Tag Archives: The Scarlet Star trilogy

2016 Discovery Challenge – November Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. During November, I read two Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to thirty four books I’ve completed written by women authors I haven’t previously encountered.

Synners by Pat Cadigan

In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and thesynners external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920 s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford s bidding and uncover a real killer? When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder.

While I was aware that I’d once more crashed midway into a series, this isn’t a major deal as Miley is far too adept for keep her readers floundering. Instead I quickly bonded with Jessie, a sparky character with plenty of spirit who is embracing the opportunities Hollywood has presented for her. It is also the perfect setting for all sorts of mayhem and murder.

As with all the best historical whodunits, Miley uses the adventure to present us with a slice of Jessie’s life. While I cared about seeing the mystery solved, I was every bit as involved with Jessie’s ongoing concerns, such as her wardrobe choices, her problematic romance and interest in the Hollywood gossip. Miley vividly recreates the 1920s world for us, from the clothes and the Hollywood glamour and the thrill of drinking forbidden alcoholic drinks.

 

Tackling my TBR
In a bid to try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Last month, I’m pleased to say, I managed to read four books languishing on my To Be Read pile:

Penric’s Mission – a Penric and Desdemona novella by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on penricsmissionhis first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…
Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers.

Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet. I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met.

 

Synners by Pat Cadigan
See above – this offering also had languished on my TBR pile FAR too long…

 

The Banished Craft – Book 1 of The Shkode trilogy by E.D.E. Bell
Struggling to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder, Cor comes across a mystery much deeper—a thebanishedcraftsecret society who predicted that someday their world would be devastated. That time is now. In a world where women are not allowed to read, live alone, or pursue knowledge Cor presses forward, discovering a new magic and the power to wield it. A world away, Atesh works in the Imperial Labs, devoting his study to the turmoil destroying his home and endangering dragonkind. Instead he discovers a long-hidden truth. Humans are real.

One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this world is its richness and sheer quirky difference. I’m used to worlds being endangered by maniacal gods/powerful mages/artefacts – I can’t recall another world risking extinction because the child of a powerful being accidentally touched it… However, any impulse to burst out laughing is steadily eroded as we become engrossed in the lives of our protagonists on the sundered worlds. Bell handles the epic nature of her narrative really effectively, as both societies – stressed by the environmental upheaval – start to fall apart.

So that’s where I am so far on Tackling my TBR challenge. Once again, November was a far better reading month than I’d expected and my Discovery Challenge target, which was twelve books now looks stupidly unambitious, but then I’d expected to be doing a great deal more writing this year. How are you getting on with your reading challenges now the year is rapidly drawing to a close?

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Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

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Ben came to talk to West Sussex Writers’ last month about the ins and outs of self-publishing and how in just six years he has managed to establish himself as a successful indie author with a string of well regarded books. It was one of the best, most informative talks we’ve ever had. I’d downloaded one of his books a while ago and decided it was high time to read it.

bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met. Galley manages to establish him as sympathetic and beleaguered without turning him into a passive victim – a tricky balancing act to pull off successfully. I also loved Rin – he’s probably my favourite character in the story – a fae rebel on the run who befriends the isolated boy struggling to live up to his father’s iron-bound expectations. However, these two protagonists both make disastrous mistakes and are often selfish and obstinate, which I enjoyed, as I find it easier to bond with main characters when they are flawed.

The story is fast-paced with plenty of action and the scene setting is wonderful, so close our Victorian era but with some significant differences. The blood magic works extremely well – to the extent that at the back of the book there is a glossary explaining the rules and attributes that drinking the blood of various animals will provide the rusher. This is a rigorous magic system where users pay a price and the costs of getting it wrong can be fatal.

The major surprise at the end of the book had my jaw dropping – looking back I should have guessed it, but I didn’t and I am definitely going to be getting hold of the next book in this series. I want to know what happens next to our intrepid duo. If you enjoy action-packed fantasy with a strong setting, good magic system and engaging characters, then go looking for this one. Highly recommended.
9/10

Sunday Post – 27th November 2016

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I woke up last Sunday feeling absolutely dreadful – sneezing, aching joints, streaming nose and eyes… Fortunately, I had already posted my Sunday roundup so was able to spend most of the morning in bed drinking lots of water and sleeping. On Monday I cancelled my lesson with Tim and Fitstep session – a real shame, but by the evening I was feeling well enough to teach my usual Creative Writing evening class. By Tuesday, I was still feeling a bit headachy but the cold was gone with not so much as a sniffle – which I was delighted about as it was our Poetry Workshop, one of my favourite sessions of the term, but I need to be feeling reasonably sharp to run it successfully. By Wednesday I was able to attend my Pilates class and on Thursday Mhairi came round for the day and we got down to writing. Although my work on Miranda’s Tempest hasn’t been going so well this week, as there has been a lot of family stuff going on which is taking up a fair amount of headspace.

This week I have read:
The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo
theballadofelvaElva & Chester are space aliens who appear to be human and have been here on earth since the year 1100, with the goal of helping humanity develop more empathy and compassion. (The rest of the beings in the galaxy don’t want us flying around out there until we do.) The pair have no human habits to contend with, but they are extraordinarily responsive to chocolate and hold it in special regard. Although they mean well for us, they find human behavior baffling, and continually see their plans twisted by human responses. Consequently, nearly everything wrong on this planet over the past thousand years was caused by one of their debacles.

A light-hearted romp through history with an unusual justification for all the many disasters…

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford’s bidding and uncover a real killer?
When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder. But as Jessie travels through the roaring twenties world of Hollywood and movies, surreptitiously interviewing fellow travelling performers, she struggles to find the connection she needs.

This is a delight. Miley has perfectly captured the sense of the time with all sorts of delightful details, in addition to highlighting some of the bleaker aspects such as the embedded racist and sexism of the time. And the denouement caught me completely by surprise – all in all a cracking read.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts bloodrushand vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

This fantasy adventure in a Wild West setting pings off the page as the vivid worldbuilding and detailed magickal rules pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until this coming-of-age page-turner was finally completed. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th November 2016

Film review of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

Review of Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Friday Faceoff – As Old as the Hills… featuring Rider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Finisterre duology by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

50 Word Stories: Licked https://richardankers.com/2016/11/25/50-word-stories-licked/
Richard specialises in writing a steady stream of very short, quirky fiction and this disturbing little gem nicely showcases his inventive, dark imagination.

Witness for the Prosecution (1982TVM) https://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/witness-for-the-prosecution-1982-tvm/
John’s delightful blog features noir films, together with a detailed storyline and screenshots of the action. This film was particularly entertaining.

The Realities of Writing https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/the-realities-of-writing/ This thoughtful, well written article by Sophie is certainly worth reading.

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXV (Leiber + Haiblum + Scholz and Harcourt + Orbit Anthology) https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/updates-recent-science-fiction-acquisitions-no-leiber-haiblum-scholz-and-harcourt-orbit-anthology/ Joachim presents his latest finds – all classic science fiction paperbacks with amazing covers.

5 New Poetry Collections https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/5-new-poetry-collections-2/ Those marvellous folks at Ballyroan library have given a potted review of these latest acquisitions – a must-read for those looking for presents for the poets in their lives.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.