Tag Archives: fantasy

Rebecca Stott

#BookReview ‘Dark Earth’ by @RebeccaStott64 #fantasy #folklore

Dark Earth by is rooted in the history of post-Roman Londinium, the Dark Ages of which few facts are known. It traces the fate of two sisters, both confound the expectations of the time. Isla is a smith, Blue a mystic. When their father dies they must adapt to survive. Rebecca StottSet around AD 500, these sisters have been living a self-sufficient free life with their father, a Great Smith, on a small island in the Thames. When he dies, they cannot stay. Isla finishes her father’s commission, a special ‘firetongue’ sword for the local lord and overseer Osric. Women are forbidden to work as smiths so the girls must deliver the sword without admitting their father is dead, their aim is to gain the protection of kinship. But a violent act forces the sisters abandon their plan and they flee Osric’s camp.
They hide in the Ghost City, the abandoned riverbank settlement that belonged to the Sun Kings and is now home to a secret women’s community. As the girls are hunted by Osric and his son Vort, they are torn. Should they stay or run. Stay sheltered amongst this supportive group but unable to venture beyond the walls of the Ghost City, or protect the community by leaving it and leading their attackers away. The sisters have different tasks during the day which means they see each other less and become exposed to new influences. Isla establishes a forge while Blue forages for herbs and learns about healing. Romance adds complications to their big decision, stay or go. Will the sisters remain united or, as they become adults, will they make individual decisions taking them in different directions.
In places I was overwhelmed by description with so many historical and folklore details that the setting seemed to blur and the narrative pace slowed. More a fantasy novel rooted in history than a historical novel with fantasy elements, Stott has creatively imagined the unknown time in which Isla and Blue live. The country during this period was occupied by a variety of settlers, knitted together by essential trade but separated by beliefs and violence. Little fact remains. Perhaps there would be more clarity if each group were given their historical name, ie Romans rather than Sun Kings. Trying to guess who was who distracted me from Isla and Blue’s story.
This is a story about sisters in an ancient time who grow from being inseparable to having their own motivations, desires and conflicts. Told from a modern female perspective with few rounded male characters, it is an atmospheric read, slow in the middle but which raced towards the end. An end that neatly connects the Ghost City to today.

If you like this, try:-
The Invasion of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen
Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeymi
The Silence of the Girls’ by Pat Barker

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DARK EARTH by @RebeccaStott64 #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5SB via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi #YoungAdult #Fantasy

I picked up Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, the first of a new ‘young adult’ series, when I was emotionally and intellectually exhausted. It is an assault on the senses, rather like a sniff of smelling salts. Tomi Adeyemi

A West African tale of magic, Children of Blood and Bone tackles racially-charged violence, state-led racism and injustice, all wrapped-up in a magical quest. The Author’s Note at the end explains Adeyemi’s inspiration. “I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men, women and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and helpless, but this book was the one thing that made me feel like I could do something about it.”

Children of Blood and Bone is set in the nation of Orïsha where magic was banished in The Raid years earlier when the king ordered the death of all maji. The story is told by four teenage characters, two brother and sister pairings. Zélie’s maji mother was killed in The Raid and she is herself a diviner; her white hair marks her out as magical, but her magic is buried deep and unused. A chance meeting with runaway princess Amari sets the two girls on the trail of cherished objects which will enable Zélie to conjure the return of magic. Along the way, aided by Zélie’s sporty brother Tzarin, Zélie’s magic grows as she struggles to accept the power within her and how to control it. The appearance of the handsome prince Inan complicates things.

The book is not perfect, but this is a good debut by a young author with much promised for the rest of the series. Tzarin is a sketchy character crying out for more development, hopefully that will come in the next book, and Inan was inconsistent and therefore unbelievable. But the world building and depth of cultural reference is impressive. The pace is rather frantic and, during the first few chapters, I did wish for a stroll rather than a sprint. It takes a while to settle into a new world, to appreciate the subtleties of word and behaviour, the surroundings, the threats and opportunities. So many new magical phrases were thrown in at the beginning that I felt rather lost and almost abandoned the book. I didn’t. If you feel like I did, I urge you to continue reading and forgive any confusion or inconsistency. I wonder how much more powerful the beginning could be if the early pace were reduced by twenty per cent. When the romance became intense, I had to remind myself that they are teenagers.

The ending is a cliffhanger that I didn’t see it coming.

If you like this, try:-
The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen
The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman
The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by @tomi_adeyemi #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3vD via @SandraDanby

My Porridge & Cream read Lexi Rees @lexi_rees #books #children

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Lexi Rees. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

“Thanks so much for inviting me to share my Porridge and Cream book. I actually have a special bookcase for my ‘permanent collection’ – the books I go back to over and over again – and it’s hard to narrow it down to just one but, for a pure comfort read, I’m going to go with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I’m sure you know it: “So long, and thanks for all the fish” etc; but in a nutshell, Arthur Dent, in his dressing gown, gets whisked onto a spaceship when Earth is demolished for a hyperspace bypass.”Lexi Rees

“I vividly recall stumbling across the radio series on my way home from school one day in the 1980s. My dad and I sat in the car outside the house laughing our heads off so it has happy family memories, and it still makes me laugh. I listened to the rest of the series on the radio, then got a copy from the library. My own copy is from 1992. By the way, I also love the 2005 movie version – no book vs. movie arguments from me. It probably won’t surprise anyone, but Red Dwarf is my Porridge and Cream TV series. Why I don’t write sci-fi is a mystery!”
Lexi ReesLexi’s Bio
Lexi Rees writes action packed adventures for children. When not writing, she’s usually covered in straw or glitter, and frequently both. The first book in The Relic Hunters Series, Eternal Seas, was awarded a “loved by” badge from LoveReading4Kids and is currently longlisted for a Middle Grade readers award from Chanticleer. It’s best described as fantasy with a hint of dystopia. The sequel, Wild Sky, will be published in November and a Creative Writing Workbook will be out in October. She also runs a free club for kids designed to encourage a love of reading and writing.

Lexi’s links

Lexi’s latest book
Lexi ReesSuch a small parcel shouldn’t cause experienced smugglers much trouble. But, as Finn and Aria discover, this is the most dangerous delivery of their lives. Battered by storms and chased across the globe by an evil warlord, they enlist the help of a strange witch-doctor. Together, they struggle to solve the mystery while the fate of an ancient civilisation depends on them, and time is running out…
Eternal Seas [The Relic Hunters book 1] is a thrilling adventure for children aged seven to twelve.

What is a ‘Porridge & Cream’ book? It’s the book you turn to when you need a familiar read, when you are tired, ill, or out-of-sorts, where you know the story and love it. Where reading it is like slipping on your oldest, scruffiest slippers after walking for miles. Where does the name ‘Porridge & Cream’ come from? Cat Deerborn is a character in Susan Hill’s ‘Simon Serrailler’ detective series. Cat is a hard-worked GP, a widow with two children and she struggles from day-to-day. One night, after a particularly difficult day, she needs something familiar to read. From her bookshelf she selects ‘Love in A Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford. Do you have a favourite read which you return to again and again? If so, please send me a message.

Discover the ‘Porridge & Cream’ books of these authors:-
Toni Jenkins’ choice is ‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert
Jane Davies chooses ‘The Prince of Tides’ by Pat Conroy
The Shell Seekers’ by Rosamunde Pilcher is chosen by Carol Warham

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Why does children’s author @lexi_rees re-read THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams? #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-40i via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘La Belle Sauvage’ by @PhilipPullman #BookofDust

Philip PullmanI’m a great Philip Pullman fan so when word of his new series The Book of Dust was first announced, I was excited. La Belle Sauvage is volume one in the series and tells the story of eleven-year old Malcolm who lives beside the River Thames at The Trout pub at Godstow, near Oxford. One day, a baby arrives at the priory on the other side of the river. Called Lyra, mystery surrounds the child, her parentage, and why she is cared for by the nuns.

This of course is Lyra Belacqua, so familiar and beloved of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. La Belle Sauvage is the story of Malcolm’s fascination with the baby Lyra, his relationship with scholar Hannah Relf and his suspicions about a mysterious stranger who visits The Trout. Everyone dislikes this man, despite his ready smiles and chat, because of his daemon, a three-legged hyena. Common with the first book of every series, there is a certain amount of scene setting, the laying-down of foundations for the forthcoming books. Pullman takes time and care to develop the character of Malcolm, the love he has for his canoe La Belle Sauvage, his relationships with his parents, the nuns, and Alice who works in the kitchen. Every reader of His Dark Materials knows the story of the fight between Lyra’s parents and how she was hidden in a cupboard with a gyptian boatwoman. La Belle Sauvage starts after this, when Lyra is placed in the nunnery for her safety. Lurking threat is there on every page – a light mist at first, developing into a heavy presence which will not go away – as Pullman constructs a world in which research into Dust is in its early stages; a resistance group, Oakley Street, is formed to fight The Magisterium; and the League of St Alexander radicalises schoolchildren to inform on unbelievers.

I became very fond of Malcolm. Pullman has a way of writing child characters who stand at the edge of things; they are not the most popular, the high achievers or the butterflies; but they have potential, as all children do. Pullman creates thoughtful character arcs for his child characters so we see them change and grow, facing difficulties, making mistakes, learning and maturing. In Malcolm, more than with Lyra and Will in His Dark Materials, I was conscious of Pullman’s background as a teacher. I was cheering for Malcolm, for his ingenuity, his bravery, his kind heart, his sense of fairness and justice.

If you are a novelist and haven’t read Pullman because he ‘writes for children’, you are missing out. He creates characters you care about, he expertly drip-feeds mysterious information and lays a factual base which seems irrelevant at first reading but will be revealed as essential at moments of crisis, he manages the ebbs and flows of tension, and creates a mystical world that is believable. Every fact included has a significance. He is a writer of tremendous detail, patience and care.

Just read him.

Read more about Philip Pullman’s books here.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden
‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman
‘The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
LA BELLE SAUVAGE by @PhilipPullman #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3k9 via @SandraDanby



Book review: The Fate of the Tearling

Erika JohansenThis is the third of the trilogy by Erika Johansen so do not read this without first reading the other two. It is unpredictable with storylines and time strands which come and go and inter-link, at times incorporating fantasy, sci-fi, time-travel and magic. It is a very different sort of fantasy tale and in that difference lies its awkwardness. There are gaps in the storyline, the timeline, and some thinly sketched characters turn out to be pivotal. Sometimes I had the feeling the author should have written one long book rather than two, or two rather than a trilogy – are authors encouraged to write trilogies with film rights in mind? The first book was the best, the second was intriguing but left me with many questions, the third has left me undecided. I struggled with the first half and would have appreciated a list of characters from the previous two books, but then in the second half the story came alive for me and I finished it one Saturday afternoon.

At the end of the second book, Queen Kelsea surrendered herself to the Red Queen in order to save her kingdom. The third book opens as Kelsea is imprisoned in a Mort dungeon, while her right-hand man, the Mace, has returned to Tearling to run the country. Kelsea is still having visions, now of a teenager called Katie who lives in the Town, the first settlement when the ship arrived at the island. Meanwhile in New London, the Mace is facing an attack by the Church. There are many new characters added here, some of which seem to go nowhere while others turn out to be key to the ending. Katie’s storyline connects with that of New Town now in the time of the Kelsea. Both struggle as William Tear’s vision of an ideal world, the society he wanted to create, fractures amidst suspicion, fear, jealousy, avarice and the rise of religion.

This trilogy will reward re-reading. I finished it with the feeling that I needed to read all three, back-to-back, to understand them better. But some things will remain unexplained.

Read my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy:
The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling

If you like this, try:-
‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden
‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman
‘In Ark’ by Lisa Devaney

‘The Fate of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen, Tearling #3 [UK: Bantam Press] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE FATE OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2k6