Review: The Fireman by Joe hill

“There are no unselfish acts. When people do something for someone else, it’s always for their own personal psychological reasons.”

I don’t think a book has taken me this long to finish in a while and it has nothing to do with the length of it either. I started this book on audio the week that I was sent to work from home due to the current pandemic. And this is a book that concerns a pandemic style event. Bad timing?

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

So poor timing aside, this is definitely up there with Horns for me as one of Joe Hill’s best works (outside of his work in comics). I think he has a true gift with novels that he sometimes lacks with the shorter stories and here it really shines through.

Here we have a world ravaged by a spore that manifests on peoples skin and can cause them to abruptly burst into flames. There is a phenomenal amount of detail put into how the spore infects and progresses. Dragon Scale is a deadly and fascinating disease, with as much detail as Hill was liable to give. Within the world of this book there is many theories that seem plausible for how the Scale works but within a world that is also falling apart and turning into a full scale apocalypse there is very little science to distinctly ground them. I found it reminding me of watching ‘The Walking Dead’ that way (when it was good) and it worked super well for the world building since it somehow made everything that little bit more real.

There is no way that I was getting through this review without talking about Harper. The book is very cleverly structured and timed around Harper’s pregnancy and within the 9 months it is fair to say that she achieves a very emotional character arc. Joe Hill writes wonderful mother figures and Harper is no exception. She is cheerful even in the face of danger but she is far from stupid, with an inner strength that never wains no matter who she is facing down. Although this is a global event, this is very much her story more than the actual story of the total apocalypse and it is handled very well.

There are several other wonderful characters I grew deeply attached to such as the Fireman himself or Nick, a young deaf boy Harper meets at Camp Wyndham. Something I found endlessly interesting was some of the antagonists, like Jakob (Harpers husband) or Carol Storey, another character from Camp Wyndam. Without giving much away, both are very real. Too real, especially Carol.

Hill is truly a master storyteller, no surprise with his parentage but he stands on his own two feet here and not for the first time. I can’t give away any other details about the story without spoiling it but this story is captivating, tragic, optimistic while being realistic and bleak all in one. The book wraps up so well and I can’t praise it enough. I went between the audio and the physical book here again and you are in for a treat with Kate Mulgrew narrating.

This should be a five star book but I had to take off a star for how long this took me and my poor choice for reading it during a pandemic. I will probably come back and change it but don’t let it put you off reading this great story. Thanks for tuning in guys! Happy Reading!

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Hello dear readers and welcome back to my last blog tour this week! I’ve had some really good books to review recently ans this is no exception. Today is my stop on the Random Things Tours blog tour for Goldilocks by Laura Lam!

The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.

The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.

But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .

The women were stealing a planet. They were stealing a future.

I’ve been reading science fiction for as long as I can remember and I really love space. Like I REALLY love space. I have no interest in the science but I would sooner go to space than into the ocean. Imagine my disgust when I learned historically, women were good enough to test for space but not good enough to go there. It’s clear Laura Lam discovered the same and she gave us Goldilocks.

This is definitely a stand out in a line of the resurgence in the space exploration genre of scifi stories but this is the first one that I have been deeply moved by. There is no denying the strength of these women and what they are trying to achieve here. It’s one thing to take back jobs and protest for equality, but these bad ass people literally stole a space mission.

I truly enjoyed the characters but their relationships and how they work together were truly the standout here. I think my favourite was Valerie and Naomi with their surrogate mother/daughter dynamic. I love a good found family story and this one I thought was probably the most accurate and interesting I had ever seen. There is even an early on instance where both of them had a fight and they are trying to recoup after a year of the fall out from it.

Can I just comment as well on the excellent writing and how well Laura Lam tells this wonderful story of discovery, pain and the very possible changes that could happen with a government started to restrict women further and further. I also loved the cheeky nod to the best known dystopic story about women losing their rights.

Thank you to Anne for having me on the tour and Wildfire for a copy for this amazing book in exchange for a review. Goldilocks is available now!

★★★★★/5

Laura Lam is the author of several science fiction books, including Radio 2 Book
Club selection False Hearts. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in
anthologies such as Nasty Women, Solaris Rising 3, Cranky Ladies of History,
Scotland in Space, and more. Originally from California, she now lives in Scotland with her husband, and teaches Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University.

Blog Tour: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Hello fellow readers and welcome to another wonderful blog tour! Today this is my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis!

Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you . . .
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

‘Look, these stories- small town legends about monsters or demons or evil spirits- they’re all just an excuse for people to avoid seeing the real monsters all around them. It’s a way to shatter the proverbial mirror.’

You have to love a small spooky, town story with some locals who never truly pulled themselves out of the last century. Especially when there is a creepy story of a monster that will ruin the lives of the residents should they step out of line. But what if, after all that, the real monsters are people? And what if they turn out to be our parents?

This isn’t any spoiler territory, I can assure you. This book very quickly reminded me how our parents are themselves to us first and people second. That is one of the hardest things to write about especially from the eyes of a child and Kat Ellis manages it so well here while also managing to maintain some unsettling plot details and a strange town atmosphere.

When we meet Lola, I’m not going to lie that I found her irritating. In the first few pages it is very easy to find her annoying and slightly spoiled. As the story unfolds, her background is expanded to the point of feeling pity for this girl and her constantly shifting loyalties to both Nolan and Lorelei. There is a deep conflict in her that I found very interesting with a sense of resilience that is hard to not admire straight away.

Some moments within the plot are genuinely hard to grasp and figure out but the creep factor is never far away. As the tension rises in the story and Lola becomes more paranoid it is hard to tell what might be the nasty reality of Harrow Lake or what might possibly be a monster lurking around the corner. I would love to see concept art for Mister Jitters as well.

Overall, a definite must read for horror fans while being an impressive take on the horror movie legacy and what damage it can leave behind.

Thank you to Dave at the Write Reads for having me on this tour and to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of Harrow Lake in exchange for a review!

Harrow Lake is published on the 9th of June!

Blog Tour: The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell

Welcome back everyone! Told you it was a week of blog tours! Welcome to my stop on the Random Things Tours blog tour for The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell!

Patrick Torrington’s aunt Thelma was a successful artist whose late work turned towards the occult. While staying with her in his teens he found evidence that she used to visit magical sites. As an adult he discovers her journal of her explorations,and his teenage son Roy becomes fascinated too. His experiences at the sites scare Patrick away from them, but Roy carries on the search, together with his new girlfriend. Can Patrick convince his son that his increasingly terrible suspicions are real, or will what they’ve helped to rouse take a new hold on the world?

Did you ever see something out of the corner of your eye, go to look at it and suddenly it was gone? Ever get it in the dark while reading in the dark and suddenly something moves and it’s gone again when you look? This book is that, but for a whole book.

Nothing is more unsettling than a feeling that a place, a person or even a patch of forest is not what it looks like on the surface. Ramsey Campbell has captured this right down to the chilling shivers you get when something occasionally will stop you in your tracks.

Something I really enjoyed both in this book and the last book I read by the author is how important family is to this story. Yes there is some weird supernatural stuff happening her because our main character, Patrick, is chasing his aunts sites of occult power that inspired her more surreal paintings, but never once do we not see the terror set against a family interaction. Whether Patrick himself is thinking about memories of his aunt Thelma and how she was nurtured his interest in books and learning or it’s Patrick calling his son again to check what he is doing and is he doing it alone. I think horror can miss the important messages about families sometimes, especially in movies, but I have yet to see it here.

I also have to appreciate the references to Leonora Carrington, an artist I loved when I was an art college student myself. While I do love to read horror/mystery stories about painters or artists of any kind, this was a nice visual reference to imagine Thelma’s art so that was a massive bonus.

Thank you as always to Anne for having me on the tour, and to Flame Tree Press! And thank you to both for a copy of this book in exchange for a review!

The Wise Friend is available now!

The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes Ramsey Campbell as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer”. He has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association,the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Blog Tour: The Wrongful Death (The Great Devil War III) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Hello fellow readers and yes, I did accept all my blog tours for one single week it seems! My organisational skills aside, today on the blog I am on the tour for The Wrongful Death, the third book in the Great Devil War series!

An unfortunate chain of events makes Philip responsible for the untimely death of the school bully Sam—the Devil’s original choice for an heir. Philip must return to Hell to find Sam and bring him back to life, so that fate can be restored. But trouble is stirring in Lucifer’s kingdom and not even Philip can imagine the strange and dark journey that awaits him. A journey that will take him through ancient underworlds and all the way to Paradise.

Well this one really took me by surprise. This is a series I have really enjoyed since the first book and this being the third, I was worried that I was going to have to expect the same plot beats but kind of hoped if it was, it would be in the way that this book was parodying itself. Holy shit I was so wrong.

WE GET TO GO TO ANOTHER UNDERWORLD. I’m sorry, did I say that out loud? Yes. I was thrilled. I am not even mentioning where or why or how but this is something my little heart jumped for. I am a long time fan of chthonic Gods, Goddesses, underworlds, necromancy (GIDEON!!!) and just anything like that, my gothy soul calls for it. This was such a great surprise and I hope we get to visit more.

The characters as always are a dream. I’m delighted Sam finally had his moment. I always found his and Philip’s relationship both fascinating and very real. Yes Sam is a bully who is utterly horrible to other kids but it’s like Philip brought out an element of warmth in him somehow. It is comedic as well at times how well they work too and how they balance each other out. Also can I please have dinner with Satina’s parents? They are so wonderful.

Now, the main event. Out of all these books I have read so far in this series, I did not expect this one to go how it did. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I expected something similar where each book might be a Groundhog Day/Spinal Tap and their drummer style set up where the same thing happens but that is part of the enjoyment. BUT NO. NO. I’m not saying how or where but this story and how it all wrapped up has me so pumped to read book four.

This series is definitely taking a wonderful turn that I think is necessary but also right up my alley so if you wish to know which book is the best in the series is so far? It’s definitely this one. Thank you so much to Dave at the Write Reads and Kenneth Andersen for having me on these tours and an ecopy of this book for review!

The Wrongful Death is out now!

About the author:

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned. Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement

Blog Tour: The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Hello everyone and welcome to the first day of the Random Things Tours Blog tour for The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence!

East of the Black Rock, out on the ice, lies a hole down which broken children are thrown.
On the vastness of the ice there is no room for individuals. Noone survives alone. To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is different. Torn from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her life with, Yaz has to carve a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of danger. Beneath the ice, Yaz will learn that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She will learn that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she will learn to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.
Only when it’s darkest can you see the stars.

During these very strange times it is difficult to get totally lost in a book, especially one with as grim and bleak a setting as Abeth. Nothing can take away from Lawrence’s writing being utterly captivating, even a global pandemic. This is my first Mark Lawrence book and I can’t deny how utterly impressive this book is. This book is set in a previous world of his, namely the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, but I haven’t read it (I own it, shut up) and I still had no problem getting into the book.

What we have here is a remarkable first book in a new series that sets up a brutal world with a true survivor leading the story, Yaz. The world building here is truly incredible and it is so dense that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the bleak reality of the ice, both above and below. I really enjoyed learning about underneath the ice, especially why these children are thrown into the hole in the first place. Reasons vary from unnatural speed to working the ice like clay but then Yaz has a power that allows her work with the ‘stars’ under the ice. The stars sounds SO interesting, being these objects that are a cross between rock and kind of reactor cores.

I really thought Yaz was an excellent female lead with a very well rounded arc and some very genuine personality traits. She is powerful, caring and very flawed. While Yaz’s mission of rescuing her brother is a very clear indication of how far she is willing to go to save her family, it also is just as much of a mission of her learning that the reality of the world she has come from is very wrong. She comes to realise how flawed the society of Abeth is and she is very angry for how children are just thrown away. She also has moments of very human emotions and a bit of a selfish streak almost but she is a breath of fresh air.

I will say the plot is a little slower in places for a longer fantasy book but it is clear that Mark Lawrence is dedicated to creating this bitter, cruel world and building it for the books to come as well which is where a lot of fantasy can crumble. Here that won’t happen since we are led to a finale that is sudden as it is expected. I loved this book, I can’t deny it and can’t wait to finally read more of the authors work.

Thank you for Anne as always for having me on the tour and to Harper Voyager for the very pretty proof of this book in exchange for review! The Girl and the Stars is out the 30th of April!

★★★★★/5

Mark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK,
he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy, and both The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim have won the Gemmell Legend award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

Point Horror and Me: My Favourite Point Horror Books

Cast your mind back to the faithful year of 2007. I was 14, with a massive emo fringe, my first boyfriend and a reading obsession. Now there are only so many times (LIES) that a girl could read Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl. So I asked my dad to take me to join the library. My then local library (which is now relocated nearer to my house) was stuck in an 80’s time warp and I spotted a book called Blood Sinister on a shelf.

Now, I had previously borrowed a Point Horror book off a girl in school and never gave it back since she was a total bitch (I was 14, the angst was high) but I had never seen any out in the world. That began my reading journey for my teen years and my lifelong love of the Point Horror collection. These pulpy, teen screams were literally my happy place. With their ridiculous protagonists and amazing covers, I was hooked.

I started collecting them again about 2 years ago and am determined to collect them all some day. But today I’ll be sharing my favourite books of the entire Point Horror collection. Also I am dreading rereading them but intend to at least some stage. So to begin with the OG;

The Return of the Vampire by Caroline B.Cooney: Yes this is the first one. Yes I never gave it back. Yes I am sorry. This book is a thrill, a girl who moves into a new home with her parents, she wants to be pretty, and loved by the other teens in her school but she is still an outsider. Then sure doesn’t a vampire who lives in the house have the solution! This is actually a sequel that was far better than the original and it’s all kinds of fun.

Blood Sinister by Celia Rees: Now I read a few of Celia Ree’s books as a teen but this is still my standout favourite. This is another vampire story (there is a theme here) but it’s told from a very different angle. It is wonderful and and I have massive nostalgia for the feelings from reading this. I’m wondering how well it had aged but it definitely still sits with me.

The Babysitter Series by R.L Stine: Who doesn’t know this mans name or wasn’t slightly traumatised by him since childhood? Of course R.L Stine was going to be here and of course he wrote for Point Horror. This was definitely a series that did go down hill as it went on, but at the time I was so freaked out by these books. Didn’t help I was babysitting my siblings since I was like eleven.

13 Tales of Horror by Various Authors: You were more of a Christopher Pike person than an R.L Stine? No problem, there is a book for that. And it is the standard of short stories that every teenager wanted who loved horror. These collections were so easy to get through and there were some genuinly freaky stories in there too so they definitely set me up for disappointment with anthologies when I got older. Let me tell you.

I know this was a blog post more dedicated to my nostalgia and reading journey than anything else but Point Horror books were like a comfort food for me growing up and it’s always nice to hear other peoples stories that are like this. Also, where my Point Horror fans at? Come tell me! Hope everyone is staying safe, happy reading!

Review:The Wolf of Oren Yaro by K.S Villoso

But I was starting to realize, with a sinking feeling that the wold did not turn on loyalty alone.

Fantasy is a genre that loves a story about a Queen. Queens that fight, queens that are masters of manipulations using their husbands to get what they want and Queens of startling beauty that wars are fought over. Today, we are going to talk about the Bitch Queen.

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come. But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair. Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.

I don’t think I have devoured a dense fantasy book this fast in a while. I honestly tore through this incredible story in two days and enjoyed it immensely. Taking place in a Asian/Eastern inspired world with questionable characters mixed with elements of grimdark fantasy throughout I just couldn’t put the book out of my hands.

The characters stood out to me most of all and really left me unsure of who I could trust in the book. Taliyien (or Tali) is a ruthless woman who is willing to get her hands dirty and will have your head off for the sheer insubordinate of you looking at her wrong. The only other queen of her like I have come across is that of Cersei Lannister but that is even a weak comparison. Tali is far stronger, way more compelling and will really keep any reader guessing as to her true feelings or intentions with anyone around her. That being said she does have some very emotional moments that are very tender and really flesh her out further than most monarchs we are used to seeing in fantasy stories.

There are many other memorable characters, particularly Khine and Agos. I’m not sure why Ago is more memorable than any one else but I really enjoyed his total dedication to Tali while Agos being totally as bloodthirsty and battle ready as she is. I really liked that part of his personality and how there was this one guy always rooting for her at least. Khine is just too good for this world and I mean THIS world in the book.

One part that I did struggle with here in the book was the world building. I felt it lacked a little in places since this world is massive and there are so many different tribes with varied histories. Also every tribe has a unique interaction with each other depending on that history. We did get some fascinating information on both the Oren-Yaro as well as the Ikessar. Since I am reviewing this a s a digital NetGalley copy I am not totally sure if there was a map in the final copy but I think that would have helped me a bit more too.

Besides Tali and her wonderfully woven characters I honestly couldn’t fault the pacing or the structure of this story. There are flashbacks scattered throughout the book which can be done to death but the author has managed to put them into the story in a way that doesn’t break your immersion at all. If anything they add to the plot and the ongoing complexity of Tali as our POV. Also for a story like this to be in first person and manage to keep secrets from the reader is a huge feat.

Definitely would recommend this for fans of either Robin Hobb or a Song of Ice and Fire. Also a great book that would work as an entry point to grimdark since this isn’t distinctly part of the genre but would definitely feature some key elements of the plots typically associated with it. There is a lot of blood basically and I loved it. The next book in the series can’t come sooner!

Thank you to NetGalley, Nazia and Orbit Books for an EArc of this book in exchange for review! The Wold of Oren Yaro is out now.

★★★★/5

Review: The Book of Koli by M.R Carey

‘A door in the forest was a thing out of story, and in the story there would be an elf or an ogre on the other side, but I did not think twice.’

So, every read a book synopsis, or even just convinced yourself without reading one, what a book is about and it turns out to be something totally different? This was me with The Book of Koli. What I thought was a new entry to the genre of the New Weird turned out to be a totally relevant tale of a world lost that might be saved. Other readers of M.R Carey’s novels will find themselves in familiar territory here. If like me you just read his comics, then yo are still in for a treat.

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?

This caught my attention just before Christmas when this was announced, and like I said I was totally convinced this was the beginning of a New Weird trilogy where nature has turned on us in a world that has well and truly changed. Not quite, what we have here is a book that is very much dystopian setting but this is a story of man much like Earthsea or the Dark Tower, on a journey to bring a world back.

The world itself we do come to realise is what we would know as the U.K but in a cruel state of post apocalyptic conditions. I found the world building very hard at times to maneuver and I am still unsure of certain parts of where exactly is in the novel. I think this was down to the fact the Koli, as a protagonist has only ever known this world and is telling his story from living there. It was a little frustrating but I got over it very quickly once the story kicks off.

Koli is a great central characters to experience this world through. This is the first book in a trilogy due to come out over one year and this is such a solid start Koli’s story. As I usually find with young protagonists in any apocalyptic novel, Koli did irritate me mildly with his naivety that comes usually with these stories. However he very quickly shows a resilience with a warm and tender heart. Koli is very unlike a lot of male protagonists where he is very aware of his emotions and frequently will cry or admit his feelings without fear.

I do want to talk about one particular aspect of this books and it is how the people of Mythen Rood and beyond treat the LGBTQ+ members of this world . Koli has no toxic masculine hang ups from what I could notice, even being openly honest about exploring his sexuality. There seems to be none of that macho boy bullshit I am usually used to coming across in this genre. There are trans characters (not a huge amount I will say) living in this world, many of them being able to identify themselves openly in their communities and accepted. Again, no hang ups here where someone has spoken out about their true identity and that made this a far more realistic read.

The Book of Koli is a story of many strengths but it is the perfect beginning to this trilogy, I can’t stress that enough. I love the structure of the book and how the story gradually picks up pace to become a sudden ending to a novel but the beginning of a story and the start of Koli’s journey which I anticipate will be thought provoking while also heart breaking.

Thank you to both Nazia and Orbit books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review. The Book of Koli comes out on the 16th of April!

★★★★.5/5

Review: Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

Now it has been a WHILE since I covered comics on the blog. It has also been a while since I read a Teen Titans story. This book also was one of the graphic novels I couldn’t wait for last year since I have been following Gabriel Picolo and his amazing art for years. So naturally, I only read it last week.

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school. Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before. But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

Re-imagining characters in a new way is a hard thing to pull off, especially in comics. People always come to a comic with the idea in their heads of how they experienced a character for the first time and how the new version compares. Like many, my first time meeting Raven was the Teen Titans cartoon on Cartoon Network and the subsequent DC animated works after. This vision of Raven measures up to everything and more that i was hoping for.

For a start, Garcia is the perfect choice for writing this. Choosing a YA writer to write a teenage character is generally always a good choice but here I think it works best of all with Raven being a character who is accessible now to younger readers. I think this is also a great jumping on point for adults too actually, especially if you never read a Teen Titans book.

Something that I find can be done very poorly in classic comics being brought into the current day is new characters that have never existed before. Both Garcia and Picolo together have created Max, Raven’s foster sister and new friend. I wish characters like Max had existed when I started reading comics, she is such a realistic teenager but she is also one of the few teens I have seen in comics who has a good relationship with her mother. Also as is revealed later on, Max has enough of her own shit going on and she handles it like a champ. Note, if you are a long time DC fan, you will spot a well known character connected with the titans here too!

Now to my favourite part. The art. Noone draws the Teen Titans like Gabriel Picolo. I will die on that hill. There are other amazing artists like Jen Bartel who draw the Teen Titans regularly but their appearance does tend to be based on Picolo’s vision. He draws them like teens would be dressed, in the style of Snapchats and just doing normal teen things. This was al before Raven was announced and I imagine that I wasn’t the only one that cheered.

There is a very particular palette as well in the story that keeps with Raven and her aesthetic and I honestly hope this becomes more common across other comics and graphic novels. There are generally two palettes I see in DC, and named them in my head. We have ‘the muddy’ for the edgier stories that are more along the kine of the Black Label and then ‘the bold’ for all the others. Some have both (looking at you Suicide Squad). This was a blessing to see.

I can’t not talk about the clothes. Holy shit if anyone can do fashion besides Kevin Wada, it is Gabriel Picolo. The way Raven dresses makes me long for that wardrobe in my own life. I think some of my favourites are her raven hoodie/jacket and her ‘Black is my happy colour’ shirt. Those shoes too, talk about goals.

There is thankfully a sequel being published this year (hopefully, looking at you Rona) that follows Beast Boy and I think I am safe to assume Raven will make another appearance there. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see what else this team has to offer.

I think I made the best decision to read this now of all times and get me back to reading. Again this is definitely a good place to start if you are reading either graphic novels and comics or to the Teen Titans. Stay safe everyone and happy reading to you all!

★★★★★/5