Blog Tour: The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Good day to you all fellow readers and welcome to another fabulous blog tour by The Write Reads. Today on the blog is my stop on the blog tour for The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar!

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find

‘When something is immortalised in stories, it gives it an air of enchantment, I find.’

Well this was fun! I really enjoyed this wonderful little adventure fantasy. It is an enchanting beginning to a series with a quick story with an even sharper main character surrounded by fierce lady Pirates. Hard not to have me on board. I don’t review middle grade books much on the blog, if ever and I really want to change that. Reviewing this for this blog tour was not only the perfect opportunity to change that while also being blessed to read Kuzniar’s spellbinding debut.

Let’s kick off with the world building. This book is utterly enchanting and I couldn’t get enough of the sheer experience of reading it. The atmosphere is there from the get go from the short lived moments we spend in Sevilla with Aleja running along the rooftops to the storms that wrack the ship while she is at sea with the whole crew on board. This is perfect for younger and older readers alike for that reason alone. I read this on a rainy day and it was such a feel good experience.

Aleja is everything I wish I could have had in books when I was younger. I often say this about Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones but these are the stories that help you feel good if you are the odd one out. These are the stories young girls need. Aleja doesn’t sacrifice anything of herself for the sake of fitting in, pleasing her family or even in Captain Quint’s presence when she is aboard the Ship of Shadows. She knows her value and at such a young age, will fight for both what’s right as well as what she needs.

The entire cast of characters really pleased me. I mean I was onboard the second I heard it was a band of girl Pirates running the ship. Some of my favourites being Frances and Malika. Frances and Aleja have the most wonderful, heart melting friendship. I love this kind of friendly support and how they really look out for each other. There is something clever done with Frances that I won’t spoil but if it’s true, I would like it to be hopefully more explicitly explored in the coming books. She also always has cake so, best friend material there. Malika being a scary weapon lady with one hand, scars and a blood-thirst to make the man who did those things to her pay while having a soft girlfriend back in Morocco is everything I love. Gay scary ladies with knives. Love it.

The story runs at a pace that you would expect for an epic sea journey on board a magical ship with kick ass pirates. And if you don’t get that, I mean it moves hella fast with no stopping for breath. It’s like working on the ship itself, there is always something to do and someone to help regardless of your role in the crew. I will say the last section of the book went a little bit faster and I do want to spend more time with that villain in the future. This is still the first book though and it is super impressive what is achieved here

A wonderful protagonist with adventure in her soul, a magical ship and a band of lady pirates who work together fabulously and danger is always near. What else could you want? Thank you to both Penguin Random House and The Write Reads for having me on this tour and sending me a digital copy of this book in exchange for review. The Ship of Shadows is out now!

★★★★/5

Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world, which inspired her debut novel The Ship of Shadows. Now she lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as she can and bookstagrams at @cosyreads. She is always planning her next adventure.

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

‘Words and their meanings have weight in the world of matter, shaping and reshaping realities through a most ancient alchemy.’

I feel very late to the SFF party with this one. I started this originally back in January (not intentional, it was a long bus journey) and it stuck with me since as a book that has beautiful writing but needs to be savored. How right I was.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.covers a story that might just be the key to unlocking the secrets of her past.

There is very little that I can say about this book that hasn’t been said already. It takes a portal fantasy that is also in itself a discussion about the global effects of colonialism and the true power of words. I’m going to try my damn best here but this may ramble a wee bit. Consider yourself warned.

Portal fantasy has had the best resurgence in recent years. Between the wonderful story of the Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire to the very interesting discussions in Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, I have been rejoicing the new approaches. This one is a little bit more focused on how a families story can stretch across many worlds and how messy and wonderful that can be. We are limited in the worlds that we actually see but we hear of many more that would be nice to visit as readers but it also great to feel the vast amount of doors that are out there.

The setting of the story in the 19th century allows some interrogation of some of the more toxic attitudes of our world. From Mr. Locke’s various comments on January’s hair or how he explains to party goers on her ethnicity to just how we treat each other in general as a whole world is really well done. I also enjoyed the fact this is in a historic setting without being in an actual historic event, which can be a bit wonky at times. The writing is superb and there is no arguing that.

I really loved January. I did. I loved how she is so tenacious and how she never quite stops being curious for the other ways around a situation even when the odds are stacked against her. She is also incredibly realistic in how she grows as she tells her story. There are so many feelings in her and even when Mr. Locke truly tries to bleach the very colour from her soul and in a way that we do get to look back on later on in the book, he can’t quite capture the last spark of her. I loved her little support crew of Jane and Bad (her wonderful dog, short for Sinbad) and how together they make the biggest, strongest group of outcasts you could ask for. Both can possibly bite you too.

This is a book for readers and a story about stories. How stories can keep us alive, how writing a single line can save a life and how without them we aren’t really human. So I think with that, it’s worth pointing out how Alix. E Harrow writes a very perfect story here. The pacing, the plot and the fact that this is a fantasy that manages to standalone in such an exquisite way is a refreshing experience. Any kind of standalone SFF book has a lot that can go wrong or a lot that can drop but this is the book that is both an example of why we need more of them but is also a perfect book for anyone who needs an escape. A door if you will.

Thanks for reading guys, hope you are all safe and well. Do let me know if you have read this so we can discuss. Happy reading!

★★★★★/5

Review: The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman (Spoilers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★/5

Extract Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sixteenth Person.

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

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

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★★★/5

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.

5 Comforting Fantasy Books

Once again, I do apologise for the silence on here. This time, it wasn’t actually anything to do with lockdowns or anything like that, I was just fucking busy. Working from home or not, still busy when it is busy. This week do go a little faster than past ones though so for that I am grateful.

Last week saw a lot of people really liking my list of Immersive SFF so I’m going to try and keep the ball rolling here with a list of comforting fantasy books. I hope to have a scifi one too but this week I wanted to focus on fantasy. These are some books that made me feel that little bit better in darker times, and I want to share them with you too in case you need that kind of comfort right now. So here we go;

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

This is not an underhyped book. This is for sure a book that is very popular while being on its way to be being a modern classic. It is however based on totally valid reviews since this book is wonderful. Its atmospheric while also being very easy to read. There is such a warm feeling with this book that makes reading feel so cozy and you feel like you are part of the circus followers. I know that is vague but I would recommend checking this out for some cuddly feels.

Wild Magic/ The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce:

I am a die hard of Tamora Pierce’s work since my read of this entire series since last year. This is a wonderful series that is very easy to get through with books that aren’t too long but what makes it so comforting to me is Daine and her relationship with animals. As an animal lover and a vegetarian the fact there is someone giving a shit about the animals and has magic based entirely on connecting with them made me feel so safe and happy. The conflict is also not really that scary or very heavy so definitely a good read for people who want fantasy with a low threat.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman:

Did you really think I would put a list together that DIDN’T have Neil Gaiman on it? I read this book many years ago and was a teenager with chronic anxiety when I did. This book changed my reading taste forever but also gave me a lot of comfort in a time when I couldn’t find it anywhere. I honestly think its the fact this boy is just cared for by the dead far better than the living and that they intend to keep him safe no matter what. Also has a nice spooky feel to it for the horror lovers out there.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury:

This is a book I met first as a very distant memory of the movie that would show every Halloween on Cartoon Network. I read the book as part of a worldwide readalong in 2018 and I was crying by the end with sheer joy. This is another one with great atmosphere while also capturing that feeling off veing a child on Halloween without being really nostalgically sad. The plot moves really quickly as well so it is also great for anyone who is in need of a focussed book too right now. I might be biased but the movie is also still wonderful if you can find it!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik:

Funnily enough, I very rarely talk about this book. I’m not sure why. This book is a wonderful example of how well standalone fantasy can work while also being very heartwarming in the face of genuine peril. There is such an emphasis in this book on the value of friendship, of family and not giving up in the face of adversity. I would highly recommend this book for it’s beautiful writing. There is so much rich magic and adventure happening here that I feel like I need to reread it right now. A must read as well for fans of elemental or nature magic.

I’ll try an do another list like this for some scifi recs as well. I am aware I didn’t put either Harry Potter or Discworld on this list as well but I think we all know how much I love those already and I think everyone returns to Hogwarts at some stage for that feeling of home.

What are your comforting fantasy books? What books would you at to the list? Feel free to share them below and most of all, happy reading to you all!

Review: Eric by Terry Pratchett

Welcome back to the Discworld Project! We have shorter distances between reviews this time around since I have wanted to throw myself head first into the project this month to make some progress. Today we will be reunited with an old character, learn why teenage boys shouldn’t summon demons and just how much everyone hates memos.

Here we meet Eric. He is the first teenage demonologist on the Disc! He isn’t very good at it however, since he manages to summon Rincewind instead. Rincewind, thrilled to be back in the right reality, is now subject to Eric and his whims. What follows is a journey across space, time, the Disc and three wishes that don’t exactly come true but do all the same.

This is definitely the shortest Discworld book I have read before. I have also managed to mix up my chronological continuity that I intended to do from the start. I am currently reading Guards! Guards! and Eric is actually after this. No matter, I still had a great time with this one.

The advantage here is definitely the fact this book is illustrated by Josh Kirby. His illustrations are a little bit dated and not fully to my own tastes (Paul Kidby would be for example, would be) but it really helped to supplement the story. I liked being able to follow the story and see some of the more of the more unusual characters and places within the plot.

Is it me or does anyone else love Rincewind for the utter disaster he is? I was thrilled to see him return! The Discworld characters are famously some of my favourites but Rincewind was the first I ever met reading these books. He does have a bit of a different arc here, looking after a young teen who he is kind of responsible for but overall the outcome is spectacular.

Illustration by Josh Kirby

The plot varies at times, between jumping into sporadic world building for places we haven’t seen before, back to the intense situation of the Faust like journey the characters are taking. It is slightly unnerving but it does overall work out very well and there are parts that are expanded upon slightly from previous locations. I love as well that the ‘hell’ location is made all the more insufferable with office jargon, memos and unnecessary potted plants.

So yeah, I screwed up my own reading order but it was still a great reading experience. I would highly recommend the illustrated edition of Eric, just to help enrich the experience. This is also great fun and a bonus if you are a fan of the disaster artist that is Rincewind.

Thank you for taking another trip across the Disc with me and I hope you will join me for the next leg of the journey! Happy reading folks!

★★★★/5

Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

‘One Flesh, One End. Say it loser.’

Have you ever had a book rip a hole in your very soul? Have you ever had a book that you threw (softly, because you love it and it has feelings) across the room for the damage it inflicted on you? Have you wept for your favourite characters because you want them to be safe? This was my experience of reading Gideon the Ninth.

Gideon Nav has a sword, some dirty magazines and serves the Ninth House. Gideon wants out of the Ninth and their necromantic business. When the ninth heir, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, is summoned by the Emperor Undying to take part in a trial that will secure her future, she summons Gideon to be her cavalier. As Gideon reluctantly follows her nemesis to the First House under a promise of freedom from the Ninth, both soon realise that some things are truly better off dead.

I am not exaggerating. This is my favourite I’ve read so far in 2020 and its only February. This is the gothy, mouthy SFF book my soul wanted so desperately. What Muir has managed here is a genre mash up with vibrant, memorable characters and a spinning plot. Like what is not to love, this is necromancers with swords people locked into a mysterious, empty house with one instruction; do not enter any locked door without permission.

Each of the houses are on different planets, all having to travel to the First house (Canaan House) for the trial. I do feel the world building lacked a little here but since the majority of the plot happened in Canaan House I didn’t mind as much. Hell sometimes I didn’t even notice because the house became its own character and was basically a giant puzzle box to be solved. Just think The Hellbound Heart but with no cenobites and skeletons instead.

Muir really shows her strengths here with her characters. Gideon as a protagonist made this such an enjoyable read. Readers may not gel with the sarcasm and sheer level of attitude that Gideon and Harrow have, but I am a sarcastic twat who always wants the last word so I can well and truly relate. The other cast of characters to begin with are very forgettable, since like Harrow, they have long aristocratic names that sound amazing but can blend together especially in the first half. This is why I would highly recommend the audio book of this since the narrator distinguishes each character beautifully. I’ll gush about Harrow and Gideon in a second but honestly outside of both of them I loved the members of the sixth house, Palamedes and Camilla his cavalier.

Something I loved as well the necromancy. For a start there are different types of necromancy. This blew my mind since my experience with necromancy in books is limited to Garth Nix and some DnD one shots. Palamedes, and the entire sixth house, is an agent of medical necromancy. There are others, including soul siphoning (creep central), flesh constructs (also creep central) and so much more I can’t wait to learn about.

Gideon and Harrow. Holy shit. Watching both of these women who grew up together with a very distinct power imbalance along with lifelong trauma, learn how to trust each other and confront their own egos. Once the plot gathers into what is a murder mystery (more genre mashing!) they both have no other choice but to stick together. Muir has created some absolutely devastating character moments in this book, by the time the book reaches the final act you are totally connected to them.

The ending is a total payoff. The one common thread I think many who have finished the book and who didn’t enjoy the first two thirds is that Muir wraps up the plot wonderfully. I found myself in tears and well and truly shook by it. Before finishing this review, I read the last 100 pages again last night. I am still shook by the conclusion.

Have you read this? Are you going to read it? Are you someone who started this and didn’t finish it? I need to discuss this with someone and I love a good discussion of a book that people didn’t like but that I loved wholeheartedly. Thank you for checking in folks, happy reading!

★★★★★/5