Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2014. Today it’s time for crime and historical crime fiction books. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them! Read More …
Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2013. This is the second half of my historical fiction list. There were just so many books that caught my fancy that I split them in two. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them! Read More …
One of my reading resolutions for 2012 was to explore more YA fiction, which I did. I did it to such an extent that this list has just exploded this year, so much so that I’ve had to split it up, much like my fantasy list. Today the Anticipated Books will showcase YA fiction published from January to March and tomorrow we’ll look at April to June. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
Lenore Appelhans – Level 2 (Fantasy, Simon&Schuster)
Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost–family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian–a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life–comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.
Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.
A video appears online. And a boy jumps off a bridge. Jem is determined to avenge the death of Kai – her beloved best friend who was driven to desperation after being ‘outed’ by the popular crew at school. Transforming herself from introverted emo to in-crowd acceptable, Jem becomes part of the clique. She’s going to take down those responsible, one by one.
But what if Kai was keeping secrets from Jem? Could her quest for revenge be directed at the wrong people? And can Jem find out what really happened before someone else gets hurt?
Gavin Extence – The Universe versus Alex Woods (Contemporary, Hodder & Stoughton)
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Alex Woods – born to a clairvoyant mother and a phantom father, victim of an improbable childhood accident – who is stopped at Dover customs in possession of 113 grams of marijuana and the ashes of his best friend, Vietnam veteran Isaac Peterson. What follows is a highly original and compelling account of Alex’s life and the strange series of events that brought him here.
Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and she’s also the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope. . . .
Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King’s prophecy, but the legendary lost ruby treasure just might be the true key to victory. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.
Broken by A E Rought (Science Fiction/Horror, Strange Chemistry)
Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.
A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry’s boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetary and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.
When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she’s intrigued despite herself. He’s an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely…familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel’s. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there’s something very wrong with Alex Franks.
And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks’ estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.
Megan Shepherd – The Madman’s Daughter (Science Fiction, HarperTeen)
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.
Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.
Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fantasy, Corsair)
In this, Valente’s second Fairyland book, September returns to Fairyland – but all is not well there. Folk have been losing their shadows and, with them, their magic. September must enter the dark, beautiful, strange kingdom of Fairyland-Below to discover what has happened and save Fairyland from losing all its magic and slipping into the mundane world entirely. But Fairyland-Below has a new ruler, Hallowe’en, the Hollow Queen – and Hallowe’en does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.
K.M. Walton – Empty (Contemporary, Simon Pulse)
Dell is used to disappointment. Ever since her dad left, it’s been one let down after another. But no one–not even her best friend–understands all the pain she’s going through. So Dell hides behind self-deprecating jokes and forced smiles.
Then the one person she trusts betrays her. Dell is beyond devastated. Without anyone to turn to for comfort, her depression and self-loathing spin out of control. But just how far will she go to make all of heartbreak and the name-calling stop?
Brenna Yovanoff – Paper Valentine (Crime, Razorbill)
Hannah’s best friend Lillian died six months ago. Now it is high summer and Hannah can no longer pretend everything’s fine. Because Lillian’s ghost still haunts Hannah, and Hannah can’t tell anyone about her. Then a young girl is found murdered in Muncy Park—the first of three who will be killed during the summer’s heat wave. Hysteria grips the city of Ludlow. And Hannah finds herself drawn to Finny Boone, a bad boy and petty criminal. Lillian’s ghost demands that Hannah investigate the mysterious string of murders. And though she would prefer to be with Finny, Hannah enters a world populated by ghost girls and horrifying secrets. Hannah becomes obsessed with the crimes and realizes that only by confronting the killer will she be able to come to terms with her grief, and put the loss of Lillian behind her.
Julianna Baggott – Fuse (Science Fiction, Headline)
After a young Wretch is abducted by the Dome and “cleansed” of her fusings and imperfections, she is only able to repeat the Dome’s latest message: “We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.” Willux will go to any lengths to get his son Partridge back, including murder. Partridge sacrifeces himself and returns, in the hope of taking over the Dome from within, only to uncover more of his father’s chilling, dark secrets.
Robyn Bavati – Dancing in the Dark (Contemporary, Flux)
Ditty Cohen is passionate about ballet–she loves how it feels to stand en pointe, to rise and spin across the room. But her Orthodox Jewish parents want Ditty to focus on the teachings of the Torah and to marry at a young age according to their religious tradition. Although her parents forbid her to take dance lessons, Ditty secretly signs up for ballet and becomes entangled in a web of deceit. As one lie leads to another and another, Ditty knows she must stop dancing, but she can’t abandon the one thing that gives her freedom. She begins to question her faith and everything her parents have taught her, realizing just how much is at stake as her two worlds collide.
Instead she finds Mr Anderson – intelligent, handsome, married Mr Anderson, who just happens to be her chemistry teacher. With a dark past and a difficult family, Jenna is just happy to have someone to protect her, to worry about her, to love her.
But should she be suspicious of Mr Anderson’s reputation for helping ‘damaged’ students? Why is the most popular girl in school suddenly jealous of her? And where is Mr Anderson’s wife?
This is a love story that breaks all the rules, but that won’t stop it breaking your heart.
Gail Carriger – Etiquette & Espionage (Fantasy, Atom)
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.
Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners – and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrols Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s young ladies learn to finish . . . everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion and espionage – in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
Miriam Forster – City of a Thousand Dolls (Fantasy, HarperTeen)
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.
It’s Maine. It’s winter. And it’s FREEZING STINKIN’ COLD! Dinah is wildly worried about her best friend, Skint. He won’t wear a coat. Refuses to wear a coat. It’s twelve degrees out, and he won’t wear a coat. So Dinah’s going to figure out how to help. That’s what Dinah does–she helps. But she is too busy trying to help to notice that sometimes, she’s doing more harm than good. Seeing the trees instead of the forest? that’s Dinah.
And Skint isn’t going to be the one to tell her. He’s got his own problems. He’s worried about a little boy whose dad won’t let him visit his mom. He’s worried about an elderly couple in a too-cold house down the street.
But the wedge between what drives Dinah and what concerns Skint is wide enough for a big old slab of ice. Because Skint’s own father is in trouble. Because Skint’s mother refuses to ask for help even though she’s at her breaking point. And because Dinah might just decide to…help. She thinks she’s cracking through a sheet of ice, but what’s actually there is an entire iceberg.
Pantomime by Laura Lam (Fantasy, Strange Chemistry)
R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.
Kristin Bailey – Legacy of the Clockwork Key (Fantasy, Simon Pulse)
When a fire consumes Meg’s home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch she rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key–a key that only Meg can use–that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg is compelled to follow.
Meg has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect–and that Meg alone can destroy. Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg is swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal, and revenge. The clockwork key has unlocked her destiny in this captivating start to a trilogy.
to her family
to her friends
to the world
but still missing
In Liz Coley’s alarming and fascinating psychological mystery, sixteen-year-old Angie Chapman must piece together the story of her kidnapping and abuse. Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing—and ultimately empowering—page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope, and love.
Alan Gibbons – Raining Fire (Contemporary, Indigo)
Ethan is a promising footballer, and when he is selected to go on a training programme in the US, he feels sure that he has found his chance to escape the gangs that dominate his streets. But as life spirals out of control for his brother, Alex, and things unexpectedly take a turn for the worse for Ethan, he finds himself drawn into the midst of an explosive feud with the gun at its heart.
Shannon Messenger – Let the Sky Fall (Fantasy, Simon Pulse)
Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. and he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.
Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian–Vane’s guardian–and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.
When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim–the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them–but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.
Julianna Scott – The Holders (Fantasy, Strange Chemistry)
17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother – from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland’s “problem” and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.
She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece find out information about their family’s heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for—but, they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.
Sherri L. Smith – Orleans (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a deadly epidemic of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast had been quarantined. Now, years later, a new primitive society has been born over the wall.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen soon meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States researching a cure for Delta Fever. The pair form an unlikely bond and, in the end, may be each other’s last hope for survival.
Murder, mayhem, sleuthing… who doesn’t like a good crime story every once in a while? Today my Anticipated Books post focuses on crime and historical crime fiction. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice.
Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined.
Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life.
Chris Kuzneski – The Hunters (Headline)
Chris Kuzneski, bestselling author of the Payne and Jones series, including Sign of the Cross and The Death Relic, moves to Headline for his brand new series, The Hunters.
The Hunters: a team of renegades, an ex-military leader, a historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert and a thief – financed by a billionaire philantropist are tasked with finding the world’s most legendary treasures.
A.K. Benedict – The Beauty of Murder (Orion)
Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge. Then he finds the body of a missing beauty queen and thinks he’s found the reason why. But the police go to retrieve the body and find no trace…So begins a trail of tattooists, philosophers and scholars as Killigan must question how a corpse can be found before someone goes missing…
Jonathan Kellerman – Guilt (Headline)
When a young couple takes possession of their dream home, they can’t wait to remodel the neglected mansion. That is until they make a gruesome discovery of a rusted metal strongbox containing two rotting leather doctor’s bags. And inside each bag, swaddled in sheets of sixty-year-old newspaper, lies a tiny human skeleton. The case hits the media, and theories abound. The most likely culprit is a mysterious woman, employed as private nurse to wealthy L.A. families during World War Two and Lieutenant Milo Sturgis consults psychologist Alex Delaware for insight into the perpetrator’s motives. But the horror is just beginning. Two more bags are discovered, but this time the infants inside have been dead less than a month. Is a copycat at work? Or is there a link between the two finds which goes back decades? By the time both cases close, Alex and Milo will have confronted unprecedented narcissism, cruelty, deceit and a cold but fiendish objectification of the human spirit that shakes both men to the core…
Becky Masterman – Rage Against the Dying (Orion)
In her hey-day, Brigid Quinn worked serial killer cases. Small and blonde, she was the perfect bait to catch a killer. But as Quinn got older, she realised she needed to find a protégé. So Quinn trains a twenty-two year old to take her place. The plan works, Until the killer not only takes the bait, but kills it.
Mark Roberts – The Sixth Soul (Corvus)
London is in the grip of a barbaric serial killer. Four women have been abducted in quick succession, their bodies mutilated and dumped. When a fifth woman is taken from her home, DCI David Rosen knows that time is running out…
Then Rosen gets a mysterious phone call from Father Sebastian Flint, an enigmatic priest who seems to know rather too much about the abductions. But it isn’t until Rosen discovers the existence of an ancient text – said to be the devil’s answer to the bible – that the true horror of Herod’s plan begins to unfold.
Lachlan Smith – Bear is Broken (Headline)
Leo Maxwell grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Teddy, a successful yet reviled criminal defence attorney, who racked up enemies as fast as he racked up acquittals.
The two are at lunch when Teddy is shot, the gunman escaping through a crowd. As Teddy lies in a coma, Leo realises that the search for his brother’s shooter falls upon him, as Teddy’s enemies are not just among his criminal clients but embedded within the police department as well…
Leo must navigate the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, but the deeper he digs into his brother’s life, the more questions arise: about Teddy and his estranged ex-wife, about the ethics of Teddy’s career, and about the murder that tore their family apart decades ago. And somewhere, the person who shot Leo’s brother is still on the loose, and there are many who would happily kill Leo in order to keep it that way.
Today, twelve golden tablets sit in museums around the world, each created by unknown hands and buried in ancient times, and each providing the dead with the route to the afterlife.
And archaeologist Lily Barnes, working on a dig in southern Italy, has just found another. Then Lily vanishes. Has she walked out of her job, her marriage and her life – or is the explanation more sinister? Her husband, Jonah, is desperate to find her.
But not everyone who journeys to the hidden place where Lily has gone can return.
Julia Keller – A Killing in the Hills (Headline)
Nestled in the breathtaking beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, Acker’s Gap is a town rife with problems. Bell Elkins is a single mother with a sister in prison and a background full of secrets. She has returned to Acker’s Gap to become Raythune county’s prosecuting attorney and is desperate to bring stability to the town. But when her daughter is witness to a multiple murder, Bell must work fast to find the truth before her daughter pays the price.
If you believe in God, you’ve got to believe in the Devil.’
Deepest winter. Darkest Philadelphia.
A murder shocks the frozen city – the most spectacular homicide in its 300-year-old history: an ex-cop has been lured to the basement of an abandoned chapel, wrapped in barbed wire – and kept alive for ten days.
Twenty-four hours after the discovery, Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano find another victim in another church, encased in a pristine block of ice.
Someone is transforming the city’s cathedrals into killing rooms, someone who is determined to raise hell on earth.
Roberta Kray – Bad Girl (Sphere)
It’s 1959 and Lynsey Quinn has done the unthinkable. She’s got herself pregnant by a cop. Rejected by her criminal family, she will pay the price for her betrayal, and so too will her daughter.
At the age of eleven, Helen is returned to the clan. Hated by her grandfather, loved only by her uncle, she struggles to fit into a world she doesn’t understand. As warring factions battle for control of the East End, tragedy is about to strike again.
How can she survive? And who can she trust as the murderous past comes back to haunt her?
Andrew Pyper – The Demonologist (Orion)
Professor David Ullman, an authority on Christian religion and myth, accepts a mysterious offer to visit Venice with his teenage daughter in order to offer his expertise in an undisclosed case. But what he experiences when he gets there is horrifying beyond belief and leaves him with the unshakeable feeling he isn’t alone…
1930’s America: Lee Curtis Harper is a delusional, violent drifter who stumbles on a house that opens onto other times.
Driven by visions, he begins a killing spree over the next 60 years, using an undetectable MO and leaving anachronistic clues on his victims’ bodies.
But when one of his intended ‘shining girls’, Kirby Mazrachi, survives a brutal stabbing, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery behind her would-be killer. While the authorities are trying to discredit her, Kirby is getting closer to the truth, as Harper returns again and again…
Historical Crime Fiction
After five years in an Australian penal colony, the Artful Dodger returns to London in search of a hidden fortune. Unaware of the fate that befell Twist, Fagin and Sykes, Dodger revisits the criminal underworld of Dickensian London to seek out his old comrades, any of whom might possess the key to the treasure.
He finds the city a changed place from his youth: with law and order upheld by a new police force, Fagin gone to the gallows, his old gang scattered and danger around every corner.
Alex Connor – Isle of the Dead (Quercus)
In 15th Century Venice it is a dangerous time to be alive. A permanent winter has rolled in over the canals and bodies keep washing up on the banks of the city, especially hard to identify, since they have been skinned.
In the present day, a famous portrait by Titian has been discovered of the 15th Century murderer Angelico Vespucci. It is rumoured that when the portrait arises, so will the man. And when flayed bodies start turning up all over the world, it looks like this is more than just a superstition.
Based in real historical events: mysterious poisonings, in which victims died, often unaware they had been attacked. Albia is now twenty-eight and an established female investigator.
We meet Albia’s personal circle, glimpse old haunts and hear of old friends, but the focus is on Albia herself, a tough, witty, winning personality who fearlessly tackles inhumanity and injustice, braving any risks and winning the friendship of unexpected allies.
A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.
Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.
Fear stalks the town of Aberdeen as a ship recruiting for the wars lies at anchor in the river mouth. A sinister figure watches from the shadows as apprehension grows and culminates in the disappearance of the son of a Highland chief – a student of Alexander Seaton.
When the frozen body of a young woman is found in the garden of a prominent citizen, Alexander becomes more deeply embroiled. He realises that the figure in the shadows is known to him and has come for him. He can hide from his past no longer.
Steven Saylor – The Seven Wonders (Constable & Robinson Crime Fiction)
Steven Saylor, the bestselling author of Empire and Roma, turns the clock back to 92 BC, where Gordianus, just turned 18, is set to embark on the adventure of a lifetime: a far-flung expedition to see the Seven Wonders of the World, the most spectacular constructions ever devised by mankind. Accompanied by his tutor, the celebrated poet Antipater of Sidon, he will journey to the fabled cities of Greece and Asia Minor, to Babylon and Egypt.
In this compelling prequel, Gordianus is not yet called ‘The Finder’ – that title still belongs to his father. But at each of the Seven Wonders, the wide-eyed Roman encounters a mystery to challenge his deductive powers. Here is a portrait of a master sleuth in the making, the earliest exploits of the man who will become Rome’s most sought-after investigator.
Today we’re doing some time travel for my Anticipated Books posts by looking at historical fiction. I rediscovered historical fiction in 2011 and 2012 only strengthened my love for the genre, so here’s another list that’s become a little longer. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
Isabella was the notorious warrior-queen who, along with her husband Ferdinand, transformed Spain forever. Popular belief has her as a religious fanatic persuaded into the horrific excesses of the Inquisition by her confessor, Torquemada; but C.W. Gortner paints a picture of her early life, showing us a headstrong, passionate girl who grew into the most powerful queen Spain ever knew and whose vision and imagination allowed Columbus to discover America.
Katherine Keenum – Where the Light Falls (Berkley)
At the dawning of the Belle Epoque, Paris attracts artists from everywhere, including Jeanette Palmer, daughter of a prominent Ohio family, who has left Vassar College under a cloud of scandal.
Amid the city’s great bohemian neighborhoods and studios, Jeanette meets an American Civil War veteran named Edward Murer. As she begins to achieve artistic success, Jeanette’s relationship with Edward begins to flourish—but he is plagued by addiction and personal demons. Just as the world opens its arms to Jeanette, she finds herself torn between pursuing a burgeoning career or following her heart.
Annabel Lyon – The Sweet Girl (Atlantic Books)
Pythias is her father’s daughter, right down to her hard, slate-grey eyes. Aristotle’s child should be content with a life of childbearing. But she is smart, able to match wits with a roomful of Athenian thinkers. Is she a freak or a harbinger of what women can really be?
When Aristotle finally dies, however, the orphaned sixteen-year-old Pythias quickly discovers that the world is not a place of logic, but one of superstition. To reach her full potential, Aristotle’s daughter will need every ounce of wit she possesses, but she must also learn, quickly, to nurture her capacity to love.
Perkin Warbeck is an ordinary young man in fifteenth-century Tournai. The son of a port official, he loves nothing more than swimming, singing and fishing with his father. But Perkin has a secret. His real name is Richard, and he is the rightful Prince of England.
Thought to have been murdered with his brother, Edward, in the Tower of London, he was covertly taken to the continent and placed with an adoptive family under an assumed identity. But when his enemies seek him out he must flee, and embarks on a new life of derring-do, sailing the high seas with the era’s greatest adventurers. But Richard cannot avoid his fate forever. He knows he must return to England, to assume the throne that is his birthright. But what for Richard is a homecoming, for the new king, Henry Tudor, is nothing less than an invasion, and ‘Perkin’ slowly comes to learn that the price of his goal is the blood of innocent men.
Tara Conklin – The House Girl (William Morrow)
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.
It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?
Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.
Elizabeth Gill – Miss Appleby’s Academy (Quercus)
Emma Appleby’s ordered and loving existence in New England comes to an abrupt and painful end with the death of her father. Emma plots her escape to the town in England where he was born. Opening an academy, she sets herself up in competition with the local school, provoking a savage response from the community. But she will not be deterred – even when her past catches up with her.
When young, aspiring playwright William Shakespeare encounters Lucy Morgan, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting, his life is turned upside-down as the two fall passionately in love, He declares Lucy the inspiration for his work, but what secret is Will hising from his muse?
Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secret – and one that could destroy her world if exposed. For she bore witness to the clandestine wedding of the Queen’s cousin Lettice Knollys to Robert Dudley, rumoured to be the Queen’s lover. In a court where any slight against the monarch is considered treasonous, what will happen if Lucy’s secret is revealed?
With England in perilous times, Queen Elizabeth’s health begins to deteriorate, her throne under siege from Catholic plotters and threats of war with Spain. Faced with more than she can cope with, she longs for a confidante. But who can she turn to when those closest to her have proved untrustworthy?
Times have never been so precarious. And these two women, with polar-opposite lives, soon find that they are both in danger…
Lynn Shepherd – A Treacherous Likeness (Corsair)
This compelling follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s sees the return of Charles Maddox in a new literary mystery that is inspired by the Young Romantics – the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife, Mary, author of Frankenstein, and Lord Byron, famously ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’. Beginning in London in 1850, the story takes the reader back through time and across Europe, to reveal the dark secrets and tangled lives of a dazzling but doomed generation. Drawing on rigorous research, Lynn Shepherd finds new and explosive answers to questions that even modern biographers of the Shelleys still cannot explain.
He is Queen Elizabeth’s last, perhaps her greatest, love – Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general…and the man that John Lawley, England’s finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl – the reckless melancholic – and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many.
All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen’s affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
But John is doomed by his three devils: whisky, women and Mad Robbie Deveraux. Despite every effort to evade the clutches of Elizabeth and her cohorts, John is soon enmeshed in the intrigues of court and dragged into the seemingly hopeless war in Ireland, forced to play his part in a deadly game of power and politics, conspiracy and rebellion.
From the scaffold of the Globe to the one in the Tower. From ambush in Ireland to even greater menace in Whitehall, John Lawley must strive to be – or not to be – the man who might just save England.
Richard Blake – The Ghosts of Athens (Hodder & Stoughton)
It is 612 AD and Aelric &8211; senator of the Roman Empire, fresh from a bloodbath in Egypt – is forced to divert the Imperial galley to Athens.
He finds a demoralized and corrupt provincial city threatened by and an army rumoured to contain twenty million starving barbarians.
Not to mention an explosive religious dispute, an unexplained corpse, and hints of something worse than murder…
He will have to call upon all his formidable intellect and lethal ingenuity to survive his enemies inside and outside the city walls…
Iain Gale – Keane’s Company (Heron Books)
James Keane, officer in the 27th Foot, card sharp, ladies’ man and one of the finest but most rebellious soldiers in the British army, is under threat of court martial for disobeying Wellesley’s strict rules. Buthis special, even ungentlemanly, skills have caught his general’s eye, so he is selected to form a unique unit which will work behind enemy lines.
Keane’s next task is to hand-pick his band of men, some from prison for their aptitude at lock-picking and forgery as well as fighting skills, and form them into an effective unit before being sent on their first intelligence-gathering special mission, this time to link up with a lethal Spanish guerrilla leader.
Stealing into Oporto, Keane’s men have to hold a vital post over the river a crossing against overwhelming forces, before being detached once more into the high mountains on another mission where the strains of the diverse characters of the unit test Keane’s leadership skills to the uttermost.
Tim Leach – The Last King of Lydia (Atlantic Books)
Croesus, once the richest man of the ancient world, remembers how he once asked the old philosopher, Solon, who was the happiest man alive? Croesus used to think it was him. Yet his wealth could not remove the spear from his dying son’s chest; could not make him as wise as his own slave; could not bring his wife’s love back; could not stop his army being torn apart, his kingdom defeated.
As the old philosopher replied, a man’s happiness can only be measured when he is dead. And Croesus is about to be burned alive.
Imogen Robertson – The Paris Winter (Headline)
Paris, 1909, Grieving the loss of her father, Maud travels to Paris to paint. Slipping into poverty, she is hired as a companion to young, beautiful Sylvie. But Sylvie is a prisoner in her own home, controlled by her addiction to opium. As Maud uncovers the secrets within this world of luxury, she is both fascinated and repelled by what she finds. Will she be able to resist the temptations of Paris and the seductions of wealth?
David Thomas – Killer at the End of the Line (Quercus)
Berlin, 1941: The battered remains of a woman: the seventh victim of a serial killer who has cast a pall of terror over the city. With SS-General Heydrich demanding immediate results, detective Georg Heuser races to catch the killer before he strikes again.
Minsk, 1942: Thousands of Jews arrive in cattle trucks. Among the policemen about to commit some of the most terrible crimes is detective Georg Heuser.
Koblenz 1962: One young lawyer closes in on her prey, and wonders – just how bad can a good man become?
Eva Weaver – The Puppet Boy of Warsaw (Weidenfeld)
Mika, a Jewish boy, inherits a coat from his grandfather and discovers a puppet in one of its many secret pockets. He becomes a puppeteer in the Warsaw ghetto, but soon his talent is discovered and Mika is forced to entertain the occupying German troops instead of his countrymen. There is one soldier, Max, with a heavy conscience, and when Max is handed one of Mika’s puppets, a war-torn legacy is passed from one generation to another.
Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni (HarperCollins)
A marvelous and absorbing debut novel, an enchanting combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.
Christian Cameron – The Ill-Made Knight (Orion)
William Gold comes into the world as his family slides down the social ladder. His head filled with tales of chivalry, instead he is branded a thief, and must make do with being squire to his childhood friend Sir Robert, a knight determined to make a name for himself as a man at arms in France. While William himself slowly acquires the skills of knightly combat, he remains an outsider – until the Battle of Poitiers when Sir Robert is cut down by the greatest knight of the age, Sir Geoffry de Charny, and William, his lowly squire, revenges him. But with his own knight dead, no honour acrrues to William for this feat of arms, and he is forced to become a mercenary. Scavenging a mis-matched set of armour from the knightly corpses, he joins one of the mercenary companies now set to pillage a defenceless France, and so begins a bloody career that sees William joining forces with the infamous Sir John Hawkwood and immersing himself in a treacherous clandestine war among the Italian city states. But paradoxically it is there, among the spies, assassins and hired killers serving their ruthless masters, that William finally discovers the true meaning of chivalry – and his destiny as a knight.
Sarah Dunant – Blood and Beauty (Virago)
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and in the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: he is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women and power must use papacy and family to succeed.
His eldest son Cesare, a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest – though increasingly unstable – weapon. Later immortalised in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. His daughter Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages: from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.
Philip Kazan – Appetite (Orion)
Nino knows that having a passion is the key to surviving in Florence without losing yourself completely. But Nino’s greatest gift will be his greatest curse; every flavour, every ingredient comes alive for him as vividly as a painting. His desire to create the perfect recipe and his love for Tessina soon lead him into danger, and Nino is forced to battle his deadly sins.
Giles Kristian – Brothers’ Fury (Transworld)
Rebel Cast out from his home, rejected by his family, Tom Rivers returns to his regiment. But his former commander believes the young hothead’s recklessness and contempt for authority has no place in his troop. And yet to a spymaster like Captain Crafte, Tom’s dark and fearless nature is in itself a weapon to be turned upon the hated cavaliers. For who else would dare to infiltrate Oxford, now the Royalist capital, to destroy the King’s printing press and strike a blow at the very heart of the enemy?
Renegade Raw with grief at the death of his father, Edmund Rivers rejects the peace talks between Parliament and the King. Instead, he leads a ragged but hardened band of amrauders across the moors, appearing out of the frozen world to fall on unsuspecting rebel columns like wolves. But Prince Rupert, who recognizes in Mun a fellow child of war, has other uses for him, from stealing an enormous gun, to burrowing through mud beneath the walls of Lichfield. The only peace the enemy will get from Mun Rivers is that of the grave.
Huntress Her heart broken from the loiss of her beloved Emmanuel and her father, Bess Rivers must make the hardest decision of her life. Leaving her new-born son behind she rides from Sheer House seeking Lady Mary’s estranged father, for she hopes he will help her re-unite what is left of her broken family. Risking her own life on the road, Bess will do whatever it takes to find her brother Tom and secure his Royal pardon – can she douse the flames of her brothers’ fury and see them reconciled?
James MacManus – Black Venus (Thomas Dunne Books)
For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife or Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Black Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Amongst the bohemians the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems which he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.
One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork Les Fleurs du Mal and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.
Black Venus recreates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.
After a blighted childhood, young Laura finds peace and purpose in the home of a midwife and healer. Later, she enrolls in Salerno’s famed medical school—the first in the world to admit women. Laura and her adoptive mother hope that Laura can build a bridge between women’s herbal healing and the new science of medicine developing in thirteenth century Italy.
The hardest lessons are those of love; Laura falls hard for a fellow student who abandons her for a wealthy wife. Worse, her mother rejects her as “impure.” Shattered, Laura devotes herself to her work, becoming a respected medico. But her heart is still bitter, and when she sees a chance for revenge, she grabs it—and takes for her own Bieta, the newborn daughter of a woman whose husband regularly raided the physician’s garden for bitter herbs to satisfy his pregnant wife’s cravings.
Determined to protect her adored daughter from the ravages of the world, Laura isolates the young woman in a tower. Bieta, as determined as her mother, escapes, and finds adventure—and love—on the streets of Salerno.
Bieta’s betrayal of her mother’s love comes at a terrible price as lives are ruined and families are torn apart. Laura’s medical knowledge cannot heal her broken heart; only a great act of love can bring everyone forgiveness and peace.
M.J. Rose – Seduction (Atria)
In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus–and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.
Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey–wher Hugo conducted the séances–hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different–Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.
Royalism’s last hope is Sir Mortimer Shay, a ruthless veteran of decades of intrigue who must rebuild a credible threat to Cromwell’s rule, whatever the cost.
John Thurloe is a young official in Cromwell’s service. Confronted by the extent of the Royalists’ secret intelligence network, he will have to fight the true power reaching into every corner of society: the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey.
This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated by those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.
Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor’s legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . .
Eighteenth century Admiralty Regulations forbade women living on board ship, but many found ways around this. George served on a number of ships, both as a man and unmasked. As Nan narrates her mother’s history she becomes obsessed by the idea that Nelson could have been her father. She meets a young man, Baltic Nelson, who clings to the same belief. Could her mother’s wild stories really be true?
Edward Rutherfurd – Paris (Hodder & Stoughton)
Edward Rutherfurd, the world’s greatest writer of historical epics, turns his attention to Paris and the lives of the men and women who, in two thousand years, transformed a humble Roman trading post on the muddy banks of the Seine to the most beautiful and celebrated capital in the world.
From its founding under the Romans to the timeless love story of Abelard and Heloise and the martyrdom of Joan of Arc; from the gilded glories of the Bourbon kings to the horrors of the French Revolution; from the glittering Napoleonic empire to the Nazi occupation and the incredible efforts of the French Resistance: PARIS brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Lights to sumptuous life.
Henry Venmore-Rowland – The Sword and the Throne (working title) (Transworld)
AD 69. Aulus Caecina Severus has thrown in his lot with the hedonistic Vitellius and prepares his legions for a gruelling march over the Alps.
Driven by the desire to repay the treachery of his former patron, the Emperor Galba, and to keep his rival Valens in check, Severus leads his army against barbarian rebellions and against the mountains themselves in his race to reach Italy first. With the vast Po valley almost in sight, news reaches the army that Galba has been killed in a coup, and that Otho has been declared Emperor by the Praetorians who he had bribed to murder their own emperor.
But there is no turning back for Severus, even if he wanted to. The Rhine legions want their man on the throne, and they won’t stop until they reach Rome itself. Even once Otho is defeated, the battle for supremacy between Severus and Valens is far from over. The politics of the court and the mob is the new battleground, and Severus needs the help of his wife Salonina and his freedman Totavalas in this constant game of thrones. When stories spread of a new power in the east, Severus has to decide where his real loyalty lies: to his Emperor, to his city or to himself?
Kate Worsley – She Rises (Bloomsbury)
It is 1740 and Louise Fletcher, a young maid, has been warned of the lure of the sea for as long as she can remember—after all, it stole away her father and brother. But when she is offered work in the bustling naval port of Harwich serving a wealthy captain’s daughter, she leaps at the chance to see more of the world. There she meets Rebecca, her haughty and fascinating mistress.
Intertwined with Louise’s story is that of fifteen-year-old Luke, who is beaten and press ganged, sent to sea against his will on board the warship Essex in the service of His Majesty’s Navy. He must learn fast and choose his friends well if he is to survive the brutal hardships of a sailor’s life and its many dangers, both up high in the rigging and in the dark decks down below.
Koschei leads Marya to his kingdom, where she becomes a warrior in his tireless battle against his own brother, the Tsar of Death.
Years pass. Battle-hardened, scarred by love, and longing for respite, Marya returns to St Petersburg – only to discover a place as pitiful as the land she has just fled: a starveling city, haunted by death.
Earlier this year, I cut my Valente-teeth novel-wise on The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I fell completely in love with her writing and in the months since I’ve listened to two of her short stories on EscapePod and PodCastle, which were every bit as good and rich as The Girl Who… was. As I’m also quite fond of fairytale retellings, Deathless seemed a story I couldn’t help but love. And seeming was truth, as Deathless was a stunning tale, which will stay with me for a while.
There will be mentions of elements of the story that might be considered spoilers for those unfamiliar with the Koschei mythos, so if you do not want to be spoiled please either skip ahead to the last paragraph of this review or click away!
The story is a wonderful retelling of The Death of Koschei the Deathless set in Russia in the first half of the twentieth century. It is a gorgeous mix of myth and history, mixing in several other Russian folk tales and all the political upheaval and cultural change Russia was embroiled in during the first fifty years of the twentieth century. I loved the metaphor of the colours of the birds and the uniforms they change into when they come for Marya’s sisters, each mirroring the next step in Russia’s revolution, it is an elegant way of alluding to the rapid political changes without giving a history lecture, but for those familiar with it, it’s perfectly clear what is happening. Valente retains many traditional fairytale elements – the repetition of certain phrases and actions, things coming in threes, and the quest as a proof of worthiness – but at the same time subverts them by having Marya being the one with agency; she is making the choices, she chooses to go with Ivan, she chooses to go with Koschei, she chooses to accept Baba Yaga’s challenges. She chooses to overpower Koschei in the same way he dominated her and reclaim her will. She goes from being a girl waiting for the magic to come for her to a woman creating her own magic.
The characters are wonderful, both those located in Buyan and later in Leningrad. Valente fills her world with many creatures springing from Russian folklore: leshy, vintovniks, domovoi, vila, russalki, magical horses, Baba Yaga and numerous other types of unnamed chyerti. There is a clear break in characters though, there are those of Marya’s innocence if you will, Zemlehyed, Naganya, and Lebedeva, who are her friends and who help her prove herself worthy of Koschei, and there are those who come after, Kseniya, Sofiya, and Zvonek. I especially loved Kseniya and Sofiya, as I recognised them from a short story Valente originally published in Clarkesworld, and which I heard on PodCastle, called Urchins, while Swimming. And before and after there are Koschei and Ivan, dark and light, Marya’s day husband and her night husband. They’re as different as can be, but at the same time frighteningly similar. Marya loves both of them for different reasons and they are both crucial to her development. And always, always there’s Marya. She’s the heart of the tale and the star. I absolutely loved her. Her development is fantastic and while she isn’t always very likeable, she’s never boring.
As I’ve come to expect from Valente, Deathless is written in gorgeous prose. From the fairytale repetitions, to the stately cadence of the sentences, to the wistfulness of its ending, the writing is pitch-perfect. There is so much layering to the narrative, that you could reread this book several times and find new meaning in it every time. There are themes of love, of power, of politics, all boiling down to who rules? Who rules in life, in death, in love, and in power. In Deathless Marya explores both sides of the equation and discovers those you rule, rule you in turn. The only problem for me was the ending, which escaped me. Even after reading it several times, I’m still not sure whether my interpretation of its meaning is the one Valente meant me to make. Then again, that might have been just her intention.
Deathless is a book made for reading aloud, for reading to someone. It is a book made for rereading and finding more to love each time. Valente is a fantastic storyteller who never fails to captivate the imagination and to capture the heart. Deathless has cemented her as a must-read author for me and the book is a shoe-in for my top favourite reads this year. If you’ve never read any work by Catherynne M. Valente, do yourself a favour and run and get this book. If you have read Valente’s work you’ll hardly need convincing by me to go and read this gorgeous story.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
September is a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha. Her dad is fighting in a faraway war, her mum is always out at work, and September is stuck in a lonely, adventureless rut. So when the Green Wind arrives at her window and invites her to Fairyland, she accepts in a flash. (Mightn’t you?)
But Fairyland is in crisis and confusion, crushed by the iron rule of the villainous Marquess – and September alone holds the key to restoring order. Well! She knows what a girl with a quest must do: she sets out to Fix Things.
With a book-loving dragon and a mysterious boy named Saturday by her side, September faces peril and pandemonium; loses her shadow, her shoe and her way – and finds a great deal more besides. But time is short, and time is ticking, and every story must have an ending. Can September save Fairyland? Can she even save herself?
Catherynne M. Valente is a name it’s hard to miss in the SFF community. She’s been twice nominated for a Hugo, won both the Tiptree and the Andre Norton Award and has won or been nominated for numerous other awards. She’s also one of the SF Squeecast regulars, a podcast I listen to with pleasure every month. I follow several bloggers who adore her writing, such as The Booksmugglers and The Little Red Reviewer. Still, despite reading rave reviews and having my interest peaked every time I did so, I never got around to reading any of Valente’s work. Until now that is. And after having finished The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, all I can say is “WOW!” and “Now I get it.” I was blown away by this book and Valente’s writing and story-telling.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – hereafter referred to as The Girl Who… – is gorgeously written. Its prose is stunning and was made for reading aloud, chock-full of alliterations, rhyming and just generally beautiful passages. And that is just the words on the page; the text is heavily layered with different meanings. Plus there are lovely allusions to other classical works such as The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. I had a lot of fun spotting these and making the connections. The Girl Who… would probably be a very rewarding book to reread, as I’d guess you’ll find new things in it every time. The narrative is also quite self aware, with a narrator that addresses the reader directly and talks about the conventions of story-telling and warns the reader when he is about to break them. I really liked this aspect and the narrative voice, which was warm and at time gently mocking the goings-on in the book.
September is a great character. She is not such a saccharine-sweet girl as one often saw in more classic children’s novel, but one with a bit of bite to her or as the Green Wind put it, ‘an ill-tempered and irascible enough child.’ I loved that September is described as Somewhat Heartless, and Somewhat Grown and the book’s explanation of how all children start out heartless and only because of this can they act like children. And her voyage through Fairyland seems to have grown her heart as well, as she never once considers abandoning her friends—well, not for very long anyway. She’s a girl that takes matters into her own hands and she’ll be the hero of her own tale, thank you very much, though she is glad for the help of the friends she makes along the way. Her friends are delightful. A-Through-L, the wyverary completely stole my heart and I loved his dual nature, how could I not love the child of a wyvern and a library! Saturday, the Marid, was interesting and another creature that has two sides to him. Mostly he is a sweet, shy creature, but when he is challenged for a wish he becomes scary and ferocious. Unlike in Alice in Wonderland, where all grown-ups are either bad guys or mad, in The Girl Who… grown-ups aren’t made into the bad guys. No, the villain in this plot, The Marquess, is a little girl too. This a tale of growing up and finding independence without having to vilify all adults, even if they leave you alone to go to war, like September’s father, or are at work all the time, like her mother. In The Girl Who… the adults are normal people – relatively though, I mean, how normal is a witch? – who can be good or bad, kind or unkind.
The Girl Who… is a story for all ages. Younger children will just see the exciting story, the quest September undertakes, while teens will perhaps see a little deeper into the story and see its wisdom about growing up. And for adults there are different layers again: the impact of the loss of a parent, how destructive our modern-day corporate and bureaucratic world is to a free spirit and that in the end life is all about losing and finding your way again, sometimes with the help of (unexpected) friends.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a fantastic story and one anyone who loves fairytales and classical children’s books such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wizard of Oz shouldn’t miss. I can’t wait till the girls are old enough to read it with them – or until the book, hopefully, is translated into Dutch, which means we’ll get to read it sooner – as September is a heroine they could do worse than emulate. This one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up in my year’s end list. It also means I’ve found yet another writer whose backlist I need to read! The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Makingis out in paperback in the UK from Corsair on June 7th.
The Dark Shadows saga begins with a full measure of eroticism, spellbinding suspense, and gripping storytelling.
The dashing heir of a New England shipping magnate, Barnabas Collins captures the heart of the exquisite, young Angelique amidst the sensual beauty of Martinique, her island home. But Angelique’s brief happiness is doomed when Barnabas deserts her for another. With this one betrayal, Barnabas unleashes an evil that will torment him for all time.
For Angelique is no ordinary woman. Vowing to destroy Barnabas, a vengeful Angelique damns him to eternal life as a vampire-a companion to accompany her forever. Little does Angelique understand the depth of Barnabas’s fury…
When I was approached to review Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent, one of the reasons I accepted was the fact that this was the story on which the new Tim Burton film was based. The other was that this was a book definitely a little outside of my comfort zone and I think it is important to challenge your reading habits at times. Unfortunately, I failed my own challenge. This book was a struggle for me. It wasn’t my cup of tea, turning out to be far more on the romance side than I expected. If I hadn’t promised to read and review it, I might have put it aside. Perhaps I should have done more research beforehand, as I would probably have had different expectations if I’d done so. Dark Shadows, the film, isn’t the first incarnation of this tale, far from it. Dark Shadows originated as a daytime TV soap in the 1960’s and had a short-lived revival in the early 1990’s. Taking these origins into account, the fact that the book is as romancey as it is, shouldn’t have been a surprise. As it was, I was caught by surprise, but my problems with the books weren’t just because of the romance angle.
As I stated above, Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent is very reminiscent of a soap opera, which seeing its genesis isn’t surprising, but did make for an exasperating read. It has the typical soap opera device where people change their minds a gazillion times and keep hanging on to former lovers as if you only have the one shot. Angelique’s obsession with Barnabas drove me insane, by the third or fourth time he rejected her, I just wanted to smack her and tell her to move on already! It also suffers from random plot elements surprising its own characters. For example, Angelique recalls someone from the dead and makes them a zombie, who then drops from the story, but when said zombie turns up at her door at one point she’s completely astonished. There were several of these instances, which are common in soaps, but are strange when they show up in books.
Writing-wise, the book also contained its fair share of purple prose. Again, common in romance books, but not something I look for in books I read. I do have to say that the prose tightened up a lot toward the end of the book and the purplishness wasn’t as jolting in the sections set in the past, which tell Angelique’s story. I found the prose far more of a problem in the sections set in the 1970’s, which are told from Barnabas’ point of view. On the whole, I have to say I did enjoy Angelique’s sections far more, the setting in the Caribbean was interesting and drew me in far more than Barnabas’ Maine.
One thing I found really problematic was the age at which Angelique is described to feel the first stirrings of sexual desire. She’s only eleven or twelve when this is described and I found it highly disturbing. Despite being set in the 18th century and people marrying younger back then, I still find eleven – and a later scene at thirteen – to be too young for my sensibilities and I wonder whether it was really necessary to have her be that young for these scenes to work. If she’d just been a year or three older, it would have been far less disturbing. However, I realise that this might be a personal concern, there might be many people who do not find this problematic.
I find it hard to give a final judgement for Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent, because of the fact that it just wasn’t my cup of tea. There were some things which are bad or disturbing no matter what genre it is, but overall, much of what I found tedious about the book, might just be the thing that makes it work for others. So I can’t say I recommend it, unless you’re a die-hard romance reader who likes a bit of the supernatural mixed in or you have fond memories of the original TV series.
This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. It is an eBook-only publication.