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Fans of James Treadwell’s Advent are going to be delighted with the second in the series, Anarchy.

Corporal “Goose” Maculloch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police isn’t expecting much from her new posting: one of those back end of nowhere places where nothing ever happens. That’s until a girl who’s been accused of murder disappears from a locked cell on Goose’s watch. On top of that, something’s going funny with the internet connection …

As the world beyond begins to fail, Goose tracks the vanished girl through the wilderness of Vancouver Island.



Meanwhile in Cornwall a desolate child leaves the home that has kept her safe all her life and strikes out into the unknown.

And a mother, half-mad with grief for her lost son, sets off to find him.

There is a place where all their journeys meet.

But someone is watching the roads …

Anarchy is, like its predecessor, an absolutely outstanding read. Treadwell writes so uniquely that I can’t think of anyone to compare him to. The best I can do is to suggest taking a large pinch of Charles de Lint, drizzling liberally with Stephen King and sprinkling with just a hint of Laini Taylor. If you think that sounds tasty, you’ll love him. Promise.

Anarchy follows straight on from the end of Advent. If you’ve not read Advent yet, you definitely need to before picking this one up (and, why haven’t you read it? It’s amazing) as otherwise it’s not going to make an ounce of sense. This was actually a huge plus for me because absolutely no time was wasted in recaps or summaries, which made a nice change. It’s straight in and on with the story. I love that!

Initially, I have to confess, I missed Pendurra. Most of the first half of Anarchy is set in Northern Canada, and it’s beautifully described and a nice contrast. But, I was missing Cornwall. I’m a chronic creature of habit, and much as I did enjoy the new setting and characters, Pendurra is the heart of the series for me. Getting back there at last was like coming home. Although the circumstances in which we return are so, so different to when we left.

Treadwell’s Canadian characters are vividly imagined. I adored Jonas, and ‘Goose’ was fascinatingly complex. My only problem with her was that each time I read the name Goose my brain went ‘Top Gun’ and I could hear ‘Take my breath away’. Every single time. My 80’s obsessions aside, the female characters are written brilliantly. Really, genuinely brilliantly. Forget any of the usual crap by those supposed ‘kick-ass’ heroine devotees that both YA and the fantasy genre are so riddled with, Treadwell writes fully three dimensional heroines bursting with soulful, heartfelt, emotional complexity. It completely blows my mind that this is, technically, fiction for older teens. It’s the perfect antidote to all those YA authors who dumb everything down and write at the lowest common denominator. This, this is YA you can be stupidly proud of your kids reading. And make sure you borrow it after them.

As with Advent, pacing is going to be a bit of a love it or hate it situation here. If you like a slow burn to your fiction, and you enjoy scenes bursting with detail, characters heavy with emotion, and you like the idea of a steady build of cleverly understated menace, you will love Anarchy. And if you don’t, you have no idea what you’re missing. At times it can feel like on the surface little is happening, but there’s always so much going on the hood. Treadwell is a genius when it comes to sinking his hooks into you without you even realising it. The journey is every sbit as fantastic as the destination here.

It’s a massively emotional read. I wasn’t sure how the technological aspects to the novel would be handled, but I needn’t have worried. The effect ancient magic has on current technology is completely chilling, and brings a whole new layer of terror into the mix. It’s genuinely frightening to watch the magic spread and see the effect it has on our world. The Post Apocalyptic aspects to this were a real treat, and so, so well done.

For me, Anarchy was total a win-win situation. I did, eventually, get a dose of all my favourites from Advent, and I got some incredible new characters on incredible new journeys thrown in for good measure. I honestly can’t find a bad word to say about it. It captivated me, terrified me, delighted me, shocked me, and at one point even had me in tears.

James Treadwell should, in my humble opinion, be immediately elevated to the status of National Treasure. If you’ve never read him, go and get yourself a copy of Advent and book a couple of days off work. And if you’ve already enjoyed Advent, you should pre-order Anarchy immediately, and book an extra day off for good measure this time around.

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Happily continuing to accept ARCs from, and only from..

Today I had a good look through all my past reviews from my old site, a rummage through a lot of emails and another look at the sites & accounts that have aroused my suspicions recently, and I’ve come up with a definitive list of publishers that I’ll happily Advance Review for. It’s more than the three initially mentioned here so I thought I should post a quick update, in fairness. So here are, in my eyes, The Good Guys:

Simon & Schuster, Harper Voyager, Hodder, Jo Fletcher Books, Berkley UK & Solaris.

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These are the publishers I, personally, have found to be ‘Decent’ when it comes to reviews and blogs and all that lies therein. And a pleasure to deal with. And so they’re the ones I’m happy to devote time to. Because time is precious when you’re a parent and a full-time employee.

I’m always interested in Indies, because I love to find new and interesting stuff off the beaten path. But I’m done with all the other ‘Big Boys’. Or as I now can’t help but think of them, The Bad Guys.

 

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When it comes to back catalogue stuff, would I ever not read a book because of it being from a certain publisher? It’s an interesting question that I’ve just stumped myself with. My immediate response would have been “No, I read whatever I want, I just wouldn’t waste my time Advance Reviewing for them”, but you know, the more I think about it, the more I do wonder. There are definitely two or three publishers whose titles I would certainly think twice about buying since having spent time reviewing for them. Maybe I’d just drop by the library if there was anything by them I was desperate for.

Food for thought.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Not a review: Lonely Werewolf Girl, Martin Millar

6941947 Obviously I can’t review a book I’ve not finished, and I didn’t get very far into this one at all. Every time my innards are cheering for a werewolf novel to be  amazing, it never fails to let me down. Maybe my expectations are far too high.

In this instance, I had to put Lonely Werewolf Girl aside when a werewolf, in wolf form, took a phone call. Sadly I kid you not. I was already wavering when the wolves were talking to each other in wolf form, but actually picking up a phone and chatting..that just made it so, so much worse. And in fairness up until that point I’d been enjoying the story, but there are some Cardinal Sins within the genre for me that just can’t be forgiven.

Come to think of it, I’ve never been completely blown away by a werewolf novel. And I really, really want to be. I didn’t mind the Armstrong series, and I thought Duncan’s The Last Werewolf was pretty decent. But aside from those, I’ve only ever found endless piles of either mediocrity or silliness.

If anyone has any recommendations for strong Werewolf fiction, I’m all ears, believe me. And if anyone suggests Mercy Thompson, I might just let out a howl or two of my own. Seriously. Don’t get me started.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Review: Monster Blood Tattoo; Foundling, D M Cornish

foundling“Set in the world of the Half-Continent—a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols—the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters—and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully.

Complete with appendices, maps, illustrations, and a glossary, Monster Blood Tattoo grabs readers from the first sentence and immerses them in an entirely original fantasy world with its own language and lore.”

Foundling is one of the most beautiful YA novels I’ve ever read. I adored it. It’s a breathtaking read.

Cornish must have put an unbelievable amount of work into this, it’s just bursting at the seams with all the love and attention you can tell has been heavily lavished upon it. There’s an enormous glossary, there are extensive appendices, and there are maps like you wouldn’t believe. The illustrations are to die for, and are presented with a level of care and detail that exactly mirrors the prose. It really is a beautifully realised work of outstanding imagination.

To my mind, this is the perfect ‘starter’ novel for anyone contemplating a future reading Epic Fantasy. I would love, LOVE, my son to read this book when he’s a bit older (3 might be pushing it). Initially it does read as being perhaps on the youngest point of the YA scale, but as the novel progresses things do get darker, and there are some violent passages, which coupled with the complexity of the language bumps it up to cover just about any age’s preference, IMHO. I could see a 12 year old adoring this, and an 80 year old having a blast with it too. It’s a Universal pleasure for anyone who has a love of language and a delight for stories.

It made a nice change here to see some three dimensional, non-stereotypical, genuinely influential female characters driving the plot. This is a rare enough pleasure in Adult Fantasy, but even more so in YA.

The language of the novel has got to be, for me, its biggest advantage. Cornish’s prose is rich, varied and challenging. It’s imaginative, evocative, and utterly glorious. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see vocabulary like this used in YA, so much of the time all I see is writing dumbed down to what feels like the lowest possible denominator, and Cornish is the perfect antidote to that kind of popular condescension. This coupled with the intricate detail of the novel could well make it daunting for some younger readers, but that’s a Good, Good thing. The beautiful simplicity of the story will draw them in, and before they know it they’ll be learning some amazing new words and devouring a 400 page novel. And it’ll prepare them nicely for the second one, which weighs in at a whopping 700. If you want your young ‘uns to develop an early taste for the good stuff, this is a series you definitely want to sneak onto their shelves.

Foundling is a sophisticated tale set in a unique world, and it showcases some of the most compellingly delicious writing I’ve ever read. This is YA as it should be done!  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5A PhoenixFantasy Five Star read

[Foundling is published by Corgi Childrens, and is available in Paperback and Electronic format]

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Some thoughts on bloggers, publishers and biased reviews

So I’ve been thinking, over the last week or so..(not always a good idea!)

I spend a LOT of time reading for this site, much as I did for its long-running predecessor, and I enjoy it, I really do. But with a full-time job and a young child, why do I fight so hard to find the time for this? It’s purely a labour of love of course. I love to read, and I love to talk about what I read. I don’t have a lot of friends or family who are into Fantasy, and so that’s why I started book blogging. But having been on Twitter for awhile now, and having found my way around the book blog-osphere as a whole, I’ve noticed some things that make me feel slightly uneasy. Now this is purely my own response to what I see, and isn’t intended as a blanket criticism in any way shape or form. It’s just me trying to explain why I’m going to be making some changes around here.

This whole thought process kicked off for me when I saw a lot of people griping about the new ‘Gollanzc Geeks’ initiative, and the more I read around the topic, the more I started to wonder. Now, I’m not really fussed one way or another about how Gollanzc choose to do things, because I’ve no personal interest in ‘Geeking’ for them, but seeing the backlash over it was what started me wondering; How many blogger-reviewers out there give 100% genuine, honest reviews? (don’t get me wrong, I know some do), and how many publish reviews that are carefully tailored to satisfy the requirements of certain publishers? Because I’m starting to feel convinced the latter are definitely in the majority.

The more I look around, the more I see a pattern of glowing reviews leading on to more complimentary books, more publisher giveaways and, ultimately, the generation of an awful lot more blog traffic. If you spend enough time on Twitter and various Facebook pages, like I’ve been doing lately, you start to see something of a pattern emerging as to which review sites consistently get the re-tweets and the shares. Now, obviously, no publisher is going to ping out bad reviews as a matter of course, but there are enough well considered and well balanced reviews out there that are not getting picked up to really make me wonder. I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across some very well considered and well written review sites, encompassing all manner of titles, which seem to enjoy hardly any traffic at all. Some of the three and four star reviews, or the equivalent thereof, on these sites are far more informative and share-worthy than many of the gushingly incoherent 5 star reviews that I see getting all the attention. And to my mind, that’s not right. But perhaps that’s just the nature of the beast.

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Maybe this is all blatantly obvious, and you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to notice. Maybe other, more experienced bloggers are perfectly aware of how this all works, and aren’t remotely bothered by it. Or maybe I’ve just got it all wrong. But either way, it’s a new concern to me, and it makes me very aware that this isn’t an area I want to associate myself with. My reviews are honest, and my opinions are my own. I am not swayed by promises of free books, bookmarks, badges or blog traffic. And I have absolutely no respect for reviewers who are.

So, there you have it. Why am I blathering on about it? Good question. Firstly, it’s bugging me and it’s nice to get it off my chest. But more importantly it serves as an explanation as to why things will be slowing down a bit around here. I’m going to bow out from Early Reviews for certain publishers. I’m not interested in reviewing for any corporation that acts in a manner I’m not comfortable with. I’ll continue to happily provide reviews, advance or otherwise, for the publishers that I know accept, value and appreciate honesty. From my own recent experiences, I can think of three, HodderSolaris and Berkley UK, and given the things I’ve seen happening lately I will appreciate these guys all the more. I’m sure there are plenty of others, and whilst part of me is itching to list those I doubt, it wouldn’t really make an ounce of difference so I don’t see the point. And of course, as ever, I’ll continue to read and review my way through many a back catalogue, in a continually unbiased manner 🙂 I work extremely hard, and at the end of the month I buy a lot of books. I’ve got no reason whatsoever to lie for a freebie. And as readers of this blog you never, ever, have reason to doubt the motives behind a single one of them. And that means something to me.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Reviews

 

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