Spark and Carousel: a review

Spark-and-CarouselI have been lucky enough to be given an advance copy of Spark and Carousel by Jo Hall in exchange for an honest review. Jo is another Grimmie, but if I don’t like the book, I will be saying that! So, without further ado…

I loved this book.

I have previously read some of Jo’s other writing, and I admit I wasn’t entirely certain of that story. It’s wonderful writing but the characters, the world, didn’t grab me; I found it hard to get into the story. This book is set in the same world, but it grabbed me from the start.

Spark and Carousel is wonderful.

It’s magic and cities and brilliantly written characters. It’s loyalty and love and learning. It’s choices, and the echoes of those choices. It’s a boy having to deal with decisions that he doesn’t want to make, with power that he doesn’t want but can’t get rid of, with feelings that he isn’t sure what to do with. It’s a girl, a woman, trying to choose the path that will keep her safest, stepping between loyalties and loves and the simple practicality of trying to survive. And in the midst of their relationship, there’s a city torn by factions and then by a bigger danger that forces Spark to confront everything he doesn’t want to face.

Carousel is fiery, vulnerable, wilful and fierce; Spark is lost, lonely, scared and angry; the villain is beautiful, scheming, charming and spine-chillingly evil. Their loyalties and choices are brilliantly mapped, and the wider web of decisions fractures the city.

My favourite character has to be Kayall, if only for his love of shoes and his continual despair when he’s forced to abandon them. Jo’s writing is effortless, and the story flows beautifully; I was forced to stop reading half-way through and was counting the hours until I could start again! This is a fantasy story that has gripping characters, an increasingly enthralling danger, and a wonderful cast and world that makes it a pleasure to read and re-read.

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon, or Jo will have paperback copies at BristolCon.

Cruelty by Ellen Croshain: a review

CrueltyA review of Cruelty by Ellen Croshain.

Once a year, in the caves deep below the house, the Family gathers to perform a ritual to appease their god. But Faroust only accepts payment in blood. Eliza MacTir, youngest daughter of a powerful Irish family, was born into fae gentry without the magical gifts that have coursed through the Family’s veins for millennia; she was an outcast from her first breath. Desperate for freedom, Eliza’s flight from rural Ireland is thwarted by the Family’s head of security. The only weapon she has to fight her captor is her own awakening sexuality. Drawn into the world of magic and gods, Eliza must find a way to break free, even if it means breaking the hearts of those she loves, and letting her own turn to stone. Cruelty, it runs in the Family.

Haunting. Twisted. Passionate. Cruel. Gripping.

Eliza thinks she is worthless to her family – Barren, unable to do magic, not even worth much as a marriage bargain. Found after an attempt to flee, she makes a bargain with her captor, and becomes his partner – and soon finds out that to protect the Family, they have to understand the truth about the God who has protected them for thousands of years…

It’s almost horror, but for the humanity. Almost erotica, but for the twisted suspense of the plot. Almost a love story, except for the warped, painful morality. Almost real, except for the magic. And somehow, every strand of the story, every twist of the plot and twitch of the characters, all comes together into a gripping, painful and brilliant read.

I read this book all in one go, and then went back to it; it’s one that I can dip in and out of, yet is no less horrifying or gripping for the second or third reads. There is a lot of (very well-written) sex, violence and horror; the sex is frequent, but does spin the plot along to a certain extent, and the violence likewise serves to remind us exactly what is at stake. The Family and all of its members are contrary, changeable, human and believable and understandable. Eliza is manipulative and annoying, but still a heroine, dangerous and brave; Faroust is capricious, cruel and gentle by turns, and Cornelius’ character arc is very well written. The plot is strong throughout the book, with twists that I couldn’t even start to predict; the magical aspect is explained well, and doesn’t dominate. And the ending…beautifully cruel, delightfully twisted, and still horrible even when we know the baddy entirely deserves it.

Overall? A twisted, horrifying, lust-filled, gripping and wonderful read that I would highly recommend.

Available from Amazon.

Disclaimer: Ellen’s a fellow-Grimmie, but I haven’t been paid or perk’d to write this – if I hated it, I’d say so!

The Reluctant Prophet: a review

The Reluctant ProphetThe Reluctant Prophet is a book that I highly recommend; a fantastic, page-turning read that has stuck in my head long after I’ve put it down.

There’s none so blind as she who can see . . . Esther is blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it.

Haunted by the dark man of her father’s warnings, and unable to see her own destiny, Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart’s blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in bloody war.

The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse of her own happiness.

The Reluctant Prophet is an emotional, hard-hitting and brilliant story. I really felt for Esther and her journey, and her struggle with her faith and her choices after the events she lives through. It’s a story that has stayed in my head after I finished; it’s a page-turner and a book that is absolutely amazing!

Also, I love the cover on this book! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Available from Amazon on Kindle.

Songs of Seraphina: review

Well, I promised a review, and I’ve finally sat down long enough to do one!

Songs of SeraphinaSongs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book.

From the start, it’s strange. Mysterious. Quirky. Puzzling. Fantastical. There’s multiple threads of storyline, multiple people, multiple places. The story follows Penny, Cairo and Charlie as they’re plunged into mystery, being sent to live with their strange grandparents; but then there’s two semi-divine beings who are realising their path might not be straightforward, and snatches of other stories from another world. The narrative hops between places, drawing you in to each and giving just enough to hook you before moving on, making you turn the page eagerly.

The writing is excellent; the many worlds are vividly imagined, the fantasical elements beautiful, the emotions enough to tug. I had to keep reading and the story has stayed with me; it’s a book to read, re-read and then go back to. I didn’t want it to end, and I want to know what happens next.

Get it from Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Goodies and a book recommendation

Darkhaven_1I’ve just got some lovely goodies from the lovely AFE Smith! Her book Darkhaven was released on the 2nd July and is available now from Amazon.

In addition to winning the goodies from the launch-day competition, I bought Darkhaven and I’ve got it on Kindle (I got a new phone and it’s got enough memory for the Kindle app – wooh!) It’s the first time in a while that I’ve stayed up until stupid o’clock to finish a book, but I loved this one!

The story follows the ruling Changer family of Arkannen – Myrren can’t change and so is disinherited in favour of his half-sister, Ayla, who doesn’t want the throne. When she is accused of a crime she didn’t commit and locked away, he takes steps to protect her, but unfortunately events spiral from there…

The city of Arkannen is beautifully detailed, with something new to ‘see’ every time. The characters are vivid and interesting, and I slowly got drawn into the plot; by the end I really wanted to know what happened to everyone! I didn’t anticipate all of the twists, and the ending is excellent. My only niggle is why Ayla doesn’t just fly out of the city…but it’s only a minor point. The plot otherwise is excellent, and overall the book is well worth reading.

Darkhaven is available on Amazon, or have a look on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I haven’t been asked to review the book, and won the goodies simply by loitering with interest on the launch day 🙂