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Book Review: The Watcher of Dead Time – Edward Cox

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.

Quite an impression, wouldn’t you agree?

If you haven’t read my reviews of The Relic Guild or The Cathedral of Known Things, please take a minute to check these out!

 

The Watcher of Dead Time

Goodreads – The Watcher of Dead Time

 

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.

 

My Thoughts…

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.

What’s next…

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!

 

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Sunday Summary

Book Review: Mythos – Stephen Fry

Hello everyone! I hope you have had a lovely week and are looking forward to the bank holiday weekend! I sure am!

Firstly, I’d like to express a quick apology for not posting my promised Top Ten Tuesday post this week. It turns out trying to choose your top ten characters in A Game of Thrones is quite hard! By Tuesday evening I had picked my candidates but only written up about half of them. I didn’t feel rushing the post was in my best interests. Anyway, I’ll talk more about it in my wrap up on Sunday.

For today, I’ll be reviewing a book I borrowed from my library in February… a book that also happens to be the first in my challenge to read more non-fiction. I was compelled to pick this up for two reasons. Firstly, reading The Road to Alexander in January piqued my interest in the subject since Greek mythology comes up in that quite a lot – particularly the tale of Persephone comes up a lot. I chose Stephen Fry’s re-telling because I have enjoyed another book of his previously. Back in September 2017 I read his book, Making History. It’s a fictional tale exploring the history of World War II and the consequences of Adolf Hitler not being born. Knowing that I enjoy his writing style, Mythos felt like a natural choice to take my first real steps into Greek Mythology with.

 

Mythos – Stephen Fry

Goodreads – Mythos

The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney.

They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.

You’ll fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis.

Thoroughly spellbinding, informative and moving, Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures these stories for the modern age – in all their rich and deeply human relevance.

 

My Thoughts…

If you were to studiously explore Greek Mythology… you would be busy for quite a while purely because there are so many Gods/Goddesses. Some are names we know already – Apollo, Hermes, Aphrodite. There are many, many… many others. Although the book covers vast a number of stories about the different Gods and their interactions with each other, the book isn’t overwhelming.

Mythos’s narrative is written in an almost chronological manner, beginning with the Gods and Goddesses referred to as Olympians before moving on to their children… so on and so forth. Each tale is broken up into its own section, making it as digestible as possible. The subject matter, should you want to study it closely, can get complicated quite quickly. More than once I referred to infographics to follow the heredity.

The tales within Mythos could easily be read for entertainment or for educational purposes. Obviously, I have read it for entertainment and did so within a matter of days. I quite enjoyed the footnotes that accompanied the tales. They drop in context where appropriate and additional facts such as the names of the Roman God/Goddess equivalents. There are even some of Stephen Fry’s wittier comments for an element of humour.

The book is a great introduction to the topic. I knew relatively little about it and I’d recommend it to anyone else wanting to read up on the subject. You can read and take away as much or as little as you want. Stephen Fry’s humour and natural narrative voice make it easy to lose yourself in the heroics and follies of the Gods. So much so that you realise you are still awake and reading past your bedtime.

Not that I would do such a thing as that…

Obviously…

 

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Throwback Thursday Review: The Rag Nymph – Catherine Cookson

In today’s Throwback Thursday review post, I am going to be discussing a book that I have actually read twice before I began my blog.

I wouldn’t say I have much in common with my mum’s reading preferences, but, there is the odd book we have in common. I’ll only read anything my mum has read if there’s a good degree of humour in it. The Rag Nymph certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect!

 

The Rag Nymph

Goodreads – The Rag Nymph

In the heat of a late June afternoon in 1854, abandoned by a panic-stricken mother in an all-too-obvious flight from the law, Millie Forester bursts into Aggie Winkowski’s life like a bolt from the blue. Aggie, who was known locally as ‘Raggie Aggie’ for her long-established business of trading in rags and old clothes, knew well enough the dangers waiting for such a strikingly pretty girl left alone in this rough and vice-ridden quarter. She could see no alternative other than to take her in.

But what began as compassionate expediency led to a new relationship that would grow and deepen, moulding Millie’s destiny and giving new meaning to the life of Aggie Winkowski.

Millie Forester’s advance through the coming years to the threshold of womanhood is the core of The Rag Nymph, as gripping and socially concerned an historical novel as Catherine Cookson has ever written. Her superb skills of narrative and characterization provide a spectrum of the good and evil of the Victorian era, frankly confronting the terrible menace of child corruption, which remains a constant issue in our time now as it was then.

 

My Thoughts…

I think my enjoyment of this book stems from the Yorkshire heritage in my family. Raggie Aggie is so much like my mum, and her mum too, that standing in Millie’s shoes felt somewhat familiar. Aggie’s no-nonsense attitude is something I grew up with. The commonality was endearing. As hard-faced as Aggie can be (a product of growing up and scraping a living in difficult times), she is also a remarkably caring woman. She treats Millie as if she is her own and will protect her fiercely.

Millie, a pretty young girl and then woman finds herself attracting unwanted attention. Millie’s birth mother had fallen into the wrong hands and Aggie is determined that the same doesn’t happen to Millie. To this end, the content of the book isn’t all light humour. There is depravity and death, and folk with less-than-honest intentions.

I loved this book when I first read it years ago and I enjoyed it just as much second time around. The setting, the characters and the writing style are utterly brilliant. The book is from a genre I really enjoy reading and I don’t doubt that I’ll pick this up again in the future!

 

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Book Review: A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

At a time when A Game of Thrones is a hot topic, I really want to keep the fervour going because it is SO WELL DESERVED! As some of you may know, I have been re-reading the books since around December last year. My reading schedule meant that I couldn’t fit the whole series in before the TV show, but never mind! It doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of it at all! Are you reading the books or watching the last season?

Today, I’m reviewing my recent re-read of A Clash of Kings.

 

A Clash of Kings

Goodreads – A Clash of Kings

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who hold sway over an age of enforced peace are dead, victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

Here is the second volume in George R.R. Martin magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R.R. Martin stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

 

My Thoughts…

Where book one of the Song of Ice and Fire series sets the scene for a long haul conflict that spans the remainder of the series, A Clash of Kings is the true beginning of the conflict. A Clash of Kings introduces a number of new characters (and dragons) to the game, including new chapters from the perspectives of Davos and Theon. The growing war over the true heir to the Iron Throne drives great change into the lives of many. Every character has a unique storyline.

It isn’t something I noticed until I went back to the beginning, but the complexity and sophistication of the character relationships and narrative develops gradually throughout the books. It was only making the jump back from A Dance with Dragons to the beginning again that I noticed how simple things were in the early days… by comparison anyway.

Even though the complexity increases, never have I found each character arc difficult to follow. Each character perspective is re-visited frequently enough that we don’t forget where they are and what they are up to. Geographically, the narrative is far more diverse than A Game of Thrones. However, as we are building on a sturdy foundation of geography, history and lore already established, the progression feels natural, not confusing.

I can talk about the love of my series all I like; in the grand scheme of things, my review is unlikely to make a difference about whether someone picks up the series or not. Arguably the TV series has been the greatest influence on book sales, with 8 million copies of A Game of Thrones being sold following the airing of the first season (source: Forbes). It’s a topic that a lot of people are talking about right now, and as a lover of the books and the TV show, jointly and severally, I am proud to be a part of the community.

 

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Book Review: Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares – Shaun Hume

***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…

 

Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares

 

Goodreads – Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares

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!

 

My Thoughts…

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.

 

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Blog Tour Review: Justice Gone – N. Lombardi Jr

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!

 

Justice Gone

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?

Purchase Links: –   Amazon UK     Amazon US     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Waterstones     Kobo

 

My Thoughts…

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.

 

 

Author Bio

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.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Social Media Links –

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6982373.N_Lombardi_Jr_

http://www.author-n-lombardi-jr.com/

Blog Tour Review: Trust Me – K. J. McGillick

After reading Facing a Twisted Judgment and Karma Never Loses an Address, I knew K. J. McGillick was an author I was going to be keeping my eyes out for. When I received an email from Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources advertising this new tour, I signed up straight away!

 

Trust Me

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.

Any straw.

Is anyone innocent? Is anyone safe?

 

Purchase Links:     Amazon UK     Amazon US

 

My Thoughts…

Mary and her ever-expanding legal team are back and taking on more cases. The path to justice never runs smoothly though. Trust Me is fraught with danger, plot twists and amoral clients – Mary and her team of attorneys really have their work cut out for them! Poppy and Mr Martin are the firm’s newest recruits. They join Dahlia, Tallulah and Eloise in a myriad of complex legal cases – from criminal defence to probate matters.

Although not as closely linked as the previous books I have read by K. J. McGillick, there are a number of overlapping characters in Trust Me that make for friendly faces. Don’t let Mary’s innocent old lady act fool you – she’s one senior citizen I wouldn’t like to cross! She also has an eye for bright-spark attorneys. They are all fantastic at their jobs both inside and outside of the courtroom and it’s great to see them have the odd moral-dilemma of representing someone they don’t believe. It reminds us that they are human too.

Each of these books is cleverly written so as to explain enough about the legal elements of each case, but in a way that is believable in context and approachable to the reader. Wading through legal jargon isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I feel the author has been successfully mindful to balance the narrative. The author’s experience in the profession really shines through!

The drama unfolds at a pace that is both easy to follow and to read, even in quite long sittings (without necessarily realising it!). It keeps you pining for that next chapter and wondering what will happen next, even when it isn’t in your hand. Trust Me.

Thank you to the author and to Rachel for the opportunity to read another thoroughly enjoyable crime fiction novel! I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we have seen of the team and can’t wait to find out what trouble lands on their doorstep next!

 

Author Bio

K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right? A Registered Nurse, a lawyer now author.

As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing, she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/KJMcGillickauthor/

Kathleen McGillick

@KJMcGillickAuth

http://www.kjmcgillick.com/

https://twitter.com/KJMcGillickAuth

 

 

Author Interview: Mark Stay

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.

Website: https://markstaywrites.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/markstay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markstaywriter/

 

Throwback Thursday Mini-Review: The Darkness That Comes Before – R. Scott Bakker

If I don’t enjoy reading a book I generally won’t talk about it on my blog. I’m not adhering to that rule today though. I have briefly mentioned this book, and why I didn’t get on with it, in a few of my previous posts. I feel that a throwback review is a perfect time to elaborate and talk a little about why.

Whether it is “okay” to post negative reviews is a common topic of conversation in blogging circles. Ultimately, I think it comes down to personal preference and the circumstances in which you read a book. Obviously, if you are reading a book on request or for a blog tour and you don’t enjoy it, it can get pretty awkward. I know friends because I have been there. A word to the wise – ask to change your blog post if you can. It saves a lot of trouble in the long run…

I don’t mind talking about why The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker isn’t for me, as it is a book I picked up and read of my own volition. There are two ways to go about a “negative review” – first, you can say “To hell, my blog means my rules! I’ll say what I like!” That’s totally fine. You’re right. Why should you not say what you truly feel about something? So long as it isn’t offensive, that is.

I’m not really like that though. As I said, usually I don’t even bother talking about books I don’t like. Instead of saying that a book is bad, horribly written, or has boring characters, you can take a softer approach and explain why it wasn’t for you.

 

The Darkness That Comes Before

Goodreads – The Darkness That Comes Before

The first book in R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series creates a world from whole cloth-its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals. It’s a world scarred by an apocalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anasûrimbor Kellhus – part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence – from lands long thought dead. The Darkness That Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion.

 

My Thoughts…

I think it fair to mention that whilst I don’t really rate this book, for reasons I’ll explain below, I did stick with reading it to the end. The largest factor in deciding whether I will read a book is the writing style or narrative voice. It was a perfectly readable book. The narrative wasn’t difficult to read as far as I remember.

Although I did manage to stick with reading The Darkness that Comes Before, I am certain that I won’t be continuing the series. When I picked it up, I didn’t expect the book to be so philosophical. The world development and discussion of the nations, countries, races and religion involved was very high-minded; very descriptive, but at the same time almost snobbish in its approach (sorry, but that’s how I feel). For that, it felt distant. When I like to delve into epic fantasy I like to feel involved with the characters and their plight. I’m no stranger to the genre; I have been reading it for years. Complicated plot lines only work if the reader can relate to each of the characters and their own character arcs.

In contrast, I had no means to be able to relate to the characters in this book. I recall one was a prostitute, but as to their names, I honestly couldn’t even guess. The best way I can describe my experience of the book is that it felt like I was watching a game of chess. The pieces have their roles and rules of moving around the board, but they lack any kind of personality or identity. All that you can do is watch the match play out to its conclusion. And I did. I won’t be staying for the second round though.

Having read other reviews, it seems to be quite hit and miss. Opinions are either at one polar end or the other. I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy this really. I like history, (of which there is a lot built in), descriptive worldbuilding and epic fantasy. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Blog Tour: Book Review and Giveaway – Psychotopia by R. N. Morris

 

 

Good morning everyone! Today brings my second blog tour post of the month and I am pleased to feature Psychotopia by R. N. Morris. The tour has been organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources; I’ve been provided with a copy of the e-book for the purposes of giving an honest review. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, but first, here is a little about the book: –

 

Psychotopia

Goodreads – Psychotopia

Purchase Link – Amazon UK

A game for the times we live – and die – in. Enter Psychotopia, a dark new dystopian novel from the author of the acclaimed Silas Quinn mysteries.

PSYCHOTOPIA, LEVEL ONE. Create your own boutique psychopath, then deceive, manipulate and be ruthless, spreading mayhem and destruction to reach the next levels.

It’s the computer game for our times. After all, the amount of crazy in the world is increasing. Senseless violence on the streets is becoming the norm. Can Dr Arbus’s ground-breaking device identify and neutralize psychopaths before it’s too late? In this increasingly dysfunctional world, surely Callum standing by Aimee after her devastating encounter with Charlie is proof that real love and goodness can still win in a world that’s increasingly rotten . . . Or can it?

 

My Thoughts…

Psychotopia is a work of speculative fiction in which society is filled with psychopaths. The narrative follows select individuals, some psychopathic and some not. Through their lives, we experience the indefinite change in society from our own and consider the consequences.

The perspective that has the most influence on my interpretation of the book is the police officer, Rick. His contributions to the book are primarily retrospective to the main storyline. As he also opens and closes the book with his thoughts on all that has happened. Consequently, the story feels less like the action-packed novel the synopsis indicates it will be and rather more philosophical. It’s not a criticism because I still enjoyed the book and the overall story. It is just told a little differently!

One of the philosophical elements I drew from the book is the influence of games on people’s minds. Can one person’s vision become media that alters another’s perspective? There are numerous debates about possible links between video games and violence. Nothing has been proven though. When a creeper blew up my ground-level spider spawner, I was pretty damn bitter. It was only 50 or so blocks away from base as well! I didn’t get violent as a result though. I have to think Minecraft isn’t quite in the league of Psychotopia, for my own sanity’s sake…

Still, having access to viewing and instigating negative behaviour in games may alter perspective over time. It’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” argument really, but I think about stuff like that. I’m an excellent debater… (at least in my own head).

Unusually, I found that chapters with different characters are written in different persons. I thought it an inconsistency at first, but it is done quite deliberately. I also enjoyed the nuance of chapters about the game development being issued as ‘circulars’. It serves well to break up the narrative and add some informal, conversational (and twisted) ideas into play.

 

Author Bio –

R. N. Morris is the author of ten novels. The latest is PSYCHOTOPIA, published 31 October, 2018.

A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award (as the CWA Gold Dagger was briefly known). A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger.

The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin HouseThe Dark Palace and The Red Hand of Fury. The next novel in the series, The White Feather Killer, will be published in April 2019.

Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris.

He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @rnmorris

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Psychotopia-298585774308801/

Website: rogernmorris.co.uk

 

Giveaway – Win 1 x Signed Hardback Copy of Pyschotopia (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494205/