read something special. This is a great addition and, for me, one of the best books in the series to date.
10/10

Sunday Post – 15th May

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Weekly Wrapup

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

This week, I still seem to be running to stay on the same spot… Monday was taken up with helping my son with an audition tape and teaching and I’ve been out every night this week, except Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday I was with a couple of writing groups – vital to get feedback and discuss various writing/editing problems as well as great fun. Friend and accomplished poet, Lyn Jennings helped me out with my poem ‘The Price of Breathing’ and on Wednesday evening Sarah Palmer set me on the right track with my woefully bad blurbs for Dying for Space and Breathing Space.

On Thursday evening, the West Sussex Writers monthly meeting had Sarah Lewis talking to us about using social media as authors. It was a really good evening, with plenty of useful information. And we’ve had the pleasure of Oscar’s company throughout the week-end, so fun things like trips to the beach and bowling have pushed editing and reading into the background.

I have managed to read four books this week, although one of those is a book Oscar and I have been reading together, so it would count as more of a novella, as it is the £1 book he bought for World Book Day. I completed:

theoutliersThe Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers series by Kimberley McCreight
I was given the opportunity to read this YA mystery sci fi thriller via NetGalley and couldn’t resist. It is a taut, twisting plot full of surprises written in first person viewpoint. It definitely is a Marmite book that readers seem to either love or hate and I posted my review of it yesterday.

 

planetfallPlanetfall by Emma Newman
I bought this book in the early New Year, but wanted to wait until I felt the need for a bit of a pick-me-up before reading it. I’m glad I did. This book is a joy. It grabbed me by the throat from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end. I still get a tingle every time I think about it… I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Strossannihilationscore
This is the companion book to The Rhesus Chart and I’m very glad I managed to read the two books reasonably close together. Again, a roller-coaster ride through an everyday setting with recognisable people dealing with threats that are anything but mundane. Though the inter-departmental politics, office rivalries and budget constraints certainly are… Stross manages to weave a unique world that we all instantly can identify with – before throwing it into a tentacle-lined abyss. I’ll be reviewing this on or around 9th June when the paperback version is released.

 

theescapeEscape – Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Scott Cavan
This is a nifty idea – get a major film franchise agree to use their setting for a series of children’s books. Oscar was rather underwhelmed about the idea of going off to spend his £1 book voucher on anything other than the inevitable sticker book – until we happened upon this offering. And he was so excited, I bought the rest of the series. We completed this book on Friday night as soon as he walked through the door.

 

My editing schedule has lurched to a halt this week, but I’m hoping that as next week is considerably quieter, I’ll be able to really get cracking on Breathing Space.

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 8th May

Review of Date Night at Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. Foner

Teaser Tuesday – Planetfall by Emma Newman

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

2016 Discovery Challenge – April Roundup

Friday Faceoff – Which Witch is Which? featuring Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers series by Kimberley McCreight

It has been an enjoyably sociable week with lovely writing friends. I am also getting steadily fitter with my weekly sessions of Fitstep and Pilates – though I stupidly dropped my TENS machine while loading the washing and broke it, so need to order another as my hip is being a bit niggly.

May your books bring you entertainment and enjoyment, or profound insights and I hope everyone has a fulfilling, busy week.

Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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As a solid fan of Novik’s awesome Temeraire series – see my review of Victory of Eagles hereuprooted – I was shaken to realise that I somehow managed to miss her latest offering, Uprooted. But after regularly seeing it recommended across the book blogs I visit, I vowed to get hold of it as part of my 2016 Reading List, especially as it was short-listed for the 2015 Nebula Best Novel award.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
This character bounces off the page. I loved the depiction of her life in the isolated village where she lives and the casual manner in which she mentions the disappearances and horrific transformations of people she knows. The first person narrative works extremely well and Novik is very deft as depicting the world through the eyes of her charismatic and quirky protagonist. However, that doesn’t mean there is any undue hanging around with pages of scene setting, as Novik whisks us up into the narrative at a fair clip.

I found myself reading during the day to discover what happens next – thus breaking one of my rules. But there was no point in trying to immerse myself in my own editing, as my head was too full of Agnieszka and her story. Not wanting to encroach into Spoiler territory, I am not going to discuss any details of the narrative, but the magic system works well, with structure and rules that have consequences.

What I particularly liked about this tale, is the depiction of the antagonist. As the books progresses, we realise there is more than a single version of why the Wood is very hostile to humanity. Having read several books recently where the finale was compromised by the thin characterisation of the antagonist, it was a delight to have such an intelligent approach to the story resolution. A great end to a fabulous, entertaining read.
10/10

Review of Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Book 3 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

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I really enjoyed the other two books in this series – read my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone here. Would this, the final book in the series, bring this gripping story to a sufficiently satisfying ending? Because, given the scope and epic tone of this adventure, the conclusion needs to be a resounding finale and anything less simply won’t do.

dreamsofgodsandmonstersOnce upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts and started the Apocalypse. When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and in the skies of Eretz… something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

You see what I mean? This isn’t a book that is able to end on a whimper – it has to go out on a bang. So does Taylor deliver? Oh yes. Her larger-than-like style encompasses betrayal, brutality, double-crossing and vengeance, as well as convincingly portraying the searing love between Akiva and Karou, which is a lot more difficult to successfully achieve than she makes it look.

Taylor niftily introduced new plotlines into each book featuring new characters, alongside the main protagonists we had already bonded with, which could have ended in a muddled mess in less capable hands. And in this book, we meet up with Eliza, plagued with nightmares of terrible creatures since she was a child. I really enjoyed following her journey and trying to work out exactly where she would fit into the overarching narrative. What this did, during most of the book, was give us a human scale for the immense, world-changing events that were sweeping through Earth and Eretz – and no,  I didn’t see the plot twists coming that pulled the story into the finale. Another favourite character is Akiva’s grim half- sister, Liraz, whose journey throughout the series has interestingly mirrored Akiva’s own narrative arc. Taylor’s skill in handling her progression to her final position in the book demonstrates both her adept writing and her innate understanding of these epic, feral characters she has created.

While there isn’t quite so much of the blood-soaked brutality that characterised Days of Blood and Starlight – see my review here – there is still plenty of full-on action. And once again, the humorous interchanges between Karou and her bestie Zuzana provided some light relief – even if the jokes are somewhat mordant.

But the more I think about all the elements that go towards that finale, there isn’t a dangling thread, or a misstep that has me wincing – it is all satisfying resolved, for good or ill. However whatever you do, don’t pick this book up if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of the first two in the series. Taylor provides sufficient clues that you won’t be left adrift, but even so, this series deserves to be read in the correct order.
10/10

Review of The City’s Son – Book 1 of The Skyscraper Throne by Tom Pollock

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I had the pleasure of hearing Tom Pollock talk about worldbuilding in one of the best talks I’ve attended at any con – and I am something of a nerd when it comes to attending all those panels… It was a workshop with him and the marvellous Kate Elliott, another favourite author of mine, and the two of them were awesome. They both spoke fluently and passionately on a subject they both knew well. Just as importantly, they clearly liked and respected each other. I came away buzzing with excitement and ideas – and a promise to myself to get hold of his books. Well, it’s way later than it should have been, but I’ve finally got around to reading The City’s Son – was it worth the wait?

thecity'ssonHidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spirits stampede over the tracks and glass-skinned dancers with glowing veins light the streets. When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles in the secret city, where she finds Filius Viae, London’s ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St Paul’s Cathedral, bent on reigniting a race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.

Oh yes. This book is beautifully written, full of remarkable creatures, sights and smells. Though to be honest, I’m truly glad many of those smells and sights are consigned to the page and I did put it down while eating my breakfast, when Filius was talking to the litter monster who’d raised him. Pollock’s sensual writing had me imagining all too clearly the sour milk, eggshell eyes and rats scampering over the decomposing takeaway meals…

It’s all very well being able to write beautifully, though – is there also a strong story and wonderful characters? Oh yes. The narrative buckets along at a cracking pace and while the story deal with some hefty issues – loss and grief, betrayal, sacrifice and destruction – this isn’t a downbeat, grim read. Pollock’s cast of characters have to endure knee-buckling problems and he doesn’t slice them any free air just because they happen to be his protagonists. But behind the sharp awareness that it doesn’t end happily ever after, there is also a gritted joy in living and plenty of sly humour that had me quietly chuckling. It is shelved in the YA section, but to be honest, though the protagonists are teens, this book didn’t have a YA feel for me any more than Gaiman’s offerings do. The ending was certainly unexpected and has me wanting to get the next in the series to find out what happens next.

The blurb on the back of the book compares Pollock to Neil Gaiman and China Miéville – and for once, it is absolutely right. As well as being a delightful speaker, the man can write. In a year that so far has treated me to a slew of stormingly good books, this is yet another gem.
10/10