Tag Archives: fae

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser Tuesday – 6th December, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Judged – Book 3 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager
13% ‘Bro, it’s a mess.’ One boy shakes his head. He’s got eyeliner smeared under his eyes and too judgedmuch glitter down the side of this face. He leans against a girl, her arms wrapped around his waist. Looking at the group, I realize they all look shell-shocked. ‘We got here about an hour before the police showed up. Everything was going so well and we were all just partying hard.’

BLURB

Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .

Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.

In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

As you can see, it’s early days, but I really enjoyed the first two books in this series – Banished and Vowed. Right now Kit is on the ropes after the devastating outcome in Vowed, but I’m just beginning to see her get her mojo back as the pace is picking up and she is becoming involved in this investigation to get to the bottom of who is handing out quantities of illegal and highly addictive drug Glow at clubs, raves, universities and schools. Yes – it’s great to be once more immersed in de Jagar goodness…

Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

Standard

Ben came to talk to West Sussex Writers’ last month about the ins and outs of self-publishing and how in just six years he has managed to establish himself as a successful indie author with a string of well regarded books. It was one of the best, most informative talks we’ve ever had. I’d downloaded one of his books a while ago and decided it was high time to read it.

bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met. Galley manages to establish him as sympathetic and beleaguered without turning him into a passive victim – a tricky balancing act to pull off successfully. I also loved Rin – he’s probably my favourite character in the story – a fae rebel on the run who befriends the isolated boy struggling to live up to his father’s iron-bound expectations. However, these two protagonists both make disastrous mistakes and are often selfish and obstinate, which I enjoyed, as I find it easier to bond with main characters when they are flawed.

The story is fast-paced with plenty of action and the scene setting is wonderful, so close our Victorian era but with some significant differences. The blood magic works extremely well – to the extent that at the back of the book there is a glossary explaining the rules and attributes that drinking the blood of various animals will provide the rusher. This is a rigorous magic system where users pay a price and the costs of getting it wrong can be fatal.

The major surprise at the end of the book had my jaw dropping – looking back I should have guessed it, but I didn’t and I am definitely going to be getting hold of the next book in this series. I want to know what happens next to our intrepid duo. If you enjoy action-packed fantasy with a strong setting, good magic system and engaging characters, then go looking for this one. Highly recommended.
9/10

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

Standard

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.

Review of Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a family with particular skills who have appointed themselves as guardians to protect humanity from the beings of the Otherworld who make their way into our dimension and cause havoc – see my review of Banished here. Would the second book manage to match the entertaining start to this series?

Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.

vowedI immediately caught up with what was going on in Kit’s world, with the strong first person narrative that bounces off the page. Kit’s character is well portrayed and is completely convincing as a strong, opinionated teenager who has had a tough time. It’s a balancing act – too much misery and angst and the pacing would be compromised, while too much action without any consideration of what’s been going on would give Kit all the depth of a pavement puddle. It’s a trickier task to accomplish than de Jager makes it look, as I liked Kit’s moments of introspection.

There are a few scenes where the first person narration is interrupted by third-person viewpoint episodes featuring Thorn, the fae prince who featured in the first book. As Kit’s personality is so strongly established throughout the book, I didn’t find these sections jarring, and was interested to see what is going on with him. As in the first book, I had made some assumptions as to where the storyline would go – only to suddenly find it had peeled off into quite another direction. This certainly was the case with Kit’s investigative partner, Dante, who suddenly finds himself facing a sudden challenge while trying to track down the missing children, that is going to have some long-term ramifications. I am hoping that his relationship with Kit isn’t going to develop into the dreaded triangle, as so far I’ve enjoyed their partnership and would prefer it to stay platonic.

I also very much like the dynamic of Kit’s role within a large, extended family which she doesn’t know very well. While there are times when she enjoys being part of the Blackhart clan, it isn’t all hearts and flowers finding yourself in the middle of a large family. I also very much liked the fact that Kit at times really misses her nan. Far too often within this sub-genre, people die in one book where there is a short grieving section – and then for the rest of the series, the dead character is barely mentioned again.

As for the ending – well… I didn’t see that one coming! However, I thought the case was going to be resolved, the conclusion was quite unexpected and thought-provoking. This gives the series real impetus – and I’m now keen to get hold of the third book, Judged, and find out what happens next.
9/10

London-based Spec Fic Tales – Part 1

Standard

I have the great good fortune to live within easy travelling distance of London. Its landmarks are famous around the world and while it is every bit as vibrantly modern as other capital cities, it also reeks of history with odd corners where you can close your eyes and almost hear Londoners from another age, as they go about their daily lives.

It is a fabulous backdrop for science fiction and fantasy tales – J.K. Rowling’s use of King’s Cross Station is just one of a long line of authors setting their stories in a familiar and much-loved public arena. Of course, not every setting then acknowledges that mention by putting up a sign for tourists pointing out where Platform 93/4 is positioned. Below, I have listed some of my favourite science fiction and fantasy reads that are set in London, drawing on the unique vibe of the place…

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army forriversoflondon justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated.

This introduces the first book in this delightful series where London’s rich backdrop is used very effectively as an appropriate setting for Grant’s fantastic adventures. The first book, Rivers of London, starts the series – see my review here.

 

 

The Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
fatedAlex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success…

This excellent series, which starts with Fated – see my review here – is set in a grim world where mages predate on each other with some really scary skills, goes on getting better with each book. It’s currently one of my favourites.

 

 

 

The Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell
Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence londonfallinganalyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal. Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out.

Now, the team must find a suspect who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again. As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game – and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

This is a dark fantasy offering, full of angst and tricky magic – the first book in the series is London Falling – see my review here.

 

The Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin
amadnessTwo years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home. Except that it’s no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable…despite his body never being found. He doesn’t have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.
This is an amazing series – I love Griffin’s writing and the extraordinary start to this great adventure is A Madness of Angels, see my review here.

 

 

 

The Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin
This is spin-off series is set in the same world as the Matthew Swift books. I love this one – and my straysoulsabiding regret is that there are only two books in this series. I’m hoping that Griffin might want to take a break from writing as Claire North and revisit Sharon and her self help group.

London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.
The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start. But with London’s soul missing and the Gate open, there are creatures loose that won’t wait for her to catch up before they go hunting.

The first book is Stray Souls – and the special extra with this series is the laugh-aloud humour, see my review here.

 

The Onyx Court series by Marie Brennan
midnightnevercomeEngland flourishes under the hand of its Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Gloriana, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above. In the thirty years since Elizabeth ascended her throne, fae and mortal politics have become inextricably entwined, in secret alliances and ruthless betrayals whose existence is suspected only by a few.

As you can see from the blurb, this is a historical paranormal series – the first book is called Midnight Never Come, see my review here.

 

 

 

The Age of Aztec – Book 4 of the Pantheon series by James Lovegrove
This is the only book in this intriguing godpunk series that is set in London – and for my money, is my ageofaztecfavourite so far. I thoroughly enjoy Lovegrove’s smooth writing and this is one of my favourite books of 2012.

The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House – November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning – and the Aztec Empire rules the world. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador. He is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and thier gods, but a Detective, Mal Vaughan, has been put on his trail and the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice. See my review here.

 

This is the first selection of my favourite London-based speculative fiction – have you read any of the books in these series? What did you think of them?

Sunday Post – 17th July

Standard

Sunday Post

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

I am delighted to report that I have FINALLY completed the line edit of Breathing Space! I am now turning my attention to writing the course notes for my one day Writing Surgery course that will be running next Friday, which I’m really looking forward to – it’ll be great to catch up with some of my students. I have also found out that my Creative Writing course next term is already full – which is great news and I’m only 3 more spaces away from having the minimum numbers to run my Monday evening course as well – a brilliant position to be in this early, given that the courses have only been available for three weeks.

janelythellbooklaunchOn Thursday, my writing buddy, Sarah Palmer and I were invited to another great book launch – this time at Waterstones in Brighton which is a fabulous shop over three storeys and walking through, I noticed at least two more books I’ll be shortly adding to my reading pile. Jane Lythell’s third book, Woman of the Hour, was released and I came away clutching a hardcover copy, which Jane signed for me. It was a lovely evening, where as well as meeting up with Jane again – a lovely person – I caught up with other writers such as Tracy Fells, Wendy Clarke and Phil Viner. As for Woman of the Hour, I started reading it yesterday morning and found it very difficult to stop, finishing it this morning. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

This week I’ve managed to read:
Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause nicedragonsfinishlasttrouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…
This science fiction/urban fantasy mash-up is a delightful read – full of incident in an enjoyably original world with likeable, surprising protagonists – great fun!

 

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
machinationsThe machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.
I really loved the sense of displacement Rhona feels upon waking up as a clone – I’ve read a number of books where clones are featured and this is one of the best at depicting the fallout of trying to step back into a life only partially remembered. I will be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager
A Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils… vowedKit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.Then Kit digs too deep, and uncovers a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.
I really enjoyed Banished, the first book in this series – see my review here, so was keen to catch up with Kit’s adventures in the sequel. It did not disappoint – and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

The Woman of the House – Book 1 of the StoryWorld series by Jane Lythell
womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act.
Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself? A twisty drama of secrets and lies in a London TV station, this is the first book in the StoryWorld series from the acclaimed author of The Lie Of You.
I’d heard Jane’s excellent talk at West Sussex Writers where she had mentioned this book – and very kindly invited me along to the book launch – and was intrigued by the original premise. It’s a cracking read, funny, poignant and completely engrossing. I shall be posting a review of it this coming week.
As you can see, it’s been a brilliant reading week with a range of different books, all enjoyably good so I’ll be reviewing them all in due course.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 10th July

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Ghoul King – Book 2 of the Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

Teaser Tuesday – Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

Review of Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris

2016 Discovery Challenge – June Roundup

Friday Faceoff – Lady in Red featuring Spy Night on Union Station – Book 4 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. Foner

Review of Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

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

The 2016 Discoverability Challenge – Kate Coe At the Half-Time Whistle –
https://hierath.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/the-2016-discoverability-challenge-kate-coe-at-the-half-time-whistle/
I’m taking part in this, so it was interesting to see how another participant was getting on…

High Summer Read-a-thon – https://onceuponalittlefield.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/high-summer-read-a-thon/
I love the idea of settling into a book, knowing others are doing the same around the blogosphere at exactly the same time – social media at its shiny best!

A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘An Arundel Tomb’ – https://interestingliterature.com/2016/07/15/a-short-analysis-of-philip-larkins-an-arundel-tomb/
As ever, an excellent article on the finer details of this interesting poem – and my fascination is sharpened by the fact that Chichester Cathedral is only a short drive away and I’m a regular visitor, so I know this tomb.

I have one more week before the schools break up and I’m into major granny-mode, so I’m hoping to get some major chores on my To Do list tidied up this week. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

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

Standard

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

Review of Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager

Standard

My friend Mhairi Simpson got hold of the arc of this book at a conference and when I caught sight of the oh-so-pretty cover, I asked if I could borrow it.

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and Banishedtheir strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Yes… this is a book about a heroine who has had a rocky time of it and then finds her feet among a rather gifted family – and turns out to have some unusual powers. All as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa. But I really enjoyed this one. The writing is slick and readable, the pacing fast with an enjoyable cast of characters who all pinged off the page. The author can also write a very good fight scene – which is just as well because this is a swords and sorcery adventure packed full of sharp pointy weapons.

There is a sense of real threat from the monsters ranged against Kit and her allies – they didn’t just look repellent, they are cruel and incredibly strong, which increases the stakes when fighting against them. All in all, the worldbuilding is solidly good with a sense a lot has occurred before Kit discovers a Fae personage fighting off baddies on her doorstep, and I also very much appreciated the glimpses of the bigger picture right at the end of the story via the King’s viewpoint. The Fae are particularly well drawn by de Jager, who has provided us with a ringside seat at this coup – and graphically depicted the cost in lives and damage wrought by this powerplay. It was this unfolding drama that sets this book apart for me. I very much want to know more about the Fae royal family and look forward to reading the second book in the series.

Any grizzles? Overall, I enjoyed the relationship between Kit and Thorn – but there was a section in the book where it all seemed to intensify as head-swivelling speed. That said, they had already endured a series of life-threatening adventures together and that can have the effect of heightening feelings – witness all the whirlwind romances during wartime. If you are looking for an enjoyable swords and sorcery Fantasy tale, with plenty of action that doesn’t descend into gritted despair, then go looking for Banished – it’s a thoroughly enjoyable tale.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Deceptions – Book 3 of the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong

Standard

I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – read my review of Omens here. Would this third instalment of Cainsville continue to intrigue and draw me into the murky world of warring fae?

DeceptionsTRUST NO ONE. Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow? RISK EVERYTHING. Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side. FACE THE TRUTH. Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

This series started with a real bang that had me immediately rooting for Olivia and I also enjoyed where the story spun off in the last book, so is this offering as gripping? Olivia is a well written, enjoyable character and the set-piece scenes, particularly those in the deserted mental hospital are well handled, with plenty of pace and sufficient creepiness to hold me. However, I am not a huge fan of love triangles and this book revolves around Olivia’s close relationship with Gabriel and Ricky, as we find her torn between the young, sexy biker and the conflicted, moody intellectual… It is a testament to Armstrong’s writing that she doesn’t come off as some flirty airhead enjoying her power over these two men – a dynamic I personally loathe. Neither was I thrilled that our feisty heroine had to play the submissive girlfriend around the biker gang. It comes to something when escapist fiction written predominantly for women still has the protagonist dancing to the chauvinistic values of some of the less enlightened among us. I would just add that if you have a youngster who enjoys browsing through your books, this one has some fairly steamy sex scenes, as well as mild violence.

That said, I found the murder mystery element far more enjoyable as the plot threw up a number of possible candidates and when the denouement came, I did not guess the culprit. I have a hunch that we haven’t seen the full impact of that one on Olivia or those close to her, as yet. What this book did do, was provide an enjoyable antidote to the rather grim near future apocalypse, I’d been previously reading – and that is, after all, what you require from a slice of romantic urban fantasy, isn’t it?
7.5/10