Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head.
Any attempt to sell the head fails … until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain – unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent’s life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment.
Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven’s Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.
The Raven’s Head is Karen Maitland’s latest historical novel, one that I’d been very much looking forward to reading. I have enjoyed Maitland’s writing on The History Girls blog and have wanted to read her work since reading reviews for Company of Liars. Earlier this week I read her previous novel The Vanishing Witch, which I really enjoyed, and I was interested to see how much of the unique style of that book was particular to that story and how much was part of Maitland’s authorial voice. Based on the sample I’ve read so far (n=2) Maitland definitely has a distinctive and consistent writing style, one that really suits my reading tastes. Continue reading
By 13 March, 2015
Posted in historical fiction, review
Take one wealthy merchant. Add one charming widow. And one dying wife.
The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust?
The dour wool merchant?
His impulsive son?
The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes?
Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?
And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.
I’ve wanted to read Karen Maitland’s work for years, ever since I read reviews for Company of Liars, but as often happens in a reviewer’s life, I never got to it. This made me doubly excited when this ARC for The Vanishing Witch appeared in my mailbox, but it was a big book – 688 pages in my proof copy – and it languished on my To Be Read pile. Now with the paperback for The Vanishing Witch out tomorrow, not to mention Maitland’s latest The Raven’s Head, this seemed a good time to read it. It was a wonderful read, super atmospheric and very much what I expected Maitland’s writing to be based of what I’ve read of her non-fiction articles on The History Girls. Continue reading
By 11 March, 2015
Posted in historical fiction, review
In this new volume, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction-stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013-as well as BLACK DOG, a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods.
Trigger Warning is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explores the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story-a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane-Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year-stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.
A new Neil Gaiman book or collection is usually greeted by lots of cheers of readers all over the world. When his third short story collection was announced, this was readily apparent all over the internet. And then the title was announced and things got a little less cheery. Gaiman decided to title his collection Trigger Warning: short fiction and disturbances. For various reasons people were unhappy about this. The announcement came at a time when mainstream discussion on trigger warnings and whether to include them on prescribed reading lists at universities and colleges was turning heated and the discussion was quickly co-opted by the ‘feminism is ruining everything’-crowd. In his introduction to his collection Gaiman explains that he was fascinated by the phenomenon of trigger warnings in an academic environment and his thoughts on the subject led him to decide to slap some trigger warnings on his own fiction before someone else did. Continue reading
By 4 March, 2015
Posted in fantasy, review, science fiction
Last month I reviewed David Churchill’s first novel The Leopards of Normandy: Devil, which I enjoyed very much. I say first novel instead of debut novel, since it’s a public secret that David Churchill is a pseudonym for thriller writer and journalist David Thomas. I really enjoyed Devil and I’m looking forward to the rest of the books. So I was stoked to be able to be part of the blog tour for the book and host a guest post. Today David reveals his top five historians, who fed his love of history. Continue reading
By 3 March, 2015
Posted in guest post, historical fiction
The fate of England hangs in the balance of a fight between brothers
The noble families of Europe are tearing themselves apart in their lust for power and wealth.
Emma, Queen of England, is in agony over the succession to her husband Canute’s throne … while the sons of her brother, the Duke of Normandy, battle in the wake of his death.
Robert, the younger son, has been cheated of Normandy’s mightiest castle and sets out to take it by force. He emerges from a bloody siege victorious and in love with a beautiful — and pregnant — peasant girl.
Robert’s child will be mocked as William the bastard. But we have another name for him
The first instalment in the Leopards of Normandy trilogy paints a world seething with rivalry and intrigue, where assassins are never short of work.
The Leopards of Normandy: Devil was one of my most anticipated reads for the first half of the year. William the Conqueror is a fascinating figure in English history. The effects of his taking over England on the English language was huge and one of the more interesting topics we studied in linguistics class—linguistics not being my favourite topic at uni. And while this era of European history is quite interesting due to its eventful nature, it is also one I don’t know that well. Enter Devil and the chance to learn more about both William and this period of history. Devil was very much what I expected it to be, with some surprises and some elements that really bugged me. Despite these, I really enjoyed the story as much as I’d hoped to. Continue reading
By 20 February, 2015
Posted in historical fiction, review
Last month I reviewed Colette McBeth’s second novel The Life I Left Behind, a gripping and exciting psychological thriller. I enjoyed it to bits and it made me want to read her debut novel Precious Thing as soon as I can fit it in. When I got the chance to be part of a blog tour for The Life I Left Behind I jumped on the chance to learn more about the way Colette goes about her research. Colette wrote the following wonderful guest post. I hope you enjoy it and that you pick up The Life I Left Behind, because it’s a brilliant read. Continue reading
By 29 January, 2015
Posted in crime, guest post, thriller
Next month will see the publication of The Iron Ghost, the follow up to The Copper Promise. Written by Jen Williams, The Copper Promise was oodles of sword and sorcery fun, which I just loved. I’m really looking forward to tucking into this second offering featuring, Wydrin, Sebastian and Frith, but I’m making myself wait until closer to publication. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this interview with Jen and if its piqued your interest and you haven’t read The Copper Promise yet, go catch up before February 26, when Headline will be publishing The Iron Ghost! Continue reading
By 28 January, 2015
Posted in fantasy, interview
Elsie Bovary is a cow and a pretty happy one at that. Until one night, Elsie sneaks out of the pasture and finds herself drawn to the farmhouse. Through the window, she sees the farmer’s family gathered around a bright Box God – and what the Box God reveals about something called an ‘industrial meat farm’ shakes Elsie’s understanding of her world to its core.
The only solution? To escape to a better, safer world. And so a motley crew is formed: Elsie; Shalom, a grumpy pig who’s recently converted to Judaism; and Tom, a suave turkey who can’t fly, but can work an iPhone with his beak. Toting stolen passports and slapdash human disguises, they head for the airport …
Elsie is a wise-cracking, slyly witty narrator; Tom dispenses psychiatric advice in a fake German accent; and Shalom ends up unexpectedly uniting Israelis and Palestinians. David Duchovny’s charismatic creatures point the way toward a mutual understanding and acceptance the world desperately needs.
The author of Holy Cow doesn’t really need an introduction, does he? Especially for all my fellow geeks who grew up on X-Files (Mulder <3’s Scully 4EVA!). But I was rather surprised when I was handed the proof copy for Holy Cow with the comment that David Duchovny had written it. I didn’t even knew he wrote! It turns out that Holy Cow is his debut novel and it is a solid debut. It is also very much a book that either works for you or it doesn’t. It approaches some serious real world issues through a humorous lens and its success will depend on whether you can appreciate Duchovny’s – by way of Elsie’s voice – sense of humour and the stances he takes on the issues he addresses. Continue reading
By 16 January, 2015
Posted in fantasy, mainstream, review
It is ten years since the attack that reduced Pittsburgh to ashes. Today all that remains is the Archive: an interactive digital record of the city and its people.
John Dominic Blaxton is a survivor, one of the ‘lucky ones’ who escaped the blast. Crippled by the loss of his wife and unborn daughter, he spends his days immersed in the Archive with the ghosts of yesterday.
It is there he finds the digital record of a body: a woman, lying face down, half buried in mud. Who is she … and why is someone hacking into the system and deleting the record of her seemingly unremarkable life? This question will drag Dominic from the darkest corners of the past into a deadly and very present nightmare.
When I started Tomorrow and Tomorrow, I was a bit unsure as to what to expect. Was it a murder mystery? An SF novel? A dystopia? It turned out the book is all three. Thomas Sweterlitsch delivers an immersive and thrilling tale of a man whose barely patched-together existence comes crumbling down around him when he discovers a murder in the City Archive that its perpetrators would rather stay buried with the city it happened in. The narrative is fascinating, though at times a little hard to follow. But staying on its tracks paid off beautifully in the end. Continue reading
By 11 January, 2015
Posted in crime, review, science fiction, thriller