Don’t worry, lovely people, I have not come out of retirement. As I’d taken on a couple of blog tour commitments before I had to stop reviewing, I reached out to a few wonderful friends who agreed to step in for me and provide reviews in my stead. Today, the brilliant Doomscribe – who can usually be found here – has taken on The Creeper by A.M. Shine. Thank you Doom for your review, and thank you Aries and Head of Zeus for having us and sending us a copy of A.M. Shine’s sophomore horror novel for review.
RELEASE DATE: 15/09/2022
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen—until they arrive…
The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown. A nameless fear stalks the streets…
Nobody will talk—nobody except one little girl. Her story strikes dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer…
That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: There’s something undeniably creepy about a quiet, isolated village filled with hostile locals. Two young Irish academics find Tir Mallacht much the same, and it’s when The Creeper leans into these elements that it suckers onto that dark part of the hindbrain. The locals are tight-lipped and evasive, and the clues they do give to their self imposed isolation are increasingly unsettling.
The titular being itself is part of a fairly straightforward memetic curse – if you are told about it, it visits you every night, closer each time you see it. And if you see it three times, the next night you die. I found the description of the Creeper to be, well, creepy, but not quite as terrifying as I imagine it was intended to be. The whole scenario is suitably disturbing, and Shine has a tendency to bask in the details of the scenery.
It felt like one of the themes of the book was scepticism versus superstition – Ben’s exposure to numerous folk tales causes him to push back against the idea of the Creeper. I didn’t find that this was explored to my satisfaction based on how the Creeper itself was presented in the book. I do have to wonder if that’s partly based on assumptions that I brought going in. I also found the final act a little rushed – although ultimately the ending itself worked for me.
There are few overly original elements here, but if you’re looking for an unsettling horror story with a creepy Irish setting, The Creeper is well worth checking out.
The time has come. This is my last review post on Libri Draconis. It has been a brilliant few years, but as I’m starting my new role with UK Tor tomorrow, it is time to move on from reviewing. There will still be a few guest posts to come over the next few weeks, and the site will be online for the time being. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read mine – and my co-bloggers – posts over the last years, and I am very thankful to every publicist who has sent me books for review throughout my time reviewing. (And huge apologies for the books I have not managed to cover as this has come on rather suddenly, with a trip to Worldcon in between…) As always, these opinions are entirely my own.
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin is a debut YA fantasy about tea magic. The first in a duology, I need book two STAT. It’s already out in the US – but the UK needs to wait until January 2023 for the second one, and you bet I’m debating with myself whether I can wait three months to have a matching set of paperbacks or whether I need to brave the wilds of Book Depository and get myself the hardcover now. As someone who has tea running through their veins (seriously, I’m a diabetic, it’s one of the few things I’m allowed to drink for pleasure), reading a book so steeped in love for the drink was wonderful. The way Judy I. Lin talks about tea, and food more generally, as well as the immersive world building, makes her love for Chinese culture and mythology shine through. The language is lyrical and permeated by thoughtful descriptions, political intrigue and strong characters. In short, a great story and an author to watch. I adored A Magic Steeped in Poison and highly recommend you pick this one up.
Firetide Coast by Claire McKenna is the conclusion to the Deepwater trilogy. I loved diving back into Arden’s world – these books are criminally underrated if you look at the amount of Goodreads ratings they have. If you are like me and like water, Gothic atmosphere and the occasional dash of romantic elements, then do check out this series. It’s a very solid read throughout, and I found Firetide Coast worked well to wrap up the story threads from the first two books and tie up the trilogy. These books are fast, compelling reads, and while they won’t be among my forever favourites, I really enjoy them and will reread them as comfort reads, especially now I have the whole series together. They’re just that tad creepy, with brooding love interests, a strong heroine and dashing conspiracy. And so much water – much of them takes place on boats, and you can just smell the seaside air come alive. Wonderful.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, but as usual with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, given a Mexican twist. I love how every single one of her books I have picked up are in an entirely different genre, with a completely different voice but each is a standout, quality novel. I don’t think there are any other authors writing right now that are as versatile as she is – and that makes her criminally underrated. The woman deserves a Hugo already. And The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is her best book to date, in my opinion. It takes the bare bones of Wells’ story, and turns them into a compelling novel about nuanced characters, written in brilliant prose. I thought Mexican Gothic was great, but this just really steps it up to another level. Carlota is one of my favourite determined heroines I’ve read all year in this gothic story of hybrids, scientific experiments and scheming – a book I highly recommend to all of you. I was supposed to review this for Grimdark Magazine before the Summer of Chaos (TM) happened, and I’m really sad that I ended up with just a short mini review here – but do keep your eyes peeled for my colleague’s full take on it over at Grimdark Magazine soon (because I couldn’t resist making sure we have someone covering this brilliance in my stead!).
And another set of excellent books that deserve far more attention than I’m able to give them right now. As I prepare to wind down my reviewing, I’m trying to get through as much as I can this weekend – with a few guest posts still to come in the next few weeks for blog tours I had committed to but won’t be able to follow through myself. A huge thanks again to all the publicists who have sent me these books – all opinions are my own.
Cursed by Marissa Meyer concludes the story begun in Gilded last year – her young adult Rumpelstiltskin retelling. This follows on with Serilda, Gild and the Erlking’s story and weaves an epic fairy tale of love, betrayal and cunning. I loved how the ending ended up using the tropes from the original story so exactly but only in letter and not in spirit – something I found worked really well, and made me feel a lot better about the book as a whole than I might have before then. I found the pacing a bit off for my taste, as parts seemed to drag slightly, and I caught my attention waning a few times. This is something that I don’t think I’ve experienced in any of Marissa Meyer’s previous books – they are usually very quick, compelling reads for me, but this is one I struggled a bit with. I think part of it is that the story may have worked better as a single volume rather than a duology. It felt artificially elongated, and a more succinct tale would have been more organic, as would have a stronger character focus rather than one on a variety on side bits. Having the story streamlined would help the pacing and make it a more compelling read – it is still a solid story, but I did find this duology didn’t quite have the magic other Marissa Meyer books have carried for me in the past.
One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig is the first book in the Shepherd King series. Featuring a magic system inspired by tarot cards and a gothic setting, the cover is a perfect illustration of the atmosphere. And it is a stunning cover – I could keep staring at it for hours. It is romantic, dramatic and a book I think will resonate especially well with the TikTok crowd – it is suited so well to aesthetic videos and dramatic music overlays! In many ways, One Dark Window feels like an adult novel perfect for a YA audience aging out of YA. It has a similarly fast pace, use of tropes and atmospheric romance that resonates with readers of the popular older YA series, but is more mature and clearly written with an adult audience in mind (it is not NA, it is adult) – so a great next step if you feel ready to take that leap. However, for me, that meant I wasn’t the right reader for it. I appreciated the atmospheric nature of the book, but I wished for more character focus and I imagined something very different when I kept hearing tarot-based magic system. I found the characters a bit bland and the romance ultimately didn’t click with me. So, a book I see working far better for lots of people who aren’t me!
The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott by Sharon Gosling is a great middle grade adventure. It features the titular character of Katy Willacott, a determined girl desperate to escape the confines of social convention and hungry for knowledge. Set around the time of the construction of the new building for the British Museum, Katy sneaks on board a research expedition to Brazil, dressed as a cabin boy – and, as is par for the course with MG adventures, finds herself embroiled in conspiracy, shenanigans and great discovery. This is a fast-paced, compelling story that will resonate with young readers of all persuasions – it’s the second novel by Sharon Gosling I’ve read, and I’ve enjoyed this one just as much. Katy is prickly, smart and ambitious, and I love how today’s heroines get to be all these things in books. No more nice and pleasant girls, please! (And, to be entirely honest, I’d love a book about Katy as an adult, I think she’ll grow up into someone fascinating!)
I am nothing if not a predictable Fab. And a book rooted in both Irish mythology and Irish medieval history? That is so my thing it’s not even funny. It also doesn’t hurt that it is absolutely stunning – a Micaela Alcaino cover inspired by Insular manuscript illustration with plenty of gold foil, perfect to inspire dreaming about the world the book is set in. And the book doesn’t disappoint.
Many thanks to Paige at Head of Zeus for inviting me on the Blog Tour and sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 01/09/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha De Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.
Fodla is one of the Tuatha De Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fodla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Set in the late tenth century in Ireland between humans and the Tuatha de Dannan, this is straddles both historical fiction and epic fantasy, and blends the two masterfully. In my past life, I spent a lot of time studying Irish history (through the lens of Gerald of Wales), though a couple of centuries later, and so it was wonderful to return to the world of medieval Ireland, to the court of the illustrious Brian Boru, while still being immersed in an utterly fantastical narrative.
In her debut, Shauna Lawless manages to balance politics, mythology and brilliant characters masterfully with a well-paced plot. The tension remains high throughout, even though it isn’t an extremely fast or plot-driven book, which is something that always makes a novel stand out to me. I found the characters well-developed and given ample space to grow and expand with the story, rather than staying static. The world of tenth century Ireland comes to life – and I appreciated the short reading list of solid recommendations the author gave at the end of the book! This really is historical fantasy the way it should be written. Steeped in mythology, but also in the atmosphere of the period, more concerned with a general feeling rather than getting every detail or event right (and I am saying that as a trained historian).
I especially liked how outspoken and determined Fodla’s character was, though each of the many characters we meet (there is a Dramatis Personae) is distinct and has their own personality – which helps in the scope of a book as epic as The Children of Gods and Fighting Men. As a whole, I really enjoyed reading this, and I am already looking forward to the next book when it comes out!
If you follow me on social media, you may have seen that I’m going to be starting a new job soon. As in, next week soon. That means things will be changing around here. We don’t quite know what shape or form that will take as I will step back from reviewing but it means that I have a heck of a lot of reviews that I want to get your eyes on this weekend! So stay tuned for a review bonanza this weekend. Many thanks to the respective publicists for sending me review copies of these books – all opinions are entirely my own. And I loved all three of these!
A Restless Truth by Freya Marske follows on on last year’s A Marvellous Light (which I reviewed over on Grimdark Magazine HERE). While the first book followed Edwin and Robin, two men in Edwardian London, this is set on a grand ocean liner crossing the Atlantic, reminiscent of the grandeur of the Titanic. It features new main characters – Maud Blyth and the dashing Violet Debenham – and of course, a good dose of murder. Just as devastatingly sexy and compelling as A Marvellous Light, A Restless Truth may have captured even more of my heart. Because who can resist women falling in love on a ship? Confined spaces, intense inter-personal relationships and steamy romance on a steamboat! Freya’s writing is truly marvellous and the way she manages to combine a mystery with erotic scenes that will make you blush in public and tenderly developed, nuanced characters is something that makes these books stand out in the market. These books are absolute gems and I can’t recommend them enough.
The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake is the sequel to The Atlas Six, duh – which I adored – see my review HERE. This second book sets in slightly after the conclusion of the first book, after everyone had a chance to digest the events of the ending. I think my favourite bit – and after the threesome of book one, I don’t think this is a major spoiler – is that Libby is officially confirmed as bi on the page. And for me personally, that was a major thing. We don’t get enough of this in books! Also, hi, Libby’s my favourite. As this is essentially the GET LIBBY BACK book (sorry if you haven’t read book one!) for me, this one was all about her. She permeates the story, even when she’s not in it. I did feel that The Atlas Paradox wasn’t quite as magical for me as The Atlas Six had been, but that is often the case with sequels – the world is established, the stakes are set and you know the characters, they have become familiar. I still really, really enjoyed reading this and diving back into this world and already can’t wait for the next one! I need MORE! And there’s a certain new character who I’m very intrigued by and who I think will have a super interesting arc coming up, so AAAH GIMME NOW. A very very solid four stars.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson was originally self-published before it was picked up by Orbit to be re-released in October. This is a queer, poly, retelling of the brides of Dracula, set over the course of centuries. Like many, I initially thought that the original cover was far cooler, but that faded fast when I received the physical ARC – the smear of blood over her eyes is foiled, so it actually looks like blood on the cover and has a different texture to the rest and it’s such a brilliant effect. It ended up a stunning edition. I also love the elaborate initials used at the beginning of each chapter – and as the narration is closer to stream of consciousness or conversational narration than traditional chapters, there’s a lot of them. So, even if you have the original edition, I recommend you pick up this Orbit edition. It’s been a while since I read the first edition, so I’m not sure how much is down to Orbit’s editing and how much is down to time and format, but I felt like I enjoyed this a lot more a second time. The characters stood out more and the story as a whole drew me in more. This is written in second person – which seems like an important thing to mention, as I know many of you may have opinions on this – it’s not something which I tend to be very fond of, but I felt like it worked really well here. I ended up loving A Dowry of Blood my second read and highly recommend it.
And welcome from Chicago again! Still here, attending Worldcon, eating my way through American food and having a blast with friends. I hope things are well over in the UK, the world hasn’t imploded yet and everything. Anyway, have another fun collection of Monday minis. As always, huge thanks to the respective publicists for sending me these books for review. All opinions are my own.
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope is such a great story. Set in the 1920s, around a historical heroine – the afterword explains that Clara Johnson is based on a real person, this is a fresh take on the magical heist story. I raced through this after some friends were raving about it, which immediately bumped it up my TBR, and of course they were absolutely right. The Monsters We Defy is full of compelling characters, a vivid historical setting and a vibrant supernatural community. I especially loved the way the author played with Zelda’s character, a Black albino, and used her as white passing to get into places that other characters couldn’t. I think this was probably the first time I’ve read an albino character being written as an integral member of the core group, as a positive character, and I really appreciate that. This is just a wonderful book, and you need it in your life.
Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge is an odd one. It’s a YA rooted in Arthurian mythology, featuring witches and a girl searching for her own identity. All things that I usually love, and I enjoyed Rachel Burge’s debut, The Twisted Tree. However, Waking the Witch failed to fully connect with me. I’m not quite sure why, as the individual elements are all things I tend to fall for, making it hard to really put the finger on why I failed to click with the book as a whole. It is a decent book, looked at objectively, and an interesting take on the legends, though one that I did find far-fetched. And it may be that disliking Ivy, the main character, as a character, combined with feeling that the worldbuilding may have worked better as something standing on its own rather than linking back to Arthuriana is why the book made me so grumpy. Because it is a fast read, I found it compelling and it worked as a whole story despite my frustrations with it. So, one for the YA readers, but maybe not for the Arthurian nerds?
The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran is… very different to what I expected it to be. For one, there is very little magic in a book about a magical manuscript. There is far more focus on the erotic elements of both the story and the manuscript the story is centred around, which isn’t really what I tend to look out for in my usual reading diet. This is not the magical, bookish, perhaps historically tinted, romance I thought it would be. It is a literary fiction novel with romantic elements, looking at power and how power corrupts – and how power can be achieved through sex. It is compelling, I have to give it that. I blasted through it on my flight, not able to put it down or look away, despite not really connecting with the story either. I just HATED Lily and Lucas both, with a passion. They are such dislikable characters, selfish, power-hungry and motivated by greed. But then, that’s what makes a story. One that isn’t for me, necessarily, but will click much better with readers of literary fiction!
Hello from Chicago! I’m currently in the US, ready for Worldcon, exploring Chicago and reading all the books. As always, thank you to the respective publicists for sending me (e)ARCs of these books, and all opinions are my own.
The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a fun YA fantasy centred on revolution and its aftermath. Vesper is the daughter of failed revolutionaries, trapped in a city surrounded by eternal storm. This is twisty and full of betrayal – almost veering towards Grimdark. And yes, I know how wrong it sounds when I say it’s fun book. But to me, dark, twisty books full of characters with dubious morality ARE fun! Of course, there is also a pretty prince and a romance, as appropriate for YA. And revolutions and the political mess that ensues really aren’t talked about enough in books. It feels like every time politics come up, it’s either to show a successful revolution or to keep the status quo going. But to delve into issues caused by a failed change? I need more of this. The Darkening is a fast-paced read, with high tension throughout, making for a compelling story. The characters are well written, and the world the story is set in is fascinating. I enjoyed this a lot, and I am very much looking forward to the second book in the duology. Writing this up has made me want to pick up the book again and reread it – so that’s a good sign, right?!
With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte is the sort of YA that should have been Fabnip. Creepy small town in Italy, witchy goings-on, eternal feud reminiscent of the blood feud in Romeo and Juliet, comps to V.E. Schwab? That sounds amazing. But unfortunately, the execution of the ideas was a huge letdown for me. The story is centred around Lilly, whose father moves them to Castello, a tiny town in Italy that is mostly cut off from modern life, supposedly to help modernise it. But when they get there, Lilly learns that her dead mother may have been involved in something similar to a terrorist attack, and the town has a vendetta against people they refer to as Saints – people with powers. The town is under the influence of a man called the General – and Lilly’s father isn’t there to set up the wifi after all. My biggest gripe with this is that the characters are underdeveloped and there is too much plot pushed into the story – there is no space for relationships to develop and mature, for tension to truly build up. The main character has feelings for multiple other characters, but no chemistry, and I found that it didn’t make sense to me. And there were quite a few plot holes that I couldn’t see past. Unfortunately, this is a miss for me.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen is a tropey, fun fantasy romcom. Hart and Mercy hate each other, but end up unlikely pen pals – and after a true missed connection moment, end up falling for each other. This is a tender, funny novel but also one that will make you cry. It’s absolutely delightful and perfect for this year’s trend of cosy fantasy – I’m here for it! I’ve been really getting into sweet, romancy books lately, and this was exactly what I needed to read this week. It’s got enemies to lovers vibes, banter and so many puns. And if you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you know I love a bad joke and can’t resist a pun. So basically, this was written for me to devour. Some things are quite predictable, but that is part of the fun of this, I think. Vibes and strong characters abound, and that is where Hart and Mercy got me. They snuck their way into my hart. If you need a comfort book, add this to your rotation!
Huge thanks to the lovely Nazia at Orbit for feeding my mythology obsession with the outstanding Ithaca by Claire North. I loved this one, and if you’re into retellings and mythology-inspired stories, you should check this one out too! As always, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/09/2022
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Seventeen years ago, king Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them have returned, and the women have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. Whilst he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that husband is dead, and suitors are starting to knock at her door…
But no one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne – not yet. Between Penelope’s many suitors, a cold war of dubious alliances and hidden knives reigns, as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip one way or another. If Penelope chooses one from amongst them, it will plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning and her spy network of maids can she maintain the delicate balance of power needed for the kingdom to survive.
On Ithaca, everyone watches everyone else, and there is no corner of the palace where intrigue does not reign… (from Orbit)
OPINIONS: I have historically not always gotten along with Claire North’s writing. But as I’ve been adoring the mythological retellings trend and always thought Penelope deserved better than the few lines dedicated to her in The Odyssey, I decided to give Ithaca a shot anyway. And oh, am I glad that I did! This feels very different to Claire North’s previous books in terms of writing style, much more fluid and character-driven, concerned with telling a compelling story. Where I think I disconnected with her work before due to its bleak outlook and matter-of-fact tone, this worked much better for me, probably because it emulated a style closer to books like Ariadne or The Women of Troy.
But this isn’t the story of how Penelope weaves her shroud. This is the story of how she governs in Odysseus absence, and I’m here for it. I loved Ithaca – I tend to like politics in my fiction anyway, and when its women taking over traditionally male roles in stories usually told from their perspective, even more so. One of the things I always forget is how in mythology, as in history, royals are related to each other. So, Penelope doesn’t act in isolation upon the conclusion of the Trojan war. The book also heavily features Elektra – which I found interesting, especially as Jennifer Saint’s Elektra came out only a few months ago. I love how this genre is in constant conversation with each other, how there is almost a shared universe of stories being created, a modern corpus of stories in which authors craft versions of mythology, just as oral storytellers would have thousands of years ago.
So, Ithaca is another win for the mythology brigade. Strong characters, a solid story crafted fresh – this isn’t one that’s been done a million times, but one that takes a period that isn’t discussed often, especially in regard to Ithaca, and imagines a possible narrative for it. This is one that will work both for existing fans of Claire North and those drawn in by the blurb – it has a different feel to her previous work, and I believe this will gain her a wider readership. I highly recommend you check out Ithaca! Add it to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Drawn in by the dragons, compelled by the wonderful characters and the evocative writing. A true gem of a crossover fantasy novel. Huge thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for sending me a review copy. As always, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 05/07/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: An ancient city plagued by dragons.
Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come from miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers. But disaster strikes during one celebratory show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s life changes in an instant.
A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home
Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance—safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to train to become a Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer. Without him, her world will burn.
But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright. (from Titan)
OPINIONS: Together We Burn is the first Isabel Ibañez novel I’ve read, but certainly not the last. As the name of this blog may have hinted at, I love dragons, and this writes them well. Set in a world where a culture similar to that of Spanish bullfighting exists, but with dragons, Zarela has been trained her whole life to take over for her mother as a dancer, while her father is a famous dragonador. But fate has other plans, and she has to step up if she wants to save her family’s legacy. Ibañez waves a compelling tale of family loyalty, stubbornness and dragons, with a good dash of unlikely attraction. In short, a great story.
And oh, the enemies to lovers between Zarela and Arturo… It is absolutely delicious. Slow-burn, and that immediate, tangible chemistry between them. It’s just delicious. This is how I like my romance in YA. a great enemies to lovers trope will get me enchanted and drawn into the story – add in betrayal and dragons? Yes please! And oh, the worldbuilding. It’s inspired by elements from our world, but crafted into something truly unique as well, creating a story that you just can’t put down. I loved it, and I recommend you give it a shot too if you like YA fantasy, romance and dragons!
Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle is a high-stakes, fast paced time travel thriller. It revolves around the murder of scientist Nora, and father and daughter Sam and Adeline who were the last people to see her alive. Nora and Sam were part of a group of scientists who created a time machine, allowing the government to essentially eradicate crime by sending criminals into the past, into parallel universes, to have them out of the current timeline for good. Adeline knows that her dad is innocent, but can’t prove it before he is sent to the Jurassic Period… Nevertheless, she doesn’t give up, and is determined to find the true killer – only to find a more intricate plot than she ever suspected. It is a fun read, though I found that it ultimately fell short for me, as do many time travel narratives with how it dealt with the question of predetermination of the timeline. I felt that there wasn’t enough thought put into the ethical, philosophical and moral implications, ending up with a book that read like an action film, with more plot than sense, characters who remained rather shallow and a frustrated Fab who wanted to know more about the WHY of it all.
The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan is classic Grimdark, taking police procedural, but making it medieval and dark. Set around Justice Konrad Vonwalt and his assistant Helena, it is a murder mystery, it is a classic fantasy novel, but also a well-written piece of fiction on its own. While this ultimately wasn’t quite my cup of tea as a whole, I can see why so many adore this book. It’s a solid start to a new series, introducing a compelling set of new characters. It is gritty, it isn’t quite on the side of morally right and it tangles with right and wrong throughout. It makes for an interesting story, though it took me far too long to finish – I may have started this months ago, only to breeze through the last third in a single gulp, drawn in by the mystery and the intrigue. It is a great read for fans of Grimdark, but not necessarily something that will mesh with everyone. Check out a sample of this one first!
Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It by Janina Ramirez is a very interesting take on a popular history book looking at the Middle Ages under a new perspective. Having come to this straight after a certain book with similar aims, but much less solid scholarly underpinnings, Ramirez’ work made me very very happy. This isn’t a feminist manifesto or a rewriting of what is known about the period, but a look at smaller chunks of the Middle Ages through what we know about some of the women who lived at the time. Often ignored for their more famous and traditionally accomplished male counterparts, these women may have done much to have been remembered or, simply, been at the right place at the right time for their burials to survive and be discovered. I found Ramirez’ writing engaging and accessible, drawing parallels to modern times, but still rigorously academic where it matters. I did find that some of the chapters strayed perhaps a bit far from what they intended – for example when talking about the Birka burials, there was extensive discussion of Viking burial culture and archaeology – which wasn’t what I was reading the book for, but then, as someone who used to be a medieval historian isn’t necessarily the target audience for a book like this. These discourses were still interesting, though my brain went “but I wanted to know about THIS, not GENERAL TOPIC I already know about!”. So, most definitely one I recommend picking up!