Review: The Walking Dead: Compendium One

You think that we hide behind walls to protect us from the walking dead? Don’t you get it? We are the walking dead!

I think it was 2014 or 2015 when I caught up with The Walking Dead TV show. I was obsessed and I’m not even joking when I say that. I was sharing Daryl Dixon pictures on my Facebook page, I bought the Telltale game (which I have yet to play fully) and you can guess the rest. Then the show tanked, it got so bad and the only good things left were Michonne and Negan. It’s taken me until now to read the comics. Surprise surprise, they are far better.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, The Governor.

*****Trigger Warnings for body horror, gore, mutilation, death of a parent, rape, physical and sexual assault, suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse******

So lets get this out of the way first, this is a complete tome that is over 1000 pages and I was reading this for a while. However, something I really enjoyed was once I sat down and opened this sheer brick of a collection, it was very easy to be sucked in to the story. So if the sheer length of it scared you, it is very easy to sail through it.

This is a sad and bitter world with people reduced to relying on survival instincts. Trusting your fellow man isn’t an option and there are no laws or government. Nothing of our old world remains and there is this constant unknowing if there is a government still there and if society will return if at all. I really liked the bleak reality of it and it was done far better in the comics. I think this has a lot to do with the pacing (more on that shortly) but there is less exposition on when things will be fixed which I do prefer and more ‘we need to survive this, let’s get moving.’ to the world as a whole.

This is mostly told from Rick Grime’s perspective and the creators have advised before that this is his story. Rick is the main focus of the plot driving the whole story as he begins in this compendium as the small town cop who is looking for his family and how he becomes the ruthless leader of a group of survivors. Rick has always interested me since he can be very realistic, and he is by no means an always good man. He has genuinely frightening moments that make him just as much of a problematic character as the people he is trying to defend himself from. Kirkman made a really good point about Rick in an interview where he described him as much more of an every-man who is very gentle, making him the perfect one to challenge in this world where the zombies don’t disappear after the credits roll. This series is what happens after that.

Obviously the “zombies” aren’t the main threat, more of an annoyance and a challenge for these people. If you like genuinely scary villains with messed up agendas and stories that really go there, you will probably love this. In terms of story arc, this book covers Rick and his awakening from his coma to the end of The Governor story line. The Governor wasn’t as compelling to me in the show the further it went on but the comics go there. He is frightening right from the start , he does everything the vilest human being you can think of could do and he takes it that step further. There is also the best damn revenge plot for him I will add. If it spoils sorry, but you might need to know.

Some smaller things stopped me from giving this a full 5 stars. One of them being that there are a few characters that are a bit too weird for me, not helping that I am comparing them to their TV counterparts. The other small thing I did have an issue with was the lack of emotional connection I had with any of the characters with how fast the plot moved. But that is to be expected so that’s just me.

The art is standout in this book. It’s black and white, totally scaled back and it really works to keep you consistently engaged in the story. This was a choice on behalf of the creators for both budget and the level of gore they wanted to go for. But even besides the fact it hides the very large amounts of blood, it really fits the mood of the story. You’re not going to care if this was done in any colour scheme once you get sucked into this story. Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard after him really managed a feat here with defining characters with limited options which does not take away from defining each character from each other. Yuo can easilt tell who is who and their feelings, it’s literally perfect.

This is the first 48 issues of the series and the culmination of the story cut through me. I honestly can’t wait to start the next compendium (thank you to my friend who lended these to me and who is super patient with me reading these slowly) Again, the size of these shouldn’t put you off. These are perfect for starting off while also being easy to get into. Do let me know if you are a fan! Happy reading all!

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: The Angel of Evil (The Great Devil War IV)by Kenneth B. Andersen

Good evening everyone. Welcome to my stop today on The Write Reads blg tour for The Angel of Evil by Kenneth B. Andersen!

Nothing will ever be the same. Satina is gone, kidnapped by the enemy. Disobeying Lucifer, Philip heads out to find her, journeying into the deep darkness of Outer Reach. But nothing can prepare Philip for the horror that awaits—or the demons he will face.

Meanwhile, Lucifer’s kingdom is threatened as the Great Devil War draws closer. All Hell is about to break loose.

The Angel of Evil is volume 4 of The Great Devil War series

‘But he had. And did he regret it?
No. He was no longer an angel and he’d sworn never to be weak again.’

Anyone who follows my posts on a regular basis will know how I’ve been following along with this series. Especially how the last book tore out my heart and totally blew up my expectations. Needless to say, the mood for this was set before reading the first page and things are getting real.

Things kick off directly from the get go. It picks up directly after the explosive ending of the previous story and how the characters are dealing with that. The world building isn’t something I’ll be discussing much here since we are now four books in and the world is very well developed, especially after the third book expanding to other hellscapes and other parts of these planes of existence. This book kind of links them all together in anticipation of this unavoidable war. Either way, it’s good to be back.

The main focus of this book is a mix of conflict and the trauma it leaves in it’s wake. As well as the consequences of our own conflict and how we deal with that. But this is Philip’s story so we are watching him deal with these struggles. Philip has a very different character arc in this book compared to the others. His inner struggles are more present than ever since at this stage, he does want to stay in Hell and it’s clear how he feels for Satina by now. But this war he has internally between his potential devil self and his “human” self is really put on display here and I really liked that. The humor of the first two books is definitely toned down to make room for this and I appreciated that.

Philip at the end of the day is a human and no amount of dies, summoning pills and accidental deaths are going to make him the devil he wants to be. He has to be Philip and that’s how he will triumph in the end. There are some very emotional moments between him and the other characters. Mostly Lucifer and Ravine but I do feel that he and Satina are more central to the plot with him having these decisions to make.

Satina takes a bit of a step back in the story which I wasn’t thrilled about (sorry, I love a demon lady) but something that was touched upon a good but is her recovery after being abducted by Aziel. There is a very good discussion that not all damage is done physically even when you are a non human being but it was good to see that as a main point of discussion. Spells could do as much damage as whips. However, it didn’t get brought up again much and that would have been amazing but I still loved seeing this on the page.

The story never fails to deliver on anything. The tension, the big reveals and the way it all wraps up at the end is as great as the last few have been. I will not deny after the last one, I was dreading the last few pages and I will have trust issues with the next book as a result but this felt like a perfect delivery of everything we have been teased about in the series so far. I really enjoyed it and was totally satisfied with how this all wrapped up. However book five is out now, so noone is safe.

Thank you as always to Dave from The Write Reads for having me on the tour and to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for review. The Angel of Evil is out now!

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Hello fellow readers! Today on the blog, is my review for the blog tour of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia!

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I pray I’ll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

******Trigger warnings for the following: Racism, rape, body horror, cannibalism, incest, eugenics, white supremacy, death of a parent and siblings and miscarriage.

I have never read the author before and this was honestly such a good introduction to her work. This is an intense creepy story that never fails to make your skin crawl or wonder what is going in with this damn house. The constant claustrophobia and anger felt by both the protagonist and the reader certainly stay with you off the page.

Its hard not to feel that you are locked in the crumbling mansion that is High Place. Long gone is the grandeur of Manderley and all that is left is the rotting, moldy remnants of an English family home. I am a big fan of house as character tropes and while I never felt the house was it’s own character, I definitely felt the sense that it wouldn’t let me go. From the silver laden cabinets to the enforced silence of dinner times it’s clear this house is insanely corrupt. The author went straight to the point, not once taking the attention away from High House or it’s dreary residents. For what we see of even the local town, you never spend long enough there to escape the house and that made this all the more creepy.

While investigating this weird family and this even weirder house, it’s hard not to connect with the characters or even have an emotional reaction to them. I loved Noemí right from the start. She never backs down and refuses to settle for anything less. While she can be both capricious and shallow it only strives to enforce her wonderful character more. She is pure steel with a strong sense of family, she never fails to try and challenge anyone who either offends her or stands in her way. She is the first to call out the patriarch, Howard, on his clear racism and discussion of eugenics.

Upon meeting Virgil and his family, the whole story gets even creepier I think. Is there anything creepier than racism, old English attitudes and the ideas of a superior race? I truly didn’t think this would have such relevant themes to the current climate but Virgil and his Usher style folks are a bignred flag from the get go. Except Francis. He must be kept safe at all costs.

Now I will say this isn’t going to be a nail biting read with moment after moment of shocking horror. What this truly is a gothic tale taken right out of the classics and is set in 1950s Mexico with a very unsettling story. There are some genuinely disgusting moments in this story and it didn’t help that one of the more fungal aspects of the house, is something I have a bit of an aversion to already so my reaction was a lot more visceral. There are some moments of body horror too which I was not expecting when the plot took a certain turn but it definitely added to the building tension and worked in the authors favour.

If you are a fan of creepy stories or gothic narratives or even want a story that is a welcome and refreshing take on both of these, then this is definitely for you. I read this in a day which is testament to how hard it is to put down as well.

Thank you to both Netgalley and Jo Fletcher Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Thank you also for having me on this blog tour!

Mexican Gothic is published today the 30th of June!

Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I can read minds but I still don’t understand women. Or men. Humans. I don’t understand humans.

This book has been sitting on my TBR forever. I bought a Kindle copy ast year and never got around to it between starting this blog and various life things. I picked up a physical copy back in February (forgetting the Kindle copy clearly) and have finally read it. Definitely the kind of scifi I need in my life right now.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future

I really enjoyed this. I have found that my taste in scifi is leaning far more towards ‘new weird’ or just generally narratives that focus more on far more diverse stories in the last year. Lagoon was a huge favourite of mine from last year and Rosewater definitely captured some similar aspects of an alternative Nigeria but manages to keep you at arms length to maintain the mystery of both Rosewater and Kaaro.

The prospect of a city like Rosewater is so completely fascinating and terrifying to me. This city exists due the the third appearance of an alien known as Wormwood as it manifests as a biodome in Nigeria. Once a year, this dome opens and people flock to it to be healed and changed by entering the dome. Thompson explains this so well, I had no problem entering the story whenever I had put it down. What I really liked as well was the description of how psychic powers work and how they are tied into the existence of the biodome. It added an extra layer to the world building that I found impressive.

Kaaro is a protagonist I would usually find it hard to gel with. When I said that we are kept at arms length, it is mostly from Kaaro. He is a powerful psychic, if not the best, who has not always used his powers for totally honorable reasons. He is narrating this story and since we get this story in different time jumps, for example the plot as it’s happening now to events that happened before Kaaro became a government agent and how he became one. The book lets you get right to that part of his past that will answer a question that you have and then the chapter will end. However far we are kept from Kaaro, he does have a fantastic characters arc and the various time jumps across his life do give him a sense of growth that I don’t see often with male characters. He is flawed yet sympathetic and I find it very interesting how his masculinity in particular is challenged and discussed at various points of the story.

The time jumps in the story are work very well with this story, There is the perfect blend of scifi meets mystery here, with the mystery kept in the dark for all the right reasons. The pieces of the plot do come together perfectly and it becomes clear that Kaaro is more involved with various events than even he realises and how his powers are at risk as well as his life. It’s also a big difference to rad a science fiction story where America isn’t a huge factor in the plot. American in 2066 having shut down after Wormwood hit is a very different and welcome direction for the plot to take. I’d also like to thank Tade Thompson for mentioning the fate of my own home of Ireland and how it shaped up!

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy this book, my only very mild criticism that the antagonist of the plot (or at least the main source of conflict) was dealt with very cleanly. Other than that, I am really looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy and discovering what is to come from Rosewater next.

Thanks for checking in guys, let me know if you have read this! Happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

Review: Page by Tamora Pierce ( The Protector of the Small)

If we pick a fight, then we’re just as bad as them. Combat should be used just to help people who can’t defend themselves, period.

This seems to officially be a Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce stan account these days (more on the Discworld Project next week). I picked this up directly after finishing First Test so you can imagine how much that shows I’m enjoying this series.

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over. She must master
her paralyzing vertigo, the gruelling training schedule and the dark machinations of those who would rather she fail.

But in times of danger, Kel shines.

The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate – they will do anything to halt her journey.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

For some reason and I can’t place why, this book reminds me a lot of reading Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Now this is nowhere near the level of grimdark that Farseer reaches but I think it might be that this time, the time scale of Kel and her training is sped up significantly. First book of course did cover that year of probation that Kel had to suffer through and this book covers from her second year as a Page to when she is finishing her exams to progress to a Squire.

As a result of that, we get to see Kel as she matures into a teenager. Within a world like Tortall, you wouldn’t expect to see in depth about the joys of puberty and every thing that a young girl might experience during that. But you forget, this is Tamora Pierce. This books are different. I was so relieved that there was a good detailed discussion about periods. Yep, this book has details about getting periods among other details. What a relief! I don’t think I can think of one fantasy book that details this without the value being around virginity/purity. Nope, this is your normal, inconvenience of having one when you really don’t meed one. And there is a discussion about them with Kel and her maid Lalasa which needs to be more common. Something small, I know but anything that will destigmatise basic bodily functions is fine with me.

Since there isn’t a lot of world or expansion of the world building of the previous book, this book functions mostly as both a character study and a coming of age story for Kel and her friends. We obviously get the period stuff I mentioned but just other small things that add to the other characters growth too. Her changing feelings for Neal being one and her discovery of a solid, female friendship with Lalasa as well. This is probably the part I loved the most. Lalasa is a welcome addition to the story and watching Kel teach her physically how to defend herself while reminding her that harassment is never okay and has to be challenged, well, it felt very relevant to be honest. Even more so at the moment.

As far as the story is concerned, it is as tight and concise as the first. I felt the climactic point of the plot was both obvious while also kind of being a thing that I didn’t think would happen. That Keladry succeeding threatened others that much and that they had to be so malevolent about it. The last few chapters were so gripping that I was getting worried while reading it and even if it does seem like she is always going to make it sue to the quartet existing, I still had my doubts for a second. That to me is great plot work.

I can’t move on without the mention of best boy Jump. A dog is a welcome addtion to any story, especially such a good boy like him. I really liked seeing even Lord Wyldon make a tiny fuss of him and agree he was vital to the entire castle. Thank you Tamora Pierce for not having the dog die as well. I don’t care if that spoils the book, I know others will want to know.

I haven’t picked up Squire yet just due to some mood reading and blog tours but that and Lady Knight will be up next on my TBR very soon. I will have considerable space after recent revelations. Thanks for reading this review and happy reading. Most of all know, I hope everyone is safe, practicing self care for their mental health and is doing okay.

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Hello fellow readers, today is my stop on the Orbit Books blog tour for We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson!

In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder. In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall. And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

‘There are no Gods. Only men. But if you can give people hope…You can become something close to divine.’

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that I thought this is honestly an amazing book with a great start to a new series. This book has a lot of my buzz words, but the second I heard there was a princess tearing stuff down from the inside and an assassin who could hear the voices of the dead that was me on board.

Set in the Eastern inspired world of Kisia, straight away from the get go the world building was solid. I don’t think I struggled once to understand the various locations of the 3 main characters as we moved across this war torn land. From the varying customs that were stark comparisons between the Levanti and Kisians or the different lives led by Cassandra as both a sex worker and assassin Princess Miko having to pretend her archery skills were half what they were, the world is so clear it was hard to step away. To be fair, I read this in 2 sittings but I still had no problem stepping back into the world when needed.

World building aside, the characters are the true standouts here. We get the 3 varying points of view here that all transition very smoothly between each other and there are obviously going to be favourites. Cassandra was honestly my favourite. What’s not to love about a sex working assassin with a very murky past, has necromantic powers and has the voice of something in their head? Cassandra is a bit unlike the other characters where she doesn’t really care about the looming war and she’s just looking to be paid. Which is fair enough to be honest. She does have this interesting arc with the voice of the creature she talks with in her head and I’m really curious to see where that goes.

Princess Miko has such a great development form start to finish that has left me so satisfied, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get this into words. This novel by the way opens with one of the best lines I have read in a long time, and comes directly from Miko;

They tried to kill me four times before I could walk.

I honestly think I don’t see enough power hungry princesses in fantasy. Here Madson has managed to make Miko as a character so sympathetic and so totally believable that her goals are very hard not find yourself agreeing with at times. She is above all intelligent, growing up in her brothers shadow while also being that same shadow. She has had to watch every single move she ha made, every word spoken for fear that there will be no support for her should her brother be heir. She is also totally able to adapt and use whatever she is given to an advantage. Hard to forget as well is her relationship with her mother, the Empress, and how she uses that too to gain what she needs but learn that to rule an empire your parents might not be the best role models to look up to.

Hard to mention Miko without mentioning her mother. Empress Hana is seen by both Cassandra and Miko’s POV but both totally differently. I don’t mean like one sees “mother” and one sees Empress. They both see her as the Empress Hana of Kisia but one is a cold, shrewd tactician and the other is a Cersei type ruler who will have you dead before you can blink. That worked super well and for a character who spends very little time actually in the story I was highly impressed with her.

The characters and the world blend seamlessly with the constantly racing plot that had me totally absorbed the entire time. There was no room to breathe or stop (second sitting needed so that I could sleep) and wonder on a death or a big event since something else was always coming and it flows so well with a conclusion that is very satisfying. That being said, I need book 2 immediately and want to start reading it yesterday. Jokes aside, I do find it hard to find first books in fantasy series that are so well executed so for that alone, the book is highly enjoyable.

We Ride the Storm comes out the 25th of June.

Thank you to both Nazia and Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This is up there with The Wolf of Oren Yaro by totally resetting my expectations for upcoming fantasy novels. The fact this began as an self published book too makes me sad I didn’t find it prior to this but I would highly recommend this for any fantasy fans looking for something new. happy reading guys!

Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too overpowered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Review: The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman (Spoilers)

‘You won’t understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it’s not about making things up, it’s about perception.’

****Trigger warnings for rape, mentions of abuse and physical assault. This review will also contain spoilers for His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage and this book.****

Noone is more disappointed than I to be giving this book a negative review. I honestly think the rating I gave is down to Michael Sheen’s narration alone, for being back in this world and seeing Lyra and Malcolm again. Pullman has taken this series down a very dark road which does nothing for the world and strikes me as a gamble that won’t payoff. This is gonna be a hard review fellow readers.

It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child.

The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.

Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.

So to keep some kind of coherence to this review, let me just break down the main reasons I had so many problems with it. As a quick summary, I thought the plot was very weak and used unnecessary moments of trauma to move it forward. The characters on a whole are totally nothing like themselves from previous books for one and for series named ‘The Book of Dust’, we still know nothing new about Dust. Be warned, the spoilers are about to begin.

Lyra and Pan were always going to have conflict and trauma to explore after the results of what happened in The Amber Spyglass. Daemons and humans separating isn’t a common practice and takes a great deal of pain to manage the process and survive it. However, this goes way beyond everything that was already established for both. Pan is convinced that Lyra has lost her “imaginations” somehow and leaves her later on to go find it. This only really functioned as plot device but it was a bit of a slap to the face to anyone who loved these characters to begin with.

Malcolm is a welcome return I will admit, as well as Alice who is the best damn thing in this entire mess. But I do have to question the decision to have Malcolm fall in love with Lyra? It’s an uncomfortable experience to read to be honest, especially since the last book made it very clear that Malcolm has been in her life since she was a baby. Alice though, is truly the best. As well, the Gyptian people are the best family Lyra could have.

****Trigger Warning, the rest of the review will be discussing an attempted rape scene.****

I need to talk about the fact that after 4 books, Pullman has decided the next thing that was going to happen to Lyra, was assault and attempted gang rape. This is the most unnecessary scene I have ever read. For a start, there is no warning for this so this is very triggering material. It’s also lazy writing and serves no function only to alienate readers further. I’m left to wonder since Lyra is ‘no longer a child’ and other plot details I will get to are meant to be the thing that distinguish this series ‘adult’. The one thing that His Dark Materials always managed to do was appeal to adults and children both. Regardless of both, this sucks and I hated it.

The only thing I will say that saved me from leaving this as one star was the amazing narration from Michael Sheen once again. I would kill for an audio book of him narrating either a Discworld novel or a new Good Omens with him and Tennant. Every single character has a distinct voice, accent AND personality and this is all while he manages to maintain the tension of the plot where necessary. There is not a moment I didn’t know who was talking (both human and daemon) and I that is a testament to the narrators skill.

Again, the plot is a bit of a mess. Like I get that in the issue with rose oil, and the people being uprooted from their lands is meant to make some message about the refugee crisis but it never really gets to there it’s supposed to. Not only that but I really don’t get why the events from His Dark Materials are being discussed like they happened 30 years ago. From the end of The Amber Spyglass, I was willing to believe that the Magesterium would now lose some of their hold and things would change for the better. However if anything, this story shows how they are just creeping further and further into the network of society to suffocate anything that is not part of it’s regime. All this culminates in an ending that is just a massive cliff hanger with no answers and leaves you no option but to finish this series with the last book.

I also just want to repeat my comment at the stat, for a book series dedicated to Dust, we don’t see very much of it. Same can be said of the Secret Commonwealth. There is not much in the way of discussing where this book will stand in both these titles or how they will add to the world here.

Again, this was a hard review to write. I had initially rated this 3 stars but there is no need for the third one. I will finish this series since I have come this far but I don’t deny that the bad taste in my mouth. I might just pretend that the original series and La Belle Sauvage are all that exist in this world. I miss Will. If you read all this, thank you so much and I can only with you happier reading this week.

★★/5

Extract Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

‘Piranesi. It is what he calls me. Which is strange because as far as I remember it is not my name.’

This was a nice, short and sweet extract from one of my most anticipated releases this year, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Thank you to both Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the exclusive extract of this book!

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

I think this is the perfect little taste to get of this book. but it’s also agonising since September feels so far away! From reading here we get a clear view that the House mentioned, is a bit of a TARDIS case. It looks to be bigger on the inside. Our narrator, the man of the title Piranesi, mentions halls of statues, rolling tides flowing through the House and secrets he ponders each day as he explore the House.

I’m fascinated by this introduction to Pitanesi and what possibilities lie behind him as a character. There is very big potential here that he could be either an unreliable narrator or that this book is possibly one that could break the fourth wall after concluding on this wonderful line:

The Sixteenth Person.

And You. Who are You? Who is it that I an writing for? Are you a traveler who has cheated Tides an crossed Broken Floors and Derelict Stairs to reach these Halls? Or are You perhaps someone who inhabits my own Halls long after I am dead?

I can’t wait to read this and September can’t come soon enough. Piranesi is out on the 15th of September from Boomsbury. Check back in here for my inevitable review.

Review: First Test by Tamora Pierce (The Protector of the Small)

‘I’ve watched Lady Alanna fight for the crown. I saw her majesty and some of her ladies fight in the Immortals War. I know women can be warriors.’

I’m back! Apologies for my sudden absence, a combination of work and personal things coupled with the world being totally on fire at the moment have lead me to fall behind on the review here. Well I’m back with my journey to Tortall and the first book in The Protector of the Small quartet.

Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl who dares to take advantage of the new rule that allows women to train for knighthood.

But standing in Kel’s way is Lord Wyldon the training master, who is dead set against girls becoming knights. A woman should be lovely. A woman should be charming. A woman should not be deadly.

Wyldon demands Kel pass a one-year trial that no male page has ever had to endure. It’s just one more way to separate Kel from her fellow trainees. Kel must prove herself twice as good as her male peers just to be thought equal. But she is not to be underestimated.

Kel will fight to succeed, even when odds are stacked against her. Book one of a powerful and classic fantasy quartet about smashing the ceilings others place above you, by the bestselling author of the Song of the Lioness series and Tempests and Slaughter.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I loved my read of the Immortals quartet last year that returning to this world was highly enjoyable for me. I love Tamora Pierce’s writing from my first read of Wild Magic and I feel it only gets better with each series.

This book expands on the world building of Tortall from the previous 2 series but there is no issue for a reader to begin reading from here. There are details and spoilers from the Immortals quartet as well as appearances of characters from there and the world left changed after the Immortals War. It’s a nice reward for anyone who has read it but it really makes the world larger and we learn of the Yamani Islands which are based on Japan and Japanese culture. Kel having spent time there gives us some brief insight into their traditions and ways of living.

Kel is only 11 in this first book but already she is pretty fearless. During the constant harassment from the male Pages, her training mater and the general struggle of becoming a Knight, she doesn’t give an inch and refuses to compromise. From the start of the book she is clearly a character that is more aligned with Alanna than Daine where she is more physical and commonly sports black eyes and bruises from various fights. I think out of all the characters Pierce has written, Kel is one I relate to the hardest. I’ve so often been in the situation (as many people have) that I’ve had to work harder just to get what I want and it’s refreshing she is not a ‘chosen one’ either.

We met some other great characters along the way. Besides the reappearance of Daine, Numair and other big names, there is the introduction of Lord Wyldon and Kel’s main ally, Nealan of Queenscove. Clearly Wyldon is as biased as he is tough but I thought by the end of the book, he certainly took on a more relatable light and changed a lot. I like seeing characters change their attitudes and just grow out of them. It needs to be normalised a lot more in fantasy books. Neal is hilarious and a great friend to Kel but there is clearly some set up here for later books I feel with his character so I’ll talk about that as I read on.

This is a nice quick read with a smooth cohesive plot that really works as both a primer for the world and a refresher for returning reader. I am giving it such a high rating for mostly enjoyment purposes but do still think this is a very solid first book for a series. Also, Kel saves kittens. She was a fave right there and then.

Thank you for bearing with me fellow readers. Rest assured I have a lot of stuff coming up these next couple of weeks including my review of the second book in this series, Page. So keep an eye out for that and do tell me, are you a fan? Have you read this series? Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

I think we all have those books sitting on out shelves for a while that we all KNOW we will love but we don’t read them right away? It’s almost like a stubbornness from people suggesting it or hearing about it all the time? I bought Howl’s Moving Castle almost a year ago, and have only got around to reading it now as the lockdown in Ireland continues. And yes I did love it.

“How about making a bargain with me?” said the demon. “I’ll break your spell if you agree to break this contract I’m under.”

In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help – the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.

But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls..

Can I start off with Sophie being the eldest and just say SAME GIRL. Diana Wynne Jones is also the eldest of her siblings and a lot of what she writes into Sophie, I felt was very applicable to me. I’m not cursed, neither have I sought my fortune but there is still a strong feeling of being seen. The more I sit on this, the more I feel I needed this when I was younger.

I went into this totally blind. I have not seen the full movie and I only knew vague plot elements about Howl mostly and that really did help here. This is another well loved fantasy classic that I feel has stood the test of time. I am currently focussing on women fantasy authors and older, back listed titles a lot more and this was definitely up there in that category.

The world itself is wonderfully painted and so whimsical it was heart warming. As said in the synopsis and the quote from the book, this is a world where seven league boots, witches and wizards who eat girls hearts live among us. There is however a nice tie to the world as we would know it, “the real world” even which I thought was written really well.

I really love Sophie. She reminds me a lot of Daine in The Immortals Quartet in the way that she is so incredibly caring, mostly towards her sisters and step mother, but she is not at all willing to accept things just as they are. She it outspoken when she needs to be and I feel she really embraces that side of her when she goes to Howl to seek help.

We have to talk about Howl Pendragon. What a dramatic, man child who can’t cope with any kind of inconvenience. Another thing I didn’t know at all was the kind of character Howl was. I think I got the opposite of what I was expecting but I’m kind of glad I did? He’s this powerful wizard who always avoids a direct answer and you never truly know what he is up to. Sophie is not taking his shit at all either which is so entertaining to read, especially when they bicker.

This is a great story, no doubt about it and there is a sense of the story being complete with how everything turns out. This is a book I would have happily recommended to anyone at the start of the pandemic as a book where nothing really bad happens and it is a pure piece of escapism. There are 2 sequels but you could totally read it as a standalone story but I do intend to read more of Diana Wynne Jones so will probably read them.

Now I shall finally watch the movie as it is my day off and might so another blog post on that. Happy reading folks!

★★★★★/5