Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Starborn by Lucy Hounsom - A Review

Right, first things first, this is likely to only be a short review. I finished Starborn yesterday afternoon and am already a good way into the sequel, Heartland. Also yesterday, I was offered a Netgalley 'treat' review copy of the final volume, Firestorm. (Needless to say I fair snapped the publisher's hand off). For this reason I plan on doing a short review for each book and a more in depth look at the series as a whole after.

So, Starborn... as the first in a new series by a debut author it certainly ticks all the right boxes

Young person living in the middle of nowhere ✔

Mysterious strangers in town as a pivotal day approaches ✔

Lead character leaves home with strangers ✔

Adventure and discovery of Destiny ensues ✔

Yes, as a storyline it feels like nothing new at first, but be patient...

Where a story or series like this can stand or fall is on things like characterisation, world building and the magic system and on these 3 points Lucy Hounsom stands tall.

The Characters - this was a strange one for me. All came across as realistic, believable etc but none stood out. By which I mean, all were equally (ish) effective. I was interested in all but none really above others.

The World - I do like a good map, which this book has, to follow the journey but I also like to be able to 'see' the places visited in my reading mind and not every author can quite pull it off. Lucy Hounsom does - really well.

The Magic - I like my magic to be a bit different to usual, or a new twist at least and I thought LH pulled this off quite well with her Solar and Lunar magic.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed this and, as I say, am already well into book 2.

For this debut I am giving 4/5 stars. I would have gone higher but I expect Heartland and Firestorm will be even better so I have to give myself room to mark up.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Empire of Time by Daniel Godfrey - A Review

It is 15 years after the events of New Pompeii, Nick Houghton is now Decimus Horatius Pullus and the Romans are carrying on in their typically brutal Roman way and the outside world doesn't like it.

When an artefact is uncovered at the real Pompeii that has Nick's name on it it becomes obvious that someone in the future has control of the time travel device (currently held by the Romans in New Pompeii). But who? and how will it affect things?

As with New Pompeii this is a baffling (in a good way) tale that all becomes clear eventually. Swapping scenes between Ancient Pompeii, the modern world and ancient Romans in the modern world took a bit of getting used to but doesn't get in the way of a cracking story.

I previously compared Dan Godfrey's work to that of Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park with Romans) and after reading this I see no reason to change that opinion. I read this book on holiday and got through it in a couple of days but it was the perfect poolside read, a good mix of Sci-Fi and Mystery - what more could you ask for.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Age of Assassins by RJ Barker

As a long time reader of fantasy fiction I am often looking for someone to do something a little bit different, to stir the pot a little. With this fantasy/whodunnit RJ Barker has done just that.

Throw in a protagonist with a disability (but not a disability that is dwelt on overly long) and a well realised locale and you have something a bit special.

Our hero is Girton Clubfoot, a trainee assassin who, with his master Merela Karn we first meet sneaking into Castle Maniyadoc through the sewage gate. Inevitably they are caught but it turns out they are there for a reason - somebody has murder in mind and our assassins are to find out who.

The story is very character driven and, thankfully, Barker does a great job here. I cared about Girton and an event later on in the story, which could have gone either way for his future development was handled really well. Sometimes young characters can be a tad annoying, all full of angst and hormones but not so much here.

The story is interspersed with flashbacks that fill in Girton and Karn's backstory, which again works well as we see that Karn is not what might often be expected.

So, did I enjoy this? I don't think there's any real doubt about that is there?

A cross between Robin Hobb's Farseer novels and tv's Merlin this is a fine start to a series I eagerly await more of. A very strong debut in a year of strong debuts - 5/5*

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Bank Holiday All-Dayer (A Short Story) by Andrew David Barker

It is the summer of 1996 and Anthony Parker is on an all day Bank Holiday bender, a session fuelled by alcohol, drugs and girls. As the tag-line says, things are bout to get messy.

I very much enjoyed Barker's earlier stories (The Electric, Dead Leaves) so I was looking forward to this. I wasn't disappointed.

Parker, the lead character of this story isn't a particularly likable person but he tells an interesting story. Other than going from pub to pub, drinking Red Stripe, dropping tabs and a random sexual encounter in the pub toilets not a lot happens. But what the author does do is give a more or less perfect snapshot of the time. I remember 1996 well and Bank Holiday All-Dayer absolutely nails it.

Another plus is the 'soundtrack'. As Porter goes through his parade of excesses there is an accompaniment of music mentioned either in tunes played by bands in the pub or tracks on the Jukebox, tunes that take you back to the crazy, hazy summer of 96 - and every one is a corker. A well curated choice indeed.

The minus side - at only 32 pages it is over too soon (although, paradoxically, it is just the right length). I would have loved to have spent more time with these characters, but that has always been the case with Andrew David Barker's books.

A very enjoyable 4/5* read

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts - A Review

I'll admit that this was a strange one.
The early parts of the book hooked me in - our 'hero' Alma is set the task of solving an impossible murder when a body is found in the boot of a car in a fully automated car making factory. Add to this a near future setting where the majority of the population is constantly online, addicted to Shine (basically a full online existence) and you have a gripping tale to keep your brain busy.

Alma has a problem though, her partner is I'll and has to be treated every 4hrs or she will die - and only Alma can administer the treatment. This is where things nearly came unstuck for me as it seemed every 4 hours Alma would administer the treatment then get in a 'scrape' that meant she would not be able to save her partner but, thanks to epic derring-do gets back by the skin of her teeth. I nearly gave up at this point but thankfully didn't as the second half of the book really cranked things up a gear and made for a thrilling end.
The story felt both futuristic and black and white era cinema-ish with a strong Hitchcock vibe.
4/5* Recommended

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Early thoughts on Jay Kristoff's Nevernight

Jay Kristoff's Nevernight has been on my radar since I first saw it. I have got a copy of the second in the series, Godsgrave, coming for review so, time to get on with it.

Now, I've only read the first few pages and normally wouldn't blog until the book was finished but circumstances here are, I guess, a bit different. What I'm wanting to say is something that needs saying while it is still fresh in my mind.

Now, as most of you will know I read a lot. I've read many authors, both 'new' and 'new to me' that have made me take notice that this could be something special. I think Jay Kristoff may have surpassed them all.

The first chapter here tells two stories side by side, one of a sexual tryst, one of a murder. The thing is, the way the two different storylines are written, although being very different, they are practically identical. The way Mr Kristoff uses his words is so clever I really feel appreciative I have the chance to read it. I sat, coffee cup in one hand, book in the other and read, then reread. Mind ever so slightly blown.

Will the rest of Nevernight continue in this vein? I don't know, but I'll tell you something - I'm looking forward to finding out. I'll post my review here when I'm done but, until then I'm going to lose myself in the words of Nevernight

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Results of this year's Gemmell Awards

From Alex Davis at Edge-Lit 6

2017 DAVID GEMMELL AWARDS FOR FANTASY WINNERS ANNOUNCED Tonight, at a prestigious prizegiving ceremony at Derby's Edge-Lit 6 event, the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented to acknowledge the very best epic fantasy titles published through 2016, as voted for by the reading public. With a past roll of honour of popular and acclaimed award winners, tonight added even more great names to that elite list. The Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel was claimed by Gav Thorpe's Warbeast, published by Black Library. Part seven of the multi-author Realmgate Wars series, the title was initially published in an attractive hardback in 2016 and is the latest in a number of well-reviewed titles for this prolific New York Times bestselling author. Warbeast saw off stern competition from John Gwynne's Wrath,  Jay Kristoff's Nevernight, Mark Lawrence's The Wheel of Osheim and Brandon Sanderson's The Bands of Mourning.   The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut was won by Megan E O'Keefe with Steal the Sky, published by Angry Robot Books. The first title in The Scorched Continent first saw publication in early 2016, and has already been followed by the second and third parts of the series, Break The Chains and Inherit the Flame. Megan's book won ahead of an exciting array of debut fantasy writing talent in Mark De Jager, Christopher Husberg, Adrian Selby and Jon Skovron.

The Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art was won by Alessandro Baldasseroni for his work on Josh Reynolds' Black Rift, published by Black Library. Part of the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar series, Baldasseroni's work saw off artwork from previous 2-time winner Jason Chan (for Mark Lawrence's The Wheel of Osheim) and past award winner Sam Green (for Brandon Sanderson's Bands of Mourning) as well as artworks from Paul Young (for John Gwynne's Wrath) and Kerby Rosanes (for Jay Kristoff's Nevernight). Awards chair Stan Nicholls said: 'This year's Gemmell Awards shortlists once again represented the great range of fantasy fiction published in the past year, and the results continue to be exciting and unpredictable. I'd like to offer a hearty congratulations to all this year's winners for their superb books and artwork, as well as the publishers involved in making these great titles happen.' The Gemmell Awards will return in 2018, and will be celebrating their tenth anniversary next year. For more information, visit http://www.gemmellawards.com/