Don’t the weekends just come and go so fast?! It only feels like 5 minutes ago since I was writing last week’s Sunday Summary post. I hope you have had a good week, whatever you have been up to!
Me? Well, mine has been quite a busy one. It’s rare for me to post four times a week, but that’s exactly what I have done! I published April’s reading list at the beginning of the week; I am taking part in a lot of blog tours, so the official list is dominated by ARC’s. As it happens, I am going to have more time on my hands than usual this month in terms of reading. I didn’t want to commit to reading more though, because I’ll probably balance my time with other little projects. Plus, I also have the freedom to pick up any book I like. Reading list posts are great motivators; I have proven I cannot do without them – but they can also feel a little restricting sometimes.
In addition, I have also published my review of The End of Magic by Mark Stay and a Q&A post with him. There is a chance to enter yourselves into a giveaway for a signed copy of the book, but you’ll have to be quick as it closes at 11:59 pm local time tonight.
It’s been a pretty good week of reading here, which I’ll admit I am surprised about. I thought my blog post schedule might knock out some of my reading time, but I managed to work around it quite well! As promised, the first couple of days of this week were dedicated to finishing Arbitrage by Colette Kebell. I work in an industry that overlaps with the subject content of this novel, and I actually learned something new from it. Every day is a school day, right?
Next, I moved back to reading A Storm of Swords. I have been reading it for weeks now, just because it is so long. Guys… I did it! I have finished it! It was a long haul, but I got there in the end.
The advantage of reading really long, epic novels is that once you pick up a smaller book, you find yourself a third of the way through it without you even realising. That’s exactly what’s happened with my next read, Legends of Persia by Jennifer Macaire. I achieved that in one sitting too. I’m quite proud…
I’ve also kept up with listening to my latest audiobook, Scythe by Neal Schusterman. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with the comedown from Jay Kristoff’s Godsgrave, because damn that shit is fantastic! I am really enjoying Scythe as well though! It’s different, but that’s why I like it.
I have not added any books to my TBR this week because I have been really good.
Who am I kidding?! Truth is, I’ve just been really busy – busy at work, personally, blogging, reading and playing Minecraft in my downtime, I haven’t been looking for new books. That’s an honest answer!
I’m pleased to say things are going to slow down from the breakneck speed of last week. It’s fun, occasionally, but that’s not a blogging schedule I can keep up with reliably.
My blogging schedule is going to be thrown off a little bit as a result, because I have blog tours coming up on Sunday’s for the next couple of weeks. I’ll still be posting three times, but effectively I’ll be posting twice in one day – my review in the early morning and my Sunday Summary will drop in the late evening. Having a few days grace is going to work to my advantage because I have some catching up to do with a proofreading project.
My first review post is for Arbitrage, the ARC I finished up early this week. That post is being published on Thursday, so I hope you can check that out! My second review, on Sunday, is for my current read, Legends of Persia by Jennifer Macaire. What are you looking forward to next week? What will you be reading?
Today’s blog post is going to be a little bit special; I will be handing over to Mark Stay very shortly so he can tell you about himself and his recently published fantasy novel, The End of Magic. I took the opportunity to share my thoughts in my review of the book yesterday. If you haven’t seen either my review or the opportunity to win yourself a signed copy of the book, please check out the link above and my Twitter/Instagram pages for two chances to enter! The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on Sunday 7th, so don’t hang around to get your entries in!
And now, I’ll graciously hand over to Mark for a brilliantly funny Q&A: –
Tell us a little about yourself
Having failed at my childhood dream of becoming either a firefighter or Luke Skywalker, I tried writing stories, then sketches, then acting, and then started a theatre company with my wife. I wrote a few plays, turned some of them into screenplays, met a film director, made a movie with him called Robot Overlords and now I’m writing books again. I’m too old to be a firefighter, and Luke Skywalker is (spoiler alert) dead, but there’s still time for a Morgan Freeman-like late-blooming acting career! Oh, who am I kidding…
I co-present a podcast for writers called the Bestseller Experiment, and I worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years, then last Christmas they finally had enough of me and made me redundant. I now write for food.
Who/what are your inspirations and influences?
I’m an odd hodgepodge of British TV character comedy writers such as John Sullivan and Galton & Simpson, American writers like William Goldman and David Mamet, and fantasists like Harry Harrison, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s amazing anything I write makes any sense whatsoever, but over time more of the real me has seeped into the writing and I’m discovering that’s a good thing.
The End of Magic had some fun influences, including the Coen Brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing (when someone pleads for their life), The Good, The Bad and the Ugly for a dollop of redemption (when Tico asks his brother for help), Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters for showing me how to make my unsympathetic protagonist a little more tolerable (see below), and a dash of Grimdark and Pratchett.
It’s refreshing to read a fantasy tale about magic and it’s influence coming to an end as opposed to prevailing. Was this difficult to write? How did you go about it?
I had to ask myself what I could bring to the fantasy genre that thousands of white middle-age blokes hadn’t done before, which got me thinking about privilege. And who in fantasy are more privileged than the classic wizard-mentor types? They love to torment their apprentices and can be unbearably smug and superior, so I wanted to take that archetype and rob them of the thing that made them special and see how they coped. Badly, it turns out. It’s a fun way to make an unsympathetic character engaging. I remember watching the film adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters and having a revelation. You just have to make their lives an utter misery. It’s very therapeutic and enjoyable for the reader.
Ending magic and its influence was a reaction to some of the magic systems I’ve come across in fantasy, where there are so many appendices and rules it’s like the instructions for a complicated board game. I decided I would be clever and do without magic… then I realised I would have to create a magic system in order to understand what happens when you take it away, so I ended up making even more work for myself.
I knew I couldn’t be too radical in the magic or the worldbuilding. It had to be a familiar kind of magic and a recognisable fantasy world in order for the reader to be engaged in its destruction. I was basically taking a hammer to a few old fantasy tropes. There’s nothing wrong with those tropes, I enjoy them as much as ever, but it simply helped keep the reader on the hook, and it doesn’t hurt to give the establishment a light kicking every now and then.
There are, I’m happy to say, no appendices in The End of Magic.
There are a huge variety of characters in the book. How were these characters developed? Do you feel you relate well to any of them, or perhaps they remind you of people you know?
There’s a lot of me in the protagonist Sander Bree, in that I had nothing to complain about in my life, but I still wasn’t content. I had a good job, a home, a wonderful family, but also tons of anxieties, and there seemed to be no reason for them. So I wanted to see how bad things could really get, if simply to remind myself that I have it very good compared to most.
Rosheen Katell is a freelance mage and she has a strict moral code. She’s me on a good day — what what I would aspire to be — and if anything I had to make her story even more challenging for her. It’s easy to take the moral high ground when you have power, but if that power is taken from you then you have some very difficult decisions to make. There’s one terrible act that she commits not long after losing her power and readers have told me it brought them to tears, which is the highest compliment you can give to a writer. Their sadness made me very, very happy (writers are terrible people, really).
And Oskar, her younger brother, is a mute and considered feeble-minded at the start of the story, but he gains all sorts of extraordinary powers as the novel progresses. I wanted to take someone who was voiceless and powerless and see what they would do with that power. His story fascinates me as he’s the most complicated of the three. The conclusion to his story has shocked a few people, and rightly so. In a way, Oskar is like some of the online trolls we encounter. They would be terrified of confrontation in the real world, but now they have the power of anonymity they can do terrible things, but they open themselves up to punishment that they’re simply not prepared for. Poor Oskar really gets put through the wringer.
The supporting characters are huge fun to write. They’re not burdened with the weight of the story and you play a little more freely with them, though there’s a danger they can overwhelm your protagonist. Oskar started out with a much smaller role, but over drafts he grew to have a much more significant role in the story. In some ways, the novel becomes more about him than anyone else.
The End of Magic suggests a conclusion – is this a standalone book, or can we expect a further series?
They say you should write the book you want to read, and I wanted to write a page-turning, fun and accessible stand-alone. I’m a bit done with trilogies and never-ending series in fantasy*, and the challenge was to tell a one-and-done and give the reader a satisfying read and let them get on with their lives. That said, I’ve had threats that if I don’t write a sequel there will be trouble. I’ll see what the demand is. The door is open for more, but you can definitely enjoy The End of Magic as a story with a beginning, middle and end.
*In the meantime, I’ve started a middle grade science fiction trilogy, and a World War Two fantasy series that might never end, proving that I’m nothing if not a massive hypocrite.
About the Author
Mark co-wrote Robot Overlords with director Jon Wright for Piers Tempest’s Tempo Productions. This was selected for the 58th BFI London Film Festival. Mark also wrote the film’s novelisation to critical acclaim.
Mark is also co-presenter of The Bestseller Experiment, which was shortlisted for the Futurebook Podcast of the Year award. The podcast began when he and Mark Desvaux challenged themselves to write, edit, publish and market a bestselling eBook in just a year… and then actually did it with their novel Back To Reality, which was a number one Kindle bestseller in ten categories worldwide.
Now in its third year, the podcast works to inspire their listeners to finish their novels and get them published, and their alumni includes Pernille Hughes, Lorna Cook, Sally Harris and fantasy author Mike Shackle.
Mark worked in bookselling and publishing for over 25 years and is a regular on the conventions circuit. The End of Magic is his debut fantasy novel.
I’m really looking forward to bringing you today’s review of The End of Magic by Mark Stay. I was kindly offered a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The first thing that struck me about the book is the fabulous cover. Don’t you agree? It’s the first of many great things that can be said about the book! I’ll also be giving you the opportunity to win yourself your own copy of the book!
Sander Bree is a royal mage. Steeped in privilege, he lives a cushy life advising the king on matters of court and politics, yet still complains that he’s stuck in a rut.
Rosheen Katell is a freelance mage and, with Anzu her griffin, she’s worked hard to build a reputation as a trustworthy truth seer. She never lies, never kills.
The source of their power is the Lapis Moon in orbit above. Very soon, that magic will be gone, changing their lives and their world forever. Sander must keep a promise that would have been difficult enough with magic, but is a suicide mission without it. Rosheen is forced to side with a murderous warlord, and her once-solid principles are tested and found wanting. Both will be set against one another in a war unlike anything the world has seen before, in this sweeping fantasy of magic’s ending.
Fantasy is a genre full of common themes – magic, mythical creatures and epic adventures; prophecies, legends, religion and political conflict. In its own way, The End of Magic pays homage to all of these classic themes. But what sets it apart, you ask? That’s easy. Instead of impossible feats being achieved with the aid of magic, mages of the universe find the rug yanked out from under their feet. Magic dies. Their power is lost – and all their privilege associated with being in the top tiers of society goes with it.
Sander Bree’s tumble from his position as mage to the King lands him between a rock and a hard place. Charged with the task of retrieving an antidote to cure the poisoned princess, he is no longer able to rely on the magic feats that have become commonplace to him. He departs on a quest to obtain the antidote; it’s a race against time. He is my favourite character of all those in the novel because his sardonic nature is hilarious. His compulsion to speak his mind freely in the heat of the moment lands him in trouble repeatedly. He is also very much like me – fluent in sarcasm!
Rosheen is also a mage, blackmailed into the service of a power hungry warlord. In the name of protecting her family she disregards her morals and commits heinous acts. Pitted against Sander in teh embroiling war and with danger lurking around every corner, she is in a precarious position. The death of magic is just as cataclysmic for her, albeit for different reasons.
The novel is beautifully written, balancing the art of world-building and maintaining the progress of the plot nicely. The history of the world has also been well-considered. It lends depth to the current story without overwhelming us as the reader.
Despite the novel centring around the conclusion of magic and its influence on the world, there is still so much rich detail about it. Its loss wouldn’t be so keenly felt and the main conflict of the novel would fall flat. This is by far my favourite aspect of the book as it makes a refreshing change of tale. Usually fantasy novels are riddled with stories in which magic conquers all. Its presence creates the conflict or resolves it… but not the other way around.
Saying yes to ark’s invitation to read the book was the right decision. The book’s approachable and enjoyable tale is as intriguing as it is refreshing. If you love reading Fantasy, I think you will feel the same way too!
***If you would like the opportunity to win yourself a copy of The End of Magic, please check out my Twitter and/or Instagram for chances to enter the draw! I will be drawing a random winner at 11:59pm on Sunday 7th April, so get your entries in – best of luck!***
This month I have a LOT of blog tours. What can I say, I have no self-control when it comes to books! Ahaha!
Naturally, there are quite a few ARC’s on this list as a result of signing up to the tours. I am going to balance that with a couple of shorter, traditionally published books that I want to pick up and read of my own volition. By shorter, I basically mean I am going to take a break from reading George R. R. Martin’s epic 1000 page tomes! I love them, but I feel a real lack of progress reading them just because they are SO LONG!
Maybe I’ll start A Feast for Crows on a whim if I feel the urge, but it is not a part of my official reading list. I’m also not going to start it if doing so will compromise the reading schedule. That kinda sounds like famous last words to me somehow…
So, which books am I picking up this month?
Legends of Persia – Jennifer Macaire
When Ashley Riveraine jumped at the chance to travel back in time to meet her hero Alexander the Great, she never thought she would end up staying there…
Following Alexander the Great’s army on its journey across Persia, Ashley is walking the knife edge of history. As a presumed goddess, Ashley is expected to bless crops, make sure battles are won and somehow keep herself out of the history books.
Can Ashley avoid the wrath of the Time Institute while keeping the man she loves alive?
Having taken part in the blog tour for The Road to Alexander earlier this year, I think I practically snatched the hand off of Rachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources when she offered the second book in the series to review. Aside from Macaire’s writing, I haven’t really ventured into the time period of Alexander the Great. The slight crossover with science-fiction to include Ashley’s initial time travel and conflict of altering history isn’t invasive or out of place. It’s one of the aspects I enjoyed in The Road to Alexander the most! I’m looking forward to seeing where this second work of historical fiction leads us.
Trust Me – K. J. McGillick
Sex. Power. Murder.
Dr. Gabriel Blackwell and his wife Sandra Blake have it all. He’s a brilliant thoracic surgeon. She’s a high-powered attorney with family money. Their lives are as loving as they are glamorous.
Or are they?
When a nurse Dr. Blackwell works with is brutally murdered, the questions fly. Who would want to kill this woman and why? When an autopsy reveals the woman was pregnant, all signs point to Dr. Blackwell. Just what was her relationship with him?
Whispers about a scandalous sex club surface. How many other lovers are there? Are any of them safe? How far would he go to protect his reputation?
Tragedy strikes again as Sandra Blake is found dead floating in their pool. Dr. Blackwell now finds himself on trial for two murders. Facing life in prison, Dr. Blackwell will grasp at any straw to preserve his freedom.
Is anyone innocent? Is anyone safe?
I have taken part in blog tours for other books by K. J. McGillick in the last few months – Facing A Twisted Judgement and Karma Never Loses an Address. I really enjoyed both books, so I wanted to take this blog tour opportunity to try something else of hers. Crime fiction is something I enjoy reading quite a lot, so signing up was an easy decision.
Justice Gone – N. Lombari Jr
A beaten homeless vet. Three cops gunned down. A multistate manhunt. The trial of the decade.
A new kind of legal thriller
When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.
A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture.
Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?
I can’t say I have ever read anything that focuses on or is influenced by the military very much. Justice Gone is a great way to bridge that gap as I know I will enjoy the legal thriller element of the novel. I decided to take this on as a means of branching out, to try something a little different. I really hope the risk pays off.
The Watcher of Dead Time – Edward Cox
Labrys Town, home to a million humans cut off from the rest of the universe, has been invaded. Those who protected it have been deposed.
The Relic Guild are scattered across the worlds of the Aelfir. Many of them are dead or dying. The Genii control everything. The war is almost over.
Clara, a young woman barely able to control her werewolf side, has seen her friends and mentors killed in front of her. She is the last hope for Labrys Town.
But someone else is watching…
The dramatic conclusion to the award-nominated fantasy trilogy which began with THE RELIC GUILD.
I am 100% reading this because I didn’t get around to it AT ALL last month. It’s disappointing, although not all that surprising either. Not only did I take on A Storm of Swords, which is over 1000 pages in its own right, I’ve also had some procrastination issues as a result of feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Reading long books is a double-edged sword – it’s a great achievement when you have enjoyed a book and finally get to the end… but it can be a real drag to get there.
I’ve also had plenty of lunches out, a slightly more active social life, and by stark comparison, I rediscovered my love of Minecraft. Each and every one of these things has eaten into my reading time. I’m going to have to get a handle on that.
Maskerade – Terry Pratchett
Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, the Discworld’s greatest witches, are back for an innocent night at the opera. Naturally there’s going to be trouble, but at the same time there’ll be a good evening’s entertainment with murders that you can really hum to.
After some heavy reading *cough cough* A Song of Ice and Fire series, I can always rely on some of Pratchett’s excellence and witty humour to lighten the tone. Maskerade is the next Discworld book on my list and it features the Witches. They are my favourite characters in the Discworld universe, so I can’t wait. Combine that with being a theatrical tale – a parody of Phantom of the Opera, and it sounds like a winner to me!
So, that’s the scripted reading list this month. Maybe I’ll pick up A Feast for Crows in between, but that depends on how well I progress.
What are you reading this month?
What book blogger wouldn’t proclaim themselves an avid reader?
If found without a book in hand, send for medical aid!
My name is Rebecca; welcome to my humble little blog.