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Fallible Justice : Laura Laakso

… tremendously satisfying urban fantasy …

fantasy fiction British wilderness

The detective is one of the Wild Folk, hurting and lonely in the city of an Olde London where magic reigns. Her apprentice is a Bird Shaman. They need to solve the murder and work out how the justice system can be corrupted before an innocent man is executed. They have five days.

Fallible Justice is a joy to read: intriguing characters and deft world building Continue reading “Fallible Justice : Laura Laakso”

Corpse Light : Angela Slatter

… great fun urban fantasy with a kick-ass female lead …

urban fantasy brisbane

Verity Fassbinder is half Weyrd and half norm – a status which makes her well placed to police the blurred lines between the normal and the shadowy in the city of Brisbane. When an insurance company gets troubled by an “Unusual Happenstance, Verity is called in and the threads of the situation unfurl to coil around her friends and her family, and ultimately Verity herself.

Angela writes with great style and economy. The story line is fast and furious with lots of fabulous characters and relationship twists but, most of all, I’ve waited all year to spend time with Verity again. She is loud mouthed, full of heart and this time, she’s very, very pregnant.

Recommended.

Angela Slatter is an award-winning author of short story collections for which she has won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award and five Aurealis Awards. Vigil, the first Verity Fassbinder book, was her first solo novel. Angela lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Cover design moment: The illustration of a Kitsune (fox) assassin is by Rory Kee, who is name credited on the back and appears to work for Quercus quite a bit – though unfortunately I can’t find a website for her.

Corpse Light by Angela Slatter was published by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus, on 13th July 2017. This is the second in Angela’s Verity Fassbinder series. Restoration, the third, is hopefully out next year.

Strange Magic : Syd Moore

… great fun, witchy mystery …

fantasy book review witch magic

A chase across England after the bones of Ursula Cadence, a C16th witch, before the ghost of her son does something extreme.

Syd’s deft writing establishes the protagonist, Rosie Strange, as the new owner of the run down Essex Witch Museum whilst smoothly setting up the working (and love/hate) relationship between her and the museum curator, Sam Stone.

The relaxed breezy style and numerous Essex jokes belie the amount of research that obviously went into the novel’s background.  These details add depth and thoughtfulness to an otherwise lightweight read. This isn’t a criticism but more of a comment on an interesting juxtaposition between the constant froth of Essex humour against the dark witchcraft subject matter. This contrast is further highlighted by the fact that in her acknowledgements Syd explains she has tried to get funding for a witchcraft museum – and still hopes one day to achieve this dream; and yet the novel’s by-line on the cover is “The only way is witchcraft” – a reference to the popular British reality soap, “The Only way is Essex” which full of love triangles, fake tans and hair extensions. There’s a lovely 5 minute Youtube clip of Syd Moore explaining the 1980s prejudice, comparison between witches and Essex girls, and her revisioning of them both here.

A thoroughly enjoyable holiday mystery and I am looking forward to the next in the Essex Witch Museum series.

Syd Moore lives in Essex.  She has been a lecturer and a TV presenter before becoming a writer.

This is my fourteenth review in the British Books Challenge 2017.  Come and join us at over at Chelley Toy’s site.

Cover design moment: Superb design by James Jones: clear, vibrant, stand out from shelf kind of work.  Lovely to see that this Art Director of One World name checked on the back and mentioned by Syd Moore in her acknowledgements for the “gobsmacking Oh-my-god-I-love it so-much jacket design”. Bravo!  A selection of his brilliant designs can be found on his Tumblr feed here.

Strange Magic by Syd Moore was published by Point Blank, an imprint of One World, on 4th May 2017. A sequel, Strange Sight, is due to be published in October 2017.

 

 

A Symphony of Echoes : Jodi Taylor

… great fun alt. history …

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I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while and the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary‘s arrived before the first.   Undeterred, I went right ahead and read A Symphony of Echoes.  It didn’t matter; the writing doesn’t take itself seriously and I just went along for the ride.  And what a ride!  Jodi sets her protagonist, Max, off at a tremendous lick, ricocheting from Victorian slums to c12th Canterbury to Ancient Nineveh taking in dodos and arch villainy at the same time.

The background to the series is the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research: an academic establishment full of historians who travel in pods to investigate major past events.  This allows Jodi to take her pick of any historical episode and drop her characters straight into the heart of it; her vivid imagining of the past adds to the fun and the story can lift itself up and put whenever it wants.     All this frenetic activity teeters on the brink of excess, but I can forgive Jodi as she has created a splendid character, Madeleine Maxwell.  It’s told in the first person and the speed of the narrative is heightened by this smart, sassy, possibly damaged young woman’s stream of observations and one-liners.

Recommended.

Cover design moment: The old UK covers of this series all feature a rather cool clock spiral, looking rather like a trilobite, and a book-specific mock historical painting.  It’s fine but … the fuzziness wouldn’t grab me if I was browsing in a bookshop.  I prefer the new design even though there are quite a few cod Victorian covers around at the moment.  They are altogether brighter and echo the breeziness of the storytelling – which, I think, is a great selling point.

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Jodi Taylor ‘s biog states (amongst other things) … born in Bristol and educated in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and pick up a pen …

She started out self publishing her novels, very successfully, before being approached by independent publishers, Accent Press.  A quick and interesting account of her journey can be found here at the Writers’ Workshop website.  Jodi, herself, writes some very entertaining blog posts on her own website, here.

This book is the third review in my British Books Challenge 2017.

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Peters is published by Accent Press.  Emily at Emily’s Bookshop recommended it to me.  Thanks, Em!

Jonathan Dark : AK Benedict

… captivating supernatural crime thriller …

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Emily, my excellent bookseller, thought I might like this … and I was dubious as I’m more of an urban fantasy girl myself.  But, what a read!  This book is written in the present tense balancing the supernatural world of ghosts with the growing tension of a stalker about to pounce.  Its charm builds slowly as the book starts with a boiler plate policeman, DI Dark, who is nursing a broken marriage and a serious drink problem – so what’s new?  Well, quite a lot as it turns out.

AK Benedict deftly plays her stock characters and various strands: a blind mudlark, a vengeful spirit, a psychic funeral director, a criminal ring, and a taxi driving ghost around the main plot of a stalker planning to take his next victim.  DI Dark has already failed to catch this stalker and a miasma of desperation and grief hangs around this story of murder victims, brutal coercion and fading ghosts.  This is lightened by believable characters that linger long after you’ve stopped reading and a truly wonderful and intriguing Maria, the object of the stalker’s desire: “I’m a stalkee.  He’s not MY stalker.”; and her guide dog, Billy who huffs.

AK Benedict also has great fun scattering potential candidates for the stalker liberally around the story : is it Denver, the computer whizz, or Martin, the would-be boyfriend or some one else in the Force?  My mind started to jump with the possibilities.

This is a captivating supernatural crime thriller.  I was rooting for DI Dark and Maria all the way and do I hope they return sometime soon.

AK Benedict lives in Hastings and writes in a room filled with teapots and the severed head of a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Her debut novelThe Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for an 8-part TV series. Her audio drama, The Victorian Age, was released as part of the Torchwood range at Big Finish while Outbreak, a full-cast Torchwood audio co-written with Guy Adams and Emma Reeves, will be released in November 2016.

Cover design moment: The designer of the smart UK cover is credited in AK’s blog.  He is the lovely Patrick Knowles who is responsible for the hand lettering and cover design for Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London series.

Jonathan Dark was published in February 2016 by Orion Books.  I was given a proof copy by A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

Fated : Benedict Jacka

… a diviner with a troubling past and a dangerous future … 

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Alex Verus is the owner of Arcana Emporium, a shop in Camden Town, North London. He’s also a diviner with a troubling past and a dangerous future with a sort of cursed girlfriend and a habit of not taking sides.   Alex gets dragged into the middle of a treasure hunt with Dark and Light mages competing for an ancient prize hidden in the British Museum: a fateweaver, a wand that can control the future.    Ghosts from Alex’s teenage years come back to haunt him – and kill him – as he tries to protect the ones he loves and hold himself apart from the deadly competitors’ claims on his loyalty.

Benedict weaves a thoroughly enjoyable story with a likeable and damaged hero through to a thrilling and very well constructed end.  I would say there’s slightly too much explanation which began to slow the pace down, but I’m guessing Benedict’s writing can only get better.

A great addition to any urban fantasy shelf and, as Fated is the first in a series of seven, I look forward to reading more …

Cover design moment: The UK covers for at least the first couple in the series are by Sian Wilson. She is currently a Senior Designer at Simon and Schuster .  They really are good which is just as well as they have to compete with the urban fantasy bestseller, Ben Aaronovitch‘s, gorgeous covers based on a work by Stephen Walter. 

Fated was published by Orbit in March 2012.  I came across the book as the first chapter was printed in the back of  Chasing Embers by James Bennett.

 

 

Vigil : Angela Slatter

… dazzlingly inventiveness with smart as a whip one liners makes Vigil a sheer delight …  

Vigil is a brilliant urban fantasy from an accomplished Australian writer.  I read it too fast and had to force myself to slow down; I carried the book around just in case I had time to sneak a couple of pages … now, I can’t remember the last time I did THAT.

Smart and sassy detective, Verity Fassbinder, walks between the two Brisbanes, accompanied by (and bickering with) an assortment of entertaining characters such as Ziggi, the three eyed taxi driver; the Three Sisters who keep Little Venice cafe; and the grizzled Inspector McIntyre.

Damaged by memories of a dark Weyrd father and sore from an impossible Weyrd romance, Verity still feels duty bound to keep the peace, making sure the Weyrd remain hidden from the normal city.  Now multiple problems are clamouring for Verity’s attention including snatched children; an urban golem; a witchy wine maker and some seriously damaged sirens.

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Angela’s dazzlingly inventiveness of plot and character combined with smart as a whip one liners make Vigil a sheer delight to read.  I highly recommend it.

Angela Slatter is the award-winning author of various story collections. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award and five Aurealis Awards. Vigil is her first solo novel.

Vigil was published was Jo Fletcher Books (a Quercus imprint) on 16 July 2016.  I read a copy lent to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

 

 

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