The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Although not obviously a young adult book this was a book that I could read with my children. It made a nice change for me to read a fantasy story that was more interested in court intrigue and petty back-biting than expansive battles and an obvious good versus evil. Even the villains in this story had heart and character. One of them was clearly unhinged but rather than being evil for evil sake there was a sense that his life and choices built up rage and resentment towards his brother to the point where he snapped. I liked that.

Every chapter changes the point of view and this could have been confusing. The author put the name of the character at the start of the chapter to make it clear and easy. IN fact everything about this story works to make it easy to read. I flew through this book a lot faster than I thought I would. The descriptions of how wizards learn the laws of physics and then tweak them to create magic really worked for me. Changing the nature of things rather than creating or destroying them fits a lot better with my mindset than an abstracted view that magic just is.

My favourite character was the cat. A wizard’s familiar. Except he wasn’t just a cat he was a shape-shifting demon. It was the small things that made this book really work. From the lovable minor characters to the use of language this fantasy story provided me with entertainment throughout. It was more Philipa Gregory than George R.R. Martin and with less executions than either.


You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

As soon as I heard about the Kickstarter project to create this book I was on-board instantly. For me this is a validation of my youth. A way to explain how I became the person I am today. I imagine my face was a little like those of the first monks to see a Gutenberg bible. I’ve seen one and regardless of what you think about the content they are amazing.

This book was supposed to be a paperback. Having received my stunning hardback I can’t imagine it having been printed any other way. The quality of this book started with the cover and continued throughout. I love the cover and how it took me back to my childhood grabbing the latest book from the library. Before reading this book I took half an hour or so just flicking through the pictures. OK so I have done the same thing two or three times since then.

The importance of the Fighting Fantasy series has been underplayed for a long while. Reading this book made me consider not just the impact they had on me but on the entertainment industry. When I was young and reading these books I was also a gamer. Back then whether it was a book or a game everything was linear. Every single story led game had one clear route. Then came Fighting Fantasy. Other kids like me (but more talented) took their experiences and love of choices to make games with multiple routes and a split narrative. Would we have had games like Fable 3 without Fighting Fantasy? Maybe but in my opinion it would probably have been a few years later. For me these books were an important part of my self-discovery and will always hold a special place in my heart.

I have always had trouble explaining the books to people that have never played them. Now though I can lend them my weighty tome so that they can learn for themselves. I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t know about the series until I read this. I might have to see if I can get hold of some to go through with my youngest.

This book was obviously a labour of love and Jonathan Green’s efforts have resulted in an outstanding book. It may not be cheap but it is worth every penny.

Breed by K. T. Davies

Breed by K. T. DaviesThis cover is rather underwhelming. I textured physical cover like the limited edition Salamanders book that Black Library put out would work amazingly on this book. Somehow the cover works. There is something about the simplicity that draws the eye and make the bright orange scales really pop. What I really like though is the attention to detail. Rather than a quote attributed to a modern author it credits Voltaire. That made me chuckle and instantly want to open the book.

]Of course opening the book was never going to be an issue for me. I am yet to read anything by K. T. Davies that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. No pressure then. I was a little confused during part of this book as I thought I’d read it before. There is a very similar scene regarding the demon in another book by the same publisher. That scene aside these are very different books but both enjoyable.

At first glance this is a very simple book with not a lot of though process required. It wasn’t until I finished reading the book that I realized that I didn’t have a clue as to the gender of the main character Breed. Just Breed. The half-breed. The outcast. That’s how I viewed the character all the way through. That made me stop and pause for a while. I’ve not thought about mixed heritage characters for ages. That made me reflect Tanis Half-Elven the first mixed race character I ever really thought about in that way. Anything that makes me think of my first fantasy obsession is a good thing.

This story is really easy to read and is easy to relate to. There were moments where I laughed out loud. The cursing is at times highly creative. I had to look-up what scut meant. We live and learn. If you want an easy to read and enjoy fantasy story that manages to think about the world we live in without impacting your enjoyment this is a great read. I will be looking out for more gems from this author.

King Wolf by Steven Savile

King Wolf by Steven Savile

This book cover kicks butt but it is also perfect for the book. The little touches like the apple really made it pop. The obvious fairy tale nature of the story provided some obvious allegorical references and then it started to get Grimm. There is a darkness that pervades these three stories. I thought that was going to be it though. A nice story wrapped in an allegory. Instead I found a story that seemed simple and easy to read but was much deeper and interesting than it first seemed. There was a lot of symbolism in this story aimed at differing levels to create maximum impact. There was a huge amount of reading between the lines and it was very effective.

This book contains three linked stories. Two I believe have been published before but that third story really made them work as a whole and it was hard to believe that they were not written as one piece. At only eighty two pages long it didn’t take long to leave but it was a damn sight more interesting than watching England play footie last night. I’m certainly glad I turned off the goggle box for this book.



Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

Whilst looking through a second-hand book shop last week I realized that although I’d played the roleplaying game Stormbringer and read a few of the later books I’d never read the story that explains how it all started. How could I possibly resist?

Although a fairly short story there is so much story and character in every page that it feels much longer. There is no wasted space in this thoroughly enjoyable story. It made a refreshing change to read a fantasy story that I could hold in one hand.

Probably my favourite thing about Elric’s world is that all sorcery comes at a price. A bargain must be made with the elemental or demon providing the power. The more powerful the magic the more dangerous the bargain. There is one line in this story that makes the whole thing work for me. It basically says that the physical manifestations of a bargain are inversely proportional to the power of the spell. That is the insidious nature of sorcery. The powerful sorcerer thinks they are in control and so makes ever greater bargains that hasten their demise. All that from a single line. There are more lines like that too.

If you have any interest in fantasy fiction you really do need to read this book.

Burning by Joan De La Haye

Burning by Joan De La Haye

Sometimes with a novella like this the cover art is an afterthought and feels discombobulated. Not only does this cover look good and relate to the story but the back cover is the rear of the tarot card pictured on the front. Time, effort and skill went in to this cover and that made me want so see inside.

I don’t read much erotic fiction. Partly because I can feel myself blushing as I read the raunchy bits but mainly because I’d rather read about gruesome murders. The bonus for me in this book is that the sex scenes are all part of the setup for the murders. For me this story is a bit like a sparkly vampire story except instead of mooning around after abs of steel the women are making best use of those bodies and instead of a little love bite there is the whole essence sucking death thing going on. So maybe not like a sparkly vampire story. Much better than that.

This story is set in South Africa and it was interesting to see a Wicca coven portrayed in much the way I would expect over here. I don’t know if that was a deliberate affectation or whether those aspects of paganism exist in South Africa. I’ll certainly be trying to find that out later.

This book was outside my comfort zone. I try to read things that I wouldn’t normally read once in a while. This book has left me thinking that I wouldn’t mind reading horror stories with a more erotic slant in the future. This book doesn’t take long to read and it will leave you wanting more.

The Girl at the End of the World Book 2 edited by Adele Wearing

The Girl At The End of the World Part Two

The Girl At The End of the World Part Two

This is as you could probably tell from the title was the second part of the of Girl At The End of the World. It was darker than the first, had longer stories than the first and had more pages than any other Fox Spirit anthology so far. I usually have to think quite hard about my favourite story in a collection like this but for me there was a clear favourite. The Sharks of Market Street by Michael Ezell had me enthralled from start to finish. In my head it was like Waterworld meets Sharkanado with a plot and characters added in. There were plenty of other stories that I enjoyed and there were moments that despite the darkness I laughed. Alec McQuay’s Bunker Buster took the BGF from DOOM to another level and I liked it. There wasn’t a single story I disliked in this book.

The book was broken down in to three sections. Each had a different feel. Moving from fantasy through urban apocalypse and science fiction to the finale at the end of time this book had a flow and a rhythm that somehow managed to tie such diverse stories in to an almost seamless narrative. When I had a flick through before reading it I wasn’t sure about the ending having two much shorter stories after all the longer ones but it worked really well and there was a sense of a conclusion that is rarely as clear in an anthology.

This was a dark and at times gritty collection that really made me think about what the end of the world really means. For a publisher that has always avoided the pitfalls of the misogynistic side of disasters this book twists and turned through  a myriad ways that that women could avoid that and in one story flipped the situation to expertly show that it was the acts themselves regardless of the gender in control that are to be feared and avoided.

I’m off to pack my go-bag now.

Girl at the End of the World: Book 1 edited by Adele Wearing

The Girl At The End Of The World

The Girl At The End Of The World

There are two covers for this and the second volume of this book. I love them both but I probably prefer the other cover for the first volume. I’ve posted this picture though as I know I’ll read the second book and I will not post the other style cover for the second book because it has something on it I hate. Images of people smoking turn me right off. If it was the only cover option I would not buy the second book on that basis. We all have our petty dislikes. All that said I could sit here just looking at this superbly done wrap-around cover design for ages.

I think I’ve read all of the Fox Spirit collections and there is a certain feel to them. A darkness tinged with some acerbic humour.  This collection is darker and more serious until you get to the very end. There is a sudden release of tension as you near the end. Then come the author bios. I always read them. They are usually dry and uninformative. Sometimes though there is a gem or two that makes me want to find out more about an author. I challenge you to read these and not chuckle when you get to Kate Laity. I did.

Usually when I read an anthology like this I have a clear couple of favourites. I’m struggling to raise any above the rest in this one though. There is a consistent quality throughout. The biggest surprise for me though was All Things Fall  by Chloë Yates. I am used to a tongue in cheek filthy humour from this author but this was a poignant and thought provoking writing of a different style. I hope to read more  stories like that.

I enjoyed the intensity of this book and will be looking out for more work by several of the authors.

Banished: The Blackhart Legacy: Book One by Liz de Jager

Banished by Liz de Jager

Banished by Liz de Jager

I like the cover of this book. It is similar to a few others but it is clean and well done. It really fits with the atmosphere of the book. I bought this book because I enjoy reading the blog posts of this author and was pretty sure I’d enjoy her fiction.

I don’t read a huge amount of young adult fiction. I try to avoid the ones that spend a lot of time describing gooey eyed pouting. Somehow this book manages to express the teenage emotions and social awkwardness expected in this type of books without taking anything away from the story. I found it refreshing to see a book like this written in the first person. I think this really helped the pacing of the story. I did find myself becoming totally absorbed and losing track of time whilst reading this book. I surfaced three hours later wondering how that happened. The pace of this story builds really well and I found it really difficult to stop reading the second half of this book.

Kit Blackhart kicks tail. She also gets her butt kicked regularly in this book. I liked that. There is no circumspect shyness. She is a reckless and foolhardy young lady with just enough intelligence and ability to survive. Kit is part of a family that has been protecting the world from the Fae and other interlopers from the other world. She has much to learn, not least when it comes to boys. There is a great balance between story and action that keeps the reader engaged all the way through. If you like fast-paced action in your young adult fiction then this is the book for you.

Warrior Stone by Rob Harkess

Warrior Stone Cover

Warrior Stone Cover

The cover art for this book is by Linzi Goldstone. It is quite simple at first glance but it really does put you inside the story. The subtle steampunk hints are in the art and similarly woven in to the story. Except things are not steam powered. There is a magical field in the Underland.

I’d much rather teenagers read books like this rather than ones about sparkly vampires. Underland is a place between worlds. A magical yet industrialized realm tantalizingly close to this one. Only children can jump between realms and they act as guardians against the encroachment from the other side of the Underland.

I usually have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen when I read a book but this one keeps you guessing until the end. Don’t expect everything to be resolved though. The ending closes off the story nicely but it certainly feels like the first in a series. I still have plenty of questions that I’d like answering.

The characters in this book are believable and real (as much as magic using dimension shifting teenagers can be). I found this book to be a refreshing change of pace from my usual reads. It is bright and positive in a way that left me feeling better about life.

Oh and Evie is every bit the kick-ass heroine without the need for overt sexuality or reliance on a male.