Category Archives: Fantasy

We Are Here by Michael Marshall

we are here michael marshall“Love is not a charm that pops into the world from a better place to bless two individuals before flitting back home, leaving the couple broken back in two parts and forlorn but fundamentally unchanged. Love is a fire that burns in the soul, sometimes for good, sometimes just for now, sometimes hot enough to scorch and sometimes with a low and sustainable glow. Either way, it leaves the original constituents permanently altered. After the fact everything is different—not just the relationship, but the people involved.”

We Are Here, Michael Marshall

David is about to leave New York after a meeting with his publisher about his debut novel when a strange man instructs him to remember him. John and Kristina’s friend thinks that she is being stalked, and when they look into it they find that the truth is stranger than she might believe. Their worlds collide in this grown up urban fantasy which sees magic realism explode over a familiar city, melting not only the ley lines between genres but the borders between the real and the imaginary.

Bold, vicious and clever, this is a must read for daydreamers, the imaginative and anyone who has ever wondered just who else might be in the room with them.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon In Two by Catherynne M. Valente

the girl who soared over fairyland and cut the moon in two“Marriage is a wrestling match where you hold on tight while your mate changes into a hundred different things. The trick is that you’re changing into a hundred other things, but you can’t let go. You can only try to match up and never turn into a wolf while he’s a rabbit, or a mouse while he’s still busy being an owl, a brawny black bull while he’s a little blue crab scuttling for shelter. It’s harder than it sounds.”

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon In Two, Catherynne M. Valente

Every time I’ve finished one of Catherynne M. Valente’s novels (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and led the Revels There) I feel very much like September after she’s been ripped out of Fairyland and away from her friends before it’s time.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon In Two is a little slower to start that the other novels in series, but as soon as September’s loyal sidekicks A-through-L the wyverary and Saturday the Marid have reappeared Valente hits her stride and the enchanting storytelling which characterised the other books in the series comes into play and we visit a Lightening Jungle, watch two lovelorn insects (my favourites) play a variant of battleships, meet a Tyguerrotype who cleverly introduces the Turing test and run around trying to stop a Yeti who seems intent upon shaking the moon apart. I thought this book was the final title in a trilogy, and have since found that the Fairyland series will contain five books… which is great but I now need to know when book four will appear.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is only a children’s fiction series, it’s a fantastic crossover series with more than enough clever allusions and wry remarks to keep discerning adult readers hooked.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

the bone season samantha shannon“Knowledge is dangerous. Once you know something, you can’t get rid of it. You have to carry it. Always.”
The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon

Samantha Shannon’s debut novel The Bone Season has been much hyped and much criticized, as you might expect of any novel written by a 21-year old which sparks a bidding war that results in a six figure publishing deal and 20th century Fox optioning the rights. For every person touting Shannon as the next J.K. Rowling, there is someone keen to call her writing derivative and suggest that her style will improve “after all, she is only 21”.

So which is it? Another talented writer becoming the victim of tall poppy syndrome at the hands of those bitter about her success, or a precocious Oxford undergrad who struck it lucky? I picked up The Bone Season on my way home from shopping, started it on the bus, then took to my bed with the book until I finished it and let me tell you, her success is no fluke, the girl can write up a storm.

Set in 2059, The Bone Season follows Paige Mahoney, a powerful clairvoyant and member of crime syndicate The Seven Seals as she attempts to stay off the radar of Scion, the oppressive anti-clairvoyant system which controls several major world cities. Declaring war on unnaturalness, they have recruited voyants to help identify others of their kind who are then imprisoned, tortured and executed, whether they are aware of their ability to access the spirit realm or not. Of course, it isn’t too long before Paige falls into the hands of Scion, where her problems really begin when she falls into the hand of the Rephaim, rulers of the penal colony Sheol I in the lost city of Oxford.

I find it difficult to express exactly how much I loved this novel and the many reasons why. I really would love those who’ve called it derivative to explain what they think it’s been derived from to me, as I am pretty widely read and thought that it was a fresh, imaginative and punchy. Shannon has developed an entire lexicon, political system and history to fit her dystopian world, which splinters from our own universe in 1859 when the Rephaim first arrive. Her categorisation of the different voyant abilities is complex, with different voyants having varied abilities and degrees of power within these, of course Paige is a rare and powerful form of voyant, but I look forward to seeing the various categories of voyancy being explored later in the novel. I’m also wondering how far the theological allusions will be pursued in the series- are the Rephaim and the Emim more closely related than the voyants have been lead to believe? What’s the significance of Paige’s dreamscape being a field of poppies? Exactly how long can oil and fire mix before oil is burned up or fire extinguished?

The next book in the series, The Mime Order (in which I expect to find out the full extent of how much Paige’s Mime Lord, Jaxon Hall, is a psychopathic, evil, bad ass) is out in October 2014 and I cannot wait. I’ve already recommended it to loads of my friends who’ve enjoyed it as much as I did, and I received this text from my brother who deserves it published online for failing to call me back when he promised to:

Can you try and hook me up with The Bone Season author please? I think I have a crush on her writing ability x

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City Ransom RiggsRetaining the high production values of the first book in the series, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is a stylish follow-up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Following on where the first book left off, it sees Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends running for their lives from the wights and hollowgasts that are pursuing them. Their fight for survival becomes a race against time when they realise that their injured headmistress, an ymbryne trapped in bird form, is at risk of losing her humanity for ever unless they can find another ymbryne to save her within two days.

Though it retains the style and charm of the first book in the series, there were times when I became a little frustrated with aspects of the characterisation. Many of the peculiar children have been living the same day since the Second World War, which would easily make them in their 70s, but their emotional responses to many of the situations in the book make them seem like ordinary children. I can appreciate that a lot of the tension derives from this, but at times I felt the children’s emotional vulnerability was played on a little too much. Even if you have grown up in an incredibly sheltered manner, surely you have to some extent grown up?

Either way, it’s a minor criticism and the book should be praised for its originality and flair. There are some brilliant moments where minor characters in the plot of the story like Olive’s friend Jessica, or Sam and Elsa, steal the scene completely. The idea of time travelling within the loops is a great one as well, and the examples of people aging forward are horrible and highly effective. I only wish there’d been a little time to explore the landscapes that the characters travelled to within the loops in a little more detail, as this was a real strength of the first title in the series.

I’ve no idea when the third book is due, but I’m really looking forward to it. I only hope I get to read it before the rumoured Tim Burton film adaptation comes out.

The Princess Bride

“He held up a book then. “I’m going to read it to you for relax.”
“Does it have any sports in it?”
“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders… Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”
“Sounds okay,” I said and I kind of closed my eyes.”

The Princess Bride

 Call me a philistine if you will (and you may want to after this confession) but last week was my first true encounter with The Princess Bride. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard of The Princess Bride– there are even Dread Pirates in The Sims for goodness sakes- I’d just never watched the film or read the book. Didn’t even know that there was a book. So when I came across the book in Waterstones I grabbed a copy (then paid for it) to read on the plane to New York.

Moving from The Mortal Instruments series to The Princess Bride, what first struck me was the coincidence that both books used the name S.Morgenstern. Then what struck me was that I wasn’t sure where the book started. I spent quite a while flicking through to see if the preface was full of spoilers or meant to be read. I couldn’t fully decide, it was crazy- was I reading a narrative frame or is this a genuine abridgement? Is this man seriously writing about his wife and son like this? Did his marriage end as a result? Absolutely bonkers. I loved it. Totally madcap.

Technically speaking it’s one of the worst narratives I’ve ever read, and yet the execution of it makes it the best. I can totally understand why it’s such a cult thing, even if Buttercup is in the most part a total drip. The thing is, while you’re reading it, you know that it’s highly probable that it is just a frame. You know that Guilder isn’t a real country (don’t you?) so you know that it’s really unlikely that he’s being pursued by the estate of Morgenstern. But then the crazy stuff with Stephen King and the adaptation of Buttercup’s Baby gets brought in and it doesn’t convince you but it genuinely does make you doubt what you know, and that’s where the genius of the book lies. The elements of “real world” coupled with the derision of the academics and an irreverent manuscript style trick you into suspending your disbelief in a way that some of the most highly respected fiction fails to.

Or maybe I’m just hopelessly naïve. Maybe it was a trick of the jetlag. But I like the idea that this book has made me less cynical. I’m ordering the DVD to watch while I’m in hospital next week.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led The Revels There

the girl who fell beneath fairylandIf The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making is to be compared to The Wizard of Oz for its tale of astounding journeys, unlikely friendships and a plucky heroine standing up to a sinister figurehead, then The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led The Revels There must be compared to Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Returning to Fairyland, September finds that the magic is bleeding away as shadows fall away from their owners and seep into the dark realms of fairyland below. Being a plucky lady, September is forced to investigate and finds herself in a strange land of anarchy and mischief, accompanied by the shadows of A-through-L and Saturday who, while looking a lot like her friends, aren’t quite the friends that September remembers.

Another plucky, darkly amusing novel from Catherynne M Valente. I can’t wait to read the final instalment of the trilogy.

The Girl With The Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

the girl with the glass feetI’ve just finished reading The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw which was one of the books I was given for Christmas and I’m in two minds about it.

On the one hand it’s an impressive debut novel with characterisation which grips and shakes you as it touches on the lives of a diverse group of people who are connected by their experiences in an metaphorically incestuous community on the remote island of St Hauda’s Land.

On the other, the narrative weaves these stories together as if they should lead the reader somewhere and I don’t see the point in a red herring outside of crime fiction. For me, they only detract from the story being told here. It’s as if Shaw hasn’t decided whether he’s writing a fairytale or a story which contains magic realism. It might seem trivial, irrelevant even, but to me they are very different genres and while I’m in favour of a little generic cross dressing, I think that these genres can’t be fairly combined without creating a story which isn’t entirely satisfactory.

If we take Ida’s feet as the main story and bring with that the associated stories of Midas’ father, Henry Fuwa and Midas’ mother, Carl Maulsen and his obsession with Freya… good, you’ve got a great story and it’s worth reading the book for this. But then you look at the extra touches that have been thrown in and they become red herrings which, if the story was a fairytale, should lead to resolution and, if it is intended as magic realism, begin to look like little more than creative conceits. What, for example, is the point of the constant references to the creature which turns everything it looks at white? What is the point of Midas’ father’s letter? By the time I finished the book, I felt underwhelmed by what should have been a really moving conclusion because I was still waiting to see why the author had devoted so much attention to writing about these details which were never revisited.

In addition to that, I think the book as a whole could have done with a harder edit. The language is more flowery than is generally fashionable these days, leading to passages such as this which made me roll my eyes:

“Overnight the head of a fat old rose in Catherine’s had shed petals like burnt bits of ribbon into a glass vase. Midas stared sadly at the warped red planets in the water’s cosmos and thought of Ida’s legs.”

I can’t believe that got past an editor without a request to slash either the simile or the metaphor. But worse for me was the inclusion of occasional mistakes which should have been picked up by anyone who read the final draft of the book. For example, on page 81 of my copy, Denver is described as “a mouse-haired seven-year-old with a grin full of disorganized teeth” then on page 82 as “an earnest child with a whizz of ginger hair, eyes too big for her freckled face and newly grown adult teeth overlapping like a hand of cards”. Why do we have the double description of her teeth, let alone the conflicting descriptions of her hair colour only a page apart?

This will seem very petty, but the litter of awkwardly flowery language and silly oversights, coupled with unnecessary red herrings and plot holes really did detract from my enjoyment of what was otherwise a really imaginative story with great potential.

Have you read this book? How did you feel about these points?

 

 

The Wise Man’s Fear- Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.” The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

So, I’m not sure whether I mentioned how I got into The Kingskiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I discovered The Name of The Wind on my father’s kitchen table in Wales. My brother had seen it somewhere and, without having heard of it before, bought it on the strength of the blurb alone. That is a good way to buy a book. Unfortunately, since my brother had bought it, I wasn’t able to steal it from him there and then but had to wait until he’d finished it, by which time my father had nabbed it to read. All in all it took me until January to steal it and read it.

By the end of it I was hooked. I wanted to know what happened next. I called my brother to see if he had the next in the series. He told me he didn’t, it wasn’t out for ages. I took to google. Turns out my brother isn’t familiar with googling pub dates because it was already out. I quickly ordered two copies of The Wise Man’s Fear one for myself, one for him and my Dad in Wales. I finally got around to reading it on Saturday, I finished it last night. Which, when you consider I had a busy weekend travelling to Wales for a wedding, back to Oxford, work and a hospital appointment is no mean feat. But you see, the book is compelling.

It continues Kvothe’s life story, as narrated by Kvothe to the Chronicler (keep up, I’ve told you about this before!) and contains some of the tantalising events (such as his “meeting”with Felurian) which occur in the lead up to him becoming the Innkeeper of the Waystone Inn-which might sound like an uninspiring journey, but he’s hiding out, pretending to be dead having caused an awful lot of trouble in his time.

Like The Name of The Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is brilliantly written, hilarious and dramatic by turns. Something I especially like is that we get to see a bit more of Bast, Kvothe’s apprentice, who is by turns devoted or demented, sometimes both at once. 100% Fae. I can’t wait to read the next one and see a bit more of his meetings with the Faen. I also want to know if some of the theories I’ve been developing are accurate. I can’t even bounce them off my brother until he’s finished the book. They’re not spoilers (in for the first two books at least) but he doesn’t believe me. I’ll give you a hint at one though. I think Kvothe’s mother’s over reaction to him singing the Lackless song in NOTW (she’s a real person you know!!!), his father calling her Tally and Meluan’s hatred of the Ruh might just be connected.

Now to the stone door. Who could be a son of the blood? Hmmm?

If you know anything about the publication date for The Doors of Stone please tell me. Pleeeeeeassse. I’m begging. For accurate information I’m willing to forgive his use of the word minge as an alternative to whinge. It means something quite different in the UK….

Lauren Kate Fallen series news

With the release of Passion on June 14th as a follow up to Fallen  and Torment Lauren Kate sent out some question and answers for fans which I’ve copied and pasted for anyone who is interested:

How many Fallen books are you writing? What’s the publishing plan for the series? When is the next book coming out?

Fallen is the first book in the four-book series—though Passion (the third book) will explain many of the things that have happened before the narrative of Fallen began. For those of you worried about the cliffhanger at the end of Torment—don’t! Passion picks up right where Torment left off. It’s told from both Luce and Daniel’s points of view and is going to be SO COOL. The final book, which I’m working on now is called Rapture. It brings back all the characters we’ve met over the course of the series and ends with a stunning climax.

Here’s the publication schedule for the final two books:  Passion in the June 14, 2011, and a final book, Rapture, in the spring of 2012.

What do you have planned after the Fallen series is complete?

Something cool. Stay tuned…

Will there be a movie?

The film rights for all four books were optioned by Disney/Mayhem Productions in December of last year. Mayhem is Disney edgier production company, for anyone who has concerns about Disney being purely for younger kids. I got to have lunch with the Disney people and they seem really excited about getting the movie going. I don’t have any new information yet, but hopefully there is more to come! I will keep you posted on my blog. For those who asked, I love Lucy Hale for Luce, Liam Hemsworth for Daniel, and Emma Stone for Arriane.

She went on to say that she thinks Ed Westwick would make a great Cam. I could not disagree more. He would be awful casting! Just not what Cam is in my mind. And as much as I like Emma Stone, I really don’t see her as Arianne…

Day 13 – Favourite childhood book

My favourite books when I was about eleven were The Forbidden Game trilogy. My older sister read a lot of teen fiction and I would pretty much just pick up and read whatever I could find around the house if I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the library, so I ended up getting quite hooked on Point Horror books.

I remember my father picking up the first Forbidden Game book The Hunter at a scout fete bric a brac stall for me. What stood out where the eyes gazing out from the cover, as you can see in this cover art. In the books they are described as the blue at the centre of a flame, the blue when you press your fingers over your eyes when washing your face in the shower or electric blue. It was the first time I ever thought about the colour of electricity.

Jenny is walking in the rough part of town one day when she notices two men following her. She ducks into a shop to avoid them, and while there is sold a board game by an attractive young man with white hair and captivating blue eyes. She plays the game with her friends at a party, and they find themselves trapped inside a house, at the mercy of the young man from the shop- a Shadow Man who is in love with Jenny and wants to win her. The Hunt begins. In order to survive they must act out their worst nightmares and escape, but not everyone can make it out.

In The Chase, Julian the Shadow Man is back with a new game, Lambs and Monsters. One by one Jenny’s friends start disappearing until only Jenny is left to save them. She manages to track them down to the school canteen where they are being held, but in order to get out they have to walk through a wall of fire. Most manage it, but Jenny’s cousin and boyfriend are taken away to the shadow land.

The third book in the series The Kill sees Jenny and her friends break into The Shadow Land hoping to find their stolen friends. But they soon learn that Julian is kind and caring by the standards of the shadow men and there are more sinister forces at play in this game. Who will make it out alive? I remember buying the last two books in the series when I was in my last year of primary school and I had won £20 in a poetry competition. Reading the ending of the third book is the first time I can remember crying at a book, which shocked me at the time, that you could connect with a story that much.

I googled L. J. Smith to see if she had written anything since these books (I’d forgotten who wrote them if I’m honest) and found out what you probably all know, that she’s gone on to even greater success with The Vampire Diaries which I haven’t read. They seem to have rereleased the series for the new generation but the cover art sucks in comparison (pouty blonde devoid of any personality anyone?) Rumour has it that she’s going to write a sequel to The Forbidden Game. I’m not sure how she’d manage it but I’d love to read it if she does.