Tag Archives: gottakeepreading

Review: Under the Pendulum Sun

Under The Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon, but the Queen of the Fae and her maniacal court are hard on his heels.

An unusually gripping Victorian-tinged fantasy set in a richly imagined High Gothic world.

Weird, eerie and definitely gripping – a mix of horror, mystery, fantasy and Victorian gothic come together to make an unsettling and evocative read.

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Leon, is a missionary to the incredible land of Arcadia – the land of the Fae, discovered only by getting lost. Leon has been sent out to replace the previous missionary and bring Christianity to the strange land, but his letters have been sporadic and strange. Cathy has been offered the chance to travel out to see him – and see the land of the Fae.

But when she reaches Gethsemane, a strange house in the middle of foggy moors, she finds Leon missing, their manservant full of strange questions and fierce faith, and a house riddled with questions – all under a swinging, pendulum sun and a angler-fish moon that roves the sky. She dreams of Leon in the arms of a Fae woman and struggles to decipher the diaries of the previous missionary, as well as exploring the grounds and uncovering the mysteries of the half-Fae, half-human Changeling who is her companion at the house…

And then Leon returns, and brings with him the Pale Queen, her Court, and her flurry of mysteries…

I loved the developing tension and relationship between Leon and Cathy; so familiar and yet so alien, and the unsettling twists in the second half of the book are woven expertly from the threads played at the start. The mysteries all overlap with brilliant horror, and the strangeness of the Fae overlaps with the unknowns of their surroundings in Arcadia; the theological puzzles mix with the mysteries of the previous missionary and his diaries; and the Pale Queen’s manipulations and games wind around Leon and Catherine’s own relationships, both with each other and with the others around them.

If you’re into eerie fantasy mixed with horror, this is definitely worth a read.

Review: Servant of the Underworld

Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian & Blood Book 1) by Aliette de Bodard

Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. Human sacrifice and the magic of the living blood are the only things keeping the sun in the sky and the earth fertile.

A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. It should be a usual investigation for Acatl, High Priest of the Dead–except that his estranged brother is involved, and the the more he digs, the deeper he is drawn into the political and magical intrigues of noblemen, soldiers, and priests-and of the gods themselves…

This is complex, political, historical, thrilling, tense and at times infuriating. I love the mix of characters, the unusual setting with so many woven details and strange magics, and the sheer mix of alien-ness and familiarity of the world.

Also Acatl is so grumpy! I love it.

There’s a lot of interesting twists of plot; the story is a murder mystery plus political twists, and it’s relatively easy to follow but also obscure enough to not guess. The murder-mystery strand runs throughout, which I liked, and we slowly learn more about all the characters involved – from the arrogant and fierce members of the Jaguar Knights to the quieter, devoted members of the temples and the students and teachers of the calmecac. I also really liked the mixture of godly realms, magic and earthly life: magic is used relatively casually & woven into the fabric of the world and the novel, and I love the subtlety of it as well as the moments where it stands out and (sometimes) saves the day.

It’s also really interesting and a breath of fresh air to read a different culture than standard European, and I love that the author has taken a relatively unknown period and created a world that is both fantastic and relatively true to what sources we have. I definitely enjoyed the explanations at the end: it was interesting to hear why that period was picked and the influences on the book, and appreciate some of the difficulties in setting a historical-inspired novel in a period with such a lack of unbiased – and, indeed, many – sources. It’s a world that’s beautifully brought to life, and weaves in beautifully with the plot.

I’m definitely getting the second in this series, and the third’s on my reading list!

Review: Veritas

Veritas by Quinn Coleridge

The ghosts are angry, thinking I’ve neglected them. Do not forget us, they call out from the grave. I won’t, I promise them. Upon my life, I won’t.

Being a demigoddess in 1892 Stonehenge, Colorado isn’t all one might suppose, especially when the dead are involved. Yet as Veritas of the Rocky Mountain sovereignty, it is Hester Grayson’s calling to help restless spirits cross over by bringing their killers to justice. Blind and pale as an albino, she dwells on the fringes of the nouveau riche, working with her telepathic beau Tom Craddock to catch the guilty.

When a young woman is brutally murdered, Hester and Tom are determined to solve the case as they have every other. But this one demands more. The killer wears many faces and wields greater magic than even Hester possesses. All sleuthing stops, however, when Tom is gravely wounded and Hester is cast out of her parent’s mansion into the squalor of an asylum. 

At the mercy of an insane doctor, surrounded by agitated ghosts, Hester fights to maintain her own sanity by planning her escape and the downfall of her enemies. Can she achieve her goal and expose the madman who sent her to hell? Or will he continue his bloody reign in Stonehenge?

Veritas is a mix of sleuth/detective, ghost story, thriller, horror and romance…I’m not entirely sure where I picked up the recommendation for Veritas, but it’s definitely worth a read!

The story starts with Hester; blind, dumb and living in genteel state with her family. But while she’s treated as a helpless ornament by her mother and despised by her father, Hester herself often tests her limits, both on her own and with allies: her companion Cordelia affectionately assists with many tasks, and her beau and partner Tom stays in constant contact. And Hester also has a secret: she has been chosen by the Lady Veritas, and hears Sir Death. Her remaining senses are supernaturally acute, and she can speak to the spirit world.

But the spirit world does not let her live quietly. Murder victims clamour for revenge, and Death presses Hester to find the killer. In addition, Hester is becoming a target – and a prize. A new doctor in town becomes interested in the lively young woman and frustrated at her circumstances, offering to teach her sign language; and Tom’s position as companion and lover grows ever stronger and more precarious as a rival comes on the scene.

Hester’s voice is wonderful; despite her lack of sight and voice, there’s never any lack of description or action, and we see brilliantly through her extended senses. The setting is small-town America with a side dose of an insane alsylum, chillingly portrayed. The characters are excellent; a wide mix of voices and people, all beautifully brought to life by their movements, voices and affections, even though we are unable to see them. Hester’s relationships, both with her loves and her enemies, is nicely done; the motivations of many characters are complex and interwoven, even though Hester is always the central point. The action is very good and the plot tugs along; there are some very good twists and unexpected events throughout, and it’s never boring.

The one thing that lets the book down, and knocks a star off the rating, is that I felt the enemies were confusing. I struggled to work out who was under suspicion at any particular time; while there is one Big Bad, it’s not clear (intentionally, but confusingly) who is an enemy of Hester’s. This is particularly noticeable with the twist at the end; it doesn’t get foreshadowed, and while that makes it very good as a twist, it doesn’t help clear up the confusion! The murder plots also add to the tangles, and while the victims are clear, any potential links between the murderers aren’t. However, it doesn’t detract from the reading of the book; Hester is always a clear voice, even if the workings behind the scenes aren’t entirely clear.

So, overall; a complex and interesting book with some brilliant characters and a unique central protagonist.

Another Book Launch and some randoms!

I’m at the launch of Shards of the Nightmare in Waterstones, Oxford from 7-8pm today (Monday 29th April) – if you’re in the area, do come along for a reading and chat!

The launch for No So Stories at Forbidden Planet in London was grand – I met a whole bunch of awesome people and thoroughly talked myself out, so Sunday was definitely an introvert day. The book’s available on Amazon and other retailers (including signed copies from Forbidden Planet!) if you’re interested in Kipling, mythology or modern, diverse stories.

And I’ve been musing on the GreenSky series over on the Grimbold Books Patreon page – it’s free to read, so go have a look 🙂

I am definitely going to be over-peopled after this weekend and today, but I have been given an important task for this week: feed my housemate’s fish! So I shall be feeding fish. They don’t talk to much, so I reckon I can manage this…

A Book Launch; and, “I get to read books and people pay me”

First, a book launch! I am (hopefully, barring sudden disaster or extreme tiredness) going to be at the launch of Not So Stories in London on Saturday! If you’re around the Forbidden Planet area, do come along and check out this anthology of Kipling-inspired stories.

And second, me! I’m currently in Uncanny Valley between “this is all strange and new and exciting” and “this is a normal routine day”, with an added dose of “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG”. It’s caused a little bit of We Need To Do All The Panicking but my brain has been coping quite well, for which I am extremely grateful…

I’m settling in to Oxford and moving to a friend’s room this weekend – as opposed to being on my wonderful friend’s floor, which while brilliant as a temporary thing is not somewhere I want to clutter up permanently. My commute is going to be down the canal, and I’m doing ok with the house (I love doing early-early, and it seems to be working well).

I still can’t believe I’m getting paid to read amazing books. Just….WUT IS THIS SORCERY OF A JOB?!

Everyone has been lovely and I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed by that, too – being able to openly say “I’m a bit anxiety today” and the first reactions from everyone is “oh no, can we help?” – it’s just…amazing, and really helps. (There isn’t really anything anyone can do to help, and I manage my brain as best I can.) But it’s like being able to let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding: it gives me hope that someone else will have my back when my brain’s fighting me and I’m struggling. It’s not going to be another battle to fight on top of the ones I’m already fighting. I’m obviously going to do my best to not let it interfere with my work, but it’s not something I have to spend energy hiding, and that is one  less worry.

And I’m loving my job. I’m learning the ebook processes and KDP nuances (aka. it hates everyone and everything and WOE BETIDE YOU IF YOU ARE 0.00003 OF A MM OUT!) and getting sent things to read; I’ve been given one piece to edit already which is fantastic and I am really looking forward to reading, and I’ve been working my way through some current submissions and back catalogue books. It’s still very strange but it feels familiar, which I love. And I’ve had time in the evenings to work, too; I’m not feeling overwhelmed by my freelance and Grimbold bits, which is doubly nice.

I’m expecting a crash at some point because this is too good to last, but that’s fine – I’ll manage it when it comes. But for now, I’m good. I’m really good.

I’m going to go a read an amazing book now!