Review: The Raven by Jonathan Janz

‘The evidence is all around me. Humans have always been monsters. We just needed a push to embrace our shadow side.’

*****Trigger warning for the following: Body horror, apocalypses, rape, pedophaelia, gore, blood, torture, death of a child and a parent*******

I always talk about my love for SFF and comics on this blog but horror sometimes falls by the wayside here. I’ve been reading horror since I was 13 (10 if you include Under the Hawthorne Tree. If you know, you know.). I am ashamed to say that despite my love of horror, I have never read a Jonathan Janz book. Until now!

Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They’ve discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA. These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?

I haven’t read a book that felt this cinematic in a very long time. Everything literally felt like I was sat watching it on screen instead of a book. This is a grim, dark world that is both familiar yet totally alien. Not a single moment gives you relief from the constant threats this world throws at it’s characters and for a post apocalyptic novel that I read during a global pandemic, I had great fun.

One things that struck me was Janz’s wonderful ability for world building. This is a world that felt lived in and it certanily felt like he was questioning just what lengths he could really push the misery of the characters lives. And then how could he make it worse. He honestly has such a knack for writing a world like this, like trying to pitch a pandemic level apocalypse that turns people into vampires and werewolves as a novel is just so unique. I honestly am mostly obsessed with the concept and I really enjoyed it.

Now as we all know, horror is hinged on atmosphere. This book does it times ten. This world is bleak, it’s unforgiving and you will die in seconds if you don’t have your eye on the ball. Like honestly Janz does not care about the wellbeing of his characters. Dez, our protagonist, literally escapes a bunch of cannibals and watches 2 people being killed and consumed, he finds shelter (and popcorn!) only for his peace to be ruined and his life nearly stolen at by a grieving werewolf. Noone at all catches a break here.

Random thing I really liked about the myriad of monsters of this world is the werewolves. They aren’t transformed or alered by moonlight but ususally an emotional trigger. Dez does let us know that is seems to be mostly anger or rage of some kind that sets off the transformation of human to wolf. However w do meet one later that changes as a result of the crushing grief at the loss of his wife. I really liked that since it is an interesting modern take.

Janz is truly brutal to his characters though. Dez has been through almightly hell when we meet him. Mostly as a result of the post traumatic stress of the loss of his son, he lives in this constant state of guilt. One small complaint I really didn’t like was the brief hint that he had a form of possible OCD but he never bothered to get it checked. I know it’s the apocalypse but this is distinctly described as a moment of contemplation when he thinks of the past. Outside of that, all the characters need a cup of tea that isn’t secretly full of wasps.

The horror is really dialled up to ten, the characters are interesting but what took the last star was the plot and structure of the book. We had what promised to be every other chapter told in the first person by Dez. That only lasts for a few chapters and it is forgotten about. The framing device is the journal he keeps and those chapters are his entries, granted he can’t write them all the time but the lack of consistency with it was a bit jarring.

Thank you to both Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for an early copy of this book for review. This was highly enjoyable and I look forward to reading more of Janz work. Thanks for checking in everyone! happy reading! ‘The Raven’ is out now.

★★★★/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!

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.

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 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.

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: The City We Became by N.K Jemisin

‘Every battle is a dance. She was always a good dancer at the pow wows, and these days? The steel toed boots dwell permanently in her soul.’

In the year of our lord, 2020, N.K Jemisin has declared ware on H.P Lovecraft and my word it’s about time someone did at last. Over the past few years I have seen some wonderful groups that would have been otherwise targeted by the stories of Lovecraft and re imagine his stories for a world that includes them. They shove themselves into these worlds reminding this dude everyone loves that they exist too in all worlds. Then N.K Jemisin showed up to the party and smashed his knee in.

Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all

This is book has been one of the most anticipated SFF titles of the year and I was lucky enough to receive this for review and oh my word did it deliver. Jemisin will definitely be an author you would have heard of it you are any way in touch with SFF books, the Hugo’s or just any form of online book spaces for fantasy readers. This is a bit of a step back for Jemisin since this is a book set in our world. Her previous works have been set in far more distant worlds and this one is truly a shining star.

The beginning of a new trilogy, this journey actually began with her Tor.com short story, The City Born Great. I have never been to New York myself but I felt every single twist and turn of the city as it moved off the page. Each and every street and person felt as real and genuine as the book itself. Its hard to write imaginary worlds like the Dreaming, Discworld and Hogwarts but its hard to make a real place live on a page. The impact of the otherworldly dangers felt even more surreal as a result.

Where the book really shines here is through each and every character. Like with many of the author’s books, most characters are PoC along with not being any shape or form of hetero normative. The majority of the book is focused on the characters since they are the city itself and does as a result take a bit longer to assemble them all for the final act but I really liked that part of it. This felt very true to the struggle of meeting people that are supposed to be ‘on your side’ but when you finally meet them they are just a regular idiot like you.

The play off of certain boroughs of New York against was very entertaining but was woven within one of the main themes of the plot. That of course being breaking the mold society has made for you and throwing the plaster dust back in their faces. Noone does confronting bias and bigotry like Jemisin but something I really loved was that despite 90% of the characters being not white, each has to confront some form of bias they have or even in cases, a type of privilege.

I mentioned this already but I challenge anyone to find fault with the writing. This book did take me a bit longer than I thought it would to finish but every time I picked this up I was hooked on every sentence, every word and the flow of the plot is so seamless that I never even realised the end was coming. Jemisin jumps between 3 different persons, from first right up to third , and it is done so well that it will not break the engagement of the story. Every city has a soul and N.K Jemisin has captured it here as a testament to everyone who grew up in one both loving and hating it at the same time.

I want to thank Nazia from Orbit so much for sending me a finished copy of this book to review. This will not disappoint and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year. Thank you for reading this and do tell me if you are going to read this! Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5