The Book of Dust: Volume One La Belle Sauvage- Philip Pullman Review

Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens. ‘

I think you all know by now, whether it is from my blog, twitter or you got stuck talking to me at a party, His Dark Materials is one of my favourite series of all time. I did a full series review, a reread that took me only a week to do and I have not shut up about the new series on BBC/HBO. This book continues Lyra’s journey as well as my own.

Malcolm Polstead lives in Oxford with his daemon, Asta, and his boat, La Belle Sauvage. With his natural curiosity, it seemed only natural he would become a spy. Malcom sees secrets everywhere he goes, strange men meeting in his parent’s inn, mentions of Lord Asriel and his crimes, the mysterious Magesterium and then, an intercepted message about Dust. Then a baby called Lyra is delivered to the care of the local priory and suddenly things have gotten a lot more dangerous.

This book utterly blew me away. I know I’m slightly biased when I say this but this is a perfectly laid out world that is well built and easy to step into. I listened to this on audio with the fabulous Michael Sheen narrating the book and I would highly recommend reading the book this way.

As I already mentioned it is a seamless transition back into the world of daemons, the Magesterium and alternative Oxford. We get to see nothing pretty much of Jordan College but a more mundane, everyday version of this Oxford and it is a pleasure to experience. People are working, children attend school, people are going to the pub in the evening and it all felt so real, aided by the fantastic voices from Sheen.

Old characters return such as Asriel, Coulter, Coram and obviously Lyra but I truly fell in love with our new cast. Malcolm is a sweet bean that needs to be protected at all costs. He is a child close to the age that Lyra is during Northern Lights and I think Pullman does that well, characters that learn with the readers. His development is honestly one of the best written arc’s I’ve read this year. Alice also gets a standout mention from me because I wish that when I was her age I had that sass and attitude. She also has some wonderful character development but she is a treat for anyone who wished they had more spine when they were a child.

We get the usual villains of the Magesterium but there is an antagonist in this story that is genuinely horrifying. He doesn’t really become a threat until at least halfway through the story but when he arrives he is like that bad feeling you get that just won’t go away. You know at any moment he could just appear and cause so much horror.

Pullman paces this story in a very similar way to The Amber Spyglass in a way that it never ceases to keep the reader moving along with events and crises. Unlike the first 2 books in His Dark Materials we get no slow moments in a particular place to gather our thoughts. This book is not waiting for you, you have to figure it out and keep up or you will get left behind.

One of the great advantages of the audio version is how well Sheen can change the plot pacing with his voice alone. Like there were moments where I was STRESSING hard for my poor baby Malcolm and Asta and just wanted it over. It’s so good since you will actually forget it was one narrator and not many.

I intend to follow up with The Secret Commonwealth since I bought it so recently but with some other projects and stuff it may have to wait until January. Also I am watching the TV show and I do love it so far. (Bonus easter eggs in it for people who read this). Are you watching it without having read the books or after reading them? Do let me know!

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee.

‘Mike wanted to talk about the waking nightmare at the loch, of the child’s laughter had heard at night and the stag he felt in the room with him when they’d all gone to bed.’

Mike Carter and his girlfriend Helen,along with their friends Alex and Kay,
travel to a remote loch side cottage for a post-graduation holiday. . But their celebrations are short-lived when they hit and kill a stag on the road. Alex s sister Meggie awaits them in the cottage, adding to the tension when her dog, Oscar, goes missing. Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, and is hunted by threatening figures in the highland fog. Reeling from a shock revelation, Mike begins to lose his grip on his sanity. When
Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, the bonds
of friendship are tested as he must uncover the terrifying truth dwelling
within the walls of Hearthstone Cottage.

I have such a strange feeling after finishing this book. What I thought I was getting in to was nothing like what I actually read and that is something I don’t get to experience much in modern horror writing. Frazer Lee has written a trippy tale of isolation set in the Scottish countryside that really takes the reader off guard.

The setting is a refreshing change to ‘cabin in the woods’. Something I especially liked was how Lee took what is supposed to be the cozy safety of a cottage and turned it on its head. What we see instead is a nightmarish landscape we see through the eyes of Mike as he loses his grip on reality. Something that did impress me was the discussion of rural flight and how it affects smaller areas of Scotland.

We have a limited cast of characters that I do wish I could have gotten to know a bit better in places. Helen and Kay especially were 2 that I wish we had either a perspective or more time with them on the page interacting with Mike. Mike as a main character can be equally frustrating and refreshing in equal measure. I found him to be irritating at times but the ending of the story completes his arc quite well.

Mike also has a sense of realism to him in that I was as unsure of my future after college as he is. There are moments throughout the story where I was ready to shout at the page and tell Mike to basically cop himself on a bit. Then I thought back to how I acted in college and I’m reminded of some of the stupid things I said and did and suddenly, Mike is not as bad as I thought.

Storywise I got a perfect mix of Evil Dead, The Ritual and general Samhain feels from this book. There are some genuinely unsettling moments that do catch you off guard. Some of my favourite moments were when Mike was truly starting to lose his grip and there are things happening that are very hard to figure out and understand as he begins to disassociate from reality and his friends.

Hearthstone Cottage is a book I enjoyed for its discussion of post college life and the isolation that can come from graduating. Mike struggles with his possession of what is happening around him as the haunting grows gradually worse and maintaining the carefree world of his undergrad. A must read for fans of the Evil Dead and The Ritual.

★★★★/5

About the author:

Frazer Lee is a novelist, screen writer and filmmaker. His screenplay credits include the acclaimed horror/thriller feature Panic Button,and multi-award winning short films On
Edge, Red Lines, Simone and The Stay. Frazer’s screenwriting and story consultant engagements have included commissions for Movie Mogul, The Asylum, Mediente, eMotion,and Vanquish Alliance Entertainment.
His film and television directing credits include the multi award-winning shorts On Edge and Red Lines,and the promo campaign for the Discovery Channel series True Horror With Anthony Head. His new short film The Stay had its World Premiere at World Horror Con Atlanta USA 2015. Frazer was named one of the Top 12 UK directors in MySpace.com’s Movie Mash-up contest by a panel including representatives from 20th Century Fox, Vertigo Films and Film Four.
Frazer’s novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. Frazer is Head of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. His guest speaking engagements have included The London Screenwriters Festival and The Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. Frazer Lee lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

Thank you once again to Anne and Flame Tree Press for this fantastic opportunity and for sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Chat: Changing Reading Tastes with Adult and YA Books

Good evening everyone. So to begin right away I feel like I should give a bit of background to explain why I chose to write this post. By the way before I do get started, I do still read certain YA books. I’m not throwing shade or criticising the genre, this is just a discussion of changing reading tastes.

I have always been a huge reader. I have always tended to read more sci fi and fantasy (SFF) but do also read a lot of comics, horror, literary fiction and non fiction. I even once read a slew of books on the Tudors (another day). However when I got my first paying job in college I started to obviously buy more books. The ratio of these tended to be 70:30 YA to adult.

I like everyone else, read all the vampire titles that flooded the market post Twilight. I then dipped my toes into the dystopian books that were post Hunger Games (and hated most of it after reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Faranheit 451’). I did my time, we all did.

I had continued reading at this ratio and I didn’t notice any changes until last year, so about February 2018. I did two things, I bought a copy of ‘The Belles’ by Dhonelle Clayton and I started reading the first book in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, ‘Shadow and Bone’.

Since I finished Shadow and Bone I’ll talk about that one first. One of the first things that I really didn’t love about this book is the emphasis on the romance and the characterisation. The book spends a good amount of time dissecting Alina’s feelings towards Mal. I have found that more recent YA fantasies do have more emphasis on romance which isn’t one of my favourite plot devices. But I had read YA with a strong romance before, why now had this changed?

I also mentioned the characters were another issue I discovered. Now I haven’t actually continued the series so I don’t know if this changes but I found Alina’s character to be very weak as well as Mal. Both are very one dimensional, especially Alina with an emphasis on her low self esteem. Characters like that are always good to see especially in the YA bracket but I felt the way it was portrayed through Alina came aross as whiny and selfish.

I have very few criticisms with The Belles just that the writing and characters again were not really for me. I have tried 3 times to read this book and each time I can’t get past the first few chapters. The difference I noted in the writing style is very hard to put into words but I knew right away this was definitely a YA book. This is when I definitely knew that my tastes had changed.

Another thing I saw my opinion changing about was YA series and how they played out. One such series I loved was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I legitmately inhale read the first book and was fully obsessed with the series to the point I bought the next book the following day. The second book in the series as pictured above was much slower than the first and in my opinion didn’t deliver on the suspense of the first. Granted, it was now revealed who was the antagonist, the twist revealed etc but I still think that the series continued to lag after that.

I found this to be something I noticed in other YA series as well. Now I see it in adult series too, second book syndrome is alive and well (talking about you Red Rising) but there is a distinct thread through many of the YA SFF series I have read having an issue maintaining momentum over a series. I’m currently making my way through Tamora Pierce’s works of Tortall and the publication timeline of these runs from the 1980’s to now. The most recent book being published in 2018. These books were YA before the term was even coined and used but I find that the content of these books, as well as books such as Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, have a better pace and a writing pace that is more to my tastes.

That is to say, I have not stopped reading YA, or buying it. A good chunk of the books on my TBR are YA. Some examples include Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan and Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman among so many more. I think it’s honestly the best thing I have learned about my reading tastes in years and its refreshing to know I can recognise this and grow as a reader.

I am now reading a ration of what is approximately 85:15, adult to YA. There was no book that drastically changed my opinion. I haven’t read all the hyped books such as A Court of Thorns and Roses or Simon vs the Homo-sapiens agenda either. This happened as a subtle change over a year or so. I honestly see nothing wrong with it since I think our reading tastes change over time naturally and to see this happen organically makes me think I could change my mind again and go back to reading mostly YA.

Do you think your reading tastes have changed over the years? If so what made you realise it had changed? I’d love to discuss this with you guys, thank you for reading.

Sci Fi Books Written by Women Authors that I Loved

In case you are new here, hi I’m Hedwig and I’m a lady that loves scifi and fantasy. I have also read an eclectic amount of both scifi, fantasy and horror written buy some wonderful women. I feel like sometimes I have read books that very few people seem to talk about that would make great books for discussions about various aspects of scifi.

So here I am with another list of some of these books that are firm favourites of mine that I’d love to be able to discuss with others at some stage. Just a not that I didn’t include Margaret Atwood since she is pretty well known. These are also just very good books you should check out anyway;

  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: You have no idea how quickly I voted for this in the Hugo awards. This book follows Maggie Hoskie, a monster hunter of the Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation). The world we know has ended, destroyed by climate change and overrun with monsters, Gods and other entities. Maggie is then tasked with finding a missing girl and uncovers a much bigger threat to the entire tribe that she alone can fight. This book is AMAZING. Native culture is wonderful and not ever publicised enough in literature. All of the supernatural figures are not your usual greek or roman creatures which makes for a much more interesting book.
  • Kindred by Octavia E.Butler: Yes she may be known as Dame Octavia but noone is talking about her half as much as they should. This is the story of Dana who while moving into her new home with her husband, falls down nauseous and dizzy and wakes up in a river in 19th century Maryland which is a dangerous place for a black woman. Dana and her husband have to figure out why she is time travelling back to the antebellum South and how she can stay alive while she is there. This book is a hard but fantastic read. You are literally praying for Dana’s safety anytime she jumps back, you can’t put it down and the scenes are very raw descriptions of the tortures endured by people of colour during this time of slavery. Also a good introduction to Butler as an author.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: No. I won’t shut up about this book. This books details the mission of human male Genly Ai. Ai is an agent for the Ekumen, an intergalactic counsel and has been tasked of convincing the planet Gethen (or Winter) to join the council. Gethenians have no gender, choosing to be male or female once a month during a period known as ‘kemmer’ and we follow Ai on his mission to both learn and navigate his way on Gethen. Never has this book been more relevant with its questions of gender, sexuality and the nature of war. This a powerful, quick read that mixes political machination with growing a relationship with someone from a world you know nothing of.
  • The Beauty by Aaliah Whiteley: A short but powerful story that is firmly within the New Weird category, within this world all the women are dead. Taken by a sickness, the men that are now left are living with the Group in the Valley of the Rocks. Nate is the storyteller of the group and relives memories of days past each night with the Group. How will they continue in a world without women? I won’t say anymore and will firmly remind you this is a book within the New Weird so it is WEIRD. It’s so well written and has a very very different outcome to what you may consider could be in the book. There are some very relevant questions in this book about societal structures, politics and gender roles in society. Definitely worth a read.
  • Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill: One of Cork’s own writers, this is a young adult book that hits very hard. In a future world, girls are created in labs, made for men and educated for their pleasures. All girls are numbered, rated and punished when not ‘suitable’. This book follows Freida as she and her closest friend, Isabel, approach their final year. Then Isabel starts putting on weight. Then she disappears briefly. Then the boys arrive and Frieda may have to do the unthinkable to survive. I read this book in a night and cried for ages after finishing. O’Neill has written other books that push subjects that need to be discussed such as date rape, love and bodily autonomy but nothing will haunt you as much as this future that remakes The Handmaids Tale into something scarier.
  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor: Phoenix is a 2 year old woman with the body and mins of an adult and a product of New York’s Tower 7. Phoenix lives in the tower with other ‘accelerated humans’ and questions nothing about her life. Until her partner, Saeed, commits suicide at a result of seeing something horrible Phoenix then begins to realise her home is prison and she will soon discover her true power and how she will change humanity forever. I love Nnedi Okorafor’s book and this is no execption. The world building ,the characters and the writing are so vibrant with a very powerful presence on the page. This book moves from America to Africa and is a prequel to Okorafor’s other novel Who Fears Death. Phoenix is an angry, powerful character who questions everything around her and stands by her decisions and her mistakes.

So theres my list, I’ll be making one for my fantasy recs as well as horror but I think that there is something in here for everyone.

Do you have any books that are less hyped scifi? Do you have any favourites? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Thanks for reading guys!

His Dark Materials-Philip Pullman: Overall Series Review

‘What is worth having is worth working for. But you have a friend who has already taken the first steps, and who could help you.’

Good evening all! My apologies for my absence and delay in getting back to you all. In case any of you don’t follow me on Twitter you might not know that I went to Octocon the weekend just gone. I’ll have a post about it later this week. Now to the review, this is actually a full series reread but I feel the burning need to discuss the books.

In case you somehow haven’t heard of it His Dark Materials follows Lyra Belacqua who lives in Jordan College, Oxford in a world very similar to our own. In Lyra’s world people have animal companions known as daemons who are a manifestation of their true selves.When Lyra spies on a meeting between Lord Asriel and the professors of Jordan College discussing something called Dust she discovers that her world is not the only one and that something sinister is affecting the children of Oxford.

So what triggered this entire series reread was the trailer for the new series from BBC and HBO. Holy shit. This looks good. So I binge read the entire thing. I honestly think I enjoyed it more as a complete work instead of 3 separate novels. I do however have star ratings for all 3 books:

  • The Northern Lights- ★★★★/5
  • The Subtle Knife- ★★★.5/5
  • The Amber Spyglass- ★★★★★/5

The world that Pullman has created within this series is some of the best I have ever read. Lyra’s world is very similar to ours with the exception of daemons. Her world also has a church body that domineers society that is called the Magesterium. This is a very clear representation of the Christian church, specifically the Catholic Church. As the series progresses we then get to travel to other parallel worlds, one of which is our own world but nothing is quite as rich as the world Lyra lives in.

In Lyra’s world alone there are daemons, witches and armoured polar bears who have their own structured societies, angels as well as physics, travelling via zeppelins and instruments such as the alethiomiter (a truth telling device that looks like a watch that Lyra has a talent reading). The world itself is very similar to the Victorian England but it’s so wonderful. We do see other worlds, especially in the last book but Lyra’s is my favourite.

Lyra is a wonderful main character, she is sassy and a gifted liar which leads her into many dangerous situations and yet saves her in many more. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are the main points of view but we do get to see the story from other POV’s. One of those is Will Parry who we meet in the second book, The Subtle Knife. Will is from our world and cares for his mum who suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness before he meets Lyra in another world esaping from his through a rip in reality. Will is definitely my favourite next to Lyra. Where Lyra is good with words and manipulation, Will is more of a physical character. He will stand out to people and speak up when he feels he is being attacked and can make himself as unimportant when he needs to to just blend into the background. Will and Lyra are a great pair on the page but I don’t necessarily agree with how their arc ended in the final book.

We have to talk about the villains. The Magesterium are the ultimate villains of the plot but Mrs Coulter is the first true foe we meet. She is first introduced to Lyra at the beginning of book one and adopts her. We then learn how dangerous she is and her ties with the church very early on but she is a character that will always have you second guessing. Her daemon is a golden monkey who is just as sinister as her. I loved every second she was on the page and her arc is genuinely one of the best developed of the story.

The plot does have its moments where it can stall within the story. As I said I enjoyed this a lot more this time as one full work of fantasy as opposed to 3 separate novels. Pullman does a fantastic job of weaving all these ongoing stories and characters across a multiverse. There is also some fantastic moments where the plot mirrors biblical stories such as Adam and Eve, the Fall from Heaven and many more but every now and then the plot would just halt and there would be a lot of travelling on a boat or zeppelin, or someone gathering materials. This is mostly in the first book and moments of the third but they don’t take away from the conclusion of the story or the more climactic moments.

The last book is the best of the trilogy in my opinion because we have the full cast of characters, the different worlds but also because the conclusion is perfect. Pullman has since continued the series with The Book of Dust. There are also shorter stories such as Lyras Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North that further enrich the whole series. I do love hyper world building and supplementary books but I honestly think that the original trilogy is perfect on its own.

The TV adaptation begins on the 5th of November, I’ll definitely be watching even just for the casting alone. There is a film called The Golden Compass that is an adaptation of The Northern Lights. It’s not so terrible since the special effects are good but the conclusion of the film and the casting of Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter are not my cup of tea. Definitely watch it though for even an idea of the vast world.

As per usual I would like to recommend this to both young and older readers. Pullman had no audience in mind while writing it but it is generally marketed to young adults. The audio books are also a quick version of the books with a full cast, be warned a lot of story does get lost. Also a must read for fans of Pratchett, C.S Lewis, Ursula K Le Guin and Garth Nix.

The Shining- Stephen King Review

Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

Good evening and happy October! My apologies for being away from here, I had to socialise. Yes, a book owl like myself went outside and socialised with real people. Now I get to review one of my favourite books of all time which I finally read on audio and loved very much.

Jack Torrance needs a break. Recovering from alcoholism and the loss of his job as well as almost losing his wife, Jack is offered the position of winter caretaker of the grand Overlook Hotel. However Jack’s son Danny is a special child, Danny has ‘the shine’. The shine tells Danny things. And the shine has told Danny something bad is coming. Something big at the Overlook Hotel.

Another beloved Stephen King book that I first read at 16 and have loved ever since. This is my second time reading The Shining and I listened to it on audio. Scott Campbell is a great narrator who manages the cast characters perfectly and really maintains the suspense throughout the story.

This book is the perfect closed circle horror story and is definitely one of King’s best written works. The sheer isolation of the location is very overwhelming that really affected me as the reader. The hotel is very high up in the mountains and closes for the bitter winters so there is no getting out. Once the snow hits, no moving. We don’t get extreme snow in Ireland so this alone unnerves me a bit.

Jack Torrance is a fascinating protagonist, a very flawed character with some Stephen King tropes thrown in and that manages to be very unique. He struggles very heavily with his addiction that has in turn affected his family with which he is also struggling. This book deals heavily with domestic abuse and the effect it has on families so definitely steer clear of this if you are affected by any of that. Jack Torrance is a thinly veiled disguise for King himself, a writer struggling with a drinking problem and trying to care for his family is a common theme but Torrance is the best written ideal of this trope.

Danny Torrance is the true main character of this story. Danny is a hugely powerful child who utterly adores his father despite past incidents. The whole notion of ‘the shine’ is explained very well to readers through Danny’s experiences with visions, feelings and mild telepathy. It works really well for the reader to experience the way the shine differs between people and how it affects someone who has it through the eyes of a child since the reader is learning about it like someone who is growing up with something like this. I also really like Wendy Torrance and Dick Halloran. Wendy is a strong as nails woman who loves her husband but will burn the world down for her son if she needs to. Dick is another character with the shine who reassures Danny he is not truly alone.

And how could I not talk about the Overlook Hotel? The place is absolutely terrifying. One of my favourite horror tropes is ‘location as the antagonist’. The Overlook itself is unsettling for one reason only. Noone knows how it became like this. There are theories throughout the book as to what caused this abstract evil to take over the hotel but its never clarified. That is ultimately the most unsettling aspect of the supernatural forces in the story.

The various things the hotel does to terrorise the Torrances are truly sinister. I’m not going to spoil the actual incident for anyone since I think its the most terrifying moment in the book but there is a scene involving the elevator which operates on its own sometimes that literally had me pausing while listening to the book and looking behind me to be sure I was alone.

October is the perfect time of year to read this book and I obviously love this book very much but one thing has to be said. This book was published in 1977 and has a lot of the racist, homophobic language that was very common and “okay” in that time. This book didn’t bother me at 16 but now at 26 I can see parts of the book that are not so up to date.

If you love suspense, creepy locations, domestic thrillers and just scary as fuck stories then definitely try this. The physical and the audio book are both great. Rereading my favourites is always a fantastic experience that I recommend to others but this book holds up better again on reread. Definitely a good time of year to read a lot.

★★★★★/5

Middlegame- Seanan McGuire Review

‘Someone made us. Someone made us, and then they separated us because we were dangerous when we were together.’

**Content warnings for self harm, suicide, torture and violence.**

Seanan McGuire has become a favourite author of mine in the last year. From her ever wonderful Wayward Children series to her other works like ‘Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day’ I’ve really fallen in love with her characters and storytelling. This book is no different and really blew me away.

‘Middlegame’ follows Rodger and Dodger. Rodger has a gift with words. Dodger has a gift for maths. Both of them are twins. Neither of them are normal. Neither of them are quite human either. Then we have James Reed, alchemist and creator of the twins and created by an alchemist himself. Reed has created Rodger and Dodger to manifest an ancient doctorine that will give them power over all of reality. Soon they will want that power for themselves. But will Reed allow it?

This book is written beautifully, but it is not an easy read. Not in terms of subject matter (though I do have warnings for certain content) but it’s a book that requires active concentration. This book has time lines and these time lines can be reset to readjust things that have gone wrong. The audio is fantastic and Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer FYI) is a perfect choice to narrate the story.

The book happens pretty much in our world, taking place primarily between California (Dodger) and Massachusetts (Rodger). Dodger and Rodger are separated at birth and both are placed in adoptive families to try and force their powers to ‘manifest’ properly. However the pair always come back together. I do wish we had seen more of the Impossible City but that’s a small criticism.

The use of hyper world building is one of my favourite things about the book. Asphodel Baker, Reed’s creator, is an accomplished alchemist with a vast knowledge of how the Doctrine of Ethos can be personified. However, she is a woman in a time when men dominate science. So Baker, writing as A. Deborah Baker pens a childrens book, ‘Over the Woodward Wall’ about 2 characters called Avery and Zib setting out on Oz-esque adventure. The book is essentially a transcription of her ideas and passages of it are dotted throughout the story we read. I love this as a plot device in any form of fiction but particularly in one like this that has changing events through retcons of timelines it can be really helpful.

McGuire always writes wonderful, flawed characters with incredible depth. Rodger and Dodger are in no way similar and have significant growth as the story progresses. When the two first meet through what is essentially a psychic connection, Rodger is a far more timid creature and Dodger comes across as a stronger more stubborn personality. As we see the two grow we do come to realise that despite them being essentially super human, neither of them are perfect and both do have their issues in dealing with the world around them. Again I want to repeat my warning at the start, if you are upset by self harm or suicide then this book is not for you.

James Reed was a very interesting character. I love the book Frankenstein and I always did wonder what would have happened if the creature had gone on to live a full life. Reed is the villain of the tale but honestly he is another creation. Reed was created himself to carry on the work of Asphodel Baker after she died. He never questions what he is doing or why he is doing it but he is not exactly fighting his own nature. One character who was supposed to be a villain was Lee Barrow. But to me she was just annoying. Benson was a fantastic narrator for all the characters but she does a really odd voice for Lee which grated on my nerves. Lee is supposed to be the bloody, psychotic foil for Reed who doesn’t like getting his hands dirty but I honestly hated seeing her and she wasn’t half as unsettling as I wish she could have been.

Like I mentioned earlier this book has time lines. Several of them. Each chapter starts off by identifying what number timeline we are in as well as when and where we are. Seanan McGuire really shows her strength with keeping the plot so perfectly woven and moving at a pace that suits each situation. There was not a single moment where I was confused or lost with the changing time lines. The mechanics are really cool too because Dodger can reset the time line by returning ‘to the last fixed point’ but only if Rodger commands her to do so. Remarking ‘this is an adjuration, this is a command’ when they have to go back.

Honestly the fact this is a contemporary fantasy based on the central theme of alchemy is a refreshing take on both fantasy and science fiction. Seanan McGuire will never fail to astound me with her writing but now I am dying to read more books about alchemy. I really recommend the audio for this one if you’re going to give it a try.

★★★★.5/5