Monday, 19 August 2019

The End of Magic by Mark Stay

This was a whole lot of fun and full of interesting ideas. As you can guess from the title it revolves around what happens when magic disappears from the world and those with, if you like, power become powerless. It was interesting to see how quickly those now bereft of their magical abilities become the 'underclass', how quickly those that once needed them and their skills turn on them.
What caught me most was what happened with those classed as 'Moon Children'. Those with magic got there power from a moon whereas Moon Children were 'blocked' by it and kept in a state of childlike ability. Unable to think well, communicate etc they are seen as low and only capable of menial tasks. When the moon is destroyed and magic fails then the 'block' fails and they reach their true ability.
The ending of the story was not what I was expecting but was one to make you think

The Song of the Sycamore by Edward Cox

Welcome to day 2 of the Blog Tour for Edward Cox's new novel. 

'On the broken world of Urdezha, Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, one more casualty in the endless war between the city-dwellers and the clansfolk. But now Wendal has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by something he brought back from the wasteland, something old and best left forgotten. The spirits are calling it Sycamore, an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a city like Old Castle, no one is innocent.'

I'll be honest, I didn't really know what kind of story to expect when I picked this one up (except that it would be a good one, Ed Cox has never let me down before). What it turned out to be was a sci-fi/fantasy mash-up with a healthy dose of mystery thrown into the mix. 

When it starts we are with Wendal Finn in Old Castle, he is already 'dead' and possessed by an entity. Other recently dead are wanting him to avenge their murders, which the entity is happy to do until Finn's body wears out, at which point it will just find another host. 

When one of the recently dead (ghouls) leads Finn/The Entity into a trap Finn gets a second chance and, maybe the opportunity to find out why his wife died while he was at war. 

As always with Cox the world-building is top notch. This is a world at war where Scientists and Magicians vie for supremacy, where the clans are rising and a supernatural storm is coming. The magic here is pretty brutal, with spells being etched into people's bodies but that really gives the story an extra edge. What really impressed me though was The Song of Always (you'll understand when you pick up the book, I'm not giving anything away here except to say it is a cracking concept) 

This reminded me a lot of the works of Ed Mcdonald and Peter Newman and I thoroughly enjoyed it


Many thanks to Kate Moreton and Gollancz for inviting me onto this tour, Netgalley for providing the review file, and please try and find a bit of time to check out the posts by the other wonderful bloggers below

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew

 Welcome to day 10 of the Blog Tour for Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew.

As a general rule I don't usually do autobiographies but, like many folk my age Rainbow was a big thing when I was a child so saying no to this wasn't even a consideration.

Of all the characters in the Rainbow house Zippy was probably most people's favourite. He was the cheeky, naughty one, the one most likely to get into or cause trouble. The one you'd most like to be like if you could get away with it. Ronnie Le Drew was his operater and this is his story.

What you get with this book is an insight into the world of the puppeteer, and a glimpse behind the scenes of Rainbow. But it is so much more than that too. The book shows a man who cares about his craft and who makes the reader care about it too.

Obviously a lot of the book involves the Rainbow years (including the notorious 'special' episode they filmed for an end of year blooper competition, the Rod, Jane and Freddy love triangle, and many other incidents) but there is more to it too - the Muppet Movies, Labyrinth, the years when work was drying up. It's a cracking read.

One thing that made me realise how much Rainbow still lingers with me all these years later - at one point one of the actors (sorry, can't remember who off hand) used to mark his script with either a straight line or a squiggle and straight away my first thought was "I wonder if that's where Straight and Curly originated from?" (Straight and Curly was a section of the show that started with a straight line and a curly line in the corner of the tv screen and went in to be part of a drawing, probably relevant to that show's theme). I hadn't thought of Straight and Curly in maybe 30 years but one sentence and there it was, front and center!

Throughout the book Ronnie Le Drew comes across as a really nice chap and that, I think, is what made this read so enjoyable.
 Thanks, as always, to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this Blog Tour and please, if you can find the time, have a look at the posts by the other bloggers on this tour.

Monday, 8 July 2019

The Reaper by Steven Dunne

Well, this was a strange one. I finished this in 2 days and really enjoyed it...or thought I did. As a story this rattled along at a fair old pace, every spare minute a chance to get back to it. But larer, given time to let things sink in, there was so much wrong with it.

The story itself was good enough. After the Reaper case, multiple murders of families in London DI Damen Brook loses his family and almost his sanity. He relocates to Derby and all seems 'ok' until another family is found murdered in the same manner as the Reaper killings. After all these years why has The Reaper struck again and why has he followed Brook to Derby?

The story follows two time lines, one in London, one in present day Derby and slowly the two converge to give answers but when those resolutions came it felt kinda 'muddy' to me. It's obvious from early on who The Reaper is but Brook cannot find proof and even ends up befriending the suspect in the hopes of tripping him up. It's this issue, this obsession, that leads to the break up of his marriage.

Now, what bugs me is the character of Brook himself. He's your typical screwed up cop, the kind we see in most crime fiction these days. Many of his colleagues don't like him but the ladies certainly do. At one point early on he sees an attractive young lady watching his house. She says she is a student visiting possible accommodation but in no time at all he is letting her stay the night at his - I mean, I know it advances the story and his character but who does that really? And, surprise surprise, she ends up in his bed (and that scene itself is the height of weird). Then there is his colleague who he had a one night fling with, and still quite fancies, and when he goes back to London on investigation duties his first choice to accompany him on the journey? Yup, you guessed correct. He books himself into the worst rehab clinic in the country at New Years in the hopes of getting some info from files on a former patient and in no time at all one of the residents has decided she wants a piece of DI Brook. I tell you, the women can't get enough of him.

The whole 'who is The Reaper' thing is a bit of a confusing, baffling mess, the writing isn't great but even so I think I'll be carrying on with this series, I'm just not sure when exactly


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Priest of Lies by Peter McLean

'Tomas's power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become--until they can't take it anymore. And when they rise up...may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen's Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen's Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people's champion...or just a priest of lies.'

This sequel to Priest of Bones starts well...

'Five hundred corpses.

That had been my wedding gift from Ailsa and the Queen's Men. From this woman I called my wife...'

and to be fair it just gets better from there. Tomas Piety and his Pious Men are a motley bunch and, as you would expect, are soon knee deep in intrigue.

What I really enjoyed about this book, and the series as a whole is that this is very much The Godfather set in a fantasy world. Piety is very much The Don Corleoni of Ellinsburg (small side point: Ellinsburg feels a lot like Edinburgh) and although he and his gang come across as villains at times it's easy to see that they do what they do for the right reasons. I've seen it said elsewhere that this is Peaky Blinders with swords and I couldn't put it better myself. Invest in this series of you haven't already, you won't be sorry

Thanks to Jo Fletcher Books and Netgalley for providing copy of this book and please have a look at the other blogger reviews on this Bookblast (below)

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Salvation by Peter F Hamilton

'In 2204, humanity is expanding into the wider galaxy in leaps and bounds. A new technology of linked jump gates has rendered most forms of transporation--including starships--virtually obsolete. Every place on earth, every distant planet mankind has settled, is now merely a step away from any other. And all seems wonderful...until a crashed alien spaceship is found on a newly-located world 89 light years from Earth, harboring seventeen human victims. And of the high-powered team dispatched to investigate the mystery, one is an alien spy...'

Salvation is the first book in a new trilogy from Peter F Hamilton and also is a new setting for him (not Commonwealth). As such there is a lot of set-up in Salvation which can make it seem a much longer read at times than it actually is but stick with it, when the pace picks up it REALLY picks up.

What I most enjoyed about this, as is often the case with PFH is getting to know the characters and here he has something special - the Utopials. These are a non gender specific society who require their children to have their genome modified so they live in alternating male and female 1000 day cycles. It seems confusing at first but quickly feels normal with the different pronouns taking less thought as a reader.

The 3 different time lines also unsettles the flow of the story at times but I guess that's because I felt more invested in the main thread (I do like a good mystery to solve). All time lines are relevant though and I'm sure PFH will tie everything together.

The Jump Gates reminded me a lot of Stargate and I am glad they are there as instant travel has made for a lack of Starships (I guess I'm a minority but as a Sci-Fi reader I don't much enjoy large sections of story onboard ships)

So, a slow burn of a novel but worth persevering with. The end surprised me and now I can't wait to get hold of the second in the series Salvation Lost.


Thanks to Ellen Casey and Pan Macmillan for inviting me to review this book and providing the copy

Friday, 14 June 2019

The A-Z of Skateboarding by Tony Hawks

 Welcome to Day 3 of the blog tour for Tony Hawks' The A-Z Of Skateboarding.

Imagine, if you will, two men separated by a single letter S. One is Tony Hawk, skateboarding legend, the other is Tony Hawks, comedian, author and a man approaching the end of his tether. The problem, you see, is that fans of the former keep contacting the latter for skateboarding advice, tips etc. Even though they have to go through Tony Hawks website. By this point they should realise they have the wrong Tony, but no...they persist.

So Tony the comedian decided to fight back by responding to these emails, requests etc. in the most ridiculous way and the results of this are the book here reviewed. It serves to highlight what Tony Hawks sees as the pointlessness and futility of Skateboarding and comedy gold at its best. I'll be honest, I laughed at this book and I laughed hard. I think you would too.

Thanks to Anne Cater, as always, for inviting me to take part in this tour and to Unbound for providing the review copy.

Please, if you get the chance, have a look at the posts by the other reviewers on this tour