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!
Looking for a compelling horror novel that reads like the fun slasher flicks of the early 2000s? Look no further. Hide is Kiersten White’s addictive and fun adult debut, with an intriguing concept and a lot of death. In short, it’s exactly what is needed for a fun read in the sun or cuddled up inside with a good drink right now.
Huge thanks to Marie-Louise at Del Rey for inviting me on the Blog Tour and sending me an ARC of Hide. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 24/05/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.
The prize: enough money to change everything.
Even though everyone is desperate to win – to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts – Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.
It’s the reason she’s alive, and her family isn’t.
But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.
Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.
Come out, come out, wherever you are. (from Del Rey)
OPINIONS: I had so much fun with this book! It is not the most structurally sound or logical novel out there – but it doesn’t have to be. It is compelling and entertaining and I read it in a single sitting, which makes it the perfect summer read. Whether you like to read in the sunshine in a park, on holiday or cosied up at home with a cold drink, this is the ideal sort of book to read as it’s warm outside – it’s spooky, it distracts you and it chills you down to the bone – but it’s not nightmare-inducing-fucked-up-scary.
It’s got everything for a great read – mainly, a strong setting, interesting characters and a creepy mystery. I loved the setting in a derelict amusement park – having seen images from old parks that have been abandoned for decades, I can imagine the spooky atmosphere being there must evoke, so it’s the perfect setting for a horror novel. Having a hide-and-seek competition with little information as the hook is classic for the genre. It makes no logical sense that any of the characters would take the bait so easily, but that is the fun of it. You as the reader know from the start that there is something very fishy going on and it’s a train wreck about to happen – and you just can’t look away. You want to scream at the characters to get out of there as the tension rises, and then the first person dies, and you know that your gut instincts are right.
But the compelling part is not that characters die, but figuring out why they disappear and what is behind these events. In classic horror flick fashion, the reader knows more than the characters as the story unravels, and you just can not look away. While this is a horror novel, it is also an entertaining book, think Final Destination rather than The Ring. So if you enjoy a little bit of a scare, do give this a read and join Mack and her friends in hiding…
Equinox is a very unique dark fantasy book, set in the eighteenth century, but in a world where people share their body between a day-self and a night-self. Towsey has created a thrilling mystery in a setting that is sure to draw readers in and enchant them. Massive thanks to Ad Astra at Head of Zeus for having me on the blog tour and sending me a finished copy for review. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 12/05/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In this world, two souls inhabit a single body, one by day, one by night. But though they live alongside one another, their ends do not always align. For Special Inspector Morden, whose hunt for a dangerous witch takes him far from home, this will be a problem…
Christophor Morden lives by night. His day-brother, Alexsander, knows only the sun. They are two souls in a single body, in a world where identities change with the rising and setting of the sun. Night-brother or day-sister, one never sees the light, the other knows nothing of the night.
Early one evening, Christophor is roused by a call to the city prison. A prisoner has torn his eyes out and cannot say why. Yet worse: in the sockets that once held his eyes, teeth are growing. The police suspect the supernatural, so Christophor, a member of the king’s special inspectorate, is charged with finding the witch responsible.
Night-by-night, Christophor’s investigation leads him ever further from home, toward a backwards village on the far edge of the kingdom. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more his day-brother’s actions frustrate him. Who is Alexsander protecting? What does he not want Christophor to discover?
And all the while, an ancient and apocalyptic ritual creeps closer to completion… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky and unique take on dark fantasy, with elements adjacent to horror and tropes taken from the classic detective procedural. What makes Equinox stand out most is its world building – everyone is split into two separate people, a day-sibling and a night-sibling. These often have utterly different personalities and don’t share each other’s worldly attachments (so if a day-sibling is married, the night-sibling is not married to the night-equivalent of the day-spouse), which can lead to interesting entanglements, especially in terms of family and relationships. Our hero in this story, Christophor and Alexsander, is utterly different in night and day. Whereas Christophor is a detective, Alexsander is a musician – which the former does use to his own benefit over the course of the investigation, as Alexsander can go places where Christophor may not be able to go as openly.
This makes for an interesting narrative, though at times a confusing one. I appreciated the design choices ensuring that each section was marked with the day or night symbol mirroring the ones used in the cover design, but I can’t help but wish they’d taken a page out of the German edition of The Never-ending Story that I grew up with, and used different font colours for day and night. But alas, that is an expensive production extra, and may be more reasonable in case Equinox ever gets a special edition.
Equinox is fast-paced and compelling, though I found myself more invested in characters over plot. However, the pacing is well-done, so it never feels like the plotting drags or the mystery is too transparent, which makes the story read well to both the casual reader and the reader looking to dive deep into all of the lore mentioned within the story and immerse themself. It is a book that I would definitely recommend – if you like the darker side of humanity and a gripping read, do check this one out.
Welcome to today’s second post – a blog tour review of The Collarbound by Rebecca Zahabi. Fun epic fantasy galore and a promising start to a writing career! Many thanks to Gollancz for sending me a review copy and having me on the blog tour.
RELEASE DATE: 12/05/2022
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: On the other side of the Shadowpass, rebellion is brewing and refugees have begun to trickle into the city at the edge of the world. Looming high on the cliff is The Nest, a fortress full of mages who offer protection, but also embody everything the rebellion is fighting against: a strict hierarchy based on magic abilities.
When Isha arrives as a refugee, she attempts to fit in amongst the other mages, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast. She can’t remember her past or why she has the tattoo. All she knows is that she survived. She doesn’t intend to give up now.
Tatters, who wears the golden collar of a slave, knows that this rebellion is different from past skirmishes. He was once one of the rebels, and technically, they still own him. He plans to stay in the shadows, until Isha appears in his tavern. He’s never seen a human with a tattoo, and the markings look eerily familiar…
As the rebellion carves a path of destruction towards the city, an unlikely friendship forms between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart. (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: In a lot of ways, The Collarbound is pure entertainment. Fast paced epic fantasy, plot-driven but not quest-oriented. It profits from extensive world building, and it is made clear that what we see in this book is only a fraction of a greater world. This is something that always makes me enjoy a book more, seeing obvious thought and care being put into a world that the reader doesn’t fully see – it does pay off, even if it isn’t immediately visible. It makes the story more immersive. And immersive storytelling leads to books you can’t put down – The Collarbound is a very addictive read!
The characters are great as well – with distinct edges and flaws, not forced to be consistently pleasant. This drew me in too, and made it feel as if I was there with them. I loved the interactions, the reluctant familiarity that built between them over the course of the story. And a good dose of politics and intrigue never hurts. While it is plot-driven rather than character-focused, The Collarbound stands out from other epic fantasy due to its focus on the small, rather than a big quest story. It is a book that despite its compelling nature needs attentive reading as it is full of details rather than just allowing the reader to go on the journey with the characters, so be prepared to have to unravel some of the plot strands and world building as you go along.
So, definitely a rec if you like twisty, epic-y stuff with a lot of politics and fun characters! It’s not one of my all-time favourite books, but one I’ll probably re-read in the future and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
In my current research project, I have this knack – I’m working on the Horned God in fantasy fiction, a figure that usually pops up on the sidelines or has a very limited presence, but casually browsing bookshelves in a shop or library, I’ll often pick up a random volume that catches my eye – and there he is. It’s uncanny, honestly! This was certainly the case with Sistersong. I picked the volume up on recommendation from Fabienne and because I enjoyed Lucy Holland’s previous fantasy oeuvre, the Worldmaker trilogy. I did not expect to find Cernunnos in its pages, nor did I expect that this novel would come to occupy such a central space in my research.
Sistersong weaves a sellic spell that pluck at the heartstrings and leaves the reader wondering.
RELEASE DATE: 28/04/2022
STAR RATING: 5/5✶
SUMMARY: King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure.
All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart.
Riva, Keyne and Sinne become entangled in a web of treachery and heartbreak, and must fight to forge their own paths. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain (from Pan Macmillan).
OPINIONS: First and foremost, this is an excellently researched novel. The historical details are grounded in both medieval chronicles and longstanding tradition of reimagining the Middle Ages, but Sistersong also respectfully engages with concerns of the 21st century, especially gender politics and notions of spiritual autonomy.
As for the Horned God, Cernunnos, his godhood is more literary than factual – the name survives to us in a single inscription of a Gallo-Roman devotional stele discovered in Paris (you can see it here), and archaeological evidence suggests he was a local deity subsumed into the Roman pantheon as Gaul became part of the Roman Empire. Further concrete information about how he was worshipped and by whom is lost to history, but he did find an ally in anthropologist Margaret Murray, whose ideas can be considered key for modern paganism in the West. Murray suggested that Cernunnos was one example among countless expressions of a pan-European Horned God, embodiment of male sexuality, wildness, and the natural world. This idea was taken up by fantasy authors to give Cernunnos a revived divinity. And he makes his appearance in Sistersong, along with Celtic goddesses Andraste, Brigid, and Epona.
What struck me specifically was the gods were seen as ways of understanding the natural world. It’s something I’m arguing in my thesis: pagan gods in fiction are used to bring to mind nature and our relationship with it. And Holland presents this idea is a wonderfully eloquent way: at one point in the narrative one of the protagonists discusses the nature of magic with Myrdhin/Mori, a mysterious mentor character. Mori insists that there are no gods, and that ‘Brigid, Andraste, the Horned One […] are just names […] folk have given the land and its many faces.’
Throughout the novel, humanity’s union with and attention to the land is leitmotif that defines the characters’ success or downfall – forget the land’s name and you forget yourself. Without overtly referencing the current ecological catastrophe, Holland brings to mind the importance of human compassion to our environment. I found this incredibly powerful.
Now that Sistersong is out in paperback, do give it a read yourself and delve into legends of spectral hunts, ancient monuments and the uncanny bond between three siblings.
Welcome back to the world of Shady Hollow. I’ve got the honour of kicking off the blog tour for the third book in this delightful cosy mystery series by dynamic author duo Juneau Black, Mirror Lake. Just like the first two books, Shady Hollow and Cold Clay, this follows the anthropomorphic woodland creatures of Shady Hollow as they live their ordinary lives – and encounter extraordinary events, shaking up their community. Led by fox journalist Vera Vixen, we get to follow along as murder brings up secrets and redefines relationships.
Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me an review copy and inviting me back on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 28/04/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Keen journalist Vera Vixen is recovering from the Harvest Festival (and its bounty of local cheeses, cider and pies) when the calm is shattered by a scream from one of the small town’s grandest houses. Dorothy Springfield, a rat with a reputation for eccentricity, claims her husband – who is standing right next to her – has been murdered. Has Dorothy finally lost her grip on reality? Or is the rat who claims to be Edward an imposter? Vera’s fox nose scents a story. And it’s not long before the discovery of a body, minus the head, complicates things further… (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: I just adore these books. They’re so far out of what I ordinarily read, but I’ve found them such heartwarming comfort reads over the past few months as I’ve been able to read the trilogy as they’ve been released – and now that Mirror Lake is out, you can binge them all at once! This last installment is just as good as the first two, and now that we’ve had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time with the characters, we really know them and their dynamics well, which makes it even more comforting. This last book in the trilogy has Vera investigate the case of a murdered man who very clearly alive in the town, and in the process uncovering family secrets, discovering more murders and helping her beau get a promotion.
I found that some elements of the mystery were rather transparent, but I don’t think these are books to read because they contain gripping plots. These books are charming because of their whole package – the community of Shady Hollow, Vera Vixen who manages to get a smile out of everyone she meets and the mysteries are just the red thread that allows for forward momentum within the stories. Nevertheless, they are reasonably fast paced and never boring, creating a place that the reader likes to spend time in and would love to visit (not least for the maple pumpkin pancakes Vera eats at Joe’s coffee shop…).
I’m looking forward to diving back into these in the autumn – they’ve got such autumnal vibes – with a mug of mulled cider. The series is just lovely and Mirror Lake is a worthy conclusion. I hope you give them a shot too, and like these books as much as I do.
Ropa Moyo is back! I loved T.L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead – see my review of it here – which is also one of our SCKA nominees for this year, which means I was more than thrilled to dive back into this magical Edinburgh. Especially after spending some time there last summer, reading about all these places and having a mental image of them made the experience even more amazing, and Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments more than measures up to its predecessor.
Massive thanks to Black Crow PR and UK Tor for sending me a review copy and having me on the blog tour.
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. And her with bills to pay and a pet fox to feed.
Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialized hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. The first patient was a teenage boy, Max Wu, and his healers are baffled. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander.
Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time. (from UK Tor)
OPINIONS: I adore these books. They are fast-paced, full of fantastic characters and incredibly compelling. They take traditional tropes of urban fantasy mysteries, blending it with the Edinburgh setting, more than just a place, more of a character of its own and influenced by the author’s Zimbabwean heritage. In this second book, even more so than the first, Huchu plays with the UK’s obsession with tradition and old families, having Ropa as a counterpoint to these elements of stodgy heritage, encouraging institutions to rethink their attitude by merely existing and moving through the world. And that, to me, is wonderful. The Edinburgh Nights series is both easy to read and pulpy, while incorporating a lot of social criticism and elements intended to make the reader ponder. That combination is one of my absolute favourite things to find in books.
What I really liked about Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments is that Ropa gets a gang. While The Library of the Dead has her very much on her own, this has her grow as a person, realise that she cannot fight her way against the world alone. Priya and Jomo, who gets far more attention this time around are just as fun and quirky, and together they make a great team. The way relationships between characters developed in this installment and a greater picture has been hinted at, I am extremely keen to see how this is going to continue and desperate to get my hands on the next book (please tell me it’s coming soon?).
Huchu is a massive talent to look out for – his books are unique and special, and we as readers are better off for having them. This is what we mean when we say we need diverse stories. Stories that are diverse down to their core, with no way to separate out elements, not ones where diversity is a sheen on top that can easily be removed. Do yourself a favour and read this series.
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd was a book that absolutely blew me away. It wasn’t necessarily an easy read – for reasons to do more with me than the book, but one that was incredibly rewarding. It is on the literary end of genre fiction, but as you get into the story, it is clear that this is a work of speculative fiction, and I adored the magic of maps.
Huge thanks to Alainna at Orion for sending me a review copy and having me on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 17/03/2022
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Nell Young has lived her life in and around maps. Her father, Dr. David Young, was one of the most respected cartographers in the world. But this morning he was found dead – or murdered? – in his office at the New York Public Library.
Nell hadn’t spoken to her father in years, ever since he fired her after an argument over a seemingly worthless highway roadside map. A map which was mass-produced – and every copy of which is now being found and destroyed. But why?
To answer that question, Nell will embark on a dangerous journey into the heart of a conspiracy beyond belief, the secrets behind her family, and the true power that lies in maps… (from Orion)
OPINIONS: I think I haven’t savoured a book as much as I have The Cartographers in quite some time. Set around the NYPL – one of my favourite places in New York – and maps, this book is a love letter to people who are passionate about niche things, those who love hiding in archives and behind books. It is nuanced and delightful, tragic and compelling, all in all one of my new favourite books. Growing up I’ve always had a special connection to maps as, in the years before Google Maps, my parents would make me get out an atlas and figure it out whenever I asked where a certain place was. Add in to that that my mum was a geographer who had worked on maps and a love for them was born early – these days, I mainly look at old maps, but have had some sort of map on my walls for most of my adult life. Thus, I easily dived into The Cartographers, connecting with the characters’ passion for the obscure art.
This is both a work that dives into themes of dark academia and magic, as well as a thriller. Nell, the main character, gets sucked into a world where she is in constant danger, where people around her start dying – and all because of a map. But what is the secret of this weird piece of paper, one that was sold at gas stations? It’s not like it’s a traditional treasure map… And The Cartographers keeps the truth about the map from you for a long time. It focuses on telling its story, on setting up the characters past and present over revealing too much too soon. And ultimately, the mystery isn’t the most important part of the book. It is about relationships, about trust, about following your dreams more than that. It’s good enough that I guessed a major part of the resolution early on, and it did not take away from my enjoyment of the story at all – The Cartographers is a story that is about the journey, not the destination.
Oh, the writing. It is clean but compelling, literary without overdoing it. Shepherd manages to hit that balance and provide readers with a book that is compulsively readable, magical, but also sparse and leaving the reader to wonder within the confines of the world. I absolutely loved The Cartographers, stayed up far too late to finish it, and now I want to read anything Peng Shepherd has written. A book that hurt me, that made me feel all the emotions and most definitely gave me a book hangover. Five bloddy stars.
Not all books can work for everyone unfortunately, and The Soul Stealer is one that I didn’t click with despite my best efforts. It sounded really intriguing and I initially thought it set up an interesting case, which ultimately didn’t work out.
Many thanks to Polly at Head of Zeus for sending me a review copy – all opinions are entirely my own and the lovely Polly is not to blame for any of them!
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2022
STAR RATING: 2/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Nemo Frisby used to be a detective. Now he drives an Uber between billionaire mansions in California. But he never lost the nose for the case – and when his housecleaner Trinity Fox discovers a young woman lying dead in her neighborhood, she persuades him to help her prove it wasn’t suicide.
Their investigation leads them to the Bel Air home of a wealthy movie producer, who built his mansion over an American Indian burial site. Ancient mythology tells of a demon who, if unearthed, can imbue evil men with terrible power. But only if the demon is fed by the sacrifice of innocent lives… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Unfortunately, this is a book that made me grumpy more than anything else. I went in excited, because I’ve been enjoying thrillers a lot recently and especially those with a grounding in the supernatural and mythology. But there’s two main elements that frustrated me in The Soul Stealer: the depiction of women, and the use of Native Americans. Combine that with a plot that is infuriating more than creepy and you end up with a grumpy Fab.
There is one (1!) woman in this book who is not a victim. And she doesn’t really have much of a developed personality. Not that the men tend to fare much better in terms of being multi-layered, but there’s at least boatloads of shitty male characters, one worse than the next. It really feels that women in this story only function to propel the plot forward, to function as sacrificial victims for this cult that somehow has all the high and mighty of Hollywood “rebalance” the power that is unjustly given to women. And I’m just not here for that. I know sacrificing pretty young women is a horror trope, but for the love of intersectional feminism, balance it out by having some female characters who are neither victims not cardboard cutouts. And maybe, going out on a limb here, even some who may not be pretty.
Now, I am neither Native American or know a lot about the tribes mentioned in the book. But using a rich culture and cherry picking elements that essentially let you take a sort of demon that rapes women to death in exchange for providing men with more power? That to me does not seem like appropriate representation in the 21st century. This is the main element of this that rubbed me the wrong way, but there are a number of others that I don’t want to mention to avoid further spoilers. It just seems that if you want to use something that presents its culture in such a negative light, it may be a far better idea to invent it from scratch, rather than draw from an existing culture, and one that has been struggling with its portrayals in media for a very long time.
So, The Soul Stealer really isn’t one that I would recommend you pick up as I think it’s not just me as a reader being overly sensitive, but issues that many of you will encounter as well while reading the book.
I’m thrilled to be back on the blog tour for Cold Clay, the second volume in the Shady Hollow series. You may remember the first one from the blog tour a little while ago – see here – and this second murder mystery in a town full of woodland creatures is just as delightful as the last. Happy UK publication day to Cold Clay!
Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy and having me on the tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In the woodland community of Shady Hollow, you’ll discover a secret. Moose and mice, owls and bears live side by side in civilised harmony. The town has a coffee shop and a bookshop, a haberdasher and a bank. Life is peaceful, until a skeleton is found buried deep under an apple tree. Danger has returned to Shady Hollow.
Ace reporter Vera Vixen only wants a good news story as harvest time arrives with the promise of glorious feasts ahead. But the discovery of the body casts a darker shadow. Soon enough, the coffeeshop’s owner is being dragged down to the police station. Vera can’t believe gentle Joe the moose is a killer. To get to the bottom of the matter, she will have to dig into the secrets her neighbours would rather leave buried forever… (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: These books are just so delightful. They are wholesome murder mysteries for the entire family, books that feel like a cosy blanket and a warm hug on a cold day. Classic detective stories – where the amateur sleuth Vera Vixen is a step ahead of the local law enforcement – set in a small community of quirky characters, depicted through archetypal woodland animals. They are short, compelling and absolutely lovely – while also being some of the most unique books I’ve read. I don’t think I’d ever expected to fall for a series full of talking animals aimed at adults! But hey, I’m here for the bonkers books.
This second installment has Vera dive into a cold case when a moose skeleton is found. I loved how there was much character development from the first book for those who are reading the series in publication order, but in a manner that allows both books to stand on their own as well. And the focus around the coffeeshop is just lovely and makes it even more comforting (any other coffeeshop AU fans out there?). It’s of course not deep literature, but fantastic escapism, and Vera Vixen is a lovely leading lady, tenacious but also personable.
I am really looking forward to seeing where the third (and final) book, Mirror Lake, takes us and all of the inhabitants of Shady Hollow. If you’re intrigued, you can add Cold Clay to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here and the first book, Shady Hollow here (affiliate links).