Tag Archives: troubled hero

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The House on Widow’s Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #TheHouseonWidowsHillbookreview

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Anyone who has followed my blog will know that this series is a solid favourite – see my reviews of The Dark Side of the Road, Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Murder in the Dark, Into the Thinnest of Air, Death Shall Come, Very Important Corpses and Night Train to Murder. So I was delighted to see this latest addition to this paranormal murder mystery series.

BLURB: “That house is a bad place. Bad things happen there . . .”
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.


REVIEW: As ever, we have our usual fix of creepy shenanigans going on, as Ishmael and Penny find themselves spending the night in a haunted house. This book follows directly on from Night Train to Murder, so if you haven’t read that one, do be aware – especially at the beginning – there will be some references to events outside the story. I was interested to see this one build more slowly than usual, but given that Green does it well and I know and trust his pacing, I appreciated the general ratcheting up of the tension. It doesn’t hurt that there are the usual dollops of humour that help lighten the tension in the dark, brooding house.

Though the death and denouement rather knocked me for six. I’m still pondering as to whether Green has managed to pull this one off, as it stretched the bounds of my credulity rather. However, I think on balance, I’ll give him a pass. I certainly was never in any danger of putting the book down before getting to the end. All in all, this is an entertaining, page-turning addition to this quirky series.

Recommended for fans of paranormal murder mysteries that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While I obtained an arc of The House of Widow’s Hill from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 1st July, 20202 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher – release date, 14th July, 2020

#urban fantasy series #troubled hero #wizard investigator

BLURB: Harry Dresden is back and ready for action, in the new entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series. When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, joins the White Council’s security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago–and all he holds dear?



By contrast to many of my recent Can’t-Wait-Wednesday offerings, this is revisiting an author whose work I fell in love with some 20 years ago – see my reviews of Turn Coat, Ghost Story, and Skin Game.

And nope. I’m NOT going to join in the chorus of readers stamping their feet and yelling at the Moon because Jim Butcher didn’t deliver this one when expected. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, either. But Life happened in a major way to him and one of the first things that happens to writers when things like divorce, losing a much-loved pet and moving happens – they lose the ability to write. There is only so much headspace available for processing stories and when you are stressed and overwhelmed, your writing mojo is one of the first things to disappear – and the last to resurface, again. Which has always seemed the height of unfairness to me, but there it is…

So I’m just celebrating that he has now got things under sufficient control that he is once more able to write. And I’m looking forward to diving back into this world that defines a part of my life I look back on with great affection. I nearly didn’t get this one for that very reason, but that’s cowardly even for me. So looking forward to this one with some trepidation… Anyone else waiting for Peace Talks?

Review of INDIE Ebook TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier #Brainfluffbookreview #Tuyobookreview

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I’ve loved this author’s writing – her series The Griffin Mage is one of my all-time favourites and still stands out in my memory – see my review – and Black Dog. So I was delighted when the author contacted me and asked if I would provide an honest review, in return for a copy of the book.

BLURB: Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined. Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?



REVIEW: Right from the start of this engrossing story, I was pulled right into the middle of Ryo’s plight. He has been left as a sacrifice in the hopes that their enemy will exact his revenge upon the young warrior, allowing the rest of the warband to escape into the wilds of the forest. So we start with Ryo waiting for his fate and wishing he could take back his angry words to his older brother, who’d made the painful decision to leave him. While also hoping that he doesn’t disgrace himself by buckling in the face of torture and trying to prepare himself for the upcoming encounter. However, in the event, he isn’t remotely ready for who he ends up facing…

This thoughtful, beautifully written fantasy adventure explores a clash of cultures and does a fabulous job of fully unpacking what it actually means to be in the hands of a sorcerer capable of going into your mind and altering your mental landscape, seeding false memories and changing your loyalties. While I’ve seen this form of magic used before – I cannot recall such a clever and thorough examination of the consequences of it. I was completely convinced of the threat and genuinely gripped as the stakes continued to be raised. Neumeier’s pacing and handling of her cast of characters, in addition to her wonderful worldbuilding – something she excels at – held me throughout. Very highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well written fantasy that is genuinely different.
10/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker #Brainfluffbookreview #Longbournbookreview

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Like so many other folks, I’m a huge Jane Austen fan – and Pride and Prejudice was my go-to comfort read for several decades. So I was delighted to hear about this retelling from the viewpoint of the servants at Longbourn – and so decided to treat myself to the Audible version, narrated by the wonderful Emma Fielding.

BLURB: ‘If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.’
It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.

This started so very well. I loved Sarah, the intelligent and lively young maid-of-all-work, hired from the Poor House when she was only six years old by Mrs Hill, the housekeeper, after her family died of typhus. Now, as a teenager, she finds the drudgery and sheer monotony of the work, chafes her spirit. She longs for some adventure and a break from the routine of never-ending, back-breaking housework in the days when every cleaning product had to be made by hand and hardly any domestic aids to lighten the load existed. Baker depicts life below stairs so very well, and her characterisation of all the servants, Mrs Hill in particular, is nuanced and detailed.

But as the story wore on, I felt the pacing suffered in the face of all the domestic trivia. Baker had clearly done shedloads of historical research on the clothing, the food, the duties of the servants… Unfortunately, she also got very caught up in regaling her readers with far too much of said detail at the overall expense of the narrative, which meant the book dragged in places, which was a real shame.

Unlike some readers, I didn’t have a problem with Baker’s depiction of the Bennet family – of course Elizabeth wouldn’t come across as particularly lively to the servants, or even all that thoughtful. While she was often preoccupied and forgot a detail particularly important to Sarah, it must remembered that was right in the middle of a tumultuous period in her own life. She also never shouted, or threw things at Sarah, pinched or slapped her, which was also often the lot of a domestic servant. I also enjoyed the interlude right away from Longbourn, when we get a ringside seat at the horrors of the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars. It gave us a bit of a break from the constant domestic round and a real insight into the brutality many working-class men endured, once they joined up.

As for the overall plot – I thought the plotline charting Mrs Hill’s story was stunningly successful, from beginning to end, particularly the way in also encompassed poor Mrs Bennet’s life. If the book had chosen to feature Mrs Hill as the main protagonist, this would have been an outstanding read from me. But it wasn’t – Sarah was the main character featured throughout, until nearly at the end of the book, when she simply disappears, only to make a fleeting and highly unsatisfactory reappearance right at the very end.

I couldn’t believe it. I went back and replayed it, in case I missed a bunch of crucial details – but I hadn’t. I had no idea if she was happy with the life she ended up choosing. And that ending plain didn’t make sense, either. No one dared send any letters for fear of being traced – and then… suddenly that didn’t matter anymore! I can’t say more for fear of Spoilers, but I found the ending contrived and unconvincing. What a shame! There was so much that was well done, but I came away disappointed that this book didn’t fulfil its early promise.
6/10

Friday Faceoff – Don’t miss the open windows trying to bang down the locked doors… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffwindowcovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting WINDOWS. I’ve selected The High Window – Book 3 of the Philip Marlow series by Raymond Chandler.

This Romanian offering was produced by Nemira in April 2011. Because there are so many covers for this book and a lot of them are frankly underwhelming – I’ve only selected those featuring windows. I really like this one, where the artwork is simple, but looks very effective in all sizes. My main grizzle is that while I know the famous author is the selling point, it would be helpful to have the book title sufficiently large and punchy to be able to see it when in thumbnail.

Published in July 1999 by Prószyński i S-ka, this Polish edition could have been strikingly arresting if those figures silhouetted in the window looked remotely lifelike. It’s a shame that the execution is so poor, because it’s a cool idea that could have been eye-catching and made for an effective cover.

This Spanish edition, published by Emecé in 2007, is another very pared back offering. Though I think it is a far better effort than the previous cover, as I really like the simplicity. But my gripe with this one is that I think the quirky, uneven font and perky curtain blowing in the breeze gives off a vibe that this is a humorous novel, rather than a murder mystery, which is a shame, because for me, that’s a dealbreaker. A cover needs to give the reader a sense of the genre and overall tone of the book – and though there is humour in Chandler’s books, it’s dark and sardonic. Certainly not the cute, perky type that comes to mind when seeing this design.

This edition, published in July 2014 by Mustbe Interactive is another indifferent offering. I’m not a huge fan of split images on covers, as they often end up unable to depict either design effectively – as in this example. A truncated block flats is never going to look right and as for the image below the author textbox – well, your guess is as good as mine as to what is going on there…

And finally a cover that really works. Produced as an ebook in July 2019, this edition is clearly using one of the original covers from when the book first came out in 1942. I love the drama with the flying glass and the two horrified faces – that of the falling man and the woman witnessing the whole thing. The large blocky title also underlines the drama – no one is going to mistake this for a perky comedy. This is my favourite, but what about you – which one do you prefer?

PICKY EATERS is now available! #PickyEatersshortstory #Moodboostingshortstory #PickyEaters4thebattleagainstmentalillness

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And here it is! Picky Eaters is now available as an ebook and in print. Click on the cover below or in the sidebar to be linked to your nearest Amazon store.

As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But all I do these days is write… So I dusted off one of my favourite characters, Casta the Grey. He’d got into a real pickle looking after those pesky grandchildren of his, but what happened next? I decided to find out – and that’s how this longer version came into being. It’s funny and quirky and hopefully will take you away from some of the big, scary stuff going on around us for a while. And I am donating all proceeds from Picky Eaters for the duration of its publication to mental health charities.

Click on cover to take you to your nearest Amazon store

BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

Hayley of Far too Fond of Books says: I don’t normally read fantasy but this short story is so lovely. The descriptions of the dragons are fab and it reminded me of books I loved when I was a child and made me wonder why I never reach for the genre anymore. 5 stars

Sneak peek…
He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to?
Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear.
The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps.
An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?”
“’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing.
The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!”
“Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively.
But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.”
Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.”
“They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.”
The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!”
She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.”
He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”



Review of NETGALLEY arc Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristell Comby #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #HostileTakeoverbookreview

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I was looking for more fantasy crime goodness, when this striking cover caught my eye, so I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

BLURB: He’s done a deal with Death herself. But unless he can send beasts back to the Otherworld, losing his life will be the least of his worries… PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…

REVIEW: I have cut the rather chatty blurb, because I think the above nicely sums up where things stand at the start of this entertaining whodunit. Bellamy Vale, known as Bell to his friends, is a sympathetic protagonist, with a nice line in humour which goes over well in the middle of his various adventures. He is an agent for Lady McDeath, who issues him with tasks and gives him suitable magical protections to carry them out.

It was an enjoyable read – Cold City is an interesting place with plenty of corruption going on behind the scenes. There are a number of scary antagonists, while Bell has his own set of friends to help – my favourite characters were computer geek Zian, who also happens to be Greek god Hermes’ son. And Hermes is very protective of him, to the extent that Bell is left in no doubt that he’ll die an agonising death, should anything nasty happen to Zian. Given that Bell is given highly dangerous jobs by his immortal patron, this is an ongoing problem for him.

The plot was well constructed. I didn’t see the solution – and to be honest, for me this one was all about the journey, anyway. While the trope and setup is very familiar, the story is peopled with a host of memorable, quirky characters brimming with personality so that I turned the pages to find out who would pitch up next. The book ended with an interesting development about to happen and fortunately, Himself, who is a gem, had already got hold of the second book in this series, so I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next. Recommended for fans of enjoyable urban fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Hostile Takeover from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


Sunday Post – 14th June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

I’m late this week, because since Wednesday, I haven’t been feeling very well and so yesterday, I gave myself the day off. Hopefully during the coming week, I’ll throw off this lergy. At least I was able to take part in the family quiz we had last week, which was great fun, especially as Himself and I won. My sister organised the questions, and my nephews sorted out the technicality of getting a number of us together from around the country. We all had a great time and agreed that we should do more😊).

Finally we have had some rain, though as it was accompanied by lots of wind, I’m not sure whether the garden has been suitably soaked, but the weeds are really loving it. The raindrops trapped in the fennel leaves look lovely and my black-leaved sambucca is smothered in more blossom than I’ve ever seen, as is my rather heavily shaded David Austin rose…

On the work front, I spent much of the week going through my friend’s book, after we had something of a formatting disaster. Now I just need to load it onto my Kindle and see how it reads. I am slowly getting to grips with the WordPress block editor and making some changes to try and overcome the limitations I am encountering. But it’s time-consuming and frustrating…


Last week I read:

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson
10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.
Given the blurb is something of a hot mess – this delightful book is in the viewpoint of a bot in a human body, designed to work as a dentist without any feelings, so incapable of love, excitement, or boredom and depression. Except that he begins to acquire such emotions after all… It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
This final book in this sand and sorcery epic fantasy draws us into a land of vengeful magical beings, where the past dictates the present and those in the middle of the story finally discover how they fit into the complex political web around them. A triumphant ending to a magnificent series.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
This gothic tale certainly ticks all the boxes and had me reading into the small hours to find out what happened. A creepy house, miserable welcome and nasty, entitled family who don’t want strangers poking about. And that’s all I’m going to say about it – except that it will take a while before I can face a mushroom again…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Friday Face-off featuring Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Review of The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey

Sunday Post – 7th June 2020

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

Black SFF Authors You Should be Reading https://booksbonesbuffy.com/2020/06/02/black-sff-authors-you-should-be-reading/ Like Tammy, I generally don’t discuss politics on my blog, but if you wish to widen your reading – this is a great place to start…

A Short Analysis of Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ https://interestingliterature.com/2020/06/a-short-analysis-of-robert-brownings-my-last-duchess/ This is one of my favourite poems – such a wonderful portrayal of a really nasty villain…

Music Monday: As Good as Hell by Lizzo https://saschadarlington.me/2020/06/08/music-monday-good-as-hell-by-lizzo/#.Xudmk-d7kaE I have heard parts of this song regularly from a certain ad – so it was a real treat to listen to the whole thing and jig along…

The Book Character Quarantine Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/06/09/the-book-character-quarantine-tag/ Maddalena’s lovely and spot on post about how her favourite protagonists would fare under lockdown had me howling with laughter… I will be joining in this one!

Before He Was Scotty: James Doohan and World War II https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/05/30/before-he-was-scotty-james-doohan-and-world-war-ii/ Anne’s wonderful article shows us Scotty and other members of the Star Trek cast as you’ve never seen them…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheEmpireofGoldbookreview

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I take a bit of persuading to get immersed into a High Fantasy epic series, these days – but when it comes to a tale of sand and sorcery, I’m allll over it. The typically lush prose, desert landscapes and vicious magic centred around huge crocodiles, flying creatures and djinn are irresistible. I’ve loved the first two books in this series – The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper. So would this final book in the trilogy safely bring this wide-ranging, ambitious tale of lethal magic and betrayed peoples to a satisfactory conclusion?

BLURB: Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

REVIEW: Chakraborty does a cracking job in progressing this tale, producing yet another breathtaking round of adventures and plot twists, before winding it up in a way that left a lump in my throat. A word of warning – if you happen upon either The Kingdom of Copper or The Empire of Gold without having first had the pleasure of tucking into The City of Brass, then restrain yourself and go looking for that first book. This is, in effect, a single narrative arc that has been broken into three parts and when I attempted to crash midway into the series, I had to backtrack to The City of Brass, then reread The Kingdom of Copper to really appreciate what was going on. I regularly make a hobby of crashing into series – and mostly get away with it. Not so, this time.

I’m really glad I made the effort to reread the second book, before plunging into this doorstop of a book, which is something over 700 pages long. Though it really didn’t feel like it. This series, with its cast of vivid, often violent and vengeful characters swept me up and held me throughout. It was Nahri’s story that I cared most about, but the amazing being, Dara, the fabled warrior brought back to life with such a bloody past, also held my heart. The characterisation was superb. Nahri could have so easily turned into a bit of a Mary Sue, but her sharp edges and inability to trust anyone kept her from being too cosy, or too much of a victim. And as for Dara – where to begin? A single terrible episode, when he trusted too easily, defined the rest of his very long life and for which he paid a terrible price. And goes on paying it throughout most of this book, too…

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was a game-changer in ensuring all factions were guilty of some bloody deed – and Chakraborty has continued that dynamic throughout this trilogy. The city of Daevabad was founded by an act of invasion, and throughout it has been riven by injustice and simmering hatred for one group against the other. I was both curious and concerned as to how Chakraborty would manage to find a realistic solution. The worldbuilding throughout has been exceptional. I’ve loved the descriptions of the various landscapes, particularly of the magical city – and found the transformations it undergoes once the magic has left, very moving.

CONCLUSION: I’m not going into any kind of detail as to how she manages it, but I was completely satisfied with the denouement and felt it worked both within the world and as a suitable conclusion.All in all, Chakraborty has magnificently pulled off a true epic fantasy that hits all the tropes within the sand and sorcery sub-genre, providing a wonderful addition to the canon and a magnificent read that took me away from everyday life for hours at a stretch. I couldn’t ask for more. The ebook arc copy of The Empire of Gold was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #SetMyHeartToFivebookreview

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I was rather taken by both the quirky cover and the even more quirky blurb at a time when reading about anything remotely similar to what is going on around us was unbearable. So I was really pleased to be approved to read this one.

BLURB: 10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.

REVIEW: The blurb rambles on for a bit longer – but to be honest, I don’t think it is particularly helpful as it manages to omit the bit that is important. Jared is a bot, built and designed to be a dentist – a job the humans in our future society don’t particularly want to do. This is set in the near future, where bot labour does most of the dangerous, difficult tasks. But most bots are encased within fast-growing human bodies and able to communicate fluently and reasonably naturally. The big difference is that they don’t have any feelings – don’t experience boredom, loneliness or unhappiness, or love, friendship and delight. As they are programmed to put human lives above their own, they are ideal as construction workers, firefighters and… dentists. While humans concentrate on creative and artistic pursuits, rather than the soul-sapping jobs they used to do.
Except that Jared starts to feel emotions… The story is told in first-person viewpoint and I absolutely loved the quirky voice of the bot, which I found absolutely enchanting. Though I’m aware it is something of a risk, because if that highly individual voice annoys a prospective reader, it would be impossible to get through this one. As it happens, I fell in love with it.

Naturally, Jared finds the world around him becomes quite a different place, as he learns to navigate the odd sensations assailing him, using the Feelings Wheel that Dr Glundenstein, his sympathetic human friend and neighbour gives him. Dr Glundenstein advises him to go the movies and watch films – not the modern rubbish which is all about killer bots on the rampage – but older films which get shown in small, shabby little cinemas. One of the ongoing delights is trying to identify classic films from Jared’s quirky descriptions throughout this story. As I cared about Jared, I quickly became invested in his story.

It won’t be a huge surprise that this book is actually an exploration of what makes us human, as well as what happens when we start to regard other folks living among us as less than human. While this is an oft-trodden favourite science fiction trope, I thought this particular take on the whole subject interesting and immersive. And while I was grinning through a lot of the book – there were also moments of great tenderness and sadness, with moments of lovely poetic beauty. All in all, this is a real gem and one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Highly recommended for fans of well-told A.I. tales. The ebook arc copy of Set My Heart to Five was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10