I love this book. Ben Macallan is the new pen name for Chaz Brenchley, whose writing is always beautifully crafted. Spare and elegant, deceptive in itI love this book. Ben Macallan is the new pen name for Chaz Brenchley, whose writing is always beautifully crafted. Spare and elegant, deceptive in its simplicity, this British urban fantasy story keeps up the tension right to the end, a real page-turner.
Jordan makes his living by finding kids who are on the run and guiding them back home. But he's on the run himself from something he doesn't want to admit to anyone. Not even himself. He looks like a regular teenager, but he isn't. He knows far too much about what lurks in shadows.
Desi approaches Jordan to find her sister, Fay, who did a very bad thing involving an immortal, but is everything quite as it seems? The short answer is, no, but that's as far as I'm going. You need to read this for yourself. Highly recommended. ...more
Five stars, of course. Well, my story, Baron Boscov's Bastard (A Conderella story) is in here. But don't rush out and read it just because of that. ThFive stars, of course. Well, my story, Baron Boscov's Bastard (A Conderella story) is in here. But don't rush out and read it just because of that. There are some other good stories, too....more
My story, Mirror Mirror, is in here - an alternate take on Snow White's wicked stepmum. It's ore like Snow White meets Six Wives of Henry VIII. Of couMy story, Mirror Mirror, is in here - an alternate take on Snow White's wicked stepmum. It's ore like Snow White meets Six Wives of Henry VIII. Of course the story was all written and the book at the printers when the novel 'Mirror Mirror' came out. Yes, you guessed it, about Snow White's wicked stepmum. Ah, well, it just goes to show that you can't keep a good idea down.
Note: the five stars is for all the other great stories in the book, of course....more
My story, 'The Urbane Fox' is included in this collection. It's a story about sewing and shapeshifting. The five star rating is for the other great stMy story, 'The Urbane Fox' is included in this collection. It's a story about sewing and shapeshifting. The five star rating is for the other great stories in this book....more
I've got a story in this book (The Whitby Jets) about Morris Dancing and secret government departments. The five star review, however, is for the otheI've got a story in this book (The Whitby Jets) about Morris Dancing and secret government departments. The five star review, however, is for the other great stories in this book, in particular Sue Thomason's about what might have happened when Tolkien met Sutcliffe - the famouns Victorian photographer - dowen by the harbour. A magical tale, beautifully written and worth the price of the book all by itself....more
It's taken me a while to get to read Nicky Browne's 2011 book from Bloomsbury, Wolf Blood. I held off while I was revising my magic pirate book becausIt's taken me a while to get to read Nicky Browne's 2011 book from Bloomsbury, Wolf Blood. I held off while I was revising my magic pirate book because I knew she had a wolf shapechanger in her story and I didn't want to be unconsciously influenced when writing my wolf shapechanger. With the current popularity of werewolf books in urban fantasy it's hugely refreshing to find a werewolf that's very different from all the hunky, hairy beasties as seen in the Kitty books and even Patricia Briggs' excellent Mercy Thompson books (which I love BTW.) And Browne's book is hardly urban.
Set in first century Britain as the Roman legions are advancing, It's beautifully and engagingly drawn with a tight focus on the two main characters, Trista, a British warrior seeress, and Morcant, half-British, half-Roman and as the story begins, a soldier in Rome's army. But that's about to change because Morcant, although he may not know it or like it, is a wolf shapechanger. The point of view, told in first person, shifts between Trista and Morcant though Trista tells at least two thirds of the tale.
It opens with Trista, a trained warrior woman, currently a slave of a rival tribe where she disguises her combat skills and bides her time until she can escape. Free at last Trista stumbles through the dangerously cold winter night and, exhausted, comes across two Roman soldiers, one of whom is Morcant. Trista can see the wolf, but Morcant is unaware of what he is until things come to a head. With the wolf inside him free and getting stronger, Morcant can't return to his legion so the two go on the run together, uneasy companions at first, fearing both Roman and British.
There's plenty of action and a fair amount of bloody carnage as Trista and Morcant battle their way through dangerous situations to reach Caratacus, leader of the British, and take a stand against the Romans. The plotting is tight and exciting, but it's the characters and developing relationship between Trista and Morcant that's at the heart of this story. Trista has been damaged by her dark visions, the loss of her husband in battle and her subsequent captivity and ill-treatment. Morcant, although legally a citizen of Rome, is neither accepted by his father's people nor his mother's. As a shapechanger people fear him and as a wolf he's also outside the pack. Trista and Morcant have more in common with each other than with anyone else, though their road isn't smooth.
I think this is supposed to be for the 10 -12 age range, but it reads more like a YA. Though this isn't unusual as N. M. Browne's other excellent historical fantasies, (Warriors of Alavna etc.) similarly read 'older' to me. This is beautiful, literate and very focused writing with a remarkable amount of realistic detail and absolutely believable magic. The description, while never laboured, is so sensual that you can almost taste and smell this book.
I've recently re-read Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth trilogy and N. M. Browne is easily the modern day inheritor of Sutcliff's historical-literary crown. ...more
I read this in draft and now my shiny copy of the book has arrived, complete with acknowledgements which includes me. (Thanks, Nicky.) So I might be aI read this in draft and now my shiny copy of the book has arrived, complete with acknowledgements which includes me. (Thanks, Nicky.) So I might be a tiny bit biased about this one. I might say it’s good just because...
But actually I’ll say it’s good because, quite simply, it is. It’s a book marketed for 9s – 12s which surprises me because I would put it more at YA level, but it’s possible I’m out of touch. It’s a time travel-by-magic book and the third of three about two misfit British schoolkids, Dan and Ursula, who travel through the veil and find themselves at important points in British history, having acquired a certain amount of personal magic and warrior prowess along the way (and a magical flair for languages). Never the same magic in any of the three books as the magic works differently in each timespan. They’ve already fought in the days of the Romano-British with the warrior King Macsen and at Camlann with King Arthur, but in that last battle Ursula, trained over the course of the previous books into a strapping six foot female warrior, was dreadfully injured. In Arthur’s time the wound would have been fatal, so Dan, grown to know battle-madness, and the feel of a sword in his hand, forces the bard Taliesin to open the veil and he carries Ursula through, looking for twenty-first century magic, in the shape of paramedics and antibiotics.
And that’s where this book opens. Warrior berserker Dan, mage Taliesin, the war dog Braveheart and the almost lifeless warrior-mage Ursula step out of the mist just an hour after difficult child Dan and lumpy, awkward schoolgirl Ursula disappeared. The coach is waiting; their classmates of probably a year or two ago are still looking for them.
Taliesin and Braveheart make a hasty getaway and Dan and Ursula are found covered in battle-gore. The well-meaning twenty-first century nanny-state kicks in. Ursula gets her medical treatment and Dan gets a quick trip to the local slammer, since he must be the villain, right?
After accusations, through which Dan sits dumb – because they’ll never believe the truth – Ursula eventually recovers enough to say they were attacked by unknown assailants and Dan’s off the hook. Things look to be settling down because they’re allowed back to school to do GCSEs. No one seems to realise that Dan has grown six inches and Ursula has lost pounds of weight and gained enough muscle to join an Olympic team. They shrug it off with ‘My haven’t you grown’ and ‘You’ve lost weight in hospital.’ Ursula’s mum takes her out to buy her a new pink skirt.
But if Dan finds school difficult, Ursula finds it almost impossible. Addicted to magic, she can’t bear it back at home. She needs to open the veil and go through once more. Taliesin reappears with the means to raise the veil and once she knows that, Ursula is set on it. After nearly killing a schoolgirl in the library by defending herself too strongly in a brawl, Ursula runs away, persuades Dan to lift the veil and without waiting for him charges into it in a blind panic, finding and falling into the magic she has been so desperate for. Falling into it so deeply that she’s lost in it.
But they haven’t returned to Macsen’s Romano-British time or even to King Arthur’s ill-fated reign, this time they are in the Britain of Alfred the Great and the Danes, separated and lost. Ursula is in thrall to the magic and to a blind child who seems to be able to control her better than she can control herself, and Dan finds himself swearing allegiance to Alfred, his loyalty tested in a terrifying trial by water. Yet all the time he’s trying to find Ursula – the love of his life, though he’s barely admitted that to himself.
Dan finds old enemies may have at last become friends and there’s help from the Bishop Asser when he discovers that the form his magic takes in this century is even more frightening than before and one step beyond being a berserker in battle. In the end Ursula must face the most difficult choice of her life, and then the two must find a way home if they can.
It’s gripping; a fast-paced bloody, smelly, gritty book, full of fights, battles and magic wrapped around a realistic historical background. Highly recommended, but don’t just read this, read the two books that went before it as well: ‘Warriors of Alavna’ and ‘Warriors of Camlann’. You won’t be disappointed. ...more
Yarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither holdYarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither hold a shield nor scale a fortress wall. He's never going to be the man leading an army into battle. He's destined to be a minister and has almost completed his rigorous training when his father and older brother are killed and he's dragged into the limelight - and not to his advantage.
Betrayed by his uncle and surviving only by good fortune and his quick wits, Yarvi is sold into slavery, strapped to a galley oar where he seemingly will stay until he dies, but Yarvi is clever. He's only ever had his wits to rely on in a land where physical prowess counts for everything. And despite the hardscrabble world he's been thrust into Yarvi is essentially kind, though not weak. He's determined to survive and determined to get revenge on his uncle.
When eventually he gets his chance for freedom, he takes a bunch of shipmates with him on a gruelling journey back to his homeland. There's a surprise twist at the end which means Yarvi gets what he wants, but not in the way he expected to get it and not without consequences.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I see some reviewers have dubbed it Abercrombie-lite because compared to the author's earlier books this is nowhere near as grimdark, however they don't seem to have taken into account that it's written with young people in mind. The story is more simple, more accessible than the First Law Trilogy, but no poorer for all that. It's a coming of age story with a physically flawed protagonist that kept me hooked. In fact - I only intended to read a chapter but I couldn't put it down. I read the whole lot in one sitting without even coming up for air or coffee. That's a real page turner....more
As the final part of the Night Angel trilogy this did not disappoint. In the wake of the Godking's death, a new queen has usurped the throne. It's upAs the final part of the Night Angel trilogy this did not disappoint. In the wake of the Godking's death, a new queen has usurped the throne. It's up to Kylar to do something about it. In the meantime other armies are ranged against Cenaria and a renegade priest plans to bring back the goddess Khali and hoards of magical undead warriors. Kylar learns - too late - the bitter cost of his own immortality.
Everyone he loves is in mortal danger unless he can assassinate the goddess herself. Failure will doom all the countries of the south and success will rob him of the one thing he loves best in all the world.
No more spoilers. All I can say is this is a satisfying ending with enough loose ends tied up to keep me happy and a couple of minor dangling threads that make me wonder if Weeks hasn't quite finished with the immortal Night Angel yet. If there was more, I'd certainly read it. ...more
This is the final book in the Inda quartet. Phew, what a marathon! I reckon at least 250,000, possibly more, words in just this final book alone. We'vThis is the final book in the Inda quartet. Phew, what a marathon! I reckon at least 250,000, possibly more, words in just this final book alone. We've followed Inda since he was a child of ten and here he is, still a young man, having achieved his wildest dream, to be Harskialdna – war leader – to his childhood friend, now King Evred of Iasca-Leror. At the end of King's Shield (book 3) it seemed that Inda's story had run its course. And so it might have ended there with Inda running the academy and second only to Evred, but the Venn, repelled but not defeated, mass for another attack, driven by Erkric, chief dag (mage) of the Venn, who has seized ultimate power by taking over the mind and will of Rajnir, the new king. Erkric has enemies In his own camp, including some of the mages and good-sort naval commander Fulla Durasnir, but it isn't until Erkric overstretches himself with this sea-attack to take over the all-important strait that he becomes vulnerable.
It's the sea attack that brings Inda back into the forefront of conflict. As Elgar the Fox (book 2) he had established a fearsome reputation as a sea-commander who never lost a fight. The countries around the straight will unite to fight the Venn, but only under Elgar's command. It's Inda's return to the sea that finally brings his old friend Fox, now commander of Inda's Fox-Banner fleet, back into the Marlovan fold as the Fox banner Fleet becomes the Marlovan navy.
How Inda and Fox fare against the Venn is long and complex, and presents Inda with a huge moral dilemma, seemingly impossible to solve, at the end of it. Is he going to betray his friends or be foresworn and disobey his king? The final segment of the book wraps up everyone's story arcs, actually telling the happy-ever-afters, which, like life, are filled with ups and downs, but mostly happier than not. (And there's a final wrap up on Sherwood Smith's website in case you wondered what happened when all the dust had settled.)
Inda's story, through four books, is mammoth. Though he remains the commander who never loses a battle, sometimes the win comes from an entirely unexpected element in the whole million-piece jigsaw puzzle that Sherwood Smith has fitted together so elegantly. The characters have way more dimensions than three and even the minor characters are important. Relationships matter and death in battle leaves painful gaping holes in people's lives. Inda is a rare puzzle of a character all by himself, dedicated to his own personal truths, but deeply damaged not only by childhood trauma, but by battle wounds. There is always a price to pay for victory and Inda, who never loses, often pays the biggest price of all, mentally as well as physically.
This is a completely realised world that the author has been nurturing in various timelines since she was a child, and the depth of imagination shows. There's no handwaving, everything is thought out carefully and fits together with not a piece out of place. This is a fantasy tour-de-force. Highly recommended. ...more
The third part of the Inda quartet following on from Inda and The Fox. A mighty book in many ways. Long, yes, all 687 ages of it. Complex in depth andThe third part of the Inda quartet following on from Inda and The Fox. A mighty book in many ways. Long, yes, all 687 ages of it. Complex in depth and far-reaching in scope this is still Inda's story, but the other characters aren't forgotten and we spend a lot of this book seeing Inda through other eyes.. When Inda returns home from the sea to warn his once best friend and now king, Evred, of an impending attack by the Venn he's accompanied by shipmates, the beautiful Tau and his (to her own thinking) plain lover Jeje and Inda's own lover the much older Venn mage, Signi.
Though there is grief when Inda learns his older brother has been murdered in his absence and his father has faded to the status of a cabbage, Inda finally gets his heart's desire. His exile is ended, his trumped up crime of eight or nine years ago is forgotten and his trusted friends are all happy to see him back, especially Evred who almost immediately makes Inda his war-leader. Lest that seem a little overly convenient for Inda's advancement, all the experienced war leaders have already been eliminated in a 'night-of-the-long-knives' coup and counter-coup in the previous book, The Fox. Inda, known for having 'plans' in his academy days, and always being capable of seeing the bigger picture in any military engagement, has shown he can lead a fleet to victory at sea. Now all he has to do is relearn the art of fighting on land.
So Inda comes home in time to put his best friends into the worst jeopardy of their lives, with the Venn invasion force already waiting to land an army of thousands and a long march through the Andahi pass to command the high ground first in the coming battle. Inda's learning curve is as steep and rocky as the sides of the pass, but Evred was right to put his trust in him even though the cost is great.
The human stories are intertwined with the military one: Evred's secret passion for Inda, recognised only by Tau and by Tdor, Inda's future wife; Tdor's anxiety about Inda's lover, Signi, and how her presence will affect their arranged marriage; Inda's ongoing nightmares from previous traumas; Jeje's inferiority complex which causes her to leave before Tau can get tired of her; Tau's sense of loss over Jeje because though he's had many lovers, so few of them have been friends as well. There are new characters: the doomed defenders of Castle Andahi and their children, sent to the mountains for safety, struggling to survive. We see the academy boys from the first book, Inda, now grown to men and fulfilling their promise - or not. Special mention for the beautifully drawn cameo of Noddy Toraca, somewhat goofy and turtle-like as a child, but now strong and steady, already a father, and questioning the sense of war while giving everything when asked. There's a human cost of war, not just in the dead, but the maimed as well. Inda and his chums were children in the first book. The idea of war was an exciting adventure, a war game. Now they are men, and war is no longer a game.
There is much to admire in Sherwood Smith's writing. The worldbuilding is completely believable and within the context of fiction, totally real. The characterisation is excellent. She makes you care about all of them, even the annoying ones. The plot is never predictable, the pace always page-turning. After three mammoth books what can be left in Inda's life to write about? He's already achieved the pinnacle of success. But there is another book, Treason's Shore, and I'm having to stop myself from dashing off to start reading. I have some work to do first... ...more