Tag Archives: feisty heroine

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

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I was drawn to this one by the lovely cover and interesting premise. The idea of using shadows to weave magic intrigued me so I requested it from Netgalley.

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar. Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal…

I’m leaving it at that as far as the blurb is concerned as I think it gives rather too much away. However, I found this book far more of a nuanced read than I had been expecting. Emmeline is feared by the servants and barely tolerated by her parents, who are clearly at a loss to know what to do about her. Left to her own devices, she spends her time sneaking around the grounds and the house, eavesdropping on conversations and playing tricks on the servants, or playing with the shadows.

I very much liked the fact that as her circumstances change and she finds herself with other people, she slowly begins to question her own behaviour. This isn’t a quick transformation and the book is as much about Emmeline’s own self-realisation as it is about the story of her emerging magic. The worldbuilding is well handled. Initially we don’t know all that much about what is going on in the wider world, apart from the snippets that Emmeline gleans from her snitching expeditions. However, as she leaves the family home and encounters other people, she learns just how much people with her gifts are being hunted and what they have to do to evade capture and a terrible fate. I very much liked the idea that people are invested with magic if they are born when a particular comet passes over every twenty-five years.

Emmeline’s growth and increasing discomfort with her own behaviour is one of the main themes throughout the book, as is the comparison with dark and light. While the imagery is obvious, it works well and is well aimed at a young audience. There is plenty going on in this well-written, pleasingly plotted book to keep an independent reader between the ages of 9-12 engrossed and I thoroughly recommend it. While I obtained an arc of Shadow Weaver from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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Friday Faceoff – If music be the food of love, play on

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a musical instrument, so I’ve selected a real gem – The Future Falls – Book 3 of The Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff.

 

This cover, produced by Titan Books in November 2014 seems to be the default cover. I like it well enough – it’s classy with the gold on red. But it gives little hint of the naughty, sharp-edged fantasy story that lurks behind those thick red curtains…

 

This edition was produced by Daw in November 2014 and I far prefer it as it gives an idea of the story. Both the dragon and the musician feature heavily in the adventure and I think particularly like the fact we get to see only bits of the dragon – but what we do see lets us know that he is magnificent. There are only the two choices this week – which one is your favourite?

ANNDDD…

La libreria di Beppe is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Teaser Tuesday – 26th December, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
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:

Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
2% Unfortunately, the rush is fleeting, and I need to carry us safely through. I focus on the beacons; they pulse as if in answer to my command. Here, I feel powerful, damn near invincible, however much a lie that proves to be. Jumpers almost never die old and grey.

BLURB: Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

I had some vouchers so treated myself to continuing to read this excellent series. As you can see, I’m right at the start – but so far it’s sounding very promising…

 

ANNDDD…

The Daily Waffle features an excerpt from Dying for Space where Elizabeth is waaay out of her comfort zone…

LAUNCH OF Dying for Space – IT’S HERE!

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Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded series by yours truly (S.J. Higbee) is now published.

Cadet Officer Elizabeth Wright just wants to make her father proud, while the mercenary warlord is looking for her to replace his dead family…

I finally get the opportunity to become a serving officer and fulfil my childhood dream, as well as get to know my biological father, General Norman. And when I first clap eyes on Restormel, the HQ of my father’s space mercenary outfit, it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.
But appearances can be deceptive. There are dark secrets hidden in the twisting corridors and blood-soaked cells beneath the training grounds and banqueting rooms. Secrets that seep out. Secrets that demand fresh victims, because whatever else happens, they can’t be allowed to see the light of day…

Links for buying Dying for Space are here:-

AMAZON UK

AMAZON.COM

But you don’t even have to wave a virtual copy around to join in the Twitter party celebrating the launch of Dying for Space with me @sjhigbee at #dyingforspacelaunchparty – just swing by for some delicious space-themed snacks, music and industrial-strength tea – there’s even glasses of wine…

ANNDDD…

Ziggy’s Reading Corner is also hosting the first day of the Dying for Space blog tour…

ANNDDD…

Pippa Jay is also taking part in the first day of the Dying for Space blog tour, including an excerpt from the book…

Review of The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

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I met the author during a late-night session at the bar at Bristolcon 2016 – a marvellous evening and it ended up with him giving me a review copy. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it…

Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle. But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

As it happens, that very snappy, non-spoiler blurb neatly sums up the ongoing structure of the book. We follow the fortunes of all three of these interesting characters as events unspool around them. This is complicated by the fact that one of the characters is in a very tricky position in a timeline ahead of when the rest of the action takes place.

Munro certainly knows how to wind up the tension as we witness one of the protagonists being interrogated in fairly dire circumstances – before switching to one of the other characters. The focus of the book is the title heroine, Persapha, who has had a very peculiar start in life, having been hatched from an egg and raised by reptiles. We are alongside as she starts to pick her way through a busy city filled with humans, who she finds difficult to understand. I found myself genuinely concerned on her behalf as the dangerously innocent girl uses her mother’s mask to try and discover what happened to her.

The magic system is skilfully handled and I really enjoyed the world, which works well. There are some nice twists in the political landscape that I appreciated and the characterisation is convincing with plenty of depth. However, I was more distanced from the main protagonists than I would have liked as Munro tends to drift out of viewpoint and into a semi-omniscient point of view. While I am aware that plenty of readers still enjoy this story-telling structure, it gives the book a slightly old-fashioned feel and left me a little frustrated. Given the depth and complexity of the characters, I would have appreciated a more immersive approach to fully hook me into the story, though this is very much a personal preference.

That said, it is still very well written with plenty going on and a gathering momentum towards the end. Before it all comes to a juddering halt. Not a single storyline is resolved – every single one of the main plotlines is left on a cliffhanger after reading over 600 pages. I am aware that a second book is in the works, but I would have liked some payoff for getting to the end of the first volume in this series.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this delightful urban fantasy set in York, Vampire State of Mind – see my review here – so was delighted to see the sequel was languishing on my TBR pile.

Jessica Grant liaises with Otherworlders for York Council so she knows that falling in love with a vampire takes a leap of faith. But her lover Sil, the City Vampire in charge of Otherworld York, he wouldn’t run out on her, would he? He wouldn’t let his demon get the better of him. Or would he? Sil knows there s a reason for his bad haircut, worse clothes and the trail of bleeding humans in his wake. If only he could remember exactly what he did before someone finds him and shoots him on sight.

This is great fun, if decidedly darker than the first book. While the humour and gags are all still there, Jessica and her loyal underpaid and overworked assistant, Liam, are bantering with a slightly desperate edge. The situation has gone from difficult to grim and it doesn’t help that the local newspaper is definitely gunning for Jessica, while the Council are as much help to their put-upon staff as a lead balloon.

I really enjoyed the sense that things have moved on since the first adventure – and that has left its mark on Jessica. I get a tad fed up when protagonists in series deal with knee-buckling events only for them to spring back to action in the next book as if nothing has happened. While obviously, the author needs to take into account that some readers (like me) regularly crash midway into a series, there should also be a payoff for the loyal followers who read all the books in the correct order. Lovering achieves this. We also get an insight in Liam’s growing problems with the long hours and poor pay – he is frankly unable to afford to keep working in the job as he is now supporting a baby daughter. It is refreshing to have a shaft of realism penetrate this essentially escapist adventure – because far too many people in this country are in exactly the same situation.

As Sil struggles to put together the holes in his memory, I was completely caught up in the story and found the plot progression worked well – I certainly didn’t see the plot twist coming or the major change in their fortunes at the end.

I notice on Goodreads that these are the only two books in this series – a shame. I do hope Lovering considers writing more. Recommended for anyone who enjoys quirky urban fantasy with a Brit twist of humour.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

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I read Rosemary and Rue far too long ago and when ill I came across this one on my Kindle and immediately dived into it, recalling the quality of the writing in the first book.

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned a knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills. Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.

This is  a classic murder mystery where the potential victims are all within a closed environment – in this case a software systems industrial unit – and Toby is desperately struggling to discover the perpetrator before everyone is wiped out. A complicating factor for Toby is that she is not working alone – Sylvester wanted her to take along one of the young pureblood courtiers to get him out of the way. So when she finds herself pitchforked into the middle of a situation far more dangerous than she expected, she is also responsible for a youngster who has no training or preparation for this kind of assignment. Though Toby increasingly is coming to the conclusion that she hasn’t sufficient preparation for it, either…

I loved this extra insight into McGuire’s haunting, dangerous world of fae where creatures who live for a very long time are slowly failing against humanity. As for the variety of types – think of the TV show Grimm. The standout characters are brilliant, abstracted January, who is responsible for keeping her people safe and running a successful company; Alex with the red eyes, who Toby finds she enjoys being around far too much. And poor little April – a young tree dryad who escapes the slaughter of her community when the oak grove where she lives is bulldozed flat to make way for a housing estate and is found wandering alone and traumatised by Jan. She is rescued and, before she fades away, is digitised to wander around the server as a shy, ever-present entity who occasionally runs errands for the staff and spends much of her time with Jan, who she regards as her mother.

Often in this type of murder mystery, the victims are the props – no one likes or cares much about them and they are there to provide clues and possible red herrings as the investigator and reader tries to puzzle out who is doing the killing. While I didn’t particularly care about some of the characters who died, there was a real sense of loss conveyed in the story. Each one was mourned by those around them, which had the effect of both upping the stakes and creating a sense of menace as Toby tries to discover what is going on.

I guessed part of the puzzle before we got to the denouement, but that didn’t really matter, as this case was as much about the ‘why’ as the ‘how’. And the answer is something of a heartbreak. Perhaps it was because I was feeling ill, but the ending left me with a lump in my throat as McGuire’s depiction of the final funeral drew to a close. This one really packs a punch and I now need to get hold of the next book, An Artificial Night, before too much time goes by.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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I have been reading this series throughout the year and read the final book during my bout of flu as I wanted something to take me away from the misery of feeling so ill…

A STEERSWOMAN ASKS, AND IS ALWAYS ANSWERED

The steerswoman Rowan has learned much about the master-wizard Slado: how his spells are devastating the distant lands known as the Outskirts, and how they will ultimately threaten even the Inner Lands. But she knows nothing else about him, not even why he is hiding his actions from the other wizards. He must be found, and stopped. Now, following the slimmest of clues, Rowan arrives in the city of Donner hoping to learn more about Slado’s plans. But when the answers begin coming in faster than the questions can be asked, a strange tale from the past emerges, a tale behind all the secrets of the present…

My firm advice with this particular slice of the adventure is not to read it. First, go back to the first in the series, The Steerwoman, and start the narrative there. While I’m sure you could follow this slice of the unfolding story without too much trouble, this is such a cracking series with so many clever twists and scenarios that starting here right at the end would be a real shame. Far better to begin at the start to fully appreciate this adventure.

Rowan visits Donner on the trail of the wizards – and Slado in particular. Once there, she needs to be careful as she cannot afford to come to the attention of the wizards. They have lethal powers and arcane methods of tracking people.

And once more we are tipped into the middle of a nail-biting adventure that had me gripped – while I don’t want to venture into Spoiler territory, the scene in the field with the dragons was masterfully handled and will stay in my mind for a very long time. I also loved the manner in which this magical fantasy slowly slides into science fiction. Kirstein beautifully handles the action and unfolding plot. It was also great to have her companion Bel alongside once more. They make a strong team and I missed her presence in the last story. In fact there is only one major problem for me with this particular book – it doesn’t wrap up the adventure.

Kirstein is apparently working on the next two books in the series and I am hoping that they will appear in due course. Though I’m prepared to be patient as she is now self-publishing the whole series – this outstanding adventure deserves a suitably awesome ending. In the meantime, I recommend the series so far – it’s a gem and should have far wider recognition.
9/10

Sunday Post – 3rd December 2017

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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.

I’m now ready for the upcoming blog tour for Dying for Space and busy working on the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course entitled, What’s the Time and is it Raining? Setting and why it Matters. I’ve also started my major rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest again as I’m beginning to turn into the witchbitch from Hell due to not writing creatively. The signs are all there – difficulty sleeping because my brain is itching… short-tempered… suddenly finding myself wanting to cry inappropriately – at a dance on Strictly for instance… So I had better start writing something more than blog articles and teaching notes before Himself decides to spend Christmas sorting out the loft.

On Friday, my granddaughter Frances turned thirteen. She has had her hair cut into a bob and donated her thick, curly, waist-length hair to the Little Princess Trust which makes wigs from donated hair for children who have lost their hair with cancer treatment. She looks beautiful, now taller than me and turning into a feisty teen full of opinions, which is brilliant. We went for a meal at The Dragon in Rustington with her parents and my sister to celebrate, then took the grandchildren home with us. Yesterday they helped us decorate the house for Christmas – we haven’t yet quite finished as all our lights seem to have disappeared, as we apparently put them a very safe place last year. Or they have been transported into another dimension by a being that needed lights, but not baubles, a tree, nativity scene and yards and yards of tinsel…
Today is the Wrap Party to celebrate the end of the filming with the cast and technical crew of Tim’s film Hoodwinked 3. Frances and I will be attending and we’re really looking forward to it.

This week I have read:

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of the Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle
“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.
I couldn’t put down this well-written, engrossing Victorian mystery with a twist of fantasy and will be hunting down the first book in this series in the new year.

 

Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner
The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district indicates a tragic yet familiar scenario. But this marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke told her mother she was visiting a school friend. Who was she really going to meet? Detective Inspector David Vogel is led towards three very different principal protagonists, each of whom grows increasingly chilling. But are they what they seem? And is any one of them capable of murder?
This twisty psychological thriller was a real page-turner and the denouement was a complete surprise – I’ll be remembering this one for a while.

 

Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus can see the future. But he never thought he’d see this day. Manoeuvred by forces beyond his control, the probability mage has made a terrible choice: he’s agreed to work for his old master once more. Richard Drakh, the sadistic dark mage Alex escaped as an apprentice, has him in his clutches again. And this time, he won’t let go so easily.
Another cracking read about this well-written prescient mage, whose life just doesn’t get any easier…

 

Blue Shift – Book 1 of the Second Species series by Jane O’Reilly
The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . . Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .
I really enjoyed this entertaining space opera. Jinn is an engaging protagonist with some hard options ahead of her – along with the rest of humanity – and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the sequel as I want to know what happens next.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 26th November, 2017

Review of Mother of Eden – Book 2 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fade Out – by Patrick Tilley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of the Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

Friday Face-off – The pen is mightier than the sword featuring Assassin’s Apprentice – Book 1 from The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

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

8 Years Ago Today https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/8-years-ago-today/ Bloggers occasionally write about things that are very personal – and when they are passionate and effective with words, the result can be humbling and awesome…

The Stag and the Dragon II https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/02/the-stag-and-the-dragon-ii/ Now we are deep into winter, the magic of a beautifully crafted photographic tour is even more appreciated.

#Bookreview: A Ragbag of Riches by James Chilton https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2017/12/01/bookreview-a-ragbag-of-riches-by-james-chilton/ With Christmas around the corner, I’m on the lookout for books that would delight the word nerd in your life – and this looks like a real gem…

A Story of Snow https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/a-story-of-snow/ Articles by this talented author are always worth reading – and this one is no exception.

Weekly Writer Wisdom: Ursula K. Le Guin’s National Book Award Acceptance Speech https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2017/11/28/weekly-writer-wisdom-ursula-le-guin/ These wonderful words from one of the most famous authors in the SFF community are worth listening to…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

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My attention was snagged by this title and Lisa Tuttle is an author who is been on my radar for a while, so I requested it.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane. According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but while I have clearly missed a slice of the adventure, that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment of this story. Tuttle doesn’t hang about – she tips us straight into the case which I appreciated. While this series has been compared with the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I don’t think that Miss Lane, the narrator of this case, is all that much like John Watson. She isn’t overly gushing about Jasper Jesperson’s detecting skills, for starters – indeed, there are times when she is quite sharp about him, which I enjoyed.

The other aspect that I hadn’t expected and very much liked – while both Jesperson and Lane are middle-class and reasonably comfortably off, that doesn’t prevent Tuttle from lifting the façade on apparent Victorian respectability by depicting a young serving girl’s plight after suffering a rape. The detective duo also uncover a shocking lack of respect towards women who have the temerity to refuse or thwart a couple of apparently eligible men, who portray themselves as perfectly reasonable, educated gentlemen. Miss Lane isn’t particularly happy about the state of affairs, but isn’t overly surprised. What it reinforced for me is how much women were simply not regarded as on a par with men. Not only did they not have the same protection in law, they were not felt to be capable of the same understanding or intellect as a man – so when a woman demonstrated any independence of spirit, she frequently incurred anger at her temerity – how dare she defy him!

That said, I don’t want you to go away thinking this entertaining, engrossing whodunit is focusing on the gender inequality of the time – it is a mere side issue in this adventure. An adventure full of twists and turns as Lane and Jesperson then find themselves desperately looking for a baby. And the resolution to that puzzle had my jaw dropping…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be tracking down the first instalment in this series. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their historical crime series with a twist of fantasy.
9/10