What a magnificent tale! Subtitled ‘Steampunk Snow Queen’ this was far, far more than a fairy tale retelling. It is a complex blend of Gaslamp fantasy, mystery, historical romance, and Shakespearean theatre that enchants and encompasses the audience, drawing them into the story and behind the scenes until there is no desire to escape.
The cast of characters is a varied and colourful as in any piece of theatre, their features, costumes and voices full of colour, texture and depth. Individually, they are lifelike and realistic; together, they generate a level of energy and drama that makes the audience feel as though they are right there in the scenes and events of the story.
A magical blend of beautiful writing and flawless narration, Ice and Embers is a masterpiece of storytelling.
The sequel to ‘Webley and the World Machine’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series is an action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friend Kip, a Dweller of Webley’s World Machine.
This story is set in Taraveil, another of the worlds that lie beyond the doors in Webley’s Hall of Doors. Once again, Chopchinski’s world building is complex and detailed, full of fascinating technology and diverse, colourful characters. Rich sensory detail adds texture and dimension to the various settings and environments in the book, complementing the action, characters and complications of the story.
Snarky and confident, Adal and Arija meet their matches in Ypsilon and her Grinder compatriots. Through conflict, danger and the formation of unlikely alliances, the integrity and loyalty of each of the central characters is tested as the story progresses.
Just like Adal and Arija, Ypsilon, Sasha, Van and Masa are characters that young adult readers will relate to. They are strong and flawed, passionate and vulnerable, smart mouthed and profoundly loyal to their own.
Chopchinski’s writing is edgy and descriptive, in keeping with the story and the world in which it is set. The story moves at a good pace, keeping the reader and their imagination fully engaged.
‘Kip and the Grinders’ is fast paced, distinctly original steampunk fiction that demands to be finished once started.
This is a richly detailed and colourful story set during the troubled reign of Henry VI. The book tells the story of Eleanor Cobham, wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, a younger brother of King Henry V.
Eleanor is a fascinating character who demonstrates intelligence and resilience throughout the events that shaped her life and the future of her family. The story is told in first person, so the reader develops a strong sense of empathy with her as the story progresses.
Her perspective delivers fascinating insight into well-known events of the past from the point of view of a woman whose security and future depended on those who held power and who jostled for position at court.
The story is complex and thought-provoking, full of intrigue and political manoeuvring, nuanced by reminiscences and regret. It highlights the precarious nature of courtly life and the swiftness with which one’s circumstances could change, and reminds the reader that true clarity and wisdom are delivered only by hindsight.
Riches’ writing style is engaging and easy to read, yet still consistent with the way in which Eleanor and her contemporaries would have thought and spoken to one another.
‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ is a most excellent work of historical fiction.
‘Dragon School’ is outstanding YA fantasy adventure featuring Amel Leafbrought, a teenage girl beginning her career as a dragon rider.
Despite significant physical and social challenges, Amel demonstrates determination, integrity and resilience, presenting a really good role model for young people who often confront obstacles of one kind or another in achieving their goals. Her discovery of abilities that others do not have is a powerful element of Amel’s narrative, and serves as a strong encouragement for others who experience physical disabilities or limitations.
Amel’s experiences of other people, whether peers, teachers or dragons, demonstrate important lessons about the importance of careful discernment about who should be trusted, and about the true nature of friendship.
This series is highly original and well constructed. The story progresses at a very good pace, with plenty of adventure balanced by reflection and the development of friendships and connections between characters. The imagery is colourful and detailed, the characters diverse and varied, and the complications and problems they face are compelling.
The world building is unique and interesting, featuring complex and thought-provoking social systems, detailed and thoughtful architecture, and geography quite unique to this world.
The narration by Jigisha Patel, is clear and fluent, with excellent diction and expression, although there are a couple of minor errors. Her use of voice and tone to develop character and deliver the narrative results in a compelling story that is as engaging and enjoyable as Wilson’s writing.
While there are more episodes to follow, this audiobook ends with sufficient resolution to satisfy the audience, and a tantalising promise of more adventure to come.
The second in the Lucy Lawrence mystery series, this is a most intriguing story, full of twists and turns, and set in a most exotic location. From Nice to Cairo to Sakkara, the reader is taken on a journey of many discoveries — not all of them archaeological.
The characters are colourful and lively, each with personal motivations and interests that they tend to keep to themselves, adding layers of intrigue to the secrets and mysteries that Lucy finds awaiting her in Egypt.
It is clearly evident and most pleasing that the author has taken care to keep the characters and their actions consistent with the time and places in which the story is set.
The story is well-crafted and written in a style that is very easy to read. The narrative unfolds at a good pace, with enough suspects and red herrings to keep both Lucy and the authorities guessing and to ensure very little predictability.
‘The Final Act of Mercy Dove’ is a new release Victorian Gothic Horror novella.
This is the story of Mercy Dove.
This is a story of secrets.They hide in the wainscoting where the paint flakes, they slip behind the silk wallpaper. They whisper to the Mistress under cover of nightfall. She knows little else; they are her comfort and her curse.
This is a story of corruption. Of the mind, and the flesh. It sits thick in the air, gathering in corners, loitering at keyholes. Adhering to all who visit, it leaves with them, trailing from their coattails.
This is a story of scandal. Infamy, seduction, and lust. It hovers like a murder of crows, circling the grounds waiting for the invited; the unwitting.
Take a seat; the curtain is about to rise…Let us begin at the end.
Readers should note that there is mature content in this book, so it is recommended for adult audiences only.
‘The Blue Moon Caper’ is a the fifth of the Damien Dickens mystery novel/audiobook series.
Like the earlier instalments in the series, the book does stand alone, but will deliver spoilers for the previous books. There is definite continuity, but also some new characters and settings, and some great twists, that help to keep the ongoing story interesting and engaging.
Tom Lennon’s narration is well paced and entertaining, making excellent use of voice and accent to differentiate between characters and animate and narrative.
‘The Malan Witch’ is a haunting story of old magic, retribution and superstition, filled with tension and suspense.
The writing is powerful, full of symbolism and dark imagery that captures the imagination and takes hold of the pit of the reader’s stomach.The tone becomes darker and increasingly urgent as the story unfolds.
This is a gripping read and an absolute page-turner, suitable for Young Adult and older audiences.
‘Autumncrow’ is a collection of stories set in the spookiest town in America, telling of its past and some of its quite varied and interesting residents.
The town of Autumncrow resembles any other small town in many ways, and the people who live there are completely normal people — except, perhaps, for the fact that they acknowledge their monsters and accept their fears more openly than most of us are willing to do.
The stories are loosely interwoven, ranging from the deeply unsettling to the macabre and horrifying. Each tale is a well-written narrative characterized by a dark undercurrent that creates shadows and nuances that become bigger and bolder at night. Some of the imagery is regular Halloween fare, while other elements are more sinister.
‘Autumncrow’ is a most enjoyable work of macabre storytelling, suitable for young adults and older readers.