New Read: Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night

Back in March 2015 I finally read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness; the first book in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy. I was hoping to get round to the second book sooner, however I picked up Shadow of Night in December 2015 and it was a long read.

Diana Bishop has some powerful enemies and is no longer safe in our time. Fearing kidnap, torture and death Diana makes the drastic decision to leave her home and family to time walk back to a safer time; where she can learn to control her new powers. Based on Matthew’s past experience they travel together back to Elizabethan England. Here Diana must learn the etiquette and dress of a noble lady, step carefully through the politics of court, and avoid the witch hunts that are rife across Europe. While all the time on the hunt for the bewitched manuscript, Ashmole 782.

I particularly enjoyed the setting and the history of this book. In this time period Matthew steps back into the role of poet and spy for Elizabeth I; and a leading member of the creative group known as the School of Night; an eclectic mix of vampires, daemons and humans. Other members include Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh and Thomas Harriot. It was fascinating to meet these famous faces and on reading the author’s notes I discovered that many of the other characters were based on real historical figures too; again I was really impressed with Harkness’ research and eye for detail.

In the past love between a vampire and a witch is still forbidden so Diana and Matthew’s marriage is looked upon as in name only, and it needs to remain that way if they wish to stay safe. I enjoyed how Diana flowered in her powers and confidence in the past but in a male dominated world I found Matthew’s more dislikeable vampire traits came to the fore; such as possessive-ness and paranoia. Which meant I still found Diana and Matthew’s relationship my least favourite aspect of these books. Fortunately I still loved the detailed and immersive style and world Harkness conjures; and all the historical, alchemical, literary and art references and details that were included kept me hooked!

Shadow of Night is another detailed and well written paranormal romance in a historical setting. I look forward to completing the trilogy with The Book of Life which is waiting on my Kindle for me. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?

Meme: Tough Travelling – Tricksters

Tough Travelling

Nathan, over at the Fantasy Review Barn, runs this weekly meme Tough Travelling, where readers are encouraged to tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. Using The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration.

This week’s topic is TRICKSTERS

A great prank is always amusing.  Many an adventure starts with a well placed trick.  They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.

Sadly I haven’t been able to take part in this fun meme for a couple of weeks. I am so pleased to be taking part again and this is, I think, the most fun list I’ve created to date. Here’s my choices for this week’s topic:

Loki from Norse Mythology –  perhaps the oldest trickster of them all. Loki is a mischievous and dangerous shape-shifter, who can help or trick the Norse gods on his mere whim.

Rumpelstiltskin from the Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales – an imp-like creature who comes to help a young girl spin straw into gold, but be wary Rumpelstiltskin only offers help to trick something precious out of you.

Gandalf from The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – the wise grey wizard tricks an invitation, out of the flustered Bilbo Baggins, for him and the dwarfs. I can see him now chuckling to himself as he walks away after leaving a marker on Bilbo’s beautiful green door.

Faeries from The Unfinished Song by Tara Maya – their beautiful, elegant, fun and will call so sweetly to you to join them in their joyous, abandoned dancing; but be warned they will dance you to your death.

Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – a mischievous sprite and jester to the fairy king, Oberon. Puck plays a wicked trick upon lovers who wonder into the enchanted forest and a raucous farce ensues.

Petyr Baelish from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin – the cruellest trickster on this list. With his charming manner and calculating mind you’re never quite sure whose side he’s on; other than his own!

Fred and George from Harry Potter by J K Rowling – then I couldn’t create this list without adding the hilarious Weasley twins. From puking pastels, to stealing the marauder’s map, making a spectacular exit from Hogwarts and opening a whole shop of magical tricks, jokes and spells. These are two tricksters I’d love to know.

Can you think of some literary tricksters? Please let me know if you’re taking part in this week’s topic too.

New Read – Bringing Narnia Home

Bringing Narnia Home

Earlier this year I read Devin Brown’s biography Tolkien and while I thought it was interesting it wasn’t quite the book for me. However I received a copy of another of Brown’s books, Bringing Narnia Home, at the same time. I love Narnia just as much as Middle-Earth. I picked this up hoping it would suit me better.

Unlike my previous Brown read this is not a biography of the author. Instead it is a look at and a discussion of the lessons that Lewis conveys through The Chronicles of Narnia series. I have always known that this series contained Christian messages and some allegory, although these magical and quaint tales have been enjoyed by those with and without faith. Brown believes there are lessons within these stories that we can all use to bring a little happiness and magic into our own lives.

This book is broken down into twelve chapters all with a title and a message which reflect the lesson covered in each. There are some lovely chapter titles, like ‘Of Mice and Minotaurs’ and ‘Live Like it’s Always Christmas and Never Winter’. I particularly liked chapter 10 ‘The Virtuous Life is a Real Adventure’ which has the message ‘Yes, one that includes real hardship, but one you don’t want to miss’. That is so true! I have always appreciated how Lewis didn’t shy away from putting some upsetting and tough things into his books, because that’s what happens in real life. While you want to entertain children reading you also want them to be aware that life is not always perfect. Of course Lewis also balance his stories well by having hope and those willing to fight to make things better.

As I mentioned at the start, this is the second book I have read by Devin Brown. I am so pleased I gave this book a chance because I had none of the issues I had in the previous book. I found this an easy and quick read which I dipped in and out of; usually I read  one chapter a night tucked in bed just before I went to sleep. I found myself inspired by some of the lessons and comforted by the familiarity and magic.

Bringing Narnia Home was a charming and comforting read for me. I think you’d enjoy this if you love Narnia too. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else about Narnia or C S Lewis?

Meme: Tough Travelling – Fairy Tales

Tough Travelling

Nathan, over at the Fantasy Review Barn, runs this weekly meme Tough Travelling, where readers are encouraged to tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. Using The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration.

This week’s topic is FAIRY TALES ARE NOT JUST STORIES

Fairy tales are real in fantasy land.  They may seem like stories told to kids, but in fantasyland they are very, very real.

I have enjoyed delving into the stories within stories. Here’s my picks for this week:

Harry Potter by J K Rowling – ‘The Deathly Hallows’, originally told by Beedle the Bard, has passed down from wizard family to family as a fairy tale to be told to children at bedtime. Later in the books we find out that the powerful artefacts from the tale are in fact real, and are used to end the battle for once and all.

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – Bilbo Baggins has grown up listening to the wonderful tales of the young Took boys and girls that Gandalf the Grey has whisked off on marvellous adventures. There is even a rumour that a Took ancestor married a fairy, which may explain their oddly adventurous nature. With them just being tales though Bilbo little imagined he would be whisked off on a real adventure!

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King – Roland, the last gunslinger, recalls legends and his own past adventures to his ka-tet around the campfire. Including ‘The Wind Through the Keyhole’ the legend of a young boy who journeys through a dark wood where he risks death, danger and dragons to find a cure for his blind mother. These tales help Roland strengthen his ka-tet and pass on history, wisdom and knowledge.

Prince Caspian by C S Lewis – Over 200 years the Narnians have passed on to their children the tales of Narnia’s golden age, when it was ruled by the kings and queens of old. The tales have even reached young Caspian, a Telmarine prince, who blows a legendary horn which brings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy back to Narnia.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – Sadly I didn’t enjoy the book as much as the film, however I did love how old fairy tales and nursery rhymes, such as ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, came to life when Tristan journeyed into the magical land of Faerie on the other side of the wall.

Can you think of some fairy tales that aren’t just stories? Please let me know if you’re taking part in this week’s topic too.

Guest Post: The People the Fairies Forget

Guest Post

I am pleased to welcome Cheryl Mahoney back to my blog for the third time. I don’t usually host guest posts but I always make a special exception for Cheryl; a fellow book blogger at Tales of the Marvelous, and the author of The Wanderers and The Storyteller and Her Sisters. Take it away Cheryl…

I had a lot of fun in this book playing with traditional fairy tale characters—which I hope readers will enjoy too! There are certain charactersThe People the Fairies Forget we all know, and have all seen portrayed in a variety of books and movies, and there are recognizable things about them. I decided to take some of those characteristics and features to their logical, but absurd, extreme!

The Good Fairy or Fairy Godmother – Readers of my last two books have already met Marjoram, a certified Good Fairy. We learn much more about just what that means here, and see Marj wreak quite a bit of havoc. I noticed in the original fairy tales that the “good” fairies can be awfully overpowering with their spells, and very ruthless towards people who aren’t their chosen ones to help. Many fairy tales feature extreme punishments in the name of justice, and sometimes even the efforts to “help” seem questionable! In The People the Fairies Forget, we get the story from Tarry, who has known Marj for centuries and knows all about her more ruthless side. And then, of course, I also just have enormous fun making Marj an extreme Good Fairy in appearance—pink and sparkly and shedding glitter everywhere she goes!

Sleeping Beauty – We all know that Sleeping Beauty received a number of fairy gifts at her christening, gifts that give her talents or change her appearance—or, like “an angelic disposition,” would actually change her personality! My Sleeping Beauty is only a very minor character in the story, and I went a sadder direction with her. Tarry has the ability to read people’s auras to learn something about who they are, but in the case of Princess Rosaline, who she really is is hopelessly obscured by all the characteristics put on her by her christening gifts.

Prince Charming – I have never understood why Cinderella’s prince had to find her by trying a shoe on girls, instead of actually, you know, asking for her by name. So my Prince Roderick is a play on that issue—he’s hopelessly self-absorbed and never bothers to ask or remember anyone’s name. He has to find Cinderella with the shoe because he doesn’t remember anything else about her! And when confronted with someone who doesn’t want to marry him, he finds this utterly incomprehensible.

I’ll tell you a minor secret—Roderick’s role ended up growing in this novel, mostly because I was so enjoying writing him. I hope readers feel that way about reading him!

Thank you Cheryl for another interesting post. I loved your previous books and can’t wait to read your new one! The People the Fairies Forget is now available at Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords.

Meme: Tough Travelling – Good Thief

Tough Travelling

Nathan, over at the Fantasy Review Barn, runs this weekly meme Tough Travelling, where readers are encouraged to tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. Using The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration.

This week’s topic is THE GOOD THIEF

Sure they may pocket things that don’t belong to them.  And yes, anything that can be wiggled loose isn’t really locked down and may be fair game to them.  And if they put half of their intelligence into legit trades instead of long cons they would probably be pillars of fantasyland’s community.  But damn it, some thieves are still good people.

This topic really got me thinking. Only one example came to mind straight away but after a good think I think I have a pretty decent list. Here’s my picks for this week:

Bilbo from The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – Bilbo Baggins is hired by Thorin Oakenshield and his band of warrior dwarfs as a master burglar. Bilbo is small and quiet however he has never left the comfort of his hobbit hole let alone stole from under the nose of a dragon!

Robin Hood from English folklore – *Sings* “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen!” He is a skilled archer and swordsman, and a heroic outlaw. Famed for stealing from the rich to give to the poor and fighting the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham.

Hermione from Harry Potter by J K Rowling – You may think this is a shocking choice seeing as Hermione is best known as a swot who stringently follows the rules. However she does have light fingers in Professor Snape’s store cupboard for ingredients to make polyjuice potion. And later in the books she helps orchestrate a bank robbery! All in the cause of fighting evil though.

The Thieves Guild from Discworld by Terry Pratchett – In the capital city of Ankh Morpork all profession are strictly governed; even the thieves. They have training, guidelines and quotas, and if they rob you blind they were only doing their job and will give you a receipt for it.

Jean Tannen from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – Sadly I read this years ago and don’t remember a great deal, however I do remember Jean Tannen was a master thief and that I rather liked him. I really think I am in need of a re-read.

Liesel from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Okay not technically a fantasy book. But I had to mention lovely, little Liesel who learns to read after stealing a book from a mass book burning. Reading becomes her escape from the dark and cruel Nazi regime which rules her life.

Can you think of some good thieves? Please let me know if you’re taking part in this week’s topic too.

Meme: Tough Travelling – Pure Good

Tough Travelling

Nathan, over at the Fantasy Review Barn, runs this weekly meme Tough Travelling, where readers are encouraged to tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. Using The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration.

This week’s topic is PURE GOOD

No middle ground, no moral middle, no grey area at all.  Some people are pure avatars of goodness.  Fantasyland seems to be full of them.

I found last week’s topic hard so I am pleased to see this week’s plays right into my hands; I always love a good un’ in a story. Here’s my picks for this week:

Sam from The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien – I am in love with little Samwise Gamgee; he is loyal, brave and caring. A better friend I don’t think you could find. We all know Frodo wouldn’t have got far without good old Sam.

Ned Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin – Lord Eddard Stark is a strong, brave, loyal and fair knight, and a loving husband and father. Which in Westeros means he is doomed of course! His eldest son Robb suffers for much the same reasons.

Harry from Harry Potter by J K Rowling – While Harry Potter has that annoying phase of teen angst mid-series; he is still a good egg. I he think perfectly combines the good parts of his parents: mother’s kindness and father’s courage. He fights the good fight, risks his life for others and often befriends the loners.

Demetrius from A World Apart by David M Brown – Demetrius, like his father before him, is a friendly and hardworking young man who longs to join the army to protect his home and people. Sadly Demetrius’ rigid adherence to the rules will see him suffer trouble and heartbreak.

Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis – All the Pevensie siblings have their good attributes, however it is Lucy who has the least to change over the course of the novels. She is honest, open, caring and brave, and her gift of a healing cordial suits her perfectly.

Twoflower from Discworld by Terry Pratchett – Ankh Morpork’s first tourist Twoflower is honest, naïve, trusting and wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Luckily his walking and biting trunk is on hand to protect him!

Can you think of some purely good characters? Please let me know if you’re taking part in this week’s topic too.