blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: North – Lucas Ehrenhaus*

After one of the most decisive warring campaigns in European history between Barbarians and Romance, the sheer possibility of a full-scale Roman invasion into Barbarian lands launches a lifelong recruitment process, which drives to the re-discovery of old mighty forces in the long forgotten North.

The most apolocalyptic pan-tribal conflict amongst central and northern European natives will ensue.

Amazon

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting book, complete with historical dates and illustrations, featuring some of the most well known (and some of the lesser known) Norse gods and myths. We think of the Romans as the civilising force of history, bringing culture and hygiene to swathes of the then known world. But those that they forcibly civilised had other opinions, and this tells of one.

The Norsemen were not interested in the Roman way of things, of their religious beliefs and gods, they wanted to be left alone.

Ehrenhaus attempts to simplify Snorri Sturlusson’s work, The Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda (I have read chunks of both and they are not easy), and I think he mostly succeeds, by focusing on the gods and dwarves at the heart of Norse mythology, the great stories that were passed down from campfire to hearth fire.

I found the book a little simplistic at times and they layout of the pages annoying to try and follow, as a lot is imparted in a small space. However I was pleased with this overall. While Greco-Roman mythology is taught in most schools, Norse mythology often seems a bit forgotten, which is a shame as many of us have Anglo-Saxon roots and not knowing the stories of our ancestors seems a shame. Most people think Marvel invented Thor, god of thunder when he really pre-dates comic books by several centuries!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Angel Mage – Garth Nix*

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, a genius at making icons to summon angels, and supremely adept in forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath already knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighbouring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendents. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will become ashes, or they will turn into beastlings. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who fix her interest, for they are the key to her quest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.

The four feel a strange, immediate kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she draws them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates Queen Louisa and her musketeers; King Ferdinand and his guards; Cardinal Duplessis and her pursuivants; and the Refuser Night King Biscaray and his criminal gangs.
All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

 

My thoughts:

I remember when the first Old Kingdom books came out (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorson) and I’ve read some of Nix’s other books over the years, then he went quiet.

And for good reason if this brilliant new book is why, featuring an incredible magic system where people call upon angels to aid them, and a cast of characters whose bravery and friendship help them save the day.

I romped through it in one sitting, completely hooked from page one, the setup and plotting sucked me in completely, immersing me in the world Nix has so carefully crafted.

This book is superbly well written, clever, funny, smart and what you’d expect from a master storyteller, moving from writing for young adults to adult fantasy fiction. While he has said this a standalone text there is scope for another book in the same world, and I think he would be wise to return to it, as I can see a lot of other stories that could be built within this incredibly well created world.

 

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Book Review: The Steel Crow Saga – Paul Krueger*

A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic . . . and her own flesh and blood.

A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption – or his downfall.

A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery – but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.

A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime – and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward – she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.

This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives – and begin to change the world.

My thoughts:

I really liked this, inspired by the author’s own Filipino heritage as well as other South East Asian countries, this creative fantasy novel is the author’s debut and a very accomplished one at that.

The writing is fluid and the plot tight, the characters are fully realised and the world building strong. As each narrative strand begins to interweave and build to the finale the plot becomes more taut and integrates beautifully.

The magic system is unique and clever; soul bonding between a human and animal, a race who can manipulate metals. There are clear magical laws, which when broken can either be extremely dangerous or show a commonality between supposedly disparate peoples.

The relationships between the four main characters are well developed and show the tension between nations being slowly eroded as individuals come together to defeat an enemy that threatens to destroy the fragile peace between them.

I would like to see a second book set in this world – there is the potential for a lot more, both with these characters and with others.

 

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book with no obligation to post, all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Foxfire, Wolfskin & Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women – Sharon Blackie*

Charged with drama and beauty, this memorable collection by a master storyteller weaves a magical world of possibility and power from female myths of physical renewal, creation and change. It is an extraordinary immersion into the bodies and voices, mindscapes and landscapes, of the shape-shifting women of our native folklore. We meet the Water Horse of the Isle of Lewis, the huldra, the Scandinavian supernatural forest-dweller, and Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore (but will she help you or kill you?) Here too is the Snow Queen; the wild bird-woman of the Sliabh Mis Mountains; Blodeuedd, the Welsh ‘flower-faced’ woman.

Drawing on myth and fairy tales found across Europe – from Croatia to Sweden, Ireland to Russia – Sharon Blackie brings to life women’s remarkable ability to transform themselves in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories are about coming to terms with our animal natures, exploring the ways in which we might renegotiate our fractured relationship with the natural world, and uncovering the wildness – and wilderness – within.


Dr Sharon Blackie is a writer, mythologist and psychologist, and an internationally recognised teacher of the mythic imagination. Her bestselling book, If Women Rose Rooted, won a 2016 Nautilus award, and laid out a haunting heroine’s journey for every woman who finds power, inspiration and solace in the natural world. She has an international following through her online communities, and the courses and workshops she offers through ‘The Hedge School’. Her first novel, The Long Delirious Blue, was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘hugely potent’. She lives in Connemara, Ireland.

Website

Illustration from Foxfire…

My thoughts:

As someone who has studied folklore and fairy tales I was thrilled to be asked to review this fascinating volume.

Containing retellings of myths of selkies, huldafolk and faerie, drawn from folk tales hailing from Scandanavia, Western Europe Ireland and the British Isles, Blackie weaves a magical spell, empowering the often silent female characters of these tales; giving them voices and a chance to right the wrongs done to them.

I was familiar with a large number of these tales previous forms but a few were less so, which I think makes the book much more interesting. The blend of strange and familiar, old and new.

Blackie is an accomplished writer and it shows, even in such slight tales as these, the writing is rich and the characters empathetic and powerful.

She draws on the rich tradition of shape shifters in literature, which stretches across oceans, often women whose power is stolen from them along with their true form. By giving them voices she is giving them back their power and they take back their true shapes.

Women are shape shifters in real life too; flowing between forms all day long, between mother and daughter, professional to friend, changing our shape to fit into the world. These are definitely feminist retellings, many of the characters had no agency in their original tales, and all the better for it.

In an age where women’s strength is often dismissed we need more reminders of the power inherent in women.

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Grateful Boys – Francoise DuMaurier*

When seventeen-year-old Hailey’s multi-racial, single parent family migrate to the tiny rural town of Corpus, Georgia (population 700), she would rather have moved anywhere but there.

That is, until she spots him. Mysterious definitely, perhaps even supernatural. Where Hailey is awe-struck by the young man of her dreams, her little brother, Mason, sees a soulless creature of the night, a half-man who may be responsible for a series of grisly murders across the southern gothic town.

Antwan Zeddman, the town’s first African-American Sheriff, must enforce a curfew in Corpus to ensure the safety of the townsfolk. He must contend with sightings of hellish winged beasts and investigate the slaying of an innocent young couple traveling through town. There is a growing sense of racial unrest. Hailey will find herself caught between her family, the residents of Corpus, and the vampire she’s falling in love with.

The Grateful Boys is an otherworldly Young Adult novel which explores the challenges of growing up mixed raced in the southern states of America, and the troubles of a young woman coming of age in a town full of danger and temptation.

Goodreads

Amazon


Françoise DuMaurier is a Special Education Case Worker who works out of a small town in rural Georgia which inspired the Southern Gothic setting of The Grateful Boys. To get to work, DuMaurier passes through miles and miles of farms, as far as the eye can see. Before entering education, DuMaurier attended the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design where he studied visual art and creative writing. Having worked with an array of students along with his own experiences, DuMaurier is uniquely suited to provide a wry voice that encapsulates #ownvoices fiction.

Twitter

My thoughts:

This was an interesting take on vampire mythology, the vampires have a range of magical powers and select a chosen blood donor, who in return receives the vampire’s affection and blood, which has its own beneficial powers. The supernatural creatures appear as teenage boys and live by strict rules which protect their kind.

The humans are confused by some of the goings on, and the sheriff most of all. Trying to investigate strange and violent crimes that have erupted in the previously quiet neighbourhood.

This is a clever, fresh take on well trodden ground, DuMaurier is an interesting new voice in YA.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Reluctant Spy – Miller Caldwell*

Hilda Campbell was born in the north of Scotland in 1889. She married German national Dr Willy Bűttner Richter in 1912. They honeymooned in Scotland and returned to settle in Hamburg. Dr Richter died in 1938. After visiting her ailing parents, Hilda returned to Germany just before the Second World War began. She became a double agent, controlled by Gerhardt Eicke in Germany and Lawrence Thornton in Britain. How could she cope under such strain, and with her son Otto in the German Army? Nor did she expect her evidence to be so cruelly challenged at the Nuremberg Trials. Learn of her post-war life, which took her abroad as a British Ambassador’s wife.

This is an extraordinary story based on the life of the author’s great aunt, Hilda. The book includes several authentic accounts.

Goodreads

Amazon

I retired at the age of 53 as I found I had mild cognitive impairment MCI. This is a condition which gives me a poor memory but a sharp mind. It was difficult to find work that would take me and so I decided to write books. Sixteen years later, I have written twenty three books with another two yet to be published. I have learned the book writing skills though writing clubs and writers magazines. Over the years I find my writing is much better received. I am seen as a novelist but I have three illustrated children’s books, several biographies and three self help books as well. My website sags with the volume. But I cannot be pigeon holed. It depends what theme obsesses my thinking, as that will be my next book.

I have been on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland and have been their Events Manager. I am due to speak at next year’s Wigtown Book Festival as A Reluctant Spy will be a documentary by then. That reminds me I have an agent. A Literary as well as a Film agent in Mathilde Vuillermoz. With her on board I will release some of my self published books through her. Without an agent it is becoming more difficult to attract traditional publishers. So I remain optimistic and find like a graph, my trajectory is currently on an upswing.

Website

Twitter

My thoughts:

This was really interesting, based on the real life of the author’s great aunt; which makes it even more compelling. An ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances, relying on her wits and determination to not get caught.

It was really fascinating – a story that hadn’t been told from this angle before. A resourceful, intelligent and capable woman, resilient and brave; Hilda Campbell was an incredible person and I’m glad I got to read about her.

The book is well written and flows nicely, travelling across Europe with Hilda, not afraid to show the peril she faced at times, and the genuine fears and tragedies of wartime life.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Dominion of the Fallen – Aliette De Bodard*

 

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen 1)  The House of Binding Thorns (Dominion of the Fallen 2)  The House of Sundering Flames

 

Sneaking three books into one review today. The three books in the Dominion of the Fallen series are out now and I thought a review of the trilogy was the best way to share them with you.

The House of Shattered Wings

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its
magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something
from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

The House of Binding Thorns

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal – to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom – and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear . . .

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength – or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

The House of Sundering Flames

The great magical Houses of Paris – headed by Fallen angels and magicians – were, however temporarily, at peace with each other. Until House Harrier was levelled by a powerful explosion. Now that peace has become chaos, tearing apart old alliances and setting off a race in which each House hoards magic and resources to protect itself against another such blast.

Thuan, the Dragon head of the divided House Hawthorn, is still consolidating his power when war comes to his doorstep. Aurore -exiled from and almost beaten to death by House Harrier – sees her moment to seek power in order to protect her family, even if she must venture back to her destroyed former home to get it. And Emmanuelle finds herself alone in the middle of it all, driven to protect others, trying to piece together what has happened, andhoping – eventually – to make sense of it all.
None of them know what destroyed House Harrier, though . . . and when they do uncover that fiery, destructive magic then divided Houses, old enemies and estranged friends will all have to make a decision: stand together, or burn alone . . .

My thoughts:

These books are incredibly well written and fascinating to read, trying to picture the Paris I know as the destroyed, twisted city in the series is interesting, and the diverse cast represent the author’s own heritage, with the dragons having come across oceans from Vietnam, once under French rule. Philippe, another refugee from the war in his homeland seeks to stay beneath the radar of the angels who clash in the city, but is drawn into their endless battles as a former immortal himself who can’t seem to help himself when it comes to saving not only his own community but other humans, even ones who can claim an angel’s protection.

I really enjoyed reading these, and seeing other cultures on the books’ pages, which often seems to get overlooked, especially in fantasy writing; which for a long time has been very white. This is starting to change and that means more amazing books to read by a much more diverse range of authors. I was a bit disappointed to realise there were only three books in this series, but I look forward to seeing what De Bodard writes next.

 

*I was kindly gifted books 2 and 3 by the publisher but all opinions remain my own.