As someone who has always loved Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’, the title of this book caught my eye and imagination immediately. Rather than being a retelling of the poem, however, this book is a speculative fantasy about the life of the Lady before the events of the poem take place, and on the nature of her observations of the world around her tower.
The story is very creative and highly original in its development, intriguing the reader with hints about the truth of the Lady’s identity and the reasons for her being imprisoned in her tower.
The Lady’s character is quite thoroughly developed, as the reader is allowed into her thoughts and responses as well as into her activities. Other characters in the book are less well developed, simply because the story moves from one group to another as it progresses, but all are portrayed in a personal and evocative manner that gives both the Lady and the reader a strong sense of connection to them.
The author has given the well known story a new sense of mystery and intrigue and another layer of mystical connection that gives this book depth and has a profound effect on the reader.
A most enjoyable read, ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy here.
‘The Feels’ is a gripping psychological thriller that explores ideas of guilt, secrecy, and vengeance through the experiences of Ariel, the protagonist of the story, and her interactions with those close to her as the story progresses.
Ariel is a complex and deeply flawed character, yet one for whom the reader develops a strong sense of empathy because the story is told from her perspective, Her thoughts and feelings are communicated powerfully, creating vivid images in the reader’s mind and evoking strong emotional responses.
The story also provides a fascinating study of a mind corrupted by both mental illness and indulgence in evil, through the thoughts and actions of the antagonist. This adds a dimension of psychological horror that leaves the reader aghast at the extent of the destruction caused by a depraved mind.
The story remains unpredictable and suspenseful throughout, keeping the reader guessing right to the end with plenty of complications and heart-in-the throat moments.
‘The Feels’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy here.
‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way.
The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane.
The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter.
The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English.
The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story.
An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.
Find your copy of the audiobook or the novel.
Damien and Millie return in the second instalment of the Damien Dickens mystery series, ‘The White Russian Caper‘ is a mystery adventure that takes the reader from Atlantic City to Hollywood— erm… Florida, in pursuit of the answers they are commissioned to find.
As in all good mysteries, there are plenty of viable suspects and some most intriguing complications and twists.
Tom Lennon delivers another excellent detective-noir style narration with clarity, easy pace, and very good characterisations of the various roles in the story.
Like the first in the series, this audiobook comes highly recommended, and has received a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy of the novel or the audiobook.
This is a fascinating story – the entirely original characters, locations and magical elements make it fantasy, yet it is overlaid on a foundation of elements of history in The Wars of the Roses and the life story of the English king Richard III. The way in which those historical elements are drawn upon and interwoven throughout the story and rich layers of complexity and interest to the story. The reader becomes deeply engaged in the story as it unfolds, particularly when the key characters are faced with danger or discovery.
The characters are vividly portrayed, crafted to engage the reader’s empathy for the protagonist, a young boy named Owen, and those who prove themselves his friends. There is also a good range of characters for whom the reader enjoys contempt and significant distrust— indeed, disliking them is actually a pleasurable experience.
The Audible narration of the book is clearly read and quite expressive, although occasionally sounds a little flat and stilted – perhaps in contrast to the great use of voice and tone to deliver effective characterisation when the characters speak. While this may cause trifling annoyance for the listener from time to time, it did not prove to be an issue sufficient to really affect the listener’s enjoyment of the story itself.
The first novel in what promises to be a most excellent and enjoyable series, The Queen’s Poisoner has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy here.
It’s the most awful feeling: knowing you have screwed up, knowing that you may have ruined everything you’ve been working for… and knowing there’s not a thing you can do about it.
If you have ever been in that situation, you will totally relate to Jack’s thoughts and feelings at the beginning of this book. The author has done an excellent job of creating distance and tension between her characters that is almost palpable, as is the misery Jack experiences as a result. It takes quite some skill as a writer to make the reader feel sympathy for a man who has caused his own problems, but Gauthier does so most effectively.
In addition to further developing the continuing story of events in Christmas Town, the author uses her characters to deliver important and relatable lessons about friendship, loyalty, and resolving one’s problems in constructive and healthy ways. Of course, the story is so entertaining that the reader doesn’t even realise they are being schooled in conflict resolution until they stop to reflect on what they have read.
The seventh of eight novellas in this endearing mystery/romance series, this has been the most thought-provoking thus far. ‘Christmas Miracle on Thanksgiving’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy here.