When Angelology was released back in 2010, Danielle Trussoni became an instant hit, and before long her debut urban fantasy novel charted on the New Y...moreWhen Angelology was released back in 2010, Danielle Trussoni became an instant hit, and before long her debut urban fantasy novel charted on the New York Times bestseller’s list. It was an original concept; a secret group that hunted the entire Earth for fallen angels, before these mythical beings started to gain the upper hand in an age-old war that has plagued mankind for thousands of years. It introduced us to a nun, a Sister Evangeline, who learnt of her secret past with the help of Verlaine, a man who had been working for an elite angel family, desperately searching for a cure that had plagued the high Nephilim family. Its Christian lore, clandestine mysteries and historical retelling captivated me and I instantly fell in love with this unheard of author. Angelopolis is the follow-up, and promises much more intrigue ‘against an astonishing fresh tableau of history and science.’
Angelopolis returns us to the action ten years after the ending of its predecessor. The two star-crossed heroes couldn’t be leading more different lives. Evangeline is living her life evading a sinister, evil Enim angel, Eno, who is hell-bent on killing her, and Verlaine has progressed to be one of the top angelologists in recent years. That is until fate intervenes and the two lovers inevitably cross each other’s path once more. Eno is on Evangeline’s scent and before an intense fight ensues, Evangeline manages to pass a decorated egg onto the chasing hunter, before submitting to the Enim angel and is flown out of sight. The story progresses with Verlaine and his mentor, Bruno, who must unravel the mysteries of the Faberge egg, which leads them on a well-hidden quest from Paris to Russia, and to the Rhodope Mountain range and Siberia. Evangeline’s true origins come to life and the true mission of Noah, Keeper of the Animals, is revealed. And what is this Angelopolis that is mentioned – a safe-haven for Angels, a Garden of Eden on Earth for Angels?
When I first read that ten years had passed from book to book, I was a little dismayed – what had happened to Evangeline? But thankfully, as I read on, Danielle Trussoni does a wonderful job at filling in the blanks along the way. And actually, it was really great to see Verlaine a more ambitious and manly character, compared to his rather meek personality in the previous book. He knows what course his life is now moving in, and he’s happy to be a part of the secret world of Angels. This gives way to a brilliant set of action scenes throughout the book; fights, building scaling, explosions – you name it, it’s all in here. And brilliantly structured too.
One of the highlights of Angelology was how Trussoni switched from the past to the present, and although it is understandably not the case in here, what she masters, is the switching of character viewpoint. Whether it is the rather eager Verlaine, the more mature Bruno, the intriguing Vera or the cold and lost Evangeline, we get to see the world in different perspectives, which is an extraordinary feat in itself. And plus, when we are following the quest of Vera to the Black Sea coast, we really delve deep into the true biblical lore that Trussoni excels at. Sometimes, a story doesn’t need strong action to make the book thrilling, just the retelling of history and mythology we all think we know, to be turned on its head and shock us, well is just as exciting. Amazingly, this book has both! The little cameo appearances of characters such as Sneja (from Angelology) also delight.
But what really lies at the heart of this book is the revealing of secrets among History that all leads to Evangeline. It’s a story about her lineage, her genealogy, and it’s an impressive one at that. She’s been lied to, tricked, deceived some more, and the reader feels the full brunt of these revelations. We feel for Evangeline, and we can easily sympathise with how alone and adrift she must feel. Ironically, the book is mostly about her, but Sadly, Evangeline doesn’t appear half as much as I’d like in here.
It’s plain to see that a book with angels in it is going to be classed as fantasy, and I suppose urban fantasy is more apt. It is however, strange to feel so at one with the book, as if everything that happens is in fact reality. This is a real gift, and one that we probably take for granted as readers. But fantasy it is, and quite humorously Trussoni evens borders the extreme. There is one moment in the book where she strongly suggests that Queen Victoria was of Nephilim lineage; the angel-human hybrid that sits at the top of the angel hierarchy, albeit apart from the Watchers.
What I really love about Danielle Trussoni’s novels however, is her ability to write, the language she uses and the structure she forms her chapters into. I find her writing so romantic and very readable. I often found myself reading the book out loud because I found that had an even larger effect on me. Her sentences aren’t incredibly simple; instead they elaborate profusely and build up the imagery sentence by sentence, and I could in fact read her work all day long. It isn’t quite as extreme as literary, but overly simple like commercial. Even when she writes of genetics, Russian history, biblical mythology, she does so with such respect for each field, and still writes as if she is in fact a master of those subjects herself.
I so wanted this to be perfect, but sadly just like her first novel, there were small elements that I couldn’t ignore. In Angelology it was the ending, in Angelopolis is was the … well, ending of sorts. A banging cliff-hanger awaits us again, which is fine, but it was so abrupt, I was ready to read another 100 pages or so. A common criticism I have found with readers is that this book is incredibly short, and although I don’t necessarily agree, I do think it could have been a little longer. Also, and I do realise that I’m probably going to counter my own argument from above now, but there was one particular line I absolutely hated. It just didn’t read, or feel like Danielle Trussoni. It was thoughtless and completely not needed. A chapter quite late in starts: ‘Verlaine stepped into a narrow bathroom … After taking a piss, he turned …’ – for me, the fact that he needed to urinate wasn’t vital to the point she was making, and the colloquial term of piss doesn’t match the romantic wording aforementioned.
Despite the Hardback edition being quite hard for me to get a hold of, Angelopolis takes a proud place on my bookcase. It is a fast, tense, interesting, bold, revealing and mythical sequel that reintroduces us to some brilliant characters, as well as introducing us to some fierce and spunky new ones. Her malevolent antagonist, Eno, is wonderfully created and adds touches of spiciness to this already powerful story. The history of the Russian Tsars is captivating, and on the whole her powerful imagery bring alive the romance of Paris, the seductive St. Petersburg and the otherworldly, yet familiar landscape of the Rhodope Mountains. If biblical lore interests you, if you are a fan of adult fantasy that differs from the densely packed genre of elves, dwarves and wizards, if you love a slightly retelling of history, although still keeping the realistic tension of the times, then Angelopolis is exactly the right read for you. Although, I’d strongly recommend the first in the series first, because undoubtedly both Angelology and Angelopolis are just the start of a much bigger story. I guarantee you that there are probably still more twists and turns to come that will shock us even further.(less)
The first time I read the synopsis for Jack Croxall’s Tethers, I instantly knew that it was undoubtedly a book I very much wanted to read. A YA (young...moreThe first time I read the synopsis for Jack Croxall’s Tethers, I instantly knew that it was undoubtedly a book I very much wanted to read. A YA (young adult) novel set in the wake of a Victorian winter, where teenagers Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson stumble upon a journal full of strange passages. Upon reading, Karl soon discovers both Esther and his names on the last page – a possible prediction? Quite abruptly, our lead teenagers soon realise that they have been pulled into a sinister conspiracy surrounding a strange otherworldly stone known as the Viniculum. Where will this bizarre purple stone lead them and what does the pictures Karl sees within in stone truly mean?
It’s a very addictive and engaging plot indeed. It moves along at a nice pace, giving you plenty of time to get to know the characters, but also tempting you further along the pages, desperately wanting to know more. At first glance, Tethers seems to be a warming story of adventure gone awry, but as you get sucked into the real conspiracy at its core, the adventure slowly transforms into a complicated thriller. It has got bags of atmosphere and when the science element of the story is slowly revealed, it becomes even more fascinating.
What I loved about the story was how it starts off with Karl and Esther sneaking into a house to steal a look at a metal box, which ultimately leads them on a quest to the coast. This section of the novel took me back to my younger days when I use to read Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five stories. It really does feel like a good adventure, but with added danger of a possible murder.
Our two main characters, Karl and Esther, really do capture your attention, especially if you love YA novels. The dialogue between the two is perfectly written, with ounces of realism and humour chucked in for good measure. It is in these exchanges where we really get to know the two teenagers; Karl is often the more conservative out of the two, pondering morals and behaviour, whereas Esther is feisty, spunky and full of charming wit. Jack Croxall has provided us with real people whom we can really get behind and root for. And that is no easy feat. It’s a fun male/female dynamic that doesn’t mess around with love or attraction; giving the rapport of friends full centre stage. This is a refreshing idea and makes their bond that much stronger.
Jack Croxall also brings this novel to life with some great accents. Not only does it give the characters some locality in the world, but it also makes them more three-dimensional. If all the characters spoke the same, they would immediately become wooden and transparent, but thankfully there’s none of that here.
It can easily be compared to Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockheart stories, because of the Victorian time period, but for me, Tethers is a completely different sort of novel altogether. The rural setting of Shraye gives rise to wonderful descriptions and mood; something that is delivered differently in Pullman’s work. Whether it be the rustic feel of dilapidated barns and lovely narratives of the pastoral natural world or the tit-bits of factual detail perfectly hidden within dialogue, you really get a sense of what life was like in the Victorian Countryside. It could be the subtle reference of commercial change (how the railway took away business from the canal boats), the use of specific Victorian illnesses such as ‘consumption’ or the use of archaic terminology that really gives us its Victorian era ambiance.
Sometimes, it can be extremely hard to find a voice in writing, but Jack Croxall seems to have found his almost instantly with his first go! His writing is extremely sharp and well-defined. You really get a sense of the author behind the words and he easily uses elevated language to give the reader respect. He uses a fantastic and faultless balance of imagery with vital action orientated sentences and the paragraphs just flow off the page. When you can get lost with the words, you really know that it is a great absorbing read.
What I really love about Tethers is the added element of fantasy that just spices things up a little more. With a storyline that revolves around an otherworldly stone, it can be difficult to see where it may lead and that is a good thing. It keeps you guessing. Despite working extremely well as a stand-alone novel, its great (and annoying) to see a huge cliff-hanger at the end. It shows us that there is something even more deeper and ominous at work than what is revealed in here. As with almost every other part of this novel, the fantasy and realism is in perfect balance with each other, making things fantastical believable, yet the realism more harsh and accepted.
There really is a great bunch of characters in here, but sometimes you can get the feeling that some of the minor characters should get more involved. There is a character called Vivian, that has a pretty important scene roughly halfway through the novel, but towards the end, she becomes a little redundant; let’s hope she features again in the second novel. But saying that, it never loses its chemistry by having too many characters. I also love how the character of Harland takes our little heroine, Esther, under his wing to teach her the art of swordsmanship; which ultimately leads on to some pretty entertaining sword fights.
If I were to pick out a downfall of Tethers, I’m afraid it must be the chapter upon where our protagonists find themselves in Nottingham. Earlier in the book, Jack Croxall gave us wonderful literary imagery, but in Nottingham it is somewhat limited. I would have loved to read about the life and times of this great place. In an era where change was great, full of industrialisation and fantastic discoveries, surely more goings on could have happened. The characters get through Nottingham to their destination just a little too quickly for me. More description of environment would have really set this part of the book alive and given opportunity for the reader to observe the great differences between Victorian life in both the countryside of Shraye and the urban lifestyles of Nottingham.
I loved this novel; it simply fulfilled the expectations the blurb promised and introduced us back into a time often forgotten. The heavenly marriage of fantasy and realism heighten the novel’s impression and with a great variety of characters (of all ages) means you can see the faultless chemistry between them all. It’s a novel that has very different levels; starting off as an entertaining adventure story, albeit with a hint of eeriness on the horizon, before exploding into a sword swashing, rifle firing gem of a book that gives you not only original imagination, but also rational science in an era where invention and technology was in a boom. Tethers is an adrenaline fuelled, action packed, smart thinking tale that captures your attention and leaves it aghast that you have to wait until the next story in the series to find out the profound conspiracy at its heart. Jack Croxall is an exciting new author to watch, mark my words.(less)
I was first introduced to Tim Parks by my best friend, who for my birthday, got me a copy of Tim Parks' non-fiction book, Teach Us to Sit Still, which...moreI was first introduced to Tim Parks by my best friend, who for my birthday, got me a copy of Tim Parks' non-fiction book, Teach Us to Sit Still, which follows Parks' struggle to cope with an illness that doctors can't seem to pinpoint, diagnose definitively, and so want to operate. After exhausting all other avenues, Parks decides he'll try a Buddhist retreat, where apparently, pain management can be found in meditation. The Server is a contemporary fiction novel set inside the boundaries of a Buddhist retreat, obviously inspired by his own time in one.
Bethany Marriot is a 'server' in the Dasgupta Institute, meaning she sets an example to the retreat's guests, and also takes part in the day-to-day running of the institute itself. It is obvious that Bethany is hiding a secret from everyone, using the retreat as a place to ignore the outside world, refusing to face up to her problems. And since sex, talking, male-female congregation is forbidden at the Dasgupta, Bethany knows she's safe. But Bethany stumbles upon a diary, written by a man in the retreat, and she soon becomes engrossed with this man and his problems; inevitably releasing all of her fears and worries from the outside world.
The novel is wholeheartedly a character driven novel. Not much actually happens, so it's absolutely important that you feel or connect with Beth; being written in the first-person. The problem with character driven novels is that they can be exceptionally slow, often literary and The Server sadly does suffer from this slightly. Especially in the beginning, where Beth hasn't come across the dreaded diary, and where all of her secrets aren't exactly known. But once you get past the routine of the Dasgupta, as well as all of the coinage associated with Buddhist retreats, this book holds within it as true mesmerising story.
Beth is annoying, there's no denying it. But warming, easily relatable (if that's a word) and clever (in a street-smart sense of way). You know she has secrets lurking in the background, and you can definitely understand why she's staying at the retreat. She wants rules; rules to live by, rules to set her life a path to follow, rules so she can forget the past. And some of the book is about the ins and outs of the Buddhist way, showing the religion and its mantra in a calming and respectable way. Some of the points do make sense, and it gets us (the reader) to question the way in which we conduct our own lives - and to do that, must mean that Parks is a gifted writer.
But behind the rules, Beth is a rule-breaker. She likes rules, just so she can break them, and when she discovers the diary (which in itself is breaking the rules) it forces her to become more skeptical of the rules set by the Dasgupta, and the 'old Beth' starts to return to the fore. And it's not a pretty thing. She's in multiple relationships, often playing a game with them to get what she wants. She sleeps around with both men and women and she's such an attention seeker. It may be annoying, but it makes for a fabulous read, and at times we can easily see some of ourselves in her character.
This is very much an adult book. Beth has a way with words, some of them expletives and sexual, but her blunt thoughts don't match the persona of 'Beth inside the Dasgupta' and she knows it very well. She's funny too on occasions, and its wonderful how The Server can flick between funny and serious so smoothly. There were quite a few times I found myself laughing out loud, but equally as many times where I found myself squirming, or shouting. It's a book that evokes many emotions.
The Server is a clever novel. If you can get past the slow start, inside you'll find a book that touches on religion, personality, grief and raw emotion. It was the Sunday Telegraph that said: 'Parks is an excellent writer, capable of writing wittily and with great beauty about the near indefinable' and I couldn't agree more. Tim Parks has a way at getting deep within a character, letting us see both the character everyone else sees, as well as the true person inside. If you've read Teach Us to Sit Still, then it's easy to see the connections between the two, but in my opinion, The Server is a much more successful book. If you're someone who loves explosive scenes of action, then I'm afraid this book isn't for you. If you're someone who loves to delve deep into the gritty multiple layer of the human self, then you'll find something very special indeed. The Server sums up exactly why Tim Park is a nominated Man Booker Prize author.(less)
I had been looking forward to reading Ragnarok: The End of the Gods for quite some time. Not only because of my love for ancient myths, but also becau...moreI had been looking forward to reading Ragnarok: The End of the Gods for quite some time. Not only because of my love for ancient myths, but also because of the Norse links to my own debut YA novel, The Black Petal. It was also my first A.S. Byatt novel, and after winning the Booker Prize and writing the critically acclaimed ‘The Children’s Book’ I was rather looking forward to reading some of this acclaimed writer’s work.
For those of you that don’t know, Ragnarok is the name of the coming destruction of the Norse gods. They know the end will come in the form of a final battle upon where the world will cleanse itself and all of the known world will perish.
This novel however, doesn’t really put the end into a brand new story; this book is really a re-telling of the myths and stories of the Norse world. Byatt takes well known gods such as Odin and Thor and tells a little of their story. She begins with the creation myth and unravels the world to us until the aforementioned end comes. Mixed in with these myths is the story of the ‘thin child’, a young girl who is evacuated from her home city to the English countryside in the time of World War II. She is given a book by her mother; ‘Asgard and the Gods’ fascinates the thin child and she begins to relate the myths of Old Norse to her own reality.
For those of the readers who are unaware of the myths will learn vastly from this novella of sorts. It gives a new, unique way of looking at the stories and with the personal semi-autobiographical account of the ‘thin child’; it adds a new human dimension. Byatt’s writing is almost exotic, plain at times forming lists of flowers and names, but also elegant and highly elevated too. It is literary writing and you quickly understand why she is a recipient of the esteemed Booker Prize.
But to be honest, it is formulaic writing that quickly becomes a bit dull. Paragraphs seem to go on for an age, full of endless lists and when you are trying to get into the heart of the myths, the writing simply halts the flow. Norse nomenclature isn’t easy at the best of times and when it is thrown in to Byatt’s own wording, it can easily confuse.
I also found the ‘thin child’s’ personal story, well a little impersonal. You get a wonderful construction of her mind, trying effortlessly to rationalise why her family doesn’t think her father will return and why the religion of today is seemingly tedious compared to these Norse myths. But, you never really get a sense of who this thin child is, at heart. Some more of her personal story would add plenty into this. I assume Byatt didn’t want to take anything away from the actual myths, making sure that they remain at the forefront, but at times this results in the thin child chapters seeming rather redundant.
And also like a work of non-fiction, Byatt adds her own thoughts on to the myths at the end of the book. These are actually quite insightful and she makes excellent points.
On the whole though, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods is a short novel that actually gives the reader some pleasure into reliving the Norse myths if you haven’t read them for a while, or, if you are new to them, a short introduction on the traits and characteristics of some of the most childish, argumentative and cunning gods of ancient mythology. If you can get past the language, it is an enjoyable read, just not as encapsulating as I had originally hoped.
I have to admit that ever since Dan Brown seemed to revolutionise the Historical Thriller genre, I’ve become extremely fond of these Uncover-A-Long-Lo...moreI have to admit that ever since Dan Brown seemed to revolutionise the Historical Thriller genre, I’ve become extremely fond of these Uncover-A-Long-Lost-Treasure-That-Will-Change-The-World-As-We-Know-It type books; they’ve even become a sort of guilty pleasure. Released in 2012, The Istanbul Puzzle comes from Irish writer, Laurence O’Bryan, who attempts to add his own unique voice to the mix, by introducing Sean Ryan, who’s dragged into a sinister terrorist plot when he is summoned to Turkey to identify the body of his dead colleague. Beheaded by a known terrorist group and the video uploaded onto YouTube, Sean finds himself urging to find out more … and so begins The Istanbul Puzzle.
As Sean delves deeper into what his co-worker was working on inside the ancient temple of Hagia Sophia, he is joined on his quest by British diplomat, Isabel Sharp, who suspects something more sinister is afoot. The quest leads them around this atmospheric and busy city, into the depths of the ancient temple itself and even find themselves underground in old World War II bunkers that predate the event by centuries. It’s classic adventure with a modern vibe and a lethal virus thrown in to spice things up even more.
What stands out, pretty much from the off, is how much detail the author goes into when describing the old city of Istanbul. It’s extremely atmospheric and full of character, which adds ounces of realism into a genre that often likes to mix factual history with fictional treasures. And what also impresses, is how not only does O’Bryan go into visual detail, he adds smells and sounds to his descriptions too, which not only adds to the credibility, but also gives us readers a fully three dimensional world - we almost don’t need to visit the city ourselves.
I have to also admit, I loved his protagonist, Sean Ryan. He’s a man on a mission. He’s not an expert in crime, or ancient symbols, or an FBI agent with super fighting abilities (like we often see in these types of books) but is a man who wants to discover the truth. He won’t stand for less and that’s admirable; it automatically draws us to connect with Sean and follow him on his journey. He’s also a troubled protagonist too; a widower who failed to discover the truth behind his wife’s death, which as you can imagine, only fuels the fire more to hunt out the truth when his co-worker, Alek, is involved. I didn’t think I would, but I also fell for his female lead, Isabel Sharp, too. She’s intelligent, organised and ultimately believable. She doesn’t rush into situations, just for purpose sake, but admits early on that if anything is to be discovered, she needs help. This isn’t a story with maiden-in-distress story plot, but it’s realistic in terms of human capabilities. When the main characters grab you like these two do, it only urges you to read more.
Where the book really succeeds, is the historical and religious arc surrounding the mysterious manuscript. It isn’t original, but it’s believable and that’s the selling point here. Where some of his contemporaries can sometimes speculate and give Wikipedia style explanations mixed in with explosive action, O’Bryan goes for a more subtle approach, which delicately reveals to us the historical past and turmoil of a city that goes from one religion to another. It’s handled delicately and properly and gives us time to register the importance of the facts before moving on to more action.
The adventure isn’t half bad either. The real stand out moment is when Sean Ryan and Isabel Sharp find themselves underneath Hagia Sophia and have to escape the maze of underground tunnels to evade capture by the terrorist group. It’s a mix of dusty, tight tunnels and holes, underground rivers that hide beneath the water, flesh eating eels, which proves to be an extremely exciting read.
There are so many pluses, where The Istanbul Puzzle is concerned – the evil and psychotic nature of his villains are captivating. In this type of novel you really do need hardcore baddies, because not only does it add brilliant tension, it also gives us another reason to get behind our heroes. The constant switching of first-person to third-person (albeit hard to get used to, to begin with) actually adds nice pace. The third-person gives us a chance to witness other characters and their stories, whilst the first-person allows us to connect more personally and emotionally to Sean. It’s a nice touch.
It’s got to be said though that The Istanbul Puzzle is far from perfect. One of the biggest quibbles I have with it, is the very short sentences that seem overly simple at times. You can’t expect deep literary descriptions in this genre of book, it would simply disrupt the flow, but sometimes in here, you plead for a little more. There are points where the structure of the sentences are very The cat sat on the mat. Then it went to the shops. It bought Milk. It really does come alive when the historical detailing of Istanbul is revealed, but when the action occurs it reverts to the short sentence structuring and it’s something that needs rethinking I think.
Another let down is the threat of this plague that threatens to wipe out the majority of the human population, because of our dependence on antibiotics. It’s an interesting and current concept, one that deserves much more focus. You can get the picture of this threat quite early on, especially with some of the shorter chapters dedicated to other characters, but when it actually comes to it, it is rather quickly rounded off at the end of the novel. It’s quite anticlimactic, which is a shame really because there was promise there.
Then there is this discover of this ancient manuscript that asks so many questions, which sadly reveals no answers. I’m not sure if this manuscript will feature in the sequel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, but there is a good emphasis put on this manuscript that leaves you wanting to know more. If I was to be honest, I think this is a story of one man’s quest to discover the truth about the beheading of his friend, with elements of history and terrorism thrown in to heighten the story. Perhaps it was marketed wrong. I mean on the front of the book the tagline is: A Brutal Murder. An Ancient Temple. A Long-Lost Treasure. When this treasure never really amounts to anything substantial in terms of revealing to us readers, the secrets that lay inside, it’s actually disappointing.
The Istanbul Puzzle has its setbacks, but on the whole it is a riveting and thoughtful adventure, where its protagonist, Sean Ryan, takes centre stage. He’s a man on a mission to discover the truth and it’s a story of acceptance and emotional progression too. He never really moved on when the devastating news of his wife’s death came, and here we see a man accept the past so he can move on in the present. It has moments of fascinating revelation and good adventure scenes. It certainly has promise and with its gripping characters, I’ll be passing on to its sequel straight away. Perhaps, Laurence O’Bryan is wrongly compared to the likes of Dan Brown. It’s a novel that, perhaps, has been released a little late into the genre’s life, because I could see this being very popular back when these historical thrillers were the in thing. If you love Sam Bourne and Raymond Khoury novels, then you will most certainly find enough in here to keep you highly satisfied. (less)
I started The Mobile Monster Zoo which much enthusiasm, as not only is this the second novel in The Midnight Chronicles, it again featured Bethany, a...moreI started The Mobile Monster Zoo which much enthusiasm, as not only is this the second novel in The Midnight Chronicles, it again featured Bethany, a witch by chance, and who is full of wit and supernatural surprises. If you remember from the first novel (The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange) Bethany meets a whole gang of new witch-y friends up on the magical floating city of Strataton. Everything was not as it first seemed however and Bethany found herself pitted against the Grand High Witch, all with a twist thrown in for good measure. Only with the help of a sinister and devious Mr Midnight, could she bring peace back to Strataton.
In this sequel, Bethany finds things getting rather strange. Somebody has stolen the Obsidian Orb, the source of all Strataton’s magical power and the city atop a candyfloss cloud starts to sink towards Windy Falls! She suspects it has something to do with the sly Mr Midnight, but with the appearance of a magical zoo, filled with otherworldly animals, Bethany isn’t sure what’s going on. Bethany, Jake, Caitlin and Derek the cheese-spewing dragon go up to the sinking city to find what’s a miss. Only this time, there is a ban on all magic.
What worked really well with this sequel is again the main protagonist. Bethany is such a great young character who isn’t afraid to speak her mind when needed, but also for such a young girl, already has a very developed sense of humour. Her witty remarks and quick thinking make for a great read and when you mix that with the slightly dim-witted Jake, who is often slow off the mark; it all makes for great dialogue. In fact, all of the characters in The Midnight Chronicles have their own voice and personality and it really brings both books to life.
As with the first book, The Mobile Monster Zoo is a book aimed for the 9 – 12 age range and despite having elements that perfectly suit this, it does aim to please other readers too; often with the plot twists and sinister goings-on that perhaps can be a little too advanced for the younger mind, but absolutely spot on for the YA range. Though it does have to be said that Neil Trigger does elaborate for the younger minds and it’s very easy to see how it can be used to introduce the fantasy genre to children who might have never come across witches, wizards and dragons other than simple and nicely tied-up-in-a-bow fairytales.
Neil Trigger is a gifted writer, it has to be said. He has a charming quality that made Roald Dahl extremely popular with children who went in search of something quite spectacular compared to the more structured early learning books. Like Dahl, Trigger has a brilliant imagination and it comes to forefront in this sequel. He mixes light and fluffy elements, such as candyfloss clouds, with more evil and grotesque fantasy components. Just take the title for example; The Mobile Monster Zoo. I’ll let you discover what weird and wonderful creatures are hidden within its tent, but I’ll give you two words – Sofa Monkey.
His use of language is wonderfully mystifying too. He uses plenty of puns and interesting quips that almost certainly raise a smile when you’re reading. For instance, there is a character called Polly, who makes an appearance as a market seller. Her surname is then revealed to us as Pants. A bit later on, we then find out her middle name is Esther. When put together we get Polly-Esther Pants – how can you not chuckle at that!
The Mobile Monster Zoo isn’t perfect however. As enjoyable as it was, I felt it lacked that something special that made the first book so captivating. Now, you could probably think of plenty of examples for this, but The Mobile Monster Zoo is not the book that should welcome you to the series. It relies heavily on the suspicion that you have already read the first book. Although most book series do this, The Mobile Monster Zoo most definitely does so. It does have a few quick summary paragraphs to fill you in on what’s already past, but it’s done so in a reminder way rather than giving newcomers vital information.
Some of the writing also suffers from errors. Without sounding cheeky, The Mobile Monster Zoo could definitely have gone through a final thorough edit. You find simple words like the and a missing from sentences sometimes. It results in giving the book a rather amateur feel when the story itself most certainly deserves more, which is a shame.
Even though there are plenty of story arcs here, sometimes you can feel that The Mobile Monster Zoo is a little disjointed. You find the gang of youngsters swapping from this place to place, to another place only to return to their first location again in a short space of time. You often get the feeling that you want something a little more substantial.
Despite having a few downsides, The Mobile Monster Zoo is a fantasy story that has it all. A cheese-spewing dragon, witches, magic, elves – you name it! It’s a satisfying sequel that extends Bethany’s story, revealing a few huge details along the way. Returning to Strataton was also enjoyable, whether it is because of the lamb-posts and the candyfloss clouds of magic or the wonderfully described curved High-Street that reminds you of The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange. What really draws you in however is the brilliant, almost wacky, mind of its author and the superb characters that fill its pages. The Midnight Chronicles (so far) is a great little series that takes the fight to Harry Potter and dare I say it, comes out on top. I again look forward to the next book. (less)
I am a huge fan of Philip Pullman’s work, yes most notably his His Dark Materials trilogy, but his whole YA fiction in general surpasses most Author’s...moreI am a huge fan of Philip Pullman’s work, yes most notably his His Dark Materials trilogy, but his whole YA fiction in general surpasses most Author’s attempts. He has a knack for coming up with brilliantly told, well structured and complex plots, filled with more twists and turns than you can shake your fist at. Now apparently, unbeknown to me, Count Karlstein (first published in 1982) was Pullman’s very first children’s and Young Adult novel. I was extremely eager to read it, as you can probably imagine.
Count Karlstein tells the story of Hildi, a maidservant to the Count. The story is set in a little Swiss village and right from the off, we are told of this awful sinister plot to sacrifice his nieces, Charlotte and Lucy. And so sets off an important string of events as Hildi helps the girls escape and go into hiding, for on All Souls Eve, the demon huntsman himself, will show his wrath and feed upon anyone he crosses.
The story itself is told in three parts. The first and third parts are told in Hildi’s perspective, whereas part two is told from multiple characters’ points of view. This is an interesting way to do things and actually it works quite well, because we can get to see alternate views about the goings on. You can see why originally, Count Karlstein was actually a play, first devised when Pullman was an English teacher.
Of course, every character in the story has their own story arc, not just about Count Karlstein’s plan. For example, Hildi’s exiled brother, Peter is on the run from the law and he’s in hiding at the Jolly Huntsman, their mother’s inn. Peter dreams of winning the shooting contest, where he will be declared a free man and no longer have to worry about the police catching up with him. There’s a whole supernatural element to this story, with a demon huntsman and all and though perhaps the story is a little unoriginal, it has a completely new telling; fresh and very easy to follow. It gives this gothic tale a fantasy element and it is done so subtly that it works very well indeed. But perhaps what also is intriguing is the inclusion of Doctor Cadaverezzi and his Cabinet of Wonders. He is a travelling magician of sorts, performing shows for the locals. There just seems to be a whole variety of characters to take a liking too.
Characterisation plays a huge part in this story. Miss Charlotte and Miss Lucy are obviously upper-class children, acutely educated and speak above their young years. Max, Doctor Cadaverezzi’s assistant, is perhaps more common and being an orphan means he had to grown up quite quickly and find work. Miss Davenport adds a touch of feminism into the story and reinforces certain values of what is expected such as morals and standards. But no matter who the characters are, Pullman writes with such wit and humour that it is an absorbing read.
And it is this humour that will attract the children. He creates stupid and slapstick policeman that fall foul of the situation and usually find themselves as the victims of some rather funny pranks. The whole book reads like a yarn or fairytale and this is why when read aloud, the world of magic really comes alive. Although I did love this book, there were certain parts I felt let the book down. The first of which is that I felt the book had so much potential and actually could have been a little longer, giving some story arcs some more action. Doctor Cadaverezzi and his Cabinet of Wonders are introduced as if they are important to the plot, and although there is a twist here, much, much more could have been done. It felt restricted at times, as if Pullman ran out of ideas. His demon huntsman, who is mentioned throughout, only gets minimal inclusion and a more action-orientated ending could have turned this into a great modern fairytale.
And perhaps more surprisingly I found myself shocked at one piece of language. The violence is actually quite toned down here, often coming across more slapstick than actually sinister and Pullman actually creates more of a thriller through tension and situation rather than the actual fights. But late in to the book, as Count Karlstein, he uses the word “slut” when describing Hildi. This was extremely inappropriate, especially when this book is marketed towards older children.
On the whole though, despite some misgivings, I felt Count Karlstein was a gripping tale, lots of psychological tension used to great effect and a whole cast of characters that are appealing and well voiced. When read aloud, Count Karlstein really does come alive and it’s a book that will hold many age groups. It is a slightly gothic tale that mixes both tricks and paranormal beliefs, with more traditional behaviour and traditions. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I hope you do too.
Brilliant short story that captures the imagination of a young child and his Origami animals. To the point and emotional, although despite needing a c...moreBrilliant short story that captures the imagination of a young child and his Origami animals. To the point and emotional, although despite needing a conclusion from his mother, the letter addressed to the son is a little overplayed. (less)
Lemony Snicket’s new ‘All The Wrong Questions’ series had my attention from the get go. The first novel in this prequel series to his best selling ‘A...moreLemony Snicket’s new ‘All The Wrong Questions’ series had my attention from the get go. The first novel in this prequel series to his best selling ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ was released earlier this year and I remember venturing out into town on purpose to buy this short attractive looking book. Sadly, I now wish I hadn’t.
‘Who Could That Be at This Hour?’ reminisces about Lemony Snicket’s early life and how he became the man we know him to be in the later series aforementioned. He’s a boy of about twelve or thirteen and manages to escape his *cough* parents and join up with his new chaperone S. Theodora Markson, who is in definite quotation marks, a sort of sleuth come private detective.
Both Theodora Markson and Lemony Snicket are hired by an elderly lady to reclaim a stolen heirloom of hers, a wooden statue of a beast, well known in this small town’s mythology. But as usual with all these sinister detective type novels, things just aren’t as they seem as lies and corruption are at the forefront of the crime and it’s up to Lemony to figure the truth out.
I think the first problem with the book, lies simply with its blurb. If you please:
'Before you consider reading “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” ask yourself these questions: 1. Are you curious about what is happening in a seaside town that is no longer by the sea? 2. Do you want to know more about a stolen item that wasn’t stolen at all? 3. Do you think that’s any of your business? Why? What kind of person are you? Really? 4. Who is that standing behind you?'
Truth be told, it’s a very clever blurb indeed; put more simply it does its job well. It captures your attention and wants you to read the mystery within. Sadly however, the questions above don’t really form part of the mystery at all, which leads to a rather false blurb.
The entire book can be quite dry to read; I use the word dry simply because that’s exactly what the plot is. It isn’t juicy, it doesn’t really force you to read on and it creates far too many questions without actually answering the majority of them. This results in a rather disjointed story that seems haphazardly pieced together from two different jigsaw puzzles. It isn’t fun or entertaining, but strangely you are compelled to read to the end.
The book does have some interesting themes; a particular favourite of mine is how all of the children in this book take on the role of adults, having to solve the mystery, fight for what’s right, asking all the questions, whereas the adults are squabbling parodies of children, with little insight, intelligence or aptitude to follow things through.
I did enjoy Lemony’s character; it was interesting and somewhat satisfying to see where he got some of his trademark mannerisms from in the Unfortunate Events series. However, most of the other characters are a little wooden. If you close your eyes and try and imagine them, they all seem a little too similar and can morph into each other. No distinct voice is given to them. For example Lexington Feint and Moxie Mallahan are so similar it’s confusing to read at times.
This type of novel works on two levels, one for the children audience and one for its teenage/adult audience. The problem for both is that the story isn’t captivating enough for the children and the pace and dark themes it advertises doesn’t really follow through for its older readers. The graphic comic book-esque illustrations are however, well suited, well drawn and actually read as a story themselves. Under the pen name of Seth, the artist has taken the book’s meaning well and uplifted it for the readers. I imagine the last picture to hold some sort of clue as to what happens in the next book.
If you haven’t already guessed, yes I was immensely disappointed by this book and I don’t think I would read it again. I do give chances though, so I would perhaps read the second novel in this four part series to see where Snicket takes it. If questions are answered and the plot is much more readable then I’d definitely forgive him. However, in here the book let’s down on most fronts. It’s not that interesting, its details are brief and scatty, it doesn’t gel together and the ending is so rushed and formulaic I’m surprised it passed the publishers desk. If you are a fan of the A Series of Unfortunate Events, then please prepare yourself before reading this. You won’t find any of the Baudelaire Orphans charm, the grim macabre atmosphere or the evil ingenuity in its villain. Quite frankly, I would give it a miss altogether actually, because let’s face it you, you wouldn’t want it to ruin your take on its fantastic predecessor.
As most of you are already aware, I am not a JK Rowling fan, that’s to say, her Harry Potter series. But after being won over by the hype of The Casua...moreAs most of you are already aware, I am not a JK Rowling fan, that’s to say, her Harry Potter series. But after being won over by the hype of The Casual Vacancy, her first adult novel, I decided to give this a go and thankfully I was proven wrong.
The Casual Vacancy is all about the lives of several families following the aftermath of Barry Fairbrother’s untimely death. Barry, universally respected by most, was a member of the Pagford council and now an empty seat has emerged, the little idyllic town throws itself into the most political of wars. You could be excused for thinking that this doesn’t sound the least bit interesting as storylines go and to be honest it isn’t, but what this book is really about is the characters and their actions.
I’ve got to say that, despite including major minority groups into the novel, Rowling actually creates a real living example of British society today. As I was reading, I saw familiar people; people I could easily recognise living in my own town. Many critics have accused Rowling of creating characters that are wooden and two dimensional, but I completely disagree. I mean, of course I’m not aware of where people live, but I think if you live in a large city, you miss out on all of the nuances of what a small community feels like and what people are willing to do, just for information or gossip.
Rowling sets a beautiful scene with Pagford and then adds a more severe backdrop with the ‘fields’; a run down area of council housing, drug addicts and prostitutes, that some residents don’t want it to be associated with their heavenly Pagford, and instead start a campaign to have it removed from their border into the neighbouring town of Yarvil. Of course, wonderful Barry Fairbrother was against this idea and so the loved ones left behind after his death, feel the need to rally and make a stand against Howard Mollison and his motley crew.
But as I’ve already said, the gem of a book here really lies within the personal lives of Pagford’s residents. It really does ring true that from an outside perspective, families seems perfect and happy, but once you delve into the small cracks left open you begin to form a picture that includes unhappiness, class, snobbery, drugs, youth, self harm and even rape. It’s interesting to see that the young people of Pagford start to formulate their own personal war over their parents and actually cause quite a stir amongst the democratic election of poor Barry Fairbrother’s vacant seat.
She’s really hit the nail on the head with the characterisation and adapted her narrative depending on whom that particular section is about. Shirley Mollison is a snob, someone who backs up her husband without question and is always on the look out for juicy gossip. Samantha Mollison is unhappy in her marriage and starts to fall for ‘Jake’, a member of her daughter’s favourite boyband – he is sixteen. Krystal Weedon is a resident of the Fields and daughter to drug addict Terri. Kyrstal actually forms quite a big chunk of the story with her brash, aggressive attitude and loose morals.
Another area the critics didn’t seem to like was the ending; I actually thought the finale was just right. It left it where it needed to be left. It could so have easily run on, but like a true writer, Rowling knew where to end it. I can’t give anything away as that would be unfair, but I didn’t see it coming. I should have done; I’ve guessed endings much more clichéd than this, but I think the result of this is that I was so engrossed in the book that I wasn’t actually trying to guess anything. It came naturally to me and I enjoyed it more because of it.
The book isn’t perfect however. I thought the layout mostly needed reinventing. It is split into seven parts, which is fine, but at the beginning it formulated a concept of a different day of the week as the heading and then what happened on that day. I felt this could have worked wonderfully throughout rather than scrapping it after the first part and ultimately it sometimes became hard to realise how much time had passed since reading different parts, or even chapters for that matter.
You don’t have to like a character for you to understand why the author decided to take their journey down a certain path. If you understand it then that’s just part of the journey of reading itself. However, I have to say that one particular ‘path’ regarding Gavin Hughes, a lawyer in Pagford, was pathetic! I was totally smacked in the face when I discovered, towards the end, what was going on with him. And not in a good way too. The storyline here for him was ridiculous, completely unnecessary and actually a little annoying. It was as if Rowling couldn’t find a way to end things for him in the book so she took a wild grab in the air and pulled this idea straight from an episode of a soap.
I do have to say however, that actually JK Rowling has won me over; for her adult novels that is. It is full of character, exceptional use of authentic voice and completely engrossing. I had my particular favourite characters and a few who got on my nerves; but that’s real life, isn’t it? This is adult fiction that is unlike anything other I have read before and I’m happy I gave it a go. It is so realistic how she managed to divide people here not only in class, but also political views, location, age and religion. I happily take my hat off to Rowling and admit, I was wrong.
As you have probably deduced from recent posts, I am not a big JK Rowling fan, yet with the release of her first adult novel The Casual Vacancy, i fel...moreAs you have probably deduced from recent posts, I am not a big JK Rowling fan, yet with the release of her first adult novel The Casual Vacancy, i felt like i needed to give her another chance, because let's face it; she is one of or the biggest selling authors of all time. So after my trip to the local library resulted in me picking up this collection of short fables from the Harry Potter world, i decided that i didn't really have anything to lose really, did i?
Now actually, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is not actually a bad book and i was pleasantly surprised by how addictive these little stories were. The book actually consists of five short fables with a summary of each penned by none other than Professor Albus Dumbledore, with finer points/corrections made by JK Rowling herself.
I think it is safe to say that yes as predicted this little book is ideal for any fan of the Harry Potter books and not really aimed for a quick pick up and read from a non Harry Potter reader; although there were points i enjoyed. I think the little things will make the series' fans smile, such as the inscription at the front which reads 'Translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger.' But alas, apart from through Dumbledore's summary, no actual Harry Potter character appears within these fables and that works well for the book; simply because it adds a new dimension to a world already created.
After reading the first story 'The Wizard and The Hopping Pot' i thought oh no, i really am not going to like this. Yet to my surprise, my favourite of the five has to be the second story 'The Fountain of Fair Fortune' which oddly enough gives off so much character and charm without the need for extravagant detail, and it is because of this that you realise that actually JK Rowling has pulled it off. If you compare this to all of the classical fairy tales we know, it is written in such a similar manner that it becomes instantly memorable and very readable.
I also liked some of the darker, more mature themes that run through the stories such as 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' which questions our very own humanity and although it is very obvious where she got her idea from for this, it does leave us with a sort of tragedy guise.
Strangely enough, i quite enjoyed the summaries by Dumbledore too as they came across ever so witty, yet at times sarcastic too, which is such a great British gift, it's almost a travesty not to chuckle at.
It isn't without it's faults though; two of the five stories were unoriginal and if i am honest, quite boring and lame. As they are so short to read, it makes the weaker stories stand out so much more and with themes like good vs evil and characters so obvious, it's a shame as to what is otherwise a cute little collection.
There is one huge qualm i had with this however and that was through JK Rowling's very own notes throughout Dumbledore's pen. This book's royalties were all donated to a children's charity which is commendable. However, like most ref. books and classics that have Author's notes she tries to explain various points and terms. I couldn't stand to see another '*see my other book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'. This is just plain plugging and it astounds me that a lot of reviewers missed this.
Anyhow, overall i was pleased i read this as it has motivated a little spark within me to read more JK Rowling. I can remember the first three Harry Potter books and i think i owe it t one of the world's greatest authors that i continue to read the series in its entirety. The Tales of Beedle the Bard are short, quite charming, endearing at times with humorous anecdotes from Harry Potter characters and has something that will appeal to someone. Harry Potter fans will love this, non Harry Potter fans less so, but it is definitely worth one read through.
It tells the story of Qea, who for reasons unknown at the beginning of the book, is hiding on Earth under the guise of Kerry Johnston; a teenage girl...moreIt tells the story of Qea, who for reasons unknown at the beginning of the book, is hiding on Earth under the guise of Kerry Johnston; a teenage girl with a limp. After discovering all is not as it should at home, Kerry realises her cover has been blown and crosses the breadth of England to Devon to meet at the rendezvous spot. And so starts Qea's journey that will take her across the galaxy to her home system; the Octad.
We discover that Qea was third born to a family; which goes against the rules. In a land where Warlords rule the desolate land, diamondine mines and have contacts in every liveable sector. Natural resources are sparse and a reproduction law deems only two children per family. Qea has only known solitude for her early life and when her parents are killed she is captured by an evil warlord who uses her for his own gain.
But after betraying this warlord, Qea meets Adam on Earth, who causes a bit of a dilemma. Qea is torn between her instincts for survival and her heart when she is thrust back into the ruthless land she grew up in and must find a way to survive against the mysterious Inquisitors; a unique alien police force who govern the laws.
I think Katy Krump is on to a winner here with Blue Dust; a YA Sci Fi novel is a unique proposition amongst a plethora of successful fantasy novel featuring vampires and witchcraft. It is indeed original and it sucks you in within the first chapter, where the action blasts off almost instantly. Who is this Kerry Johnston? And why is she taking refuge in our planet? Ms Krump doesn't release all of the details all at once mind you, but slowly gives you tit bits of life on the Octad and the politics that govern the system.
In the first quarter of the book, what works extremely well is the flashbacks of Qea to when she was a young girl hiding away with her parents and her trying to understand the life she was unfairly thrust into. It's a wonderful balance of innocence and curiosity and I thought that this was perhaps the most important part of the novel. What this does is allow us to feel for Qea's predicament and will her on to become free. This young Qea is almost a complete contrast to the spunky, no nonsense teenage Qea who is always on the look out and suspects danger around every corner. With her back story we can see how her life must have been difficult; trying to stay hidden from a warlord must be daunting task.
Blue Dust: Forbidden is extremely well written; concise, descriptive and engaging. Ms Krump's use of language is also interesting as it is quite educated compared to other YA novels. I however, loved the originality of the world she creates where water is treacle like and red.
The love interest between Qea and Adam is also extremely well crafted and never comes across as cheesy and obviously fabricated which could alienate some readers, especially male readers. However, the subtle references are believable and written in a more dependable way. The character's of Qea and Adam make a great team and must get use to each other's way of dealing with things to come out on top together. They are thrust with responsibility with the looking after of Forbidden Children quite early on and their disagreements give us an insight to the core of both characters. Soppy romantic writing doesn't make an appearance and I think this book is very much multi sex. It has enough action and imagination to appeal to both male and female readers.
And what action there is! Fights with warlords, battles with Inquisitors and deadly escapes from prison camps; it is all in here. Ms Krump even goes as far to mix supernatural elements with appearances from spirits. Her reference to the Troiqa is a unique subtle reference to religion and it is these delicate mentions of our life that make this book very special indeed. This is exactly what YA novels need and Katy Krump almost does everything right.
Where Blue Dust: Forbidden falters ever so slightly though is perhaps the last quarter of the book where it seems to run out of steam in parts. It doesn't ruin the story, but the flow of the book seems to slow down and it isn't until the very end where it picks up again. Another problem I had with the book was something quite silly, but still affected ones opinion and that was the front cover. It just didn't fit and didn't give a correct representation of what the book was about. Thankfully the cover has since changed and all is OK again.
If you are new to the Sci Fi genre, then Blue Dust: Forbidden is exactly the introduction you need and with it's pacey, well structured story interwoven amongst a backdrop of callous warlords and crime, it is exciting to get stick in and follow Qea's turmoil. Adam creates a wonderful balance and represents us humans into the story and he is so easy to get behind, with his gentle approach and caring nature. You can't help but get pulled into the new world this book creates. It's addictive, appealing and very accessible and a brilliant start to what is bound to be an action packed series. Give it a go; I promise you, you won't be disappointed.(less)
I first came across Raymond Khoury when I became incredibly interested in Templar history, and since his debut historical-thriller, The Last Templar t...moreI first came across Raymond Khoury when I became incredibly interested in Templar history, and since his debut historical-thriller, The Last Templar took historical fact and turned into a piece of action packed fiction, well I couldn’t really resist could I? That and its sequel were extremely entertaining, and when I heard that a third book in the series was to be released, featuring indefatigable FBI agent Sean Reilly and Archaeologist Tess Chaykin once more, I instantly pre-ordered it.
The third book in the series is perhaps the most adventurous in terms of personal connection for the main protagonists. When Reilly receives a phone call from an ex-girlfriend telling him she’s in danger, the FBI agent finds himself mixed up with Mexican drug cartel and hardcore biker gangs. Reilly world is instantly changed when Michelle, his ex, reveals a secret to him, and he suddenly realises there’s more at stake than ever before. And why is a narcotic killer known as ‘El Brujo’ after ancient drug that could change the way in which drugs affect the world, and what has it got to do with the ramblings of a Jesuit priest called Eusebio?
It sounds incredibly dramatic doesn’t it? At first, I have to admit, that I was a little apprehensive about this one. Simply because Khoury strays from the Templar background altogether, so The Devil’s Elixir is pretty much a thriller. He also takes the brave step in writing it in the first person, from Reilly perspective, which again differs from the previous instalments. But, in all honesty, it is one hell of a thriller. It is so full of action, you simply get so absorbed by the thrill-rides, you could almost forget your train. What is so addictive about Khoury’s stories, is that they are always dramatic in the good sense; you could easily see the scenes play out in your own mind as if you were watching a brilliant high-octane TV drama. (A resemblance to his TV writing days perhaps?)
The change in perspective is actually a bold move that paid off, as it makes the whole book much more personal. you really do get into the head of Reilly, especially as you follow the action along with him. You feel for him, cheer for him, even shout at him; forgetting where you are, urging him to get a move on! This is not just your average macho, testosterone-fueled FBI agent, this is a man that discovers a secret that has been kept from him for years, and you can’t help but admire how he steps up in such a mature way to deal with the situation. One of my qualms with The Templar Salvation (previous book) was how Tess Chaykin was portrayed as perhaps a dim secondary character, and I was pleasantly surprised how much she progressed as an adult as well as a character in this. She’s smart and practical, and you sympathise with her more for it.
I loved the twists and turns this Book seemed to have, as they felt much more smooth flowing and natural. I especially loved ‘El Brujo’ the sadistic antagonist in here as sometimes you just love a bad baddie, don’t you? He’s insane, twisted, and believes the stuff he shouts about, which gives way to some pretty gruesome scenes, so if you are a little squeamish, be prepared.
I was a little disappointed to not find any long-lost mystery here, simply because you get so accustomed to these revelations, but instead imagine my surprise when I got to the last third of the book, only to discover a slightly paranormal angle. Paranormal elements in thrillers are pretty unheard of, so it was exceptionally refreshing to read it, and put in such an authentic way too. Khoury doesn’t mock or embellish either, so it reads perfectly. I loved this aspect of the book, and in fact the last third was so addictive, I devoured it in two sittings, which is unusual for me. Sometimes, you have to love the types of books where the hero and baddie meet for the first time and the ending fight begin.
On reflection, I did find a few points though that troubled me slightly. This is very much an adult book, and such a specialised book too in terms of genre, but the amount of acronyms in here was a little mind boggling at times. SDPD, EMS, DEA, NCIC, UCB … and that is just the start! Sometimes they are perhaps a little unnecessary, although for a reader used to reading this sort of terminology may disagree with me. Khoury does explain the terms upon first use, but when you get two hundred pages or so in and you see one that was told towards the early stages of the book, you can be excused for forgetting that particular term, can’t you?
I also was a tad disappointed about the lack of location in this book. In his previous books, you Second Time Around Coverget accustom to travelling to deserts, cliffs, abandoned monasteries hidden in rock-faces, old libraries of the Vatican – well you get the picture. and when reading the blurb, you can picture deep South American rain forests, jungles, but sadly these hardly feature. It is a very urban book, with city-scapes, safe houses, biker garages etc. It’s not necessarily a huge downside, but I thought this gave to a slightly false blurb, and when the paperback was released with a different title (Second Time Around) with a different blurb and tag-line, I understood why.
There is no denying it however, The Devil’s Elixir is one exciting, thrilling, absorbing and you know what, fun-to-boot thriller. It has characters we’ve become familiar with and turned things even more authentic. This isn’t about chasing after religious and clandestine secrets anymore, this is a very real, very modern story. It’s all about characterisation and Khoury proves to pretty darn good at it. It has a few shocks along the way, as well as an original paranormal element too, which doesn’t cheapen the story, but rather strengthen it. If you are a fan of the Reilly and Tess Templar series, then I assure you, despite the deviation, you’ll enjoy this even more so, I did. This can even be read as a standalone novel too, so if you are just a fan of thrillers, action-orientated novels, then this will easily suit you.(less)