Tough Travel – ‘I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too’

Posted On 17 September 2014

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Yep, this week over at the Fantasy Review Barn we are looking at ‘witches’

My list, as last week will be very simple as I have limited access to gadgetry and wifi. Therefore without further ado my witches brew are as follows:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. The Witch of the Waste who turns the young girl in this story into an old lady.

Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series which probably doesn’t need any intro. Great fun and loads of witches to choose from.

Ronald Dahl’s Witches. Such an excellent story. Just read it and find out for yourself.

The Godless by Ben Peek. Not a major role in the book but there is a witch in the story. She even has a head kept alive in a jar that she reanimates using blood magic!

The Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence. The witch whose spell binds Jalan and Snorri together at the start of their unforgettable adventure.

Honourable Mentions

The Witch king of Angmar. Couldn’t leave out LotR
And, also couldn’t leave out Harry Potter. So many witches you can’t chuck a stick without getting turned into a toad!

Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levine

Posted On 17 September 2014

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Just finished reading Smiler’s Fair which was very enjoyable. Now, perhaps I’m inclined to excess generosity, being an holiday read, but I genuinely don’t think so. This was a very readable combination of dead (and potentially reborn) deities and prophecies regarding a first born son.

The world here is a strange mix of people, places and cultures ranging, from those who have conquered and believe themselves to be terribly civilised to the tribes that they lord it over. I’m not going to go into all the different races and tribes as their individual histories and cultures are explored well during the tale (although not, I hasten to add, overdone).

My description, briefly is as follows. Many, many (and maybe yet one more ‘many’ for good measure) years ago there were two Gods. The Sun and the Moon. Sister and brother. Unfortunately their opinion differed regarding the creation of their servants and as a result they went to war. The Moon died and his servants were driven underground, unable to live in the Sun’s light. The moon’s servants became known as Worm Men. They also became greatly feared as wherever they appear death usually follows.

Consequently, in order to not give the worm men chance to appear, which they are more likely to do once any structure has been in place long enough to expel the light for a certain period, most villages have become mobile. Basically, if you create any sort of structure upon the earth then the darkness this creates will eventually be found. Caves and mining are a positive no no! Some villages are almost like floating rafts, some little more than encampments that regularly adjust positions if only for the sake of a few paces, and others, such as Smiler’s Fair are fully collapsible structures that fold down into a wagon and can be transported using huge beasts of burden.

Many Gods seem to now be worshipped, although whether any of them have any real foundation is debatable.

At the start of the story we read of the birth of a newborn condemned to death by his own father. The newborn will be Prince and it has been prophesied that he will kill his father. The King doesn’t wish to sit around waiting for his own death and therefore decrees the death of the prince. However the king’s plans go wrong and the newborn infant is smuggled out from under his nose. Years later he will discover his own true beginnings and decide to return. Here starts the story.

There are a number of characters all going off on their own adventures, even whilst their paths sometimes cross. The main characters are Nethmi, who is promised in wedlock and most move from her own town. She’s hopeful for a fresh start. Dae Hyo. From a tribe of warriors that were largely massacred by marauders. Eric, basically, a prostitute or sellcock from Smiler’s Fair whose visions of love spur his actions. Krish, a goat herder from a poor village whose mother and father have a rather violent relationship and Marvan, also of Smiler’s Fair. Something of a twisted individual with a lust for blood.

I am fond of a character driven plot and so in that respect this story is very interesting, although I admit that I had reservations about the actions of most of the characters, barring a couple. I guess you could call them flawed and in one particular character a bit puzzling, or almost out of character. However, and this may seem strange but Smiler’s Fair almost felt like a character itself. It’s central to the plot in fact everything revolves around it. It’s basically a moving carnival. Everything can be found at the fair. It’s a den of iniquity. Debauched, violent and full of gambling and other vices. However, what happens in the Fair, stays in the Fair. It’s almost become a mythical thing in that nobody can predict where it will next show up or halt its progresses. Every morning a roll call is taken and when the first body disappears the Fair moves out!

This is an excellent start to what promises to be an epic series. It perhaps doesn’t bring anything too new to the scene of fantasy, although I thought the concept of the Worm People and the result they have on the lives of all was fairly new (to me anyways).

Magic, mages, murderers, Warriors, gods, giant beast, huge ass flying and talking bats, not to mention pretty creepy worm people! What’s not to love?

A very easy to read book with an intriguing plot and an easy writing style that flows and keeps the pages turning swiftly.

Colour me happy and tell me when the next instalment is due!

I received a copy from the publishers courtesy of Netalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

I’ll be back…

Posted On 15 September 2014

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This week over at The Broke and the Bookish the theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is ‘authors who I’ve only read one book but intend to read more.’

Ray Bradbury. I loved Something Wicked and want to read Dandelion Wine next.
Django Wexler who wrote The Thousand Names. I definitely need to set aside some time to read No.2
Sarah Lotz. The Three was an excellent chiller. I will definitely read more Lotz! (I see a future with lots more Lotz – sorry, couldn’t help myself!)
Joe Abercrombie. Can’t believe I’ve only read one book by Lord Grimdark. In fact I feel quite ashamed of myself!
Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Howl’s Moving Castle and have a copy go Charmed waiting patiently on my shelves.
Charles de Lint. Such a well respected fantasy author. I’ve read The Blue Girl and intend to return to more by CdL very soon.
Christopher Moore. I loved Serpent of Venice! Loved it!! And, it will defo be on my end of year list. Need to read more of The Fool.
Jo Baker. I really enjoyed revisiting Longbourn and spending time once again in the Bennet’s household. I seriously hope that this author will revisit other classics in a similar way.
Richard Matheson. I am Legend is so good. I want to read his Stir of Echoes next.
Jacqueline Carey. Read Kushiel’s Dart last year and want to continue with the series!

I had quite a lot of authors that I could include this week! What about you?

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Posted On 15 September 2014

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I finished reading Broken Monsters a couple of days ago but wanted time to reflect before writing a review. This is a dark and menacing story looking at the lives of a few people and the impact they feel when a young boy is found murdered. Did I enjoy this? No, enjoy would be the wrong word to use here. Was I spellbound? Yes. This is a story that gets under your skin and compels you to read on. Beukes has a very honest way of writing. Her characters are flawed and their dialogue is realistically to the point. There are no rose tinted glasses here, just gritty realism served up with a menacing murder plot.

This is a horror come chiller/thriller with a supernatural take although this is very lightly done.

At the start of the story a young boy is discovered murdered and mutilated in such a horrific way that the press and police immediately label the murderer ‘the monster’. From there it becomes obvious that the murders will continue and the police become embroiled in a race to catch the killer before he continues on his mission.

The creepy thing with this book is the element of uncertainty. The fear that maybe the next character I was reading about might actually become the killer’s latest victim. And there were definitely characters here that I liked.

All the characters have their own personal demons and struggles to cope with and come from all walks of life. Gabi is a divorced mother. A detective struggling to balance a heavy workload and inevitable hard assed cynicism with bringing up her daughter and worrying if she is doing the right thing by her. Her daughter Layla is also struggling to cope with the divorce, the loss of her father from her life who now seems to have a new family who take precedence, and also feeling something of an outcast at school where she appears to have only one real friend, Cas. Cas has her own issues. She is tormented by her past, a past that now leads her into strange and dangerous pursuits. We then have Jonno and his new young girlfriend Jen. Jonno is feeling the onset of middle age. He feels like a failure and he has latched on to Jen , younger and more optimistic with a vibrancy that he almost feeds off. He’s looking for his own fifteen minutes of fame and he has few morals when it comes to grasping that first rung! JK is the homeless hero. A likeable character. Surly and tough. He has a very dark past but his bark is definitely worse than his bite. He helps out at the homeless shelter. He’s also something of a marauder looking for abandoned properties that might still offer up something worth scavenging. And then we also have the chapters from the killer’s pov. But I’m not going to comment on that aspect but leave it to you to read and discover yourself.

Beukes is so good with characters. She manages to invoke such strong feelings. You feel the mother’s fierce love that Gabi has for Layla. You feel the power of feeling that Layla has for her mum who is basically ‘home’. You want to shout at Layla to talk to her mum and trust her and yet at the same time you know, as Layla does, that if she opens up something will surely hit the fan. Similarly with TK. He wants to do the right thing. He wants to help people and in particular he wants to make a home for his family.

This is a perfect story of broken lives that with a bit of communication can be fixed. It’s also a reflection of the current obsession with communicating through social media. It takes a look at Cyber bullying and the consequences for those involved. Harsh lessons for victims and those who victimise.

A horror story with a difference. Fairly small scale in terms of those involved which for me added to the drama in terms of making you think ‘could a killer be living amongst you’? Gives you the chills just thinking it!

Simply drawn yet deep characters. Darkly intense and chilling.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

I am submitting this for Stainless Steels RIP event.

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You tyrant, you!

Posted On 11 September 2014

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This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn’s Tough Travelling the fantasy is tyrants. Doesn’t it just give you the shivers!

Anyway. Because I’m actually out and about this week my post will be a very quick post with no graphics or write up. Simply put. I want to take part but it’s going to be minimalist!

Obviously Sauron from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Sorry but I had to get in a mention.

Similarly, he who shall not be named from JKRowlings Harry Potter.

The Winter Queen from The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis? She was a maniac after all and turning people into stone is generally frowned upon.

The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. She got up to some antics. Not least of all wanting to chop everyone’s heads off!

The King of the Dead, who plays a leading role in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire.

Kate Niven. From Gillian Philip’s Rebel Angels.

Mistborn by Sanderson. The Lord Tyrant! I rest my case

Apologies for the brevity and any typos. Also apols for not having graphics or proper links. Normal service will resume shortly!

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