Tag: Book Review

Blog Tour: The Barefoot Road – Vivienne Vermes

The Barefoot Road reeled me in with its promise of mystery, tension and a difficult history for residents to stomach… and I can assure you I was not disappointed!

 

Goodreads – The Barefoot Road

Purchase Link – Amazon

Vivienne Vermes’ debut novel is a gripping read which will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, thrillers and evocative themes. The book begins with a young woman found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When it is discovered that she is of an ethnic group which was violently driven out of the regions many years before, old wounds are reopened as the villagers are reminded of their role in the bloodshed.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with the girl, and tension begin to rise within the community. The mysterious disappearance of a child causes this tension to mount into hysteria, driving the story to its chilling outcome.

 

My Thoughts…

I love books that tackle difficult themes. A number of my favourite books hold that accolade for precisely that reason; To Kill a Mockingbird and The Green Mile are but two examples.

The historical context of The Barefoot Road is clear straight away. In the first chapter, we re-live the persecution and slaughter of a community. When a young woman from that community is brought into the village, mistrust broods. As soon as anything untoward happens the blame falls at her feet; the villagers are quickly roused into seeing her account for her actions.

One constructive point I would like to make is that sometimes the narrative comes across a little stiff when referring to main characters by “first name” “last name”.  As a significant character, addressing Ioan Trifoi in this way (more often than not) distances him from the reader. It makes the narrative feel a little less personal and Ioan harder to identify with. He does grow on you as the tale progresses. Dropping the formal address could speed this up, in my opinion.

I’m glad that The Barefoot Road portrays society in its darkest moments, and how individuals can get swept up into a crowd for not agreeing with the majority. It is a common thing… but this kind of behaviour can have real, nasty consequences. Naturally, this is not a side to humanity we want to acknowledge or recognise. Yet, it happens…and we should recognise it in order to do something about it.

 

Conclusion

The tension that builds as the narrative progresses feels very real. As a reader, you cannot help but delve into the book further to watch events pan out. Themes of religion and witchcraft (and the weight characters lend to their importance) go a long way to setting the book. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I really enjoyed this aspect. The underlying motives, agendas and pre-existing relationships of various villagers within the town adds to the tension and conflict nicely.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris.

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.  Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/VivienneVermes?lang=en

 

Audiobook Review: Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

I feel like this review is a little overdue, just because Nevernight took so long to listen to.

It’s no fault of the audiobook at all – I loved it (and I’ll go into more detail on that below). I haven’t been able to listen to it as quickly as I would like though. Typically I listen to audiobooks in the morning, whilst getting ready for work. Lately, I’ve been finding it difficult to wake up and get out of bed. As a result of being tired, I can’t concentrate, so I didn’t want to start listening to Nevernight and find myself lost.

Anyway, less self-pity and more of the review!

 Nevernight

Goodreads – Nevernight

Synopsis…

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

 

My Thoughts…

I really enjoyed listening to this as an audiobook because the narrative is easy to follow. Holter Graham does a fantastic job of bringing each character to life in his own style. The text is itself written as a narration, and the “narrator” is incredibly sassy. No one is safe against a witty remark or sharp retort. There is as much friendship in storytelling as there is training to become an assassin, apparently. I love it!

Naturally with fantasy books, there is the need to impart information about how the realm differs from others. I have to say, this is written exceptionally well; there is never too much information put upon you at any one time. There are gentle reminders to certain facts to refresh the reader’s memory, rather than outright telling us again and treating us like idiots.

The plot itself unfolds in an unexpected way. An environment full of assassins is hardly going to be safe and predictable. Jay Kristoff has developed each of his characters so well, however, that anything can happen. And I mean anything. That can also include some… steamy things. Things that I shouldn’t want to listen to at 7am in the morning. But I kinda did? It wasn’t too alienating; otherwise, I wouldn’t like it AT ALL! It was okay though. I don’t think it contributed a whole lot to the storyline, but you can’t help but want the two characters to reach out to each other.

The magic in the book is desirably dark. Mia thrives in the shadows, and the amount of distrust for her kind adds a new depth to the mystery of those known as Darken. Just when you think you have seen Mia at her most powerful, cunning and daring, she will surprise you yet again.

 

Conclusion…

All these things make a great combination within dark fantasy. It is deadly, gruesome, brutal and backstabbing, and as a result I loved every second of it. I cannot wait to listen to Godsgrave.

 

Blog Tour: Ravencry – Ed McDonald Review

Today I am incredibly lucky, as I get to share my review of Ravencry for the ongoing Blog Tour. Firstly, a huge thank you to Stevie, Gollancz and of course Ed McDonald himself for all the hard work!

 

Ravencry

Goodreads – Ravencry

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Synopsis

Four years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plots against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.

RAVENCRY is the second book in the Raven’s Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award winning epic fantasy BLACKWING.

 

About the Series

Blackwing, the first book of the series, is one of the best debut novels I have read to date.

The Raven’s Mark is an Epic Fantasy series set in a magical, semi-postapocalyptic world. Magic has destroyed the landscape now known as the Misery.  Vicious monsters roam that poisoned land, scoured by the Nameless identified only as Crowfoot. Anyone roaming the Misery can fall victim to any of the creatures that lurk there.

Ryhalt is Blackwing and bound to serve Crowfoot. In between he takes mercenary jobs, chasing deserters and preventing them from crossing the Misery to convert to the Deep Kings. It is a long war, but Ryhalt soon finds his involvement is about to get a lot deeper.

Events in Ravencry take place four years after Blackwing. Whereas Ryhalt isn’t a particularly changed man, Valengrad has moved on from the events of the first book. The devastation is still evident though. The Bright Lady, who first appeared at the pinnacle of disaster is making appearances again. A new religion is founded under her visage and the preachers proclaim her return to save them in their darkest hours…

 

My Thoughts…

One of the things I really enjoyed about Ravencry is that the narrative isn’t identical to Blackwing. Having read Blackwing only a couple of weeks prior, it was clear that events were progressing. The setting and characters are familiar, but what has transpired before has changed them. Ryhalt’s cynical perspective on life is as humorous as ever, although in this book we get to see a slightly less hard-faced side to his personality. Shaped by the experiences of his past, we get to see the man he could have been… if the Nameless and Deep Kings hadn’t intervened with their war, that is.

I have always been a fan of magic with roots in scientific realism. Brandon Sanderson is particularly good for this, basing his magic on alchemy (Mistborn series) or around light (Stormlight Archives). In this series, magic centres around the filtering of light. The ability to wield magic isn’t granted to everybody, thankfully. Light spinners manipulate the light from the moon into stored energy. There are larger and darker powers too, more vast than we can imagine – known only to the Nameless and Deep Kings. Personally, I enjoy magic systems this way as it brings that world just one step closer to reality.

There is plenty of world-building throughout these books; Ed McDonald reveals the backstory gradually as the narrative continues to grow and evolve. With such a rich history, it would be easy to reveal too much too quickly. A lot of Ryhalt’s character is conveyed here, but details are divulged at the right time to compel you to read on.

Ryhalt, (or Captain Galharrow) is the perfect character to lead the narrative; he is inseparably entwined with the magic manipulating the world. Servitude to Crowfoot leads him down dark paths and lends him a depth of experience to draw upon later. Even when Ryhalt reflects on his own life, the narrative is not even for one second dull. He recognizes his flaws, doubts himself, laments his mistakes and lets us into his thoughts uncensored, proving he is as human as we are. None of the characters fall flat on the page.

I would even go so far as to call them friends.

 


 

About the Author

Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes. You can find out more about Ed by visiting his website or following him on Twitter (@EdMcDonaldTFK) and Facebook.

***Profile originally published on Gollancz’s website