I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight– so when I caught sight of this breathtakingly lovely cover and registered the author, I immediately requested it. And was absolutely delighted to get hold of a review copy.
BLURB: Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…
REVIEW: The first issue to tackle is the fact that this book is labelled a children’s read. Hm. I suppose it can be read by youngsters in that there isn’t any swearing or any overt sex and the protagonists are young. But frankly, as with a number of books in this category, this one is simply too good to leave solely to the kids and I strongly advise you not to discount reading this one simply for that reason alone.
I fell in love with Nettle, who has supposedly recovered from a devastating curse thanks to Kellen’s unique gift. But instead of staggering off to try and pick up the threads of her previous life, she chooses to accompany him on his various jobs where he has to unravel curses and return the victims to their families. Nettle had been turned into a heron and still has periods where she stares into the middle distance and is easily startled. She’s also often quite grumpy at Kellen’s tendency to rush into situations, determined to fix people. And then he’s keen to swiftly move on to the next job, rather than hang around and try to deal with the fallout that often occurs once a curse has been reversed.
However, they make a great team. Nettle, for all her slightly birdlike gestures, is clever and particularly good at finding the weak spots in Kellen’s plans when he wants to rush to the rescue. I thought their exasperation with each other worked particularly well – and their mutually reliant relationship heightened the sense of loss when later on in the book, they have been separated.
As for the plot – it is one of the major strengths of the story. I always love it when I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, whose pacing and plotting continually provides unexpected surprises that never feel forced or contrived. And Hardinge is one such storyteller. I kept trying to slow down, knowing that I was thoroughly enjoying this particular reading experience – but at the same time, desperate to know what happens next. The story provides all sorts of reverses and difficulties for our plucky duo – and Hardinge always weaves a sufficiently convincing air of menace, that I’m not ever totally convinced that her protagonists will prevail. I’m conscious that I’ve made this book sound thrilling, yet a bit bleak – and that isn’t the case. There are lovely touches of dry humour throughout.
If you are looking for an engrossing, well-written fantasy adventure that is also a stand-alone, this one comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Unraveller from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.
Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.
The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.
Last week I read:-
The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.
I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil. And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.
Unraveller by Frances Hardinge Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…
I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.
Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.
But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about. I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10
What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.
Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.
Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . . I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.
I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10
Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.
But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?
Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them. This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.
This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10
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 – Unraveller by Frances Hardinge – release date – 1st September, 2022 – (tomorrow, in fact…)
BLURB: In a world where anyone can cast a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his unique gift, but helps those who are cursed, like his friend Nettle who was trapped in the body of a bird for years. She is now Kellen’s constant companion and his closest ally. But the Unraveller carries a curse himself and, unless he and Nettle can remove it, Kellen is a danger to everything—and everyone—around him…. Just look at this fabulous cover! Hardinge’s covers are always fabulous – and after reading the wonderful Deeplight, which for some reason was aimed at children, I am really looking forward to getting to this one. Right now, I’m a tad behind with my Netgalley reads – but if you’re keen to get hold of a quality fantasy adventure featuring interesting young protagonists, then this offering is available tomorrow.
Those of you know who know me won’t be shocked when I admit it was this lovely cover that prompted me to request this one – and that I’d heard a lot of good things about this author…
BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
At long last – a really good blurb that gives a sense of the world and the stakes without deciding to spill all the major plotpoints in the first half of the book. And it would have been a crying shame if they had Spoiled this one, because it’s a real gem. I very quickly fell in love with dear little Hark, a streetkid who has been forced to live on his wits from a very early age. The main reason why he is still alive is because his bigger, smarter best friend Jelt has always looked out for him. Of course, nothing is for free and in return, Jelt expects him to fall in with his schemes to earn more. More money, more of a reputation… the kind of life that Jelt believes he should have – and Hark needs to be there alongside, whether he really wants to or not.
The story of these two boys unspools against the backdrop of a busy port, an increasingly profitable trading post now the savage sea gods who used to roam the Undersea are now all gone. Though there are still traces of them littering the seabed, or caught up in the barriers to keep out some of the more normal sea monsters, so there is a brisk trade in their remains littering the bed. As society is still adjusting to the apocalyptic changes caused by the death of the gods, more merchants arrive from other parts while there are factions still mourning the loss of the gods…
The depth of the worldbuilding is impressive and engrossing, given it is achieved without any holdup in the narrative, which gripped me throughout. I also loved the unpredictability, as just as I’d figured in which direction the story was going – it suddenly changed direction, dragging poor old Hark in its wake. The cast of supporting characters were all beautifully drawn, adding to the enjoyment and drama. I may have been initially attracted to this one because of the lovely cover, but it was the amazing writing that held me. I’ll definitely be tracking down more books by this talented author. Highly recommended for fantasy fans of wonderful worldbuilding and great storytelling.
The ebook arc copy of Deeplight was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been the type of nose-to-the-grindstone, locked-onto-the-computer-screen sort of week, helped along by the company of a trusted friend. I attended the aerobics and Pilates sessions this week, resulting in my hobbling around like an old lady who hasn’t exercised enough over the summer… The pain was leavened by my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi coming to stay. And the wonderful news was that she was able to extend her visit so that she only went home today. We work so well together and she and I are very good at helping each other out with various writing problems, even though we write such different genres. I miss her so! I’m campaigning to have Lincolnshire towed southwards and tucked in behind Brighton… We have decided to Skype each other more often – and she is returning next month as we are going to Bristolcon together. Yippee!
As for that work I’ve been doing – I’d got to a point in Mantivore Warrior when I needed to firm up the narrative time in Mantivore Prey, so decided to produce my timeline edition at this stage, given that I’m now well along my edits for the book. I have also made a start on another paid editing project, as well as continuing my teaching duties. It seems odd to think that this time last year, I was up to my neck in Northbrook admin as I embarked on a new academic year with my Creative Writing students – where did I find the time?
Last week I read: Lady of the Ravens by Joan Hickson
My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…
When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive. I loved this one. The worldbuilding is detailed and entirely convincing and Joan was an engaging, intelligent protagonist who I gave my heart to in the opening pages. Review to follow.
Akin by Emma Donoghue
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew. Another stormingly good read – I’ve had an amazing reading week. I absolutely loved the spiky, unsentimental relationship between the elderly professor and the damaged boy. This one will stay with me. Review to follow.
Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it. And the joy goes on… This was another marvellous book with a story that swept me up and held me in its watery embrace until the very end. Review to follow.
10 of the Best Poems About Despair https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-despair/I have always found poetry and prose about despair enormously comforting for two reasons. Firstly, they often sum up the enormity of my bleak feelings far better than I can; secondly, that terrible sense of isolation arising from those dark emotions is alleviated when I can read of someone else’s pain…
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:
Deeplight by Frances Hardinge 20% ‘That would be worth a fortune!’ Hark’s excitement flared, then fizzled. These were riches he couldn’t share. ‘That’s… amazing, Jelt. But you don’t need my help. You can sell it without me.’
‘No, I can’t!’ said Jelt. ‘If I tell too many people I’ve got it, the governor will find out, and then he’ll confiscate it, won’t he?’
BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart.
Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on.
On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold.
But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
I haven’t read anything by this author before, but her name keeps cropping up – so when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. So glad I did! I love the world, the ongoing tension and poor little Hark…