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John James – The Fourth Gwenevere

johnjames-thefourthgwenevereGwenevere, Arthur’s Saxon wife, is a problem. As the dynastic cement between the British and the Saxons, her marriage to Arthur will result in a child that will unite both sides. At least, that would have been the plan, had the Great Duke Arthur not died and left the petty kings of Britain to squabble over his title.

Only Morvran, Arthur’s chief fixer, has the wit to see that the Fourth Gwenevere is the key to maintaining a crumbling peace. But when she is abducted, it seems that all hopes might disappear with her.

For, in a world where swords and horses have names of honour, where poets speak as oracles of a shifting truth and the raiding of Saxon warriors is set to ruin Britain, perhaps it’s only the Fourth Gwenevere herself who has the real solution?

I’ve always loved Arthurian tales, or the Matter of Britain to give them their proper name, ever since I first read an adaptation when I was a little girl and just reading on my own. When I was just a teen I loved The Mists of Avalon and I read many variations and retellings in the years since. Thus a book that is titled The Fourth Gwenevere immediately grabs my attention. The Fourth Gwenevere however isn’t a straight retelling of the Arthur legend as we know it – the sword in the stone, the round table, Lancelot and Gwenevere and so on – but the tale of what happens after Arthur is taken to Avalon and the kingdom has to go on without him. And it’s not the tale you might have expected.   Continue reading »

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Leslie Mann – And Some Fell on Stony Ground

lesliemann-andsomefellonstonygroundIn June 1941, Flight Sergeant Leslie Mann, a tail gunner in a British bomber, was shot down over Germany and taken into captivity. After the war, wanting to record the experiences of the RAF’s ‘Bomber Boys’, he wrote down his inner thoughts and feelings as a fictional narrative, recently brought to the attention of Imperial War Museums (IWM).

Providing a unique glimpse into a deadly profession and traumatic time, And Some Fell on Stony Ground captures the horrors of aerial warfare, the corrosive effects of fear, and the psychological torment of the young men involved. Although presented as fiction, the book’s basis of lived experience makes it ring true – the sights, sounds, smells and above all the emotional strain are intensely evoked with a novelist’s skill, making it a fascinating historical artefact in its own right.

This compelling story is introduced and placed in context by historian Richard Overy, author of the highly acclaimed book The Bombing War (Allen Lane, 2013).

The Second World War has always held a special fascination for me both due to the important role it played in my country’s history and because my dad used to read to me from all sorts of WWII adventure novels when I was little. Since those early years I’ve read a lot of books on the topic, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was approached about reviewing And Some Fell on Stony Ground it wasn’t a hard decision to say yes, since it fit squarely in that wheelhouse and sounded fascinating. A fictional memoir – meaning that while this story was fictional, but that the experiences it was based on weren’t fictive  – the narrative follows the last active hours of an RAF pilot’s career in a close-up, hard-hitting fashion, one that does away with the shining, heroic accounts of such exploits and instead focuses on the bone-chilling fear and danger these young men faced every operation they flew.   Continue reading »

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Jared Shurin (ed.) – Irregularity

shurin-irregularityIrregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover… but what if they were wrong?

Irregularity is about the attempts to impose our order on nature’s chaos, the efforts both successful and unsuccessful to better know the world.

From John Harrison to Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton to Émilie du Châtelet, these stories showcase the Age of Reason in a very different light.

Reading Irregularity, Jurassic London’s sixth full-length anthology and the second edited solo by Jared Shurin, was a strange reading experience, as I’ve read a lot of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature at university. Much of that was in the Penguin Classic editions (the ones with a black spine and a red bar at the top) and while the cover is in no way reminiscent of those, the font used for Irregularity really resembles the look of those editions. Add to that the fact that a lot of the stories are written in the same language and with the same sensibility as those classics and for a moment it seemed as if I’d traveled back in time to my student days. Thankfully, reading Irregularity in no way felt like an essay assignment, in fact it was fantastic fun.   Continue reading »

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Laure Eve – The Illusionists

laureeve-theillusionistsA shocking new world. A dangerous choice. Two futures preparing to collide . . .

Having left her soulmate White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its technologically advanced culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World’s fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences.

She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams – dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar.

But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be just to survive.

The Illusionists is Laure Eve’s second novel in the Fearsome Dreamer sequence. While I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer, I did have some niggles with it, mostly to do with pacing and structure. In The Illusionists these problems have all been ironed out and the book is a far smoother read and the story is still as interesting and complex as Eve’s debut. As an added bonus, the protagonists are easier to relate to as well, having lost some of their rougher edges.   Continue reading »

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Author Query – Ben Peek

benpeek-thegodlessOne of this summer’s big releases, which has garnered a lot of buzz, is Ben Peek’s The Godless. I reviewed it yesterday and found it an interesting opening to a new big fat epic fantasy trilogy with intriguing world building and great characters. Today is the book’s official release date and to celebrate it, I’ve got an Author Query for you. I hope you enjoy Ben’s answers as much as I did!

***   Continue reading »

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Ben Peek – The Godless

benpeek-thegodlessFifteen thousand years have passed since the War of the Gods and their corpses now lie scattered across the world. When men and women awake with strange powers derived from their bodies, some see it as a gift – others, a curse.

When Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice in the city of Mireea, is trapped in a burning building she is terrified as a dormant ability comes to life within her. The flames destroy everything around her but she remains unscathed – fire cannot touch her.

Then Zaifyr, a man adorned in ancient charms, arrives in Mireea. His appearance draws the attention of two of the ‘children of the gods’, Fo and Bau, powerful, centuries old beings who consider themselves immortal. All three will offer different visions for Ayae’s powers but whichever choice she makes will result in new enemies – and grave danger…

Ben Peek’s The Godless is one of this summer’s big titles. And from the moment I learned about this title when Tor UK asked for feedback on the cover design I knew I wanted to read this book and find out more about its protagonist Ayae. Meanwhile I’ve been reading numerous interviews and guest posts with and by the author and his views on diversity only made me more excited to read the book.  Continue reading »

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Author Query – Benjanun Sriduangkaew

benjanunsriduangkaew-scale-brightYesterday I reviewed Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s latest novella Scale-Bright, which I loved. This wasn’t that big of a surprise as I’ve sort of fallen in love with Benjanun’s writing over the past few months. She’s also my number one vote for the Not-a-Hugo Campbell Award for Best New Writer. So when Benjanun sent me my review copy I quickly asked her for an interview and she graciously agreed. So I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did and go check out her wonderful fiction, most of which is available online!    Continue reading »

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Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Scale-Bright

benjanunsriduangkaew-scale-brightJulienne’s aunts are the archer who shot down the suns and the woman who lives on the moon. They teach her that there’s more to the city of her birth than meets the eye – that beneath the modern chrome and glass of Hong Kong there are demons, gods, and the seethe of ancient feuds. As a mortal Julienne is to give them wide berth, for unlike her divine aunts she is painfully vulnerable, and choice prey for any demon.

Until one day, she comes across a wounded, bleeding woman no one else can see, and is drawn into an old, old story of love, snake women, and the deathless monk who hunts them.

When I first came across Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s writing last year I fell in love with her writing. Her style and voice are fantastic and I think she’s one of the most exciting short fiction writers to have emerged in the field in the past few years. When the author asked on Twitter whether anyone wanted an ARC of her new novella Scale-Bright I couldn’t raise my hand quick enough. A retelling of an old Chinese tale and a sequel to an earlier retelling of a Chinese legend with a gender twist, Scale-Bright sounded like an amazing story. And it was. I loved it whole-heartedly.  Continue reading »

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Corinne Duyvis’ Otherbound Launch Event at ABC Amsterdam

corinneduyvis-otherboundFor the past few months I’ve been talking about Corinne Duyvis’ fabulous debut Otherbound. I’ve reviewed it here on the blog, interviewed Corinne, and burbled on about it on Twitter and Facebook at length. When I learned that she would be doing a book launch in the Netherlands – specifically at The American Book Center’s Treehouse in Amsterdam – I was completely stoked, as it doesn’t happen that often that we get a book event for an English SFF (YA) book in the Netherlands. In fact this will be the first book event I’ll be attending in the Netherlands ever!  Continue reading »

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Guest Post: Eric Brown on the exploration of change in steampunk.

ericbrown-janiandthegreatergameI’ve said before that Eric Brown was the author who convinced me I could read SF and get it. I love his writing and the way his work is about humanity even if it includes aliens, space, and space ships. When his latest novel, Jani and the Greater Game, was announced as a YA steampunk novel, I blinked and I wondered how it would fit with the rest of his body of work. And it hit me that it would likely be about change and how people react to it and that’s what I love about his other books. I decided to ask Eric about this and he replied with the following guest post.   Continue reading »

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