Review: Bloodlust & Bonnets

Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern

The year is 1820, and bored young debutante Lucy knows there must be more to life than embroidery and engagements – no matter how eligible the bachelor might be. Some bachelors, she has discovered, are less ‘eligible’ than they are ‘bloodthirsty,’ however… literally. It turns out that there are a lot of vampires in late-Regency England, and Lucy has an eye for spotting them and the desire to rid the world of them.

It’s not long before Lady Violet Travesty, leader of a mysterious vampire cult, spots Lucy’s talents and offers her a place amongst her vampire acolytes. Unfortunately, Lady Violent is most horribly slain by the famous Lord Byron before Lucy can accept. Lucy instead joins Lord Byron and his enormous, psychic eagle Napoleon in their ongoing fight against evils such as bloodsucking ghouls and bad taste. Before long they’re joined by the mysterious Sham, an androgynous bounty hunter, who catches Lucy’s eye. The trio lie, flirt, fight and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

A balm for the soul for readers who love Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, novels by Eloisa James and Jane Austen, and the action and adventure of Xena, Warrior Princess, Bloodlust & Bonnets is the most modern action-heavy love-story set two hundred years ago that you’ll read this year. 

You know that look that people give you when you’re laughing so hard and try to explain and it just comes out in random words and makes you laugh even harder?

Otter gave me that.

“Is that… Byron? In a dress?”

To cut a long story and laugh-til-I-cried five minutes short, if you like Regency, bad Romance novels, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Gothic horror or anything to do with Romantic poets, you need to read this, because it makes fun of everything. If you like ridiculous comics that have psychic eagles, Lord Byron in a very fetching pink dress, vampires, vampire hunters and awkward smooches, then you need to read this.

Also, if you like My Life As A Background Slytherin, you’ll like this.

Basically: funny, ridiculous, and full of dramatic vampires. And a Very Dramatic Byron, being dramatic.

Now – bring me my bonnet.

Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge – and if she fails, she’ll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web which draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord.

Irina’s father schemes to wed her to the tsar – he will pay any price to achieve this goal. However, the dashing tsar is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of mortals and winter alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and Irina embark on a quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power and love.

I loved Uprooted, and this is definitely a book in the same vein, although standalone – rich in fairytales and mythology but told through the characters and their struggles; it’s a richly woven tapestry of personalities and settings, and it’s a story where every choice seems to matter – and there’s no predicting where those choices could lead.

I love the mix of viewpoints and characters; we start with Miryem and then glimpse Wanda, whose fate – and those of her brothers – is woven into Miryem’s; and then Irina is tugged into the web, along with her beloved nurse and the Tsar; and as the story continues, we see slices of the story from each of them, darting back and forth but all weaving together wonderfully. I love the way that each character’s story and choices affects the others, and how everything interweaves.

It’s also one of those wonderful books where everything sort-of-concludes… but there’s still a third of the book left! And because the conclusion did leave little niggles and questions, everything spirals again, and it’s wonderful to have the question of “well, yes, but then what?” answered. Nothing quite works out how it does in the fairytales, but I also adore the way the fairy stories (from a variety of sources!) and mythology and setting is all woven in, recognisable but never feeling more than slightly familiar.

It’s a book that I am going to return to, and keep dipping into – it’s one that stuck with me as I read and after I finished. Beautiful, warming, haunting and worth a read.

To Add To Your TBR: The Unspoken Name

I was lucky enough to get my grubby little hands on an advance copy of A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name, and if you like epic fantasy, kick-ass protagonists, strange worlds, amazing characters and a story that’s effortlessly readable, add this to your TBR and pre-order it, because it’s fabulous. No further spoilers than that!

(And I’m only slightly biased;  A.K. isn’t one of our authors! I’m not telling you what favours I had to promise to get an ARC, though… (hint: they possibly involved cake.))

Does she owe her life to those planning her death . . .

Csorwe was raised by a death cult steeped in old magic. And on her fourteenth birthday, she’ll be sacrificed to their god. But as she waits for the end, she’s offered a chance to escape her fate. A sorcerer wants her as his assistant, sword-hand and assassin. As this involves her not dying that day, she accepts.

Csorwe spends years living on a knife-edge, helping her master hunt an artefact which could change many worlds. Then comes the day she’s been dreading. They encounter Csorwe’s old cult – seeking the same magical object – and Csorwe is forced to reckon with her past. She also meets Shuthmili, the war-mage who’ll change her future.

If she’s to survive, Csorwe must evade her enemies, claim the artefact and stop the death cult once and for all. As she plunges from one danger to the next, the hunt is on . . .

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

This is ridiculous amounts of fun! If you like The Invisible Library, Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, Phil & Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius series, or any of the Sherlock Holmes adaptions… you’ll love this.

The story starts with Mary Jekyll having to lay off the servants: her mother having just died, the money has run out, and she’s not sure what to do next… until she gets an intriguing message about money being paid to a charitable fund, and discovers that she has a sister whose surname is Hyde…

And that’s just the start. Mary and Diana start collecting allies – and friends. The Poisonous Woman, The Puma Turned Human, and the Giantess – humans created by scientists trying to push the boundaries of knowledge, and possibly working for a mysterious society. But pushing the boundaries of knowledge can lead to people getting hurt – and creations that cause harm. Aided by Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, the Athena Club – as they name themselves – are on the trail of those who don’t consider the human cost of their experiments…

The book is a lot of fun; the interactions between the members are easy and amusing, and I love the little asides in the text as they tell the stories, each interjecting some detail or argument. It’s a wonderful piece of character building that adds to the story, and is great fun as you read more and are introduced to the characters! I also loved the literary details that get tugged in. The story is fast-paced, rattling onwards – it never takes itself too seriously, and it’s an action-filled romp with some seriously kick-ass – and thoughtful – heroines who display a wonderful range of character and a heart-warming rapport.

The series continues with European Travel For The Monstrous Gentlewoman, which sees the Athena Club tracking down van Helsing’s daughter and meeting some old friends… as well as some old – and new – enemies!

Review: Murder on Millionaire’s Row

Murder on Millionaire’s Row by Erin Lindsey

Rose Gallagher might dream of bigger things, but she’s content enough with her life as a housemaid. After all, it’s not every girl from Five Points who gets to spend her days in a posh Fifth Avenue brownstone, even if only to sweep its floors. But all that changes on the day her boss, Mr. Thomas Wiltshire, disappears. Rose is certain Mr. Wiltshire is in trouble, but the police treat his disappearance as nothing more than the whims of a rich young man behaving badly. Meanwhile, the friend who reported him missing is suspiciously unhelpful. With nowhere left to turn, Rose takes it upon herself to find her handsome young employer.

The investigation takes her from the marble palaces of Fifth Avenue to the sordid streets of Five Points. When a ghostly apparition accosts her on the street, Rose begins to realize that the world around her isn’t at all as it seems—and her place in it is about to change forever.

Put it this way; I’ve got the second book on pre-order…

It’s a fun, period-piece romp with a very readable central character, and some fun situations and scenarios! The magic slides in fairly slowly, so it doesn’t feel like a slap in the face; we learn along with Rose, and definitely appreciate her worries and problems with it. The antagonists are nicely done, as is the plot, which is complex enough to stay interesting but simple enough that I didn’t have to focus too hard!

The only character that I felt was a little vague was actually Mr Wiltshire; but then I’m not entirely sure what I did expect, as Rose goes from having a crush on him to being a partner in crime, as it were. I liked the worldbuilding, even though I don’t really know New York at all – there was a helpful little map at the start, and everywhere was nicely sketched out. I liked the historical details as well, which were woven nicely into the plot.

Overall: Miss Marple if she was twenty-something, in New York and had added magic – a light, easy and fun read!