Review of Return of the Mantra by Susie Williamson Written by Dan Stubbings

My Review-

I had the pleasure of meeting Susie at Fantasy Con this year in Chester and after a lovely chat about her book. I asked if I could review it for her. Suffice to say it made my Top 20 reads of 2018 finishing in thirteenth place. I cannot wait for the sequel to be released.

Considering when I was putting together my Top 20 I had read 120 books. Return of the Mantra blew me away the moment I opened it. Everything about it was fresh and new but at the same time weirdly familiar as if I had read the story before. Why I kept reading however, and didn’t throw the book against the wall after five minutes is because I loved how Susie was able to flip these familiarities on their head, and give me a whole new level of enjoyment.

I adored the protagonist Suni a strong young girl who is forced to face the harshness of her world after the sudden death of her mother. I have to admit when I first read this I thought here we go a young girl loses her family and has to save the world.  However I was in for a pleasant surprise, as Susie doesn’t do this taking Suni’s story in a direction I completely wasn’t expecting. Suni’s character arc is one of the best I have read this year in any fantasy. Susie’s writing shows that she has given alot of thought to the direction she wants to take Suni’s character exposing a number of vulnerabilities to the reader along the way. These include her attitude towards sexuality, her struggles with abandonment, and the complex relationship she has with her absent father. As the plot develops we see these character traits become more and more dominate as Suni is tested to the extreme in a land ravaged by a brutal ruler who has enslaved his people, and in their warped minds become a god himself. This forces Suni to go in search of Mantra a forgotten god that in her mother’s eyes is the one true guardian of their world.

A character that allows us to see the abuse of innocence in this unforgiving place is Wanda an orphan boy with the power to understand animals. Suni becomes a big sister to him as they go in search of this fairy-tale. This relationship was the one that pulled on my heart strings the most. As Suni fights to protect Wanda’s innocence she is torn because at the same time she must make him understand the true nature of this world and its cruelties. This is every parents nightmare and is a clear theme throughout the book. With each parental figure making their own mistakes along the way some facing worst consequences than others.  It’s a relationship that I hope has more of a central role in the sequel as it has all the feels.

This book has everything I look for within fantasy. Strong protagonists and antagonists, an equal split of genders, diversity, and story-lines that at times reflected a modern day Africa. This is a highly satisfying read with a well developed world, and magic system I cannot wait to see how it continues. Well done Susie 5 Stars.

I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

 

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About the Author- Susie Williamson

Susie grew up in the village of Scholes, Holmfirth, in West Yorkshire. She studied at the University of Sheffield and graduated with a BSc Honours in Chemistry, and a PGCE in Secondary School Science. In 1999 she travelled to the city of Omdurman in the Sudan, where she taught English as a Foreign Language. From there she moved to South Africa, where she taught Adult Basic Education and Training, primarily in a township in Kwazulu Natal.

On her return to the UK, she moved to Exeter in Devon, where her childhood passion for creative writing was reignited. Among a collection of varied jobs, including support work at a women’s refuge, she increasingly prioritised her time to write. Inspired by the landscapes of Africa, her passion for women’s equality and representation of diversity, and her love of fantasy books, she began weaving the twists and turns of her first novel.

She lives with her partner, Kate, close to the river Exe and a bike ride away from the sea. She enjoys being involved in community projects, and painting canvases to steadily fill the white-washed walls of her house. Her writing partner is her cat, Mia, who is currently assisting with two fantasy novels, sequels to Return of the Mantra.

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Review of In the Vanishers Palace by Aliette De Bodard Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Blurb:

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land… 

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Review

After discovering Aliette’s The Tea Master and the Detective this year I have been on a one man mission to read as much of her work as possible. So I was absolutely thrilled to receive a early review copy of her new novella In the Vanishers Palace. A dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an interesting twist the beast is a shape-shifting female dragon one of the last of its kind. I couldn’t wait to dive into this fast moving narrative.

When Yen is sold to one the last remaining dragons in her world Vu Con. She expects the worse, unexpectedly however she is tasked with tutoring Vu’s two unruly children, as time passes Yen finds herself developing feelings she never expected for Vu as more of Vu’s personality is revealed to her these feelings deepen. I adored how Aliette developed the relationship between Yen and Vu Con. Showing that even though Vu is a dragon she still struggles with secrets, and a longing to be accepted in her world. As the story unfolds Vu becomes almost human in our eyes making us wonder what truly is a monster? You cant help but begin to root for Yen’s and Vu’s relationship as you become engrossed in this charming tale these scenes come to life like a movie reel inside your head.  You can imagine every second of their interactions. My words simply cant do them justice. Please pick up the book, and appreciate them for yourself they are stunning bravo Aliette. 

The blending of Vietnamese myths within the narrative only further heightens the enjoyment as you read on with ravish. It may only be 145 pages in length but Aliette has been able to craft a wide spanning world that ensnares the senses, enabling her to expose both light and dark details of this dystopian world with a sensitivity that is quite simply astonishing. I loved the description of Vu Con’s lair as it grew within my mind every detail building on the last, becoming so vivid I felt as though I could almost reach out and touch it.  This book is a must read for writers wanting to learn how to write LGBT characters in a sensitive, and unpatronising way that gives real weight to the characters, and pushes the narrative forward. 

It receives 5 stars as Aliette’s writing continues to leave me wanting more. All I can say is buy it you won’t regret it.

I received a copy from the author for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

 

Review of Tales from the Shadow Booth Volume 2 Edited By Dan Coxon Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

The booth juts at an angle from the sand, the canvas taut beneath the weight of the drifting dunes. Janet almost passes it by. But it’s the sign that snags her attention. Painted in rust-red onto three pieces of driftwood, the sun-bleached planks lashed together with lengths of twisted blond twine, it looks surprisingly fresh. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.
The Shadow Booth, a journal of weird and eerie fiction, returns for Volume 2! Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.
Volume 2 contains new stories by: 

Chikodili Emelumadu
Dan Grace
Kirsty Logan
Johnny Mains
Ralph Robert Moore
Mark Morris
Gareth E. Rees
Giovanna Repetto
George Sandison
Anna Vaught
Aliya Whiteley

Enter the Shadow Booth, and you will never be the same again…
Review

This collection of dark and eerie tales from several contemporary and diverse writers is a readers dream. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. Every story has its own uniqueness that draws you in and forces you to keep reading with each one seeming to build upon the last.

Three stories from the collection that stood out for me were:

We Are the Disease by Gareth Rees. An eerie tale set abroad a ship trapped in the Arctic ice. As more crew members become effected by their isolation they begin to see and witness strange creatures and behaviours. Throughout the story Gareth had me on the edge of my seat making me wonder is this real, or is it the crew giving into their basic fears, which is making them create these sightings. Throughout the entire story your never quite sure what is the disease? Gareth’s voice and writing style is simply gripping. I could almost feel my fingers burning as I turned pages racing to finish.

The next was My Father’s Face by Giovanna Repetto. A tale about a man who has lost his memory and how he fights to get it back. As the story unfolds however we begin to question is this person trustworthy, and what are they hiding. It moves at a neck-breaking speed and makes you question everything you thought you knew about family. It was my favourite story in the collection. The voice is so unique. I want to read more by this author I loved it.

The final story was Feasting;Fasting by Anna Vaught. A story featuring elements of tradition horror and supernatural. A strange house, an unusual family, and a small village with a story to tell at no point does Anna give away who they are, what they are, and why they are there. She allows you as a reader to draw your own conclusions, and decide for yourself who these people are, and what their story is. It is a totally different take on the haunted house narrative.

This book has something for everyone. Unique writing styles, cultures, and author voices that make it stand out from the crowd. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the weird and wonderful. The three stories I selected are only glimpse of what awaits. Go and check it out. It gets four stars. It is a highly polished read.

I received a copy from the publisher for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

Review of City of Lies (A Poison War Novel) By Sam Hawke Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me… 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.

Review

Sam Hawke has been able to create a fantasy world, and plot that challenges the norms of the fantasy genre, and pushes the boundaries to great affect. As a reader I always look for originality in fantasy, as it can sometimes become bogged down in the same old plot lines, and characters. That are enjoyable however most of the time you can kind of predict their next move. However I couldn’t say this about Sam’s debut novel.

It has a delightful freshness and twists that you cannot predict. That ooze off every page with ease drawing you deeper into the world, city, and characters she has created. Her writing style has a uniqueness that you rarely see within the fantasy genre, and one I enjoyed immensely.

From the way she dip feeds information regarding the vast society within her imaginary world, to how much information she gives us on how its governed, and what poisons are at play. Her voice comes through, adding a insightful prose to the descriptions, and dialogue given to the main elements of characters and the world itself.

I also enjoyed the lack of a magic system within the narration. Due to the fact that at times I feel to much focus is given to how magic is used, and controlled within fantasy. However Sam didn’t need this to make her story fast paced and highly enjoyable.

I loved how every chapter opened up with a description of a new poison its symptoms, what it could do, and how it was administered.

At times I feared this would impact upon the tension within the story, as you believed someone was going to be affected by this new poison. However as I read on the poison fell into the background. As you hitched a ride on the coat tails of Jovan or Kalina the two main character viewpoints within the story.

I especially enjoyed how Sam chose to give us different narrations from what we are used to within fantasy. Enabling us to see the perspectives of the people tasked with protecting the heirs of their society, instead of an assassin who is tasked with killing them.

This bought with it beautifully detailed insights, and helped me warm to, and care about the characters deeper than I have in some recent fantasies I have read. Sam hits all the feels, and takes you on an emotional roller-coaster as you fight to understand what is happening.

The whole story takes places in one city however at no point does the scale of what Sam is trying to achieve feel small. In parts it reminded me of RJ Barker’s Wounded Kingdom Series. As readers are taken on a thrill ride of mystery and intrigue, asking you the constant question of whodunnit.

This is a brilliant genre mashup, and I look forward to seeing where this series goes. Also if the opening line to the book “I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me”. Doesn’t grab your attention. Then quite frankly you need to give your head a shake. This book deserves to be huge. Go out and buy it well done Sam.

Review of Gods of the Black Gate By Joseph Sale Written By Dan Stubbings

Review

Joseph has delivered a delightful mix of crime, weirdness, and futuristic literature which at times has you questioning your own consciousness, and deepest fears. The backdrop of Mars in this sci fi/crime masterpiece only helps to heighten the level of intrigue, as disturbing elements of the red planet are brought to life in breath-taking focus.

The story centres around detective Caleb Rogers who is made to relive one of the most horrific moments of his career. A psychotic murderer that he put away seven years ago has escaped from a maximum-security prison on Mars, and he is the only one who can catch him. This leads to a chase against time purging Caleb into levels of obsession where everything isn’t as it seems. As he goes in pursuit of Smiley he is forced to question everything he thought he knew about this demon from his nightmares, and risk everything for his own sanity. Multi -layer subplots help add a delicious ingredient to the dark undertones, making you wonder are they connected or are they separate from the torments Caleb is experiencing. Questioning his own sanity Caleb tries desperately to piece to together why this case has absorbed his life, and who are the Gods of Black Gate? Are they mysterious beings or a cult which this twisted tale seems destined to encounter.

One of the high points for me about this novel is the way in which Joseph has been able to weave such complexity into his characters. Taking you through every spectrum of the human condition anger, despair, obsession, insanity and all that is in between. By the time you have finished, you feel as though your brain has been torn in two. Due to the vivid imagery, and detailed backdrops in which our characters walk.

This dark and experimental masterpiece has all the hallmarks of a weird noir, or grim-dark crime, and reminds me of China Mieville, and Philip K Dick taking your mind through a hypnotising dance as you fight to understand its warped ways. Its receives 4 stars a highly accomplished read.

I received an advance review copy from the author this didn’t effect my views.

Review of Mageborn by Stephen Aryan Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synopsis

Thousands died when mages sundered the earth and split the sky.
It was a war that devastated entire kingdoms.
Now one man believes eradicating magic is the only way to ensure a lasting peace. He and his followers will do anything to achieve his goal – even if it means murdering every child born with the ability.

Review

A riveting tale of mystery, intrigue, and at times mind-blowing scale, is what Stephen Aryan delivers in the first of a brand series Mageborn. Set in the same world as his Age of Darkness trilogy, Stephen weaves a complex tale of character driven fantasy always leaving you wanting more. This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and I am glad to say it hasn’t disappointed.

I love the world of Age of Darkness the magic system, characters, environments, and sensory detail stayed with me long after I had finished reading the books. This book adds further to this grand world, providing us with new storylines on characters we were only shown glimpses of in the previous series to peak our interest, as well as revealing some secrets on returning characters such as my favourites Balfruss and Eloise.

This story is set 10 years after the war has taken place after the Warlock was defeated. The mysterious Red Tower has returned run by the Grey Council of Balfruss, Eloise, and Garvey helping to train children who develop the ability to use the source the well of all magic in the world. However, all isn’t running smoothly with growing fear of magic increasing everyday due to the rallying cries of soldiers, under the guidance of the complex Habreel, and mysterious Akosh who is she really? Leading to chaos throughout the West, and other countries as seekers the gold mask wearing mages tasked by the Grey Council, and the Red Tower, to discover children with the gift are attacked. Leading to witch hunts resembling the Salem witch trials, and Medieval England which I couldn’t help noticing as an influence within this story, as the fear and paranoia increases throughout the narrative all magic is threatened. Forcing our characters to make some difficult choices how will it all end?

The story is told from several points of view, giving a wider insight into the world which Stephen has created and allows threads to flow more naturally enabling a fast pace to be maintained. Resulting in epic fight scenes, and snappy dialogue which doesn’t slow down as you frantically turn the page to keep up. Stephen really does put the epic in epic fantasy.

Some of the characters I enjoyed most were Wren a young girl who is from the strict country of Drassia. Where girls are expected to conform, and respect their elders, and when their ability to access the source develops are sent straight to the Red Tower and can’t return home. The reason why I found her to be such an intriguing character, is because at the beginning she is shy just wanting to learn, trying to fit in, and make friends, which she does in the shape of Tianne a sweet timid girl who never says a bad word about anybody, and Danolph who unbeknown to them holds a talent which could impact on them all. However, this all changes when she is attacked by the school bully, displaying a power over the source which causes other students to respect her, and poses questions what can she see within the source, and what does she do that others don’t? You can’t help but fall in love with her vulnerability, and her determination as the story progresses. Forcing her to make some decisions which impact upon her present and her future.

The other character which will draw me back for the next book is Munroe. A powerful battlemage who has a complicated past, and is extremely protective of her family her son Sam, and her mercenary husband Choss.  Choss is another character which Stephen has developed which has me wondering. what did he used to be? As well the way in which Stephen leaves his story in this first installment, tore at my emotions in a way I haven’t experienced with most support characters recently in my fantasy reads. I must know what happens next because trust me it is one hell of a cliff-hanger.

However, getting back to the Munroe the reason why I think she was the one character I raced ahead during the book, so I could read her chapters. Is because of her diversity. She isn’t like most females I read in fantasies. She is a badass with magic, and hot headed which we have seen a lot in fantasy, but what makes her standout in my eyes, is that Stephen has written her with a delicacy and vulnerability which draws you in and makes you follow his cleverly written clues about her hidden past, as well as highlighting her frustrations about her abilities, and trust issues as she goes on missions for the Red Tower. Leading us as readers down many paths asking us who will she discover, and what will she hide to protect what she loves? I loved her such a strong focal point.

This book poses many questions for further additions to this already widespread world. If you love your fantasy to have well structured magic systems, strong female and male characters, mysterious towers, and more subplots than you can count. Then pick up this book a powerful addition to the fantasy genre a 5 star read.

 

Review of How to Stop Time By Matt Haig Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis

HOW MANY LIFETIMES DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE?

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past – and stay alive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love . .

My Review

This opening paragraph. “I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong. I am old- old in a way that a tree, or a quahog clam or a Renaissance painting is old.” Is all you need to know to make you read on in this astonishing book. It takes you right in opening your mind to endless possibilities. I couldn’t stop reading after those first few sentences.

I must admit that when I first heard about this book. I was afraid it would be another Interview with a Vampire, detailing the exploits of some tormented immortal as they watch the eons of time take hold. However, I was wrong Haig has been able to put his own spin on immortality. Now this doesn’t mean that Tom Hazard our main protagonist is immune from tragedies as his life unfolds. Some of the most emotional scenes involve heartache and pain for Tom. Watching his mother drown for witchcraft, his one true love dying of plague, and the constant trauma throughout the narrative of his missing daughter Marion. Not to mention the subplot of Tom’s involvement with a shady secret society known as Albatross, run by a mysterious figure called Hendrich who wants to help Tom find his daughter but is he a friend or foe?

The way in which Matt Haig can explore the human condition in its various forms is utterly astounding. Asking us as readers the question are we really this self-absorbed, and what really defines a twenty first century individual? As I read I began to question everything I see as important within my life in a positive light. This passage sums it up perfectly. “We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered”. The words just seemed to stay with me making me want to explore his writing in more depth.  I just loved how Matt was able to add these everyday issues into this genre expanding book.

As the story progressed the images Matt was able to implant into my imagination gave this story new life. As I was taken on a rip-roaring tour of the roaring twenties from high class jazz bars, and swinging piano jigs, onto the globe of Shakespearean England and an enticing tale with literacy genius William Shakespeare himself, before taking us back to modern day London in all its splendour as Tom goes through the perils of being a history teacher. The assault of colour, voices, and themes, just rifled off the page pulling me along for the ride.

This book has it all love, romance, torment, torture, time travel, murder, secret societies and an examination of the human condition in all its forms. My advice: When you pick up this book make sure you haven’t got work in the morning, because you’re not putting it down until dawn is breaking through your curtains it is that good. 5 stars. Well done Mr Haig well done sir indeed.

 

Review of Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman Written by Daniel Stubbings

My Review

In September the highly anticipated prequel to the masterpiece His Dark Materials trilogy was released. Book of Dust: LA Belle Sauvage. A social media frenzy ensued with people rushing out to buy their copy, hungry to discover how Lyra became the heroine we all remember from our childhood.  I was one of them racing home from work to my pre-ordered copy waiting in my mailbox. Opening the cover with glee as I was plunged back into the parallel world of Oxford and the sensory delights which in my opinion only Philip Pullman can deliver. Unfortunately, I was left feeling underwhelmed.

The main reason being I struggled to engage with the protagonist Malcolm. Forcing myself through chapters I became increasingly frustrated with the character Pullman had created. He just couldn’t stir the emotions needed to make me care about Malcolm’s story. As chapters unfolded I found myself rooting for the villain Bonneville, as an intriguing dark side was revealed to the reader. Begging to be explored by Pullman in more detail, and feeding my imagination on how Bonneville and his deformed daemon would impact so heavily on Lyra’s early life. I would have liked more scenes from his viewpoint as I felt this would have greatly improved major elements within the book. However, when it came to Malcolm for me he lacked development and just felt to overdone within modern-day fantasy. What I mean by this is the typical story of an ordinary boy having their life turned upside down by some unexpected magical power or adventure. Usually I enjoy this. Unfortunately for me Malcolm just didn’t have the uniqueness or magic system I need to make me read on with wide-eyed amazement, leaving me feeling deflated as his preteen adventures developed.

Now don’t get me wrong some chapters are wonderfully written. Giving us unique insight into why the story has taken a certain turn. The enchanted island and the League of St Alexander, being good examples of two chapters which will bring about a lot of discussion from readers on how this will impact on Lyra in the long-term, and raises several questions into the current political climate within our own world. I also enjoyed the development of daemon relationships, between Asta and Ben. Who are Malcolm’s and his companion Alice’s daemons, allowing us to explore the rules of these creatures in more detail.

What lets it down for me is a lack of direction. To long is spent on them floating in a boat as they attempt to escape the flood, with nothing happening but changing nappies and being soaked to the bone. As well I just didn’t enjoy how much-loved characters from the original trilogy are portrayed. A perfect example being Lord Asriel. In this book we see him holding Lyra as a baby on a moonlight walk around a nunnery, being a protective and dedicated father coming to Malcolm’s aid on several occasions. This is in complete contrast to the cold-hearted and at times almost sadistic figure from His Dark Materials, making it for me unbelievable.

Now it may just be that this is the first book in a new series, and my exceptions were too high with all the hype. Of which I am hoping as I adore the original series. I would give this one a 3.5, as I do like the secret organisations and conspiracies which are alluded to in many chapters. Enabling this series to have a more teen/adult feel to it. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t for me hoping for better in book two.

 

 

 

 

Review of The Old Guard By Greg Rucka written by Daniel Stubbings

Of late I have found myself been drawn back to my childhood love of comics. Everybody loves the classics. Saying that I wanted to move away from the well-known comics and find something new and fresh. That would make me salivate like a dog with rabies until the next issue hit the shelf.

I am pleased to say I found it. Its called The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. The first page draws you straight in this is a fairy tale of blood and bullets, It is the story of one woman and three men who cannot die. Mostly. Their names are Andy, Nicky, Joe and Booker. It’s a story about time, and age and ages, and about friendship and love, and regret. I mean if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will.

As the series opens up we find out that the four are an elite team of combat operatives similar to the SAS.  Which have been sent on a mission by an old friend but it’s not as it seems. This set us up for a ride that will take us from the deepest jungle to the city of love Paris. As they go in search of truth and hopefully revenge as well as encountering an unexpected surprise along the way.

This series of comics is currently only five issues old, and already we have seen some major character developments, as they are being told in installments giving us all four main characters viewpoint.

The first five have been told mainly from the point of Andy. Which I have to say so far is my favourite character, giving you as a reader a sense of mystery throughout. You just never seem to know what is quite going through her head. She is a very complex being having a deep internal struggle with herself, as wrestles with her own immortality. Trying to figure how she fits into this group of immortals who have nobody else but themselves.

Greg Rucka writing of this character just makes you connect on so many levels, as he takes you through a number of memories from her long life. Some barely remembered and others crystal clear without giving away her true age. This is an element which is returned to throughout the series so far helping enforce some of our judgements on Andy, but at the same time cast a dark cloud over other aspects in which Greg has hinted at in previous issues.

The art of Fernandez only helps heighten these aspects. With highly detailed fight scenes, flashbacks, and sequences that just tie the story all together. Making for an adrenaline rush which I have to say I not experienced with many other comics.

My only criticism of the series so far, is the lack of explanation about what made them  immortal. Well mostly we have been told some ways in which they can die, but I would really like to know what made them immortal if it was some act of god or virus. I would also like to know what is the purpose of their immortality. Why are they here, and what gets them selected.  I am sure this will come as the series develops just I would like to see more background to some of the other characters.

This series has everything fight scenes, guns, myths, and a crew of characters that you cant help but love and hate. It does what it says on the first page, it is a story of bullets and blood and lots of it but trust me it worth it.

Short Story- Erased Written by Daniel Stubbings For Storgy Exit Earth Contest

Blood had long been forgotten, all that mattered now was ink.  It was all that mattered ever since he had vanished clutching my arms, begging me not to let him go.  I can still see the fear in his eyes as his body turned to dust like all the others. Blood was just a trace of our old lives, flashes of a world before the erasing had begun. That was five years ago and still, I harboured the scars.  Those scars had lead me to a place I knew all too well, cloaked in darkness, a place where I had truly learnt what it was to be what they called drawers. Bending my knees, I slid down onto the stone floor, pressing my back against the wall as I peered into the darkness. A cold prickle going down the back of my skull as a face emerges from within. Covered in scars, eyes deep emerald, a grin spread across its lips, begging me to remember. Who was it?

A cold sweat ran down my spine. I stood and walked over to a set of old Chester drawers. A dull light shone in from two small windows just above eye level, hidden from the outside world. A grey, steel spiral staircase leads up to other parts of the house. The basement is small and damp, multicoloured geckos running along the walls. A battered grey mattress covered in plain white sheets acted as my bed, positioned tight against the wall. A full-length mirror hung above the headboard reflecting back a self with rows of leather bound journals piled high, covered in dust. Each one numbered and dated, giving me a timeline of when this all started; dreams, nightmares, and keeping track of the erasing.

I pull open the drawers and peer inside two leather bound journals stared back at me reaching down I turn the pages of the first one I come to. It is filled with random sketches, unfinished stories, and details of each event. I push it aside, grabbing the other flicking to its final few pages, tracing my fingertips over the wolf’s head on its spine, its silver eyes whispering within my mind. Stirring my blood, forcing millions of images to flow across my eyes the hairs on the back of my hand stand on end, wind whistling through my ears. I stare down at my hands blackening from heat radiating from the journal, it was coming…… it was here….. what I knew as the ink. I turn, throwing the journal against the wall, my skin tingling as red flames pulse through veins. A shadow crossed my face as I looked into the mirror. My mouth is suddenly dry like a dessert; I lick my lips as the air crackles around me like the atmosphere of an electric storm.

The muscles in my arm tense as I focus on the ink surging through my veins.  taking a deep breath I try to remember every detail of my dream. My eye develops a muscle spam out of my control as the ink spreads underneath my skin, glowing a deep purple as it rises to the surface. I stared at my reflection; my eyes are tired and sore. A voice whispering in my mind. This is what you are, what you have become….. you’re a drawer. Quickly, I placed my fingers over the mark, two silver eyes within a black wolfs head and pressed firmly down. The response was instant, violet ink erupted from my fingertips. Tears ran down my face like acid, eating away at my flesh, and scraping against bone, as my dream began to appear in front of me. A pair of piercing amber eyes framed in a flat ebony face, stared at me as I begin to guide it onto the papers of my journal. My skin tears with every stroke a piercing scream breaks across the air; my legs give way forcing me to the ground. Lifting my head, I peer at the journal.

There it was….. my dream, my nightmare, lording over me as if it were a king.  A smile creeps over my lips, as I inspect my body. Deep purple slashes run along my arms, parts of my flesh have been melted away. Vapours of black smoke rise, pools of dark black ink surround my feet and hands as a thin line of sweat covers my forehead. A shiver gurgles down my spine; I try and stand but my legs collapse from under me. My eyes are haunted with fear as I turn and look into the mirror seeing dark shadows pooled in its corners. A wide grin across their dark, featureless faces, all laughing at me, all saying the same thing….. “More ideas are coming and you’re running out of time. I push myself up and run towards the stairs, taking them two at a time only stopping for breath when I reach the top. Grabbing the door handle I throw it open allowing a blinding white light to escape that pierces my eyes.  I step into a large living area and before I have barely taken two steps, I collide with a tall gentleman.

He dressed in a long grey overcoat interrupted by shabby dark hair and a pair of old biker boots strapped to his feet, all accompanied by deep ruby tattoos covering his neck and legs. Partial drawings of buildings, weapons, and scripture from important speeches throughout history adorned his body. His voice was husky…..“Nice to see you, there’s no need to fall at my feet.” He laughed as he held me up allowing me to catch my breath. He walked me over to an old wooden table, surrounded by two sturdy leather chairs with each of us taking a seat. His long shabby hair covered his eyes. “What are you doing here Reggie, were not supposed to meet until tomorrow?” A fresh cut leaked blood down his left cheek. “I heard some rumours, details that might be of interest to you” he said nervously. Last time you came to me with so called information, it just added more questions to what we already knew. We both know you are just in the same position as me so show me your arms Reggie.” His eyes scanned the room checking all the doors and windows. “Why do you need to see my arms Jin?” growled Reggie as he clenched his hands into fists. “Easy there Reggie, I just need to check something out, you know we are both drawers?” Have you been having any impulses lately?” Reggie just stared into space tapping his bonelike fingers against the wood.  Leaning forwards, she stared into Reggie’s eyes, a deep, piercing look. “Okay Jin, I do have some drawings you need to see.” Thoughts raced through Reggie’s head as to what drawings, he was thinking on his feet?  After an uncomfortable silence Jin responded, “Okay Reggie, let’s see them”.

Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a battered, old leather-bound journal, larger than hers but in the same style, then placed it down on the table. Pulling up his sleeves as he often did, his tattoos moved spontaneously as if they were alive. I reached out and traced my fingers over them and felt a humming energy building that forced my eyes to change to a deep blue. Surges of emerald flames danced up my arms blackening my flesh. I quickly pulled back into my seat; this was an energy I had only felt once before. He was going to a place drawers should not seek.

Grimacing pain slowly etched across his face, his mark had dissolved, his protection was gone. “Reggie! what have you done?” I screamed. His lips curled into a cruel grin, his eyes manic with fury. “You know what I’ve done Jin, you know where I have been.” The colour drained from my face as his eyes turned a milky white, the heat radiating off him in waves pushing me backwards. His skin rippled emerald flames cutting into his bones as the tattoos fought to break free. Listening to his final words as he stared at me with soulless eyes he muttered, “Jin, it can’t be erased otherwise our world has no meaning, all the events we’ve experienced will be erased forever. We embraced it, you know what we did?” he whispered. The flames took him into the shadows blinding me for a moment as I slowly moved to open his journal. “This will only add to your burdens” I thought to myself as I fought to resist the temptation.

I hadn’t even heard her approach as she glided across the floor in front of me. Her hair glistened with silver flashes of time woven into a tight indigo ponytail that swayed down her broad back. Her dark oval face was deformed by two parallel scars that sliced through her full black lips, like a shadow trailing in her wake. She glanced back every so often as she moved towards an ivory seat. Her eyes were strangely hidden offering no insight into what she may be thinking; who was she I wondered?

Grabbing Reggie’s journal, I turned to the last entry; it was of a woman, the description matching her perfectly. It must be her; surely it couldn’t be anyone else?

I didn’t move as she glided back towards me, her eyes still hidden. Staring down at the picture another name began to rise from the page burning in golden fire. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the fierce light before I recognised the outline of a name….Keira! Kiera!

As Kiera moved closer her eyes emerged, they were a piercing deep amber. I recognised her as the girl I had seen in my dream. What was she doing here? “It’s good to see you Jin” she whispered quietly. “How about you listen for once, and forget what you just saw on that last page?” She flicked her wrist, threads of golden ink emerged from a vortex in her outstretched hand, wrapping around the journal and igniting it in a ring of deep orange flames. The intense heat burnt my hands; I was beyond being comfortable so reluctantly, dropped it onto the floor. I edged backwards resting against the table, the ink moving in parallel lines underneath my skin. “Who are you?” I asked uncomfortably. “How do you know me and why were you in my dreams?” The questions stumbled out without me pausing for an answer. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I tried to disguise my increasing anxiety. Kiera laughed at me and began to run her hands through her hair “I am Kiera, I know you well but you know that already, I am in your dreams but you have seen me before. Think carefully Jin and ask yourself, “What am I?” I know you have heard my name before…….” One question merged into another as I felt myself becoming frustrated at my inability to work it out.

I systematically searched my memories but tiredness began to overcome me. Finally, something clicked……. “You’re an imaginative.” I whispered at first before rising to a piercing scream. “That’s right Jin I am” her eyes instantly going black. Her shadow spread like a wild fire engulfing us both. Quickly I shut my eyes trying to focus on what I could hear but it was too late.

A wave of coldness washed over me that grew with every heartbeat, spreading up my arms and legs. Tentacles emerging from within searching for my eyes as a foul-smelling fluid rose in the air.  I twisted and turned, screaming, trying to break free of its embrace. I dug my nails into my skin trying to force ink to the surface. “Jin, what have I told you? I would only add to your worries”.  Keira’s voice sounded menacing as I fought to keep my eyes shut from her piercing finger nails cutting into my eyelids. My ink slipping away, my energy fading, the dream had been too much; talking with Reggie had been too much. I had felt that energy once before, the energy I felt surging through Reggie was all flooding back entering my head as a distant memory resonating back to that day, back to him. I soon realised that I had been here before, I’d seen this all before. “Glad to see some of it is coming back to you” said Keira.  “Why don’t you open your eyes? We are here now”.

At first, I was hesitant but slowly I opened my eyes. Keira was staring back at me but her shadow had vanished. Her arms cradled around me like a baby, her eyes blurred with tears. As she lowered me to the floor she whispered, “Sorry about that, it was the only way I knew”. “What do you mean it was the only way you knew?” I screamed. “Really Jin what do you think it was?” She replied fixing me with those deep amber eyes as she stood behind me, her image coming in and out of focus as she lifted me to my feet. “I am not sure but I am sure I felt it before in a time away from here” I said nervously. “I can’t answer that for you, why don’t you look all around?” she whispered. Taking a deep breath I turned my head. I was surrounded by mirrors with a dull blue light coming from a source unseen. I stared into one of the mirrors looking past my reflection and focusing on Kiera. One of her eyes had turned black and had sunken into her skull, her hair had changed to charcoal black. Her scars vanished leaving behind full red lips, she smiled squeezing my shoulders “Don’t worry’’, I look worse than I feel” She giggled. “All will be revealed shortly”. She said moving towards a dark corner.

I noticed we had company, their back facing me in the room, a hood concealing their identity. Kiera glided in just behind them and whispered something in their ears. Even before she spoke I heard the words in my head “She is here so what do you want to do?” There was a pause…. “It is time Kiera, she has to know leave us.” Kiera turned giving me a brief smile and wave as she faded back into the shadows.

All around went silent as one word erupted from the figures lips, “Erased.” Suddenly stone began breaking underneath my feet as the energy built. An orb of yellow light surrounded the figure, blinding me for a moment as it stretched out its arms towards the mirrors. I watched in horror as mirrors grinded against the stone floor, cracks forming over their surface sending shards of glass in all directions, cutting my face and hands. Black droplets of ink hit the floor as wind whistled around me pushing me down turning me onto my back I lifted my head and quickly scanned the room. Nothing much was left but for a tunnel lined with bright white candles. In a moment, the figure took me by the arm with a tight grip and dragged me towards it, each candle spontaneously lighting seconds before we approached it.

A hot wind touched my skin blowing grit into my eyes. The air turned humid making it hard to breath but the figure pulled me through the dark tunnel, shimmers of light guiding us to some unknown destination. “Where are we going?” I shouted looking up at the figure but it remained silent, tightening their grip menacingly. As we grew near to the end of the tunnel a large, round stone chamber came into view with a strange red light flowing across it walls. The figure loosened their grip around my arm and took my head into their hands turning it clockwise towards the wall. Despite my fear I couldn’t look away, my eyes widening as I took it all in. The walls were covered in drawings and images of jungles burning to the ground with rivers flowing blood then turning to dust. Statues had been decimated and lay randomly across the ground.

I stared at the figure intensely, “What is all this?” I asked. It took a moment before answering in a hoarse voice, “You remember now don’t you, you know what happened?” I stared again as it pointed to the middle of the room. I turned my head and could see a girl; she was laid down on a black dentist’s chair, strapped securely by brown leather straps. Black orbs of liquid dripped from her lips. The figure released me, its face still concealed by their hood. I rose slowly unsure of how to proceed…..”Why does all this feel so familiar? Why do I know this room?” I began asking myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair and walked forward peering down at a female presence, her skin covered in deep black scars oozing ink from within. Her eyes were now a piercing emerald green and blank of any emotion, her clothes ravaged and torn from her body. Clear tube like structures stemmed from her forehead pumping a solid blue liquid around her brain. As I approached slowly she sat up fixing a stare at me with her eyes. “Welcome home Jin” she whispered reaching her hands out towards me.

I edged back unable to take it all in. “What do you mean welcome home?” I shouted peering into her eyes as something troubled me at the back of my mind. She smiled and replied, “Really Jin, you been gone too long.” I grabbed her by the shoulders shaking her, demanding an explanation.  I turned to my left and peered into the shadows watching intently as another hooded figure began to emerge. Reggie smiled at me with a crooked grin, Kiera turned away as the hooded figure pulled back their hood revealing themselves. His long black hair, thin face and bright blue eyes gave me a friendly smile. I screamed at them repeatedly “What are you? What are you?” expelling air from my lungs as I dropped to the floor exhausted. I looked into the mirror and saw the face I had been dreaming about night after night. Scars shaped like crosses on my cheeks, emerald eyes, misshaped head and ink surging through my veins.  I suddenly realised It was me strapped to the chair talking to myself, crawling at my flesh as screams echoed through my skull.

My dreams finally made sense as the memories flooded back. Screams thundered through the base of my skull causing my eyes to ache….what had I done? Why was I here? Why could I only remember the ink? Sobs rocked my body as James came and hugged me “Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt, were all just broken memories” he whispered as he kissed my forehead. He gave me one last hug before joining Kiera and Reggie as they faded back into the shadows.  I laid back looking up at the images as they merged into one. I stood alone in a sea of bodies, a tidal wave of ink covering their skin; the mark of a drawer branded across their arms glowing in a violet light.  I looked above the images, slowly realising there are some words written in my own hand burning in a pure white light. I read them several times before I understood. Jin Drawer your ideas ended our world, you’re the only person left. I closed my eyes and cried myself to sleep I was never leaving this place. What had I become?