Tag Archives: Netgalley arc

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson #Brainfluffbookreview #LadyoftheRavensbookreview

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I was feeling in the mood for a historical adventure, when this one caught my eye with that very pretty cover. So I was delighted when I was approved…

BLURB: 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 very quickly bonded with this intelligent, sparky young woman, whose unfashionable looks didn’t bother her all that much, as she had developed a horror of marriage and childbirth. Through her eyes, in first person viewpoint, we get a real sense of her life as an attendant of Elizabeth of York, betrothed to Henry VII, the first Tudor king after years of savage fighting during the Wars of the Roses that tore apart the kingdom. I’d studied this period of history, so knew a lot about the events Hickson covers in the book – but it was a real joy having such a ringside seat to this fascinating time. Through Joan’s eyes, we see Elizabeth’s life unfold as the Yorkist princess, having to put aside her grief for her lost brothers (the princes in the Tower) and her dead father, as it is her place to found a new dynasty.

Hickson’s thorough research builds up a vivid sense of daily life, where Joan is at the beck and call of her royal mistress, learning of events that shake the kingdom through the people at the centre of it all. I knew that childbirth was a major issue for women up until medical advances made it safer, but this book brought home to me the sheer terror of facing such an ordeal with no effective painkillers and a high death toll from the likes of breech births and secondary infections. There was also the heartbreak of losing babies and children, who also were carried off by diseases and infections in very high numbers.

I’m aware that I’ve made this book sound a rather dreary round of catastrophes and death – and it’s nothing of the sort. Joan is a bright, engaging character with plenty of spirit and is strangely drawn to the ravens who roost around The Tower. She is aware of her good fortune, has a loving relationship with her mother and her benefactor, the Lady Margaret who looked after her while her mother was busy at court. It was interesting to see that Tudor working women had the same strains on their personal lives that we experience in modern life.

I’ve noticed that Hickson has written a number of other books centred on this period and I’m going to see if I can get my hands on them. Her deft, lively writing style and detailed knowledge that gave the book such a strong period feel without compromising the pace or narrative arc meant that I found this one difficult to put down. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical adventures set around the Tudor period. The ebook arc copy of Lady of the Ravens was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton #Brainfluffbookreview #LadyHotspurbookreview

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It was the blurb that attracted me – a retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry IV sold this one. I studied the play at school and it sank into my soul. What I hadn’t realised is that this is the second book set in this world of Innis Lear as neither Goodreads or Amazon mention it. However, I think reading The Queens of Innis Lear would have helped enormously. So before picking this one up, go and track down the first book.

BLURB: Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost. Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy. Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire. These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

Unusually, I’ve included the full blurb as it neatly sums up the dynamic of the plot about three young women who were once firm friends, as their relationships change into a more complex dynamic that has consequences not just for them, but for two kingdoms. This long book (600+ pages) is very ambitious, given it claims to be a retelling of one of the Shakespeare history plays. While there are echoes of that dynamic, I wouldn’t get too hung up on that thread, as there are also important differences that occur very quickly.

It took me a bit of time to really bond with the characters, but then I hadn’t appreciated that this was the second book and I recommend you read the first one before tackling Lady Hotspur. The title is actually misleading as the book equally deals with Prince Hal and Bana Mora just as much as Hotspur. It covers their joint and individual journeys extremely well. Gratton is an accomplished author who drew me into a world of complex magic and layered characterisation so that despite the heftiness of the read, I was held throughout. I was all set to give this one a ten, before I got to the final act and that crucial defining battle…

As I don’t want to lurch into Spoiler territory, you’ll have to bear with me if I’m a tad vague. But the trajectory of the book charts the relationships and competing claims, both personal and societal, upon three young women who already had high expectations thrust upon them. I felt Gratton did an outstanding job in making those genuinely gripping and very poignant – the relationship between Hotspur and Hal was particularly well done, I felt. But I was very dissatisfied with the manner in which the story was tied up. I think Gratton committed the unpardonable sin of raising reader expectations for one type of outcome, only to pull a switch that didn’t convince me at all. The conclusion was far too tidy for such a tortuous journey – by the end, I wasn’t even sure why they went to war at all, given the outcome.

The other issue I had was the role of women in the story. This magical tale is set in a late medieval setting when political marriages secured dynasties and land and Might is Right. Why we suddenly have a cadre of highborn, marriageable women, able to fight in battle alongside their male counterparts, is never fully explained. And I mind. It seems to me that you cannot sweep away all the impediments to women’s full equality within a story without addressing these obstacles, or factoring in a different dynamic that will give these women some tangible advantage in hand-to-hand fighting. Because their ability to prevail against fully armoured men due to their unique skill never convinced me. And I’m not prepared to go with the flow on this one – what sort of message does that give generations of us who watched our male work colleagues sail past us simply because of their genitalia? That we’re not strong enough? That we need magic? Or that just reading about a cosy world where it’s all just different is going to make me feel better? Systemic inequality of opportunity for women is far too widespread to be treated in such a flippant manner.

Furthermore, it’s supposed to be a retelling of a Shakespearean play. He might have been the greatest playwright that ever lived, but he was still a product of his time – so women were never found on the battlefield fighting alongside their men in his stories. If Gratton had wanted to change that aspect after specifically referencing Shakespeare in her worldbuilding, then she needed to spend at least some time and effort demonstrating what made it possible for these women to be able to learn the martial arts and take part in the bloodletting alongside the men. And she doesn’t.

The really aggravating aspect is that it wouldn’t have taken much to have turned this well-written, but slightly flawed effort into an outstanding read, as far as I’m concerned. And despite my real gripes with the book, I am still awarding it a solid eight. But it could have been a ten with just a little bit more thought… The ebook arc copy of Lady Hotspur was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Festival Murders – Book 1 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFestivalMurdersbookreview

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I’ve been reading and reviewing a fairly intense diet of science fiction recently and wanted to ring the changes – then came across this author on Netgalley. Would I enjoy this classical-sounding cosy mystery set at a literary festival?

BLURB: At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister. Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.

If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor action-packed read, full of chases and gun battles, this isn’t it. This is one of those murder mysteries where there is a dead body which sparks our sympathetic protagonist into deciding to track down his killer…  I liked the steady parade of suspects, who all had reasons of their own to wish Bryce dead and the sudden shift in pace and urgency, when there is another death. McCrum is good at giving us a steady drip-feed of plausible, three-dimensional characters without breaking the rhythm of the writing. I always prefer to really like the main protagonist – if I’m going to invest time and energy in reading a book, I’m not all that thrilled if I’m constantly grinding my teeth at the stupidity or sheer nastiness of a lead character. Francis is a thoroughly nice chap, with his own emotional wounds, that somehow drives him on to want to sort out the tangled mess surrounding Bryce’s death.

Any niggles? One that stood out glaringly. A big problem for modern writers of this particular style of genre is the sheer professionalism of our modern police force. No perspiring DI is going to turn to our brilliant-but-quirky investigator to solve the case for her, these days. I think McCrum successfully navigated his way around that hurdle throughout the investigation… just about. And then blew all believability out of the water by staging the classic denouement, where he gathered together all the suspects and walked everyone through the whole thing, before dramatically announcing the murderer. It frankly graunched, yanking me right out of the story and I’ve knocked off a point for that stunt, alone.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this classy, well plotted and enjoyable whodunit and I’ll definitely be reading more in this series. The ebook arc copy of The Festival Murders was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Trail of Lightning – Book 1 of The Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse #Brainfluffbookreview #TrailofLightningbookreview

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It was Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy that first enthused about this one and had me scurrying to track it down – to find it was only available as a paperback. So I was thrilled when subsequently, I discovered that not only was it about to become available as a Kindle edition, it was also a Netgalley arc…

BLURB: While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

There’s a snag to a highly anticipated read – it might not live up to my excited expectations. So I was very relieved when I quickly discovered that for all her edges, I really cared about poor, damaged Maggie and wanted her to succeed. This is important, because she spends a great deal of time pushing away those she cares about, convinced that she is also a monster.

In this post-apocalyptic world, everyone has edges. As catastrophic flooding swept away civilisation and families, those that survived had to become tough and resourceful. Roanhorse’s descriptions of this aftermath is well done. I loved the setting of a parched land that has been reshaped once more for the rise of the Native American nations and their gods – the Sixth World.

I was quickly completely immersed in this world and spend a happy afternoon relaxing while the pages turned by themselves as I was caught up in Maggie’s adventures. Alongside the monster-hunting and killing, she is also trying to cope with her own emotional problems. Actually, that’s not quite true – all she wants to do is get on and kill the monsters, but those emotional issues won’t leave her alone, as she has to confront those messing with her head.

If you enjoy richly drawn fantasy landscapes with plenty of action featuring a sympathetic, nicely complex heroine, who battles all sorts of odds without becoming whiny or pathetic, then this one comes very highly recommended. Thank you, Tammy!
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Secret Chapter – Book 6 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSecretChapterbookreview

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I was delighted to be approved to read an arc of this latest slice in Irene’s adventures – see my review of the first book, The Invisible Library. The catch was that I needed to read the previous two books, The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word in something of a hurry so that I got to it in the right order. It turned out to be a blessing – everyday life last week was rather fraught with family illness and these quirky, well-written adventures where just what I needed as an escape. Would The Secret Chapter prove to be as entertaining?

BLURB: A Librarian’s work is never done, and once Irene has a quick rest after their latest adventure, she is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. No copies of the book are available in the Library, so her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo. Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. He swears that he will give each of them an item from his collection if they bring him the painting within the week.

This latest slice of Irene’s adventures is essentially a heist story. Irene and Kai find themselves having to work alongside a team of rather dodgy characters – something she is far too used to doing. However, this crew are every bit as dangerous as the task they have been set by the shadowy Mr Nemo. I love the way Cogman plays with stereotypes – imagine a James Bond villain, complete with the Caribbean island setting and hungry sharks lurking in a hidden tank beneath their feet.

I am not going into any details as it would be a real shame to spoil this entertaining, twisty story packed with incidents and surprises. Cogman is very adept at creating an action-packed adventure without losing the overall impetus of the story, which is a harder trick to pull off than she makes it look. Once again, we learn more about the closed world of dragon society and just how dangerous they can be when crossed. I love the way in which Cogman reveals extra details about the world in which she has set the Invisible Library with each successive book. It isn’t a new trick, as all good series do the same thing – but she is particularly good at delivering new facts that suddenly change the reader’s perception of what is going on. I love it when that happens.

I ended up reading the last three books in this series back to back, which is something I generally don’t do. And it is a testament to Cogman’s writing skill and mastery of plot development that by the end of The Secret Chapter I was still thoroughly entertained and sorry when the book came to an end.

This classy series just goes on delivering and is highly recommended for fans of good-quality portal fantasies. The ebook arc copy of The Secret Chapter was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Body Tourists by Jane Rogers #Brainfluffbookreview #BodyTouristsbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’ve only ever heard good things about this author, so was delighted when I saw this arc available on Netgalley – and even more delighted to be approved to read it. I am also linking this one to @SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: In this version of London, there is a small, private clinic. Behind its layers of security, procedures are taking place on poor, robust teenagers from northern Estates in exchange for thousands of pounds – procedures that will bring the wealthy dead back to life in these young supple bodies for fourteen days. It’s an opportunity for wrongs to be righted, for fathers to meet grandsons, for scientists to see their work completed. Old wine in new bottles. But at what cost?

This story is told in multiple viewpoints, as we are introduced to a number of characters who become involved in this experiment. Inevitably, there are some who stick in the mind more than others. Paula is stranded on one of the thousand estates where the working class forced into unemployment as their jobs are now automated, are housed. Many retreat into VR worlds as an escape, while existing on sub-standard food, sub-standard education and sub-standard opportunities. She uses the money she gets for renting out her body to open a dance studio for the youngsters who don’t want to live in a virtual world and inevitably, it is her students – unusually fit and healthy – who are targeted for Luke’s experimental process. I loved her struggles, both practically and ethically, to live the life she wants against a background of poverty and deprivation.

I also enjoyed the storyline of Elsa and Lindy, another memorable subplot that particularly chimed with me, as I’m also a teacher. I felt their story was poignantly portrayed and the passages when they were able to fully express their love for one another were beautiful. There is also the tale of Richard K, successful pop musician who made it after his dad died and now he’s well into his middle age, would like to have the chance to reconnect with his father again.

Rogers could so easily have made this a far more polemic read, but I liked the fact that this wasn’t a completely dark tale of the haves preying on the have-nots – until it suddenly was… That ending packed a real punch and was all the more devastating because it seemed all too plausible – although thankfully, I think the actual science behind this premise is a very long way down the line.

This very readable story is both engrossing and thought provoking – I always love it when science fiction does that. And while the overall premise isn’t a particularly original one, I thoroughly enjoyed Rogers’ treatment. Highly recommended for readers who might like to sample a strong science fiction read, but are nervous of the techie bits.

The ebook arc copy of Body Tourists was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz #Brainfluffbookreview #StarshipAlchemonbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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It was the cover of this one that caught my eye – and the interesting premise which seemed to promise a new twist to the classic trope of a nasty alien thing brought aboard and causing havoc… I’m also linking this review to @SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: Far from Earth, the AI-guided vessel Alchemon discovers a bizarre creature whose malignant powers are amplified by the presence of LeaMarsa de Host, a gifted but troubled Psionic. The ship is soon caught in a maelstrom of psychic turbulence that drives one crewmember insane and frees the creature from its secure containment. Now Captain Ericho Solorzano and the survivors must fight for their lives against a shrewd enemy that not only can attack them physically, emotionally and intellectually, but which seeks control of their sentient ship as a prelude to a murderous assault on the human species.

Indeed, if this type of adventure lights your fuses, then this offering comes highly recommended. The story is as cosily familiar as a cup of evening cocoa – a highly talented, but disruptive member of the crew that either clashes or attracts that fascinating-but-lethal thingy which has been brought aboard for further research, despite the foreboding of senior crew members.

The story was a bit slow to get going, as Hinz writes on the harder side of the sci fi spectrum, so there is a fair bit of tech stuff to get through. It seemed enjoyably plausible, though I did find, in common with many books within this sub-genre, that the characterisation suffered. So no one is written in much depth and as a consequence, I didn’t really care all that much for anyone. However, as the stakes went on rising, that became beside the point, anyhow as there were deaths amongst the crew that took me by surprise.

The pace certainly picked up as the story wore on and by the final quarter, it became difficult to put down as I was keen to discover how this one was going to end. I really couldn’t predict exactly which way this one was going. Hinz’s experience showed in his deft handling of the denouement – the snag with raising the stakes, is that the payoff needs to be sufficiently satisfying so that the conclusion doesn’t fall flat. It didn’t.

All in all, this was a classic sci fi alien encounter with plenty going on, and if lacked something in originality and character depth, it made up for it in the steadily rising tension and successful ending. Recommended for those who enjoy their sci fi from the golden era. The ebook arc copy of Starship Alchemon was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Missing Diamond Murder – Book 3 of the Black and Dod Mysteries series by Diane Janes #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMissingDiamondMurderbookreview

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I was delighted to see another adventure in this entertaining series, see my review of The Magic Chair Murder, so requested it and was thrilled to get an arc…

BLURB: 1930. Frances Black is worried – divorce proceedings are under way and her solicitor has learnt of a spiteful letter sent to the court claiming that there is more to her friendship with her sleuthing partner, Tom Dod, than meets the eye. Fran takes Tom’s advice to get away, travelling down to Devon to help the Edgertons with their family mystery. After meeting the charismatic Eddie Edgerton and arriving at their residence, Sunnyside House, Fran soon learns that Eddie’s grandfather, Frederick Edgerton, died in mysterious circumstances when his wheelchair went off a cliff. Was it really an accident? And what happened to Frederick’s precious diamond which went missing at the time of his death? As Fran investigates, she uncovers family scandal, skulduggery and revenge, but can she solve the mystery of the missing diamond?

This time, Tom takes a back seat as Fran takes centre stage with this one, as it becomes important for the pair of them not to be seen together, due to a nasty note which has the potential to hold up Fran’s longed-for divorce. As a result, this is a classic country house mystery – and the upbeat, cheerful nature of this story isn’t inappropriate as the possible death she is investigating happened a while ago. In the meantime, Fran finds herself swept up by this open-hearted family. I really liked the fact that most of the characters came across as genuinely friendly and welcoming. It was a nice change seeing Fran enjoying herself and appreciating the luxurious surroundings and glorious scenery. We get to see another side to her character, which is always a bonus with a protagonist I’ve grown fond of – and I very much like Fran Black.

As for the investigation – while I didn’t foresee the way it turned out, I sort of got there a bit before Fran did, which was just fine. Because one of the main plotpoints in particular story had nothing to do with the investigation, but to do with Fran’s own future. And I was on tenterhooks to see what she would do – and desperately hoping that Janes wouldn’t make us wait until the next book before revealing her decision. I’m delighted to report that at the end of the story, we do discover what Fran intends to do – and I have to say that I was a tad disappointed with her choice…

Altogether, this was another solid addition to this excellent series and one I highly recommend to any fans of classical country house mysteries. As each story encompasses a separate mystery, it can be read as a standalone, though in order to get the most out of the characters, I would recommend you read the books in order. However if you, too, make a hobby of crashing midway into series, you certainly wouldn’t flounder with this one.

The ebook arc copy of The Missing Diamond Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGiverofStarsbookreview

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When I saw this one available on Netgalley, how could I resist? I’ve never not enjoyed her books, while One Plus One and Me Before You got solid tens from me, and I still find myself thinking about the issues raised in The Girl You Left Behind. Would this one live up to that dazzlingly high standard?

BLURB: Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

There were actually Horseback Librarians of Kentucky, which was a mid-Depression drive by the US Government to try and lift some of the most isolated and deprived families out of the grinding poverty they were experiencing by giving them free access to books. And a group of courageous women volunteered to deliver these by horseback all over the Appalachians. Moyes extensively researched this book by visiting the area and I think it shines through the writing, as her descriptions are a joy.

She weaves an engrossing story in amongst these facts, highlighting the social inequalities and injustices of the time – something she’s a dab hand at doing without appearing to preach in any way. I expected the layered characterisation of her main protagonists and the fact we get to see their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths and though I don’t know the area, I was convinced by the setting. The attitude to women and Afro-Americans certainly seemed horribly realistic. I’d also expected a page-turning story full of tension and high stakes – and Moyes delivered on that, as well.

So why a 9 and not a 10? Because I felt the main antagonist lacked a certain amount of depth. While I loved to hate him, I wanted Moyes to get under his skin just a little bit more so that he was as fully developed as the main protagonists. It would have given the story just that extra emotional heft I know she is capable of. That said, it is a quibble – this is a wonderful, engrossing read I stayed up far too late to finish and highly recommend to anyone fond of reading historical adventures set in the last century.

The ebook arc copy of The Giver of Stars was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForgottenPalacebookreview

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I can’t lie – once again it was the cover with that amazing dragon’s eye peering through the castle window that sucked me into requesting this one. Much to my surprise, this year I seem to have read a number of children’s books – would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: Deep in the heart of Presadia’s Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf, on a journey of discovery.

The blurb continues for another couple of paragraphs, busily letting drop a number of plotpoints I think would be better for the reader if they encountered them in the book, rather than waiting for them to happen. I like fourteen-year-old Luke, who is unusually tall for a dwarf with a flair for problem-solving and design and impatiently waiting for his beard to start growing. It was a refreshing change to find he comes from a close-knit community and has a loving mother who provides staunch support throughout, rather than the classic child protagonist without any positive adult in his life.

I did struggle a bit at the start of the book, even though I’m very used to being tipped sideways into adventures owing to my habit of crashing midway into series. Unhelpfully, neither Amazon, Goodreads, or the cover give any indication of the previous book The Mirror and the Mountain where we follow the fortunes of two children who have fallen through a portal into this medieval-type society. My advice would be to get hold of the first book before embarking on this one, as while I did sort out what was going on before it spoilt the story for me, I’m an experienced reader. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a youngster to pick their way through the various references to previous events and characters that they never meet.

Once I gathered exactly what was going on, I was able to relax into the story. Aylen writes an old-school epic fantasy, where Good and Evil are personified by the characters within the story and adventures are there to test their mettle.

I did like the way all the different races came together to rebuild the palace, despite the evident tensions between them. I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the task would provide all those toiling to rebuild it with protection and shelter, rather than focusing on how much the King wanted it rebuilt so he could fix the land. While this is clearly epic fantasy, there were times when the emphasis on the grand ambitions of peace and renewal gave this book a slightly old-fashioned feel and I’m intrigued to find out how today’s modern youngsters react to it.

That said, I enjoyed the characters and the story and would recommend it for independent readers from ten/eleven years old and upward – the battle scenes might be a bit too gory for younger readers. The ebook arc copy of The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10