Thursday 25 September 2014

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (a review)

This story, as you would maybe expect in a fantasy novel, begins with a prophecy 'She is coming' The 'She' in question is Jaenelle, destined to be a Queen more powerful than any before her, the saviour of the land etc etc, not just a witch but Witch. After the prophecy 700 years pass. The realm is an even darker place now, ruled over by Dorotea...and by dark I mean REALLY dark. Males break witches before they come into their power, through rape and torture. Those witches who escape the 'breaking' torment the males out of vengeance (don't even get me started on the psychic controlled cock rings!!!!!) When we meet Jaenelle, she is only a young child, with childish questioning which helps set the scene, and draws a good picture of the realms. She is destined, as the prophecy stated, to become the leader of a Brave New World but will need the help of her 'defenders' Lucivar, Saetan and Daemon Sadi - the names kind of give things away a little. This is not an 'elves, unicorns and fluffy bunnies' type of fantasy - this is dark and at times quite disturbing book but if you stick with it you may well find yourself enjoying it more than you would expect. One thing I did find a bit troublesome is the jewel based magic system, consisting of 13 different jewels ranging from white (least powerful) to Black (the most powerful). There is a guide at the front thankfully, I did find it useful, I must say. At times I did find this a bit disturbing and unsettling but once into the story I found myself quite looking forward to the next in the series. For a dark and, at times slightly disturbing novel there is a story here that makes the occassional squirming worth while 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday 24 September 2014

The Electric by Andrew David Barker - (a review)

Earlier this year I met up with Alex Davis, the publisher and editor of Boo Books, at a comic fair in Sheffield. During our chat he mentioned a book that was going to be published by his press in the near future, which was about a cinema showing films for ghosts made by ghosts. I must say I was intrigued by the premise and looked forward to the day I could get my hands on a copy. That day came last Saturday, and believe me when I say it was worth the wait.

The story plays out over the last week/weekend of the school summer holidays in 1985, and starts with the lead character Sam Crowhurst cycling by the river after saying goodbye to his friends David and Emma. Sam is still getting over the death of his father, as is his mother, which is why he is in no rush to get home. While meandering by the river Sam comes across an old shack with a bit of an old movie poster in it. The shack leads to a path which leads inevitably, to The Electric, an abandoned cinema. Though it is deserted and nigh on derelict Sam feels drawn to it and sets off to explore. What he, and his friends when he fetches them to see it the next day, will find at The Electric will change them all.

I can't say too much about the plot as it may well spoil the reading experience of this quite wonderful book, but the general gist is that there are ghosts in The Electric and they are watching films that were never made, starring actors from different eras of cinema. There is a magic on the screen but also, there is a magic here in the printed word.

The Electric is, at heart, a ghost story, but more chilling than horror in style. It is also, though, a coming of age tale. The three lead characters are all fifteen years old, approaching the last year of school and on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Two of them have lost a parent so there is grief and sorrow thrown into the mix of teenage emotions. I thought I had the general idea of where the story was going to end up but I'm not ashamed to say I was only partly right. There were two scenes at the end that I honestly believe will stay with me for a very long time, and one sentence that actually brought tears to my eyes.

On this showing, Andrew David Barker is one to watch for the future, an author with a writing style that draws you into the book and into the story knowing you are in safe hands but not sure what will be round the next corner. The book reviewed is a limited edition hardback (98/150) but is also available as a kindle edition. I bought the copy myself so feel justified in giving it 10/10 for both the story and the physical book itself.

Andrew David Barker and Boo Books (Alex Davis) - remember those names, you'll be hearing more from both of them in the future.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

The Godless by Ben Peek (a review)

The Godless is the first in a new epic fantasy series by Australian author Ben Peek. It is a big, big book that promises lots and, I'm happy to say, delivers on those promises.

The story is set in a world that was once populated by Gods, but they fought a terrible war and are now all dead or dying (hence the title of the book). These dead or dying Gods are, in effect, leaking their 'Godly Power'(for want of a better word) and these 'leakages' give some people 'powers'. Contrary to what you may expect though, these 'powers'are seen as a curse, not a gift by most people.

The action of the story takes place in the City of Mireea which is built atop the buried body of the God Ger. There are three chief protagonists, the first being Ayae, a trainee cartographer. She is an orphan who came to the City as a child and is happy in her life. This all changes when she is caught in a fire at her place of work. It is a horrific blaze but she is untouched by the flames. She is then called as 'cursed' and people turn away from her, even those she loves. The second main character is the mystic Zaifyr, a man thousands of years old, who may be able to help Ayae learn how to use/cope with her gift/curse. Due to the many years he has lived this character is used as a kind of 'infodump' at times as his part of the story contains a lot of history. This is not a bad thing though as there is a lot of it and following it as part of his life story makes it interesting. The city of Mireea, at the time of the story, is on the verge of attack by a neighbouring army who want the body of Her and the associated 'Godly Power'.

 This brings us to the third and final arc of the story, concerning Buerlain, the leader of the mercenary group Dark. They are charged with infiltrating the approaching army to find their plans and any possible weaknesses. This section of the story is very much in the 'Grimdark' vein and is another refreshing aspect to the story as a whole. With a large cast of minor characters this is a book that you need to give time to, but that time is well rewarded with a good piece of fantasy fiction that is possibly like nothing you have read before.

 Good world building, good characterisation and some great ideas. This is certainly a series I will be following eagerly and I recommend you do the same. 4/5 stars

Tuesday 2 September 2014

The Legend Of The Chained Oak - Movie Review

When a local writer begins to investigate Oakamoors mysterious chained Oak, the chance find of a seventeenth century journal detailing the reasons for the Oaks chaining throws a new and terrifying light on the popular legend. Accounts of human sacrifice, witchcraft and warnings of a curse placed on the village by a woman named Mabel Othan litter the tattered pages. An enthusiastic and experienced team is hastily formed and begin to investigate the journals outlandish claims. However, as they begin to dig deeper into the myth and folklore that surrounds the Oak, a series of chilling events lead the team to believe that maybe the horrifying claims of witchcraft and human sacrifice made by the journal hold an element of truth after all… (taken from the accompanying film description)

I've just had the privilege of watching this little gem of a short film and must say I am really impressed with it. I read the story (same title) a while back and was interested in seeing the finished results of the film so, thankfully, Dan Weatherer, the author, agreed to send me a copy. As is right I will give my honest opinion of it.

This is a low budget film (£500 to make) but it comes over a lot better than a lot of films with budgets that would dwarf this amount. The acting by all involved is believable, especially the leading ladies, Amy and Faye Ormston who do "hysterically terrified" really well. As well as the cast, the local scenery adds to the 'fear effect', especially when the investigators attempt to contact Mabel at the site of the titular Chained Oak. Most of the story is done in a 'filmed documentary' but the bits that really unsettle are when there are just the cameras left on at night.

I really don't want to drop any spoilers here,so all I'll say is, if you get a spare half hour and the opportunity to see this film, take it. Do whatever you need to do to see it, but don't, whatever else you do, disturb Mabel!!!

4.5/5 stars - Well done to all involved