Review of my Book of the Year Dark Pines by Will Dean Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis

SEE NO EVIL

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.

HEAR NO EVIL

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.

Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She’d like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

Review

Ill admit when I first picked up Dark Pines, and saw that the protagonist was deaf. I thought here we go again. Another author who won’t have done research, resulting in a character that appears weak, which forces them to have to rely on others to feel part of their society, and makes them feel almost embarrassed to be disabled.

This kind of portrayal had become the norm for me when reading disabled characters in literacy or film. Where it appeared that writers had simply gone into a dark room, and produced these stereotypical characters without considering to consult disabled people. Which would have enabled them to get true opinions and find out if these characters they had written were accurate representations of how the disabled population saw themselves. Instead of simply allowing the writers to adhere to some kind of inclusion quota. This caused me to disengage with these characters as I became more frustrated over time as I felt they didn’t reflect me as an individual.

Therefore it was a breath of fresh air opening this book and discovering that Tuva the main protagonist is the complete opposite.  Quite frankly there isn’t enough words in the English language to tell you how much I adore Tuva Moodyson. I cried tears of joy, as I raced ahead to discover more about this bad-ass woman.  As Will had finally made me feel that a disabled character represented me in all their glory. Thank you Will.

At no point did he make Tuva weak or make her need anyone else to accomplish her goals. She is a fiercely independent woman who is proud of her disability, and never hides, or uses it for an excuse. I was punching the air with glee reading paragraph after paragraph saying this is me in female form. Will has done an incredible job of capturing what it truly means to be a modern day disabled person, other writers take note this is how we want to be written. Will absolutely nails it. He empowers Tuva in several ways she is a respected journalist, she lives independently, and has a vibrant sex life and drives a mean truck that seems to take on anything. I didn’t want the book to end. She is a character that stays with you. I haven’t been able to get her out my head since I finished this epic read.

Now if that isn’t enough to make you go out and buy this book on the spot. There is more to wet your appetite.

Will is like an award winning chef adding just the right amount of ingredients to make you devour this book in one sitting. From gory detailed murders, to a range of memorable characters. My favourite of which are a pair of mysterious wood carving sisters that I truly hope I never meet down a dark alley as they scare me to death. They are so creepy.

They are just one of several characters that help to create a fast paced narrative. That causes you as a reader to continuously question each characters motives, as Will moves you around his chessboard of murder and deceit you begin to wonder will Tuva figure it out in time, and live to see another day.

What further makes it standout is the setting. A dense, dark, Swedish forest that seems to come alive as each scene unfolds. Drawing Tuva deeper into its clutches, as she goes in search of what could be the connection between the murders of the present, and a set of murders known as the Medusa murders carried out many years previously. The connection being of course that all the corpses have their eyes carved out. I loved this signature of the murderer. I found it unique helping to build tension as you tried to uncover who would lose their eyes next.

This book has everything you look for in a crime novel. Atmospheric setting, an engaging and multi layer protagonist. Unique killings, well rounded subplots with satisfying conclusions. It has it all. I cant speak highly enough of this astonishing read. 5 stars isn’t enough it’s that good. All I can say is go out and buy it now. I love it.

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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.

Extract from Lifeshocks by Sophie Sabbage Posted By Dan Stubbings

Extract

Just In Case

As the targeted radiation continues to strike my brain, the hours replenish themselves. I am no longer judging this experience one way or the other. It is what it is and I am in it. Letting go. I have entrusted my beautiful brain to a team of strangers who are monitoring it every second to ensure I am still Sophie at the end of the procedure. And as I recognise this reality, gratitude dawns and spreads across my chest. This is what cancer does. It repeatedly brings my need for control to its knees.

All my life I have encountered Something Greater in the ebb more than the flow. From early on, I needed to march into the world not away from it, to find the sacred in the slime and grace in loss and peace on the other side of pain. I have never encountered the divine by going to a church or temple. I find it in those ‘lifeshock’ moments when what is really so confronts what I believe is so – until all the bullshit is shaken loose.

This is what Dr Brown, whom I knew as ‘Brad’, taught me: to look for specifics in a shit-storm; to pick one crest of one wave out of the rolling surf, the one that picks me by catching my attention more than the others; to hone in on a precise moment within the whole cascading experience. Not cancer, but ‘twenty-seven brain tumours’; not the loss of my books but the words, ‘I threw them away’; not date rape, but the bruises on my thighs after a night I couldn’t remember; not Gamma Knife radiotherapy, but the sight of a metal helmet screwed to my head like a vice when I looked in the mirror.

This is a lifeshock: a moment in time when something happens that you didn’t want or expect.

The specificity of these moments is very important. The mind loves to analyse events retrospectively, interpreting what happened by looking back on it and drawing conclusions. This is why some people spend years in counselling, trying to figure out the causes of their pain (which is a great way of not feeling the pain). Analysis does not reliably access the unconscious mind, which mostly stays hidden because that’s where it likes to stay.

When Brad was a practising therapist, he realised that taking people back to a specific lifeshock moment, and asking them to re-experience it, instantly unlocked their emotions and unconscious ‘mindtalk’ (what we tell ourselves about any given thing). It is like opening a file on a hard drive. This is because the thoughts and feelings we had at the time, which went unnoticed, are sealed in the memory of a single instant. You may have observed those occasions when you tell someone a story about something that happened in your life and, as you speak about the particulars, your feelings surface again, sometimes with great force. What I am describing is a way to invite emotions and mindtalk to surface very deliberately so that we see them in the clear light of day. This is a way to access the unconscious at will.

We get dozens of lifeshocks a day, some more significant than others. We allow many to bounce off us, unnoticed. We perceive them through our senses: we hear, see, smell, taste and touch them. They are external to us, appearing as empirical data and colliding with our internal expectations of how things should be. They are out of our control. Through lifeshocks, factual reality knocks on the door of personal reality, inviting us to realign with it, like sailors responding to sudden changes in the

wind direction by adjusting their sails. Discovering how to do so on a daily basis, while awakening and evolving in the process, is one of the primary purposes of this book.

Sometimes lifeshocks need to get very loud before we hear them. Sometimes we need to look death in the eye to realise what we want to make of living. Sometimes we don’t keep our promises until it is nearly too late. We think we have time. We get distracted. We doubt we can live up to our self-imposed standards. Until now, I haven’t known how to write about what Brad taught me and do it justice. He didn’t even do that himself. I’ve tried a few times and came closest in my first book, The Cancer Whisperer. But that didn’t express its true essence, just as it didn’t express the most sacred aspects of my relationship with cancer.

Lying in this machine is a thundering wake-up call to remind me I am ready. I don’t need to write the book he might have written or attempt to emulate him in the process. There is a story to tell that integrates various wisdoms I have collected along the way, including my own. I have found my own voice.

My mind quietens and something stirs in the stillness. I breathe. I listen. I wait.

Extract from Lifeshocks by Sophie Sabbage, published by Hodder, priced £17.99.

Extract from Right of Passage by Lee Jenkins Posted by Daniel Stubbings

Extract

I’m very pleased to share an extract from a new romance novel from author Lee Jenkins, Right of Passage. In it, we meet Chris and Miriam, an interracial couple in 1960s America fighting against racism, sexism and intolerance to showcase the transforming power of love.

 
I said, “I went to my sister’s house in Atlanta, and her family, and then to Florida to visit my mom and my other sister. It’s curious. I missed this place and couldn’t wait to get back.”

 
“Maybe to see Miriam.”

 
“Sure, but I mean this place, the job.”

 
“I know what you mean. You and she seem to like each other.”

 

“Is that what people think?”

 
“She likes you,” he said. I nodded. “A fine girl, Chris.”

 
“You talk to her often?”

 

“We talk, about music, things, just like you and I do.”
“I think sometimes she misses New York.”

 
“How’d it come about between the two of you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
I sort of squinched my shoulders. How could I even begin to try to talk about that?
“Were you thinking of it?” he persisted.

 
“Thinking of it?”

 
“Attraction, between the races.”

 
“I don’t know.”

 
“How’s it working out?”

 
“Like any relationship, I suppose.”

 
“But is it like any relationship?”

 
“Why not?” Let me hear, first, I thought, what his idea was of why it wasn’t like other relationships.

 
“There’s a difference, racial, ethnic, religious,” he said.

 
“Then there’s the pleasure in overcoming it.” That was true, and something that moved me immensely, and yet it was also completely irrelevant—or was it? I was silent as we each waited for the other to speak.

 
“I wish you well.”

 
I said, “You spoke of overcoming religious difference in your discussion of Yom Kippur in class.”

 

 
“I spoke of appreciating religious difference, to bring about an understanding and acceptance of difference, to live and let live.”

 
“I agree with that. But I guess I’d like to abolish that difference too.”

 
“Black and white, Jew and gentile will always be, and a thousand other differences.”

 
“I guess I’d like to mate them, you know, merge them, graft them into one homogeneous thing.” Probably I did not really know I felt this way until I found myself saying it. Even as I said it I knew he was right, that if we got rid of racial difference, for instance, and everybody looked alike, a new, different hierarchy of difference would be established, would emerge, for instance, people with bushy eyebrows vs. people with sparse ones.

 
“You’ve got your work cut out for you. Life is being ourselves, living our differences. How does she feel about this?”

 
“She doesn’t say.”

 
“She knows what it’s like to be different, if you know what I mean.”

 

 

“You know she’s multi-ethnic, right—her father is Yankee, English and French.”

 
“I imagined it.” His saying it made me wonder, though, what he had thought.
“How’s that for difference—the American way. You and I are different too, yet the same in basic ways; what people in their distinctions forget.”

 
“I understand you. You two are so interesting to look at. She’s a lovely girl. You’re a good-looking black man. But not just that. Probably I’m also talking about the impact you make. I know you. But it’s still arresting, startling, to see you.”

 
“Doesn’t it ever wear off?” I asked. Howard smiled, and I returned the smile. I continued, “We try not to notice. By ourselves, we almost never do, unless it’s a way to make ourselves happy about something.”

 
“Would you have children?”

 
“Sure we would.” Even she thought that, and wanted to bring it about. I imagined she thought, as I did, that they would be beautiful, the world a better place, I thought, and said.

 
“That’s one way to look at it. I came down here, I wanted to do something in that spirit, commitment in a worthy way, you know, to people, mutual respect.”

 
“Everybody respects you, appreciates you, what you do.”

 
“There’s love too, a need to give—I feel I should say that—in this world.” He went to change the record.
Lee Jenkins is a psychoanalyst and author. His novel, Right of Passage, is available from AEON books, priced at £12.99 in paperback. For more information see http://www.aeonbooks.co.uk/product/right-of-passage/40447/

Right of Passage tour

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 and danger 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. Exploring ideas that border on insanity, as Caleb tries to piece to together why this case has absorbed his life, and who are the Gods of Black Gate? Are they mysterious beings or cult in 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. So that as you read you are taken through every spectrum of the human condition anger, despair, obsession, insanity and all 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 Tubing by K.A McKeagney Written by Daniel Stubbings

Today is my day on the Tubing Blog Tour. Thanks for the invite Red Door Publishing I am honoured.

Book Synopsis

Polly, 28, lives in London with her ‘perfect-on-paper’ boyfriend. She works a dead end job on a free London paper… life as she knows it is dull. But her banal existence is turned upside down late one drunken night on her way home, after a chance encounter with a man on a packed tube train. The chemistry between them is electric and on impulse, they kiss, giving in to their carnal desires. But it’s over in an instant, and Polly is left shell-shocked as he walks away without even telling her his name.

Now obsessed with this beautiful stranger, Polly begins a frantic online search, and finally discovers more about tubing , an underground phenomenon in which total strangers set up illicit, silent, sexual meetings on busy commuter tube trains. In the process, she manages to track him down and he slowly lures her into his murky world, setting up encounters with different men via Twitter.

At first she thinks she can keep it separate from the rest of her life, but things soon spiral out of control.

By chance she spots him on a packed tube train with a young, pretty blonde. Seething with jealousy, she watches them together. But something isn’t right and a horrific turn of events make Polly realise not only how foolish she has been, but how much danger she is in…

Can she get out before it’s too late?

Review

When Polly meets a handsome stranger on the way home from a drunken night out. Little does she know that it will change her life forever. Exposing her to sexual desires she never knew she had. After their steamy encounter she becomes obsessed, trying everything in her power to track him down searching tirelessly for anything to do with Tubing the name given to this underground game.  Then one night she stumbles upon him by chance, on the tube home having sex with another girl. Unbeknown to her this girl will be her undoing taking her into a world of secrets, where everyone is out to get you. After she witnesses something horrific, she is drawn deeper into this dark world and characters true motives are slowly revealed.  As coincidences begin to pile up Polly begins to wonder was it really a random encounter, or was she targeted. Making everyone a suspect, from her long-term boyfriend Oliver, to his sister Charlotte. As she fights to discover who is friend and who is foe?

This book hits all the hallmarks of an psychological thriller. Dark secrets, multiple suspects, and a setting that will make you never look at your follow passengers in the same way again. K.A has written London in such detail that you can almost hear the tube carriages rattling along their tracks, and smell the sweat of the commuters as this deadly sex game is played out.

Tubing has a fast-moving plot making the reader second guess every clue, and red-herring.  Even though the story is told mostly through the eyes of Polly. Well -built intertwined narratives on every character gives a real sense of depth, making no character feel wasted or just created to fill time between shocks. This is what made me read on forcing me to discover the final twist which trust me you don’t see coming. My only criticism would be that at times Polly’s character can play into the victim stereotype, as she struggles to escape the hold in which Sebastian has upon her. Making her question all she once held dear.

This is a highly polished debut from a writer who has clearly studied her craft. I look forward to seeing what she produces next. 4 Stars perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and in places 50 Shades. It doesn’t disappoint.

I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t effect my views.

About the Author

ka

K.A. McKeagney studied psychology in Bristol before completing a Masters degree in creative writing at Brunel. She won the Curtis Brown prize for her dissertation, which formed the basis of her first novel Tubing. She has worked in London as a health editor writing consumer information as well as for medical journals. Her writing has been commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards.

She is currently working on her second novel.

Review of The Dark Web Written by Christopher Lowery Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synopsis

The tentacles of the Dark Web are tightening their grip around the world. From Moscow to Shanghai, Washington, UK, the Middle East and Europe, nowhere is beyond their reach.

When a computer scientist dies mysteriously in Dubai, Jenny Bishop’s nephew, Leo Stewart, is hired to replace him. Leo’s life is soon in danger, but he is the only person who can find the key to prevent an impending global cyber-attack. With the help of Jenny and old and new friends, he must neutralise the threat before the world’s vital services are brought to a halt in a flagrant attempt to once again redraw the borders of Europe and Asia. Can the deadly conspiracy be exposed before the world is thrust into a new Cold War?

Christopher Lowery delivers a gripping final chapter in the bestselling African Diamonds trilogy, with a thriller that is powerfully resonant of today’s global dangers, hidden behind the ever-changing technological landscape.

The perfect read for fans of Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith and Frederick Forsyth.

My Review

After reading the first two instalments in the African Diamonds Trilogy. I was excited to see how Christopher would wrap up this intense series of thrillers. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my exceptions.

Now this isn’t a haters review. As there were elements of the book which I really enjoyed. Some of the descriptions used for the hollowing murder scenes were described in such detail I was left feeling I was the murderer. All my senses taking a beating as I read on to discover what happened next. By the time I finished reading I stared down at my hands excepting to see blood.

However, for every scene that got my blood pumping others within the book seemed to have no purpose. Just away for the author to fill time as they figured out what to do next. Causing the excitement and tension created by the previous scene to dwindle, as characters went into long-winded explanations regarding the workings of computers, and their companies’ hierarchies which left me screaming for the momentum to be maintained.

The main issue I had was that none of the main characters had any characteristics or features, which helped the reader distinguish one from the other. As the story unfolded I found myself having to go back to remind myself who characters were, and their importance to the story. In the end this became exhausting and forced me to do the one thing I have never with a book.  I did not finish. I gave it two hundred pages and thought I really don’t care about any of these characters or plot and placed it back on my bookshelf.

Now if you love the dark underbelly of the internet, and like globetrotting conspiracies which take you from Moscow to Japan and are addicted to computers then I would recommend this book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. It gets 3 stars for some haunting murder scenes but on the whole, I would say there are better thrillers out there.

I was sent an advance copy by Urbane Publications for an honest review this doesn’t affect my views.

The Dark Web by Christopher Lowery is released on 16th April 2018 and is available for pre-order now.

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.