Category Archives: Fantasy

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

neil gaiman american gods feather wing headdress cover “Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.
“Fuck you,” said the raven.”
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 

 

I’ve always like the work of Neil Gaiman for his classic storytelling ability, the way he draws in elements of classic folklore and fuses it with pop culture to create something new. I don’t think that the concept of Gods drawing power from belief is anything especially new, but I loved what Gaiman did with this in American Gods– how human some of the Gods had become, and the circumstances they find themselves living in. The ways they try to survive.

At times Neil Gaiman’s writing reminds me a little bit of Terry Pratchett without the footnotes because the stories within stories gain a momentum of their own and pull away from the main narrative. The vignettes in the novel are probably an example of this, some linked up with the main narrative as with the child in the cave and Hinzelmann, but in some like the story of Essie Tregowan it felt as though Gaiman was stretching his storytelling muscles and enjoying it, or in the case of the African twins that he was stretching his storytelling muscles and revelling in the horrors of history.

I’ve had American Gods in my house for a while now (this will be a regular theme in some of my forthcoming reviews- I’m trying to have a blitz of my unread books with missed results) after I found it on a bench with a playing card tucked in the back in lieu of a bookmark. It was starting to rain and the book marked looked as though whoever had been reading it had finished, so the book came home with me and it came to the top of the pile when I started seeing potential spoilers everywhere when the Amazon series was released- I needed to read it before someone spoiled a plot point.

I meant to review the novel before I watched the TV series to keep my thoughts on the two separate, but I’m afraid I watched the first episode so now the waters are muddied and I don’t want to write too much that will make this become an American Gods book and TV series comparison, but I thought that the episode that I watched was a poor adaptation. It felt too cartoonish; the violence amped up and the context missing. Because the concept of belief is so important to the novel, Shadow’s internal narrative was critical to the events of the novel. In the book his shock and disbelief at the death of his wife felt palpable, in the TV series, he just looked a bit pissed off.

So if you’re wondering, read American Gods first, then watch the TV series. Or skip the TV series entirely and pick up another book instead.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

I’ve always had a bit of a thing about the Tudor dynasty, and Catherine Parr as the surviving wife of Henry VIII always fascinated me, how do you follow up marrying one of the greatest tyrants in history? Falling in love with and marrying an equally questionable man (see the rumours around Thomas Seymour’s relationship with his stepdaughter on Katherine Parr’s watch) before dying shortly after giving birth to your sole child. Tragic. And what happened to Mary Seymour, the baby who survived? She disappears from history. And that’s where Nicola Cornick’s latest novel The Phantom Tree comes in.

“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

Part timeslip, part romance, part mystery, part ghost story The Phantom Tree follows the dual narrative of Mary Seymour in Tudor England, and Alison Bannister in (mostly) modern England. Alison, trapped in the 21st century, desperately searches for clues left as to the whereabouts of her lost son by her sometime enemy, Mary, who in turn struggles to carve a life for herself in a land where her mysterious visions have lead to accusations of witchcraft while still making time to fall recklessly in “love”.

I appreciate that this sounds like a jumble sale of genres, but for me it worked. Especially the witchcraft element of the story and the way that this played out with the mysterious Darrell, though I have to admit a part of me found the story of the lost child really challenging. When the novel had finished, I thought that it was really nicely handled, but I think that this might be a challenging read for anyone who has been separated from a baby.

The feminist slant on life in Tudor England was very welcome, and I thought that the character progression of Alison throughout the novel was really well handled. I wasn’t wholly sold on Mary’s transition from a wise imp of a child to a would be Juliet surrendering much of her integrity to the first good-looking man who pays attention to her, but hey, we all did silly things as teenagers and the story had gained enough momentum to carry me through- though I would have liked to see more time and attention giving to the riddle of Alison’s sewing box.

Something that I found really interesting was the use of historical and fictional characters, in as much as I wondered why the author had decided to create a fictional version of the historical Wild William Darrell in Will Fenner. I assume it was because of the misdeeds of the characters associated with the family in the book- one of which was clearly forewarned in the earlier part of the novel and one of which really took me by surprise- and concerns about how their descendants might react to the artistic license taken with the story, or perhaps out of respect to the memory of the individuals in question. Either way, very interesting, and I’d love to pick the authors brains about it.

In summary, it’s an interesting read, and another instance of Nicola Cornick putting her own spin on history to create an enjoyable yarn. It would make a great summer read…summer, it is coming.

I’ve written this post as a part of Midas’ The Phantom Tree Blog Tour. Please visit some of the other blogs involved to see what their reviewers thought.

The Phantom Tree Blog Tour FINAL

 

 

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

“You can defend your kingdom, or you can defend your people, Majesty. You don’t have the manpower to do both at once.”

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Having won the enduring love of the majority of her people, but stirred up a hornets nest by stopping the shipment of Tear slaves to neighbouring Mortmesne, Kelsea Glynn finds her kingdom on the verge of invasion by a vastly superior force. With guerrilla warfare tactics only able to stall the inevitable defeat of the Tear, the Red Queen’s Dark Thing taking an unhealthy interest in her, and her nobles and the Church agitating at home, Kelsea is in need of a miracle. But her sapphires are silent, their only effects seeming to be a dramatic change in Kelsea’s appearance and a darkening of her own soul, the chances of a way out seem slim. And when Kelsea starts having visions of the life of a pre-Crossing woman, her concentration is taken away from the business of battle to the events of three hundred years ago…

I’m still loving this series. While I initially found the flashbacks to the pre-Crossing era a bit irritating, especially with the upsetting levels of sexual violence, I really came to appreciate the more rounded view they gave of pre-Crossing society and the formation of the Tear. It was especially interesting to speculate as to how this lined up with Kelsea’s own genealogy (seriously, who is Kelsea’s father?) and what events must have occurred to place a Raleigh monarch on the throne and the Church and the Arvath (does that word come from Our Father?) in a position of power sufficient to rival the monarch in a nation that was designed to be free from religion.

I’m hoping that The Fate of The Tearling the third novel in the trilogy focuses more on the Post-Crossing world, but I’m really looking forward to it. For a start I can’t wait to discover what caused the particularly interesting dynamic between the Fetch and Rowland Finn and who Kelsea’s father is. I can’t see any of the characters described in the novel so far being a likely candidate… though I do think that the Fetch might be of the Tear line as well as Kelsea… could the red haired woman he asked about be Jonathan Tear’s wife and thus his mother? It doesn’t explain what he’s being punished for though.

Speculation always welcomed.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

On her nineteenth birthday, the Queen’s Guard come to collect Kelsea, who has come of age sufficient to claim her throne, the throne of the Tearling from her Uncle who has held it as Regent since her mother’s assassination. Kelsea knows that she hardly stands a chance of surviving the journey to New London, and that even if she does, she is likely to be murdered soon after her arrival by one of the many enemies that lurk in every shadow of the Keep. Kelsea is strong, idealistic and has a vision of a better world for her people, but can she survive long enough to impose her rule? Especially since her first act as Queen seems guaranteed to provoke the mysterious Red Queen of neighbouring Mortmesne.

I’ll be honest, I avoided reading The Queen of The Tearling for a very long time because of the Emma Watson association. I don’t really rate her as an actress, and there’s nothing more annoying than trying to immerse yourself in the world of a novel with the face of a miscast actor jarring you out of the novel every time a character description comes up. Fortunately, despite the terrible name, Kelsea is a unique enough character to stand out from that starting association and the book grips you the rest of the way. Kelsea is not your typical Queen in waiting, painfully aware that she is plain and stocky, she lives by her wits and hides her inner turmoil about gaining the loyalty of her men behind a cast iron exterior. An idealist, she eschews pragmatic compromise, and while this wins the support of the reader and the common folk, it drives further conflict within the novel. It’s a common complaint about fantasy novels that they are often peopled with trope characters, or rely on the well mapped characterisation of one character to fill out the rest. While this may be true for more minor characters, there are some really engaging and well-rounded secondary characters here which suggest real potential for storyline development throughout the rest of the trilogy.

Something I particularly liked about The Queen of The Tearling was the world building. At first, it seems to be set in a generic, everyone’s swinging a sword and wearing body armour type fantasy universe, but as the novel progresses there are hints that it’s actually set in something of an uncanny dystopia. A rough historical sketch lets the reader know that the countries of the Tear and Mortmesne were established as a Utopian society following a sea crossing to uncharted territory. Drip, drip, drip with the odd notes of description then, bam! There’s a seven set of leather-bound Rowling, an ancient, pre-Crossing author in the library and you realise that The Queen of The Tearling is set in the vastly distant future, though how to Post-Crossing Utopia came to be mired with so many horrific problems, the most obvious of which is the trafficking of adults and children, can only be guessed at. Again, I’m seeing this playing a big role throughout the rest of the trilogy.

I’ve already borrowed the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling, book two of the trilogy, The Invasion of the Tearling from the library and am really looking forward to the release of book 3, The Fate of the Tearling.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

“The Bloodwitch named Aeduan was no longer bored. No longer bored at all. And now he had work to do.”
 Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten my teeth into a decent fantasy novel. I’ve mostly been reading other genres, checking Patrick Rothfuss’ blog to see if he has any intention of ever finishing The Kingkiller Chronicles, deciding he hasn’t, then reading other genres. That’s the problem with fantasy series, unless the series has been completed before you begin reading (thank you Tolkein, Lewis et al) you can end up committing to a series and waiting a decade* to read the next flipping installment. By which time you’ve forgotten all the minutiae of the author’s world building and the theories you’ve woven around them.

Despite this, I received a copy of Truthwitch, the first book in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series in my Illumicrate a few months ago and since I was clearing my bookshelves out, I thought I might as well give it a go. Now I’m back at square one and waiting until 2017 for the next book in the series to come out.

By the end of the opening sentence of Truthwitch, threadsisters Safi and Iseult are already in trouble. The kind of trouble that involves holding up the wrong carriage, telling the wrong lie and becoming the main obsession of a Bloodwitch trained as an elite fighter Carawen Monk who knows that you’re a heretic Truthwitch and wants to sell you to the highest bidder… and from there, things only get worse for the threadsisters and more exciting from the reader. Well-paced, packed with interesting characters, dripping with tantalizing titbits of in novel mythology and set in a world poised on the brink of war, Truthwitch really whets your appetite for the rest of the series.

The thing I really liked about this book was the description of the witcheries. Truthwitches, Firewitches, Waterwitches, Earthwitches, Cursewitches, Threadwitches, Glamourers, Wordwitches and more, each with their own abilities and weaknesses. If you’ve ever liked that game where you consider what superpower you’d choose if you could, then you’ll probably like speculating on which witchery you would like best. Threadwitchery sounds like a pretty interesting one to me, in many ways more useful than Truthwitchery which would do you a lot more harm than good in Safi’s world if you couldn’t fight as well.

Some readers might be put off by the fact that this book has been a bestseller in children’s book lists (I’m never sure why this does put people off, but hey ho). What I would say is that this didn’t strike me as a children’s novel at all. Apart from some pretty explicit violence and injuries, there are some quite steamy sections. I’m not sure who it was said that dancing is a vertical representation of a horizontal desire, but the Truthwitch Safi and Merik dance scene illustrates this perfectly. I look forward to seeing the Nubrevnan four-step on the next series of Strictly…

My current series predictions: Without naming names, because spoilers, Good will naturally triumph in the end, though not without some major character losses along the way. One character who seems evil now will turn out to be good at heart (with possibly a sibling relationship?), and there will be some real shadiness among background characters who’ve seemed benign.

*It’s okay, Patrick. I know it’s only been five years. Just know that I’m watching you from the shadows of the internet…

Unforgiven by Lauren Kate

When I finished the four main books of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, I said that while I liked the main books, I wouldn’t read any of the spin-off books like Fallen in Love… And then came Unforgiven, billed as book five of the series.

Though it’s listed as a core book in the series, Unforgiven deviates from the main Daniel/Lucinda story to follow Cam, the bad boy angel, as he finds a hope of redemption from Daniel and Lucinda’s happy ending and begins to wonder what happened to Lilith, the woman he jilted because he couldn’t marry in a church.

Maybe I’m getting a bit old for these books, but I was distinctly underwhelmed by Unforgiven. Making a deal with the devil to rescue your lost love from her very own personalised hell sounds like an idea with huge potential, but in reality, it is executed like the plot of a D-list teen movie. While Lilith is an interesting enough construction, Cam’s character- one of the more stand out features of the first four Fallen books- is wiped away almost entirely as he becomes a wet-blanket, Daniel mark two. Much of the original information about Cam and Lilith’s story from the earlier novels is rewritten to fit the needs of this novel, but this then renders the information in the earlier books (remember Lilith, Luce’s nemesis at the school for Nephilim?) meaningless. In the effort to create a middling love story, the contest for Lilith’s soul seems to get lost among the Battle of the Bands plot, and this is only made worse when Roland and Arianne show up in an attempt to link the novel in more closely with the rest of the series.

It seems to me that any book which sees the main protagonist go up against the devil needs to see one hell of a protagonist, and the devil should be the ultimate big bad. In Unforgiven, Lucifer is no more menacing than your average school bully and a great deal less imaginative. If your biggest problem when dealing with the devil is that he’s made you put on weight and your hair thin prematurely, then you’re getting off pretty lightly.

Cam should probably be glad that he wasn’t locked in a room and forced to read Fallen and Unforgiven fanfiction for all eternity…

 

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

A review of Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, aka Outlander number 3, in which I visit the Outlander series once more, with spoilers.

And now that little disclaimer is out of the way…

I’ve decided that if you’re going to buy into the love story of Jamie and Claire beyond book one in the series then you have to do so with total moral ambivalence. They are a pair of absolute wrecking balls, so focused on themselves and each other that they trample on the lives of everyone around them, especially those closest to them, with barely a backward glance.

Jamie wakes up lying on the battlefield after Culloden, Jack Randall’s head on his thigh. Well of course he does, sometimes the love stories with sudden, tragic endings are the most compelling, but it wouldn’t be much of a reunion with Claire if he expired in the opening pages. More interesting from my point of view was how Jack Randall’s corpse came to be lying on Jamie- did Jamie finally take his revenge or did Jack Randall save Jamie on the battlefield, thus throwing in yet another example of the Outlander series perpetrating the myth that sexual violence has anything to do with love? Well, finishing off this paragraph of spoilers with another spoiler… reader, you won’t find out in this novel. But I daresay it will come up again later in the series.

It looks as though he’s going to be executed, but his life is spared by the brother of John William Grey, the young soldier who tried to rescue Claire from the rapacious Scot in Dragonfly in Amber. From there we have a whistle stop tour of Jamie’s last twenty years without Claire, with such highlights as seven years in a cave, a spell in prison, fathering a child in a sex scene with a seventeen year old girl called Geneva which raises even more question marks about the sexual politics of the series, before heading back to Scotland with a pardon to take up a career in sedition and smuggling. Oh, and marrying Laoghaire. Remember her? The one who tried to get his one true love burned as a witch? Yeah, he married her.

So when Claire arrives back in the 18th century, after a few cursory glances into her last twenty years for good measure (which knock Frank of his pedestal and bring out the Randall genes, in case anyone had been left feeling sorry for him…) she’s roughly the same age as Jamie again, removing our prospect of a January/May romance and allowing her to favourably compare her appearance with that of every woman she comes across. And she used to be such a strong character.

It isn’t long before the cat is set among the pigeons by Laoghaire (Jamie’s second wife) catching him in bed with his first wife and taking a gun to him. Fair enough really. And it explains why Mr Willoughby, Jamie’s pet Chinaman (yes, he’s taken in a Chinese man that he found at the docks, adopted a paternalistic attitude towards him and given him a pet name… let’s not start with the imperialist, race relations connotations of this) keeps calling Claire honoured first wife.

Aaaanyway. To buy himself out of marriage with Laoghaire, Jamie needs to sell some treasure that he’s found and left in the middle of the ocean on at LEAST three separate occasions, meaning that his young nephews have to risk their lives to retrieve it when the family needs money every now and again. Why wouldn’t you just keep it hidden in the priest hole or his cave? This time, when his youngest nephew tries getting some treasure to buy off the lady scorned, he finds himself kidnapped by pirates meaning that Jamie, Claire and Fergus (with his fifteen year old wife) have to chase him around the globe to get him back.

I found this to be the weakest book in the series so far. A bit like the last novels of the Hunger Games, it feels a little like this was planned and written after the success of the initial novel so the plotting isn’t as considered as that of a novel which was conceived as a part of a series (like the Harry Potter books). Although the novels do refer to one another, it feels as though Jamie and Claire are now causing a lot of the problems they find themselves caught up in rather than finding themselves the pawns of fate. The reappearance of Gellis Duncan was problematic for me as well, and the whole forensic anthropologist moment with the skull at the start of the novel was just trite.

The Drums of Autumn is the next book in the series, which apparently will see Jamie and Claire’s abandoned daughter travel back in time to save her parents’ happiness. Looking at the dates and location I can only presume that the wrecking balls are instrumental in starting the American War of Independence… I think I’ll be taking a break before reading it.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander 2)

Be warned, this review will contain spoilers for Outlander (book 1) and for Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander book 2). With that in mind…

Dragonfly in Amber, book two of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon annoyed me in a number of ways. I picked it up wanting to head straight back into the story of Jamie and Claire who I’d left in 18th century France at the end of Outlander, only to be confronted (and frustrated) with a frame narrative which led me back to the Scottish Highlands of 1968. The frame narrative picks up a minor character from the first novel, Roger Wakefield, who has grown from a shy orphaned child to an Oxford scholar specializing in the Jacobite period who Claire and her (tall, red-haired) daughter task with tracing the destinies of the men of Lallybroch after the Battle of Culloden. As part of the project, they find Jamie’s gravestone near that of Jack Randall in a church yard far from Culloden, which leads Claire to breakdown and tell them the story of her time with Jamie following on from the events of Outlander. And about time too.

I may be getting censorious in my third decade, but if I were to give the Outlander novels descriptions in the style of Friends episodes then I’d have to go with something like The One Where Claire Makes a Concerted Effort to Give Her Unborn Child Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Jamie Demonstrates That He is an Unsuitable Father. Coming so soon after my own pregnancy problems earlier in the year the description of Claire’s pregnancy made me really, really dislike Claire and Jamie. Apparently FAS wasn’t discovered until 1973, so coming from the sixties Claire probably wouldn’t have been aware that the copious amounts of alcohol she consumes in the novel would have harmed her baby, but she does knock back so much wine, brandy and brandywine that she feels drunk on several occasions. That coupled with her and Jamie’s insistence on rushing into peril at every available opportunity left me unsurprised if saddened when their daughter Faith is stillborn at five months gestation.

In fact, for me, the whole France section of the novel felt like an unnecessary farce to link the end of the first Outlander section of the novel to Claire and Jamie’s return to Scotland and the build up to the Battle of Culloden in the second. Claire and Jamie behave in ways which feel entirely at odds with their characters from the first novel, with Jamie especially transforming from the cultured, intelligent Scotsman to something which reminded me of one of my friends’ ex-boyfriends… nice guy, but rash and slightly apelike. Which is how he ends up in the Bastille…

Still, by the time Claire has sprung him from prison for the second time (the less we say about King Louis XV and the rose oil the better) and they are back in Scotland, the novel got back on track and I found myself once again engaged with the story, though I have to say I find the degree of sexual violence in the novels, especially that implied in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, unnecessary and a little uncomfortable.

The Scottish Rising section of the novel is especially interesting to me, because it brings up the question of the influence a time-traveller can exert on a period they visit, especially in the context of a sensitive and emotive period of history. For me it begged the question of whether Claire and Geillis Duncan had created something of a causal loop. Geillis in Outlander 1 claimed to have raised £10,000 toward the Stuart cause, and Charles Stuart has some initial success in waging war in Scotland. Would the Scots still have been defeated at Culloden in Jamie and Claire hadn’t worked so tirelessly to prevent him achieving his aims?

At the end of the novel, I found that I’d switched from hating the frame narrative to appreciating it when Roger (who throws up a nice little time-travel conundrum in being a descendant of Geillis Duncan… was she her own Grandpa, in a manner of speaking?) discovers that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden as planned but was one of the few Scots to survive…

So yes, obviously I hopped straight on my computer and reserved the third book in the series from the library.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A bit of a bookworm fail here, I fancied watching the Outlander series (the concept was similar to A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley, one of my favourite books as a child, which sees a girl experience a similar phenomenon arriving back in the time of the Babington Plot) but couldn’t stretch to an Amazon Prime subscription…it hadn’t occurred to me that they were originally a series of books. At least, not until I came across a review of the series from Dewette Decimal Reads. So I loaded up the pushchair and took a trip to my local library to source a copy.

Outlander is the first novel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series and tells the story of Claire Randall, a young nurse taking a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank in 1946 when she steps through a circle of standing stones and finds herself back in 1743, face to face with her husband’s ancestor- Black Jack Randall, an English redcoat, who is very unlike the man she knows and loves. Attempting to escape from him, she falls into the hands of a group of Highlanders, who take her back to their clan’s castle believing her to be a spy. Attempting to gain their trust and find an opportunity to escape and return to Frank, Claire puts her medical skills to use in the castle where she increasingly finds herself drawn to a handsome young Highlander called Jamie Fraser. And wouldn’t you know it, it isn’t too long before she finds their fates very much entwined…

In the main part, I really enjoyed Outlander as a rollicking historical adventure complete with kidnappings, fights and witchcraft. The characterisation really added colour to the novel; an independent, headstrong 20th century woman finds herself confronting a very traditional, 18th century, conservative Catholic masculinity. The conflict arising as a result of the mores of the two ages created a credible dynamic between the characters of Jamie and Claire, and really allowed Gabaldon to bring 18th century Scotland to life.

I’ve already finished Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the series, and am trying to get hold of the third novel, Voyager, from the library… someone seems to be reading the series at the same time as me!

One thing I would say about the novel for anyone thinking of reading it, although the premise is similar to young adult fiction such as Uttley’s and A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively (which the UK title of Outlander, Cross Stitch, seems to have been a nod to) this is not a novel which is suitable for children as it contains exceptionally graphic sexual violence. I wouldn’t consider myself to be especially delicate about violence in fiction, but this really is very graphic and I do think it is necessary to warn about it.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Callanish is just a little girl when the Circus Excalibur sails to her tiny island and she witnesses a terrible tragedy, but years later she will find that she and North, the circus’ bear-girl, share a common story, their lives linked by the secrets that they both keep.

Set in a waterworld, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan imagines a society after catastrophic climate change has caused the oceans to rise, leaving little land behind. Unlike many novels which explore post-distaster landscapes, The Gracekeepers takes us back to an almost primitive society which sees the island inhabitants (landlockers) in conflict with the nomadic sea-dwellers (damplings). Their relationships with one another are characterized by a mutual antipathy, but they are forced to trade with one another in something of a barter system for survival.

Callanish is a landlocker, and in adulthood, has become a gracekeeper, a hermit like individual responsible for the burial at sea of damplings. North is a dampling and loves her nomadic circus lifestyle, but this is under threat from an arranged marriage which would see her forced to live on land. Their narratives are interesting enough in themselves, but I found that my attention was more drawn to the setting and background characters than the main events of the narrative. Logan writes well and her secondary characters hint deeply at stories untold. I wanted to know more about the revolutionary clowns, the extent of the military’s power, how Callanish came to be a Gracekeeper and the rules and strictures this involves.

This is more The Year of the Flood than The Night Circus (the magic here is quieter, more subversive if you’re looking for ritz and razamataz) but The Gracekeepers is a read that you can get swept up in. I’m interested to see what Logan’s future writing plans are as I’d be keen to read further novels set in this world.