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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadowblack – Book 2 of the Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

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I loved the first book in this series, Spellslinger – see my review here. So it was a no-brainer that when I saw this offering on Netgalley I would request it and was delighted to be approved.

It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind. And when someone else turns up unexpectedly who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help – but the stakes are far higher than they realise…

This one is such fun. While I had enjoyed the first book, this one is tighter in focus with a stronger, more coherent storyline. And of course Reiches, the incorrigible squirrel cat is back, giving us some much-needed light relief as the storyline becomes a whole lot darker. I love the relationship between Kellen and Reiches – it’s not remotely sentimental and although there is plenty of humour, it is always edged with the prickly sensibilities of the squirrel cat, which is convinced he is superior to all the pesky humans around him.

Once again, Kellen’s first person narrative pings off the page and immediately drew me into the story. While you don’t need the first book to appreciate this one, I would recommend it as having more Spellslinger goodness in your life can never be a bad thing. What I really appreciated is that in this slice of the adventure, we get to discover more about Ferius, the Argosi who inexplicably turns up in the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed her intervention during Spellslinger but felt a little unsettled that by the end, we still don’t know all that much about her motivation and why she sees fit to get involved in Kellen’s life. As Ferius and Kellen encounter another Argosi, we learn a lot more about how they operate and get a further insight into what makes Ferius tick – particularly when we see her vulnerable and unable to fight back.

The other highlight in this story is the addition of a really nasty antagonist. His manner of attack is chilling and left me wriggling with disgust – eww. We get to know him well enough that we completely understand his motives even though the people behind his horrible scheme remain disturbingly shadowy – until the end. Although I already knew that de Castell isn’t afraid to kill off characters, I was shocked at the death which certainly upped the stakes and injected a real sense of menace.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and it is highly recommended for fans of entertaining fantasy adventure. While I obtained the arc of Shadowblack from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

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RUNNING OUT OF SPACE
SUNBLINDED: 1

by S.J. Higbee

 

Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile English girls can also deal with danger.
The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

 

And Hywela at Romance That’s Out of This World is starting my blog tour with a guest post by yours truly.

Running Out of Space is available on Amazon.com 

and Amazon UK  for an introductory offer until the end of October only!

Here is the start of the book, where it all begins to go wrong…

CHAPTER ONE

Yeah, I know – Basement Level on Space Station Hawking – what were we thinking?  But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of one chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than shipwear throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Jessica punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Lizzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alisha and Sonja started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even look our way, let alone thank us for making sufficient room.

Sonja and Alisha stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Sonja wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

“We’ve gone promming around for less than a nanosec. And you wanna run back cos the scenery isn’t the same as on board?” Jessica clicked her tongue in scorn. “Starting to sound like those old nannies.”

Sonja flinched at the derision in her voice, but – being Sonja – wouldn’t lock horns with Jessica.

Breathing through my mouth, I straightened up. Jessica is right. So what if this is a dank disappointment? We didn’t come down here for the view – we came to prove we could handle ourselves when off-limits.

But Alisha grabbed Jessica’s arm. “Sonja and me reckon this is a vile place. We vote to head back. Tramping through filth is a tragic waste of shore leave.”

All argument ceased when the floor crud rustled and heaved behind us. A cat-sized rat scuttered through the litter into the gloom beyond.

I shivered. “It’s gotta get better sometime, soon. We’re snagging the next lift we see back to Trader Level.”

We continued trudging onwards for another ten minutes. Just as I was beginning to think the scuzzy corridor was leading into infinity, we turned a corner into a small plaza. With a blast of relief, I spotted the lift in the far corner and relaxed. Now we were nearly out of here, we could do the tourist bit. Truth be told, the word ‘plaza’ probably gives the space more credit than it deserves. While the lighting was brighter and the floor litter had been trodden relatively flat, the buzz that normally goes with buying and selling wasn’t here. Under the stink of rotting rubbish was the sharper stench of desperation.

I passed a trader’s eye over the ratty stalls. Everything I could see on display would’ve gone straight into our ship’s recycler. The food canisters were filthy without the benefit of even the most basic steri-scrub. And the water on sale might have shown blue on the pacs’ purity scales, but the readings must have been blixed, because that cloudy stuff wasn’t fit to pass your lips. Even the powdered water looked like sweepings off a shower-stall floor.

If we hadn’t come down here, I’d never have known this place existed. How many on Shooting Star know about it? This is what I joined the ship for. My heart was thudding with a mixture of fear and excitement. This was a hundred times better than trailing around the overpriced shops on Trader Level with a grumbling chaperone.

Though the people were a shock. There were no shades of yellow, brown, black, or white here – everyone’s skin was grime-grey. All wearing rags pockmarked with holes which only showed more scabby tatters, or dirt-scurfed flesh. I’d tried to blend us in. We were all in scut-gear with worn overalls and battered workboots. But we stuck out like a supernova on a dark night. Mostly because we were clean and well fed, while everyone here was stick-thin. Even the kids

The Cap always says we English merchanters take care of our own better than anyone else. What if he’s right? Because I couldn’t recall seeing any children in this sorry state back in New London.

Sonja gave some creds to a pathetic, sunken-cheeked toddler sitting on the trash-covered floor and in no time flat we were mobbed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. None of us could resist their pleading, so we handed out all our shore-leave cash. Of course, one of us should’ve kept an eye out for trouble. But we didn’t. And when the children scampered away, I looked up to see we were now ringed by another group. Far more grown-up and dangerous.

***

I can’t quite believe I’m here… It’s taken such a long time to get it all ready and on top of everything else, I’m still struggling with this flu. But I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the book on Amazon – I keep clicking on it just to have a look. I’ve crossed a line – gone from ‘going to’ and ‘want to’ through to ‘done that’. I am very aware in the scheme of things, this isn’t rocking anyone’s world except mine – that the average amount an author makes with their first book is less than the price of a meal for two in a halfway decent restaurant. But this feels huge and I want to thank everyone who has helped to make it possible.

 

 

 

 

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera

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This epic fantasy looked a bit different, so I requested it.

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

This is one of those lush, richly written fantasy tales that clearly has its roots in the Eastern tradition. Set in a large sprawling land that is a cross between Mongolia and Japan, it is the story of two girls born of two close friends. One is a Qorin ruler, leader of nomadic horse tribes, while the other is sister-in-law to the paranoid emperor. I was a bit concerned about the way the animosity between the Oorin and Hokkarans were depicted – would anyone call themselves flat-faced? While I enjoyed the fact this wasn’t a fantasy set in medieval/early modern Europe, I did wonder if it didn’t borrow rather too heavily from other historical conflicts.

These two girls, born close together, first meet as small children and then throughout their young lives, quickly forming a strong bond. This novel is actually a letter from one of the girls, written to the other and charting their adventures together and what they have done. It is a time-honoured structure and mostly successful – although I do think the pacing could have been improved, if only we had hints throughout of just what the stakes were, before they were fully revealed.

However, that grizzle doesn’t detract from the richness of the worldbuilding and the punchy characterisation of these powerful girls. While it is a coming-of-age romance, because of the manner in which their friendship turns into something far deeper and more passionate, it is certainly different. I thought the love between them was tender and convincing, though personally I could have done with less explicit sex scenes.

I liked the fact that though there is a great deal of powerful magic sloshing around, when people get hurt, there is a price to pay. This is a hefty book at 500+ pages, but especially towards the end, the pace really picked up and the story concluded with a nicely climactic ending.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Select by Marit Wiesenberg

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I was caught by the intriguing premise and loved the cover, so requested this one as I’m always a sucker for science fiction scenarios.

Coming from a race of highly-evolved humans, Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. The perfect family. The perfect destiny. But there’s something rotten beneath the surface—dangerous secrets her father is keeping; abilities she was never meant to have; and an elite society of people determined to keep their talents hidden and who care nothing for the rest of humanity.

I really like Wiesenberg’s writing style – the punchy first person point of view drew me in and kept the pages turning as we see this mysterious mega-rich family from Julia’s perspective. I especially enjoyed the fact that as in the better first person narratives, Julia is busy telling us one thing, while something quite different is unfolding in front of our eyes. She tells us that those with the greatest abilities are especially valued in their community – and then we realise that she and a group of highly talented boys have been sidelined and more or less forbidden to use their prodigious skills. Julie emphasises and indeed, tries to carry out the firm instruction not to draw attention to herself. But we also learn that her father has achieved celebrity status by dint of having accrued huge wealth, having film-star looks and refusing to give any interviews to the press. As the charismatic leader of their community, he is very much about ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

I loved the incident at the swimming pool, which beautifully illustrated the tension between what Julia tries to do and the sheer impossibility of those instructions. Rich, beautiful and very entitled, Julia is nonetheless a highly sympathetic protagonist, who I cared about especially when it became obvious she is being set up to fail. While I wasn’t particularly invested in the romance, it felt convincing and I enjoyed the game-changing scene near the end that provided the final reveal. And the very final page has one more twist that leaves an interesting plot point dangling and ready for the next book.

Overall, this is a fast, enjoyable read with plenty of tension and an appealing protagonist. Recommended for fans of school-based stories with a strong romance. While I obtained the arc of Select from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell

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Those of you who are regular visitors to this blog will know that I am continually banging on about how much I love the How To Train Your Dragon books – so when I saw Cowell had written a new series, it was a no-brainer that I would request it. It cheered me up no end when I was approved for this one…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods. Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish. And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

My rather elderly Kindle did not handle Cowell’s trademark illustrations very well and I needed to persevere to pick out the text within the rather hinky formatting. However, I refused to be put off though it took me a little longer to get into the story than I had expected, simply because Xar is fairly obnoxious at the beginning – though as the narrative progressed, it became increasingly obvious why he is such a pain and I grew to like and sympathise with him.

This book is clearly aimed at an older age-group than the How To Train Your Dragon series, and consequently lacks the can-do chirpiness that runs throughout HTTYD no matter what is going on. The language is also richer, full of poetic metaphors and although the adventure is full of incident and unexpected developments that are the hallmark of a Cowell story, the issues are more nuanced. Neither Wish or Xar are all bad or all good and I particularly liked the way the adults are portrayed. Very often in children’s literature, adults are either bullying buffoons or simply oblivious. It’s relatively rare to see an adult with a significant backstory and an interesting hidden agenda, yet both parents in this book first appear as typically black and white authority figures, only to later develop into something far more intriguing. I shall be very interested to see how they develop in due course.

All in all, this is a joy. I shall be reading it aloud to my granddaughter as a break from the Louis the Laugh series – after I’ve bought the print copy. And I have included the poem at the back of the book as something of a treat – I recommend you read it aloud…

Wandering Free
In the roads of sky and paths of sea
And in that timeless long-gone hour
Words of nonsense still had power
Doors still flew and birds still talked
Witches grinned and giants walked
We had Magic wands and Magic wings
And we lost our hearts to impossible things
Unbelievable thoughts! Unsensible ends!
For Wizards and Warriors might be friends.
In a world where impossible things are true
I don’t why we forgot the spell
When we lost the way, how the forests fell.
But now we are old, we can vanish too.
And I see once more the invisible track
That will lead us home and take us back…
So find your wands and spread your wings
I’ll sing our love of impossible things
And when you take my vanished hand
We’ll both go back to that Magic land
Where we lost our hearts…
Several lifetimes ago…
When we were Wizards
Once.

While I obtained the arc of The Wizards of Once from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweet Dreams by Tricia Sullivan

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I’m a real fan of Sullivan’s writing – see my reviews of Occupy Me, Lightborn and Sound Mind. She is a highly talented writer with a penchant for pushing the envelope with her fiction in a way that I love. So I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley.

Charlie is a dreamhacker, able to enter your dreams and mould their direction. Forget that recurring nightmare about being naked at an exam – Charlie will step in to your dream, bring you a dressing gown and give you the answers. As far as she knows, she’s the only person who can do this. Unfortunately, her power comes with one drawback – Charlie also has narcolepsy, and may fall asleep at the most inopportune moment. But in London 2022, her skill is in demand – until it all starts to go horribly wrong…

As you can see, this is set in the very near future where virtual reality is being taken into some disturbing areas… I happen to know someone who suffers from narcolepsy – where the sufferer will fall fast asleep anywhere at any time, particularly when stressed. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that this sleep disorder drives a tank through any attempt to lead a normal life. Charlie’s ability to hack dreams starts after her drugs trial with BigSky, when she also starts to suffer from narcolepsy, lose her job and a lot of her hair through stress. Unfortunately, due to the small print on the contract she signed when she took part in the trial, she has no recourse to any form of compensation. So she also ends up homeless. However, she is lucky to have a loyal friend in Shandy and find herself living as a companion to a cranky old lady in a wheelchair, known as O, by cooking and cleaning her pigeons for her. O is also very supportive of her new job as a dreamhacker.

I very much enjoyed Charlie’s character. She could so easily have moaned her way through the novel and although she is often depressed and undermined by her misfortunes, she is also feisty, with a nice line in sardonic humour. I also liked her impulsiveness and occasional lapse of judgement – it can be rather wearing to read of a protagonist who invariably takes the sensible option.

As for the crime aspect – it was really creepy to experience the way the Creeper infiltrated Charlie’s dreams and as I hadn’t read the rather chatty blurb, which I’ve tweaked, I hadn’t realised there was a suspicious death. Unravelling the murder mystery was enjoyable with plenty of suspects and though I guessed part of it, I didn’t appreciate the final part of the puzzle. This was a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read and recommended for fans of near future whodunits. While I obtained the arc of Sweet Dreams from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

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After enjoying the hippo-related mayhem of River of Teeth and looking forward to reading what happens next as the first book left everything on something of a cliffhanger, I was delighted to spot this one on Netgalley.

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway. Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.” In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

My first piece of advice would be – don’t start with this one, go back to River of Teeth as this novella picks up from where the first book left off and there isn’t anything in the way of ‘The Story So Far’. While there is a bit of explanation about what happened, it comes fairly late in the story and in the meantime, I think newcomers to this series could flounder.

As we plunge straight back into the action only a few weeks after the climactic events at the end of River of Teeth we meet up with all the protagonists once again as they start to count the cost of that dramatic day. It took me a while to get back into this, because not only wasn’t there much explanation, neither did we have any rebonding moments with the main characters. I did care about several of the gang members, but was rather detached from Winslow, whose behaviour wasn’t particularly pleasant. While I understood it, because the reason for it was in the previous book, we didn’t get a chance to see the justification and I think this hampered some of my enjoyment.

I do like the world very much and there was plenty going on – but I wanted more character development and longer to enjoy this interesting, vivid setting. There was a sense that this was a quart-sized story squeezed between pint-sized covers. That said, if I hadn’t liked it so much then clearly I wouldn’t have wanted more – this is really cool idea and was brought to a satisfactory conclusion this time around. I’d love to see a full-length novel set in this world, though… While I obtained the arc of Taste of Marrow from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Walker’s thought-provoking, apocalyptic adventure The End of the World Running Club and so when I saw this one featured on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer that I would request it.

Every dog has its day…
And for Lineker, a happy-go-lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside. But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves…

Firstly, a warning – if you don’t like reading extreme swearing, including the c-word, then this one may not be for you. That said, while this is generally a word that immediately has me shutting up the book and flinging it across the room, it occurs when we are in Lineker’s pov, when it seems to be entirely appropriate.

I think that the depiction of this dog is a tour de force particularly in the early stages when he is full of beans and boisterous. Having been a dog owner, I felt that Walker completely got inside the skin of an animal who mostly decodes the world through his nose. I also love the bursts of energy and impulsiveness Walker manages to evoke. By contrast, later on in the novel, when everything gets a whole lot darker, there is an effective shift in the viewpoint when Lineker stops being such a volatile bundle of joy.

As for Reginald – Walker has already demonstrated that he is effective at writing a flawed ordinary bloke, struggling to cope in a modern world. While Reginald is a very different character, there is an underlying likeability that stands him in good stead. Despite a particularly shocking episode that had me shaking my head in disbelief, I did stick with him and care about what happens to him, which is crucial to the overall success of this book.

Both Reginald and Lineker go on a journey, both literal and figurative as the awfulness around them finally intrudes. Both man and dog are tested and I was very relieved that this book didn’t puddle down into any kind of sentimentality.

The ending is entirely satisfactory and makes sense, though it did feel a tad rushed. However, I am not knocking off any points. Lineker is an amazing character who will stay with me for a long time to come and this book is recommended for anyone who enjoys something different, despite – and even because of – the hardcore language.

While I obtained the arc of The Last Dog on Earth from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

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I read the premise, saw the awesome cover and immediately requested it from Netgalley – and my hunch paid off.

BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.

This book drew me in from the very first page and did not let go until the end. I think the secret to this book is the very strong first-person narrative. We see the world through Brittle’s eyes as robots now rule the world, and she struggles to survive as a freebot. Constantly on the run with other surviving stragglers, Brittle also has to ensure she has sufficient spare parts to keep going. Given that during this savage civil war she has no access to any manufacturing plant, she is reduced to preying on other desperate robots scavenging in the sea of Rust – a desert graveyard where robots end up dying while trying to find the parts they need to keep going.

The world building is chillingly plausible as in between the ongoing action Brittle recalls how the world got in this mess in the first place. The overall tone is gritty and the action full on but this post-apocalyptic dystopian landscape is prevented from being unbearably bleak by the spiky point of view. I love Brittle! It also doesn’t hurt that the storyline is gripping and the writing exceptionally good.

While the book is packed with foot-to-the-floor action that had me zipping through the pages, holding my breath, there are also lyrically beautiful passages where Brittle is recalling the past. I thoroughly enjoyed the various plot twists, which I mostly didn’t see coming – I certainly didn’t predict the end. In fact, I thought we had already reached the end and was slightly startled when I turned the page to realise the story was continuing. I have to say that I am slightly ambivalent as I thought that first conclusion worked very well. However, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of cracking read and I think this is one I shall be remembering a long time to come. Recommended for fans of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories as well as folks who enjoy reading well-written science fiction.

While I obtained the arc of Sea of Rust from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Just Off the Path by Weston Sullivan

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I loved the cover for this and when I read the premise, I immediately requested it – I thoroughly enjoy vivid fairytale retellings..

Hansel never asked to be a hero. He never wanted to fall in love with Rapunzel, Queen of the East. He didn’t ask to be raised by Gothel the Wretch, and he certainly never wanted to be credited for her arrest. But more than any of that, Hansel never wanted to lie: but he did. He lied about everything. He thought that he was done with it all when he and his sister Gretel retreated into the woods to reclaim their land, but he should have known better. Years later, Rapunzel’s guards knock at his door, and they say the words he hoped that he would never hear: Gothel has escaped. As he and Gretel take refuge inside Rapunzel’s castle in the eastern capitol of Hildebrand, Hansel is thrust back into everything he never wanted in the first place: his lies, his legend, and his lust. In the wake of it all, he knows that Gothel has escaped to finish what she started. She is out to make sure that the Sleeping Beauty never wakes, and that Grimm suffocates under her blanket of thorn and vine.

This is a really clever retelling in a dystopian world where the famous curse on sleeping beauty has riven Grimm into a series of small squabbling states. Rapunzel, the Queen, is clearly out of her depth and I found her the most fascinating of all the characters. I enjoyed the way in which nothing is as it first seems. And the way Sullivan plays with established fairytale characters is both smart and intriguing.

However, for some reason while there was never any risk of not completing this book, I didn’t love it as much as I had expected. I didn’t bond with Hansel, finding his constant negativity a real problem. Neither did I like Gretel very much. And as these were the two main characters who were at risk throughout, I wasn’t as heavily invested in the story as the stakes were raised and they were increasingly at risk.

That said, I’m aware this is the personal preference and the other reviewers have loved this one. If I have found Hansel more appealing doubtless. I too would have been caught up in the story, which is accomplished and clever. Recommended for fans of fairytale retellings.

While I obtained the arc of Just Off the Path from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
7/10