Today’s book review post features a book I very gratefully received from Orion Books in October last year. I took part in a promotional competition by sharing a post on Twitter about the upcoming release and I was chosen to get an early access copy of the book via Netgalley! I have to say before I go further that my review is an honest one.
I did actually start reading this at the end of that month whilst on holiday, but it has taken a while to catch up with all my reviews to get my thoughts to you all. No doubt my Netgalley rating will look a little healthier after I share this with them. I’m not a big Netgalley user, but it does come in handy for blog tours and such.
Some of you may know Stephen Chbosky for another popular book he has written – The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I haven’t read this myself, so this was my first experience of his writing. As the genres of these two books are so different, I don’t think it matters whether you have read this, or any of his other books, or not.
Imagine… Leaving your house in the middle of the night. Knowing your mother is doing her best, but she’s just as scared as you.
Imagine… Starting a new school, making friends. Seeing how happy it makes your mother. Hearing a voice, calling out to you.
Imagine… Following the signs, into the woods. Going missing for six days. Remembering nothing about what happened.
Imagine… Something that will change everything… And having to save everyone you love.
When the promotional email I received for the book likened Imaginary Friend to Stephen King’s IT, I had very high expectations of the complexity and creepiness of this thriller novel. Glad to say those expectations were met entirely, but what I didn’t expect was the length of it! Granted, IT is an exceptionally long novel at 1,396 pages. Still, Imaginary Friend weighs in at just over 700 pages. Compared to other horror/thriller novels I’ve picked up, it’s EPIC! There were some sections of narrative that were stickier than others to read. Could it be shorter? Perhaps. That said though, I do think it all adds up to the overall ending, so it’s not wasteful content. It’s relevance just isn’t known at the time.
The content of the book is sinister enough, but what gave me the chills more was the protagonist subject to the horror and paranormal goings-on is a child. It made me question what was going on; could it be nothing more than Christopher’s vivid imagination, or was it real? I can’t say this novel gave me nightmares because I’m not really affected that way when it comes to horror. I know it to be fiction and so it doesn’t bother me that way. Judging from other reviews though, not everyone can say the same!
As can be expected with such an epic, there are a lot of characters that play their part in this story. Whilst Christopher and his immediate family are probably the most developed throughout, there is still plenty of time put into the ‘minor’ or ‘supporting’ characters. The detail that went into establishing each of the characters and their relations with others to build the whole dynamic of the town is astounding. I feel like I know everyone like I’ve lived amongst them myself! I absolutely had my favourites – Ambrose, special shout out to you. I invested heavily with the characters, and knowing the plot is heading towards a cataclysmic event spurs you on to find out what happens!
There may be some readers that don’t like some of the religious undercurrents towards the end of the story. I’m quite happy to put out there that I’m not religious at all, but I didn’t mind its inclusion or influence on the plot at all. I personally think it made it more interesting.
Have you read Imaginary Friend? What did you make of the book?
Today’s blog tour post is a review of Helene by Karl Drinkwater. Helene is a really enjoyable short science-fiction story that relates to Karl’s Lost Solace series. As it happens, I haven’t read these books and I am new to this author. If you haven’t read these books don’t worry, because you don’t really need to! I actually enjoyed reading Helene as an introduction to the Lost Solace universe.
Before I get stuck in with my review in earnest, I would like to take the opportunity to thank both Karl and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour! It’s only day one of the tour, so please lookout for the other posts coming up over the coming days. You can find a list of all those taking part in the tour at the bottom of this post!
Dr Helene Vermalle is shaping the conscience of a goddess-level AI.
As a leading civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, she has been invited to assist in a secret military project.
Her role? Helping ViraUHX, the most advanced AI in the universe, to pass through four theoretical development stages. But it’s not easy training a mind that surpasses her in raw intellect. And the developing AI is capable of killing her with a single tantrum.
On top of this, she must prove her loyalty to the oppressive government hovering over her shoulder. They want a weapon. She wants to instil an overriding sense of morality.
Can she teach the AI right and wrong without being categorised as disloyal?
Lost Tales of Solace are short side-stories set in the Lost Solace universe.
Short stories are a great way of changing up your reading habits or trying something new. I read more short stories last year than I ever have before, and reading Helene has reminded me of why I enjoy them so much! At 72 pages, this science-fiction novel is a great way to enjoy a good story in a small space of time. I read Helene in two sittings over this weekend in coffee breaks. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy something lighter than the several-hundred-page epics I’m known to read.
Helene has a simple, easy to read writing style, so it’s perfect to just pick up and dive into straight away. I think there is a certain stigma to science-fiction and that it’s perceived as complicated. This really wasn’t. Any science terms were explained in layman’s terms so it wasn’t an effort to understand at all. The narrative style has a relaxed flow that I found really easy to read. The chapter lengths also make this easy to pick up and put down at leisure.
What also made Helene great for me was that even in the conciseness of the story, there is plenty of background information for the reader to get to learn a little of the Lost Solace universe. It’s just enough to serve as an introduction without getting too heavy or detracting from the action of the short story in itself. It was a perfect balance. The ending of the book links in with the Lost Solace series, which I didn’t understand entirely until I read the synopsis of that book and a couple of reviews afterwards. It doesn’t detract from the book at all though – if anything, it makes you want to read on and find out how the story evolves.
Artificial Intelligence is a huge topic within the science-fiction genre. That said, the premise of teaching and socialising ViraUHX was one that I haven’t come across before and is quite unique. It also allows plenty of opportunity for humour and there are a good number of laugh-out-loud moments in this short book.
Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but lived in Wales for twenty years, and now calls Scotland his home. He’s a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.
He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you’ll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.
When he isn’t writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.
Fires of the Dead by Jed Herne is a fantasy novella I read last month – my first book of the year, in fact! That’s not the only reason it’s a first for me. It’s also the first book I have downloaded from BookSirens, a provider of ARC’s similar to Netgalley.
I’ve made more of an effort to read short stories and novellas since last year. I typically pick up reasonably long books, especially fantasy ones. I definitely want to keep up interspersing some shorter reads into my normal reading schedule. It’s nice to have a little something to break up the other books I am reading, or even something I can read and enjoy in one sitting.
Based on my experience of Fires of the Dead, I’ll definitely be trying more fantasy novellas.
Wisp is a pyromancer: a magician who draws energy from fires to make his own flames. He’s also a criminal, one job away from retirement. And it can’t come bloody soon enough.
Leading his misfit crew, Wisp ventures into a charred and barren forest to find a relic that could change the realm forever. But they aren’t the only ones on the hunt, and the forest isn’t as barren as it seems …
A jaded gang leader longing for retirement
A bloodthirsty magician with a lust for power
A brutish fighter who’s smarter than he looks
A young thief desperate to prove herself
A cowardly navigator with secrets that won’t stay buried
Together, they must survive fights, fires, and folk tales that prove disturbingly real – if they don’t kill each other first.
A dark fantasy novella with a unique magic system, perfect for Joe Abercrombie or Brandon Sanderson fans wanting a fast-paced read.
A common misconception about fantasy novels is that they are all epic, thousand-page long tomes. Yes, some of them are. I’ve even read a few myself. Authors that come to mind include George R R Martin and Brandon Sanderson. Those are just two examples. Fires of the Dead proves that you don’t need to write reams of narrative to fit all the components of a classic fantasy novel into one tale.
A number of personalities shine through in the narrative, predominantly seen through the eyes of the man that recruited them all for the job, Wisp. Wisp himself is a refreshing character to read. Intent to retire on the riches the job has promised to yield, Wisp imagines it’s his last job – and about bloody time too! His brutal honesty and almost pessimist attitude add a lot of humour to the tale.
Wisp isn’t the only narrator of the tale, however, and in a couple of places, I felt his narrative voice bled through into other parts of the book not written from his perspective. Maybe there is a logical explanation for that. The characters have known each other for a while, so perhaps they have picked up each other’s speech patterns, use of slang and such. That said, the moments were few and far between, making me think it wasn’t entirely intentional. It didn’t have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the book though.
World-building, magic (in particular pyromancy), character development and an enjoyable action-packed plotline all come together in just under 200 pages. I personally loved the roguish, ramshackle nature of the band undertaking the quest to retrieve a magical relic. There’s just enough history touched upon for the reader to bond with the characters without hampering the action or clogging up the narrative with excessive detail.
Thank you to the author and BookSirens for providing me with a copy of Fires of the Dead in exchange for an honest review!
Good morning everyone and welcome to my stop for the blog tour of Ctrl+S by Andy Briggs! Before I get into the details, I would like to thank Alex Layt at Orion Publishing for organising the tour and sending me a review copy of the book! As always with these posts, the views expressed are my honest opinion.
I am really excited to be sharing my thoughts with you on Ctrl+S – particularly to fans of near-future science-fiction novels. If you enjoy this particular genre then you are going to love this book! Equally, I only occasionally venture into the genre and I loved it as well. Ctrl+S is due to be published in a matter of days so if you do enjoy this review, please do consider getting yourself a copy!
Before I begin with my review, please also take a moment to take a look at some of the other reviews shared as part of the tour.
Life in the near future’s NOT ALL BAD. We’ve reversed global warming, and fixed the collapsing bee population. We even created SPACE, a virtual-sensory universe where average guys like Theo Wilson can do almost anything they desire.
But ALMOST ANYTHING isn’t enough for some. Every day, normal people are being taken, their emotions harvested – and lives traded – to create death-defying thrills for the rich and twisted.
NOW THEO’S MOTHER HAS DISAPPEARED. And as he follows her breadcrumb trail of clues, he’ll come up against the most dangerous SPACE has to offer: vPolice, AI Bots and anarchists – as well as a criminal empire that will KILL TO STOP HIM finding her . .
The beauty of this near-future novel is that the premise of the book centres on an improved variety of technology that already exists – SPACE. Imagine augmented reality at your fingertips whenever you want it. Or, you can “ascend” for a limited time and experience virtual reality with your friends. There’s all of the fun and none of the pain if you get hurt or die in a game. That is, until someone finds a loophole.
Those rich enough to pay for the thrill can experience the pain and terror of death without the final blow. Maybe someone wants to feel the thrill of jumping off a building without the splat at the end. Real people are kidnapped and exploited to harvest whichever raw emotion is desired. It puts a sinister twist on the technology’s motto, More real than real. Theo’s mum Ella inadvertently gets dragged into the criminal underbelly after becoming indebted to the wrong people. When she doesn’t come home one day, the dangerous truth hits home.
Theo, Clemmie, Baxter and Milton take centre stage and are supported by a wide cast of varying characters. Their similarity in age to myself (and I imagine a lot of prospective readers) makes them really relatable and easy to invest into as the story progresses. You’ll laugh because I particularly relate to Theo. I didn’t go to University, unlike a lot of my friends, and I worked in a fast food place as my first job too! It’s the little things, right?
The “technology” aspect of the novel is really easy to follow. I can confidently say I think anyone can pick it up and understand the basics. Even from there, I feel that the descriptions of the advancement to today’s version of the technology is explained really well where relevant. Breaking up the information to impart what is necessary at any given time prevents dumping a lot of information on the reader. Some might find that overwhelming but I didn’t find this at all in Ctrl+S. Overall, I found there was a great balance between the action of the novel and clarifying how everything unfamiliar worked. The chapters are nice and concise as well which helps keep the momentum.
As the group of friends find themselves in increasingly hot water having been thrown into a criminal world where anything goes, you really find yourself rooting for them as the underdogs to save Ella and countless others from their emotional exploitation. As the plot unravels our protagonists fight desperately to pick up the clues left by Ella in order to find the mastermind behind the abuse of SPACE. The genre combination of science-fiction and thriller worked really well and is a highly recommended read by me!
Hi everyone and welcome to today’s interview post with Brian McLaughlin! If you haven’t already checked out yesterday’s book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, here is a link so you can do so!
I want to hand over to Brian without any preamble, so, shall we get stuck in?!
How did you discover writing as a passion?
Brian – It goes back a quite a long time, but didn’t take the form of writing, per se. It started around the age of 13 when a friend introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. By age 15 I had evolved into the dungeon master role and never really relinquished it. I had a solid group of friends and we played through high school and college which lasted almost 9 years. As a dungeon master I wasn’t writing prose, but I was creating adventures all the time which required worlds, creativity, and the art of “telling” a story: describing situations and features to the players, building tension and managing outcomes. I look back at that time as training to become a writer. Towards the end of that period I did begin writing a story, but I only managed 50 pages or so before I moved on to other things in life. However, it planted a seed. From there adult life took over and I embarked on an 18-year hiatus from D&D and anything close to writing. So that leads me to the true answer to your question. I’ve had a great career in business (mostly supply chain), but there was a brief time in 2012 where I found myself in a job that I didn’t find very challenging or rewarding. I remember consciously deciding that if I couldn’t get fulfillment from my work, then I would try to get fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment from some other activity. So, in June of 2012 I literally dusted off the old manuals and began creating the world of Thran with the intent of writing a novel and solving my fulfillment/accomplishment void.
Rebecca – I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. I spent my teenage years playing Dragon Quest, which is much like the format of the group in Thran. More recently than that though, I played countless hours on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s essentially a single player version, but you pick your character type and traits which are similar to the characters and factions in the book too.
Brian –When it comes to fantasy role playing games, I think you could make an argument that Gary Gygax and TSR really pioneered the genre. Each variation that came after it embellished and tweaked the basic system. The classes and monsters were all familar. In a way it’s not much different than Thran or any work of fantasy fiction after 1970; they all were inspired by D&D.
Obviously, Thran has alot of overlaps with modern fantasy role-playing games. Are you an avid gamer? What did you play growing up?
Brian –Well, I think I answered this question above, but we dabbled in all sorts of role-playing games. The Middle Earth role playing game comes to mind and there were a variety of games we played sporadically but we always returned to D&D. I would still classify myself as an avid gamer as I like to play chess and other strategy-based games on the computer or an app. I even play DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online) with my adult children which works our great since we can do it from wherever we are!
Rebecca – As I mentioned above, I’ve been a gamer since a teenager really, although I have a lot less time for it now with working full-time and managing my blog in my free time. When I do get a spare hour or two, my current game of choice is Minecraft! It’s quite easy to play as there isn’t too much in the way of storyline or quests, but you can be creative and stop/start as and when.
Brian – I’ve dabbled with Minecraft, but world building makes a fun game and Minecraft obviously fits that niche nicely. I grew up on games like pools of radiance which is like the great-great grandmother to Baldurs gate which is a turn based game. So I’m partial to turn based games to this day. Hearthstone has been a favored past time and recently I’ve been playing Dota Underlords. Both are addicting!
The story has a split narrative between present day and historical events. Which did you enjoy writing more and why?
Brian –That’s like asking which of your kids you love more! 😊 Of course, I enjoyed writing both narratives, but for different reasons. If you pressed me, I will say the Anthall narrative, in book one, is more compelling for the reader because it’s a tragic story and focuses on one individual (rather than a group) and his dark journey. We feel for him, or at least I do, because of the choices he’s forced to make and his struggle with his identity. I’ll also say this: in book II I have really enjoyed writing about the “current” narrative because some of the twists and surprises I set up, but probably weren’t obvious or appreciated in book one, are starting to get revealed which draws you more deeply into that narrative. Okay, I love them both! 😊
Rebecca – If I had to pick a favourite, I would say I enjoyed the Anthall storyline a little more than the present day. It gives a lot of context to what’s going on… and well, I’m a sucker for all things that contribute to epic world-building.
Brian – I’ll be interested to see what you and other readers think of Book two. As you know, when I tell people Thran is an epic story, I’m not kidding. It’s 650 pages long, and I spend a lot of time building the characters and planting seeds. If I can get an ah-ha moment or two from readers, or even better: an “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I’ll feel really good! The world and characters are complex – they just don’t know it yet…the readers AND he characters!
There is a very extensive map of the world of Thran on your website, https://www.worldofthran.com. How far along in the narrative did this come into creation? Has it helped you with your writing?
Brian – Actually, the first thing I did was create the world. Before I wrote the first word, I drew the map with the detail you see today. I also created the pantheon of gods, the calendar, and how I wanted magic to work. Speaking of magic, a lot of people forego the material requirements when they play D&D (we did back in the day) because it’s a little burdensome, but for the world of Thran, I thought the material component would add a nice level of detail and also tied in with the concept of the gods granting the spells – so the material component acted like a sacrifice when required. Another aspect I determined from the start was the dialog. I didn’t want the dialog to be too “fantastical”. I felt that in order to keep the passion of the dialog relevant, I would sacrifice the “historical” aspect and go with more of a modern diction, including the curse-words which I felt strongly needed to stay current. When someone curses, it’s usually trying to convey a deeper context to the situation. It makes serious and tense situations more serious and tense while also making lighter moments even lighter. Using a “made up” or substitute curse could never convey to the modern reader the nuances of the situation and might just feel cheesy. However, in order to make the dialog feel a little different, aged so-to-speak, I used a little trick I came up with: never use contractions. The reader might not have noticed, but if the dialog was read out loud, it would become obvious. The map and all the other foundations I created up front helped me conceptualize the story.
As an author, what advice would you give to anyone looking to write a book and get published?
Brian – Funny you should ask! The journey for writing, editing, marketing, and publishing has been such an educational journey that I started organizing what I’ve learned and seriously considering writing another (much shorter!) book about it. My advice for writers:
Create an environment that inspires you and limits distractions. The routine will help you establish a rhythm and promote creativity.
Give yourself a word count to hit each day or each week, depending on how often you can write. Give yourself a little reward for hitting the count, and if you can blow it away – even better! There are gonna be many days when you can’t hit the count. Find the right balance – where it’s achievable, but not a gimme.
Find software for writing a novel. I used Scrivener and that has been very good. It helps me keep everything organized and easy to find for reference, not to mention it can create all the file types you need for your ebook. There are other software choices out there, so just do a little research.
Editing is a money game. It depends what you can afford. If you have the money a good editor can help you immensely, but for most Indie writers that’s not going to be an option, it wasn’t for me.
If having an editor is not an option, you will almost certainly need help proof-reading and correcting grammar. I hired a professional to proofread Book I and they corrected a ton of stuff. I used a service called Reedsy, and it worked out fine.
Family and friends. Let anyone who wants to read help with editing. I still find issues with Thran Book One today, so it feels like a never-ending process.
It will never be perfect, so eventually you will have to publish the book!
Marketing – How do you get anyone to actually read your book!? That’s such a difficult task! LOL.
This is a great way to build a following but doesn’t translate into sales very well. It’s also time intensive. You need to post once per day, but not too much more than that, and so building a following takes time unless you have a celebrity connection.
Book reviews & Bloggers
Getting your book reviewed is very important. Paying for reviews is less impressive, but if you have to it’s better than nothing.
Voracious Readers Only
I found this to be a very good platform. It connects readers and authors and is how I am building a solid email list
Amazon, Barns & Nobel, others
This comes down to money. My experience is that Amazon has the cheapest advertising, essentially free if you do KDP, and best tools for promoting your book.
I have been in KDP (amazon exclusive) so I have access to the promotional tools, but I am going to try without it for a bit and work other platforms in order to reach a wider audience.
I didn’t go down the traditional path, but it involves finding an agent and then submitting your work to a lot of publishing houses.
I do know this:
You’ll need to hook up with an artist unless you can create a cover yourself, which I think would be rare. Today’s art world is ruled by digital art, and depending on the size of your book and the number of pages, it’s not an easy job getting the cover just right.
If you decide to go the traditional route – DO NOT self-publish first. Everything I read, most publishers won’t work with manuscripts that are already published. So if you go the traditional route – find an agent and go from there.
These are pretty straight forward, you just submit them to the site, pick a royalty program and you’re off…well, you still need a cover.
You definitely need a cover and it needs to be very exact in the dimensions of the cover which includes the spine and the back art.
Actually printing books.
I haven’t cracked the code yet on this. Printed copies are very expensive unless you’re willing to invest in quite a bit of inventory.
Amazon is the best. They print on-demand and ship it direct, so no inventory and their printing costs are 30% lower than any other place I found searching the internet.
Rebecca – You have already covered a lot of ground in your experience and it’s invaluable to other hopeful authors out there! I really hope you do publish your advice. No doubt it will come in useful for a lot of people!
Brian – Amazon, like they have in so many other ways, has broken down the traditional walls to getting a book published. Which is great, but there isn’t any great manual for new writers to reference. So when someone writes a book, the feeling is like: “now what?” There are soooo many choices out there it creates an analysis paralysis. I hope I can help a few people out!
Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to conduct this interview! If you are interested in getting a copy of Thran Book 1: The Birth, the links to purchase are available in my review post!
Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:
– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.
– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.
– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.
All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.
Did You Know …?
Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.
Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.
PRAISE FOR L V HAY:
‘Well-written, engrossing & brilliantly unique’- Heat World
‘Prepare to be surprised by this psychological mystery’- Closer
‘Sharp, confident writing, as dark and twisty as the Brighton Lanes’- Peter James
‘Prepare to be seriously disturbed’ – Paul Finch
‘Crackles with tension’ – Karen Dionne
‘An original, fresh new voice in crime fiction’ – Cal Moriarty
‘The writing shines from every page of this twisted tale’- Ruth Dugdall
‘I couldn’t put it down’ – Paula Daly
‘An unsettling whirlwind of a novel with a startlingly dark core’ – The Sun
‘An author with a fresh, intriguing voice and a rare mastery of the art of storytelling’ – Joel Hames
If you’re looking for a short crime fiction story or two to see you on your way to work, or to enjoy with a quiet cup of coffee, then The Lynmouth Stories are right up your alley! Set in the rural tourist town of Lynmouth, Devon, the location each tale is set in is about all they have in common. One thing is for sure, L. V. Hay sets such a dark and sinister atmosphere that I definitely won’t be visiting unless it’s peak tourist season…
These stories are really short; I managed to read all three in around half an hour. Even though each they aren’t all that long, there is no lack of character, plot and setting the scene. To pack in such detail into a narrative so concisely is a skill (and one I envy). I read these in-between collections of short stories with other themes. Touching base with a genre that I really enjoy reading is refreshing.
The Lynmouth Stories aren’t the only short stories I am reading this month – I’m actually making a bit more effort to read some. I tend to read longer books with complex plot lines and a whole host of characters in them. Having said that though, I’ve enjoyed The Lynmouth Stories because trying something new is fun!
Reading shorts like The Lynmouth Stories is also a great way of discovering new authors. Based on these tales, I’ve added her debut novel, The Other Twin to my TBR. The author’s approachable writing style is one that I could read for hours.
Author Bio –
Lucy V Hay is a script editor for film and an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and has been featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspaper, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, is an ebook bestseller. Her next title is Never Have I Ever for Hodder Books.
After briefly starting this before bed one night, I read 90% of this book in one sitting the following day. That’s how quick and enjoyable it is! I’m not really in the habit of reading short stories. Saying that, I am giving several a try this month. I dabble in a little bit of writing, so reading a variety of short stories will only be of a benefit to me.
Each story is nice and short, easy to read and distinctly different from each other. We meet a variety of characters, but the one thing they all have in common is a woman able to wield supernatural powers over us mere mortals with terrifying consequences. As I started each new tale, I couldn’t wait to see how events unfolded! I couldn’t anticipate how each story was going to end. A few of the stories are almost fable-like, with a lesson in the morality of seeking out such power…or meddling with the wrong person!
The setting of each story was completely different to the next, which makes each individual story memorable from the other. The women themselves also come from different backgrounds; some are revered, others reviled and some are living right under your nose.
This is a really enjoyable quick read! I recommend this to anyone who loves witchcraft, sorcery or sinister tales with unexpected endings… Based on these, I’ll certainly be making more of an effort to pick up short stories for a refreshing read!
Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men. He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.
If you would like to be informed of new releases, enjoy free short stories and access exclusive giveways and competitions, please subscribe to Jay’s monthly newsletter on his website at www.jayraven.co.uk
Today, I am really looking forward to sharing my honest thoughts with you all about the final book of an amazing trilogy. Before I was offered a copy of the series by Gollancz in exchange for a review, I’ll freely admit that I hadn’t heard of Edward Cox before. The Relic Guild series has made a huge impression on me… so much so that Edward Cox has been added to the small list of authors I’ll auto-buy books for.
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.
There are so many amazing things that I really enjoyed about this series that I don’t really know where to begin! The world-building, magic system, characters – each is unique, refined and complements the other. They work together to build a detailed, cohesive narrative that flows and lulls us on to read the ever-famous “just one more chapter”.
First, let’s talk about the world-building! The concept of the Labyrinth and its history is unlike anything I have ever heard of before. Built to serve as a neutral place for warring houses, Labrys Town becomes a sought-after weapon. Each House is separated by what is called the Nothing of the Far and Deep, (which in my head I equate to something similar to Space) but portals can link these Houses and Labrys Town together. After narrowly neutralising the threat 40 years ago, most of Labrys Town’s portals have been deactivated. They are cut off from all houses but one. However, that puts them in more danger further down the line… Genii, powerful magickers strive to take over the Labyrinth.
The rich history of the world really shines through throughout the trilogy.
The entire narrative is split between two timelines, the first during the first Genii War and the second forty years later. Each timeline concludes in this final instalment. Whilst in the latter timeline we have a vague idea of how the war ended previously, there are enough secrets kept to make that ending just as exciting as the present day conclusion! Each timeline is also written cleverly so as to be well-distinguishable from the other. There are many overlapping characters in both timelines, but there are also enough subtle differences to serve as a reminder.
There is such a diverse range of characters that there is someone for every reader to relate to. Clara is new to the Relic Guild, having endeavoured to hide her power of transforming into a werewolf. She is the first Magicker in forty years. Through her we get to learn the history of the Relic Guild and their sacrifices for the residents in the Labrys Town. The veteran Magickers are easy to warm to as well. Despite their struggles to win an impossible war, we cannot forget how human and vulnerable they are. Old Man Sam, a mistrustful sharpshooter and Marney, whose power is empathic, are my favourite characters. I’m not one for gushy romance, but even I lamented the loss of Marney’s potential relationship with Van Bam.
The Watcher of Dead Time has a brilliantly immersive narrative. I was eager to see how events in both timelines reached their conclusions. Alternately switching between then and now keeps a steady momentum, but the chapter lengths aren’t so short that this becomes chaotic.
Once again, a huge thank you to both Gollancz and Edward Cox for the opportunity to read and review this amazing series! It’s the first series I have been sent in entirety to review and I am really glad I have!
I expect great things from Edward Cox, if The Relic Guild is anything to go by! I’ve already been looking ahead to see if he has any other works in the pipeline, and I wasn’t disappointed! The Song of the Sycamore is expected to be published in August this year! I can guarantee I’ll be picking this one up for sure!
***I have been provided with a copy of this book by the author for the purpose of providing an honest review. All opinions stated are my own***
My review of Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares feels a little overdue, but I have been looking forward to writing this post! The timing of the post is actually quite interesting. I have recently had my two year blog anniversary and I have been thinking back a lot to those early days. One of the earliest book reviews I posted was for the first book of Shaun Hume’s fantasy series, Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith. Incidentally, my review today is two weeks shy of the two year anniversary of that post! A strange part of me feels like we have grown together…
When Ewan Pendle began his second training year at Firedrake Lyceum, he thought it might at least be easier than the first. Now that he knew he was a Lenitnes, one of an ancient race of peoples who alone can see the real Creatures which inhabit the earth, he hoped things would maybe go a little downhill from here … How wrong he was.
Ewan is summoned by Alice Blazely, the would be assassin who he and his friends Mathilde and Enid helped capture last year, the cunning woman using her final wish after being sentenced to death for her crimes to request a private meeting with Ewan. Alone together in a deep and dank cell, Alice reveals a secret which could turn Ewan’s world upside down – again. Does she hold the answer to deciphering Ewan’s disturbing reoccurring dreams? Can he ever trust the woman who wanted to see him dead?
As if a shocking revelation from a new foe wasn’t enough to handle, Ewan must also tackle a sea monster in the Thames, deal with the evil Rosethorn twins, come face to face with a shadow troll in a London alleyway and bargain with a crafty dragon, and attempt to find a treasure lost for over a thousand years …
As the summer ends, Ewan’s year long initiation into the world of creatures and the Lenitnes is finally over. But it’s then when monsters of all shapes and sizes really do start leaping, clawing and flying at him thick and fast!
Ewan Pendle, his friends and the fantasy world he lives in has come on leaps and bounds since the first book. Where Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith lays the foundations of the series, this next book builds upon the established world in ways that I never could have imagined. Character relations are becoming more complex and I’m starting to feel a wider plot developing. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
The writing and narrative style of this second instalment of Ewan Pendle’s adventures has improved from the first book, in my opinion. I think having invested the time in setting everything up in the first book; the action and characters have more opportunity to shine through now, and they DO! I really love the additional world-building, such as the history of Firedrake Lyceum, being incorporated into the narrative in a clever way. Chapters are nice and concise as well, which makes for easy reading.
Ewan and friends, in their highly adventurous (and slightly, enjoyably reckless) way, risk their lives to locate a castle seen only through Ewan’s dreams/nightmares. Once Ewan’s connection to these dreams becomes apparent he must do everything he can to prevent the living nightmare. Ewan, by nature, is an introverted character. He can really come out of his shell when he needs to though. The depth of emotion he has makes him feel really real, and as someone who can relate to him really well, it makes me root for him all the more!
I can’t help but feel that this series will keep on giving. Each book is paced really well. They drive the story forward in a way that unveils new secrets and challenges as existing ones are resolved. I have said it before and I’ll say it again… I cannot wait to see what happens next! There are developments within this book that I didn’t see coming at all; I’m expecting a lot of surprises to come.
Today is my final blog tour post of the month. This tour had me reading something a little out of my comfort zone, yet I was equally keen to try it! Thank you to the author and to Rachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part and try something new!
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?
Reading Justice Gone was a new experience for me. It’s rare that I read anything with a military undertone – if I do, it’s historical (WW2 etc). The lives of war veteran’s after they have served their country, and the daily difficulties they face, as a result, isn’t really well known.
I found the novel easier to read the further developed the story became. Each character is easy to invest in and as many of the characters have experienced trauma as a result of a military background, I found myself empathising with them so easily. I love how openly PTSD is discussed and that there isn’t a stigma around men expressing their true feelings.
“What makes a person if not their own experiences?”
It’s a poignant quote from the book and it has stuck with me… simply because it’s true! Vets returning from service aren’t given the support needed to integrate themselves back into society and are then punished for acting out in the only way they know.
There is a degree of violence in the book which some readers may not like, but I personally didn’t find it off-putting. If anything, experiencing these moments with the characters drives home the feelings of injustice even more.
I was mainly drawn to the book for the promise of a legal thriller – and I was not disappointed! Donald Darfield stands accused murdering three police officers, who days before had beaten his friend and sergeant to death. Reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel tackles the challenges and failings of the justice system, as well as racial and socioeconomic bias in society.
N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.