Archive for November, 2013

Beyond the Tempest Gate

November 20, 2013 - 8:50 pm No Comments

Beyond the Tempest Gate
Author: Jeff Suwak
Publisher: VabellaPublishing
Page count: 76pp
Release Date: 24th Aug 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
Twenty five year old Gabriel is a Holy Knight of the Church of Dunrabian. He is on a quest to the Tempest Gate and beyond, to destroy the demon Elezear, who feeds on souls. The aged priest Nimphus and his mentor, tries to talk Gabriel out of this journey and his attempt to challenge the demon, but to no avail. The Tempest Gate is a sort of storm that surrounds the island to keep the demon inside.
This is a short novella but still manages to pack it all in, with adventure, violence and prophecies. Gabriel is single minded in his mission, and is also quite young and arrogant so goes on a spiritual journey himself whilst on this quest.
I’m not strictly speaking a fantasy fan, however with the inclusion of the demon it is dark enough to appeal to me and there is plenty of swash and buckle for your pennies. It’s a short read but an enjoyable on. Well constructed classic fantasy.

Freya Robertson – Guest Blog

November 10, 2013 - 8:58 pm No Comments

I asked Angry Robot author Freya Robertson to write a guest blog for me and prompted her with a question about writing genre as a female author.

So welcome to Freya, and here goes!

Kia ora (that’s Kiwi or New Zealand for hello!) and thanks for having me on the blog.

I’m here to talk about Heartwood, my debut epic fantasy from Angry Robot Books.

You asked me the question about what it’s like to write in this genre as a female writer. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure my experience has been any different than it would have been if I was a guy. I don’t think about my gender much in my involvement with the F&SF genre, and I’m sure part of that is due to my being a gamer.

In gaming—both in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and online games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2, there is no difference in statistics between male and female characters, and this definitely had an impact on the way I presented the sexes in Heartwood.

In many ways, the novel is a traditional epic fantasy. It has a quasi-medieval European setting, and the high stakes and scope of the novel mean it sits comfortably in the epic genre. However, I wanted to change a few things to ensure it had a more modern flavour. It has no elves, orcs or dwarves, and instead the creatures are formed from the elements, with Darkwater Lords rising from the ocean to steal the holy tree’s heart.

The other way I attempted to modernise this fantasy was by creating more of a gender balance than was traditional in the medieval world. The Heartwood army contains both men and women, and the leader of the army is a woman. I wanted to create a strong female lead who is convincing as a leader but also able to retain her femininity, and hopefully Procella, the Dux of the Exercitus army, fulfils that role.

I haven’t really encountered any problems along the publishing road because of my gender. Angry Robot certainly has no issue with female authors! There will, of course, always be those readers who refuse to read certain authors because of their gender, and I’ve also had a reviewer state that he didn’t like the fact that I also write romance. Oh well, it’s his loss! Heartwood is an epic fantasy full of adventure, battles, castles, religion, folklore, history and big, epic themes. And as the largest book that Angry Robot has published so far, it’s certainly something to get your teeth into!

TD: Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Heartwood came out 27th Oct 2013.


The Sleep Room

November 8, 2013 - 4:45 am No Comments

I use Grammarly for proofreading because I love the ‘smell of coffee in the morning’, and I’m not wasting time doing the hard work myself!

The Sleep Room

Author: F R Tallis

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Page count: 384pp

Release Date: 4th July 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin


F R Tallis is a prolific writer, but not as F R Tallis – as Frank Tallis, Clinical Psychologist and Crime Writer. However The Sleep Room his second horror novel, ventures into supernatural territory. Set in 1955 this novel features young psychiatrist James Richardson setting off to rural Suffolk to take a job at Wyldehope Hall for the charismatic Dr Hugh Maitland. As part of his role he ends up running a controversial project involving sleep therapy, where highly disturbed patients are treated by keeping them asleep for 21 hours per day for up to five months.

The sleepers at Wyldehope are all women with a past and Maitland is reluctant to disclose their history; these are women rejected socially and carrying the burden of deep secrets, which Richardson gradually finds out through a series of hidden patient reports. But why won’t Maitland divulge their secrets to the doctor treating them?

The reader can tell from the outset that Tallis is a mystery writer who loves sharing a problem to solve because at its heart, this is a tale of mystery and suspense.

The novel is written in the first person, a clever technique given the end denouement, which when done right, avoids narrative ‘holes’ and can be very effective. Tallis’ medical knowledge is evident throughout the text, in the dialogue, and in the analysis and diagnoses. The tone of the book feels very upper middle class, largely due to the fact it is a ‘stiff British upper lip’ period piece, imbuing it with an old style horror/haunted house vibe. Something isn’t quite right at Wyldehope and Richardson is determined to find out what. Are the patient’s fears and delusions actually hallucinations or are they real?

Despite the grim nature of the novel, and the occasional visceral parts, there is also humour, particularly as we meet a David Icke style inpatient who believes his actions are being manipulated by a reptilian civilisation. After all, given Tallis’ credentials, who knows if he met Mr Icke?! The scene with the patient Mr Foster is written with wry amusement.

Tallis peppers the narrative with clues to enable Richardson to reach a conclusion. With its period setting and ghostly aura, this feels rather like The Woman in White.

Altogether, this is a superior supernatural novel and a real page turner. Gripping stuff!


Saxon’s Bane

November 7, 2013 - 4:49 am No Comments

Saxon’s Bane
Author: Geoffrey Gudgion
Publisher: Solaris
Page count: 288pp
Release Date: 25th Aug 2013
Reviewer: Andy Angel

There are good books, there are very good books and then there is a small sub set of books that are so good and so believable in their characterisationand sense of place that you don’t just read them, you live them and miss them when you are finished. This first novel by Geoffrey Gudgeon easily falls into this later catagory.

The story starts with two life changing events. On the road above the village of Allingby Fergus Sheppard and his colleague Kate are involved in a terrible car crash, while at the same time, in the village itself archeologist Clare Harvey uncovers the body of a saxon warrior preserved in a peat bog.

As Fergus begins his recovery he returns to Allingby where the sedate pace of life seems to suit him, he makes friends and also meets up with Kate. Kate is having problems though, the saxon warrior and the partial skeleton of a woman found near it are troubling her dreams, she seems to be living out their story in her sleep.

The story is very much in the style of classic English countryside style horror/suspense (think The Wicker Man or Children of the Stones) where you have outsiders coming to what is often a very insular way of life. In the village itself you have both the christian community an the followers of ‘The Old Ways’ both of which rub along together very easily but there is also local bad boy Jake Herne who, along with his cronies is practicing a darker way.

The paths of Fergus, Kate and Jake will cross around the May Day ceremonies in a chain of events that will affect many in the village.

As someone who holidayed in a small English village as a youngster I can honestly say the author has got the way of life spot on in this enjoyable but at times unsettling debut 5/5