For those of you who are interested in such things, Brendan Bellacourt also writes under the name of Bradley Beaulieu. I loved his exciting Sand and Sorcery trilogy The Song of the Shattered Sands – see my reviews of Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand – so I was keen to get hold of this arc when I realised who the author is. Would I enjoy his science fiction writing as much as his fantasy?
BLURB: truncated: Liam Mulcahey, a reclusive, shell-shocked veteran, remembers little of the Great War. Ten years later, when he is caught in a brutal attack on a Chicago speakeasy, Liam is saved by Grace, an alluring heiress who’s able to cast illusions. Though the attack appears to have been committed by the hated Uprising, Grace believes it was orchestrated by Leland De Pere–Liam’s former commander and the current President of the United States.
Meeting Grace unearths long-buried memories. Liam’s former squad, the Devil’s Henchmen, was given a serum to allow telepathic communication, transforming them into a unified killing machine. With Grace’s help, Liam begins to regain his abilities, but his journey towards self-discovery hits a major roadbump, when he becomes a target for those who are determined to prevent him from learning who he is really is and what he can do.
REVIEW: I’ve tweaked the very chatty blurb and my advice is to give it a miss, as it gives away far too many of the main plotpoints of the story. This is an intriguing world, clearly still fractured and struggling after the terrible events of the Great War. In this alternate United States ended up fighting a desperate war against a coalition of Britain, France, Canada and Germany and only narrowly managed to win, thanks to the valiant intervention of the now-President De Pere. Their technology is far in advance of where we were in the 1920s, as huge strides have been made in the field of virology, so that people can undergo major transformations, both physically and mentally on being injected by serums.
I particularly enjoyed the opening sequences of this book, where we are firmly in Liam’s head and he reluctantly attends a public opening for a new train as a favour to his friend – and it is Liam’s journey that powers this narrative. Personally, I would have preferred it if the narrative had kept with Liam throughout, as there were times when we were with other characters and I was conscious that I was flipping the pages wanting to get back to him.
The fast-moving, twisty plot provides a number of surprises. The worldbuilding was especially well done, so that I was able to visualise the interesting blend of art deco and steampunk, with a helping of speakeasies and vintage cars to add to the richness. This is an ambitious novel that examines the theme of power – who has it, who wants it and what some people will do for it. None of the conclusions are particularly original or world-shattering. But I like the fact that Bellacourt ends up having power as a personification – and that the damage started when initially decent people decided that the means justified the ends when they were in desperate straits.
However, if you’d rather read it as a straightforward 1920s steampunk action adventure story – fans of this genre should find it an entertaining book. While I obtained an arc of Absynthe from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
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 a long, miserable week. Until yesterday when the sun came out. My daughter and her family moved house a couple of weeks ago. This time around, we weren’t there to help – in fact I’ve only seen them twice since Christmas and we’re part of their support bubble. But yesterday, she drove over to pick me up, and organised for me to spend part of the day with them, before she dropped me back again. Unfortunately half the country decided they wanted to visit the Littlehampton/Brighton area yesterday so the roads were clogged solid and the journey took over two hours and would have been longer if she hadn’t gone across country. It was wonderful to see the children again, catch up with them all and be shown over the house. They now have a bedroom each and the house is lovely and bright with a real homely feeling. I can now visualise where they are…
Before I went, I hadn’t appreciated just how very down I’d become. After all, I didn’t cry, and though it took some effort and a lot of books – I wasn’t feeling utterly miserable. But that shot of absolute joy on seeing the family again felt like waking up. So this morning we went for a walk along the beach – just a short one, as we don’t have much stamina yet. But it was lovely to get out again!
The photos this week are of our little walk along the beach.
Last week I read: Traitor’s Blade – Book 1 of the Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn… This is an engaging and action-packed swords and sorcery adventure that packs an emotional punch. It kept me turning the pages to the end, with plenty of surprises along the way. Mini-review to follow.
The Royal Secret – Book 5 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate – but the task brings unexpected dangers.
Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world.
Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe… This series continues to go from strength to strength. Taylor’s ability to weave real life events into the affairs of his fictional protagonists, James and Cat, is impressive. His depiction of the historical period is masterly and gives a vivid backdrop to the engrossing action that left me slightly reeling by the end. Review to follow.
The Daydreamer Detective – Book 1 of the Miso Cosy Mysteries by Steph Gennaro aka S.J. Pajonas Mei Yamagawa is out of luck and out of money. After five years in Tokyo, she has little to show for it besides a laundry list of unrealized dreams. Left without a choice, she returns to her rural Japanese hometown, ready to be branded a failure by her relatives and rivals. At the least, she looks forward to seeing her best friend, until Akiko is accused of murdering her own father.
As Mei helps her farmer mother with the crops, she scouts for clues to clear her friend’s name. But during her investigation, she can’t help but notice the celebrity chef looking in her direction. The amateur detective can balance a new love interest and a murder case… can’t she? I thoroughly enjoyed this charming murder mystery, as poor Mei finds herself having to admit defeat and return home to her mother. I’m sure many young people these days are finding themselves in the same miserable position. But this is also set in Japan, so there is a different slant on family life, and the investigation which was enjoyable to read. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The House of Hades – Book 4 of the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan Hazel stands at a crossroads. She and the remaining crew of the Argo II could return home with the Athena Parthenos statue and try to stop Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter from going to war. Or they could continue their quest to find the House of Hades, where they might be able to open the Doors of Death, rescue their friends Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus, and prevent monsters from being reincarnated in the mortal world. Whichever road they decide to take, they have to hurry, because time is running out. Gaea, the bloodthirsty Earth Mother, has set the date of August 1 for her rise to power.
Annabeth and Percy are overwhelmed. How will the two of them make it through Tartarus? Starving, thirsty, and in pain, they are barely able to stumble on in the dark and poisonous landscape that holds new horrors at every turn. They have no way of locating the Doors of Death. Even if they did, a legion of Gaea’s strongest monsters guards the Doors on the Tartarus side. Annabeth and Percy can’t exactly launch a frontal assault.
Despite the terrible odds, Hazel, Annabeth, Percy, and the other demigods of the prophecy know that there is only one choice: to attempt the impossible. Not just for themselves, but for everyone they love. Even though love can be the riskiest choice of all. This book takes our plucky protagonists into some very dark places indeed. And yet, Riordan’s adroit use of humour, without minimising or disrespecting their evident ordeal, managed to allow me to listen to this without finding it unbearable. I shall really miss this series, once I’ve finished it. Review to follow.
Southern Spirits – Book 1 of the Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries by Angie Fox When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.
Ellis Wydell is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity to put an end to the disturbances. But soon, Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn’t above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her? I like Fox’s upbeat, quirky writing style – and this ghostly murder mystery with a splash of romance was an entertaining read with some real creepy moments and a very satisfying ending. Review to follow.
A Murder at Rosings by Annette Purdey Pugh When Mr Collins is found stabbed to death in Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s garden, simmering tensions are revealed beneath the elegant Regency surface of the Rosings estate.
The prime suspect is Mr Bennet, who was overheard arguing with Mr Collins over the entail of Longbourn in the days before the murder was committed, and who stands to benefit more than anyone from the Rector’s death. I’ve omitted the final paragraph in the blurb, which is completely wrong and led me to expect something quite different from what I got. And this clever, enjoyable story set in Jane Austen’s Regency England deserves better than that. Overall, this is classy murder mystery that very much impressed me and I look forward to reading more from this promising writing. Review to follow.
The Case of the Dragon-Bone Engine – Book 1 of the Royal Investigative Service by Galadriel Coffeen Dynamite couldn’t cause such a big explosion. It must be something worse, Agent Beka Finley is sure of it. As she and her partner investigate the devastating train crash, she’s convinced the train was sabotaged. But everyone seems bent on persuading her it was an accident. Just like the crash that killed her father six years ago.
Determined to protect more lives from the growing unrest between humans and fairies, Beka puts her own life and reputation on the line to find the truth. But that truth might lead to more questions than answers. This is the industrial revolution played out in a fantasy version of the early Victorian period where fairies live alongside humans, and sell their magical abilities to the factory owners for a pittance. Though Agents Finley and Donovan are more concerned with the catastrophic explosion that has ripped through a new dragon-bone train… I thoroughly enjoyed this difference spin on a period of history I know very well. And the bonus is that the book has a number of beautiful pen and ink drawings executed by the clearly talented author in the style of the period. Review to follow.
Empire of Sand – Book 1 of the Books of Ambha by Tash Suri The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance… I acquired this offering as it is on sale – and very good value it has proved to be. I’m always a sucker for a well-told tale of sand and sorcery. Mehr’s journey is full of drama and emotion, and the world she creates along with the magic system, is vivid and enjoyable. Very highly recommended.
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Music and the Art Show – Part 2 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/04/08/the-art-show-part-2/ The biggest problem for teachers is to inspire children to be fearless in their creativity. In our modern world, they never get a chance to see ‘works in progress’. They only ever see the shiny, flawless, final effort and particularly as they get older, they are aware that what they produce can’t possibly rival that – so they often give up before they even get going. Unless they met up with a wonderful teacher like Jennie when they were younger, who inspired them to have a go…
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series Shanghai Sparrow – see my review here – so when I spotted this one on the shelves, it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it up. I am linking this review to SciFiMonth2019.
BLURB: Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions. The duns are at the doorstep, her friend Liu the half-fox-spirit is in some sort of trouble, and the rivalries of the Folk are in danger of overspilling into the mundane world and forcing the Empire into a bloody and horrifying war. Can Eveline pull things out of the mire this time, or will the Sparrow’s wings be clipped once and for all?
Once I got into this entertaining steam punk adventure, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Evvie is a sympathetic protagonist, although I didn’t immediately reconnect with her as there didn’t seem to be a major bonding moment in the early stages of the novel. A strength of this series is the quality and depth of the supporting characters who are also depicted alongside Evvie Sparrow. One of my favourites is Ma Pether, the Fagin -like character who had scooped up Evvie off the streets and trained her to be a pickpocket and thief.
The other major character who I have more than a soft spot for is Liu, the half-Fae trickster who travels between the Fae courts and the human world in an attempt to impress his father. And save his own life… The two parallel narratives running alongside one another that power the narrative arc are equally engrossing, so I was never tempted to skim one in order to get back to the other. While it took some time for the book to hit its stride, once both storylines got going this was difficult to put down, and I thoroughly enjoyed the manner in which the resolution came about.
It is always a treat to think you know where a story is going, only to find it shoots off in another direction. I am hoping that Sebold is busy writing an addition to this entertaining series – surely Evvie’s talent for finding trouble has not yet been exhausted and I want more of Ma and Liu as well.
Recommended for fans of well-written steam punk.
This Book Funnel promotion is featuring science fiction and fantasy books available to read in Kindle Unlimited, alongside my own two books, Running Out of Space and Mantivore Dreams. So given it’s Sci Fi Month 2019, I thought I’d feature a selection of the science fiction offerings that have caught my eye. Click on the header to find out more…
The Approach – Book 1 of the Courage Colony series by Holly Ice
When nanites consumed our solar system, they killed every human they infected. Only one ship escaped. They named it Courage. Errai Avila is the biological child of her parents, and shunned for it. She’s an unwelcome anomaly on a generation ship approaching its final destination. All she wants is to escape notice, but when Captain Rima Jabir calls for volunteers to explore their new home, Errai must make a choice. Will she continue to hide in the food hall kitchen, or will she cast off anonymity to finally gain respect?
Project Charon: Re-entry by Morton Blake
Forcefully retired from a top-secret military project. Can she save humanity from itself?
On the backwater world of Cayelle, Tina Freeman runs a shop with her son Rex: fifteen years old, half-human, half-android with a massive chip on his shoulder about having been born without arms or legs. The shop makes a modest profit, but when a creditor turns up wanting his money back, everything goes pear-shaped.
She needs money, and needs it fast. Another creditor is impossible to find. That leaves her one option: to return to the world she fled fifteen years ago and Kelso Space Station, where her spaceship has languished for over fifteen years, and finally sells the thing.
Discovery by Paul Rix
Mars! Mankind’s next step in space exploration and colonization. Landing is the easy
part. Survival? Well that’s another matter.
Mission specialist Georgia Pyke came to Mars with grand ideas to establish a legacy. Instead, she must face her personal demons and rely on Captain Winter to survive from one day to the next. Has she condemned herself to a lingering death on Mars? As if inhospitable Mars isn’t a sufficient adversary for the astronauts, one of their own has been holding a grudge for six years. How far is that person prepared to go to exact their revenge?
Ziegfeld Zagger, Quantum Detective & the Dirty Rotten, Sarcastic Multiverse by Greg Montego
Man plans, the Multiverse laughs!
“Not only is this case stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.” –Ziegfeld Zaggar
“Anyone who thinks they understand quantum theory, should think again, preferably without thinking.” — Ziegfeld Zaggar
No other detective is quite like Dr. Ziegfeld Zaggar, Quantum Detective — and that’s probably for the best. Zaggar and his reluctant, obsessively linear-thinking sidekick, Jack Robbins, investigate the murder of high-tech industrialist, Roger Mason, a death they realize may lead to far more inconvenient consequences– the accelerated entropy of the Multiverse that will end in…. well the end of everything.
Along the way, they’ll hook up with the ravishing (how could she not be?) agent from the CIA’s Quantum Division, Irene Adler (who else did you expect?)), interrogate a variety of unusual suspects (to say the least!), track down the elusive Mr. Anansi at the even more elusive Magic Theater — where Zaggar is a persona non grata, due to past infractions — and navigate through strange and perilous parallel universes, where it seems like something of immense power is obstructing their progress. For the Multiverse is a dirty rotten, sarcastic trickster, and that has made someone a little bit crazy — and very, very angry.
Terminus Cycle – Book 1 of the Andlios series by Dave Walsh
They were humanity’s last hope…
…but would they survive the abyss?
Now, after two generations lived and died aboard the ship, their new home planet looms on the horizon. Jonah just needs to let the mystery of an object in space and the tale of a lost cosmonaut lie and everything will go according to plan. But that meant ignoring the truth: the dark secrets of their mission. Sometimes risking everything for the truth is the only way forward, especially for someone like Jonah. Especially with the lives of 50,000 people hanging in the balance.
Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts – Book 1 of the Divine Warriors series by Kristen S. Walker
When the gods came calling, she was the only one who answered. In a utopian floating city, Riwenne dreams of serving the gods as a priestess. Then she gets a message from the sea goddess urging her to become a warrior. Mechanical beasts are attacking innocent people on the streets at night. Armed with the power of the goddess, Riwenne must learn to fight. But if she wants to save the city, she will need to decide who is a friend and who is an enemy-and the wrong choice could have deadly consequences.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
Another week has slipped by – this time in a welter of wind and rain. I’ll take that over snow any day, but it has been wet and dreary for a chunk of time, making the drive into Northbrook and back miserable. I can’t quite believe that this week saw the halfway point of this term come and go… Wednesday evening I attended our writing group where the main discussion somehow morphed into various versions of ‘Lilac Wine’ – there were those of us who felt Nina Simone’s version aced it, while others preferred Elkie Brooks and Miley Cyrus – there’s no accounting for taste! On Thursday, I had a good lesson with Tim, who is working towards his Functional Skills Level 2 Reading exam.
On Friday, I met up with writing buddy Mhairi. We had lunch together at Haskins and browsed, when Mhairi spotted some amazing umbrellas on sale – the big old-fashioned kind, with a lovely pattern of a bee on lavender. Given that it was hammering down outside, I treated myself and it easily kept us both dry while we made our way to car. We had a lovely catch-up together, overshadowed by the fact that she’s moving away from the area very soon. She’s promised to come and stay regularly and I hope she does. I’m so sad that she’s going, though obviously I wish her all the luck in the world in her new home.
Last week I read: Cyanide with Christie – Crime with the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Having finished transforming Windy Corner, the grand Victorian mansion she inherited from her great aunt, into a writers’ retreat, widowed literature professor Emily Cavanaugh is ready to receive her first set of guests. But her careful planning is thrown into disarray by the unexpected arrival of outrageous true-crime writer, Cruella Crime, whose unpardonably rude behaviour is causing great offence. As a ferocious ice storm rages outside, the guests entertain one another with a game of charades. But their revelries are brought to a sudden halt by the discovery of a body in one of the guest bedrooms. When it transpires the victim was poisoned, Emily decides to take a leaf out of the book of her favourite detective writer, Agatha Christie, and investigate. But as she pursues her enquiries, it becomes chillingly clear that she herself may have been the intended victim… This is fun, particularly for those cosy whodunit fans yearning for the nostalgia of some of the old classics. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.
The Revenant Express – Book 5 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann
Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express. This action-packed sequel to The Executioner’s Heart follows on more or less immediately from the climactic ending of the previous book, so if you haven’t read it then I’d advise that you do so before picking this one up. Review to follow this week.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
We had several hard frosts this week, before the temperature warmed up – only to suddenly plunge again so that on Thursday evening we had snow falling for nearly four hours, leaving behind over an inch covering everything and fears of travel chaos the following day. Fortunately the sun shone on Friday morning and by the time we had to make the drive to Brighton to pick up the children, it was pouring with rain, finally washing away any traces of snow or ice. Oscar and I spent Saturday morning building a Lego tower together, before my sister popped in with a present – a pack of hangers! I was delighted as I’m always running out. Himself got home at around 1 pm after a 3 am start and after a short nap, he and Oscar played a quick game of Bloodbowl, while Frances and I went out for a coffee/hot chocolate and a natter.
My daughter will be coming over to pick up the children this afternoon, so Oscar and I will be making vegan banana cake together this morning. Other than having the children this weekend, the week has slipped by at the speed of a downhill skier – how come we’re in February, already? I swear that Christmas was only a fortnight ago…
Last week I read: Dark City – Book 1 of The Order of the Shadows series by Kit Hallows
My name’s Morgan Rook, Supernatural Detective, Undercover Agent, odd jobs man. Call it whatever you like. I take out the nightmares, demons and werewolves. The things that lurk in the shadows around you. Guys like us, we call them Nightkind. And here I was, set to quit this dark life and retire to sunnier climes, except for one final job. There’s always one. This time a call to eliminate a cruel, rogue vampire, named Mr. Tudor. Simple right? Sure. Until the bodies started piling up in a new wave of vicious occult killings leading scarily close to my own front door… An entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy adventure featuring a mostly sympathetic protagonist.
Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes. This detailed, slow-burn fantasy adventure featuring a cool-headed young man struggling against difficult odds drew me in. Review to follow.
Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future. Wonderful addition to a favourite fantasy series by this fabulously talented author – review to follow.
Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold
Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions… It was fun to reacquaint myself with Evvie after the enjoyable Shanghai Sparrow and her talent for getting into trouble in this steampunk sci fi/fantasy mash-up provides an entertaining adventure.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is steampunk. I’ve selected The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, a cracking whodunit set in an alternate Victorian London…
This edition was produced by Snow Books in 2008 and is my favourite. I love all the detail and the bright colours. It’s beautiful, full of lovely little touches, like the London cityscape, the little steampunk flourishes and that fabulous airship, which is the template for nearly all the other versions of this book’s covers. While I’ll accept that it probably doesn’t stand out when in thumbnail, I’ll forgive that – who wouldn’t want to expand this cover into glorious full size to capture the full effect?
Published in April 2010 by Tor Books, this is another attractive, well-designed offering. The airship is now grungier and less shiny, though every bit as eye-catching. I love the border and the attention to detail, again. I just wish there was less chatter across the cover.
This edition, published by Titan Books in July 2015, is certainly bright. The airship is still there and this cover provides lots of detail, but in silhouette. I think the overall effect is successful and eye-catching and I’d probably love it more if I hadn’t already given my heart to the Snow Books effort.
This edition, produced by Piper in 2011, takes the original design and makes it their own. It is far more stripped back and I think it is extremely effective – I love the background colour and clever use of the clouds to provide a suitably dramatic backdrop for that magnificent airship. The border is also nicely handled and in thumbnail, this one really pops. This is my second favourite, mostly because I just love that colour…
This French cover, published in June 2011, takes a completely different approach. This is the foggy London where Jack the Ripper lurks along with other desperate villains and only the likes of Newbury and Hobbes can get justice done… We see the two protagonists featured on the cover. I do like this effort, though not as much as the others. What about you – which is your favourite?
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:
Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill
94% The two men clashed like a hammer striking an anvil, and sparks and shards of ice flew from their blades. Yuda knew his own strength and his weakness; he did not stay locked with Sarl, but darted back, mocking him with speed and lightness of foot. When Sarl strode after him, he returned to the attack, searing the icy armour with tongues of fire.
Sarl spun, cursing like a man plagued with a gadfly, but Yuda was always just out of reach of his whirling swords.
BLURB: When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel.
This is one I’ve had on my Kindle for far too long – so I decided to tuck into it. It has proved to be a marvellously engrossing read with lots of unexpected twists in a vividly depicted world. I will definitely be getting hold of the others in the series.
I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…
When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…
This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.
There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.
The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.
Over the past year, I’ve becoming increasingly conscious that I’ve getting into the habit of plunging into a series with a book that has caught my eye and simply not getting any further. Given my go-to genres heavily feature series books, which are always part of a longer narrative, this is a habit I’d like to break. So this year, I’ve decided to make myself more accountable by recording my progress with series that I have either completed, or brought right up to date – hence this post now that we’re more than halfway through this year.
The Tide Dragons duology by Sarah Ash The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice and Emperor of the Fireflies
This delightful fantasy series is strongly influenced by Japanese mythology and culture, so as well as the wonderful dragons of the title, there are kitsume and demons, emperors and generals and a formidable goddess all weaving through this richly textured world. I loved it and Emperor of the Fireflies is one of my outstanding books of the year so far.
The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small Angry Planetand A Closed and Common Orbit
This science fiction space opera series made a big impact with the hit debut book which had a real vibe of the hit TV show Firefly as an ensemble piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second book featured one of the ship’s crew and a waif who needed refuge and while it is set in the same world as the first book, you don’t need to have read it to appreciate what is going on. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these two books and am keen to discover where Chambers next takes this series.
The Witchlands by Susan Dennard Truthwitch and Windwitch
This epic fantasy initially features two young witches, Safi and Iseult, who manage to get themselves into an almighty scrape at the start of the first book, entangling them in a major plot. I like the fact that their friendship is one of the main emotional drivers throughout the story so far and that the magical system is structured with clear rules and involves a high price from magic-users. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Bloodwitch, due to come out next year.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne
I love this sand and sorcery adventure! Hamilton’s punchy writing style and vivid scene setting means both of these books have stayed with me as memorably enjoyable, exciting reads and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully arrive next year.
Echoes of the Fall by Adrian Tchaikovsky The Tiger and the Wolfand The Bear and the Serpent
This epic fantasy adventure takes place in a pre-agrarian world where clans divide depending on what animal they shape-shift into. Both books are full of incident and tension, along with splashes of humour as Tchaikovsky’s vivid, three-dimensional characters leapt off the page and into my heart. I’m very much hoping there is going to be more of this amazing story…
The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May The Falconer; The Vanishing Throneand The Fallen Kingdom
This riveting series features a young, well-bred woman, Lady Aileana, who leads a double life – by day she is the wealthy heiress in an alternate Victorian society, while by night she hunts and kills the fae after witnessing her mother’s brutal murder. Violent and enthralling, this trilogy is one of the reading highlights of the year so far.
The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy is set in a brutal world ruled by twelve kings possessing great magical power – and the efforts of one lowly-born girl to overturn their stranglehold on the desert city-state. I loved the story so far and will be looking out for the third book, A Veil of Spears, due to be published next year.
Planetfall by Emma Newman Planetfall andAfter Atlas
This dystopian science fiction series is amazing. Both books are set in the same world, but on different planets and can be read as standalones – I loved each one, though the tone and mood were quite different. After Atlas is my book of the year so far and I will be pouncing on the next book, Before Mars, just as soon as I can get my hands on it.
Luna by Ian McDonald New Moon and Wolf Moon
This duology envisages that the industrialisation of the Moon has been divided between five families, all ruthless entrepreneurs who have taken capitalism to the extreme as they continue vying for yet more power – with shocking consequences. McDonald has called this series ‘a game of domes’. I loved the brutal, detailed world and the charismatic characters.
Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold Penric and the Demon;Penric and the Shaman; Penric’s Mission; Mira’s Last Dance
This series is a joy. Each one of these engrossing, beautifully written stories gives us another slice of Penric’s adventures as he copes with the demon he accidentally acquired while helping an elderly woman at the side of the road. Fortunately, Himself is also a serious fan and immediately buys up these gems as soon as they published. Quite right, too.
Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison The Drafter and The Operator
Harrison explores a fascinating premise in this military science fiction thriller, where black ops agents are able to shift small amounts of time to kill or dodge attacks. The snag is that as they alter the timeline, they forget chunks of their lives with the aid of a drafter who helps them avoid a catastrophic neural overload that occurs if they remember more than one version of reality. This is really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining duology.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes
This lush, eastern-influenced classic fantasy duology is another one of those which is set in the same world with a few linking characters, but follows different storylines. Each one is a delight, full of incident and beautiful descriptions that pinged off the page and lit up cold rainy days as I read.
The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens
This delightful portal worlds adventure is gritty, wise and astonishing. It is one of my favourite series with its emphasis on a number of nuanced, feisty female characters of all ages. This one has lodged in my head and won’t leave – particularly the poignant ending…
There are more to come – but I’ll be rounding up the others in another article.