Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Just finished reading Age of Iron by Angus Watson – which I loved. I just really liked this – it’s very entertaining and it kept me glued to the page.  Literally, I’ve read this in 2 days or maybe even less because I didn’t want to put it down!  Anyway, I get ahead of myself.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Age of Iron other than three unusual characters who come together out of need.  Dug, Spring and Lowa – the most unlikely set of companions that you could imagine!

At the start of the story Dug, a warrior for hire, has been roped into help defend the town and hillfort of Barton against King Zadar’s army.   Having already completely annihilatied the town of Boddingham Zadar’s army are going to swing by Barton on the way back to Maidum Castle.  At this point, there is still a debate about whether a battle will actually take place or not or whether this will be simply a display of strength and chariots.  After all, Barton pays its taxes and tributes!  Well, we don’t sit on a knife edge for long before a simple whim that could have gone either way brings Zadar’s army charging across the field to slaughter Barton’s defences  At the same time, Lowa is helping Zadar achieve victory – one of his favoured she is a warrior and expert with a longbow.  Whilst, awaiting the outcome of the battle and ready to move onto the field and collect the spoils of war is a rag tag bunch of misfits led by a man called Ogre and accompanied by a young girl called Spring.  As mentioned, the three come together in unusual circumstances involving a lucky knock to the head rendering Dug unconscious during the massacre, Lowa being betrayed by Zadar and escaping with her life and ideas of revenge and Spring attaching herself to Dug who finds himself unable to forsake her!

What really worked for me with this story were the pacing, which is just constant and almost immediate and boils down to a fairly narrow time frame overall.  The author’s style of writing which seems to casually and effortlessly set the scene without the use of long wieldy descriptions, difficult names and families/relationships.  And the characters.  Not only did I really like the three main characters but I also equally disliked some of the baddies!  I love it when I get some proper nasty characters who I can really genuinely dislike!  That being said, there are no really simple black and white characters here.  Dug is a great character but he’s far from perfect.  He’s not above walking away from a situation if it puts him in danger.  He’s definitely a bit dictated to by his ‘little man’ and, on top of this – let’s not forget he’s a mercenary for hire and was originally intending joining the ranks of Zadar’s army.  Similarly, Lowa has a very brutal and bloodthirsty past which she has time to reflect on once she’s on the other side of the fence.  Spring is a very mysterious character.  She’s only young, I think about 10 years old maybe, and yet she seems to be one of those people who things seem to come together for.  I really liked her.  If pushed though, I’m not sure I could name a favourite – they all have their own individual roles to play in this story and they all have their moments to shine.

On top of this the story itself is entertaining.  It’s a strange mix of bloody warfare, torture and truly horrible nastiness but it’s all wrapped up in a humourous style package that prevents it from becoming too grisly.  Darkly humourous I guess.  Although, if you are a bit squeamish I’m just going to chuck in here that this might not be for you.  Just saying.  For me, I like that this isn’t too grim and takes a slightly less serious stance on what could become a very dark tale indeed.

In terms of the fantasy element – this is only very lightly done and comes in the form of the magic used by the druids of the period.  Of course, some of them are simply charlatans but there are others who are truly capable.

Now I’m not a historian but I don’t think I really need to be to know that certain elements of this are not maybe factually accurate – for example the manner of speech which is modern.  Personally, I like the modern take on the historical story and find the use of this type of language much easier in terms of the flow of the story.  Others might have a different opinion but it certainly wasn’t an issue for me.

If you like a good romping adventure, a tale of revenge, a tale of comradeship and you can stomach the more grisly side (which has been tempered by a slightly humourous take not to mention some very inventive cursing) add to this a sprinkling of magic, some good old arena style games and an old fashioned tale involving difficult situations and heroic solutions then this could be the very book you’ve been waiting for.

Frankly, I really enjoyed this and have no hesitation in recommending it.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which I give my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Corroded by Karina Cooper (No.3 of the St Croix Chronicles)

Just finished reading Corroded by Karina Cooper – and, what just happened!  Okay, first things first – this review may contain spoilers so I advise not to read if you’re at the start of the series.  I’m being serious – do not continue…

At the end of the last book Cherry has lost, quite literally, everything – now, didn’t I tell you not to read on if you didn’t want spoilers!!  She now lives in London below – and for those of you who are still reading without the benefit of knowledge from the first two books (which, btw why?) – London below is now covered in smog – only the poorest people live there and consequently London Below is rife with crime and debauchery.  London above – is where the upper classes live – raised on some high fanangled hydraulics it sits above the smog and filth.  Home to the upper echelons – who lets face it – are not adverse to the idea of paying the odd visit to their inferiors.  Quite literally the lower classes are really the lower classes.  A world of technology filled with steampunk gadgets and gondolas and other forms of flying transport that convey people from one deck to the next.  

At the start of the story Cherry is in a world of hurt, regret and guilt.  Her husband, murdered on the night of their marriage, all her goods possessed by his family, her home is now the menagerie where Mr Hawke stalks.  She lives there under duress – both from herself and the Veil.  Cherry is a collector – which is basically similar to a bounty hunter – however her game is massively off at the start of the book.  She’s also something of an opium addict (which helps to quell the nightmares that she experiences from her early childhood experiences) and her addiction has unfortunately, fuelled by anger and remorse, become worse.

I won’t deny that the start of this book is quite difficult.  Cherry has sunk low and to a certain extent is on borrowed time in terms of the menagerie.  You could be forgiven for wondering why she calls herself a collector at this point as her abilities to capture seem to have become almost redundant in her chase for the bliss of opium.  Yes, it’s a difficult read – made even more so by the fact that not just the Ripper but a far more lethal killer stalks London’s streets and not only does he seem to follow, nay, stalk Cherry, but he seems to believe that they are both involved in some sort of duel.

It’s a very dangerous game that Cherry is now involved with – everyone she knows is in danger just by befriending her and she has to harden her heart against those who she loves.

So, okay, yes, there’s quite a bit of grim going on here but you have to hang on in there.  Things turn around and to a certain extent Cherry makes amends.

Now, – what the hell just happened with Hawke – I can’t say more which I realise is a big teaser.  Hawke is basically the man candy of this novel – and I’m just going to chuck it out there and say that things get a bit steamy – and, then, they get totally wtf!

OMG – the sweettooth!  Didn’t see that coming at all.  And, what the holy hell with the rest of the ending!!!

Well, let’s just say.  Yes, this feels like a totally indulgent read but, it’s a VERY good indulgent read and Ms Cooper has a knack of making you want, nay have, to pick up the next book.  Next step – one click!

To recap, steampunk, Victorian London, High class society, slums, serial killers, magic and, well, ahem, other things!

What I love about this is the fact that it feels like a great book to read in between your epic chunksters – and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Fan Art Up – shifters and snifters

Posted On 21 August 2014

Filed under Book Reviews

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Fan Art Up is a weekly feature hosted by Tabitha at Not Yet Read.  Details here.  Stop over and check out the other’s taking part. Each week I see if I have a book doodle or just a random doodle to  place here.  This week I confess my reading has been poor!  I finished The Godless and started Corroded (Book No.3 in the St Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper).  Difficult to come up with something for these so I’ve got two very quick (and rough) sketches – one is what I’m planning on spending time doing tonight – the other links with The Fantasy Review Barn’s theme for Tough Travel this week.  Hopefully you can figure which is which!

 

photo 2-6photo 1-9

 

‘I’ve got you, under my skin….’ tough travel

Posted On 21 August 2014

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 22 responses

This Thursday Nathan of the Fantasy Review Barn is taking us travelling once again through the tropes of fantasy.  The theme this week is:

‘SHAPESHIFTING is frequent among both WERES and MAGIC USERS. The usual form taken is that of a WOLF, but lions, eagles, serpents, owls, and cats are common too. In all cases the rule is that the shapeshifter cannon stay too long in animal form without actually becoming that animal.’

  1. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.  This is an incredibly entertaining series.  The main characters being Atticus and his dog Oberon.  There’s a little bit of everything in this series and it’s all written with a great sense of humour that make it easy and quick to read.  I’m choosing Atticus for this as he is able to shapeshift into a bird or a dog.
  2. Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier – an interesting take on the werewolf theme involving magic (that can only be used by ‘pures’.  The shapeshifters in the story are more like very large dogs than wolves.  The world they inhabit is unknown to most humans.  Vampires have been destroyed and there are few original Weres left.  The ethos here is different as the moon is not the significant ‘changing’ factor.  The people who shapeshift are constantly struggling between their human and inner beast with emotions usually dictating who the winner will be.  I quite liked this and I’m interested to see where it goes next although I did have a few issues  – the age of the young girl being one bone of contention for me.
  3. Firelight by Sophie Jordan – now, I liked this but I didn’t love it but I had to include it this week (this comes from my ‘mainly reading YA years’) – the book is based on an unknown race of people known as Draki – who basically can shift into dragons.  I love the concept.  DRAGONS!  However, I did have issues with this book.  I struggled with the whole physics of the thing but more than than there is the inevitable love triangle!  I think this is probably one of the main reasons why I now avoid books with romance!
  4. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce – A fairytale retelling based on Little Red Riding Hood.  Another YA (lets just face it – vampires and shapeshifters became only too popular after a certainly spangly bloodsucker hit the shelves!).  I did like this one though.  I like retold fairy tales and this one has some really gross, nasty, smelly and vicious wolves – known as fenris – who attract innocent young girls with their handsome exteriors, until they change into monsters!
  5. The Last Werefolf by Glen Duncan – Jake Marlowe – is he the last werewolf?? Maybe.  He kicks off the story with a large dose of depression – as only being the last in your species can inspire!  I had mixed feelings for this book I must confess.  I think i was probably harsher on it than it deserved but I wasn’t overly keen on Jake.  Part of me wanted to really like it and part of me just didn’t.  On reflection I think that a few of the bigger problems I had were supposed to be a reflection of Jake’s nature – so one minute fairly lucid and well spoken, the next a sex driven beast who must go in search of victims.  It’s definitely a dark and bloody read.
  6. Patricia Briggs Mercedes series – I had to go there!  I’m trying to find different weres and Mercedes becomes a Coyote after all.  This is a really good dark fantasy series that I really enjoy.
  7. The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger – Victorian steampunk with dirigibles, parasols with gadgets, vampires and werewolves.  Very funny and well told tales following Alexia – who has the strange ability to reverse (temporarily by using touch only) magic and supernatural abilities – which is sometimes inconvenient given that the main man of the story (and love interest) is a shapeshifting werewolf.

Honourable mentions:

Harry Potter – Sirius – becomes a large black dog,  It’s become a ‘thing’ – I have to mention either HP or LoTR every week!

You simply must read this…I insist

Posted On 19 August 2014

Filed under Book Reviews

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b2bf5-toptentuesday2Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and Bookish where every week a whole bunch of bloggers bring together their magical lists of 10 (10 is a magic number as far as lists are concerned – right?).

This week the topic is one that we all know only too well about:

‘Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read (whether because they think it’s a “you” book or it’s just been generally recommended so often)’

This was surprisingly more difficult than I thought.  I’ve come up with a mix of authors and books/series.

  1. The Dark Towers by Stephen King – so many people have told me to read this series that I really should just get on with it – I even have The Gunslinger already!  What am I waiting for – plus no five to six year wait between books!  Bonus.
  2. The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal, starting with Shades of Milk and Honey.  A combination of Regency England with a touch of fantasy and magic.  Sounds excellent.
  3. The rest of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.  I’ve read the first but not picked up the following books in the series.
  4. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – fairytale reworking of Cinderella set in the future.  Sounds definitely up my street and I’ve had the first book for ages.
  5. The urban fantasy Fever series by Karen Marie Moning – starting with Dark Fever – own the first book of this but not got to it and can’t decide if the urge has now passed by!
  6. Seanan McGuire – not read any by this author but constantly hearing that I should do so – any recommendations???
  7. Ian Banks – I realise I should probably be ashamed but there it is!
  8. Ilona Andrews – I’m sure that I read Magic Bites a long while ago but I can’t find it and so now I’m not sure if I’m just imagining it!  I feel like I should give this series a try.
  9. David Gemmell – can’t believe I’ve not read any of his books – I do own three and they’re on my classic list!
  10. The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie.  I can’t believe I haven’t read these books!!!  Literally, I could break out the pitchforks and torches and chase myself out of town!

What’s at the top of your recommendations list?

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