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…

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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9/10
Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Reviews / May 9, 2017

The Valiant is a book that I thought sounded intriguing but I let it slip off my radar due to other review commitments. But then after I saw a couple of glowing reviews for it, I realized I had to find time to read it. Turns out I absolutely LOVED this book, yes, it is worth of the all-caps. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic King, and has been training her entire life to be a fighter worthy of joining the war band. We quickly learn that part of what motivated Fallon is that she idolized her sister, who was lost in war, and is determined to become the fierce warrior her sister was. In her tribe, men and women fight side by side. She is head strong and independent, so wants to prove herself as a warrior before thinking of such things as getting married. So pretty much, she is exactly the type of female protagonist that I absolutely love reading about. The day before her seventeenth birthday starts as amazing. She is with Mal, her best friend since childhood, but she is starting to see how their close friendship could evolve into something more. And there is the…

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8/10
Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Reviews / May 5, 2017

It is with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to another one of my favorite series, but I am also glad that at long last I got to see all the ideas come to fruition in this fifth and final novel of Marie Brennan’s wholly unique Memoirs of Lady Trent. After all, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is everything a fan could want in a finale—a book that ends on a high note of hope and happiness while also deftly tying all the overall series themes and plot threads together. Furthermore, I’m sure those who have been along for the ride since A Natural History of Dragons will be glad to know that the details behind Isabella’s most infamous scientific discovery—an event that has been teased for the first four books—will finally be revealed. Without a doubt, the answers were worth waiting for. I guarantee that the revelations in this book will change everything you think you know about this series. The adventure, however, begins rather quietly. While attending a lecture on Draconean linguistics delivered by her husband, Isabella’s attention is unexpectedly pulled away by a Yelangnese stranger with an urgent matter to discuss with her. The man, whose…

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10/10
Review: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Reviews / May 2, 2017

Assassin’s Fate is an emotional roller-coaster of a book that is heartbreaking, bittersweet and absolutely perfect. This book is not just a perfect ending to The Fitz and Fool trilogy, but also to The Realm of the Elderlings series so far. So much so, that my only negative reaction is fear that there may not be another series in this world that Hobb has made me love so much. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely huge potential for more stories to be told there, but for this conclusion, Hobb expertly weaves together threads from all the prior series in to one epic conclusion. For any readers that have previously wondered how disconnected the non-Fitz series are from the Fitz ones, I can say they do all come together in this final book. If you have not read Liveship Traders or Rain Wild Chronicles, I strongly advise you to go read those first as there are characters and references from every series that really just add an extra layer of enjoyment. All of The Realm of the Elderling books are worth reading and I believe you will get more out of this conclusion if you have experienced all of the…

The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories - ed. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (white text smoking on a navy background)
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8/10
Review: The Djinn Falls in Love edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
Reviews / April 24, 2017

When Allah created man out of clay, he created djinn out of fire. Ephemeral spirits that tempt us, trick us, and sometimes grant our wishes, these creatures of folklore take centre stage in excellent Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology, The Djinn Falls in Love. With contributors from all around the world, this collection of short stories is as remarkable for its variety as it is for its quality. Murad & Shurin have given their contributors an open brief, and the results are dazzling. Some (try to) cleave to settings and stories located in times and places traditionally associated with these smoky spirits; others explore what the djinn might become in locations as disparate as modern day Los Angeles to rural Pakistan. One depicts a future where roles are reversed, in which now-corporeal djinni struggle to live alongside a crafty humanity always on the look out for a twist of fate in their favour. This is a showcase of authorial skill – delicious prose and well-crafted narratives bending themselves around their chosen theme. Particular favourites for me include a number of authors new to me – one of my many reasons for loving anthologies. I shall certainly be watching out for these names…

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6/10
Review: Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis
Reviews / April 18, 2017

Game of Shadows is a tale of adventure, a coming of age story that focuses on a teenage boy called Ethan Makkai.  The abridged version of this review is that whilst I don’t think this book worked for me personally, I can certainly see the appeal for the target audience.  This is undoubtedly a fun and fast paced read, maybe a little too young for my tastes but still very easy to read and with plenty of imagination. As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Ethan.  He lives in Los Angeles in a cramped apartment with his mother.  We immediately learn that his mother is very protective – a tad over protective really, in fact it becomes apparent that Ethan very rarely has a moment of freedom, he is literally shepherded from A to B and back again and whilst he handles this with a good deal more grace than I would be able to muster he’s beginning to push at the boundaries.  On the morning of his birthday he finally makes a bold dash to escape his mother’s clutches and scarpers off to school by himself whilst her back is turned.  His little moment of liberation however…

Book cover: The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard (a sword planted in the ground before wrought iron gates, against a blood red city skyline)
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9/10
Review: The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Reviews / April 13, 2017

Any book that has me struggling not to squeak on public transport and then has me nearly miss my bus stop is going to get a big thumbs-up. I loved Aliette de Bodard’s blasted, magic-torn Paris in The House of Shattered Wings and I delighted in the chance to return to it and peer into one of the darker Fallen Houses. This makes it sound vaguely like there’s any such thing as a light Fallen House. There isn’t, which is the first reason I love this world: without being grimdark, it has little time for our petty human morality. However, House Hawthorn was firmly established as the home of villains in the first book: now they are the protagonists, but still shown through mistrustful eyes. Alchemist Madeleine was a loyal Hawthorn dependent until Asmodeus seized power, slaughtering the previous Head and his allies. Madeleine barely escaped with her life, seeking refuge in House Silverspires – until her addiction to angel essence got her banished. Now she is back in Hawthorn, where it’s made clear that she must give up angel essence (nobody can give up angel essence) or die. The knowledge that Asmodeus will get to choose the manner of her dying keeps her alive. Fear, perhaps predictably, is a driving force throughout The House of…

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10/10
Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Reviews / April 4, 2017

It may have taken a few months, but I am finally ready to hand out my first 5 star rating for 2017. And as much as I loved the Unhewn Throne trilogy, Skullsworn has taken seat for my favorite of Staveley’s book. One thing Staveley did well in Unhewn Throne was create fascinating secondary characters that you wish had more page time, and even without knowing everything about them, you just love them. Well, Staveley has now proven he can take one of those intriguing secondary characters and create a very rich and full story that makes you understand and appreciate the character on a whole other level. Pyrre stood out in Unhewn Throne as one of those intriguing secondary characters that really added to my enjoyment of the series. This book is the story of her trial to become a priestess of Ananshael, the God of Death and really gives us an amazing background on her to understand how she became the character we met earlier. One would expect her trial to be full of death (which, it was), but it is love, not death, that really takes the spotlight. To complete her trial, Pyrre must take the life of…

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10/10
Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Reviews / March 29, 2017

Red Sister is the first book in the third series written by Mark Lawrence and I’ll start by saying it gets off to an excellent start. I’ll give a brief overview of the plot.  We make the acquaintance of Nona at the start of the story.  She’s about to be fitted for a hangman’s noose for attempting to murder the son of a rather prominent member of society.  Unsurprisingly, and not a spoiler to say, she never makes her final fitting – that would have been a very short book would it not! Before her execution can be carried out she finds herself rescued, or more succinctly put, stolen away by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.  Not yet ten years old Nona is different.  The people of her village knew this, and mostly avoided her, until that cruel day on which she was given away to a child collector to be sold in the City.  Abbess Glass recognises this difference and believes that rather than making Nona something to fear it makes her something special. From them on we spend time with Nona as she is initiated into the school and undertakes a number of trials and tribulations,…