Tag Archives: fantasy

Sunday Post – 15th November, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

We weren’t around last Sunday, hence my absence. It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday night we helped celebrate my grandson’s 11th birthday – I can’t quite believe it… Where has the time gone? My writing club had a Zoom get-together on Wednesday, where I read out my very lame lyrics of an imaginary 1980s pop song, and we chatted about our writing projects. And tried to recall what it was like when we used to sit around a real kitchen table, eating cake and downing mugs of tea. On Thursday, I gave a short presentation via Zoom, again, to the West Sussex Writers’ meeting on the results of the Non-Fiction Competition, which I’d been judging. It was lovely to see many familiar faces, including a number of former Creative Writing students. And on Friday, I went over to look after little Eliza while my daughter listened to a lecture on… you guessed it – Zoom! We brought the boys back here to stay overnight and took them back home yesterday.

I am loving Sci Fi Month – thank you so much to Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for hosting this marvellous event. On the writing front, I’m still working on Picky Eaters 2 – though it’s turning out to be rather too long to be a quick, easy read, so I’m probably going to be splitting up Castellan’s adventures.

My photos this week are from a rather soggy garden…


Last week I read:

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas
The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.
This quirky fantasy with a difference was an engrossing, enjoyable read, while the story went off in unexpected directions.


Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton
Armed with a fabled combat suit left to her by a dying warrior race, Gabby Rojas enters the deadliest standoff of the war as a rogue sniper with one goal: to keep her husband alive at all costs. Dalton is a high school teacher, not a soldier, but he’s volunteered to fight for the good of the colonies, against her advice. Gabby, on the other hand, is a black-ops prodigy who turned her back on the military years ago. The consequences of re-entering the fray alone like this, wielding the power of her extraordinary armoured suit, could tip the balance of power in the galaxy.
This military sci fi adventure, featuring a super-soldier wife who goes rogue to rescue her clever, geeky husband, who ill-advisedly joins up, is an entertaining, action-packed read. I just couldn’t figure out exactly why happily married Dalton wanted to join up in the first place… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK The Son of Neptune – Book 2 of The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
PERCY IS CONFUSED. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.

HAZEL IS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem—when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

FRANK IS A KLUTZ. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
This spinoff from the Percy Jackson series delivers the same witty, action-packed adventures that made the original series so much fun to listen to – and I’m delighted we’ve more Riordan goodness stored on my Kindle. Mini-review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of Hammered – Book 1 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear

Friday Face-off featuring Synners by Pat Cadigan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas

Covet the Covers featuring the Vorkosigan Saga covers by Lois McMaster Bujold

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Review of INDIE Ebook Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik

Tuesday Treasures – 19

Review of The Fated Sky – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Griffiths


Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Life in General #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonLife #PickyEaters

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When perching on a stony outcrop to serenade a beautiful young queen, whatever you do, don’t land on a sleeping stone troll. When he wakes up, he’ll really wreck the romantic mood.


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheThiefontheWingedHorsebookreview

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I was very impressed by the quality of writing in Mascarenhas’s novel The Psychology of Time Travel see my review. So when I saw this one and realised it was by the same author, I requested it.

BLURB: The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls for over 200 years. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop. Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires. But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

REVIEW: This book may be fantasy, rather than science fiction, but there were a couple of aspects of the writing that I recognised in common with The Psychology of Time Travel. The main protagonists were women and they weren’t innately likeable. However, that didn’t stop me bonding with both Hazel and, in particular, Persephone. Mostly because she has had a very raw deal.

Ironically, although the founders of the Kendricks famous doll-making business were all women, these days it is the men who get to be Sorcerers and take the key roles for themselves. Persephone is convinced that she is destined to become a doll-maker – including adding the vital magical ingredient that is denied all the women now working within the business, no matter how talented they are. However, she is only permitted to work in the shop and when she isn’t, it is taken for granted by the rest of the Family that she will, somehow, keep her embittered and drunken father, Briar, in check. The gamechanger is the sudden appearance of a handsome stranger, who claims to be the long-lost descendant of the sister who was thought to have died in childbirth.

Larkin is taken on, though treated with great suspicion by the current CEO of Kendricks, and is expected to work on more mundane tasks while he proves his worth. I love the accumulation of incidents and details – until a certain event crashes across this small, close-knit community with the force of a grenade. I was thoroughly caught up by the fallout and stayed up far too late to discover what happened next – and no… Whatever else this book is, it isn’t remotely predictable.

I loved the passion and ambition exhibited by the two main female protagonists. Persephone is socially awkward – the last person you’d want to be the face of Kendricks – but she is tenacious, clever and doggedly persistent. All the characters in this intriguing, different story ping off the page with their almost Dickensian vividness. I’m going to remember this one for a very long time – an accomplished story which went in an unexpected direction and took me to a surprising ending, that nonetheless was very satisfying. Highly recommended for fans of unusual fantasy tales in a contemporary setting. While I obtained an arc of The Thief on the Winged Horse from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10



Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Food and Drink #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonFoodandDrink #PickyEaters

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If your stored meat is looking a bit green, adding molten gold sauce generally improves the flavour.


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

Two AUDIOBOOK Mini-reviews: Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, and The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross #Brainfluffaudiobookmini-reviews #LiesSleepingaudiobookreview #TheDeliriumBriefaudiobookreview

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Lies Sleeping – Book 7 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
This is another of those series that I have let slip through my fingers – but I was reminded of how enjoyable I found it and decided to catch up. Here are my reviews of previous books in the series – Rivers of London, Whispers Underground, Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree.

BLURB: Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

REVIEW: It was great fun to get up to speed with this entertaining series, particularly listening to the fabulous rendition of Peter Grant and all his adventures by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration. It absolutely nailed Peter’s character and I loved the blend of action, humour and quirky mix of myth and contemporary cool this series offers. There was plenty going on and I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series after the bombshell that Peter was presented with at the end of this adventure…

The Delirium Brief – Book 8 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another of those series that somehow slipped through my fingers, and I was delighted to get back into, because I just love Bob and Mo. And the whole premise of this series has entertained me from the start – see my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex, The Rhesus Chart, The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks.

BLURB: Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from the supernatural, has involved brilliant hacking, ancient magic and combat with creatures of pure evil.

Now the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organisation has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a government looking for public services to privatise. There are things in the Laundry’s assets that big business would simply love to get its hands on….

REVIEW: Jack Hawkins does a brilliant job of narrating this one, capturing Bob’s world-weary tone with the flashes of dark humour extremely well, as well as producing a pleasing range of different voices for the other characters. I’d forgotten just how engrossing and dark the overall storyline was – as well as just how exhausted and battle-weary the main protagonists are becoming.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel by David Hair #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Map’sEdgebookreview

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I have Mage’s Blood on my bookshelves and to my shame, I haven’t yet managed to get around to reading it. I will be making time for it now, though. This cover caught my eye and when I saw it was the co-author of the amazing Olympus trilogy – see my reviews of Athena’s Champion, Oracle’s War and Sacred Bride – I requested it and was delighted to get hold of an arc. I’m so glad I did!

BLURB: Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him. So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked. But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation…

REVIEW: Well, this is fun! I quickly got swept up in the story as Dashryn is having to deal with brutal invaders crashing into his home and demanding he treat an injured patient. He isn’t someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, but it doesn’t take long to discover his loathing of the Bolgravians, who are responsible for smashing his life apart. He also has a teenage daughter to keep safe…

I was immediately hooked and stayed that way. This story quickly gains momentum as most of a village uproots itself and goes on the road in search of sufficient riches to change everyone’s future. I stayed up reading this one far into the early morning, unable to tear myself away from the sheer tension and adventure. All sorts of things go wrong on the road, from broken wagon wheels, to thuggish mercenaries who think women are good for only two things – and no… conversing with them intelligently as equal human beings isn’t on that very short list.

Dashryn has his own reasons for wanting to earn a large sum of money – which he can’t do without a lot of help. And despite his apparent breezy, can-do demeanour, I liked him a whole lot more when he agonised over the inevitable deaths and did his level best to ensure casualties are kept to a minimum. I also like his rather spiky relationship with his teenage daughter, who is wanting more independence. I’ve read far too many fantasy books where teenagers are either completely beaten down by intolerant parents, or are simply far too sensibly compliant to be remotely true. While my grandmother was fond of telling me that when she was growing up, teenagers were far too busy trying to earn a wage and learn the ropes from older work colleagues, who weren’t tolerant of mistakes to be rebellious – I am sure that in this context, a motherless daughter would be seriously questioning her father’s decisions. Which she does…

There are a number of vividly drawn, memorable characters in this story, including a twisty mercenary leader, a Priestess who’d rather study than preach a sermon, and a shape-shifting bear. Over the space of the book, I grew involved in their trek to seek out a better life and thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists and various setbacks they endured. The denouement was very well handled – taking the plot suddenly in an unexpected direction and leaving me desperate to read more.

In short, this is a cracking fantasy adventure that I highly recommend to all fantasy fans and I very much look forward to reading the next book. While I obtained an arc of Map’s Edge via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10


Review of INDIE NOVELLA Night’s Tooth – Book 1 of Tales of the River Vine series by Jean Lee #Brainfluffbookreview #NightsToothbookreview

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I’ve known Jean as a wonderful book blogger for some years now – check out her site Jean Lee’s World and my interview with her, and you’ll know that she is an inspired writer with a quirky take on life. I read and loved her fantasy novel, Fallen Princeborn: STOLENsee my review. I also had the pleasure of reading an early draft of this one, so was a bit flummoxed to realise that I hadn’t then bought a copy and read the finished article – surely I must have done that? Must have been in the parallel universe I keep sliding into…

BLURB: Mississippi River Valley, 1870s. The white man wields rails and guns to bring law to the land. But there are more than wild animals hiding in the territories, and it will take more than guns to bring them down. Sumac the bounty hunter needs no guns to hunt any bandit with a price on his head, even one as legendary and mysterious as Night’s Tooth. But Sumac didn’t count on other bounty hunters coming along as competition, nor did he expect hunters sharing his own magical gifts. It’s one man against a gang and a mystery, all to protect a train that must cross the territories at all costs…

REVIEW: Lee’s punchy immersive style doesn’t take any prisoners. This one grabs you by the collar and hauls you right into the middle of the story and you’d better pay attention, or you’ll miss something vital. But that’s just fine – because I want to pay attention. Her prose sends shivers up my spine and has me alert and scenting danger, along with Sumac. I immediately care about him, even though I’m not totally sure what he is. And as for that sheriff with the squirrel-tail moustache…

Each tense exchange in this story is an event and the narrative tension only pauses to ensure no one is following. The action scenes are well described and the sensory writing means I can smell, taste and feel this freezing scenario on the outskirts of a town set in the Wild West, where the other side are also shapeshifters on the hunt…

I blew through this one in a single sitting and emerged, blinking owlishly to discover that I’m not some muscle-caked shapeshifter desperate to save the children – but a middle-aged woman who just finished a cracking story. Recommended for fans of gritty fantasy where you experience the world.
10/10



Déjà vu Review of Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik – Book Five of the Temeraire series #Brainfluffbookreview #VictoryofEaglesbookreview

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I have dusted off this review – which I first posted back in October 2010, nearly ten years ago – in honour of Naomi Novik’s recent release, A Deadly Education. Her Temeraire series is a real joy – and is one of the few series that I have been seriously tempted to reread…

If you enjoy alternative histories and have a weakness of dragons of any size and shape – then this is a must-read series. Novik revisits the Napoleonic era, with its wars and resulting widespread social dislocation – but also includes into the mix dragons that are bonded to humans from the moment they hatch, and then trained to become part of the French and English fighting machine.

The main protagonists in her series include a rare, highly prized Celestial dragon, called Temeraire, who was snatched from a French ship as an egg. His handler, Laurence, was destined for a distinguished naval career – until he accidentally happened to be present when Temeraire hatched and was chosen by the dragon to be his companion. Together they have experienced a variety of adventures in different surroundings with plenty of fighting – both set-piece battles and skirmishes – and both characters have become ever closer and more aware of each other. In this fifth book, Novik does it again. She gives her fans yet another completely different twist to the ongoing tale – a feat not always successfully achieved by multi-book authors.

It is a bleak time for Temeraire. Banished to the breeding grounds from active military service and constantly missing his human companion, Laurence, he finally begins to count the cost of his decision to help the French dragons. While his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to hang for treason. However, their fates pale into insignificance against the desperate conditions that Britain now faces. As Napoleon’s forces breach the Channel defences and invade southern England, it is clear that Napoleon intends to occupy London. So when Temeraire and Laurence once more serve King and Country, it is in the knowledge that their support is only tolerated – and that in certain quarters they are held indirectly responsible for the whole mess, anyhow…
As the story rolls over almost without a break from the previous books, I recommend that you read them all before embarking on this latest volume, which will be a joy if you haven’t yet encountered this very popular series.

While not as high-flown or wordy, Novik does nod in the direction of the more effusive manner of the 18th century style of writing. I am aware that this has hampered the enjoyment of at least one would-be fan, but I personally find the style eminently in keeping with atmosphere Novik has engendered. And as I was brought up on such staples as Pilgrim’s Progress, Jane Eyre and The Children of the New Forest, it wasn’t going to bother me, anyway. However, I give it a mention so that those among you who like your prose pared to the bone will know what to expect.

In amongst the swash-buckling action, Novik has some interesting themes running through her work. Temeraire, as a Celestial dragon, is highly intelligent and capable of fluently speaking a number of languages, reading and writing. However, he is officially regarded as a piece of military equipment by the English authorities, who are much slower than Napoleon or the Chinese to give their dragons any kind of special consideration. Novik interweaves this strand with the anti-slavery arguments of the day – with Temeraire discussing the issue with Wilberforce. Along with Napoleon, both Nelson and Wellington pop up in this book. While this historical time isn’t my speciality, my husband, who’s a military history enthusiast, reckons that Novik has done a particularly good job on Wellington. In my humble opinion, she’s done a particularly good job on this outstanding book in a fine series.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 14th October, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel series by David Hair -release date 15th October

#fantasy adventure #magic

BLURB: Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him.
So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked.
But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation.
But his past won’t let him be: the implacable Imperial Bloodhound Toran Zorne has caught his scent, and Zorne has never yet failed to bring his quarry to ground.
At the edge of the map, there’s no going forward and no going back . . .

Yes – I’ve fallen behind with my Netgalley arcs, because this one is due out tomorrow and I haven’t even read it, yet. But I am very much looking forward to it. The cover is awesome and I really like the sound of it. I’m also a fan of Hair’s writing – see my reviews for the fantastic Olympus trilogy that he’s written with Cath Mayo – Athena’s Champion, Oracle’s War, and Sacred Bride. If the writing is half as punchy, intelligent and nuanced in Map’s Edge, I shall be thoroughly enjoying this one. Had anyone else read it?




*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Deadly Education – Book 1 of the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik #Brainfluffbookreview #ADeadlyEducationbookreview

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I am a fan of Novik’s writing – see my reviews of Spinning Silver, Uprooted and Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, Blood of Tyrants and League of Dragons of the Temeraire series, so when I saw that she’d written a school-based fantasy, which I have a real fondness for – we pre-ordered it…

BLURB: A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


REVIEW: Galadriel Higgins is a hard case. Having been rejected for what she has the potential to do – and an unfortunately bleak prophesy by her dead father’s mother – all her life, she grits her teeth, hunkers down and gets on with it. And what she is getting on with, is getting an education in a magical school, where there are no teachers and the place crawls with deeply unpleasant monsters. Yes… I know – the business with no teachers bothered me when I first heard about it, but Novik makes it work.

However, the problem is that there are unpleasant monsters outside the school, too, where they tend to seek out magically gifted youngsters. At least within the school, there are some protections. And if you’re a member of an enclave, you also have a ready-made team to watch your back – although El, as she is known, doesn’t have that either… She is a gloriously spiky, bad tempered protagonist, whose contrariness is a joy to read. Novik weaves past and present details of her life in the first-person narrative really effectively and I was drawn in from the first page, and didn’t want to stop reading until I reached the end.

The story works well, with plenty of adventure and action – and throughout the story, El finally manages to gather a small team around her, who are also well depicted. I liked the fact that amongst the mayhem and deaths, there are some lovely humorous moments. The crisis point is deftly handled, with plenty of tension such that I read faaar into the early morning to discover what happens to whom. But what now has me itching to read the next book, The Last Graduate, is the final plot twist – which both Himself and I agree is a gamechanger and has us both impatient to get our hands on the sequel. Highly recommended for fans of magical school series.
9/10