This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

21 December, 2011


   Nice to finally see a trailer. It doesn't really show much, but what it does show looks really good. Really looking forward to the movie now!

19 December, 2011


Cover art: Paul Young
Cover design: Patrick Knowles


ISBN:  978-0-575-08964-8
Pages: 532
Publisher: Gollancz
 Published: 21 July 2011

On the cover:

The Vikings are laying siege to Paris. As the houses on the banks of the Seine burn a debate rages in the Cathedral on the walled island of the city proper. The situation is hopeless. The Vikings want the Count's sister. In return they will spare the rest of the city. Can the Count really have ambitions to be Emperor of the Franks if he doesn't do everything he can to save his people? Can he call himself a man if he doesn't do everything he can to save his sister?
His conscience demands one thing, the demands of state another. The Count and the church are relying on the living saint, the blind and crippled Jehan of St Germain, to enlist the aid of God and resolve the situation for them.
But the Vikings have their own gods. And outside their camp a terrifying brother and sister, priests of Odin, have their own agenda. An agenda of darkness and madness. And in the shadows a wolfman lurks.

    This is a continuation of the story in Wolfsangel, but it is not the usual direct sequel we are so used to from fantasy. Instead it is the next installment in the cycle of the story. And the cycle is also the central theme of Lachlan's fantasy series. The protagonists here are not the same as in Wolfsangel, but they are aspects of them. The story is moving on with different players, and I found this worked well.
   Lachlan maintains the saga-like quality of his prose, which is a good thing. It worked very well in Wolfsangel, and if anything it works even better here.

   The story is really fast-paced. There's quite a lot of action, and even in quieter parts of the novel the story is moving along steadily. I can't think of any part of the book that was really a "rest-period", and this makes it a book that can be difficult to put down.
   There's a lot of magic in this book. But Lachlan doesn't use this as a prop, it is integral to the story he is telling, and it never feels like it is out of place. As with Wolfsangel there is also a presence of gods here, the dark and fallible Viking variety that will be familiar to students of Norse mythology.

   The characters we encounter in the book have their separate tales to tell, and all of them are interesting. There are several main characters here that could easily have carried a novel by themselves, and they are propped up with supporting characters that are interesting in their own right.
   Lachlan makes use of several points of view. This can be annoying in some stories, but here they add up to giving a much greater whole than the sum of the individual viewpoints. The different protagonists are used to great effect to draw the story together and form a single narrative.

   This time the location is outside the Scandinavian homeland of the Vikings, mostly in modern day France, but we also get to go to Russia. As someone who is Norwegian and interested in history I think it was really refreshing to see these lesser known locations for Viking activity used to great effect here. And it also makes me excited to find out where we are heading next in Lachlan's saga.

   I can't think of anything I disliked in this book, it is very close to a perfect novel. For anyone who feels that modern fantasy is getting a bit stale this will be the perfect antidote. And if you have any interest in Vikings or Norse mythology Lachlan has created an excellent fantasy for you. This is a perfect read for dark winter evenings.

Review: Wolfsangel

16 December, 2011

REVIEW: 11.22.63

Cover photo: Press Association Images


ISBN: 978-1-444-72729-6
Pages: 740
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published:  8 November 2011

On the cover:

Jake Epping is an English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching in an adult education programme. One day, he receives an essay from one of his students - a harrowing first person story about the night, fifty years earlier, when Harry Dunning's father came home and killed Harry's mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer.

Later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges an extraordinary secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane - and insanely possible - mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
Inspired by his desire to put things right for Harry Dunning, Jake leaves a world if iPods and mobile phones for a new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars, root beers and Lindy Hopping. It is a haunting world of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

   A new Stephen King novel is always a treat for me, and I had been looking forward to this one since I first heard about it. King tackling time-travel sounded especially interesting. 
   King manages to tackle the time travel very well, he's not exactly doing it in a Hard SF way and this may disappoint science fiction fans. But I thought the idea of how the world was affected by it in the small scale was very well done. I also liked what happened when a subsequent travel takes place. (Sorry for being vague, but I feel it is too much a spoiler to be more specific.)

   The book starts out as a pretty traditional style time travel novel. And it continues in that way for a while, but then King changes tracks. Jake Epping is staying for a long time in the past, and the book becomes much more about how America was in the late fifties and early sixties. Something King has written about before, and something he is very good at. There's even room for an excursion to post-IT, something I, and I'm sure any other fan of IT will enjoy. From there the novel moves from King's "comfort zone" in New England and into the south, and it is here that the main part of the story takes place.

   The historical part of this novel centres around Lee Harvey Oswald, and we really learn a lot about the man. I found this part of the novel fascinating, although at times it seems that King is using a lot of space to paint Oswald as a villain. The events he describes may be historically correct, but I didn't really feel they added enough to the story that so much of it had to be included.
   The most interesting part to me, is the part of the story were we see Jake Epping settling into his new life in the past. King handles this expertly, even the romance he has found place for is very well done and feels realistic.

   This is by no means King's best novel, and I doubt it will make it into many peoples top five King novels, but that doesn't mean it is a weak novel. I thoroughly enjoyed following Jake Epping on his journey in the past, and there is enough action and suspense here to make it a book that seems a quicker read than its page count suggests it is. 
   You don't have to be a King completist to enjoy this, it is a great novel for anyone who likes King. And for anyone with an interest in the JFK assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald this is a must. It's not a bad starting point for anyone who hasn't read King either, there's not any SFF here except for the time travel, so anyone not familiar with SFF should be able to get into it easily.
   With the holidays coming up, this is a great book to put on your wish list and read while you wait for the New Year to come around.

Reviews: The Shining, Bag of Bones, Four Past Midnight

Links: Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton

08 December, 2011


Cover design: Lauren Panepinto
Cover photograph: Pixie Vision Productions
Cover model: Donna Ricci


 ISBN: 978-0-315-12719-6
Pages: 374
Publisher: Orbit
Publishing date: June 28 2011

SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't read the
three previous books, this will contain spoilers.

On the cover:

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it's too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what exactly has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?

   In this forth installment of The Parasol Protectorate series we get a slightly different story than in the previous books. Nothing radically different, but there is a bit more sleuthing on Alexia's part than in the other books. Which is only natural when you consider her condition. But of course we are talking about Alexia Tarabotti here, so she doesn't exactly sit still knitting while she waits for the baby to come.

   The novel opens with a nice set-up and a good refresher of previous events and it isn't long before we get introduced to the central mystery of the book. I won't say to much about the mystery, but it is an interesting one. And Miss Carriger uses it to give us information of events happening in the past.
   This is one of the great strengths of the novel., there is an almost constant trickle of backstory here. It really helps flesh out the world Alexia inhabits, and gives it a history that makes it feel more real than it could otherwise have been. A credit to Miss Carriger's writing is that some of the revelations from the past took me completely by surprise.

   There is a certain domesticity to parts of this story. This is because of Alexia's pregnancy, but it also brings the series firmly back to the London setting it started with in book one. Alexia and Connall's new living quarters certainly add to the story, this could easily have become boring but Miss Carriger manages to make it both fun and interesting.

   As with the history of the world of Alexia I mentioned above, there is also quite a bit of lore being revealed in this book. We learn more about all three supernatural classes, vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Again this strengthened the story for me, I like it that what is in essence a fantasy world has a history that makes it come alive.
   I must add that Miss Carriger manages to give us all the backstory and lore without it feeling infodumpy [If that wasn't a word before, it is now.] , it all flows naturally in the narrative and I don't think anyone will feel it is distracting or takes you out of the story.

   The story is fast paced throughout, even when there is not really any physical action Miss Carriger manages to makes the pages fly by with her excellent writing style. I have already mentioned the central mystery, it has some surprising revelations for the reader, at least it caught me off guard several times.
   There are also some action scenes in this book that would probably make Michael Bay wet his pants if he got hold of them. The action is by no means over the top, but it is really nice to see Miss Carriger take it to the level it is on here.

   As with the previous books in the series, I really enjoyed this one. Miss Carriger writes very good action-adventure, and her lighter style of storytelling is a nice break from all the "gloom and doom" we find in fantasy these days.
   If you like steampunk or urban fantasy, The Parasol Protectorate series is really a must-read; it is also a good starting point if you are curious as to what these genres is about. And if you have followed the series so far, this installment will certainly not be a disappointment. Miss Carriger has added another great installment in the saga of Alexia Tarabotti.

Reviews: Soulless  Changeless  Blameless

Links: Gail Carriger  Orbit