Tag Archives: troubled young hero

Sunday Post – 9th June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

Weekly Roundup

The sharp-eyed among you will notice that it’s actually Monday – however I spent most of yesterday with my sister – and then the evening found me up a ladder, staring at a ceiling. It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve been quite busy with not a lot to show for it. We started decorating the bathroom, so I spent long, unlovely hours cleaning the tile grout before applying whitener. It’s been hard work, but the bathroom is already looking a lot better – and yesterday I put the first coat of paint on the ceiling. It’s going to be quite dark, but as the whole room is fully tiled with white tiles with a white suite, I wanted a splash of warm colour (terracotta) so it doesn’t end up looking like a mini-morgue…

Elsewhere (I seem to be spending a LOT of time in the smallest room in the house…) I was back to Northbrook for my last term running my Creative Writing course, enjoying spending more time with my lovely students. On Thursday, Tim ended up at my house for his lesson as reboarding the loft at his home meant everything was upside down – not conducive to concentrating on his English lesson. The work in the garden has halted due to the rain and wind that swept in. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and went for a late breakfast together to put the world to rights – and finally got back home at 4 pm…

Last week I read:

How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale AUDIOBOOK – Book 5 of How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?
I read this with Oscar a while ago, but listening to the audio version with David Tennant’s wonderful narration is such a treat and makes working in the bathroom so much more fun…

 

Children No More – Book 4 of the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name
No child should ever be a soldier. Jon Moore knew that better than most, having learned to fight to survive before he’d hit puberty. So when a former comrade, Alissa Lim, asks for his help in rescuing a group of children pressed into service by rebels on a planet no one cares to save, he agrees. Only later does he realize he’s signed up to do far more than he’d ever imagined.
Unsurprisingly, this slice of the Jon and Lobo series is quite a bit darker than the other books – but that didn’t stop me yet again, really enjoying the adventures befalling this quirky team of an ex-mercenary soldier and a AI sentient warship.

 

Lady of Magick – Book 2 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
In her second year of studies at Merlin College, Oxford, Sophie Marshall is feeling alienated among fellow students who fail to welcome a woman to their ranks. So when her husband, Gray, is invited north as a visiting lecturer at the University in Din Edin, they leap at the chance. There, Sophie’s hunger for magical knowledge can finally be nourished. But soon, Sophie must put her newly learned skills to the test. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Queen of Midnight, particularly the alternate history where pagan religions still prosper in a Regency period, where the UK is still divided into small kingdoms. This adventure took the story forward in an intriguing way and I look forward to discovering how the consequences play out in the next book.

 

Truckers AUDIOBOOK– Book 1 of the Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett
Under the floorboards of the Store is a world of four-inch-tall nomes that humans never see. It is commonly known among these nomes that Arnold Bros. created the Store for them to live in, and he declared: “Everything Under One Roof.” Therefore there can be no such thing as Outside. It just makes sense. That is, until the day a group of nomes arrives on a truck, claiming to be from Outside, talking about Day and Night and Snow and other crazy legends…
This was one I’d read to my own children another lifetime ago – so was delighted to catch up once again with Masklin and the intrepid nomes who take on a world so much bigger than the one they were designed for…

 

Just William: William’s Treasure Trove AUDIOBOOK by Richmal Crompton
It’s the beginning of the summer holidays and William and the Outlaws see an endless expanse of gloriously carefree days stretching ahead – but how to fill them …? The six classic adventures contained in this unabridged reading are: “William and the Holiday Centre”; “William’s Treasure Trove”; “William and the Cottage”; “William Tackles the Job”; “William and Detective Journalism”; and, “William and the Parsons’ Guy”.
I used to love listening to Martin Jarvis read the Just William series on Radio 4, so this collection of short stories was a real bonus as I scrubbed away at the grout…

 

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer

Friday Faceoff featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn

Review of The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

Sunday Post – 2nd June 2019

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

Joe Orton’s LOOT Opens Odyssey’s 50th Anniversary ‘Circa ʼ69’ Season
https://www.broadwayworld.com/los-angeles/article/Joe-Ortons-LOOT-Opens-Odysseys-50th-Anniversary-Circa-69-Season-20190516 I have been following this one with great interest – seeing as my son is playing Hal – and would love to be able to see it. It’s going well and he is thoroughly enjoying himself.

5 New Poetry Books to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/5-new-poetry-books-to-watch-out-for/ As ever, this award-winning library site is providing informative information on the latest books to hit their shelves…

Inevitability of Science Fiction Movements https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/inevitability-of-science-fiction-movements/ Scientist and science fiction author often has thought-provoking articles on what is happening with science fiction…

A Snapshot of my Writing Process https://writerunboxed.com/2019/06/07/a-snapshot-of-my-writing-process/ As a writer, I’m always fascinated by other writers’ writing processes – and I would think readers are also intrigued to discover how their favourite books are crafted…

Book Addiction Tag https://comfortreads13.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/book-addiction-tag/ While I was interested in reading what Jess had to say in response to these excellent questions – I also found myself putting in my own answers, too. How did you get on?

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Advertisements

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

Standard

This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr #Brainfluffbookreview #Endgamesbookreview

Standard

When I saw this offering on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved – see my review of the first book, Imager. No… I haven’t read all eleven of the previous books in this series – I think I got as far as eighth book. However, although I have a few issues with this book the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two in this particular story arc wasn’t a problem.

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.

I always enjoy Modesitt’s protagonists and Charyn is no exception. He has the steady good sense and even temperament that is the hallmark of many of this author’s main characters. As ever in a Modesitt book, we get a progression of everyday details alongside the ongoing drama which tends to build slowly. I don’t know anyone else who writes fantasy in quite so much detail and gets away with it. However, the question has to be with this particular offering – is there just too much detail silting up the pace?

Unfortunately, I would have to say yes. While there were still many elements that I enjoyed and I found it difficult to put this book down, I also found myself skipping the love letters that passed between two of the main characters, along with the long-winded philosophical questions they discussed. I don’t dive into a high fantasy adventure to read several pages about the nature of evil being discussed between the protagonists – I would rather it was played out within the action. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and at no time was I tempted to DNF the book because I still cared about the characters and I really wanted to know how it was going to work out.

I was surprised at where the story went, with real poignancy during the aftermath of the action. This is one of the aspects that Modesitt handles really well – because we are pulled into his stories by following the day to day routines of his characters, it matters when bad things happen to them. Overall though I enjoyed this one and know that the next time I have an opportunity to get hold of another Modesitt book, I will jump at it. He may not always get the balance absolutely right, but he remains one of my favourite authors.

While I obtained an arc of Endgames from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Review of NOVELLA Ebook The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #TheExpertSystem’sBrotherbookreview

Standard

Anyone who has spent the odd moment or two glancing at my blog will know I’m a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky – see my review of Children of Time here. So when I realised faaar too late that Himself had treated us to this novella, I immediately tucked into it…

After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?

This is another of Tchaikovsky’s interesting offerings where he provides us a rich, well-developed world through the eyes of Handry in an immersive first-person viewpoint. I really liked Handry – what happened to him was clearly very wrong and somehow the fact that it took a long time before the inevitable happened made it somehow worse… This is classic Tchaikovsky – what happens when an injustice occurs? How does this future colony cope with a victim of circumstance? For starters, you begin to see that Handry isn’t the only one on the raw end of a bad outcome – humanity is clearly struggling on a planet that was never designed for animals with our DNA. And over time, the increasingly beleaguered colony found a biological option to help humankind survive – hence the ghosts, a form of parasitic infestation that syncs the brain of the host with a skillset and knowledge that is no longer available to the average colonist.

And then he encounters Sharskin… I have read several reviews where the readers felt this was a predictable story. While I got a sense of exactly what we were looking at once they arrived at Sharkin’s settlement, I didn’t foresee what would happen next and the way in which Handry’s loyalty and sense of humanity would be tested. Because at the end of the day, this novella is all about one of Tchaikovsky’s major themes – a question he keeps coming back to in a variety of fascinating forms and forces his readers to ask – what does it mean to be human? What is the price you pay for your adherence to your code of behaviour? What happens when you turn your back on that code? What defines you, then?

I thoroughly enjoyed this clever, thought-provoking story and have found myself thinking about it quite a lot since I finished reading it, which surprised me rather. There’s something about Tchaikovsky’s writing that always gets into my inscape, leaving me pondering those questions he raises while telling a cracking story. Highly recommended for fans of colony adventures.
9/10

Review of PAPERBACK The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey – #Brainfluffbookreview #TheBoyontheBridgebookreview

Standard

I was blown away by The Girl With All the Gifts – indeed it was one of my Outstanding Books of 2015. Would I enjoy this one as much?

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading The Girl With All the Gifts and yet you’ve picked this offering up, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to read The Girl With All the Gifts to appreciate The Boy on the Bridge because in reality, the only real connection between them is that they are set in the same world, where a fungal plague has infected humanity, turning the majority of the population into zombies, or hungries, as they are called. The last enclave in the south of England mounts a scientific expedition to retrieve stored specimens that have been cached throughout the length of the country right up into Scotland, using a formidably armoured motorised vehicle – part-tank, part-laboratory – which will take best part of the year. The small elite scientific team is led by Dr Fournier, while the military detail assigned to keep them safe is commanded by Captain Carlisle. These two men loathe and distrust one another and their mutual hostility isn’t helping the success of this vital mission.

The story unfolds in multiple viewpoint, with the two main protagonists being Rina, a young, brilliant scientist who several years ago discovered a traumatised boy and took him under her wing, and Stephen Greaves, now a teenager on the autistic spectrum. One of the reasons why this mission is even possible is due to an invention of Greaves, the e-blocker that stops the hungries being able to smell humans. They are all looking for a mutated strain of the fungal plague which would allow them to find an antidote. This is the story of that mission.

I’ll be honest, I had to take two goes at this book. This genre isn’t my go-to choice if I’m not at my shiny best and right now I’m definitely not at my shiny best. There was a cascade of events that quickly snowballed into something dark and apparently unavoidable, and the very quality of the writing and the harsh reality of Carey’s excellent scene setting only managed to make the whole situation even grimmer. I had toyed with the idea of not finishing this one – not because it wasn’t brilliantly written, but simply because the situation seemed poignantly, desperately sad.

In the event, I’m glad that I got over myself and completed it, because that epilogue was a real jaw-dropper. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t that. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Girl With All the Gifts, chiefly because no one snagged my sympathy in the way that poor little Melanie did. While I very much liked Stephen, there were too many times when I also found his reasoning too alien. I shan’t be forgetting this story, this world and the outcome for a very long time. Carey writes with power and an unflinching ability to dig into our vulnerabilities and make us really think about what it is to be human. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys apocalyptic adventures.
9/10

Review of PAPERBACK How To Steal a Dragon’s Sword – Book 9 of the How To Train A Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToStealaDragon’sSword

Standard

I’ve had a bit of a gap since I treated myself to the next in the series – partly because my young grandson is busy reading books all about footballers instead of dragons these days. But those of you who have visited before, know of my love for these fabulous books – see my review of How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale here.

Viking Berk heir, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon, Toothless are target of dragon rebellion — filled with the meanest Razor-wings, Tonguetwisters, and Vampire Ghouldeaths. Only a King can save them, a champion with all of the King’s Lost Things. Hiccup will have to outwit a witch, fight his arch-enemy, and beat back an army of bloodthirsty dragons with just one sword.

There is still a madcap quality about some of the adventures besetting Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, but also a certain melancholy, given that the tales of derring-do are being told by a much older and sadder Hiccup rather than the skinny, desperate boy struggling to stay alive against mountainous odds. That doesn’t stop the characters from pinging off the page and this story – like all the others – take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Though there is a dreadful inevitability about the terrible war between humans and dragons that seems to be on the brink of breaking out.

It was still fun to read about the crafty witch Excellinor and her wicked plans to overthrow the Vikings and have her son crowned as King of the Wilderwest – and Hiccup’s attempts to prevent her from doing so. As well as satisfyingly wicked antagonists, Hiccup is also hampered by a lantern-jawed hero in the shape of Flashburn, the greatest swordsman of his time. And while Fishlegs, his asthmatic friend, is mostly loyal, he isn’t all that much use in a fight, while his other staunch companion, Camicazi, is an adrenaline junkie incapable of keeping a secret.

Cowell’s plotting is brilliant at keeping the pace up, so that restless small boys who would rather be kicking a football around instead of sitting still and listening to a story, nonetheless pay attention, because said story is THAT good. So if you have any small boys or girls in your life who are in need of a gripping series, then this is the one for you. If they’ve wandered off to play football, then this is still the one for you – because once you’ve started reading this one, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve discovered what happens to the likes of Toothless, Hiccup, Fishlegs and Excellinor.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

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 subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 30th October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

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:

Satellite by Nick Lake

p. 168 for some reason, i had always thought that at some point we would go back up to Moon 2. i don’t know why i thought that. i mean, earth was the promised land. we were always told: when u’re strong enough u’ll go down to earth. so that was clearly the end point. the goal & yet somehow… somehow i saw it as a circle. saw myself back up there.
‘a problem, Leo?’ says my mother.
‘no, nothing,’ i say. ‘i just… i guess i always thought i’d go back up, 1 day.’
she nods. ‘i c.’
‘&?’
now she shrugs. ‘i guess u will have to apply urself & try to become an astronaut.’
yes. yes, i suppose that makes sense. we are not astronauts. we are people who happen to have been born in space.

BLURB: Fifteen-year-old Leo has never set foot on Earth. born and raised with twins Orion and Libra on the Moon 2 Space Station, Leo has grown up in the most extraordinary way. The time has now come for the trio to make their first flight home to Earth, but they cannot imagine the terrible consequences that their return will set in motion.

I treated myself to this paperback copy with my birthday, attracted by the cool cover. I rather like the near-future take on our spelling and punctuation – I can certainly already see signs of some of these changes already and it’s surprising how quickly I adjusted to the altered text. It was no doubt helped by the gripping story, which now has me desperate to find out what happens next…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Soulbinder Book 4 in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Soulbinderbookreview

Standard

The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

And that’s the blurb – well, you can’t fault the publisher for giving away any crucial plotpoints here, can you? I’m interested in the line-up of authors that are compared to de Castell, because they all have initially humorous, often quite bouncy stories that steadily get darker and grimmer as the series wears on. Up to this point, the Spellsinger series kept the humour going, mostly provided by that pesky squirrel cat. But while Kellen’s caustic comments still are evident during Soulbinder – this is the book where the stakes are upped even further, there is even more mayhem, bloodshed and emotion. And yet, right at the end, back comes the humour, which I often loathe in TV series, but this time around, breathless and a tad hollowed out by all the excitement and the loss of characters I’ve grown fond of – something de Castell regularly does – it was a huge relief.

In this slice of the adventure, we learn more about the shadowblack – the disease that has marked Kellen and forced him to be outcast as the black markings around his eye will eventually cause him to be possessed by a terrible demon and start killing all those around him. The magical society he is born into, the Jan’Tep, abhor and fear all those with shadowblack, regarding them as monsters and mages can earn respect by tracking and killing those with a bounty on their head. I appreciated learning more about exactly what others infected by shadowblack feel about their affliction as Kellen encounters those like himself.

The action builds to a really exciting climax and the pages flipped past far too quickly as I couldn’t put this one down – de Castell has a knack of leading us from one engrossing adventure to another, without losing any depth in the characterisation or allowing the pacing to become too repetitive, which is harder to do than he makes it look.

And despite reading two books in this series within a week of each other – see my review of Charmcaster – I didn’t find the experience diminished my enjoyment of Soulbinder, which is a real testament to the writing skill of de Castell, who goes on delivering humour, shocks and plot-twists throughout this engrossing series. Highly recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring cool magical systems.
9/10

Review of Kindle EBOOK Charmcaster – Book 3 in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Charmcasterbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – see my reviews of Spellslinger and Shadowblack – so I was a bit startled on learning that not only had Charmcaster been out for a while, but Soulbinder had also just been released. This is a series I didn’t want to slide away from me, so I got hold of Charmcaster with a view of taking it away on my writing retreat…

‘I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn’t running nearly fast enough.’ Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster . . .

Firstly, I want to congratulate Hot Key Books for keeping the blurb suitably concise – it’s such a refreshing change not to have to tweak/shorten it to avoid spoiling the book for prospective readers.

Next, my firm recommendation is to those of you who may have picked up this one without reading the other two books first – don’t go any further. Get hold of the previous two in the series. While I’m sure you could get the gist of what’s going on, this delightful, quirky fantasy adventure is far too good to miss.

As for Kellen, his squirrel cat companion Reichis, and Ferius, his Argosi mentor – they are once more on the track of the scumbags who have been inserting a parasitic worm into youngsters in order to control them. What I really have enjoyed about this series is that while Kellen is undoubtedly brave, he is regularly outmatched. And he does have a habit of rushing to the rescue of those he sees as innocent victims without necessarily working out whether his chances of prevailing are realistic. It doesn’t help that his squirrel cat is constantly goading him to take on any assailant in the hopes that he’ll be able to snack on another juicy eyeball… The humour in this series works as a nice counterpoint to the emotion also evident – Kellen wears his heart on his sleeve and the stakes are invariably as high as they can get, given he is tangling with some seriously unpleasant people. In other hands, this series could have been a constant, gritted struggle for survival – which is exactly what happens, but de Castell ensures the pacey writing and horrible situations Kellen finds himself in are leavened by the humour, mostly provided by the squirrel cat and his edgy relationship with his human companion.

I also very much appreciated the further insights into Ferius, Kellen’s mysterious mentor, and what drives her as I’ve found her cryptic utterances somewhat annoying. But this is the book where I bonded with her, while holding my breath. This author isn’t afraid to kill off major characters when it suits him.

Overall, this was an engaging read and worth addition to what is becoming a cracking series and highly recommended for fans of fantasy adventures.
9/10