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7/10
Review: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Reviews / June 8, 2017

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s new novella is an odd beast. Take our universe and turn it a few degrees to strange and this is the world of Agents of Dreamland. It begins with a meeting between two people who are apparently government agents, takes a journey into the mindset of cult members and reaches out into space as a NASA probe falls silent beyond the orbit of Pluto. Kiernan is best known for her lyrical dark fantasy and extraordinarily weird short stories. This novella is somewhere in-between. We begin with the Signalman, a special agent getting off a train in the blistering heat of a 2015 Arizona. He is to meet Immacolata who has information for him. Something strange happened and they need to work out what. She writes as if this is hard-boiled noir. Meanwhile, a typically charismatic-type has founded the Children of the Next Level. This is where we meet Chloe. She is an lost, standing on the roof and reaching for the stars. This particular cult offers transcendence into a better future. This short story alternates in styles between the points of views of the Signalman, Immacolata and Chloe. These are highly descriptive and enigmatic chapters. There are…

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6/10
Review: Damnation by Peter McLean
Reviews / June 7, 2017

Damnation is the third instalment in the Burned Man series and picks up about six months after the conclusion of events in Dominion where the main protagonist found himself employed by a Goddess with vengeance on her mind.  For the record this being the third in series the review below will undoubtedly contain spoilers so please bear this in mind before reading further. I will start out by saying that Damnation is not my favourite of the series so far, but, that being said I am invested in the story and will definitely continue.  For me, this book had two main issues that prevented me from loving it – firstly, it did nothing to endear me further to the main character, Drake, and secondly, it felt very much like a ‘filler’ or set up book for the next in series. As mentioned, we start 6 months after Dominion where we learn of Don’s rapid decline since he departed London to try and track his former girlfriend Debbie. Unfortunately the search goes very poorly and nobody is inclined to help Don.  Why would they after all?  Debbie is a very talented alchemist who doesn’t want to be found by her cheating former boyfriend s0 there’s no reason for…

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8/10
Review: The End of the Day by Claire North
Reviews / May 31, 2017

Claire North writes high concept fantastical thrillers and her latest The End of the Day is no different. This is a story about death. And Death. And the Harbinger of Death. For it is he, the latter, we follow on this adventure. Charlie is the latest Harbinger and this is his understanding of life and death and the world. In North’s universe, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are very real, as are their Harbingers. People know and accept this. When Charlie introduces himself to the characters he meets, they ask him what the job’s like, in a very matter of fact way in some cases. People know but not all understand. We pick the story up not long after Charlie has been trained by the previous Harbinger. The whole operation is run out of an office in Milton Keynes – a functional town perfect for this kind of administration. Charlie, as he tells people throughout the novel, is sent before Death, sometimes as a warning, sometimes a courtesy. He visits an old woman who is the last to speak her language. He has a gift for her. He is then sent to find a professor on the Greenland ice…

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8/10
Review: The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger
Reviews / May 30, 2017

The Empire’s Ghost is epic on many levels. The massive empire of Elesthene is now history, fractured into separate lands. Magic has become fable, thought to be rooted in superstition rather than historical fact. The story gives viewpoints from several rulers, all with their own agendas and ruling styles. You also get the view point of many citizens and soldiers as well. It gives a sweeping view of what life is like across the board, giving the reader insights into the life and happenings for commoners as well as intrigue from within the palace. Though the perspectives are all unique, they become intricately intertwined as the story progresses. Through perspectives on the struggles between adjacent lands that used to be part of the Empire, we meet the rulers of all three and three and see the contrasting styles of rule. We see hints of magic, enough for speculation. The story can be dark at times, but this is not a brutal and gritty story. It is epic with ups and downs, and definitely death and blood. It’s not a happy feel good story that glosses over battles, but it is not terribly graphic either (at least not by my standards). Now, one…

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9/10
Review: The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
Reviews / May 29, 2017

Well, the question of whether M.R. Carey could catch lightning in a bottle twice has been answered. Not that I had doubted it much, but while The Girl with All the Gifts was met with much acclaim, I’d made sure to temper my expectations for its follow-up companion novel in the months up to its release. Given the infuriatingly vague publisher description, and with the newness of the whole idea, there were just way too many unknowns. Thankfully, The Boy on the Bridge came through with flying colors. It might not have been quite as fresh as the original, simply because we know so much more about the world now, but the book still had plenty of surprises in store. Here’s what I can tell you: The Boy on the Bridge is something of a prequel to The Girl with All the Gifts but it can be read as a standalone (though I still highly recommend reading the books in their publication order). The world has been ravaged by the Cordyceps plague, turning much of its population into “Hungries” — effectively just another term for the walking dead. And yet, humanity still has hope that it will find a cure,…

Book cover: Rotherweird - Andrew Caldecott (an old-fashioned illustrated map of a town in the bend of the River Rother)
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7/10
Review: Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
Reviews / May 25, 2017

When inexperienced Jonah Oblong is hired to teach history at Rotherweird School, the rules are clearly laid down: nothing before 1800 and nothing local. Rotherweird doesn’t welcome outsiders and is perfectly happy in its ignorance: history is something that happened to other people. Yet the Regulations stipulate the School must not go without a history teacher for more than a term – and there can hardly be a home-grown one, all things considered – so the gangly newcomer settles in to fight for acceptance. But when Jonah is told that his predecessor disappeared after inciting Form IV to dig up the past, he is tempted to investigate in spite of the Regulations. And Jonah isn’t alone: Sir Veronal Slickstone, new owner of Rotherweird Manor – and another outsider, a local scandal in its own right, however much money he has to throw around – intends to turn all the town’s Regulations upside down. And God help those who get in his way. Rotherweird lives up to its name: a quirky portal fantasy peppered with singular names (‘Vixen’ Valourhand; Sidney Snorkel; Hayman Salt), meaningful geography (Aether Way; Lost Acre, Escutcheon Place) and a plethora of specific, often hilarious local ordinances. It has the feel of a tongue-in-cheek English rural satire, all mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. It’s…

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10/10
Review: The White Road by Sarah Lotz
Reviews / May 17, 2017

The White Road will creep under your skin, fill your mind with all the ghastly things and make you leery of participating in activities like, oh, let’s say caving or mountain climbing. I was totally going to go climb Everest next year, really!  Never mind that I have a bum knee, a bum ankle, and maybe I’m scared of heights and also am a wimp, maybe I could have considered it anyway. But nope. Not now. None of my more rational reasons for never climbing Everest are nearly as convincing as reading this book. My knee may hurt, but it doesn’t haunt me night and day and give me the creeps. Maybe this is fiction, maybe there really aren’t haunted caves or mountains, either way, I am very content staying planted on the ground (not beneath or above) letting other people figure that out. I will bask in the experience vividly given to me via Lotz’s book. Kind of like how I felt about cruises after reading Day Four. Lotz has cemented herself as one of my favorite horror authors with this book. The characters are real and fascinating. The book is just downright creepy! I love it! The dark sense…

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7/10
Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden
Reviews / May 15, 2017

Adam and Meryam are a newly engaged couple from very different backgrounds, but they have always bonded over their love of adventure. In recent years, they have even achieved moderate fame for their series of videos taken from their travels around the world. Now they are eyeing their next great challenge, an expedition to climb Turkey’s Mount Ararat after an avalanche has reportedly revealed a massive cave up high in the side of the mountain. Wasting no time, Adam and Meryam call upon an old friend to be their mountaineering guide, and together they begin a harrowing race up Ararat in order to be the first ones to discover its secrets. However, what they end up finding in the cavern goes even beyond their wildest dreams. Within its depths, the couple discover the remains of a large ancient ship, which immediately raises the question: could this be Noah’s Ark, the great vessel that weathered the Biblical flood in the Book of Genesis? To answer this question, a full team is quickly assembled to excavate and study the find, with Meryam at its head as project manager. Included among the scientists and other experts is also a documentary crew, which is…

Spellslinger - Sebastien de Castell
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9/10
Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / May 11, 2017

Kellen is 15, the astonishingly untalented son of the Jan’Tep’s greatest mage. Struggling to cast even the simplest spells, he’s the butt of jokes and school yard bullying. Worse, if he can’t pass his mage trials before he turns 16, he’ll be relegated to the Sha’Tep servant class – reliant on his obnoxious little sister’s charity if he’s lucky, sent down the mines if he’s not. Kellen is bright and resourceful, never one to back away from a fight he can’t win if he believes he can think his way through it. When a nice bit of trickery – or cheating, depending on your point of view – sees him through his first trial, the stage is set for Trouble. It’s not a good time for an unpopular outsider to befriend a confrontational foreigner with some unusual tricks of her own. But common sense is almost as alien as magic to headstrong young Kellen… I was a bit sceptical about how much I would enjoy a book with a teen boy protagonist. I needn’t have worried – Spellslinger is a riot from start to finish. The narrative has considerably more confidence and control than its protagonist; de Castell never misses…

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6/10
Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller
Reviews / May 10, 2017

I’m definitely partial to reading fantasy in all it’s glory and I particularly enjoy finding a new urban fantasy to sink my teeth into so obviously I was only too happy to grab a copy of Borrowed Souls.  I would say from the outset that this didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped.  I’d like to think that’s just ‘first book in series’ syndrome but as this currently stands I had a few issues that stopped me falling in love.  In fairness, I think most new series struggle a little bit, they’re trying to introduce a new world, new characters and usually some form of new concept and Borrowed Souls is no different in that respect.  Anyway, to the review. The premise here is that, as the title clearly states, souls can be borrowed.  Why would people want to rent somebody else’s soul, put bluntly, to avoid staining their own when they partake in dodgy dealings or other such undertakings.  As you can imagine therefore the hiring out of souls has become a very lucrative business. As the book starts we meet Callie Delgado.  Callie works hard for a living and to stand on her own two feet, but…