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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Doing Time – Book 1 of The Time Police series by Jodi Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #DoingTimebookreview

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I have been a big fan of Taylor’s writing since Himself stumbled over this immensely talented author when he picked up The Nothing Girl and after that, we discovered the popular Chronicles of St Mary’s – see my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another – though you’ll also find reviews for the next four books in the series if you use the Search box at the top of the right-hand column and enter Jodi Taylor’s name.

BLURB: At some time in the future, the secret of time-travel became available to all. Chaos ensued as people sought to take advantage. Because there will always be nutters who want to change history… And so the Time Police were formed. Internationally sanctioned thugs whose task it was to keep the timeline straight by any and all means possible. And they succeeded. The Time Wars are over. The Time Police won. But who will win the peace? Doing Time follows three hapless new Time Police recruits – Jane, Luke and Matthew – as they try to navigate their first year on the beat. It’s all going to be fine. Obviously.

The book is in multiple viewpoints – Jane, Luke and Matthew all tell parts of their first testing days while training for the Time Police, though I like the fact that we don’t get to know exactly why they joined at the same time.

There is Taylor’s trademark humour, along with moments of real lump-in-the-throat poignancy – I don’t know anyone else who can swing the mood around from tears to laughter and back again with such conviction. What has been reined in a tad in this first book of a new series, is the anarchic mayhem that regularly breaks out in a St Mary’s book as those historians get an idea they want to test. I found it significant that the only time Taylor cuts loose in the same way, is when one of the characters finds himself back at St Mary’s for a short while. I was pleased to see that the more restrained, repressive atmosphere of the time police force has filtered into the writing.

That didn’t stop the tension being tight-wound to the point that I couldn’t put the book down as one character’s life becomes badly impacted by a ruthless antagonist. The sudden resolution to the situation didn’t have me wanting to break off, either. Taylor’s pacing, as ever, is brilliantly handled and I loved the way our initial bonding or otherwise with the main characters goes on altering and developing throughout the book as we learn more about each of them.

Once more, I reached the end of the book with the story having been satisfactorily concluded, but nonetheless feeling a real sense of loss that there wasn’t more. This tends to be my default emotion when getting to the end of one of Taylor’s books – and it’s a struggle to keep from plunging straight into the next one.

Highly recommended for fans of near-future, character-driven stories where time travel features, but isn’t necessarily the engine powering the narrative. The ebook arc copy of Doing Time was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

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Review of AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffbookreview #TheEmptyGravebookreview

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It took me a while to summon up the courage to listen to this slice of Lockwood & Co’s adventures, because it’s the last book in the series – and I so very much didn’t want the awesomeness to end…

BLURB: Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family’s past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle.

As is apparent from the blurb, this isn’t a series you can easily crash into. As each of the stories, while standalone for each of the mysteries they pose, adds another piece of the puzzle that Lockwood and his young associates are struggling to solve – what caused the Problem in the first place, some fifty years ago. Why did ghosts suddenly take to infesting the world of the living, causing fear, havoc and so many countless deaths?

By now, I am thoroughly at home with Lucy, the main protagonist whose dry humour leavens the creepier moments, and her companions – the dashing young Anthony Lockwood, clever, spiky George, precise and poised Holly and acerbic Kipps – not to mention Flo Bones and the Skull, who Lucy carries about in a rucksack in a jar. While this apparently a children’s book, there are plenty of moments that are genuinely creepy – sufficiently so that when my grandson was listening, he decided that he’d rather hear them during the day rather than when he was trying to get to sleep. In my opinion, this series is definitely more suited to the eleven to fifteen age-group, though this rather picky granny absolutely loved it.

There is a layering in the characterisation, a real sense of poignancy when dealing with Lockwood’s loss of his family and a depth of scene setting and worldbuilding that is a solid delight throughout. While I loved the Bartimaeus series, I’ve enjoyed Lockwood & Co even more, given those footnotes got a bit annoying halfway through.

As it is the final book in the series, there isn’t much to say that won’t immediately lurch into Spoiler territory – but don’t start at The Empty Grave, please do begin with the first book, The Screaming Staircase. Right now, I wish I had a timeturner so I could give it a twist and begin allll over again. I’m feeling drained and a tad emotional… the way you do when a world has sunk its hooks right into your heart and you know that even if you reread the story, you can’t ever experience it in quite the same way again. Highly recommended for everyone and an outstanding ending to an outstanding series.
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Lent by Jo Walton #Brainfluffbookreview #Lentbookreview

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I saw this one was coming out and then had to shut my eyes and look away. Given we suddenly found we needed a new roof in June, costing £20,000, I’d no business buying new books – especially considering the state of my teetering TBR pile. Until Himself realised it was out and bought it for me. No wonder he’s a keeper…

BLURB: Young Girolamo’s life is a series of miracles. It’s a miracle that he can see demons, plain as day, and that he can cast them out with the force of his will. It’s a miracle that he’s friends with Pico della Mirandola, the Count of Concordia. It’s a miracle that when Girolamo visits the deathbed of Lorenzo “the Magnificent,” the dying Medici is wreathed in celestial light, a surprise to everyone, Lorenzo included. It’s a miracle that when Charles VIII of France invades northern Italy, Girolamo meets him in the field, and convinces him to not only spare Florence but also protect it. It’s a miracle than whenever Girolamo preaches, crowds swoon. It’s a miracle that, despite the Pope’s determination to bring young Girolamo to heel, he’s still on the loose… and, now, running Florence in all but name.
That’s only the beginning. Because Girolamo Savanarola is not who—or what—he thinks he is. He will discover the truth about himself at the most startling possible time.

I’ve knocked off the last line of the blurb, which inexplicably saw fit to give away the big plot twist that occurs about a quarter of the way through this compelling book, that suddenly changes the whole dynamic.

Anyone who has spent time here will know my views on Jo Walton’s writing – she’s a genius, possibly the greatest SFF writer of her generation. She is also difficult to put into any kind of pigeonhole, because the only thing I can safely say is that the next writing project she embarks upon will be completely different to its predecessor. And I’m delighted she has found a home with Tor.com who clearly appreciate her mighty talent and don’t seem to mind her lack of ‘author branding’.

So after her wonderful exploration of Plato’s Republic, in her Thessaly trilogy – see my review of The Just City; her reimagining of Victorian capitalism using dragons as her protagonists in Tooth and Claw; her award-winning evocation of an upbringing in a boarding school after losing a horrific duel in the remarkable book, Among Others; her glorious version of the Arthurian legend through her dauntless female knight in her Tiri Tanagiri duology – see my review of The King’s Peace; and her exploration of personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds in her Small Change trilogy examining an alternative history where Nazi Germany prevails against the UK – see my review of Farthing – I was intrigued to discover what Lent would offer in the way of Walton wonder.

It is the examination of the final years of Girolamo Savanarola, an extraordinary critic of the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church during the height of the Renaissance in Florence. He was a charismatic leader of an increasingly vocal faction who wanted the Church to change its ways, well known for the famous Bonfire of the Vanities. Walton’s unfussy prose painted this period, full of delightful details, with her customary vividness, which I enjoyed. And then the plot twist happened. I didn’t see it coming, so dropped my precious Kindle and said something equating to, ‘Goodness me, what a surprise!’ and couldn’t put the book down until I fell asleep with it in my arms.

At a stroke this book, vividly depicting character at a fascinating stage in Italian history, turned into something else – something more visceral and poignant. One of the hardest things for modern historians to capture is the desperate importance that religion played in the lives of our ancestors. Many fiction writers don’t even attempt it, while the better ones manage to give us a taste of the stakes, where Purgatory and Hell waited for the foolish, unwary and sinful with everlasting agony. Walton takes us right inside that dread and vividly recreates those terrors for us.

This isn’t an action-filled, foot-to-the-floor adventure, but if you enjoy being taken to a different time and place, where the rules are brutally different, then give this one a go. And whatever you do, don’t give up until you get to that plot twist…

Highly recommended. This is my book of the year, so far.
11/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForbiddenWishbookreview

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This one has been languishing in the depths of my TBR pile for far too long. So when I hit a bit of a reading slump after wading through two annoying books, I selected it hoping that the buzz when it first hit the shelves would fire up my enthusiasm too…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

That is as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m willing to share. What caught and hooked me with this one was the strong characterisation of Zahra, the jinn trapped in the lamp. Her voice pings off the page right from the opening section when Aladdin blunders into the underground chamber where she has been trapped for hundreds of years. Having this famous story told from the viewpoint of the magical character who is able to transform his life with only three wishes is a really nice touch.

While you won’t be shocked to know that Zahra and Aladdin develop strong feelings for each other, I was pleased to see that the romance aspect of the story didn’t overwhelm the other interesting elements. Zahra is in this mess because of her love for another owner of the lamp, which ended in catastrophe. So she is reluctant to visit a similar fate upon Aladdin and everyone else in the city. Meanwhile, Aladdin is trying to negotiate his way through the brutal rule that saw his parents killed by passing himself off as someone else… The story whisks along at a lively pace, providing plenty of adventure, plot twists – many of which I didn’t see coming – and problems for Zahra and Aladdin. How was this going to be resolved?

There was an enjoyable supporting cast, with my favourite character being the beautiful and resourceful princess, Caspida and her wonderful watchmaidens. Concerned about the daily injustices visited upon the downtrodden populace, she is trying to keep her ailing father from further falling into the clutches of his evil brother. I really liked the fact that Caspida and Zahra are instantly drawn to each other – it is a refreshing change to have a YA book where all the female relationships are largely positive.

The romance was well handled and quite sweet – but for me the standout relationship was Zahra’s desperate yearning for a lost companion she loved years before, to the extent that she still talked to her. And while I was convinced of her growing feelings for Aladdin, I was pleased to see that they didn’t eclipse her sorrow or somehow make the past all okay. In short, Khoury has written a powerful, sensitive characterisation of a being who has lived a very long time and is something both more and less than human – and made me believe it. Highly recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy a well-told retelling.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #ChangelingBookReview

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This was one added by Himself, who is also a sucker for great school stories including magic – but would I also like it? This was quite important as I’d selected this read for a very long train journey…

If 14-year-old Cassandra Reed makes it through her first day at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies without anyone discovering her secret, maybe, just maybe, she’ll let herself believe that she really does belong at Miss Castwell’s. Except Cassandra Reed’s real name is Sarah Smith and up until now, she lived her whole life in the Warren, serving a magical family, the Winters, as all non-magical “Snipes” are bound by magical Guardian law to do. That is, until one day, Sarah accidentally levitates Mrs. Winter’s favorite vase in the parlor…

I very much enjoyed Cassandra/Sarah’s journey. She is a gutsy, cheerful character with lots of can-do energy – this story lacks the darkness of the Harry Potter series as Sarah has loving parents. While she initially finds it difficult to come to terms with ignoring her family and fitting into the world of the Guardians, she nonetheless accepts the situation and works hard alongside Mrs Winter to behave as her long-lost niece. The way their relationship gradually grows from a fear-based, resentful mess into mutual respect, trust and even affection is well depicted.

It doesn’t hurt that there are regular dollops of humour that leaven the darker aspects of the story, such as the bullying. I also really liked the fact that Cassandra was initially overwhelmed and silenced by the poisonous bully by considerations of social conventions and needing to fit in – it made her far more realistic than those intrepid souls who stoutly refuse to go with the flow. Harper is good at showing unfurling friendships without lapsing into sentimentality and I particularly liked how Cassandra gradually finds her feet at the upscale school after initially feeling adrift and isolated.

I didn’t see the twist coming, though I immediately realised how the antagonist was operating the moment the reveal came – and I was also pleased that I understood and to some extent, could sympathise with this character, who had also suffered injustice in their lives.
All in all, this was a well plotted, enjoyable magical children’s school adventure that pulled me into the world. Himself and I are keen to find out what happens in the next book, Fledgling. Highly recommended for fans of magical school adventures.
9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheWhisperingSkullaudiobookreview

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I loved Stroud’s Bartimaeus series – so tucked into the audiobook version of the first book, strongly encouraged by The Cap, who loved The Screaming Staircase – see my review here – to find it a joy. So it was only a matter of time before I treated myself to this, the second book in the series…

BLURB: In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom…

That is as much of the blurb as I’m willing to share – but I would say that if you have encountered this book without having yet had the pleasure of reading The Screaming Staircase, then don’t go any further. This is a complex, layered world and Stroud has designed these books to build on the narrative arc, therefore you’ll miss far too much that is important if you crash midway into this series. And yes… I regularly crash midway into series, so when I say ‘don’t’ I mean it.

This alternate contemporary world, where if someone dies violently or in unhappy circumstances, their ghosts can linger and at their most lethal, kill those unfortunate to encounter them. Adults and most children cannot see or sense these dangerous spirits, but a handful of children gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see, sense or hear these ghosts are employed by agencies to help neutralise them. Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle are three such teenagers, who prefer to work on their own instead of being directed by adults who can no longer take part in the really dangerous part of the work.
Artefacts which are strongly associated with a death can be possessed by one of these dangerous spirits. The authorities charged with trying to find a solution to The Problem, as this sudden widespread haunting is called, are keen to possess all such artefacts – but there is also a thriving black market in such objects. Lockwood & Co are aware of the fact, but when the job they are working on ends in sudden chaos and danger, they are charged to track down a particular artefact. Though it rapidly becomes apparent that this is a very dangerous undertaking.

However, the threat of death is never far away in this job, anyway… Stroud’s vivid, darkly threatening world once more pulled me in and Katie Lyon’s narration, while not quite as brilliant as Miranda Raison, is still gripping and effectively portrays Lucy’s first person viewpoint. I would add that as well as being genuinely creepy in places, Lucy’s sharp-edged observations are also very funny. All in all, this series is turning into one of the highlights of the year to date and I’m thrilled to discover that I have the other three audiobooks just waiting to be read. Lucky, lucky me!
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Queenslayerbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series to date – see my review of Spellslinger here, so was delighted to discover that the fifth book was already out – and even more delighted when Himself made me a present of it…

BLURB: Kellen and Reichis have just finished fighting a duel in the desert when Kellen inadvertently smears blood on the Daroman flag – an act of treason for which the Marshals have no choice but to arrest him. Just before he’s put before the Queen to be executed, Kellen is given a strange piece of advice from one of his fellow prisoners: kill the Queen and he’ll be given clemency by those who take power. But when Kellen comes face-to-face with the eleven year-old monarch, he realises she’s vastly smarter than he expected – and in a great deal more danger.

I settled back into this one with joyous expectation as Kellen was every bit as sneakily desperate and Reichis as snarkily bloodthirsty as before. Kellen is now confronted with court politics and to be honest – he’s way outside his comfort zone. As he tries to keep himself, his squirrel cat and a number of other random folks alive, he finds himself up against all sorts of foes. Including his sister… By now, there is a hefty backstory that has built up and my firm advice is not to jump into this series midway, but go back to the beginning and savour all the magical madness and mayhem from the first book, Spellslinger.

Kellen now has a major mission – he is trying to find a cure for the magical affliction that is dogging his steps and will leave him dying horribly. So he views all the court politics with a certain amount of detachment, until he’s forced to get involved or watch an innocent be killed… I followed the twisting plot with great enjoyment, until about two-thirds of the way through the book there was a certain incident involving a mage, poor old Kellen and a serving girl. I found it very shocking – as did he, so I expected it to be a major gamechanger. It wasn’t – not really, given that while he was shaken and talked about it changing everything, that was as far as it got.

The trouble was, this was just such a major issue that all the ongoing problems Kellen was facing shrank in the face of it and when yet the next round of survival shenanigans kicked off, I found I was a lot less involved.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s me, or if the pacing and narrative arc is really compromised, but while I didn’t dislike what came next, I found I was a lot more emotionally detached from the rest of the story. It was wound up with de Castell’s usual flourish and I definitely want to the read the final instalment, but I think this book is the weakest of the series so far.

It says a lot for the overall quality of the Spellslinger series that this book still earns a reasonable score. The series is recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring an accident-prone protagonist and regular dollops of humour.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForgottenPalacebookreview

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I can’t lie – once again it was the cover with that amazing dragon’s eye peering through the castle window that sucked me into requesting this one. Much to my surprise, this year I seem to have read a number of children’s books – would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: Deep in the heart of Presadia’s Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf, on a journey of discovery.

The blurb continues for another couple of paragraphs, busily letting drop a number of plotpoints I think would be better for the reader if they encountered them in the book, rather than waiting for them to happen. I like fourteen-year-old Luke, who is unusually tall for a dwarf with a flair for problem-solving and design and impatiently waiting for his beard to start growing. It was a refreshing change to find he comes from a close-knit community and has a loving mother who provides staunch support throughout, rather than the classic child protagonist without any positive adult in his life.

I did struggle a bit at the start of the book, even though I’m very used to being tipped sideways into adventures owing to my habit of crashing midway into series. Unhelpfully, neither Amazon, Goodreads, or the cover give any indication of the previous book The Mirror and the Mountain where we follow the fortunes of two children who have fallen through a portal into this medieval-type society. My advice would be to get hold of the first book before embarking on this one, as while I did sort out what was going on before it spoilt the story for me, I’m an experienced reader. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a youngster to pick their way through the various references to previous events and characters that they never meet.

Once I gathered exactly what was going on, I was able to relax into the story. Aylen writes an old-school epic fantasy, where Good and Evil are personified by the characters within the story and adventures are there to test their mettle.

I did like the way all the different races came together to rebuild the palace, despite the evident tensions between them. I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the task would provide all those toiling to rebuild it with protection and shelter, rather than focusing on how much the King wanted it rebuilt so he could fix the land. While this is clearly epic fantasy, there were times when the emphasis on the grand ambitions of peace and renewal gave this book a slightly old-fashioned feel and I’m intrigued to find out how today’s modern youngsters react to it.

That said, I enjoyed the characters and the story and would recommend it for independent readers from ten/eleven years old and upward – the battle scenes might be a bit too gory for younger readers. The ebook arc copy of The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #TurningDarknessintoLightbookreview

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When I saw this spinoff novel in the world of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, I immediately bought it, even though we’re officially broke. There are limits, after all… we can always exist on fresh air and sunshine for a couple of weeks – but to go without a book like this? Nope – can’t do it.

BLURB: As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study. When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

Despite claims that this would be a good entry point to the Lady Trent series, my firm advice would be – don’t touch it until you have read the complete series, apart from anything else, the book contains big spoilers to Within the Sanctuary of Wings and frankly, because of the nature of the narrative, I think you’d be floundering a great deal of the time if you tried plunging into this world via this book. As it has an epistolary structure, containing diary entries, letters, notes and translations of ancient Draconean tablets, I think you need to already have a good idea of the world and the political structure.

That said, I really loved this one. Brennan’s writing talent pings off the page as I quickly bonded with Audrey, brought up to disregard the rigid conventions of polite society, and passionate about the Draconean civilisation. She also happens to have been born into a family of high achievers – her grandmother, Lady Trent, blazed a trail with her insights into the life cycles of a variety of dragon species and her father is a world-famous translator of ancient languages. Audrey, notwithstanding her youth, is desperate to also make her mark – more particularly since she was robbed of a claim to fame by someone she’d trusted. This need drives her more than it should – and leads her into making some major mistakes. Cora, unloved and disregarded, is also someone I fell for in a big way, as well as dear, kindly Kudshayn, the draconian translator who helps Audrey with her huge task in translating these tablets.

The translations are beautifully done and the scholarly exploration of the ancient religion compared with the modern variant is perfectly achieved, with the mythological stories so well written, it was a struggle at times to remember they were a fantastic conceit nested within a novel. The initial pacing is leisurely, but once the enormity of what is going on began to emerge, I simply couldn’t put this one down. While the theme of prejudice and bigotry was all too evident, the theme that caught my attention, was the way that intellectual arrogance is also a snare that caught most of the main characters in some way.

I found this a fascinating read that crawled under my skin – I’m sure it will be one of those that stays with me and the only reason it isn’t getting a solid 10 from me, is that I did find myself skimming some of the myths, particularly at the beginning. Highly recommended for fans of the Lady Trent Memoirs series.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer #Brainfluffbookreview #Brightfallbookreview

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I can’t lie – it was that cover which prompted me to request this one as much as the intriguing blurb that promised a Robin Hood retelling featuring Maid Marion several years on when she was clearly no longer a maid…

BLURB: It’s been a mostly quiet life since Robin Hood denounced Marian, his pregnant wife, and his former life and retreated to a monastery to repent his sins . . . although no one knows what he did that was so heinous he would leave behind Sherwood Forest and those he loved most. But when friends from their outlaw days start dying, Father Tuck, now the Abbott of St. Mary’s, suspects a curse and begs Marian to use her magic to break it. A grieving Marian bargains for protection for her children before she sets out with a soldier who’s lost his faith, a trickster Fey lord and a sullen Robin Hood, angry at being drawn back into the real world. Marian soon finds herself enmeshed in a maze of betrayals, tangled relationships and a vicious struggle for the Fey throne . . . and if she can’t find and stop the spell-caster, no protection in Sherwood Forest will be enough to save her children.

I loved this set-up. Robin has retreated to a monastery, deserting his wife and children after mysteriously going missing. Marion manages to provide a living for herself and the twins by selling her salves and potions, as well as doing a bit of healing as a respected witch. In fact it’s this reputation that brings Abbot Tuck to her door, urgently requesting her help with reports that much-loved friends have died in mysterious circumstances.

Moyer effectively establishes Marion’s character so that I quickly bonded with her, feeling her anger and pain over Robin’s desertion, alongside her gritted determination to go on providing a good life for her children. The medieval world is well depicted and provides a strong backdrop for the magical shenanigans that are going on. The stakes steadily rise as it becomes apparent that this enemy attacking and destroying Robin’s former comrades, or those dearest to them, is using dark, powerful magic. I liked the fact that Marion isn’t some super-powerful practitioner, but also needs extra help from one of the Fae court, determined to uncover who is prepared to murder children to garner yet more twisted power.

Marion is forced to leave her own children behind as she goes on a desperate quest to hunt down this shadowy magic-user – and is also forced to spend time alongside Robin… Will the danger they are in give them a chance to get together once again? I was intrigued to see if this would happen – and you’ll have to read the book to find out.

There was plenty of action and danger in this gripping read. But alongside all the adventure, there was a strong poignant sadness for a brave band of young men fired up by the wicked injustice of King John’s rule to help those poorer than themselves, accompanied by an equally brave young woman whose craft kept them out of the hands of the Kings men more than once… Life hasn’t been kind to the main protagonists in those tales – and while I rolled my eyes at Robin’s behaviour, I was also aware that the terrible situation he found himself in required a different form of bravery. The kind that those endowed with lots of physical courage often lack…

This one has stayed with me since I finished reading it and while there are a couple of minor niggles – which I don’t want to discuss as they drift into Spoiler territory – it wasn’t a dealbreaker. This is a gripping adventure with a haunting backstory which I hope will lead to a second book in this intriguing world. The ebook arc copy of Brightfall was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10