The second I read the back cover blurb for The Boy With Two Heads I was hooked – there were just so many pReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The second I read the back cover blurb for The Boy With Two Heads I was hooked – there were just so many possibilities for this story and I knew I had to read it. The book didn't quite live up to my expectations, but its central themes of friendship and acceptance are important and well-handled.
The Boy With Two Heads starts at a great pace – Richard Westlake wakes up one morning with a suspicious lump in his throat and is rushed off to hospital. The lump continues to grow and the reader is caught in breathless anticipation as one of the doctors announces that it is a second head, and that it's developing at a rapid rate. I was swept up by the beginning of The Boy With Two Heads – the excitement of the unknown and the undercurrent of menace coming from the doctors promised a thrilling adventure. Unfortunately I found that the central portion of the book dropped the ball. The pacing slowed to a crawl and the charged atmosphere that Mulligan had created in the beginning was nowhere to be seen. There was a rekindling of that spark that had initially caught my interest towards the end of the book which went some way towards redeeming the story.
The lead characters in most Young Adult fiction are in their mid-to-late teens, so it was a bit of an adjustment reading about a group of eleven-year-olds. They're interesting characters, but I think I'm just a bit too old to connect with that age group and that affected my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Richard is a quiet, well-mannered boy and the contrast between him and Rikki, his second head, is marked. Where Richard just wants to get along with people, Rikki seems hell-bent on destroying his friendships and reputation. It was interesting to watch the relationship between Richard and Rikki as it initially worsened and then began to heal as the two parts came to terms with one another.
The Boy With Two Heads is essentially a book about accepting who you are and the nature of friendship. It has an important message for young people and I think I may be just a bit too old to have appreciated it fully....more
The opening chapters of this debut novel won Michéle Rowe the 2011 CWA (Crime Writers Association) Debut DReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The opening chapters of this debut novel won Michéle Rowe the 2011 CWA (Crime Writers Association) Debut Dagger Award and I can see why. This is crime writing just the way I like it – smart, pacy and character-driven.
The cover for What Hidden Lies is very much in line with the current style in crime fiction – moody with large print that catches the eye. The image of a lone figure walking along a beach with dark clouds hovering above has been chosen to suit the story. It could represent either Persy or Marge in their journey to find a killer – both fiercely independent and isolated from those around them. The Penguin (South Africa) design team has done a great job with this cover.
What Hidden Lies is Michéle Rowe's debut novel, but it suffers from very few of the signs of an author trying to find her feet in a new book. Rowe's background is in scriptwriting and I think that this has given her a great advantage when diving into the field of novel writing. Rowe's writing style is assured and she makes great use of the peripheral characters and side-plots to add interest and depth to the central murder investigation. What Hidden Lies is well-paced and – like all good crime fiction – has the reader trying to solve the case right along with the characters. The Cape Town setting – mainly centred around Noordhoek, Fish Hoek and surrounding areas – is brought to life with vivid description and Rowe has populated her story with an eclectic cast of characters who bring energy to the scenes.
All of the characters in What Hidden Lies have interesting backstories that shape their view of the world and their decisions. The fact that this level of character development isn't limited to the central characters is something that I must applaud the author for. It takes a lot of work and it has paid off in making the interactions between the characters more engaging and it allows for Rowe to introduce some great red herrings into the plot to keep the reader engaged. The two central characters – Detective Persy Jones and Marge Labuschagne – act as interesting foils for each other. Both are fiercely independent and determined to be taken seriously in their lives, but both are also incredibly isolated and lonely. I think it's these similarities that cause the initial sparks to fly in their relationship, but they do ultimately find a grudging respect for each other which I will be interested to see develop in further books.
Michéle Rowe has produced a great debut novel with What Hidden Lies and I am looking forward to following her writing career as it develops. Things can only keep getting better and that makes this reader very happy. ...more
The fantasy genre was one of my first loves as a young reader – the amazing worlds and characters that thReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The fantasy genre was one of my first loves as a young reader – the amazing worlds and characters that the authors brought to life in my imagination were (and still are) wonderfully addictive. So you can understand why I leapt at the chance to read The Oathbreaker's Shadow.
The cover for The Oathbreaker's Shadow is fun and eye-catching. The bright tones of yellow, orange and red immediately bringing to mind the heat and dryness of the desert – the place where oathbreakers find themselves banished to in the world of Darhan. The figure in the foreground glares defiantly out of the cover with his blades in hand. It captures Raim's determination and strength of character as well as his martial training. The last element of the cover image is probably the most important – the out-of-focus shadow standing just behind Raim, its eyes fixed on his back. It is the accusing shadow that all oathbreakers must live with.
Apart from being a huge fantasy fan, another reason I wanted to read The Oathbreaker's Shadow was the simple, yet potentially powerful, premise behind the story. Promises. Take a moment and think about the last promise you made. It may have been something simple; like promising to pick up milk and bread on the way home from work. Or it may have been something with more weight to it; a parent promising a child that they'll be safe, a wedding vow, or a medical student swearing the Hippocratic Oath at graduation. Now imagine what it would be like if breaking your promises carried more of a punishment than being deemed untrustworthy or losing your job. What if a broken promise meant that you lost everything? Would you make them as lightly? See what I mean? A relatively simple premise, but with so much potential.
Amy McCulloch has created a vibrant and interesting world in her debut novel. Magic and intrigue abound, but those able to perform magic – the Sages – are now nothing more than legends in old stories. The only magic left in the land seems to be that which binds the people to their promises. McCulloch writes with a quiet confidence that brings her characters and world to life easily for the reader. There were some parts of the story where I felt that the plot lagged slightly – where I wanted more momentum from it. But I am confident that this is just a part of the learning curve; of an author getting to know herself and her creation. The Oathbreaker's Shadow is the first book in the series and I am very keen to see what McCulloch has in store for her readers in the next installment as her experience grows.
The characters in The Oathbreaker's Shadow are what really drive the book. But for the purposes of this review I am going to focus on the main character, Raim. I liked Raim very much – his strong sense of duty and loyalty to those he cares about are central to his character. A lot of main characters in Young Adult fiction have amazing abilities and come across as being rather egotistical as a result. Raim is a skilled warrior, but it is something that he gets very real private enjoyment out of. He doesn't swagger or boast and I found that very refreshing. Raim grows into himself as the story progresses. He is forced by his broken oath (a tantalising mystery that I can't wait to be solved in future books) to step out of his best friend's shadow and to make his own way in the world. And when he finally lets go of his stubborn belief in what he sees as the truth he really starts to develop.
Amy McCulloch's debut novel is an entertaining introduction to a fantasy world that I am looking forward to visiting again in the next book. ...more
In The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper has created a book laced with currents of menace and mystery that will hReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
In The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper has created a book laced with currents of menace and mystery that will have you turning the pages late into the night to find out what happens next, while at the same time hoping that you'll never know.
I love the cover art for this particular edition. The view of Venice in brilliant shades of blue with the sin glinting off of the famous buildings and gondolas seems idyllic. It's only when you look closer that the peace of the scene is shattered. First, there is the tiny black figure in the top right of the scene falling with arms outstretched towards the waiting water. And then in the bottom right of the scene the shifting lines of the currents in the canal are transformed into a demonic visage, waiting for the falling figure with mouth wide open. The cover depicts the start of Professor Ullman's journey as his daughter falls towards the Grand Canal. But it is also symbolic of the novel as a whole – sometimes you need to look closer to see the whole picture.
The Demonologist is the first of Andrew Pyper's books that I have read and I was impressed by his ability to draw the reader into the story and the paranormal world he has envisaged. This is horror the way I enjoy it – a building sense of wrongness and menace that doesn't rely on cheap tricks to affect the reader. Rather, as the story progresses the reader becomes so immersed in it that the horror and unease build like a rising tide and sweeps them along in its wake.
There are numerous references to John Milton's Paradise Lost throughout the book, but it is not necessary for you to have read this epic poem to understand the story. All the information you need is relayed seamlessly through the main character, Professor David Ullman, without muddying the story with obscure references and academic discussions. Paradise Lost chronicles the fall of Lucifer and the rebel angels as well as that of man. Themes from the poem are woven through the book and add depth to the story.
David Ullman is an academic. An English professor who specialises in literature dealing with the demonic and the divine, with a specific interest in Milton's Paradise Lost. A demonologist. Yet he doesn't believe in any of it.
“The mind is its own place, and in it self Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
These words, as spoken by Lucifer in Paradise Lost, resonate with him as he believes that good and evil are purely man-made distinctions. This contradiction between knowledge and belief makes David an intriguing character. And it is this contradiction that Pyper explores as he takes David on his own journey through hell – and, like all mythological heroes who take this journey, he is transformed by it.
The two other characters who play an important role on David's journey and subsequent transformation are his daughter Tess and his friend O'Brien. Tess, while not physically present through most of the book, is a central figure in the narrative. Her disappearance signals the start of David's journey and she is his lodestone as he navigates his way through a world of myth brought to life. When Dante descended into hell in his The Divine Comedy he was accompanied by a guide, Virgil. In much the same way O'Brien is the voice of reason in David's unravelling reality. She is a strong presence who centres him and forces him to look deeper. To question.
The Demonologist is an unnerving and well written book that will make you want to sleep with the lights on long after you've finished reading it....more