Review: A Time Of Dread by John Gwynne
Reviews , Upcoming Releases / January 17, 2018

A few days ago I finished A Time of Dread by John Gwynne, and I loved it so much that it made my ‘best of’ list for 2017.  This is an author whose previous series, The Faithful and the Fallen, enjoys glowing reviews and yet for some reason I’ve never got round to reading them.  I genuinely don’t know why that is and having now read A Time of Dread my only dilemma is whether I now go back and start with Malice?  Anyway, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition so lets get on with a review and a bit of waxing lyrical about why you need this book in your life. The long and the short of it – this book is epic – it has depth to the characters, it has scope to the story and it has meat on the bones in terms of world building.  I admit I hesitate to use the word epic – I don’t know why but it feels overused somehow and even dated in these days of grimdark so I’ll just say that this is a damn fine book.  The characters are amazing and the tension that Gwynne creates positively grows into a…

Review: Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
Reviews / November 22, 2017

Weave a Circle round was a lot of fun, a slightly crazy coming of age style story involving a dysfunctional family, a couple of very unusual characters, an house where anything is possible and time travel.  Picture, if you will, the Royal Tenenbaums meets The Book of Lost Things and then throw in portals, time travel and a bunch of oddness. Freddy is definitely an anxious teenager.  She spends the majority of her time trying to keep a low profile which isn’t always easy given she has a younger sister who thinks she’s a master detective and a deaf step brother who she doesn’t get along with  who seems to hang out with a bunch of geeky kids – doubtless just to make her life even more difficult.  For Freddy, attending school is like walking over the abyss, on a tightrope whilst carrying a wriggling elephant on your shoulders.  Every day feels like the day she will finally come unstuck and plummet into the abyss with all the ensuing harsh spotlight, attention and bullying that are a natural result of losing your place in the stream of anonymity.  Basically, Freddy wants nothing more than to remain unnoticed. Enter the scene Cuerva…

Review: Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Reviews / November 15, 2017

Dogs of War is one of those books that turned into a very happy surprise for me.  I requested a copy of this because I’ve read this author before and liked his style of writing and so whilst the theme worried me a little, because I imagined it was going to maybe be a bit more military style than I would normally attempt, I had faith that Tchaikovsky would win me over.  I wasn’t wrong.  Dogs of War is so much more than I expected, in fact after the first few chapters of action and warfare it turns into a different style of drama completely.  This is a thought provoking story that really packs a punch. Rex is a bioform. I’m not going to try and describe all the mechanics of this but basically he’s a genetically modified dog, part human and with heavy duty warfare installed for good measure.  He’s the controlling unit for a Multi-form Assault Pack, an incredible fighting team that includes the characters Dragon, Honey and Bees.  Each of these have their own unique abilities that I won’t dwell on here but take it from me, this is a deadly team of bioforms that you don’t…

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Reviews / July 10, 2017

Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at the cover I’ve chosen.  It’s strangely hypnotic isn’t it, you want to look at it, to make sense of it, just turn it around slightly or turn it upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle and give it a name we understand.  Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of the image on the cover and having read the book I’m still not entirely sure what is being depicted, but, in spite of that, I love the cover, it drew me in and held my attention and more than that is a great representation for this book because I don’t think there is any one fixed image – for me, the point is the image could be anything that your mind comes up with whilst reading this. I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, as I was reading I began to appreciate that it…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Reviews / March 15, 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner is an absolutely gorgeous retelling of Beauty and the Beast that borrows from the Russian folklore of Ivan and the Firebird and in doing so manages to bring something unique to the tale whilst still remaining faithful enough to be the beautiful tale that I love.  I have to confess upfront that I’m a bit of a pushover for fairytale retellings but that doesn’t mean they always win me over and for a book that has received quite as much hype as this particular one I couldn’t help feeling a little bit wary.  In this case there was no need to fear.  This is literally the retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I’ve been waiting for, the writing is evocative, the setting moves from cold and austere to gothic and dilapidated.  The characters are fascinating and the key to the puzzle of the Beast keeps you compelled to the end. At the start of the story Yeva, her sisters and father, live a prosperous life on the edge of town.  Yeva is a lady in waiting, all day she sits listening to idle gossip and trying to conjure up ways to escape the confines of polite society.  Basically,…

Review: In Calabria by Peter S Beagle
Reviews / March 2, 2017

In Calabria is my second book by the author Peter S Beagle, my first being Summerlong.  This book has a different feel in that it’s got an earthy realism to it that was unexpected, especially when picking up a book that is clearly going to feature a unicorn.  It’s quite beautifully written and the fantasy elements are very ‘quiet’ almost like an aside. Anyway, at the start of the story we are introduced to Claudio Bianchi.  Claudio is a forty something year old man living on a remote farm in Southern Italy.  He values his privacy and rarely sees anyone else, other than his animals (which are almost as grumpy as he is) and the postman who regularly visits.  Claudio is definitely becoming fixed in his ways and a little cantankerous.  That is until a unicorn literally arrives on his property one day.  I think if I was living such a solitary life and a unicorn turned up on my property I would probably think I’d gone insane and I think at first there is an element of that in Claudio’s reaction.  That is until he realises that his visitor keeps returning on a regular basis and it seems has…