Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Twelve Kings In Sharakhai by Bradley P Beaulieu - A Review

This review was originally posted on Theresa Derwin's TerrorTree site (

12 Kings in Sharakhai –
Author: Bradley Beaulieu
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 3rd Sept 2015
Page count: 592pp

One thing you need to know before you pick up this book – 12 Kings In Sharakhai is a big book, one of those that will eat away at your free time and keep you up well into the night. Forgive me the cliché please but 12 Kings really does put the Epic in Epic Fantasy.

Usually I’d start a review with the characters but the desert city of Sharakhai deserves pride of place this time. Sharakhai is huge, a massive trade and diplomatic hub in the middle of the desert peopled by the vast array of differing peoples you would expect. Luckily Bradley P Beaulieu has the world building skills to bring such a city to life. You get the feel of the desert’s heat, the dust and sand, the narrow streets and the imposing buildings. When the story starts out we are in the fighting pits and I swear it was just like reading in 3D Surround Sound.

It is in the fighting pits we first get to meet our hero Ceda, who fights as The White Wolf, a popular figure amongst those who come to watch and gamble on the outcome of the battles. Right from the start it is clear that Ceda is a bit special as she easily defeats an opponent much bigger than herself. Ceda is a strong, independent warrior type, maybe a bit Xena-like at times but she isn’t over cocky with it which I liked. She still needs her friends around her and they round off her character well.

Back to Sharakhai; The city is ruled by the 12 seemingly immortal kings that give the book it’s title. Many people live in fear of them, many hate them. Ceda is one of those people. As it turns out the Kings have secrets, secrets they want to keep at any cost. We find out through flashbacks that Ceda’s mother discovered one of those secrets when Ceda was only 8 years old. When she tried to make use of her knowledge she was taken by the Kings, executed and her body hung from the city walls as an example to others.

Ceda is not about to let them get away with it and 11 years later she wants her vengeance.

I’ll admit, this book had me excited from the minute I heard of it. I’m a sucker for a big sprawling epic and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s good to get away from the pseudo-medieval settings that most fantasy epics go for – the setting here being more Persian in feel. Beaulieu does a good job of bringing the desert to life and although the city is bustling and the characters are many the narrative doesn’t feel crowded. There is a lot of mystery in this story and you aren’t always sure who is in the right, who is in the wrong – at times there are groups against each other who are actually both aiming for the same ends – but it all makes for what is probably going to be one of THE fantasy books of the year and a series that will surely be up there with the Big Boys

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Guest Post by Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör and My Best Friend's Exorcism

So,today I have the honour of hosting a guest post by Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör and new release, My Best Friend's Exorcism, which I've read and very much enjoyed, I think you will too (review published earlier on this blog)

So, without further ado.......Heeeeeeeeere's Grady!!

Chances are good that you’re a normal person who doesn’t remember much about any horror movies from the Eighties, and in that case there are some great films out there just waiting for you to discover like Lifeforce, Near Dark, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Evil Dead II. But just in case those are all old hat to you, here are some neglected classics that pack in more fun and scares per second than many more modern, more expensive, and more well-known films.

The Stepfather (1987) - one of those movies from the Eighties that scarred everyone who saw it, Terry O’Quinn (Lost) plays a real-life serial husband who got married and lived the all-American life until some minor setback sent him into a rage, at which point he murdered his entire family, and moved on to the next one, where everything started all over again. Featuring one of the sickest narrative fake-outs ever put on film, even in an era when women-in-peril movies dominate cable television, this flick still stings.

Trick or Treat (1986) - there might be something better than a heavy metal horror movie about a record that summons a demonic rock star when it’s played backwards, that features cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons as well as music by Fastway and an electric guitar that kills people, but I can’t think of it right now.

Boxer’s Omen (1983) - Hong Kong horror has always been gunky and crunky, but its grandest achievement is this movie about...well, who cares? What matters are the endless battles between wizards in which live chickens are eaten, animated alligator skulls give birth to bats, flying fetuses rise up out of piles of vomit and strangle Buddhist monks with their entrails, and dead girls are sewn into the bellies of crocodiles.

The Entity (1982) - Barbara Hershey plays a single mom who’s just holding on, trying to make a life for her kids, so she really doesn’t have time to cope with a ghost haunting her modest middle class house. Jaws drop and eyes pop as viewers realize that this ghost wants a new girlfriend and it’s selected Barbara as its main squeeze. How do you stop a phantom lover that won’t take “no” for an answer? Featuring some of the creepiest setpieces ever put on film, this is the kind of movie that sears itself onto your brain forever.

Night of the Comet (1984) - it’s the end of the world and the only survivors are two Valley Girls and a bunch of mutated sleazebags. Like, Oh My God! Gag me with a spoon! By turns adorable and awesome, it’s a movie that teaches us that the least of us (airhead mall rats) will rise to the occasion when the pressure’s on and the call comes to pick up machine guns and ventilate mutant skulls in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It also happens to be a fantastic movie about female friendship.

Special Bulletin (1983) - it’s hard to describe to people who are too young to have lived through it, but those of us who grew up in the Eighties were firmly convinced that we’d probably die in a nuclear holocaust. Not helping the problem were made-for-TV movies like Special Bulletin, a found footage film that purported to be a newscast breaking into regular programming to detail the tense stand-off in Charleston Harbor between the military and terrorists who had a nuclear device. The movie ends with a failed raid on the terrorists and the device going off, resulting in scenes of charred, radioactive bodies being buried by bulldozer. It didn’t help that I lived in Charleston. Both times this film aired on television the state telephone system melted down as it got overloaded with calls from frightened relatives who wanted to make sure we were still alive. We were alive, but totally traumatized.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is out now in hardback from Quirk Books, £14.99.

Grady Hendrix lives in New York. He is the author of Horrorstör, a novel about a haunted IKEA store, which is being turned into a series by Gail Berman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl). Previously a journalist, he is also a co-founder of the New York Asian Film Festival. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter @grady_hendrix.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Ruin (The Faithful and The Fall book 3) by John Gwynne - a review

This review was originally posted on TerrorTree ( around August 2015

Right, before we get started, please be aware that Ruin is the third of four books that make up ‘The Faithful and The Fallen’ (the two previous are Malice and Valour, book 4 is, I believe, to be titled Wrath and is currently a Work In Progress). You need to know this because you really don’t want to pick up Ruin not having read the two previous volumes – trust me, you would not have a clue what was what, who was who. Also, weighing in at just under 750 pages and currently in Hardback, this book is HUGE!

To be fair though the size of the book is a fair representation of the size of the story. Ruin picks up directly from where Valour left off. Our heroes are, as you would expect, separated and in various parts of the land, the ‘enemy’ seems to be growing stronger and the dangers and battles just continue to get bigger and bigger. Our main hero, Corban, thought to be The Bright Star, the ‘chosen one of prophecy’, fills the role of village lad turned hero ably but unlike some heroes he doesn’t always seem happy with his lot. You get the idea that he is doing it because someone has to and it might as well be him. As a character I like him a lot.

On the other side of the coin we have the ‘bad guys’. We have Queen Rhin, who is just Evil and High King Nathair who we have seen grow from spoilt brat type in the earlier books to Corban’s opposite, the one he is destined to face in the final battle (although he did start out thinking that HE was the Bright Star). As a character he has probably had the most interesting ‘journey’.

The chapters are done as viewpoint chapters (a la Game of Thrones) so the story never really stands still for too long. The downside to this for me (and this is only my point of view) is that after finishing chapters featuring some of the characters I found myself rifling through the pages to see how long until I was coming back to them. I guess there were just some storylines and characters I found more interesting or held my attention more.

As for the world itself and the peoples of it, there is a nice map in the front (useful for keeping track of who’s where) and a cast of characters, with a few words to remind you of who’s done what and where we left them at the end of the last book – both of these were invaluable. I did feel that some of the place names were reminiscent of Tolkein in their pronunciation, but again, that’s not a bad thing.

Where John Gwynne really shows his strength, in my opinion, is the battle scenes. The guy really knows his weaponry and tactics. The battles are brutal and bloody, just as they should be (especially when you chuck giants, bears, draigs and huge wolf like beasts into the mix). All through the book it builds, the smaller battles leading towards bigger and bigger ones and leading to a climax that will knock you for six (I had ideas of what was coming but I never expected what did). As a middle book you would expect to have a lot of wandering around to get people and artefacts where they need to be for the big finale of the final book but this never really felt like that. I have no idea how things will end up in the great scheme of things but I know it isn’t going to be an easy ride for Corban, his allies and the readers.

Gwynne’s writing has improved over the course of the three books so far and I have no reason to doubt it will continue through book 4. This is a big book in a big series by an author who looks like being one of the main players on the British, indeed Worldwide, fantasy scene for many years to come, so put yourself some time aside to lose yourself in this epic. Just don’t expect to come out of it with your heart in one piece

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix - A Review

Title: My Best Friends Exorcism

Author: Grady Hendrix

Publisher: Quirk Books

Pages: 337

Released: 27 May 2016

Oh, the 1980’s – what good times they were. I have very happy memories of the music, the styles (not that I ever had any of THAT!) and, most of all, discovering the joy of horror movies. So, when ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ came through my letter box it didn’t take me long to realise I was going to be in for a treat.

The story is a fairly straight forward 80’s style horror – a group of girlfriends hang around together, try some acid, one goes missing and is not found until the next morning, and she is ……….not the person she was.

Is she possessed by The Devil?

Can her friends, especially her Best Friend save her?

Is everything really all it seems?

Will things ever be the same again?

In the blurb the book is described as “an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist” and, to be fair, that just about sums it up. I guess I would just throw the word ‘addictive’ in there as well because, well because it was. The various twists make it very much a ‘one more chapter’ book.

As for the actual physical book itself – well, that is a thing of loveliness, to be honest. A couple of years ago Grady Hendrix put out a book, Horrorstor, (spelt in a Swedish style but I can’t work out how to do that on my laptop, sorry) – a horror tale set (I believe, I haven’t read it yet although it is on my TBR pile) around a certain style of flat pack furniture store. That book was made to look like it could be a catalogue for said FPF store, and very impressive it looked too. Well, with ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ the author and publisher have gone for something ‘stand out’ again. MBFE is produced in the style of a high school year book, complete with scrawled messages in the front and rear covers, some of which will give you ‘ah, I get it now’ moments when the story is complete.

Also, the chapter headings are all songs from the era (Like A Prayer, Broken Wings, She Blinded Me With Science and so on) which kind of gave the novel a soundtrack of my youth – wonderful stuff.

If I did find a downside to MBFE it was just that there were some terms I didn’t get but that was probably just the way Kids In America (sorry, couldn’t resist that), or maybe just in Charleston, South Carolina spoke at the time.

My final words on ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ – well, I guess it’s a plea to the entertainment industry gods really – Please, somebody make a movie of this.