Tag Archives: genre mash-up

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams

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There has been much excitement amongst the book-blogging community about this one, as Jen Williams has become a solid favourite among epic fantasy fans with her unique blend of clever pacing, vivid characters and the sheer energy of her writing. But what had everyone waiting for this one was that twist at the end of The Ninth Rain – see my review here – that turned this into a genre mash-up.

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever. Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

For starters, if you’ve picked this one up without having first read The Ninth Rain, then put it right back down again and rush off to get hold of the aforesaid first book in the series. It took me a while to get into this one, because I don’t reread books and as The Bitter Twins picks up more or less where The Ninth Rain left off, I was frankly floundering. If I hadn’t read the first book in this series, I think it would have taken me far too long to sort out who was doing what to whom to fully appreciate the writing and the story.

However, once I was back in the groove – this one was a joy. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, so that our gutsy heroes and heroines have flaws and weaknesses, and even characters we have written off as wrong ‘uns are capable of selfless acts. I loved the storyline regarding the origins of the Eborans, which worked really well and nicely mirrored what is happening on the Corpse Moon where unsettling transformations are taking place.

One of the recurrent themes within the epic fantasy genre is the role of history and how it defines people’s own identity within their culture and race. Williams treatment of this theme in this series is an interesting one, overlaid as it is by the insertion of another genre and how that both plays with and subverts the idea of cultural identity, particularly by the Eborans, who are teetering on the verge of extinction. As the inferior race, the human protagonists within the story have their own baggage and, in some cases, scores to settle. My favourite character is Vintage, the delightful human scholar whose insatiable curiosity has hauled her right into the middle of the current mess.

I don’t want you to go away with the idea, however, that this book spends pages discussing or worrying about the above, as it’s all about the adventure and such considerations are fully embedded within the plot. Events are moving fast, threats abound, and our intrepid band of protagonists are constantly having to react to yet another sticky situation. The pages flew by as I found it hard to break off and get on with the growing stack of chores – so I didn’t. After all, this was a Jen Williams read – which means it’s something special. While I obtained an arc of The Bitter Twins from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

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Review of The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor

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This book came with a highly recommended by Himself who was completely caught up in the story, both laughing aloud and weeping while reading it.

thenothinggirlKnown as “The Nothing Girl” because of her severe stutter and chronically low self-confidence, Jenny Dove is only just prevented from ending it all by the sudden appearance of Thomas, a mystical golden horse only she can see. Under his guidance, Jenny unexpectedly acquires a husband – the charming and chaotic Russell Checkland – and for her, nothing will ever be the same again. With over-protective relatives on one hand and the world’s most erratic spouse on the other, Jenny needs to become Someone. And fast!

Jenny has the harshest of starts and the beginning of the story yanked me in. I loved the dry humour of the first person narration in Jenny’s voice and initially thought the golden horse meant a paranormal adventure, but this tale is more Cecelia Ahern than Kelley Armstrong. Thomas, who only she can see, is her constant companion and accompanies her after her thwarted suicide attempt throughout her very isolated and boring life. She is still living in her aunt and uncle’s attic, largely ignored, until aged twenty-eight, when the world crashes into her humdrum existence.

I’m not saying more, as I’ll be venturing into Spoiler territory, but this accomplished, unusual book manages to successfully produce a tongue-tied, stuttering heroine who isn’t boring or victimised. There is also the charismatic, charming Russel who is selfish, unreliable and headstrong – whom I really enjoyed. Taylor is very adept as using humour throughout, including the various arguments, which meant I read chunks of this book with a grin on my face. And then near the end, I also had a big lump in my throat… There are only a handful of books that are able to evoke that spectrum of emotions.

It is something of a genre mash-up as in amongst all the general chaos that becomes Jenny’s life, a crime mystery gradually emerges. It is neatly done with an enjoyably satisfying and unexpected denouement. This is a real roller-coaster of a book and if you are feeling a tad jaded, or have emerged a little shaken from the full-on shocking thriller/horror/wrenching non-fiction disclosure – then give yourself a treat and have a go at this one.
9/10