Category > Fantasy fiction

The Book of Life

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The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness , book review“It began with absence and desire. It began with blood and fear. It began with a discovery of witches.”

Quite literally, actually. Deborah Harkness’ bestselling All Souls Trilogy started with A Discovery of Witches in 2011, before moving onto Shadow of Night the year after and finally coming to a satisfying conclusion with The Book of Life, finally released this month to an impatient readership. I was fortunate enough to be part of the London pre-launch event for the book, which served as a very timely reminder as to why I had enjoyed the first two books in this series so much and why I was so lucky to get an advance review copy (signed by Deborah to boot). For those of you new to this superior supernatural fantasy, let me bring you up to speed.


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The Shattered Crown

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The Shattered Crown by Richard Ford, book reviewIt is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a publisher in possession of free review copies will be in want of a book reviewer to read them. This, for the reviewer, means lots of lovely free books, many of which being ones that they would otherwise likely never have read. Unfortunately, in amongst this pile will occasionally creep the odd book that is part of an ongoing series or (worse) the mid-point in a trilogy. I have had several such books in the past and have generally struggled to understand what is going on, given that much of the story, scene-setting and character development has taken place before the book in my hands has even started. The second book in a trilogy in particularly difficult, as it is often the weak link, a mere bridging stage between an intriguing introduction and an explosive finale.


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The Copper Promise

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The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, book reviewI’m rather glad now that I didn’t know a week or so ago that Jen William’s The Copper Promise had been previously published as four e-book only novellas. Call me a literary snob, but it would likely have put me off trying the new release of the four parts drawn together into one thumping great paperback. Weighing in at a hefty 500-plus pages, it is Tolkienesque in size if not so much in content. (And that is not a criticism – after being force fed Farmer Giles of Hamm in school, it soured any enjoyment that may have been left to find in reading Tolkien’s other books). While not a great reader of the fantasy genre, I can confirm that this book has the expected swords, sorcery and quests, but it also has rather a lot more.


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After Dead

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After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse, Charlaine Harris, book reviewEarlier this year I read and reviewed the final novel in Charlaine Harris’s popular Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Ever After.I concluded that I was unhappy with the rushed and forced feel to the ending, although I had suspected that was where she was heading after the previous novel. After that, I looked forward to the publication of After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse with a kind of desperation, hoping that not only would it give me one last shot of the characters and stories I had grown to love, but also that it would provide a comfortable closure which had been missing from Dead Ever After.


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Aspen and the Dream Walkers

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Aspen and the Dream Walkers, Caroline Swart, book reviewAspen and the Dream Walkers is a new young adult fantasy novel by Caroline Swart, the first in a series entitled The Dream Walkers. Aspen is approaching her sixteenth birthday, and life isn’t exactly great. Her father died when she was very young, and her stepfather and stepsister are horrible to her – Miriam, her stepsister, has is spoilt by her father while Aspen has nothing. Then Aspen starts to have very realistic dreams, and she becomes friends with Dylan and Sandy, new students at her school. Soon she learns that dreams are not just dreams…

Some time ago I read and reviewed Ms Swart’s debut novel, Liquid Gold. I enjoyed the story and excitement of the novel, but felt that there was improvement to be made, although the author definitely had promise.


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Elysian Fields

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Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson, book reviewNew Orleans is hardly the most original place in which to set your supernatural urban fantasy series, but I would be prepared to forgive that if the quality of the story lifted it beyond the ordinary. In Elysian Fields, Suzanne Johnson imagines a world where the force of Hurricane Katrina has ripped a hole in the veil between the human city and the frontier “beyond” settlement of Old Orleans; this was a good start, giving us an intriguing explanation for non-humans to be entering the city in the form of the undead and the more inevitable werewolves, vampires and the like. Unfortunately, after this imaginative opening idea, things went a little downhill for me.


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The Name of the Wind

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The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle), Patrick Rothfuss, book reviewThe Name of the Wind is the first in Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. I heard of the author when wishing George R.R. Martin would hurry up and finish the next book in A Song Of Ice And Fire – I googled “authors like GRRM” and found an interview with him asking who fans should read while waiting for him to get his bum in gear – Patrick Rothfuss was one of his answers.

The Name of the Wind opens in a village tavern, where the regulars are doing their usual drinking and storytelling. When one of the villagers appears with a strange bundle and an even stranger story, this sets in motion events which bring to light (for the readers) the fact that the innkeeper, known as Kote, is in fact Kvothe Kingkiller.


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No Such Thing as Immortality

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No Such Thing as Immortality, Sarah Tranter, book reviewNo Such Thing as Immortality is the debut novel by Sarah Tranter. Her publisher, Choc Lit, chose to actively promote it as their Twilight; given the inevitable comparisons between it and any vampire romance novel, perhaps it makes sense for them to embrace the similarities instead of trying to deny them.

No Such Thing is told from the point of view of the vampire. Nathanial Gray, Nate, is around two hundred years old, almost indestructible, with perfect senses and coordination. Until the night when he crashes his car into Rowan Locke’s car. Suddenly he finds himself experiencing emotion for the first time in two centuries, and can’t stop thinking about Rowan.


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Affliction

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Affliction by Laurell K Hamilton, book reviewBeing a US Marshall is not an easy job. Being a US Marshall is a world where you are a born necromancer with psychic powers, and Federal law has legalised the co-existence of vampires and were-animals (leopards, lions and tigers as well as wolves) alongside humans, makes for interesting times for Anita Blake. As a specialist investigator into preternatural crime she is essentially a legalised vampire-hunter: someone who seeks out (and where necessary kills) those supernatural beings who break humanity’s laws. Anita also has a strangely complicated love life, living as part of a threesome with two were-animals while also dating a powerful vampire. Local law enforcement accepts that she straddles the divide between human and non-human in her own strange way because she is such an effective investigator; outside of her home city of St Louis, she is seen a little differently.


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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,  J. K. Rowling, book reviewHarry is in his third year at Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. As a new professor of defense of dark arts comes to the school everything becomes mysterious as his lessons get cancelled once a month and a criminal called Sirius Black escapes from the Azkaban jail and starts looking for Harry.

One night, while Harry was having tea with professor Lupin, the defense of dark arts teacher Snape walked in and glared mysteriously at Harry and gave Lupin and enormous jug full of some potion. (Snape was the potion teacher.)


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Enchantress

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Enchantress, James Maxwell, book reviewEnchantress is the first novel in James Maxwell’s The Evermen Saga. Available free on Kindle, I downloaded it thanks to the book description, which opens by stating it is “the first book in an epic new series to rival The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones”. As a huge fan of both (although the book series is called Song of Ice and Fire, the TV show is Game of Thrones), I was intrigued.

Ella and Miro are brother and sister, Ella a flower seller who dreams of being an enchantress, and Miro a soldier in training who dreams of being an elite blade singer. Each of the lands in the novel has its own “lore”, and in their homeland, Altura, the lore is enchanting.


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Moon Over Soho

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Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch, book reviewMoon Over Soho is the second of Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Peter Grant novels, following on from Rivers of London. PC Grant found himself joining the Met’s supernatural division in the first novel, its only other member being his new magic teacher, wizard Thomas Nightingale. He then had some run ins with ghosts, wizards and the spirits of Londons rivers, all the while trying to learn some magic himself.

In Moon Over Soho, Peter has taken on a little more responsibility while Nightingale recovers from the events of Rivers of London. This time round, he is on the trail of a magical being who is sucking the life from jazz musicians just as they finish performing.


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