In the middle of the 15th century, scribe Peter Schoeffer is dismayed to be instructed by his father to give up his beloved profession of illuminating texts in Paris. Instead he is to travel to Mainz in Germany to be apprenticed to Johann Gutenberg, an entrepreneur who has invented a new process for producing books – the printing press. Working in conditions of extreme secrecy, the men employed by Gutenberg daily face new challenges both artistic and physical as they strive to create the new books to the standard required by their master. In a time of huge turmoil in Europe and around the world, Gutenberg is relentless in pursuing his dream and wooing the powerful religious leaders whose support is critical. Peter’s resistance to the project slowly dissolves as he sees that, with the guidance of a scribe such as himself, the new Bibles could be as beautiful in their way as the old. Today we can see that beauty in some of our museums, but few know the astonishing tale of ambition, ruthlessness and triumph that lies behind it.
The invention of the printing press with movable type was arguably one of the biggest impulses that brought about the advent of the Renaissance and one of the biggest change agents in civilisation.The ability to print texts in large quantities quickly and at a markedly reduced cost changed medieval society in much the same way as the advent of the internet did ours. As an English Lit major specialising in book history, Gutenberg is naturally a person of interest to me, so when I saw Alix Christie’s Gutenberg’s Apprentice on the Headline site I knew I had to read it. Within its covers I found a riveting tale of a man driven by vision and ambition and the apprentice who was pressed into his service against his desire. Continue reading
By 13 October, 2014
Posted in historical fiction, review
A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.
After travelling through time in SHADOW OF NIGHT, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home in France they reunite with their families – with one heart-breaking exception. But the real threat to their future is yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on a terrifying urgency. Using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the palaces of Venice and beyond, Diana and Matthew will finally learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.
I was surprisingly blown away by the first book in this series and its sequel drew me in even further. Yet A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night were two very different books. Where A Discovery of Witches was modern day supernatural fantasy, Shadow of Night was very much a historical fantasy. And I was looking forward to seeing what The Book of Life would be. As far as setting goes, The Book of Life is very much more in the vein of A Discovery of Witches, yet with the added benefit of some of the fantastic characters from Shadow of Night. Yet like both of its predecessor the book makes for addictive reading and I had a serious case of book hangover once I finished it.
Of a necessity, talking about The Book of Life will contain some spoilers for the previous books, so if you want to remain unspoiled, beyond the cut will be SPOILERS! Continue reading
By 24 July, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review
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! Continue reading
By 23 June, 2014
Posted in article, crime, historical fiction
Welcome to the first post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2014. As usual I had so many fantasy books catch my fancy I had to split them into two posts. 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! Continue reading
By 19 June, 2014
Posted in article, fantasy
1854: The banks of the Alma River, Crimean Peninsula. The Redcoats stagger to a bloody halt. The men of the King’s Royal Fusiliers are in terrible trouble, ducking and twisting as the storm of shot, shell and bullet tear through their ranks.
Officer Jack Lark has to act immediately and decisively. His life and the success of the campaign depend on it. But does he have the mettle, the officer qualities that are the life blood of the British Army? From a poor background Lark has risen through the ranks by stealth and guile and now he faces the ultimate test…
Reading The Scarlet Thief at this point in time was an oddly well-timed choice as it turns out, set as it is in the Crimea. It appears history truly can be cyclical if one compares what is revealed about the origins of the Crimean War with what is happening there now. It was also a closer look at a conflict I’ve never learned that much about, beyond Florence Nightingale and Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade. And what a hopeless conflict it was. Paul Fraser Collard paints us a vivid and horrifying picture of life at the front and the terrible cost of life, not just to the armed forces on both sides, but to the innocent inhabitants of the Crimea as well, who were burned out of their houses and robbed of all their possessions in a scorched earth policy to deny resources and cover to the enemy. But The Scarlet Thief is more than descriptions of death and horrible war wounds, there is also a lot of humour and a wonderful protagonist who will capture your heart. Continue reading
By 21 May, 2014
Posted in historical fiction, review
Prince Corin has been given the task of freeing the dragons from their bondage to the Empire. However, it seems that that not even the dragonriders themselves know how these terrifying beasts are kept under control.
When Tam, a doctor’s daughter, arrives in the capital she makes an amazing discovery: she is a Seer, gifted with visions.
Sparks fly when Corin and Tam meet … but it’s not all happily ever after. Not only is the prince forbidden to marry a commoner, but war is coming to Caithen. Torn between love and duty, they must work together to uncover the secret that threatens to destroy their country.
Moth and Spark is Anne Leonard’s debut novel and one that grabbed my attention from the word go. I mean dragons, revolt, and magic—what’s not to love? And I had a fantastic time reading the book. It has a somewhat Austen-esque sensibility to its language, something acknowledged by the author in the relevant section in the back of the book, which I just love. Much of the naming conventions were familiar as they seemed to have been drawn from Hellenic culture. For example the Empire is called Mycene, Tam’s name is Liddean – perhaps derived from Lydia – Corin and Caithen reminded me of Corinth and so on, yet the world itself didn’t really seem to reflect this Hellenic influence. Instead it’s very much its own thing, more medieval on the cusp of the Renaissance than classical. The setting and language were wonderful as were the characters that populate the novel. Continue reading
By 2 May, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review
A stolen baby. A murdered woman. A decades-old atrocity. Something connects them all.
A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.
Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.
As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
In The Dead Ground Claire McGowan returns us to Ballyterrin and Paula Maguire in a chilling case that once again connects the past with the future and reminds us that history always echoes on into the present. I launched into this book immediately after finishing its predecessor The Lost and this second book in the Paula Maguire series was just as exciting as the first. Continue reading
By 24 April, 2014
Posted in crime, review
Not everyone who’s missing is lost…
When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the hometown she left years before. Swirling with rumour and secrets, the town is gripped by fear of a serial killer. But the truth could be even darker.
Not everyone who’s lost wants to be found…
Surrounded by people and places she tried to forget, Paula digs into the cases as the truth twists further away. What’s the link with two other disappearances from 1985? And why does everything lead back to the town’s dark past- including the reasons her own mother went missing years before?
Nothing is what it seems…
As the shocking truth is revealed, Paula learns that sometimes, it’s better not to find what you’ve lost.
The Lost is the first Paula Maguire book and author Claire McGowan’s second published novel after The Fall. Set on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Northern side, the narrative reverberates with the memories of The Troubles and with the lingering, but very real, echoes of the sectarian divide. It’s an honest look at life on a troubled border and doesn’t flinch back at the harsh truth that while there may be peace, things are far from peaceful. And that is just the setting. A good crime novel, I’ve learned, depends far more on the strength of its characters than on the originality of the puzzle to be solved. And while the crime at the heart of this novel was quite original and its unravelling fascinating, what made The Lost an utterly compelling read was its cast of characters. Continue reading
By 22 April, 2014
Posted in crime, review
Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room -an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.
If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.
Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.
She doesn’t plan on making friends.
She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.
Sarah Harian’s The Wicked We Have Done is the first novel I’ve read that was labelled New Adult and I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. I’ve always found the New Adult moniker a little vague and wasn’t sure how to interpret it. Was it YA but with slightly older protagonists and a little more risqué content in both action and language? Was it a novel for adults with YA themes, such as self-discovery and finding your feet when going out into ‘the real world’? The nature and necessity of a New Adult category in publishing has been debated and expounded on in great detail, so I won’t go deeper into that here. Still, Harian’s debut hasn’t really answered my questions in that regard and more importantly, it shouldn’t have to. What it did have to do was entertain me and tell a good story, which it certainly did. Continue reading
Heroes must rise…
The King is dead. His daughter, untested and alone, now wears the Steel Crown. And a vast horde is steadily carving a bloody road south, hell-bent on razing Steelhaven to the ground.
or the city will fall.
Before the city faces the terror that approaches, it must crush the danger already lurking within its walls. But will the cost of victory be as devastating as that of defeat?
Last year I was quite taken with Herald of the Storm, the first book in the Steelhaven trilogy, so I was very much looking forward to this second instalment called The Shattered Crown. I liked the setting, the tone of the first novel, and the fact that there were many different flavours of type of story in the book. On the other hand I had some difficulties with the pacing and some of the characters. I was hoping that Ford would improve on the points I found lacking and keep everything I liked. And he did, mostly. Continue reading
By 21 March, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review