IMPORTANT: This is a review copy from Jo Fletcher Books and would normally go live on The Founding Fields. However, seeing as the backend of TFF is currently down, all book reviews will be posted on The Fictional Hangout for the foreseeable future. When the problem with TFF is eventually fixed, they will be reposted on The Founding Fields. Apologies for any inconveniences.
Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.
As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.
I’ve been writing a lot of positive reviews for books lately, be they Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea or The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey, and it looks like Our Lady of the Streets is going to be another addition to that line of awesome books that I’ve been reading. It’s the final act in what has been a fantastic young adult trilogy, with The Skyscraper Throne really being a must read for anyone who loves reading the fiction that this genre has given us in the past. It certainly stands up with my favourite YA books, and provides a wonderful closing act that fans will certainly enjoy.
Whilst the last book was focused mainly on Pen, Our Lady of the Streets puts Beth Bradley back in the spotlight and it shows just how much she’s developed as a character over the course of the book. She needs to take lead and stop a London under siege, as Master Viae has returned to the Capital. In order to emerge victorious she has to discover more about her transformation and whether she’s gained any new powers from it or not. In weaker hands, this would simply make Beth boring by putting her in what could easily have fallen into the trap of being yet another ‘Chosen One’ type story, but Pollock is confident enough to keep things original and in the right place, given Beth both strengths and weaknesses as a character, and keeps the book feeling fresh. At her core though, she’s still the Beth Bradley that readers are familiar with, and there are as ever some good lines that she delivers over the course of the book.
However, that doesn’t mean to say the book is all about Beth. We get to learn more about Pen as well, who has also gone from strength to strength as a character. Both Beth and Pen are fantastic leads, and her role in this book is fleshed out enough to prevent Beth from overshadowing her character. Pollock handles both girls well, and draw their storylines to satisfying conclusions.
Our Lady of the Streets expands on the worlds that both Pen and Beth have discovered. Pen’s London-Under-Glass and Beth’s world that she discovered are merged so well that you won’t even notice the difference, as Pollock manages to continue to flesh out what has been one of the most unique takes on Urban Fantasy set in London that I’ve seen. The only title that I’ve read that comes close to this sort of originality in this type of setting is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and as that is my favourite novel, that’s certainly saying something.
The pacing is pulled off pretty well. There aren’t any moments that feel out of place and the narrative switch between Beth and Pen is handled well. Both are given plenty of page time so their stories can come to a conclusion and as a result, this trilogy is fantastic to read indeed. The quality remains so consistent that it’s hard to pick a standout book in the entire trilogy, with each title going from strength to strength.
With Our Lady of the Streets, Tom Pollock concludes what has been a superb trilogy. All three novels have shined and this one deals with the final act very well. Fans should really enjoy this book and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to seeing what Pollock can come up with next, if this is anything to go by then he’s certainly earned the status of a must read author in my book, and he should be one in your eyes too.
“An excellent novel – Charlie Fletcher has certainly crafted one of the better reads of 2014 so far. If you’re a fan of the likes of Neil Gaiman or China Mieville then this is a must read – and with some fascinating prose, this is something that you won’t want to miss.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side.
Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand.
When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight’s London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled – but the girl is a trap.
As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.
This gothic fantasy from Charlie Fletcher (the Stoneheart trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all."
I was first drawn to this book when I saw it compared to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and as that is my favourite all-time book, I thought I’d give it a shot, and thankfully, I was not disappointed, with Charlie Fletcher’s The Oversight turning out to be one of the best novels that I’ve read so far this year. In fact, it also manages to be different from the majority of other novels that I’ve read this year as well, so if you’re looking for something that has that originality factor then you can’t go far wrong with this book, which hits shelves tomorrow through Orbit.
This novel serves as the first outing in the Oversight trilogy and is handled very well. The Oversight are a secret organization that policed the lines between normality and magic and once sported hundreds of people amongst its ranks. Now though, that number is down to just five, with the society being a shadow of what it once was.
When a screaming girl is brought to the Oversight’s headquarters in London they believe they might at last have found a new recruit. However, Lucy Harker is not who she seems, and is part of a plot that could have catastrophic repercussions for not just the Oversight, but the world.
Charlie Fletcher is an accomplished young adult writer and The Oversight is the first time I have read a full novel by him, but I remember back in Secondary School flicking through Stoneheart in the Library – and it’s certainly something that I intend to get back to at one point. However, back on the subject of The Oversight, it gets almost everything right – my only real complaint being that it gets off to a slow start, but even that changes – as it quickly becomes engrossing as the pages go on and by the end you won’t be able to put it down. The book spends plenty of time in creating the atmosphere and developing the world, giving a great look into the magical side of London, which normally brings out the best of Urban Fantasy novels. However, The Oversight isn’t just your average Urban Fantasy novel. It’s a gothic, historical and beautifully written masterpiece that deserves your attention – with incredibly strong prose and an attention to detail that doesn’t bog down the narrative.
There isn’t really any main character in The Oversight, with the Last Hand (the last five members of the Oversight supernatural law enforcement) getting similar amounts of pagetime to Lucy, who also gets a key role in this book. Whilst the book may be clearly focused more on the world than the characters, that’s not a bad thing, because Fletcher still manages to weave a compelling narrative and on top of that, the world is awesome and it’s easily something that I can see myself returning to.
If you’re a fan of the likes of Neil Gaiman or China Mieville, then this book should be right up your street. Charlie Fletcher has crafted a smart and intelligent novel that kicks off what should really be a strong series, with a compelling plot and some interesting characters. There’s very little where this book goes wrong, so it’s certainly something that you should devote your time to. And if it helps, out of the Advance Reviews, I’m yet to see a single one below 4 stars (although at least one is ranked 3.5 on Goodreads), so it’s clear that I’m not the only one who loves this book. Highly Recommended.
Meh. Like most YA books it was better than the movie (which was terrible), but felt like a deviant of of Harry Potter and Buffy with both being superi...moreMeh. Like most YA books it was better than the movie (which was terrible), but felt like a deviant of of Harry Potter and Buffy with both being superior. I still managed to read it in a couple of sittings though. (less)
“Chuck Wendig once again excels with another awesome look into the kickass character that is Miriam Black – delivering a page-turning thriller that is a must buy for any readers who enjoyed the first two books. Wendig has created a compelling read here, and The Cormorant might just be one of the best books in the series yet.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from “thief”… to “killer”.
Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she’s good at. But in her vision she sees her client die by another’s hand – and on the wall, written in blood, is a message just for Miriam.
Before we begin I just want to touch on the Cover Art for the Miriam Black series. It’s something that I don’t normally do – bring up cover art in reviews, but I can’t help but do so here – mainly because all covers in this series have been utterly phenomenal. Seriously – each cover is amazing – and The Cormorant just screams as a must-read. If I saw any of these books in a bookstore having no knowledge of what they were about – I would probably snap them up based on the covers alone. Joey Hi-Fi is an incredible artist and each new cover from him is exceptional. Now with that out of the way, let’s get started with the review.
And it’s a review that I could literally just stop after saying “It’s Awesome.” I mean, what more is there to tell about Miriam Black that hasn’t been said already? Chuck Wendig’s unique, engaging and daring take on Urban Fantasy is not for the faint of heart and if you’re familiar with Blackbirds and Mockingbirds then chances are you will know by now what to expect. Wendig’s writing takes no prisoners, pulling you along at an incredibly fast pace and the end result is always unpredictable. You never feel like you’re getting the same book twice with a Miriam Black novel and you can always count on Wendig to entertain you – three books in and the series shows no sign of losing its quality just yet, instead feeling fresh and exciting and another welcome break from all the standard, run of the mill urban fantasy stories that we’ve seen from female and male authors alike. The Cormorant and the preceding books are different – and if you think Urban Fantasy can’t surprise you then look no further than this series. It’s captivating, engaging – and if you’re reading this review without knowledge of the previous two books then I strongly recommend you buy them as soon as you can. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
In the third installment of the series, Wendig takes Miriam Black to Florida, where she’s trying to stop a nightmarish vision of the future from becoming reality. Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds – and she’s in pretty much over her head with the Law Enforcement, Gangs and Old Friends. It’s an action packed book that’s very well written with a unique voice, one that’s particularly foul-mouthed. However fans of the series should be by now familiar with Miriam’s swearing and this is something that really didn’t bother me at all, having already gotten used to the character in the past three outings and it was welcome to return to the strong, independent and kickass female character that is the driving force behind the three books so far. It’s always great returning to Miriam’s life, even if Wendig drags her literally through hell and back with a gritty narrative that’s unpredictable far from disappointing.
Each book in the Miriam Black series has been exceptional and The Cormorant is another excellent addition to that list. It’s clever, engaging and unputdownable – I’ve been saying that a lot about Angry Robot’s novels lately but this is very true on pretty much every one. If there’s one thing that can be guaranteed when picking up an Angry Robot novel, it’s that I won’t be able to stop reading it. This was very much the case with The Cormorant - which was helped by its fast pace and short chapters allowing me to speed through the book like I was reading a much more awesome version of a novel by James Patterson. It’s just so good, and I can’t help but heap praise after praise upon this novel.
Chuck Wendig’s The Cormorant then, is another great success from the author. I’ve yet to read a book that I didn’t like from him and each has been very good indeed. I hope that we return to the Miriam Black Universe soon – because I can’t wait to read more. Miriam is a badass and an incredibly strong female character who is just as awesome as the more popular female characters in literature. She certainly can leave an impression on the reader, and is easily one of the strongest parts of an excellent novel. Highly Recommended, but only if you’ve read the other two first.
“An excellent read, Adam Christopher once again reminds us why he is your go-to writer for awesome urban fantasy as he crafts an unputdownable tale that makes Angry Robot’s 100th Novel an excellent read!” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer.
Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.
Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!"
Hang Wire by Adam Christopher is the first book that I’ve reviewed from Angry Robot this year even though Pantomime and The Almost Girl are technically AR novels due to the fact that Strange Chemistry is an imprint. Hang Wire is also the first adult novel that I’ve reviewed this year and like the previous two books, thanks to NetGalley, I finished them both in 2013. This time though we’re not going for fantasy or science fiction like the previous two books that I’ve mentioned. Hang Wire is Urban Fantasy, but if you’ve come here expecting badass wise-cracking magical Private Detectives or a girl torn in a love triangle with two ‘updated’ versions of different supernatural creatures then you’ve come to the wrong place. Hang Wire is a refreshingly unique take on the genre that is a lot of fun to read – and I couldn’t put it down.
The first novel that I read from Christopher was Empire State and I haven’t looked back since, with each new novel from the author being very awesome. The Age Atomic and Seven Wonders have been fun, enjoyable and unputdownable – and Hang Wire is more of the same – if you’ve read a Adam Christopher book in the past then you’ll know what to expect from this novel so fans of his work should be pleased by what they find in here. However, at the same time – the book itself manages to feel fresh and new, as though this is Christopher’s first work and not his fourth book that I’ve read from him. It’s just damn great.
Opening with an exploding fortune cookie at the birthday of a blogger named Ted, the book sees San Francisco on the verge of destruction in an event that isn’t entirely new to the city. However, things have changed since the last attempts to utterly annihilate the city (which have included the Earthquake in 1906), as now it has to deal with a mysterious serial killer known as “The Hang Wire Killer”, multiple Gods from a long forgotten mythology and to top it all off, a Circus, containing Celtic Dancers whose paganistic acts are taken a little too seriously. As a result there’s a lot of stuff that comes packed into this book that fans of Christopher’s previous novels will feel familiar with – with the book starting off with a bang to draw you in and a strong narrative voice that keeps you right to the very end.
For someone who appears to be the main character in the blurb, you’d expect a lot of attention focused on Ted Hall, but the narrative is split between multiple viewpoints in a third person perspective, with Ted not getting enough pagetime as one would like. This also means that there’s less chance for characters to develop and If I had to pinpoint one flaw with this novel that I had it would be that its characters aren’t really engaging enough and none of them really left an impact on me as a reader. However, the multiple viewpoint structure of the narrative was probably the best way to tell the story, as the rest of the cast include a Blonde Surfer named Bob who’s been teaching ballroom dancing near the beach for decades. Joel is another character that’s worth mentioning and is arguably the weakest character of the book as his chapters started to feel too repetitive for my liking. But nonetheless, these flaws didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and I found Hang Wire to be a delightfully entertaining read.
If you like comics and are a fan of the horror genre then you’ll dig Hang Wire. It’s clever, and far from your standard Urban Fantasy novel with some good plotting and a strong pace that once it has you invested in the novel you won’t be able to put it down. It’s yet another good Angry Robot novel that almost had me missing my bus stop when I was reading it - because I just couldn’t put it down. The book works well as a standalone so whether you’ve read all of Adam Christopher’s novels or are hearing the good praise about him and want to check his work out for yourself, then Hang Wire is the perfect place to start, and this book comes recommended if you’re looking to get 2014 off to a good start when it comes to reading. It’s also worth pointing out that Hang Wire is Angry Robot’s 100th Book, and it’s been a great journey to get to this number as they’re one of my go-to publishers for awesome reads, and I’m hoping for many more equally awesome novels from them in the future.
“A fun and entertaining urban fantasy that although doesn’t quite match the heights of authors like Aaronovitch and Butcher is still a strong read and another enjoyable outing for Alex Verus. Four books in and the series keeps feeling fresh.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"I don’t publicly advertise that I’m a mage, but I don’t exactly hide it either, and one of the odd things I’ve learnt over the years is just how much you can get away with if you’re blatant enough. Hide something behind smoke and mirrors and make people work to find it, and they’ll tear the place down looking for what’s there.
Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures—a talent that’s gotten him out of many a tough scrape. But this time, he may be in over his head. Alex was once apprenticed to a Dark mage, and in his service he did a lot of things he isn’t proud of.
As rumors swirl that his old master is coming back, Alex comes face to face with his misdeeds in the form of a young adept whose only goal is to get revenge. Alex has changed his life for the better, but he’s afraid of what his friends—including his apprentice, Luna—will think of his past. But if they’re going to put themselves at risk, they need to know exactly what kind of man they’re fighting for…"
By book four in any series, I think it’s fair to say that if the next book in the series is released and you’ve enjoyed the previous three novels then you’re going to crave in and get this one. However, it’s safe to say that this particular series isn’t the best Urban Fantasy out there on the market. Jim Butcher, Ben Aaronovitch, Tom Pollock and more have all put out better works than Benedict Jacka but there’s something about this series that keeps me coming back to read every installment. It’s addictive reading – I can always flip through these books a lot quicker than I do books by other authors. Jacka is a strong writer and whilst this series may not be the most original on the market the end result is always going to be fun and enjoyable – and although Chosen may not quite be the best novel in the series (In my opinion, that award goes to Taken) – it’s still a compelling and engaging read that’s very unputdownable.
The book itself reads like a thriller novel. It’s fast paced, features lots of stuff happening and is essentially your average airport thriller read with urban fantasy elements. The book itself is also flashback heavy – exploring Alex’s past on a deeply personal level. We get to see what he did when he was a Dark Mage’s apprentice and it provides emotional weight to the storyline that’s taking place on the current events. The character exploration of Alex Verus further flushes his character out into more detail as well as expanding his group of friends in more depth. Like Harry Dresden in the later books, Alex now has a dependable amount of friends to rely upon , and it’s nice to see them developing more in this book as well. Luna for example, who we’ve known since Book One has become more confident in using her powers. She’s been fleshed out and I think both characters have grown stronger as a result. This is the novel that makes Alex a bit more different than your stock Urban Fantasy Wizard lead character, and it’s nice to see that Jacka has made him a bit more intriguing and interesting than in previous novels where he felt like a weak ripoff of Harry Dresden.
Whilst the book can be read on it’s own, I’d recommend knowledge of the previous Alex Verus books first. It always helps coming into a fourth book in a series when you’re already familiar with the characters by this point. Out of the four this is by far the darkest book that we’ve had – and that’s no surprise given that the large amount of this novel goes down a darker path. It makes a change from the lighter route that the previous novels have taken and provides a nice change in direction of the series. It still remains fun and enjoyable though – and the switch to a darker tone doesn’t feel jarringly out of place. It’s got me more invested in the characters than the previous books have done and although Chosen can’t quite match the strong novel that was Taken - at least in my opinion, it still remains an interesting read and is far from the worst novel that this series has given us.
Overall then, Chosen is novel that sets a darker tone for the series providing an interesting read. It manages to remain fresh and engaging – a page-turning read. However it still hasn’t completley shaken off the problems that the previous novels have had to offer and whilst some steps have been made in the right direction it still feels like we’ve been down this route before. However, I’m going to be on board for book number five – which according to Goodreads will hit shelves sometime next year, and it will be interesting to see where Jacka takes the character next now that I have caught up on the series.
THE ALEX VERUS NOVELS: Fated, Cursed, Taken, Chosen (less)
“An excellent read. Unpredictable and enthralling with a death count that most YA Authors never reach in entire series, let alone one novel, Rosie Best makes a fantastic arrival to the Urban Fantasy scene delivering a stunning read that you shouldn’t pass up on.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"To some, Meg Banks’ life might look perfect – she lives in a huge house in West London, goes to a prestigious school, and has famous parents. Only Meg knows the truth: her tyrannical mother rules the house and her shallow friends can talk about nothing but boys and drinking. Meg’s only escape is her secret life as a graffiti artist.
While out tagging one night, Meg witnesses the dying moments of a fox… a fox that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a beautiful and mysterious gemstone. It isn’t long before Meg realises that she’s also inherited his power to shift and finds an incredible new freedom in fox form.
She is plunged into the shadowy underworld of London, the territory of the five warring groups of shapeshifters – the Skulk, the Rabble, the Conspiracy, the Horde, and the Cluster. Someone is after her gemstone, however, someone who can twist nature to his will. Meg must discover the secret of the stone and unite the shapeshifters before her dream of freedom turns into a nightmare."
I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling that I would enjoy this book going into it. I requested the review copy on a bit of a whim, when I was in need of books to read during my Holiday/Vacation to France a few weeks ago, when I managed to get access to Wifi on my Kindle Fire. And well, I went into it not expecting much – the book had ‘paranormal romance’ written all over it, and as you’re probably aware, paranormal romance is something I don’t do. However, to my surprise – I found that my expectations that I went into Skulk with were not just wrong, in fact – they couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst there is a relationship – it’s something that doesn’t feel like a cliche, coming across as fresh and doesn’t fall into the trap of being insta-love. This helps Meg Banks, the lead character – match up with the likes of other strong female characters that we’ve seen from previous Strange Chemistry books, and even outclasses them in some cases. However, it’s safe to say that Meg reaches the ranks of Julie (Poltergeeks), Gene (Pantomime) and Kyra (The Woken Gods) - all of whom are awesome female leads. She’s therefore among my favourite Strange Chemistry characters that I’ve read to date – allowing for a unique read that sees the book move along at a very fast pace.
Meg’s character is interesting. Like Tom Pollock’s Beth from The City’s Son, she has a secret life as a graffiti artist. This plays a big role in the book, as Best actively uses the graffiti-angle of the book successfully and manages to weave it into the overall narrative without interfering or the weakening of the overall concept. Meg’s first person narrative is consistently strong all the way through the book, and this works both to the advantage and disadvantage of Skulk. It allows Best to get us used to a confident, strong, likeable and interesting lead character – but one thing that this book suffers from is the massive supporting cast. It seems almost inevitable with a massive cast that not everybody is going to come across as well rounded or engaging as Meg, but you can tell that Best certainly tries to flesh out as many characters as she can. There’s Mo, one of the key male characters in the book, and James, the camp jewel thief. Both of them belong to different Shapeshifter groups. Mo to the Rabble (butterflies) and James is an exile from the Skulk, the main group which Meg joins, because of the stubborn leader Don, who unfortunately falls into the one-dimensional typical jerk leader category. Aside from a couple of other characters, the majority of the cast, such as Meg’s friends who aren’t clued in on the shapeshifter society that she has stumbled into suffer from not really having the page time to develop enough to make us care about them.
The book, as one would expect with a high-death count, is pretty unpredictable. Best manages to make it weave along at a very fast pace, easily planting this novel in the page-turning category. It’s a quick and captivating read, that you should blitz through. Skulk is compelling as well, and while there is a clear line between evil and good – it never really falls into the ‘grey’ category when it comes to morality – but that doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised as not all allegiances are set in stone. Whilst the overall concept may also need a bit of suspension of disbelief in order for you to enjoy, all you really have to do is accept that shape shifters are real here. Best writes a strong, distinctive portrayal of the characters when they’re in animal form, and the scenes where Meg was in her animal form was interesting to read about. The book allows for a variety of shapeshifters, Foxes, Ravens, Rats, Butterflies and Spiders. As with multiple groups, you can expect that they don’t all get on very well – differences and rivalries are explored as the book goes, serving as an interesting dynamic as well as a way to introduce more tension when you find that the enemy is pretty much presented as a unified front, with spies pretty much everywhere.
As a result, Skulk is one of the most unpredictable reads from a Young Adult book that I’ve read in a while. It’s a lot of fun, and whilst I feel that there was a wasted opportunity with the cover, as it really lacks the incentive to draw you in,and I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up in a bookshelf without a lot of praise. In fact, one of the few reasons why I gave this book a chance was because it is a London-set urban fantasy, which I am a complete sucker for, and the fact that it’s a Strange Chemistry book. Like Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry have failed to produce a title that I haven’t already liked so far, and with Jonathan L. Howard’s Katya’s World sitting on my TBR pile, I can safely say that this is one publisher that you should keep an eye on. Much like Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry are producing a set of books that are normally exceptionally high quality, doing wonders in the YA subgenre. Skulk is another addition to the ranks of the mighty Strange Chemistry titles – and one that I can recommend to all fans of Young Adult books. Certainly worth your time.
The best one yet. Jacka is starting to really get in form with these books. I may dive into the next one sooner than planned as I have a Review Copy n...moreThe best one yet. Jacka is starting to really get in form with these books. I may dive into the next one sooner than planned as I have a Review Copy needing to be read. (less)