Welcome to another fancy blog tour! This time for The Coronation by Justin Newland. This historical fantasy novel was published in 2019 by Matador and they’re giving it another push with a massive blog tour spanning a month hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours – click HERE for the full schedule (and check out some of my wonderful co-hosts posts too!). If this review has made you think that this is a book you might enjoy, there’s a giveaway for two physical copies for readers in the US as part of the tour which you can find HERE.
Many thanks to HFVBT for having me and for sending me a copy of the book for review. All opinions are my own.
SUMMARY: It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.
In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But this is soon requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian Captain strikes her. His Lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour, but is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.
Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change the course of human history…
OPINIONS: Set during the Englightenment in a war-torn German Reich, The Coronation is an interesting (and rather weird) historical fantasy. It is told through the perspectives of mainly Marion von Adler and Ian Fermor, though others are sprinkled in. It is a compelling tale, and the three hundred pages of it fly by rather quickly. It deals with war and the consequences thereof on the society that stays back, combining it with the Adler, a mysterious supernatural entity that seems to shape the character’s destinies.
I’m not sure I fully understood the significance of the Adler when reading. Nevertheless, I did enjoy The Coronation, and especially its setting in the Enlightenment era. I liked how it didn’t discount female characters, which would have been easy to do in that period, but gave them agency – though the ones featured were very privileged in terms of social standing.
This is not a perfect book. But it is one that might be worth having a look at if you’re interested in historical fantasy, unusual entities or suchlike. Add it to Goodreads here, or order a copy from Amazon here.
Today, I’m thrilled to present my stop on the Titan Books Blog Tour for The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. This has been out for a while in the US, but the shiny UK paperback just came out this week! While I’m personally partial to the US cover, Genevieve has been lucky to get two very different but gorgeous covers for her debut based on Norse mythology. I absolutely loved it, and can wholeheartedly recommend this with a full five stars.
SUMMARY: Angrboda’s story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him—and any of his kind—grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family—or rise to remake it.
OPINIONS: Hi you need to read this queer story based on Norse mythology. I love Angrboda. She is a wonderful leading lady, a complex character not easily reduced to anything. And Loki is just… Loki. Smug bastard, in all his weird and wonderful glory as a trickster. I might also be slightly in love with Skadi, just as Angrboda is. She is amazing, and while she is a badass, she is also kind of a cinnamon roll and super supportive and just, everything that one might wish for in a partner.
Genevieve manages to take these elements of Norse mythology and craft them into a magnificent tale of her own, an epic fantasy that is nevertheless contained in a volume that does not threaten to smother its reader by sheer volume. All the pieces of the story fit together, and when I read it, it was exactly what I needed in that precise moment. I am already looking forward to rereading it – and these days, I don’t get around to doing a lot of rereading, so that’s high praise!
I can’t wait to see what Genevieve comes up with next, and I look forward to seeing where her journey as a writer takes her – if I enjoyed her debut this much, and found it this well-crafted, it can only get better from here, and I have high hopes. If you enjoy epic historical fantasy along the lines of Madeline Miller or Lucy Holland’s Sistersong, or even more Grimdark takes on Norse stories such as those by John Gwynne, you’ll probably like this one a lot.
Today, I’m excited to welcome you to my stop on the Titan Books tour for Birds of Paradise by Oliver K. Langmead. This is one of the wackiest books I’ve read in a long time, but it’s weird in all the best ways. It imagines a scenario where Adam (yes, that one from the Bible) is still alive and so are the first animals – though able to take human shape, and there are pieces of paradise still to be found on Earth… Think a cross between Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Jasper Fforde’s work. It’s out there, but it’s addictive.
Many thanks to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for including me on the tour and sending me a copy for review. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/04/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Many millennia after the fall of Eden, Adam, the first man in creation, still walks the Earth – exhausted by the endless death and destruction, he is a shadow of his former hope and glory. And he is not the only one. The Garden was deconstructed, its pieces scattered across the world and its inhabitants condemned to live out immortal lives, hiding in plain sight from generations of mankind.
But now pieces of the Garden are turning up on the Earth. After centuries of loneliness, Adam, haunted by the golden time at the beginning of Creation, is determined to save the pieces of his long lost home. With the help of Eden’s undying exiles, he must stop Eden becoming the plaything of mankind.
Adam journeys across America and the British Isles with Magpie, Owl, and other animals, gathering the scattered pieces of Paradise. As the country floods once more, Adam must risk it all to rescue his friends and his home – because rebuilding the Garden might be the key to rebuilding his life. (from Titan)
OPINIONS: This is such an addictive story. I could not put it down and read it in a single sitting. It’s weird and wacky and wonderful. I loved how it plays with theology, taking elements of the Bible and reworking them into something completely unique – Adam and some of the first animals tracking down pieces of Paradise on Earth to re-build their home. It is smart and fun, combining elements from fantasy, science fiction, heist-story and thriller (yes, I’d argue this is a book that counts for hard mode in the r/fantasy bingo!).
Adam, the first man, alive for a very, very long time, is a fantastic leading character. He is world-weary and tired, but keen to return to his roots and simply garden. He is not power hungry, and in his modesty almost super-human. It would have been easy for Langmead to take him and make him into a caricature, but the version that is published could not be further from that. He is utterly human, flawed and humble. I was a bit sad that Eve didn’t play a role in the story, though that is something that is solved well in the end. And Crow! She was probably my favourite of all the animals. Badass, matter of fact and charming.
All in all, while Birds of Paradise isn’t a perfect story, it is a compelling and well-written one, and one I highly recommend you take a look at it. Add Birds of Paradise to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Today, I’m thrilled to kick off the blog tour for Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline, out today from Weidenfeld & Nicholson. While this has been out in Canada for a bit, today is its UK release. This is based on traditional Métis legends, something that I have no prior knowledge about but that made this extremely appealing to me. I have read far too few books by indigenous writers, and this is an excellent one to start with if you feel similarly.
Many thanks to Will O’Mullane and W&N for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 01/04/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year – ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One hung-over morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher. By the time she staggers into the tent the service is over, but as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.
She turns, and there is Victor. Only he insists he is not Victor, but the Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to bring his people to Jesus.
With only two allies – her Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, and Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with deep knowledge of the old Métis ways – Joan sets out to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor, his life and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon her success. (from W&N)
OPINIONS: This is equal parts a mystery, psychological thriller to an extent as a speculative fiction novel. I loved Jean’s character, a smart, take-no-bullshit lady in her thirties, trying to figure out what happened to her husband, who disappeared almost a year ago. Through glimpses into the past, we see how she evolved from a directionless young woman into one who is sure of herself and what she believes in. And, oh, how satisfying it was to read a book that was so explicitly rooted in Métis culture. It is something I knew very very little about aside from stereotypes, and I learned so much (yes, I am the nerd who learns about the world from novels). It’s not a book that deals with identity in the traditional sense, but one that is steeped in its culture.
I think it is very fitting for our times that one of the antagonists of the story is one of the few explicitly white-coded people. A business man, using Christianity for his personal aims. Feel like you’ve seen that before? Welcome to the history of the world. But Cherie Dimaline manages to implement it in a manner that’s not preachy (pun intended), but rather challenges the reader to explore their notions about the world.
This is not a perfect book, and there are things I wish had been done differently – for example, I wasn’t that happy about the ending, but it is a very good book, and an important one, packaging contemporary issues in a personal story.
And one last blog tour for this week! In typical me-fashion I ended up bingeing the whole book today instead of actually sticking to my TBR and reading in time… All The Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter is a charming and compelling folk-tale inspired story, with a wonderful heroine. Check out the posts of the other stops on the tour too!
Massive thanks to Titan and Sarah Mather for providing me with an eARC and letting me be part of the blog tour!
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 08/04/21
SUMMARY: Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.
A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them. (from Titan Books)
OPINIONS: Um, so I love fairy tales and this has the exact feel of those kinds of stories. It is not a perfect book but one I very much enjoyed and fell for. I struggled a bit to get into it, but once I got sucked into the story at not quite a third in, I couldn’t put it down. Miren is such a fantastic leading character, stubborn, fierce, but also young and clueless in a lot of ways. She is not your average chosen heroine, although she does hint at elements of the trope. Having been left by her parents and sold into a marriage she doesn’t want by her grandmother, she sets out to find out who she is after she finds out that her parents are not dead as she was told for her whole life. And once she gets to her destination, she finds a situation much different to her expectations.
There are elements that are utterly predictable, and issues that get solved a little too easily, but it doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the story. This is a book that embraces its flaws, and doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: an compelling tale inspired by traditional folk tales. It is set in a world where stories Slatter has published before exist as stories passed down the O’Malley family. Creating a universe in which these stories can shine.
If you enjoy twisted stories with compelling characters, that nevertheless feel comforting and familiar, this might be a book for you. Add All The Murmuring Bones to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Yes, this is the week of too many blog tours. But all of them are for awesome books! Today, it’s my turn to talk about Dangerous Women by Hope Adams. This is a fun historical mystery set aboard a ship going from the UK to Australia in the nineteenth century. It is focused on characters, and based on a real journey and the quilt that was produced during the voyage. You can see the quilt here – I can’t stop staring at it! And can I just mention how gorgeous the cover for Dangerous Women is? I love it.
Thanks to Michael Joseph Books and Gaby Young for having me on the tour and sending me an eARC. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 04/03/21
SUMMARY: London, 1841. The Rajah sails for Australia. On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world. Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other. Until the murder. As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect. The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart. . . But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom? (from Penguin Michael Joseph)
OPINIONS: I’ve been on a bit of a historical kick lately, and I really enjoyed Dangerous Women. It is a fun escapist story, with the added quality of being based in a real historical moment. While the characters and story are fictional, the ship, the Rajah, existed, and was used to transport prisoners from the UK to Australia in 1841. The quilt the woman produce over the course of the journey exists and is absolutely stunning, giving the story an added dimension.
I found this to be well-written and full of interesting characters. It really is a character-driven story, and not very fast paced. I feel like it could have been condensed a bit, but not massively so. What irritated me a bit while reading – and this is likely due to reading an eARC and generally being terrible at noticing chapter headers – is that it switches around on the timeline quite often, but because it’s all on the ship it isn’t always obvious from context. This got me a bit muddled up for a while, but I think that’s more of a me problem than anything else.
The resolution of the story is very satisfying and it never felt very obvious how the story might turn out. The ARC I read was at times a bit more superficial than I would have preferred, but overall it did not detract from my enjoyment. It is not a perfect book, but if you like historical fiction or novels such as The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton, you might like this one too. Add Dangerous Women to Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Today I’m excited to start of a very special blog tour for The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. While I adored the book – set in Spain in the 1950s and looking at life under Franco through the eyes of a young American photojournalist – this won’t be a review post. I got to attend a fantastic event with Ruta, and talk to her about retelling history. You can find The Fountains of Silence on Goodreads here, and copies are available from Bookshop here (affiliate link). Massive thanks to Penguin and Nina Douglas for sending me a copy of the book and having me as part of the blog tour!
SUMMARY: Madrid, 1957. Daniel, young, wealthy and unsure of his place in the world, views the city through the lens of his camera. Ana, a hotel maid whose family is suffering under the fascist dictatorship of General Franco. Lives and hearts collide as they unite to uncover the hidden darkness within the city. A darkness that could engulf them all . . . (from Penguin)
Ruta is one of the most beloved historical fiction writers out there. She won the Carnegie Medal in 2017, is published in 60 countries and even has a postage stamp with her face in Lithuania. She is again longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for The Fountains of Silence. The story is very much set in a crossover space, and can be read both as a YA novel and an adult one. Ruta believes that history helps human understanding, giving people a reason for things being the way they are. In her opinion, history helps compassion, and silence breeds misunderstanding. If history is not talked about, every person can create their own version of events.
But why write about the Franco regime? Ruta is Lithuanian-American, and her first novels had been about exploring her family history and identity, so Spanish history isn’t a very obvious choice for her. When she was touring Spain for her first book, Between Shades of Grey, she did a number of school visits. And those teens, readers of her debut novel, asked her whether she might take her expertise of writing historical novels and apply them to their own history. Because young Spanish people don’t know about their past. After Franco’s death in 1975, Spanish policy culminated in the Pact of Forgetting, which meant that the atrocities of the civil war and the ensuing regime were not discussed. The past was not reckoned with, not taught, and not talked about.
Her immediate reaction, as someone who is not connected to Spain at all, was that it was not her place to write this story. But the idea never left her, and once she found the right lens – that of a young American, raised by a Spanish mother, but with no knowledge of life in Spain – she decided to write the story after all. While her earlier novels had a family connection, based in Lithuania and Eastern Europe, allowing her to write them from the inside out, this one required a different approach. She wrote The Fountains of Silence from the outside in. Using an outside observer, she consciously chose to write an unreliable narrator, a tourist. This allowed her to tell the story from someone passing judgement over what he sees, and highlight that as a tourist, one only sees part of the story. And personally, I think this is a large part of what made The Fountains of Silence resonate so much with me. Seeing the struggle of someone trying to make sense of what he sees, of trying to figure out the full story from his perspective, but utterly failing to.
Ruta really is a huge history nerd at heart (or, a history hoe, as we call ourselves in my circle of friends). She collected a variety of items from the period, such as a travel brochure handed out on flights from the US to Spain in the 1950s. She has the original key to the room in the hotel Daniel stays at. She also found pieces of the guarda civil uniform of the period. All this helps her to create an immersive experience for her readers. In the book itself, she included bits of historical documents accompanying the story. And that is one of the things I loved most about the book: while reading this historical novel, telling a story and using history to illustrate it, these documents allowed me to get even more of a sense of the world. Ruta used these sources to show to the reader where the story came from. Because The Fountains of Silence is a book that is ultimately about the history in it, and not the explicit story.
By writing about a period that is not that far in the past, Ruta was able to refer to oral history. To talk to witnesses who lived through the Franco regime. One of the anecdotes she told us was that once she started publicly talking about the book she was writing, people approached her to tell her their stories. One of these was an old man, who had grown up in a boys’ home, and later become a bellboy at the Hilton Castellana, where the story is set. The stories he told her directly influenced the book, and readers can see him in the character Buttons, one of the most lovable in the story.
I haven’t done a blog tour in a while, but this month I’ll be featuring quite a few! Starting out is Sleep Tight by C.S. Green, published by HarperCollins. This is the first in a new mystery series starring DC Rose Gifford, and is being published today! Many thanks to Jen Harlow and HarperCollins for having me, and do check out the posts from my fellow tour hosts!
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 04/03/21
SUMMARY: Even in your dreams you’re not safe. The nightmare is only just beginning…
When DC Rose Gifford is called to investigate the death of a young woman suffocated in her bed, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the crime than meets the eye.
It looks like a straightforward crime scene – but the police can’t find the killer. Enter DS Moony – an eccentric older detective who runs UCIT, a secret department of the Met set up to solve supernatural crimes. Moony wants Rose to help her out – but Rose doesn’t believe in any of that.
As the killer prepares to strike again, Rose must pick a side – before a second woman dies. (from HarperCollins)
OPINIONS: This is an intriguing thriller, a story in which it is not clear whether the events are due to supernatural causes or not. In some ways, it reminds me a bit of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, with its dedicated department for unusual crimes. But that is where the similarities end. Rose Gifford is a young policewoman, raised by her grandmother, who worked as a medium. Much of the story revolves around her childhood trauma and her struggles to let go of her past and people in it.
This is not a super fast-moving book, but rather one that calmly takes it’s mystery and logically approaches it step-by-step. I liked that it did not fall into sensationalist tropes like many crime novels, but rather used it’s case to show issues in the characters lives. This is as much Rose’s story as it is that of the victims of the initial crime. While the basic set up doesn’t make the story stand out, its execution is well done, and I am curious to pick up a follow-up.
Given more airspace, I think the DC Rose Gifford series can develop into a strong brand and tell some great stories. However, my main gripe with the novel is that it doesn’t evaluate the role of the police critically at all. All of the cops are “good guys”, and there is no indication that the police force needs a nuanced take after the events of the past few years.
Mike Shackle is a damn great writer. I am very glad that I kept procrastinating on reading We Are the Dead so I was able to read A Fool’s Hope just a few days later and did not have to suffer for very long in between! While being a lovely person, he likes to torture his characters (and his readers), so be forewarned if you are considering diving into his excellent series – it’s addictive and soul-destroying.
Massive thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for inviting me on the blog tour and sending me a review copy of A Fool’s Hope. As usual, all opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 03/12/20
SUMMARY: War takes everything.
From Tinnstra, it took her family and thrust her into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give all she has left to keep Zorique safe.
It has taken just as much from Jia’s revolutionaries. Dren and Jax – battered, tortured, once enemies themselves – must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril.
For the Egril intend to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back.
If Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do. (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: A Fool’s Hope starts off right where book one leaves off, minutes after the devastating end of We Are the Dead. It features many of the same excellent characters and stellar writing, and no less pain for its protagonists. I love those disaster kids with my whole heart and they suffer so badly – Mike, please be kind to them for a little bit! Tinnstra is one of my favourite characters in fantasy – she is a coward who ends up rising to the challenges placed before her and Zorique needs to be protected at all costs.
The one gripe I had with A Fool’s Hope is that I struggled with the passage of time. We Are the Dead took place over the span of a very short period of time, and as the second book started immediately after, it took me a while to realise that there were sometimes large gaps of time between chapters. A Fool’s Hope plays out over years, and I needed to get used to the new timescale. I wish there was more obvious guiding in that respect, although I read it as an e-copy and the paper version might be more helpful (or maybe I just overread signifiers, I sometimes do that).
The Last War series is very well written, fast paced and contains tight character work. Mike Shackle has written a series on the edge between true Grimdark and Epic Fantasy that is a true model of how the genre should be done. I need more of his writing, and I can’t wait to read the next book he publishes. Add A Fool’s Hope to your Goodreads here, and order it from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
Today I’m excited to welcome you onto my stop on the blog tour for Number 10 by C.J. Daugherty. This Gossip Girl meets Russian spies meets murder mystery is intriguing and entertaining – not least for all the entertainment the name Gray caused in the Discord server (shoutout to the Fantasy Inn Discord!). Set in the eponymous Number 10, Downing Street, the British PM’s teenage daughter works with her friends to try and save her mother from an assassination attempt…
There is also a fancy book trailer, which I’ve embedded below, premiering today for the book’s release, check it out!
Massive thanks to Midas PR and Moonflower Books for inviting me to the tour and sending me an ARC of Number 10. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/11/20
SUMMARY: Gray Langtry’s mum is the UK’s prime minister. Gray just wants life to go back to normal – no more bodyguards, no more paparazzi, just being a teenager. But when a wild night out is spread on the tabloids, she is grounded at Number 10. Exploring to pass the time, she finds underground tunnels leading her to the government buildings, where she overhears details of a plot against her mother. She is determined to prevent this from succeeding. There’s just the tiny problem that she doesn’t have any proof and time is running out…
OPINIONS: I thoroughly enjoyed Number 10. Probably more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It was exactly the kind of political-themed relief I needed after a week of worrying about real-world politics. More than anything it reminded me of a thoroughly British version of Gossip Girl, with less teenage bickering and more actual intrigue to solve. And I adored that back when I was a teen myself.
While Number 10 does rely on a number of tropes, the characters are well-realised teens that come with their share of issues and flaws. It is a well-written book, compelling throughout and clearly written straight for the intended audience. I did think the coincidence of Jake being who he is and being the exact same age as Gray was a bit much, but so is fiction. I really liked Gray’s best friend, Chloe, as well. The adult characters were not quite as fleshed out, and would have benefited from some additional scenes – the book is quite short at just about 250 pages, so there would have been scope for a bit more detail.
I could see Number 10 working well as a TV series adaptation, it is that kind of book. It is not a deep intellectual read, but compelling and fun, entertaining, with charismatic leads. If you are intrigued, add Number 10 to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Amazon here.