Monday, 11 October 2021

Shadow Service vols 1&2

 



I started reading comics as a youngster, starting with Marvel and moving on to 2000AD when that started up. Shadow Service feels very 2000ADish so I was hooked from the start. 

Black-Ops meets Spycraft meets Witchcraft as Gina, a spellcasting PI in London is recruited by MI666, a shadow branch of the Secret Service. There's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as she works with and against them but that worked for me as it kept the story flowing well and leaves me eager for vol 3.

What really stood out for me was the artwork. I read both volumes on my kindle fire and the quality is exceptional with the colouring making the pictures feel almost lifelike (especially the scenes where it is raining - the pictures actually look wet) 

One thing I wasn't especially keen on was MI666's mobile HQ, a van that is bigger on the inside than the outside - it would be cool if it hadn't been done before. But that aside these books had lots of good - the bad guys are as monstrous as you could hope for, the leader of MI666 is a man in a boy's body which adds a quirky element. 


And there's a talking rat. A TALKING RAT!! I mean, seriously, how can you go wrong when there's a talking rat involved? 

Thanks to Black Crow PR for inviting me onto this tour. This is day one so please follow the tour and have a look at the posts by my fellow bloggers



Monday, 27 September 2021

Born To The Dark by Ramsey Campbell

 




Born To The Dark is the second of Campbell's The Three Deaths of Daoloth and sees us back in Liverpool but 30 years on from The Searching Dead. I'd advise reading that first as it gives the story a little more flow but you get a reminder of previous events early on.


Dominic Sheldrake is now all grown up with a family and his 5 year old son is having trouble sleeping. While Dom is away his wife signs Toby (the son) up to the Safe To Sleep program without Dom's consent. Things get bad between the two when it turns out that Christian Noble (the Big Bad from The Searching Dead and Dom's nemesis) and his daughter are behind Safe To Sleep. And Toby's nightmares are getting worse...


As usual for Ramsey Campbell this is a very creepy read, the kind that has you turning the page slowly, not knowing what scares are around the corner but also eager to embrace them. I've been reading RC since the 80s and don't believe he has ever let me down - and it's the same with Born To The Dark. I'm looking forward to seeing how the series finishes



Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour, Flaming Tree Press for providing the review copy and Ramsey himself for keeping me entertained all these years.


Please have a look at the posts by the other reviewers on the tour - we really appreciate it




Monday, 20 September 2021

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

 


'Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.


With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies . . . while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.


The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver's ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together . . .'

                         My Opinion

Well, what can I say about Joe Abercrombie and his writing that's not been said before - not a lot I guess. You know what you are getting with JA and with The Wisdom of Crowds believe me, you get it by the bucket load. 

 TWOC is the final volume in the Age of Madness Trilogy and brings things to a glorious finish. As always JA puts his characters through the wringer (although, to be fair the ones put 'through the wringer' are the ones that get of lightly). This is a brutal book but there are moments of humour too. I got my review copy early and had the intention of saving it for my holiday, (which was in release week) but I made the mistake of "just reading the one chapter, you know, just a taster". Well, that taster turned into a full on banquet and too nightshifts later I was done. As is often the case with Abercrombie putting the book down is not an option. 

 I tried to think what I could compare it too and the best I could come up with was Charles Dickens meets Les Miserables. What made me particularly enjoy this series was that JA moved things forward, giving the tale a more Age of Industry feel, advancing the world, if you like. 

What I didn't like - it came to an end and now I have to wait and see what the author does next. 

Highly recommended 5/5* 


Thanks to Gollancz for inviting me to join this Blogtour. 

Please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers (below) - every read helps us be more visible 




Monday, 6 September 2021

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

 


                 ABOUT THE BOOK 

The land is in chaos as a hero heads for war.


Commanding a devastating army of skyships, Osyrus Ward has conquered most of Terra. And to finish the task, he’s building a machine of unparalleled power. With it, he’d be unstoppable – and dragons would be wiped from the face of the earth.


Bershad and Ashlyn are leading a desperate rebellion, but they’ve been trapped within the Dainwood by Ward’s relentless mercenaries. The rebels pray Ashlyn’s dark magic will give them an edge, but her powers are well-known to their enemies as they draw ever nearer. Out of options, Ashlyn must embark on a dangerous mission to save her fledgling army – or be crushed by Ward’s soldiers.


Bershad was once invincible in battle, but this very power may prove his undoing. Now, with every new wound, his humanity is slipping further away. Bershad seems to be Terra’s last and best hope against terrifying forces. But to save the world, will he become the nightmare?


                    MY THOUGHTS

I think it's fair to say I've loved this series from day one so seeing it come to an end is a bit of a downer but it's also fair to say it's gone out in style.

What impressed me most I think (apart from the dragons - I mean, come on, who can't be impressed by dragons as awesome as these) is the way the magic system develops to a more sciencey/maybe steampunky type and how natural this feels. To win, to progress you have to adapt and that really feels like the case here.

Our heroes, Flawless Bershad and Ashlyn have gone through the wringer at times to be where they are at the start of Fury and things really don't get any easier for them throughout the book. I was left at times wondering who would make it through to the end and, yes, I actually cared about the characters wellbeing - for me that's the sign of a good storyteller.

Naslund's world building really worked for me - there's a difference between knowing the lands because you can see a map and knowing them because 'you are there' in your mind. Another strength of Naslund I guess.

As final battles go Fury really turns up the dials here and I was quite exhausted by the end but thoroughly enjoyed it. And I guess it's not really the end for me because I'm going to give it a couple of months then I'm going to go back to the beginning and read all three back to back - can't wait 😉

Highly recommended and a very much deserved 5/5*

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Deep Cover by Leigh Russell

 


      Welcome to my spot on day 8 of the Blogtour for Deep Cover 

              ABOUT THE BOOK 

When a sex worker dies in suspicious circumstances in York, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel struggles to remain focused on the murder investigation: she is distracted by her worries about her colleague and life partner, Ian Peterson, who has disappeared. As Geraldine becomes close to her new DS, Matthew, she is unaware that Ian is working undercover in London, trying to identify a criminal gang who have been targeting her.


As a second victim is discovered in York, and Ian's life is threatened by a psychopath the tension mounts. If he fails in his mission, both he and Geraldine may die...


                    MY THOUGHTS

This is the sixteenth book in the Geraldine Steel series of Police Procedural/ Crime Fiction novels but was a new series for me. The author has two cases on the go here, told in alternating chapters. In York Steel is investigating the murder of a prostitute while her ex DI Ian Peters on is undercover on a drugs op. She doesn't know this and thinks him mlssing which affects her concentration on her case.

At first it starts out as two different cases but (as I guess you would expect) there are strands that pull the two together but it is done in clever ways and still managed to pull the rug out from under me a few times.

As I said earlier this series is new to me and I do like seeing characters develop over time so I turned to Amazon and found the first three in the series were on offer so gave them a try. I enjoyed them immensely and will be reading the rest when I get chance. Deep Cover is a lot later on in the careers of Steel and Patterson and there are new characters since those early cases and some faces not there any more but I'll find out bout those later (and so will you I guess if you're following the blog - I aim to post more about the series as I go through it)

Anyhoo, back to Deep Cover - I got through this in just a few days as it's one of those 'one more chapter' books that finds you still awake at 2am wondering where the time has gone and can you chance carrying on and just stay in bed tomorrow (I did!😂).

Deep Cover works as a stand-alone novel despite being part of a series but I strongly advise having a look at the the other books as well just for quality of the storytelling 

Highly recommended 4.5/5*

 
Leigh Russell has quickly taken a spot on the list of authors I will picking up on release date 


Thanks as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this blogtour. Please have a look at the other  blogger posts (below) 




Saturday, 14 August 2021

Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward - Blogtour



Welcome to Day 4 of the Legacy of Light blog tour. Today sees a guest post by the author himself, Matthew Ward, on how the next generation step up and come into their own in this final book in the series. It's a good one, so, without further ado... 

HEEEEERE'S Matthew... 


Passing the Torch


I’ve loved generational storytelling for as long as I can remember, though it took me a long time to figure out why. 

I think in the beginning, I liked that The Lord of the Rings had a bunch of familiar names from The Hobbit, which is reassuring when you’re seven years old, and tackling a book that everyone is (wrongly) very clear that you won’t understand¹ . But I think even at that point I appreciated that Bilbo and Glóin were still around, and had families – even if I was upset that Balin fell down a mine shaft onto some orc arrows² . It meant that I wasn’t just reading a story, but a history. It made it all real.

The same was true when I stumbled onto Shannara a few years later. Except here, between the first two series anyway, you’re talking about four generations of Ohmsfords and Leahs entangled in sorcerous shenanigans. 

Shannara also added something new to the mix. While The Lord of the Rings leans towards the idea that heroes are predestined to be leaders (and vice versa)³  and therefore naturally rise to the fore of weighty events, Shannara takes the line that ‘well, weighty events once touched your ancestor, so now you and all your descendants are screwed, because magic remembers and someone’s got to do the heavy lifting’.

Sidestepping genres and media into the world of superhero comics, the same’s true of the Geoff Johns/James Robinson/David Goyer run on JSA (Justice Society of America)⁴ . Where most superhero comics are frozen in time – Peter Parker has been Spider-man for 60-odd years at this point – JSA sees costumed identities passed down to inheritors across the decades from the team’s original 1940s founding to the early 2000s and beyond¹¹. 

As you might expect, JSA’s a bit cheerier than epic fantasy fare (although not without its bleak moments), and it finally offered up the missing piece of the puzzle. 

In The Lord of the Rings and Shannara, we seldom see the generations actually interact¹² . Generally, the elder folks are dead and not available for comment¹³ . In JSA, they’re mentors, role models, cautionary tales and slices of living history. Crucially, their presence and deeds offer a new perspective on the world they inhabit … not only to the reader, but also to their inheritors. In turn, their inheritors’ perspective – and more importantly, how they react to the examples set by their predecessors – makes that world a richer, more dynamic place.

Because let’s be honest, in real life or fiction, no generation comes of age without casting a leery eye at the preceding one.

JSA set my love of generational tales in stone. You see, more than anything else, a story has to feel alive. Great characters are vital, sure, as is a setting that lives beyond the words on the page to keep unfolding in the reader’s mind. But the real magic happens when the characters and world evolve in step with one another. There’s no finer way to show this than with the passing of the torch, and the rise of a new generation … and how the new generation rises.

Because we see this play out all around us, all the time. In our families, in our workplaces, in the many-headed hydraic¹⁴  horror that is the rolling news cycle. Half of what we know about our world is seeing how other people grow and adapt to it. We take note of what works and what doesn’t, and plot our own course accordingly … with mixed results.

Why wouldn’t our characters do the same? The choices they make – or don’t – tell us so much about their role models and the society they’ve grown into. And it’s never more dramatic than when children come of age and find their place.

So it’s probably not surprising when I say that the Legacy Trilogy was always going to be a generational story²¹ . Hell, it’s there from the start. Legacy of Ash is predominantly about Viktor, Josiri and Calenne wrestling with their parents’ mistakes. In Legacy of Steel it’s Melanna’s turn. And by the time we get to Legacy of Light, it’s time for the new generation to emerge from the shadow of those decisions²² .

Though they’ve been present in previous books, Legacy of Light marks the first time that Sidara, Constans and Altiris really get to grips with what they want, and how far they’re prepared to go to achieve it. Though she’s a few years older in both years and mileage, the same can be said of Melanna Saranal, who’s starting to realise – as so many of us do – that the challenges don’t go away, they merely change form. All four are fighting to find their place in a tumultuous world, eyes cast back at their role models with everything from adoration to disdain.

Where do they end up? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but the joy in the writing – and hopefully the reading – is seeing whose influence they embrace, whose they reject and what these characters determine for themselves. The fate of the Tressian Republic and the Hadari Empire will turn on those choices …

Matthew Ward is a cat servant, creative consultant and author of the Legacy Trilogy, the final book of which – Legacy of Light – is available now. Follow him on Twitter (@thetowerofstars) or check out his website www.thetowerofstars.com 

 ¹ Fog on the Barrow-downs scared the absolute living shit out of me, however.


 ³ Actually, this always upsets me whenever I re-read The Lord of the Rings. Goes to show a little characterisation goes a long way.


  ⁴Think about it. How many non-magical characters are royal, or royal adjacent? Gimli is of Durin’s line, cousin to both Thorin and Dáin. Legolas is a prince. Frodo, Merry and Pippin are all (presumably) landed gentry. Boromir is a pretender to the throne. Only Sam, bless him, represents the common folk, led on a merry chase from court to palace to evil overlord’s dungeon …


  ¹¹ Which I heartily recommend to anyone who loves superheroes. It’s some of the finest serialised storytelling going.


  ¹² There’s a fair chunk of time travel, so it gets a bit squirrely in places.


 ¹³ This is true of a lot of fantasy fiction, of course. It doesn’t pay to be the wise mentor, esteemed parent or suchlike to the plucky chosen one. Disney get a lot of stick for the ‘dead parents’ cliché, but they’re hardly alone.


 ¹⁴ In The Lord of the Rings it tends to be the work of orcs although rivers seem to play a prominent role. You heard it here first: Tolkien had a phobia of fast-flowing water – he was a vampire all along. Or something. allowed to make words up. It’s in the job description.

  ²¹And in turn part of a much larger generational story, but we’ll see where we get to.

  ²² Or, you know, die trying.

(apologies for the strange numbering on the footnotes, for some reason the numbers didn't appear when I copied the file and my phone, on which I blog, only does small numbers from 1-4)

 


Thank you very much indeed to Matthew for inviting me to join the tour and share space with some awesome fellow bloggers - please take time to have a look at their posts (and share them around on social media if you feel that way inclined).


Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward is published by Orbit and will be available to buy from the 19th of August. As with the previous volumes (Legacy of Ash, Legacy of Steel) it's a humungous beast of a book and a cracking read so far (I'm nearing the end of my review copy and will post a full review when I'm done) 

 

Friday, 13 August 2021

Devil's Fjord by David Hewson

 

                        Book Description

A remote island. An isolated community. A terrible secret.

If the new District Sheriff, Tristan Haraldsen, thought moving to a remote village on the island of Vagar would be the chance for a peaceful life with his wife Elsebeth, his first few weeks in office swiftly correct him of that notion.

Provoked into taking part in the village’s whale hunt against his will, Haraldsen blunders badly, and in the ensuing chaos two local boys go missing. Blaming himself, Haraldsen dives into the investigation and soon learns that the boys are not the first to have gone missing on Vagar.

As Tristan and Elsebeth become increasingly ensnared by the island’s past, they realise its wild beauty hides an altogether uglier and sinister truth.


                          My Thoughts


I do have a soft spot for Scandi Noir, I must say. Crime fiction set in Denmark, Norway, Iceland etc always seems just that little bit darker. Well, with Devil's Fjord I can now add The Faroe Islands to that list.

With the new District Sheriff moving to a quiet village for a more peaceful life (Hahaha, these people, they never learn) he soon finds himself neck deep in tradition, whale hunting and missing boys. The deeper he digs the more sinister it gets.

 I think what really set this novel apart for me was the setting. I know of The Faroe Islands but not much about them but the author made them feel real (and certainly somewhere I'd love to visit one day) and the community felt very insular which you would expect of island life I guess. It's the not aways knowing if people behave in certain ways because they ARE sinister or just because that's how they've always behaved. The bond between the Sheriff and his wife worked as a good juxtaposition to the general feeling of isolation.

 I would highly recommend this novel (I'll certainly be reading it again when the nights get darker) and have no qualms about giving it the full 5*

HOWEVER!!!

 With the whaling scenes I understand this may not be to everybody's taste so please be aware that these can be somewhat graphic.


Thank you, as always, to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour. Please, if you can, have a look at the posts by the other bloggers on this tour (below)