I bring you a book by an author I’ve been intrigued by for a very long time, because of the many fans she has on Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I finally got to read one of her books. It was quite an experience.
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair
When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land.
What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.
As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?
Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.
Ailish Sinclair trained as a dancer and taught dance for many years, before working in schools to help children with special needs. A short stint as a housekeeper in a castle fired her already keen interest in untold stories of the past and she sat down to research and write.
She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children where she still dances and writes and eats rather a lot of chocolate.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.
I have read many glowing reviews of Ailish Sinclair’s previous books, and when I saw this one, I thought it was my chance to finally get to read one of them. I must confess to not remembering the exact details when I started to read the story, and I found it a pretty unique reading experience.
Morragh, the main protagonist, doesn’t talk at the beginning of the story (we don’t know if she can’t or chooses not to), at least she doesn’t talk to other people, but she communicates with gods, animals, and can see the future, We know all that because the story is narrated in the first person, from her point of view, and that gives the story a special feel, as she doesn’t experience things as most of us do. Reality, dreams, and visions of the past and the future (her own and others’) are all one for her, and she doesn’t always know when she is being herself or when she is being inhabited by the goddess. The language is poetic, made up of impressions and abstract images, and I felt as if I was in the middle of an ancient world I didn’t know the rules of, witnessing something momentous but alien. Her relationship with her sister (Onnagh) —who is not her biological sister but rescued her from a tragic fate— is one of the strengths of the book for me. I loved the bond between these chosen sisters, because, despite their closeness, they don’t always see things the same way. There are conflicts, moments when they don’t understand each other, and moments of anger and disappointment, but, ultimately, theirs is the strongest relationship in the book, as the beautiful title indicates.
Morragh learns much during the book, about love, about men, the importance of speaking, and the trade-off of communicating and interacting with the larger community, as there is something to be gained and something to be lost by changing her ways. Ultimately, though, she does what she thinks is right and necessary, even if it doesn’t always seem wise or advisable. Being her (as we know because we are inside her head) is not easy, and that is what makes her, her decisions, and her actions, such an extraordinary character.
The description of the book contains enough details of the plot, so I won’t add too much to it. There are quiet and contemplative moments when Morragh reflects, thinks, chats to her sister and peers, meets new people… and there are also rites, battles, fleeing, tragedy, and plenty of drama for those who love action, although they are not what fans of most historical fiction would expect. This is not an objective account full of detailed descriptions of clothes, strategies, and locations, as if the reader was an observer watching everything from the sideline, but a whirlwind of impressions, thoughts, and feelings, as if one was suddenly dropped in the middle of the battle. And some of the events take on a magical and mythological quality that adds much to the story but are not the usual fare of narrowly-defined historical fiction.
I am not very familiar with Celt folklore and mythology or ancient Scottish history, so although I enjoyed the story, I was grateful for the historical note the author includes at the end of the book. It clarifies which parts of the novel are based on historical fact, giving readers the opportunity to explore that era of Scottish history further if they are interested, and it provides locations for those keen to visit Aberdeenshire. I also enjoyed her comments about the process of creating the novel. Having read it, I can easily understand why it took her so long to write and publish it. The melding of the magical, mythological, historical, fictional, and, especially, emotional elements of the story, require a special kind of talent. And plenty of time and work.
There is much pain, death, loss, and destruction in this novel, but there is also plenty of love, loyalty, a sense of community, dedication, self-sacrifice, generosity, a sense of duty… There are moments of joy and very sad moments too, but, in my opinion, the sense of wonder and hope prevails, and I loved the ending.
Here are a few fragments of the novel, although I recommend checking a sample of the book to be sure the style suits the reader’s taste.
She did not get to be a child, my dear sister. Not after she saved m. And I am so sad for this. Onnagh should have been carefree and full of joy and fun and had someone to care for her too.
We cannot go back. Not ever. And nor should we. We can learn from the past, but we must only ever create the new. Water flows ever on. As do we.
And we all change.
The small metal discs are shiny with the heads of men who have been made important on them. These are the men who play games of war and conquest. But these are not the men who will fight or die in those games. There we differ from Rome. Our leaders will be among us in the fullness of the fray. The heads on these coins? They will stay in their grand and shiny stone houses, eating the oily little fruits that I have come to love. These metal men are not in any danger.
From some of the reviews I’ve read, I understand that the book is set in the same location as some of the author’s previous novels, but not having read any of them, at times I missed having access to more standard descriptions of the places and the people who play a part in the story, but, in all fairness, I don’t think it would have suited the style of writing, which at times reminded me of stream of thought, especially when Morragh was experiencing unusual events.
I cannot compare this novel to others by the author, but I am pretty sure her fans will enjoy this story as much or even more than the previous ones, and those who are looking for a strong females protagonist, love lyrical and expressive writing styles, and favour stories with a touch of magic and ancient mythology, particularly set in Scotland, should put it on their list. They are bound to discover a new author to follow, and a protagonist they’ll never forget.
Thanks to the author, to Rosie, and to all the members of her team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading and always being there. Remember to stay safe, to do whatever makes you happy, and to always keep smiling.
I bring you another one of the books from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I loved it! Here it comes.
Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb
Come to Germania, where a clockwork heart rules and a fool advises–and a laugh can bring both to their knees.
When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.
Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.
Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.
About the author:
Ever since I climbed up to the rafters of our barn at age four, I’ve lived high adventure: scuba diving, hiking, climbing, and even riding a retired racehorse at full gallop—bareback. I love the thrill and joy.
Stories give me a similar thrill and joy. I love living through the eyes and heart of a hero who faces his internal demons and the heroine who fights her way free instead of waiting to be saved.
I create adventures, fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and poetry. I live a joyful adventure with my husband and six children. I am a Christian and I love my Savior. https://mlfarbauthor.com/ https://www.amazon.com/M-L-Farb/e/B07TKYDNHD/
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.
I am not going to say this is not going to be a long review. I hope it isn’t, but I’m not very good at keeping reviews succinct, especially when I am enthusiastic. And I can tell you now, I loved this novel/fairy tale retelling. But I am decided not to make it heavy. I love fairy tales, and if you want to read about them from an academic or more analytical perspective, there are many books you could check. Among my favourites, I recommend Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy tales and, although it is a work on comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because the quest motif features not only in mythology but also in fairy tales, and it is central to this story. But my review is just going to tell you why I had such a great time reading this novel.
The author explains where the idea for this story came from at the end of the book, and it was a combination of the dream of one of her sons and her own inspiration of combining it with a classic fairy tale, ‘The Princess Who Never Laughed’ (not one I’m very familiar with, although I think I might have read it once, a long time ago). There are multiple references to other fairy tales, mythological and magical beings, and objects throughout the story, and also true facts, inventions, and knowledge, and the author’s research shines through, although always at the service of the story and its many adventures. I do recommend reading all the back matter of the book because the author explains the meaning of the names of the characters; she shares some of her research (who knew CPR was so old?); and also includes some reflections about the story, which she calls “food for thought”, that would make great starting points for endless discussions at book clubs.
Retellings of all kinds of stories are all the rage, and retellings of fairy tales are quite popular as well. By choosing one of the, perhaps, not so mainstream fairy tales, Farb gives herself plenty of room for manoeuvre, and she makes great use of it. I love the characters. Hette is a favourite of mine, perhaps because we have much in common. No, I’m not a princess, and no, I don’t have a long queue of men knocking at my door, but her love of knowledge, her no-nonsense attitude, her determination to lead her own life, despite conventions, and her decision not to marry (precisely because she wants to be in charge of her future and her kingdom) spoke to me. She is not perfect, though. She is also rigid, lacks a sense of humour, is determined to not let her emotions rule her, and can appear cold and uncaring, but she is honest to a fault, and she discovers many things about herself and others by the end of the story. I also loved the other characters who accompany her in her quest: Konrad, the Fool (fools are always interesting, and he is one of the best); Demuth, a maid who is much more than that; Peter, a talking toad who is also more than a toad (of course). They all teach Hette the importance of friendship, help her learn to look beyond appearances, jobs, and titles, and to appreciate different types of knowledge and points of view.
There are many other wonderful beings and characters scattered throughout the books: sorcerers, witches, magical owls that love riddles, knights gone mad, Nereids, a wolf-man (not a werewolf as such, at least not your standard one), a Kobold (a German house spirit, a pretty naughty one in this case), and many more, but one of the things I most enjoyed in the story is how most of the characters are not cardboard cut-outs and simply good or bad, without nuances. Even the bad characters have depth and are not just “bad” but have their reasons and sometimes have survived pretty extreme experiences that go some way to help us understand the kinds of beings they are now. We also come across all kinds of magical objects and places (rivers of fire, mountains of ice, stone horses, books and sextants with their own ideas, mechanical hearts…), and of course, secrets, curses, and plenty of stories as well. In fact, the main story is framed by another one, like John, a new steward working at a rural estate is forced to attend a performance by a bard, a female bard, even though he thinks it’s a waste of time and nobody should be allowed to attend before all the “important work” is finished. By the end of the story, it seems John has plenty of food for thought of his own.
Apart from the wonderful characters, as you’ll probably have guessed from my comments about the other characters and magical objects, the quest Hette and her friends embark on sees them through many adventures, and anybody with a bit of imagination and a willingness to join these motley crew is likely to enjoy the wild ride, full of scary moments, puzzling events, riddles galore, difficult decisions, sacrifices, heartache, revelations, laughs, and plenty of moments that will make one think and wonder. In my opinion, this story is suitable for most ages (apart from perhaps very little children, although parents will be the best judges of that), and although there are scary moments, and the characters are put to the test, both physically and mentally (the challenges do take a toll on their health and their spirit as well) and suffer injuries and even violence, this is not out of keeping with the genre, or extreme and gore, and I think most older children would enjoy it.
The writing is beautifully descriptive, rich, and fluid; the pace of events is fast (and at some point we get an added ticking clock, so things accelerate even more), and the imagery is vivid and should capture most readers’ sense of wonder and imagination. You can check a sample if you want to make sure you’d enjoy the writing, but here go a few snippets: “A promise is but the stomach’s wind after dinner, all stink and no substance.” “Yes, many things are foolish to those who only see things in categories. But life doesn’t sort out so neatly.” “Seeing paradoxes and allowing that something may be two things at once is one key to wisdom.” “Who but fools can tell the truth to the great one? Priests are too timid and ministers too selfish.”
I’m sure you already guessed that, but in case you needed me to tell you, the story ends happily, and there is the promise of a short story with more adventures for the main characters coming up soon.
In summary, this is a delightful fairy tale for all ages, that works wonderfully even if you don’t know anything about the original story, full of heart, inspiring, funny, and packed with wonderful characters, all kinds of scary and challenging adventures, and a perfect ending. Recommended to all of those who are young at heart and love a story full of imagination, romance, and, especially, magic.
Thanks to Rosie and all the members of the group for their hard work and ongoing support, thanks to the author for this joyful experience, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and, please, remember to keep safe, and always keep smiling.
I’m back! I’m back in the land of easier internet access, so I hope I’ll be able to keep up with you all, although the holiday proved a bit busier and more challenging than I expected, and that means I have much more to do and didn’t manage to read as much as I expected. So things might be slow-going for the next few weeks, but I hope to get going at full speed soon(-ish).
I hope you are all well, and I bring you a book by one of my favourite authors, which I’m sure many of you already know. And this is quite a read!
“It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. It was somewhere in the middle. ”
Pádraig O’Breasail – publican, drunk and ex-Arsenal footballer – is up to his neck in debt to the Chinese gangster Mingzhu Tang. With time running out, the desperate Irishman goes for a tarot card reading at Driscoll’s Circus hoping to find a way out of his predicament.
Meanwhile, the world is descending into anarchy and his nephew Jason is considering quitting his job as a male escort.
Plus, there’s the little matter of the sheep…
So begins a modern-day epic drawing on the Greek Myths, Don Quixote, the Quest for the Holy Grail and Carl Jung’s treatise on UFOs. Packed with dark humor and eccentric characters, Adventures in Mythopoeia will take you on a madcap journey of criminality, enchantment, laugh-out-loud gags and British weather.
“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”
John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.
He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Children of Karma’ mystery trilogy.
I have been following John Dolan since he started publishing books, and I am a devoted fan. He is one of those authors whose new publications bring joy to my heart, and I’m happy to recommend his novels to all and sundry. His name and his series always come to my mind when I think about detective novels with memorable main characters in unforgettable settings, and he is one of those gifted authors who manage to combine gripping plots with a cast of players that jump out of the page and become people we get to care about. Given all this, you won’t be surprised if I tell you that I did not hesitate in getting a copy of his newest publication, even though it promised to be something quite different from anything the author had written before.
Well, it does deliver on its promise, that’s true, although it is also true that followers of the author’s career will recognise the writing style, the wit, and sense of humour, which are also Dolan’s trademark, and will be familiar with some of the excursions the plot and the characters’ thoughts take down philosophical and moral alleys, which are totally relevant when we consider the ambition of the author’s project in this book. As he explains at the end of this long volume (it is long in pages, but it is short if we consider how many stories and characters we can find inside, what a long historical period it encompasses, and how dynamic it feels when reading it), he had initially thought of writing three volumes to cover a large variety of mythological motifs, but when he realised the stories had become extremely intertwined, and there were far too many connections to find a satisfying way to split it up without disrupting the flow, he decided to write the whole story and publish it in a single volume. And it works, because although it seems impossible at the beginning, when one starts reading the prologue and the different parts, we soon realise that everything is interconnected, that characters that might seem to only play a minimal part in the story, might reappear again later in some important role, and the protagonists move around the British Isles, experiencing a variety of events, participating in all kinds of quests, reinventing themselves, and living several lives in one.
I am not even going to try to summarise the plot or to go into a lot of detail about what happens. The description, sparse as it is it, contains enough information to entice readers who are not afraid to try something different, and who are happy to explore stories with a bit of everything: classical Greek tragedies, Old Testament-style stories, pagan myths, Arthurian legend, more than a touch of the magical and paranormal, fate and destiny gone awry, archaeology true and imagined and its share of enigmatic objects, modern politics, race rage, life in the circus, travelling on a barge, characters setting off in their peculiar quests (for adventure, independence, knowledge, or all of the above), time-warps, talking cats and other fabulous pets, UFOs, cheating husbands, murderous gangs, assorted religious beliefs, love, hatred, revenge… Oh, and not forgetting the end of the world as we know it. I have not been all-inclusive, believe me. Readers who are as knowledgeable and well-read as the author —polymath is no exaggeration— will have fun discovering all the references and the origin of the many stories and characters. I confess that although I recognised some, I missed many, and I didn’t have the in-depth knowledge to get all the nuances even for those that I spotted, but I had a whale of a time nonetheless, and I agree with the author’s assertion that it is not necessary to know all the original stories to enjoy the book or follow the plot. You only need a bit of imagination, a willingness to go on a wild ride, and a sense of fun.
Those readers who like to be in the know and check everything don’t need to worry: the author explains which stories he took as a basis for the main narratives, and who the different characters correspond to. And those who worry about getting lost, don’t. On the one hand, this is not that kind of story. There are many connections, but things do come to a clear resolution at the end (although I wouldn’t talk about a happy ending, per se. This is not that kind of story, either). The story is told in the third person, from multiple characters’ points of view, but these are clearly signposted in the text, and the titles of the different chapters are descriptive enough to pinpoint where we are and what we are going to be reading about. Other worries? Well, there is a bit of everything people might feel offended by: violence, racism, prejudice, murders, suicide, sex, even incest, although none extremely explicit, and always in keeping with the mythological theme and the original sources. Although many of the reflections and the underlying issues are far closer to reality than we’d like to admit, I doubt that anybody embarking on the adventure, and with a previous knowledge of the author, will feel outraged or upset by the story, other than, perhaps, by the fates of some of the individual characters (my alliances changed over time, although Don and Dora are strong contenders to the title of my favourites, but other than two or three of the bad apples, I would happily meet and have a drink with most if not all the characters that make an appearance in this book). People who don’t want to read anything related to viruses and/or other causes of massive and mysterious destruction of human life might be advised not to attempt this book. Anybody else, if you have doubts if the book will suit your taste, I’d advise, as usual, to check a sample of the book. As it is quite long, it should give you a good idea of how you’ll feel. And, don’t worry. As I’ve said, there are no cliffhangers.
I won’t talk about suspension of disbelief. Let’s not be ridiculous. What does belief or disbelief have to do with mythology? If you have a sense of wonder, love adventures, accept that in life there should be a balance between joy and pathos, and know that there are stories much bigger than ourselves, and we are not the centre of the universe, I am sure you’ll love this book. If you have enjoyed Dolan’s previous novels, you’ll have a ball with this one, and you’ll spot a few familiar names along the way. I can’t wait for what the author will come up next. Whatever it is, I know it will be amazing.
Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading and being patient, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe, and keep reading!
I bring you the review of the next two installments in the Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene’s serial Dead of Winter. The author has shared that we’re more or less halfway through, and I’m happy there’s much more to come yet, although the story is getting to a point where many of the strands seem to be coming together, although there is much we don’t know yet.
The titular dead of Winter begin this Journey in a collection of vignettes. The Veil separating the world of the living and the Realm of the Dead has indeed become thin. As feared the dead begin to enter the Realm of the Living. Small outbreaks of chaos are scattered across the world as spirits try to resume their old lives.
Also in those shorts, two characters are introduced who will come back into the story in future Journeys — Gregorios, and Mairead who recalls the circumstance that brought Zasha and Tajín together. The spirits also visit some characters from past Journeys.
Emlyn and company encounter the King of Hell, and this time, Arawn is not in a dream-like netherworld.
Emlyn’s story continues in Journey 6, The Fluting Fell. She gains tragic insight into Boabhan… horrifying things that she is too young to know. This event also shows an unexpected softer side to another character.
The travelers reach an abandoned estate, Wych Elm Manor, although it is not completely unoccupied. It yields answers as well as questions. Emlyn finds clues that lead them farther into their journey. She also meets the silvery-haired young man again.
The travelers have put some distance between themselves and the Brethren of Un’Naf, but do even worse dangers await them? Danger deepens when they take refuge in a mysterious structure.
Come, be a part of the Journeys of “Dead of Winter.”
Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a “high desert” town in the Southwest of the USA.
Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.
Her work is colored by her experiences from living in the southern states and the desert southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Whether it’s a 1920s mystery, a steampunk adventure, or urban fantasy, her stories have a strong element of whimsy.
Founder of the Three Things method of storytelling, her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers. www.teagansbooks.com
Major influences include Agatha Christie, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.
I’ve been following the serial Dead of Winter from its first instalment; I have read many of the author’s novels, and I also follow her blog, so I didn’t hesitate when she started publishing this serial, even though I am not a regular reader of fantasy. She has a great imagination, can make the most fabulous scenarios and characters come alive, and she knows how to keep her audience captive, as she has proved week after week when she weaves her tales in her blog, even managing to include in the stories elements that her regular readers contribute. So, I’m not surprised to love this story and to have become hooked on it from the very beginning.
Journey 5 is slightly different from the others, as, although we get to hear (or see) from Haldis, the Watcher, as usual (although she knows many things, she does not remember everything, and her process of rediscovering her memories mirrors Emlyn’s learning, while also guiding and intriguing us at once), we also get to witness with her some episodes that clearly demonstrate what the Deae Matres and Emlyn have suspected for a while, that the veil between the living and the dead has definitely been breached. New characters are introduced, that we are told will appear again, and I am eager to see what happens to them in the future, in particular one of the Deae Matres. And, while the dead might bring comfort and advice to some, to others they provide a terrifying and amply-deserved warning (yes, I’m thinking about you, Elder Pwyll).
And then we follow Emlyn’s journey with the Deae Matres; she realises she is being taught many lessons by all the women; and she starts making personal connections and friends with some of them as well, discovering fascinating affinities between herself and these women and learning about some of their wondrous powers.
We get to know more about these incredible women, we travel with them to vividly and wonderfully described places, we hear about distant lands and traditions, and the chapter ends in a hair-raising cliffhanger. What else could we ask for? Luckily, I had the next Journey in the serial already waiting for me, so I knew what to do. And I hope you follow my example.
Journey 6 of this serial is, in some ways, like a microcosm of the whole of our Journey so far. It contains adventures and wonderful and scary events aplenty; it has thoughtful and contemplative moments where the characters question their experiences, thoughts, and feelings; it includes beautiful settings, and it adds to our knowledge of the world the story takes place in and its different traditions and legends; it deepens our awareness of the mysteries underlying the story and how intricately they are woven into its fabric; and it manages to captivate us and keep its hold on us, because we have become as invested in the fate of the characters as they are. Having read some of the author’s other novels and her blog, I think most people who are familiar with her work will recognise certain elements and motifs that tend to appear in her writing no matter what the genre is, characteristic of her oeuvre, that will make her fans very happy.
This particular journey comes with a content warning by the author, as Emlyn shares a vivid dream of the abuse of one of the other characters (I am trying not to give too much of the plot away), and although not explicit, as Geneviene explains, it might be disturbing to people who have survived similar experiences. The warning also contains information and advice on who to contact for those who might feel personally affected or who need support. Although there are other dangerous and scary episodes in this journey, I agree that the vivid shared dream Emlyn experiences is the most disturbing part of it.
I had mentioned Haldis when reviewing Journey 5, and she expresses her doubts and confusion quite clearly at the beginning of this journey, while also leaving us some highly intriguing comments that bring some interesting connections and links to mind and leave us wondering.
Emlyn shows great courage but also an impulsive nature that had been kept under control by her circumstances until now. She is greatly affected by the dream mentioned, and that causes her to question many things and to go into a reflective mood, which seems to affect many of the other characters as well. This more contemplative aspect of the journey allows us to gain insight into some of the characters’ personalities and also to learn more details about their lives. We get to understand why some of the characters behave in the way they do, and also why their interaction with others can appear peculiar at times.
Emlyn gets dragged into the world of the Dead once more, and her experience leaves her with some answers but many more questions. It is clear that Emlyn is called to play an important part in the Deae Matres’ journey, and a new quest —full of magic and wonder— takes form.
In this journey, we get to visit some fascinating locations, and there are beautiful examples of the rich and textured descriptions the author has got us accustomed to (I loved the way she describes the clothes they find, but also the furniture, the landscape…). There are also more episodes of the dead coming into the world of the living, some glimpses at what might be behind some of the things that are happening, and an overall sense that the past, the present, and the future, life and death, and reality and dream might not be as fixed and separate as we’d all like to believe.
I wanted to mention a couple of things I haven’t talked about for a while. The author includes a list of characters and locations at the end of the book, to make sure people can check if they have any doubts and don’t feel lost if they cannot recall the full details about a character or a place. The beauty of this list is that it is updated with every Journey, and that means that not only there are no spoilers, but also that although new information is added with every journey, you don’t need to search through lots of characters and places you know nothing about, which are bound to cause confusion before we can locate the one we are looking for.
The other thing I wanted to mention is the wonderful illustrations that accompany each new chapter, which offer us a gallery of pictures and provide a perfect visual companion to the story.
Is there a cliffhanger? Well, we leave the characters in a pretty dire situation, that is true, although it is not as dramatic and dangerous as the point at what the story left us in the previous Journey. But I know I’ll be thinking about what will happen next until Journey 7 falls on my hands.
(I was provided with an ARC copy of this Journey of the serial, which I freely chose to review).
Thanks to the author for her story and for the care she has invested in the adaptation of her novel into a serial that keeps getting better and better, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, keep smiling, review, share, and of course, never stop reading. ♥
This is the beginning of a series full of possibilities, although I’m not sure it’s for me.
The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis
Da Vinci’s secret pales. Michelangelo concealed an explosive truth in his famous Creation of Man fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Everything we have been taught about Eve is wrong—she didn’t cause the fall of man. Eve carried a far more devastating secret for millennia—one that will change the world forever.
As the modern-day world suffers the cataclysmic effects of the “Plagues of Egypt”, Avery Fitzgerald, a statuesque Astrophysics major at Stanford, discovers that she is mysteriously bound to five strangers by an extremely rare condition that foremost medical experts cannot explain. Thrust into extraordinary circumstances, they race against time to stay alive as they are pursued by an age-old adversary and the world around them collapses into annihilation. Under sacred oath, The Guardians—a far more archaic and enigmatic secret society than the Freemasons, Templars, and the Priory—protect Avery as she embarks on a daring quest that only legends of old have been on before. Avery must come to terms with the shocking realization that the blood of an ancient queen flows through her veins and that the fate of the world now rests on her shoulders.
K.M. Lewis has lived in multiple countries around the world and speaks several languages. Lewis holds a graduate degree from one of the Universities featured in his book. When he is not writing, Lewis doubles as a management consultant, with clients in just about every continent. He does much of his writing while on long flights and at far-flung airports around the globe. He currently resides on the East Coast of the United States with his family.
You can also find KM Lewis on Twitter and Instagram – @kmlewisbooks
Some background on why I wrote The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy: I have always been intrigued by religious mythology. I believe that if the apocalyptic events in the Bible happened (or will happen), there has to be some physical catalyst that causes the events. What is absolutely fascinating to me is that many of the apocalyptic events described in the Bible appear in several other religious texts and also in the earth’s historical record. The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy explores ideas that I have researched over the last 10+ years and paints a fictional account of what I believe is a far more interesting picture of our own history. When I now look at the world from the perspective of the book, many of the unexplained mysteries of the world make complete sense. I hope you enjoy the Trilogy.
I obtained an early ARC copy of this novel through NetGalley, and I freely agreed to review it. This has in no way influenced my opinion.
I had a look at the early reviews of this book, whose description intrigued me, and this is one of those cases where I mostly agree with both, the positive and the negative things that I’ve read about it.
This is a book about the Apocalypse with capital letters, and rather than just narrate the adventures of a group of survivors after the event, we get a fairly detailed description of what happens, and how a group of people, six young people in this case, are selected and brought together with a mission. We don’t get to know the exact mission until the very end of the book, although we are introduced to the characters and their lives (some in more detail than others) from the very beginning. There is no evident connection between them when we meet them, but things are not as they seem.
Although I didn’t recall that detail when I started reading, I soon realised that this book had much in common with YA books. The collection of characters, as many reviewers have observed, are all extraordinary in many ways. They all seem to be fairly well-off, beautiful, intelligent, and, as has been noted, not very diverse. Also, despite being quite young, they have achieved incredible things already. We have a character who is left in charge of restoring a unique artefact by himself, even if he’s only newly arrived in the Vatican and has no previous experience; we have twin sisters who at sixteen are old hands at working with charities all over the world and setting up new projects; we have a young political aide who ends up locked up in a bunker with the president of the USA… Although those characteristics stretch the imagination, they are not uncommon in the YA genre. It is true, though, that it does not make for characters that are easy to identify with or immediately sympathetic. They are, perhaps, too good to be true.
I found the style of writing somewhat distant. There is a fair amount of telling rather than showing, not uncommon when trying to offer information about events at a large scale (the events that occur in the whole of the planet are described rather dispassionately, no matter how many millions of people are destroyed), and although some of the scientific background sounds plausible (I’m no expert, though, so don’t take my word for it), there is a twist at the end that makes it all go into the realm of fantasy rather than science fiction, and I’ve noticed I am not the only one puzzled by that turn of events. Some readers have complained also about the changes in point of view, especially when some characters appear briefly never to be seen again and are also given their moment under the limelight, and I think some readers will find this disconcerting.
I enjoyed the background information and some of the theories proposing new readings of documents, cultural artefacts, works of art, the Bible, etc., which came towards the end of the novel. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that the Guardians are all women and the explanation for the matrilineal handing of the tradition and the role was quite enjoyable. The fact that the six people were chosen because of characteristics that had made them outsiders most of their lives (headaches, stammering, difficult births…) and how those seeming weaknesses turned into strengths was something that I thought worked well and provided a positive message at the heart of the story.
For me, this novel reads like a long introduction, and although there is plenty of action and events that take place during it (in fact, life in the world as we know it comes to an end and a new order of things is established. It does not get much bigger than that), it feels like the prelude to the true story that is to come later, and the bit of explanation we are offered about how these characters relate to the overall story comes at the very end. The book ends where many others would have started and, personally, I wonder if this would have worked better as a prequel to the actual series. Of course, I don’t know what is to follow, so this is all just wild speculation on my part.
A set up that touches on many different topics readers might be interested in (conspiracy theories, a group of survivors after the apocalypse, religion, old documents, mythology, ancient civilizations, science-fiction, fantasy, dystopia…), with many possibilities for further development, that could benefit from developing the characters and their personalities further.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!
This novel was right up my alley, and I caught onto it thanks to the recommendation of one of my reviewer friends at Booklikes. Thanks, Chars Horror Corner!
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell.
This is the description of the American version of the book:
“A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller–elegant, edgy, ingenious. Craig Russell conjures not one but two unforgettable settings: Prague between the wars, pulsing with menace, and a Gothic mental asylum, as exciting a house of horrors as I’ve ever visited. You’ll enter both with dread. You’ll dwell in them with relish.”
–A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.
Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.
Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining and impossible to put down.
This is the British version:
‘A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller . . . ingenious’ (A. J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window)
How do you find a killer when you’re surrounded by madness?
As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics – the so-called ‘Devil’s Six’ – are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosárek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.
At the same time, a terrifying killer known as ‘Leather Apron’ is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself.
Maybe they are… and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?
Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.
‘Deep, dark, and twisty, The Devil Aspect will keep you up all night reading… With all the lights on. Russell has created a gripping masterpiece of a thriller!’ Alex Grecian, New York Times bestselling author of The Yard
‘A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller – elegant, edgy, ingenious. Craig Russell conjures not one but two unforgettable settings: Prague between the wars, pulsing with menace, and a Gothic mental asylum, as exciting a house of horrors as I’ve ever visited. You’ll enter both with dread. You’ll dwell in them with relish’ A. J. Finn, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
‘Sensational serial killer novel . . . in which twists are both jaw-dropping and logical . . . a mind-blowing storyline that will appeal to fans of Caleb Carr and Thomas Harris’ Publishers Weekly
‘Steeped in the chilling folklore of Eastern Europe and echoing the dread of a barbaric war to come, The Devil Aspect snatches the reader by the lapels for a thrilling, twisting trip through the darkest corridors of the human mind’ Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse
‘A tour de force: a clever and visceral thriller . . . an ending that left me dazed’ Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author
‘Dark, stylish and packed with jaw-dropping twists, The Devil Aspect stayed with me long after I’d turned the final page. Part Gothic horror, part crime thriller, it’s an astonishing piece of work’ M. W. Craven, author of The Puppet Show
‘A superior thriller, at once stylish, absorbing and compulsive . . . a taut and chilling tale, expertly crafted . . . I was gripped from the very first page right up to that haunting denouement’ Laura Carlin, author of The Wicked Cometh
‘Well-crafted gothic crime . . . A smart, atmospheric and entertaining read’ Kirkus Reviews
‘A Gothic masterpiece in psychological horror and creeping dread, The Devil Aspect is as disturbing as it is compelling. Be prepared to read it in one sitting – and to sleep with the lights on for a long time to come’ Neil Broadfoot, author of No Man’s Land
‘Deliciously authentic and darkly atmospheric . . . a game-changer for the world of crime fiction’ Graham Smith, author of Death in the Lakes
Join other readers in discovering The Devil Aspect
‘A fabulously gothic tale . . . I was reminded of the writing of Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘An astonishing virtuoso piece of gothic horror writing. This is a must read for all fans of literary fiction, great crime and horror writing’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘Skilfully written and richly imagined’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘Details are doled out in delicious morsels . . . the prose is extremely cinematic with intense and provocative images’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘Sophisticated, polished . . . the story has a decidedly Gothic feel’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘I would be shocked to see this not made into a movie’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘A kaleidoscopic melange of myth, history, politics, bigotry, psychology, romance, crime, mystery and sublime horror’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘A stunning historical thriller’ Netgalley Reviewer
‘This book scared the hell out of me . . . the ending blew me away’ Netgalley Reviewer
About the author:
Award-winning author Craig Russell’s novels have been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Film rights to his forthcoming novel, THE DEVIL ASPECT, have been acquired by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures and will be published by Doubleday in the US, Little, Brown in the UK. Screen rights to BIBLICAL have been acquired by Imaginarium Studios/Sonar Entertainment. The first television adaptation in Germany, by Tivoli Films, of a Jan Fabel novel attracted an audience of six million viewers. Three further novels have been made into films (in one of which Craig Russell makes a cameo appearance as a detective).
* won the 2015 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize) for ‘The Ghosts of Altona’, and is currently longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for ‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid’, the latest in the Lennox series;
* was a finalist for the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2012 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize);
* won the 2008 CWA Dagger in the Library for the Fabel series;
* was a finalist for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Golden Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2007 SNCF Prix Polar in France;
* is the only non-German to be awarded the highly prestigious Polizeistern by the Polizei
According to the PR information, the novel has already been optioned by Columbia, and let me tell you I’m not surprised.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely and with some trepidation chose to review.
There is much to talk about in this book (yes, I enjoyed it, if you want the short of it. Yes, it is eerie, gothic, can be scary at times, it is full of evil deeds, some not apt for the fainthearted, and full of atmosphere), and it would also be easy to fall into revealing spoilers, so I will try to talk in general terms and will keep some of the thoughts that went through my head as I read it to myself.
Rather than trying to summarise the plot, as I have already included two versions of the blurb, I thought I’d use the author’s own words (and I recommend you to read the author’s note at the end. I suspect it will keep me thinking about this book for as long as the book itself will):
The main engines that drive the story are Jungian psychology, Central European myths and legends, the history of Czechoslovakia immediately before the Second World War and the ethnic tensions that existed within the country at that time.
This is 1939, and the author is great at bringing to life the atmosphere in Czechoslovakia at the time, the politics and the strained relationships between the different parts of the population, the ethnic minorities, the Germans, Sudeten, the Jewish inhabitants, the criminal underworld, and the increasing atmosphere of threat and impending doom and evil. He also uses the locations, both in the city, the forests, and the castle, to great effect, to the point where they almost become protagonists in their own right. I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the locations of the story despite a visit to Prague many years back, although there are some, like the Bone Church (the Sedlec Ossuary) that have intrigued me for many years, and I am sure I’m not the only one who shares in the fascination.
Having worked as a forensic psychiatrist, I could not resist the idea of reading a book set in what would have been a forensic unit of the time. And what a setting! A castle that according to legend was built to keep closed the entry to hell and that now houses the six most dangerous insane criminals of all central Europe. Both, the director of the hospital and the new doctor we meet on his way to take up his new appointment, Viktor, (no, you won’t make me tell you what happened to the previous psychiatrist in the post, don’t insist) have interesting theories to explain the madness of their patients (one akin to a contagion, like that caused by a virus, the other a similar concept to that explored and exploited often in movies and films, but in this case referring to a specific aspect of one’s personality, the so-called “Devil Aspect” of the title, rather than to multiple personalities), and the book goes into a fairly detailed explanation and exploration of those theories, including allowing us to witness the doctor’s sessions using narcotics (a very dangerous technique, I must say). I found these part of the book as fascinating, if not more, as the other part that seemed to be the more active and thrilling part of it, but I am aware that there is a lot of telling (because each one of the six devils gets a chance to tell their story), and although they help give a global picture of the nature of the evil the book refers to, not all of them seem to be directly related to the plot of the book, so guess that some readers will not feel the same as I do about those sessions.
The second part of the action, which takes place in parallel, consists of the investigation of a series of crimes in Prague, committed by a murderer, Leather Apron, who seems intent on imitating Jack the Ripper, and we follow the efforts of a police investigator Lukas Smolàk, trying to catch him. This part of the book is more akin to a police procedural of the time and is well done. It feels like a noir detective novel, only set within a Gothic nightmarish background, not so dissimilar to the Victorian Ripper original. The clues are gruesome and so are the murders, and every time they seem closer to solving the crimes, something new comes to light and confuses matters. While to begin with Lukas appears to be the example of a seasoned detective who has seen everything and is wary of events in society at large, later the murders start to affect him more personally, and he becomes increasingly unravelled by the events, which humanises him and makes him easier to connect with.
The story is told in the third person but from each one of those characters’ points of view, with some brief intrusions from other characters’ insights, like one of the victims, or Judita, who is a bit more than a friend of Viktor and also works at the hospital. This works well to give us a better understanding and makes us empathise, and also suffer with them, in some cases. Personally, I really liked Judita, who has to face prejudice and has overcome her own mental health difficulties, and also Lukas, who shares with Viktor the determination to find the truth, and the analytical mind. I was intrigued by Viktor, not only because he is a psychiatrist, but because we learn from early on that he has survived a pretty difficult childhood and has had to cope with trauma. But his single-mindedness and his pursuit of his theory, sometimes despite the evident risks, not only to himself but to others, give him a tinge of the mad scientist, and I found him more interesting as a subject of observation than as somebody I felt connected to.
The Central and Eastern European mythology and the Jungian psychology theme add a further layer of complexity and work well in helping bring more uncertainty, menace, and confusion to the proceedings. There are dark corners and many secrets hidden by most of the protagonists; there are clues and warnings aplenty, red herrings, twists and turns, and although readers of the horror and the psychological thriller genres might have their suspicions and a variety of theories as to what is going on, a bit like the layers of the personality Viktor tries to reach, the narration also pulls us deeper and deeper into the darkness, the plot, and the castle, which is a physical stand-in for the deepest recesses of the human mind and also of human history.
I don’t want to bore you with my psychiatric insights, but I can say that although I’m not an expert in the history of psychiatry in Central Europe, the procedures followed in the castle, the way the place functions and the patient histories did not require a great suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I have known patients who have experienced a fugue-like state. No, I’ve never met anybody with multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder, and I don’t think it is a common diagnosis in the UK, but…)
I enjoyed the style of writing, full of vivid imagery and very atmospheric, which makes us see what is happening in our minds (sometimes even when we’d rather not), and felt the rhythm worked well, combining the investigation, that felt more pressing and hurried, with what was happening at the castle, that at least, to begin with, was more contemplative and serene. The closer we come to the end, the more the rhythm accelerates and both strands of the story come together. As I said, there is a twist, or even more than one, in the end, and I think this book has everything to recommend it to readers of the genre who also enjoy a Gothic setting and are eager to explore new mythologies regarding good an evil. This is not a book I’d recommend to those who don’t enjoy horror and reading about violent crimes. And it is not a book for those who prefer books fast and full of action, but it pays to stick with it, and if you’re interested in psychiatry and are looking for a different twist on the serial killer subject, I thoroughly recommended.
I am not surprised film production companies are looking at buying this book. This could become a fascinating movie.
Thanks to the author, the publisher, to Clara Diaz, and to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!
It is Tuesday and I have another great offering from Rosie Amber’s review group, Rosie’s Book Review Team (if you are looking for reviews, you might want to check here). When the author mentioned his interest in diverse characters, his writing credits and I read the description… Well, just check the review.
Revengers (The Revengers Series) (Volume 1) David Valdes Greenwood.
How far would you go to make things right? Ama, Mark, and Justin are about to find out. All three have each witnessed a murder that went unpunished, and they’ve lived broken lives ever since. In recent months, their dreams have been haunted by someone who understands their pain: a Fury who survived the witch hunts of Old Salem. Three days before Halloween, she enters their dreams and summons them to be Revengers, just as she has done for a new trio of teens every year for centuries. If they abide by her seemingly simple set of rules, she promises supernatural protection while they avenge their losses. One catch: exacting revenge means becoming killers themselves. And they don’t have much time to wrestle with the moral dilemma, as the Fury’s protection will end on the Day of the Dead. When they agree—setting in motion three bloody acts of vengeance—things begin to spiral out of control and they come to understand they are pawns in an ancient game. As the Fury toys with them, they race against the clock, hoping to live more than just a few more days…
David Valdes Greenwood is the author of Revengers, The Rhinestone Sisterhood, Homo Domesticus and A Little Fruitcake. As an award-winning playwright, his work has been staged coast to coast and in the UK. A former freelance journalist, Valdes Greenwood is best known for his Boston Globe columns. Currently, he details life as a parent as a Huffington Post blogger and may be followed at https://www.facebook.com/davidvaldesgreenwoodauthor and on Twitter @dvgtweets.
Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
Revengers is the first in the YA Revengers Series, and it is the first work by the author, David Valdes Greenwood, better known for his non-fiction books and his plays, I have read. This is a revenge story with a supernatural twist. If that is not unusual (we all know revenge stories orchestrated by evil or sometimes simply very angry spirits), both the details and the characters are.
Those who love mythology, in particular, Greek (and Roman) mythology, will probably appreciate the thematic link to the Furies, ancient vengeful deities whose roles and interpretation changed over time. Because, the book tells the story of three adolescents who’ve experienced terrible losses at different ages (Marc, a Harvard dropout, only a year ago, whilst Justin and Ama were much younger) and who, for different reasons, have had to grieve alone. They’ve been experiencing terrifying nightmares since the events, that they witnessed, and suddenly, these nightmares become more real than before. A strange and scary female figure tells them to go to Salem and leaves them a journal. They feel compelled to obey Rebecca, the fury/spirit behind their nightmares whose story we learn later (and who had good reasons to seek revenge).
The story is told in the third person, mostly alternating the points of view of the three main characters (although also briefly from the victims and other characters with small parts in the story, including Rebecca herself), who, although don’t know each other at the beginning, end up becoming an ersatz family. They are as diverse as they could be (ethnically: African-American and Dominican blood, Chinese, old Massachusetts stock, sexually: Marc is gay and Ama and Justin haven’t had much time to think about such things so far; they also have different interests, studies and their economic and family circumstances are miles apart) but have to form a team to be able to fulfil the rules and get rid of their nightmares forever. Although killing somebody is not an easy task, they don’t realise how complicated things can get until later, when secrets and half-told truths come to light. The rules they are given, that seem to be clear-cut and not leave any room for ambiguity, aren’t so clear when one scratches beyond the surface, and there is no such a thing as getting off scotch-free.
The Salem of the story (I cannot comment on how much it resembles the real location, although for me it is more of a paranormal backdrop to the story than a real place, and it reminded me a bit of Demon Road where an alternative order and lifestyle existed side by side with normal life, without anybody other than those involved being aware of it) is full of secrets, tragedy, lessons not learned and people trying to maintain the status quo while pretending everything is fine. Although it might appear like business as usual to Halloween Tourists, to those in the know, witches are the least of their problems.
The three main characters have distinctive personalities and are realistically portrayed (Ama is quite suspicious, Justin can be quick to act, Marc is a bit of a softy) and they are all flawed, and not all that likeable at the beginning of the story but make a good team and learn to appreciate and accept their differences and skills. For me, one of the most appealing aspects of the book (apart from the suspense and the mystery) is the strong bond that develops between the three adolescents who at that point didn’t have a close connection or intimate friends who knew their secrets, shared their concerns and cared for them. I particularly liked Ama, who although is tough and determined, is also the character who often hesitates and questions the morality of their actions and who will go to any extent to try and keep everybody safe. And that is why in the end… (Don’t worry, no spoilers).
The book is compellingly written, with enough imagery and description to feel the changes in weather and scenery (that are all in tune with their experiences and the action providing visual and sensory emphasis to the events), without becoming cumbersome. The interactions between the adolescents and with other characters ring true and help build their characters more convincingly. There is plenty of action, it has many scary moments and the suspense builds up from the start (as we have a time-frame and the clock is ticking continuously, with the tension increasing towards the end of the story). The inclusion of the point of view of some of the victims makes the story more morally ambiguous and complex. This is not just a revenge story with a few paranormal scary touches. It will make readers (and who hasn’t thought about getting revenge on somebody at some point) think twice about justice and revenge. Although the ending (no, no spoilers) opens up the series to the next book, do not worry about unfinished businesses or annoying cliff-hangers. This is not a story divided into several books where you never get any resolution. So you won’t feel disappointed because of a lack of ending (you might have preferred a different ending, but that’s a completely different matter).
I recommend this novel to readers of YA stories who love suspense, paranormal subjects, mythology and strong and diverse protagonists. Especially those looking for a new series with a kick-ass female protagonist. The author has promised to keep me informed when he publishes the next books in the series, so I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks so much to Rosie and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, CLICK and, if you read any books, remember to leave a review!
As promised, I keep trying to catch up with reviews, and as Halloween is around the corner, I realised I hadn’t yet shared this review. This is a book that although if one stops and thinks about it, it might not stand up to a close look if you go with it, it’s difficult to resist.
Horror You’ll never look at a mirror the same way again
A mirror that feeds on human souls wreaks destruction on those around it in Mirror Image, the new novel from internationally bestselling author Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose.
In an auction house in London, there is a mirror no one will buy. Standing seven feet tall and reaching four feet across, its size makes it unusual. Its horrific powers make it extraordinary. For centuries, the mirror has fed off of the lives of humans, giving them agonizing deaths and sucking their souls into its hellish world.
When Jonathan Frazer, the wealthy owner of a furniture and antiques shop in Los Angeles, buys the mirror at an auction, he believes he is getting the bargain of a lifetime. With its age and size, it is easily worth eight times what he paid for it. At this point, the mirror has sat dormant for years. But within days of Jonathan’s purchase, the deaths begin again. One employee is crushed when the mirror falls on top of him. A few days later, the corpse of another is found in front of the mirror, brutally stabbed. A third is burned beyond all recognition. All the while, an enormous man with a scarred face is following Jonathan, demanding that he give him the mirror and killing any police officer that gets in his way.
The police are becoming desperate. As the death toll rises, Jonathan himself becomes a suspect. He knows there is something wrong with the mirror. He knows it’s dangerous. But he cannot bring himself to get rid of it. Everyday he becomes more captivated by the mirror.
For the mirror is awakening, and its powers are resurfacing.
Thanks to Net Galley and to Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books for offering me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Horror is one of my favourite genres although I don’t read exclusively in any genre, but I always look forward to horror books. I also love antiques and TV programmes and books about antiques, and I was therefore even more interested in this novel.
Mirror Image tells the story of a haunted mirror (so to speak, although the full details of what the mirror represents and its ultimate power go beyond most stories of haunted places and/or objects) that an unwitting interior designer/antiques dealer from Los Angeles buys in London and gets shipped back. Although he at first thinks he’s got a bargain (as the mirror is much older than he realised and much more valuable), instead he gets more than he bargained for. Very soon after its arrival strange deaths happen around the mirror. At first, they all look like freak accidents, but soon the police becomes suspicious of the new owner of the mirror, and there’s another mysterious figure, a tall man covered in scars, who knows more about the mirror than he’s willing to tell.
The prose is fast-paced and dynamic and the story is written in short chapters, in the third person from alternating points of views. Although many of the chapters are told from Jonathan Frazer’s point of view, there are chapters from the female detective’s point of view, from Frazer’s wife and daughter, Emmanuelle or Manny (who also become ensnared by the mirror), from three of Frazer’s employees, from Edmond, the man after the mirror, from some minor characters that make fleeting appearances in the book and even some very brief chapters that we realise are told from the mirror’s point of view. Although at first these changes in point of view tend to only take place in different chapters, as the pace picks up, especially towards the end, we might jump from one point of view to another during the same chapter. I didn’t find it difficult to follow but I know there are readers who are not keen on ‘head-hopping’. On the one hand, it might shift the focus of the action and release tension, although on the other hand, by making us share in the characters’ experiences, especially those who are just innocent victims, we are even more shocked by what happens. As the owner of the mirror becomes more and more fascinated by it, he starts experiencing dreams that seem to reveal past events concerning the history of the mirror that are particularly relevant to the current situation. As the mirror gains in strength, he isn’t the only one to experience those dreams that we are also witnesses to. True historical characters, like John Dee, Edward Kelly and Queen Elizabeth I appear to be linked to the mirror too and add intrigue and complexity to the story.
My only reservation was that I felt the female characters were slightly less well-rounded. I liked the detective but we don’t get to know enough about her, and Frazer’s daughter, Manny, although central to the action, spends most of the chapters where she appears either unwell, confused or under somebody’s influence and we never discover her true self. From the few details we get about her at the beginning I assumed she was older (as she’d been living and studying in Paris, met another of the characters and lived with him for a while) but then we learn she’s only eighteen and perhaps that explains her difficulty dealing with the situation she finds herself in. There are also other female presences very important to the story, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.
There is gore (I’ve read books that are more explicitly violent, but it’s not a mild read either), there is sexual content (as the mirror gets its strength from humans emotions and human bodily fluids, and has some pretty interesting effects on its subjects) although it’s not as explicit as I’ve read in many other books and it is seamlessly integrated into the story. Is it scary? Yes. The novel shows how a character that to begin with is a likeable man, kind and gentle, a loving father and a generous employer, becomes a completely different person due to the influence of the mirror and he ends up doing unspeakable things. The obsession that takes over not only him but so many others who come into contact with the mirror and the lengths people will go to gain power and immortality have a ring of truth that makes it more effective. Although this is not the most terrifying book I’ve ever read, it’s an uneasy, uncomfortable and eerie read. It is also compellingly and beautifully written, and its connection with the historical characters makes one wonder what kind of things went on in the name of experimentation and knowledge in the past.
I recommend it to lovers of horror with a kick, especially those who enjoy some historical background and mythology and to people who love stories about haunted objects. If you read it I’m sure you won’t look into a mirror the same way again.
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