REVIEW : Cemetery Girl: Inheritance by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden


Over a year and a half since the first book in the Cemetery Girl trilogy of graphic novels written by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden we are finally treated to the second part of the Calexa Rose Dunhill's mysterious tale. As she wrote in her Story behind the Story piece about it, Cemetery Girl was something of a departure for Harris. She was never a huge reader of graphic novels, let alone a writer, so it was slightly surprising that her first foray into the medium turned out to be such a success.

To summarise the back story, Cemetery Girl is a nameless girl who after surviving a violent incident finds herself with horrific injuries in the middle of a Dunhill cemetery. Unable to remember anything about her life she takes the name from one of the nearby gravestones and becomes a Calexa Rose Dunhill. Being completely traumatized by the whole ordeal, Calexa decides to live in a graveyard for a while - at least until she can piece together the story of her life. This is where her tale truly begins as the lack of her own identity has left a hole within Calexa. This means that Calexa is in position to be possessed by spirits of others and that they'll only leave her once she solves the mystery of their deaths. It is this wholly original premise that make the whole thing tick.

Second book, entitled "Inheritance" continues her story and starts off with another traumatic event. An older lady, Lucinda Cameron is violently murder within her home and Calexa is once again possessed with a spirit. This time things are rather different. She was her only friend in the world and frightened from her own experience, Calexa is completely shattered by Lucinda's death. In short, she was the just about the only person who was kind to her and helped her out without trying to judge or threaten her. As such, "Inheritance" takes off in a wholly different direction and slowly turns into something of a neighborhood drama, with hints of a budding love with Mason, kindness of strangers and truly appalling examples humanity.

Unfortunately, nothing much is revealed about Calexa's past apart from one quick flash of memory and a sinister person that suddenly appears in the final few pages so the final part of the trilogy has a lot of ground to cover. It'll be interesting seeing how the story will ultimately unravel. Having said that, I really hope that this time we won't have to wait for such long time as both of the graphic novels published so far have been truly fantastic, if slightly too quick, reads.

Review copy provided by Jo Fletcher Books
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The story behind Blood and Bone by V.M. Giambanco

BLOOD AND BONE is the third book in the Alice Madison series and one thing I knew for sure when I started writing it was that this was going to be a serial killer story – and then I proceeded to change the rules of the game, because that’s when the fun begins.

The Madison series in set in Seattle, a city in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, and the main character is a homicide detective who in the first book had just joined the unit.

One of the great joys of writing a series is that you can develop characters and relationships in a way that is simply impossible with a one-off novel, and this has always been the main attraction for me. In BLOOD AND BONE things have definitely moved on for Madison and her relationships with the other characters have grown and changed – some in predictable ways and some in surprising ones. The core of the story – and of all the books in the series – is how the case that is investigated reveals and defines these relationships and, more often than not, puts pressure on them. I like my characters very much indeed but I’m happy to give them as much trouble as I can reasonably conceive.

I have always wanted to write a serial killer novel because one of my influences when I started writing was Thomas Harris and the Hannibal Lecter books, especially ‘Red Dragon’; and the challenge was how to make something fresh and interesting when it has been written about so brilliantly in the past. How do you take something familiar and turn it into a new experience that is going to be gripping from page one? Well, I started with the character: I needed a memorable villain, someone who would draw in the reader – almost making them complicit in their plans; someone who is dangerous and keeps the clock in the story ticking on; someone who has motive and a set of beliefs that make him more than a random killer; and, finally, someone who still had the spark of humanity that comes from a real person and not the bogeyman of our nightmares.  

As always with the Madison books, the locations become one of the characters in the story and I am very keen to use the wonderful Washington State wilderness as much as I can. I have traveled in the area quite a bit and every time I discover new spots that will be used in future stories. In BLOOD AND BONE I have at last set a particularly critical scene on one the local ferries – I have been wanting to do that for a very long time but was just waiting for the right situation.

In the end though BLOOD AND BONE is about Alice Madison and in this instalment I wanted her professional and her private life to be tangled up to the point where the whole structure might just collapse and she has to make some decision that will have repercussions on the rest of her life. It took three books to get her where she is now and I’m already wondering what trouble to throw her way next.  

V.M. Giambanco
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REVIEW : The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths


Whenever I open a new Ruth Galloway novel I get baffled by the fact that she still hasn't made her way to the small screens. If you think about it, it would be a perfect series. It is set in Norfolk, a place just perfect for those sweeping panorama shots that everyone loves, the mysteries are truly great and yet not too disturbing so they're easily approachable and enjoyable, and then there's characters. Ruth herself is instantly likeable, someone with whom you can find plenty in common. As if that wasn't enough, there is an overarching love story which includes love triangles and illicit child. What's not to love? Luckily, the books themselves have their loyal audience both here in the UK and overseas so the next title is always just around the corner. Currently we're already up to the 7th installment. "The Ghost Fields" which is just about to come out in paperback and is just great.

"The Ghost Fields" takes place during a sunny July and kicks off when a buried WWII place is discovered by the construction company's bulldozer. More interestingly, the pilot is found within the plane and while this archeological curiosity would be an extraordinary find of itself, it soon transpires that the man found within the plane is Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat went missing some time ago and not a pilot.

It’s a strange situation. DNA doesn’t lie and Ruth quickly realises that things are not so simple as they seems. Blackstock's family is reacting strangely to the news, and there's a new discovery lying in the Ghost Fields, the Norfolk's deserted air force bases, making things even more complicated. And if that just wasn't enough, it seems that there's a killer on the prowl. In between all this, Ruth is juggling between her insecurities, five year old daughter Kate, her endlessly complicated relationship with Nelson and even Cathbad is acting stranger than usual. It is all wonderfully engrossing and complex.

As is always the case with any novel featuring Ruth Galloway, this is a book that you just have to finish in a single sitting. It's literary unputdownable, not least owing to the ease with which the story tends to unfurl in front of your eyes. Turning pages is so damn easy.

"The Ghost Fields" is a fantastic new addition to a series that seven books in still hasn't made a wrong turn. Without question Ruth Galloway series has slowly turned into my favourite contemporary mystery series.

Review copy provided by Quercus Books
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The story behind Cold Play by Winona Kent

Cold Play is a novel with a very long history. Some books are written in no time at all. Some take a while to simmer and stew...and Cold Play is one of those.

As a child and a teenager, in the 1960s and 70s, I traveled to and from England by sea. It was the very end of the golden era of ocean liners, and the beginning of the jet age. My dad was a travel agent and he was able to get wonderful discounts for us on various ships, including the original Queen Mary – the one which is now a landlocked tourist attraction in Long Beach, California. I sailed on five different liners, but my favorite of them all was the Empress of Canada.

It was 1971, and we didn't know it at the time, but that summer was to be her last on the transatlantic run from Montreal to Liverpool. Perhaps I picked up a feeling, seeing the dwindling numbers of passengers sharing her public rooms and decks. Perhaps it was because I was nearly 16, and I was already writing stories and making up adventures for characters who lived with me nonstop, day and night. My imagination was primed. I fell in love with the Empress of Canada. And the summer of 1971 is where the story of Cold Play really began.

Years later I briefly became a travel agent myself, and when Carnival Cruise Lines began to market their first ship, the Mardi Gras, I looked at the pictures in the brochure and thought, this lady seems very familiar! And she was... my Empress of Canada had taken on a new life and was proudly cruising the Caribbean. She was the first of many ships for tiny Carnival, which eventually grew into a massive corporation which now also owns Princess, Costa and Cunard, among others!

My lovely Empress stayed in service for decades, but changing laws about safety at sea and the demand for newer and larger ships meant her days were numbered. Her last incarnation was as Direct Cruise's Apollon, but in 2003 she was finally retired, and sold for breaking up as scrap. It was a very sad end for my lady, beached in Alang, India, her entire hull exposed and her beautiful white and blue livery rusting in the blazing sun. I saw photos of her as she was demolished, section by section. It made me cry.

I knew I wanted to write about an aging ocean liner the minute I stepped off the Empress of Canada in Liverpool in 1971. But I didn't have a story, and at age 16, I didn't yet have the skills to be able to pull it off. I devoured movies like The Poseidon Adventure, parts of which were filmed aboard the Queen Mary; and The Last Voyage, from 1960, filmed aboard the old luxury liner, Ile de France.

Fast forward now to the late 1990s. My career as a travel agent was long in the past, but my sister had taken up the banner, and was working as a Captain's Secretary for a popular cruise line that sailed weekly from Vancouver to Alaska. She served on a number of different ships, but one of them happened to be a former ocean liner, a tiny jewel that had once been owned by Cunard. She was dwarfed by her newer and larger colleagues when she was docked at her ports of call, and she wasn't quite as beautiful as my Empress, but she was gracious and proud, and when I was given the opportunity to sail on her, as a guest of my sister, I leaped at the chance.

There are always perks associated with being related to a uniformed officer aboard a cruise ship, and this was definitely one of them. I stayed in my sister's cabin, which was located in the crew area. I ate in the Officers' Mess, and I consorted with the Pursers after hours when they held parties in their cabins, spilling out into the main connecting companionway. I stood up on the Bridge in pitch blackness while the ship was navigating the waters near Ketchikan. I was taught how to open and close watertight doors below the waterline. I stayed on board after all the passengers had disembarked, and I saw first-hand what turnaround day involved, before the next lot of passengers were allowed up the gangway. I observed how a cruise ship functioned from a crew point of view, and I knew then that I had my story.

But who was going to be my main character? And what, exactly, was the story going to be about – besides an aging cruise ship that was once a grand ocean liner?

In Cold Play's first draft, Jason Davey was a Purser. I had a notebook filled with anecdotes from my sister's colleagues, and from my sister herself, who had worked at the Purser's Desk before being promoted upstairs to the Bridge. Jason, an out-of-work actor, had run away to sea after the death of his wife in a fire that he believed he was responsible for: he'd accidentally dropped a smoldering cigarette end into a sofa. The novel was called Found at Sea, and the story involved an aging actress with designs on Jason who comes aboard and wreaks havoc for him and the crew; and a travel agent named Katey who is searching for meaning in her life after a messy divorce and facing burnout from her job.

I had an agent pitching Found at Sea to publishers in the UK in early 2002. But nobody seemed to be interested. We tried for about a year, and then my agent decided to pursue other occupations, and I took a buyout from my place of employment, and decided to go to film school to learn how to write scripts. Found at Sea became my major project and my first screenplay. After graduation I entered it in a contest, where it caught the attention of a local producer, who optioned it. We worked on it for a year or two, changing the name to Life Boat, and changing the location to Alaska.

Nothing ever came of the script, which is typical of 95% of screenplays – they sit in development, and then end up abandoned when the option expires.

Fast forward again, to 2009, and Twitter. I was part of a community of first-adopters of Twitter. It was fabulous fun, and the potential for plotting was enormous. There were constructed personalities operating under pseudo-names, claiming to get up to all sorts of adventures, in bursts of postings that were 140 characters long. You never knew who you were really talking to. And whether or not they were telling the truth, or were very convincing liars.

In 2009, I went on another cruise, again to Alaska, but this time I was a passenger. It was on a very large and modern ship, a different line from the one my sister had worked for, and I spent a good part of every evening in the ship's library, where the computers were, trying to connect with my Twitterfriends. Right next door to the library, separated by a glass wall, was the ship's biggest lounge, and every night there was a one-man band playing in that lounge, surrounded by electronic gadgets, playing his guitar and singing. Sometimes he had a full house. Sometimes he was singing to just himself and the bartender. But he captured my imagination...and I knew that I'd found Jason.

He wasn't an actor at all and he didn't work at the Purser's Desk. He was a ship's entertainer. And he was still being pursued by an aging and eccentric actress. And his love interest was still Katey, the recently-divorced-and-burned-out-travel-agent. But Jason now spent much of his spare time on Twitter, using the handle @Cold_Fingers to amuse his followers with tales of a life at sea. And because of that, he'd picked up a stalker named @SaylerGurl... who may or may not have been aboard his ship that week. And there was the added intrigue of an alcoholic musician from Jason's past who might know a very big secret. And there was still the question of Jason's wife's death in that fire...and who was really responsible for it.

And then there was the story of Jason's ship. I called her the Sapphire in the novel, but she was always the Empress of Canada in my imagination. And she was an important character, just like Jason and Katey, Rick Redding and SaylerGurl and Diana Wyndham and Jilly, Jason's "guardian angel". I wondered what it would be like for the Sapphire to be facing her last useful days at suddenly discover that she was going to be sold for scrap at the end of the season. And how she might react, as a result...

I was going to change the name of the novel to Cold_Fingers, but I consulted a friend who suggested Cold Play would be a much better title. I thought it was brilliant. I spent much of 2011 pitching the story to agents and publishers, who couldn't see a best-seller in it and therefore declined my offer. So in 2012 I decided to self-publish instead. I used one of my own photos from Glacier Bay for the cover. And my Empress of Canada story, born forty years earlier, was released at last.

I've recently signed with Diversion Books in New York, and as part of my contract with them, they've re-released all four of my previous novels. Cold Play has been given a new cover, and now has the potential to reach an entirely new audience. I'm so pleased my lovely Empress of Canada lives on, even if it's only in my readers' imaginations.

One final note... last October I went on a short overnight cruise from Seattle to Vancouver with my sister, who is no longer employed in the cruise industry. We traveled as passengers, on a ship sailing her former employer's flag. We were sitting in the atrium, enjoying coffee and pastries, when a musician sat down and started to tune up. He had a guitar, and some elaborate gadgetry. He looked extremely familiar, and when I checked his name in the daily bulletin, I saw that it was the same fellow I'd watched five years earlier, playing in the lounge next to the ship's library. My Jason.

Did I introduce myself, and tell him about Cold Play, and the inspiration he'd provided?

Winona Kent
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REVIEW : Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne


I have never encountered anything by Andrew Mayne before opening Angel Killer so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. In hindsight I would suggest that Andrew would appreciate this approach as he is quite big on all aspects of mystery. His website features a Magic Shop with quite a selection of titles for a budding illusionist and apparently he even had his own TV show which I haven’t managed to track down. Suitably enough, Angel Killer's main protagonist is a former prodigy illusionist turned FBI agent, Jessica Blackwood. While I was never actually impressed by the stage antics of illusionists because I can never let go the scientific part of my brain which is always aware that a) there's no magic as such b) there must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the trick and by damn, I'll figure it out, I was always a huge fan of this particular setup in crime fiction. Best crime cases are the ones that are fiendishly difficult to understand and who is better positioned to unravel them than someone who has painstakingly trained for years to mislead the crowd. Just look at Jonathan Creek or Elly Griffiths excellent The Zig-Zag Girl.

FBI agent Jessica Blackwood is a wonderfully complex creation. All her life she was hoping that she left her magician life behind when she called to help with a seemingly impossible case. At the time she is working at Quantico trying to spot patterns in financial data but everything changes when a hacker calling himself Warlock hacks the FBI website and leaves a code which, when decrypted, leads the authorities to a Michigan cemetery. Once there, a dead girl is being discovered rising from the grave. It is much scarier and disturbing that I can possible explain it and this is just the first of Warlock's twisted set-ups. Due to her background Jessica is summoned by the FBI consultant Dr. Jeffrey Ailes to help his team catch the perp. The whole situation and the overarching style rings a bell for Jessica and she's forced to confront her past if she’s to make any headway into these horrific killings, while at the same time she must face the ruthless media and skeptical colleagues probing into the very things she wants to leave behind.

Angel Killer is a fascinating book. Andrew Mayne is obviously an expert in the field and this certainly makes wonders to enrich the very foundation upon which the books is built. Jessica Blackwood's troubled past and her exciting, if slightly frustrating, present, are also done particularly well. Angel Killer is lagging slightly behind when it comes to supporting cast which is not very memorable but that's not a big shortcoming as it might initially seems as the crimes are wonderfully twisted and ending itself doesn't disappoint. To conclude, "Angel Killer" is a fascinating insight into the world of illusion as seen through the eyes of crime. If you enjoy watching an odd episode of "Jonathan Creek" definitely check it out. You'll burn through it.

Review copy provided by Faber Books
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The story behind The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

A lot of people read books.  Some people read authors.

Few people follow authors the way baseball fans do, say, their favorite hitters. 

But if you do hang out backstage at the authors’ conferences – we are easy to talk to, starved of drinks and good conversation, so buy us a bourbon and don’t embarrass us to much and we’ll generally chat happily all day – you’ll soon discover that authors come in two basic flavors: plotters and gardeners.  Plotters map their books out well in advance, staking an end point and grimly working their way towards it, every conversation a gear in some great diegesis-generating machine.  Gardeners start with a small seed of an idea, usually an interesting sentence or some image that stuck in their mind, and pour words on it to see where this concept germinates to.  You have wild flourishes of plot that don’t go anywhere and need to be pruned, vines that creep off into shadow and die sad, unknown deaths.

Sequels, I suspect, are a plotters’ best friend.  They’ve done all the hard work – the characters and setting and motivations are in place.  Now drop an inciting incident in and we have novel!

But if you’re a gardener, well, you’re taking an existing garden and trying to garden harder. 

As such, THE FLUX was a difficult book. 

Now, no one was more surprised than me to discover that FLEX found an audience – I’d like to say I wrote a very personal novel, but that makes it sound like I wrote a memoir of my boyhood days down at the old fishin’ hole.  Whereas in truth what I did was to take my obsessions and magnify them into a weird-ass tale of magic – hey, I can play Fallout 4 for twenty hours straight, how can I turn videogames into magic?  Hey, I love eating donuts, can I have an old guy who does psychological testing based on donut choice?  I love both spunky children and fire, can I throw a spunky child into a scarring fire and generate a plot from that?

And I could.  Sorta.  I tacked on a framework of BREAKING BAD, but then threw away all the stuff I found disinteresting, which is to say screw the anti-hero, I wanted a hero hero who filled out forms, had a deep respect for rules, and was a nebbishy little man who would do the right thing when the world crashed down on his doorstep. 

Then I made him brew drugs.

So for the sequel, I floundered for a bit.  I knew that Paul, our hero, had only sort of saved his daughter – he’d kept her safe, but now she knew what the dark underbelly of magic looked like, and she was pissed as only a very young child can get.  I wanted to see what happened when you gave a small child immense power, so immense that no adult could rein her in, and see what happened when you took the reins off a kid who was furious at the world.  And what would that do to her father, who had proven in the first book that he’d do anything to keep her safe, and yet now she was trying to hurt people? 

The first ‘mancer book was, essentially, “Can Paul Tsabo, bureaucromancer, be both a decent father and stay obsessed with the magic he so dearly loves?”  Which was a delightful inversion on a question usually only women get asked, which is, “Can a parent really have it all?”  And it was established that Paul could, or at least everyone who knew him thought he could.

The question in Book Two then had to be, “Well, what kind of father is Paul then?” 

Because, I knew, every father has two things they fail at.  The first is protecting their children.  And that’s a horrible thing to say, of course fathers protect their kids – but I’d watched my six-year-old goddaughter Rebecca waste away from brain cancer.  She died as I held her.  And I remember the parents of Rebecca’s friends – for she was loved, so well-loved – taking six-year-old girls and explaining that sometimes, people die.  For inexplicable reasons.  In terrible ways.  And while not every parent has it that bad, eventually every father – every parent – comes to a point where there’s a bully they can’t save their kid from, a rejection they can’t handle, some monstrous unfairness.

And what you teach your child in that moment, whether it is rage or religion or resentment or resolution – is what they fundamentally become. 

What would Paul teach his daughter Aliyah about a world that hated magic, and therefore hated him? 

The other thing fathers fail at is in understanding their children.  If you have a child, you know right away there are secrets they keep in their sleep.  They may not understand that they are keeping it from you, with their angelic faces and eagerness to please, but even a two-year-old has a life of his own that he protects fiercely.  They play in different ways when you’re not around.  They rehearse their languages in their cribs.  And as they grow older, they start trying on different aspects of themselves, until in adolescence they become these incoherent collections of tics, trying on music and personalities and hobbies and discarding them just as quickly, because they want to find out how they are Not You. 

Aliyah has power.  And Aliyah had always been secretive.  And I realized that with that much at stake, she would lie to him, because she didn’t trust her father – he hadn’t protected her, and in fact it was her who rescued him at the end of FLEX.  In fact – spoiler warning - Aliyah flat-out murdered someone to protect her father, and what does that do to a six-year-old girl?

Especially when she could kill again, and nobody could stop her? 

The sequel flourished from that.  Because that was the question that drove the novel: Some people need killing.  Do you want to be the person who does that?  And yes, in THE FLUX there are all sorts of those personal things I added – my love of Fight Club as a romantic comedy, my adoration of comic books, my deathly love of fire – but in the end, they all spiraled around this central issue of a girl who wants revenge upon the world that would hurt everyone she loves, and what sort of person she becomes when her father is not watching her. 

I decided to test the limits of what a parent can do.  And it’s painful, and it’s personal, and THE FLUX is every bit as much me as FLEX was, and let me tell you how glad I was to find that out. 

It should be out now.  And you may like it, you may not, but I guarantee you that by the end, you’ll know what kind of father Paul Tsabo is. 

Ferrett Steinmetz is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and Viable Paradise, and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, for which he remains stoked.

Ferrett has a moderately popular blog, The Watchtower of Destruction, wherein he talks about bad puns, relationships, politics, videogames, and more bad puns. He’s written four computer books, including the still-popular-after-two-years Wicked Cool PHP.

He lives in Cleveland with his wife, who he couldn’t imagine living without.

Find Ferrett online at or follow him @ferretthimself on Twitter.

Ferrett Steinmetz
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The Complete Double Dead by Chuck Wendig cover art and synopsis

The Complete Double Dead by Chuck Wendig will be published on February 9, 2016 by Abaddon Books


In February 2016 Abaddon will publish two of Chuck Wendig’s earliest works, the vampire-in-zombieland comedy horror Double Dead and the follow up novella Double Dead: Bad Blood, together for the first time in The Complete Double Dead.

With a brand new cover by Joey Hi-Fi and a bonus Tomes Of The Dead novella by Mark Clapham, this is an unmissable slice of full-tilt horror with extra added funnies, from before the time Chuck was one of the most talked about names in genre.

As an added bonus – as if all that glorious Wendig writing wasn’t enough – we’ve also included Dead Stop by Mark Clapham in The Complete Double Dead, giving readers even more undead carnage to sink their teeth into. Delicious!

Order The Complete Double Dead by Chuck Wendig here:

The story behind Mythmaker by Marianne de Pierres

Heading into the second book in the PEACEMAKER series, I knew that I wanted to explore the supernatural side of the story in greater detail. I had enormous fun researching everything there is to find on mythical creatures, and finally settled on a few that really stood out to me. The first was a Pocong from Indonesian mythology, the soul of a dead person wrapped in a shroud. That gave me potential to be as ghostly and creepy as I liked! The second was an Empusa who, though originally was from Greek mythology, I chose to use in its vampiric demon form – and a nasty bit of work she was too! Both appealed to me for their outright spine-tingling qualities, especially the Empusa with her one brass leg and one donkey leg. So weird!

*Spoiler alert*

I also decided that Virgin’s best friend would develop Multiple Sclerosis during the story. Having a close family member with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease, I know a little of the anatomy of chronic illness. So much of how you cope is tied up with your attitude towards it. That’s the bit I wanted to explore between Caro and Virgin: how it affected their relationship, how they each dealt with it. For Virgin, who is casual with her health and her body, it was quite shock. The truly freaky thing is that I had written this element in the novel and not told anyone about it, and then a few days before the book came out, my son tells me he’d just got a job as a MS care assistant. I had one of those “quivery” moments, like the universe was trying to tell me something.

Also, I introduced gnamma (pan holes or swirl holes) holes in significant places through MYTHMAKER. For those who aren’t familiar with them, they are smooth, round-ish depressions in rock caused by eddying water. We had a couple on the farm where I grew up. My dad used to tell me tales of how they were what was left of lava tubes formed when the earth was cooling. If you followed them, he said, you could find your way to the centre of the earth. It was a tale, of course, but it captured my imagination so thoroughly that forty-five years later I found myself writing them into my seventeenth novel! Never underestimate the power of childhood memories when it comes to creating fiction.

The last behind-the-scenes thing I wanted to share with you was about the two characters who found their way into the novel by just turning up on the page unannounced: Esther and Dr Rav. Neither of them had even been a glimmer in my eye, and yet they walked in fully formed and demanded air time. They were both good hearted, decent people. Virgin doesn’t have much of a support system, so maybe my subconscious decided she needed more quality friends! As Esther likes to remind her… “Remember, Virgin. Standards!”

Marianne de Pierres
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REVIEW : Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


The main reason why I get a tingling sensation whenever I am about to open a new book by Lauren Groff is because I am never sure what am I about to get. If there one thing that you can say about Groff's writing it is the fact that it has been constantly surprising. She dares to challenge herself and her latest, and by far the finest novel, "Fates and Furies" is no exception. "Fates and Furies" is a relationship saga, but one which strikes at the matter from the most unexpected perspective.

What if the people in a relationship truly loved each other? What if no one is actually a bastard? How to survive in those circumstanes? It's an innovative and, to me at least, a completely new concept to base a book upon. It's only after you start reading it that you can truly appreciate how refreshing it feels. If you think about it, relationship books where one or the other partner commits adultery, is unhappy or unfulfilled are ten a penny but you can't probably remember a single book which says otherwise.

"Fates and Furies", in short, explores the foundations of a great marriage and everything that takes to make it to stay great despite the ravages of time. If you've ever been in a long term relationship you'll know very well that it is not as easy as it seems. Love is not enough on its own because there's work, money and outside world to deal with and they will always seep through and cause trouble no matter how tough your barriers are.

Charting a period of some twenty-four years, Groff introduces as to Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite and Mathilde Yoder, a couple just made for each other. We initially meet this young, beautiful and fiercely ambitious couple, in their glory days, when the sparks are just flying. As years ticks by the couple continuously re-invent their opinion of each other, learning to appreciate the changes all anew and surprisingly, not least to themselves, discovering that they actually still like each other even after all the changes. While on the outside they marriage is the envy of all their friends, inside the bubble both Lotto and Mathilde realise how preciously fragile the whole thing is. They work hard (and always harder and harder) to keep everything afloat.

As the second part of the novel kicks in you truly get to realise the genius of Groff's writing here. The interconnectedness of everything that occurred before finally becomes obvious as each and every single action builds up to a bigger picture. Naturally, due to the nature of relationship, there two perspectives to everything and these are reflected against the Greek mythology and furies - "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath ".

As a sum of a whole, "Fates and Furies" is nothing less than a brilliant and fiendishly clever exploration of a marriage and everything else that follows it. It succeeds against all odds and opens a brave new chapter for Groff.

Review copy provided by William Heinemann
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REVIEW : Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson


Unless George R.R. Martin suddenly drops "The Winds of Winter", the new Mistborn novel by Brandon Sanderson will for many of us be the biggest fantasy literature event of the year. The importance of the original Mistborn trilogy is hard to explain in just a couple of paragraphs but the main thing for me was not its fantasy credibility but the fact that it was so approachable without being needlessly brutal or disturbing. And yet, it had all the stalwarts of the fantasy: both likeable and despicable complex characters, story, setting, action sequences, romance, and incredible magic system. To put it simply, it gave an easy and intelligent entry into the world of the contemporary fantasy to many people who would otherwise discard the genre as whole. It is a trilogy which still I tend to recommend to everyone willing to give fantasy a go.

After the original trilogy was published, Sanderson released "The Alloy of Law", a playful story set centuries after the initial events. "The Alloy of Law" was a different kettle of fish and introduced us to Waxillium Ladrian and Wayne who live in an evolved world, filled with technology and other paraphernalia. It was a strong miss-direction on the part of Sanderson and a book no-one really expected - a Victorian western set within the magical system as introduced in the Mistborn trilogy. Strangely, to everyone surprise, the whole thing clicked together remarkably well so I was incredibly excited when it was announced that Wax and Wayne will appear again in three further books, first of which, "Shadows of Self" is here.

"Shadows of Self" continues with the western theme but luckily for all of us, it doesn't take itself too seriously. For example, the prologue opens with the following:

Waxillium Ladrian, lawman for hire, swung off his horse and turned to face the saloon.
"Aw," the kid said, hopping down from his own horse. "You didn't catch your spur on the stirrup and trip."
"That happened once," Waxillium said.
"Yeah, but it was super funny."

Prologue goes further to describe the initial meeting of Wax and Lessie and even goes to playfully make fun of the "High Noon" through the slapstick action that follows. The story jumps forward seventeen years and Wax, Wayne and Marisa after a romp through the slums, are soon investigating a mass murder at an "auction" event.

Similarly to the previous instalment, "Shadows of Self" is easy to love. It's approachable and Elendel has developed even further. There's primitive motorcars about, driven expertly by Marasi, and Sanderson introduces them masterfully and logically to his creation. There are plenty of beautiful passages worth quoting, for example, my favourite: as our trio approaches the slums. Sanderson describes the place as:

"The tall, compact tenements cast deep shadows even in the afternoon. As if this were the place dusk came for a drink and a chat before sauntering out for its evening duty."

There’s no escaping the fact that "Shadows of Self" is not as revolutionary as the original trilogy but it is a wonderful new addition to the series which I deeply love and it completely fulfilled my rather high expectations. It is a literary equivalent of a big-budget action flick that's impossible not to finish in a single sitting. Riveting stuff.

Review copy provided by Gollancz
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