Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi and Fantasy’

THE EMPRESS GAME: CLOAK OF WAR by Rhonda Mason

June 9, 2017 - 7:38 pm No Comments

THE EMPRESS GAME: CLOAK OF WAR by Rhonda Mason. Titan Books, London, UK. £7.99 paperback. 391 pages. ISBN: 978-1-78329-943-0

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

There have been a number of series recently where the protagonists have to compete in games and the winners are those that survive. The best known of these are probably The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series. Attempting to join their ranks is Rhoda Mason’s The Empress Game – volume one in this series. It wasn’t a straight-forward contest as the power-seeking competitors cheated. Though Kayla, by impersonating the real contestant Isonde, wins victory she finds herself deep in politics that affects her home world.

Cloak of War is the second volume and Kayla has to continue to impersonate Isonde as the princess has been poisoned with a paralyzing toxin. Other events from volume one also have lingering consequences. Isonde has enemies who know of the deception and are not afraid to use it as blackmail. There were, undoubtedly, a number of strands in The Empress Game which are picked up again here. Kayla’s home planet (of which she is royalty) is one where psi powers exist and an unscrupulous scientist of the Sakien Empire had kidnapped her family to experiment on. They are now, she believes, on the way to safely. The man she has fallen in love with is an IDC (the Empire’s secret service) agent, and a friend of Isonde’s betrothed. Meanwhile, back on her home world, rebellion is brewing.

There is nothing wrong with this author’s ability to write and tell a story. The action sequences are believable but I found it difficult to engage with the characters. This might be a consequence of this being the middle book of a trilogy. Perhaps the in-depth characterisation and descriptions are all in volume one as it was difficult to picture the settings and in places it felt more like fantasy rather than Science Fiction. The first ninety pages or so, stick fairly closely to Kayla and the people she interacts with so it is a surprise when it suddenly switches location to characters that although having (probably) been in The Empress Game, don’t have a direct effect on the main thrust of the plot. This structure jolts the reader out of the flow of the novel, introducing unfamiliar characters. It is possible that the series has a coherence that is not tangible here. Probably this is a case of don’t start from here. Try volume one first.

THIS SAVAGE SONG by V.E. Schwab.

March 2, 2017 - 8:22 pm No Comments

THIS SAVAGE SONG by V.E. Schwab.

Published by Titan Books, London, UK on 7th June 2016

£7.99 paperback.  ISBN: 978-1-7856527-4-8

407 pages.

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Over the years there have been various novels where some kind of disaster has occurred in the past and the story is set in the aftermath, the characters having no knowledge of exactly what happened. In the case of Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road the cause is some while in the past and everyone has forgotten. In others, the cause is closer in time to the action and may be something like nuclear war or disease. The effects though are the same with characters coping with the results. A more recent incarnation of this theme involves an arrival of a supernatural event.

In This Savage Song the implication is of a far future setting when the United States has been reshaped into Ten Territories. One of the largest is Verity, in the centre of which is Verity City. Verity is populated by monsters. Twelve years previously the Phenomenon happened and the monsters began to appear. They were formed out of violence, shadows taking a life and form of their own. There are three kinds. Corsai are mindless hunger machines, living in the dark and killing anything that moves; Malchai are more intelligent and can be trained and enslaved as killers; Sunai are rarer and kill with music but only feed on the souls of sinners. Verity is divided into two. North of the dividing Seam in Harker territory. Callum Harker rules it with fear and the Malchai. South is Flynn territory. Henry Flynn has taken the Sunai into his family and uses them to dispense justice. Currently there is a truce.

Kate Harker is Callum’s teenage daughter. He banished her to school outside the city but she is determined to return home and burns down a chapel to achieve her wishes. August is the youngest Sunai and appears the same age as Kate. As tensions grow between the two parts of the city, August is detailed to watch Kate and is sent to the same school as her. Despite being enemies, they form a connection and when Kate is attacked, he comes to her aid. They realise that it is the Malchai, led by Sloan, her father’s aide, who has engineered the situation, planning to kill Kate and have it blamed on August in the expectation that war between Harker and Flynn will ensue, giving the Malchai the opportunity to take over. Kate and August flee.

This is a Y/A horror novel and the two youngsters have to face their natures in order to survive, especially as they begin to realise that those they thought they could trust are working against them. The plot is unusual, the characters are well drawn with their emotional range fully explored. It is a novel about expectations, limitations and hope as well as the need to face fear. It examines the nature of monsters. Not all monsters are totally evil, some have humanity; not all humans are kind, some are monstrous. The problem is working out which is which. The only thing I would take issue with is a matter of scale. Although, the Territory of Verity is made up of four Midwestern States, there is no sense of distance while they are travelling away from the city. The pace, though, is tremendous and the jeopardy Kate and August are in feels very real. It is a book to be recommended.

The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison

January 6, 2017 - 10:51 pm No Comments

The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison

Published by Wrecking Ball Press on 27th October 2016

376 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

Warboys spent most of his young life working on the ships, getting a chartership, is too much like hard work so he gets by without one until the night their king abdicated and the country was under Martial law. Wanting to unite the whole continent, General Malvy takes over the running of the country and brings in conscription.  Not wanting to fight, Warboys tries to go on the run and with his dad Bill find a flying machine. Unfortunately, they did not get very far and end up getting caught, however this just the start of an epic adventure, an adventure that finds Warboys up against an ancient cult, slave masters and living flying machines.

Warboys was a loveable rogue who at the beginning was only looking out for number one, but as his adventure continues his caring nature starts to come out especially towards Nouzi Aaranya. Spending the time with his dad had a good effect on him and he starts to mature, the father/son relationship at times was comical and they did have a Steptoe and son feel about them. One scene in particular was when they were discussing take-aways and invented fish, chips and mushy peas.

From the 1st word you are transported into a perilous journey, be it marching through a desolate countryside or drinking and fighting at Junkers the scrapyard. This book had it all, action, comedy and adventure, with a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and sci-fi this should please a lot of readers. I was surprised to find out that this was the author’s first novel and this was so well written. The ending was gripping and does give scope for further adventures for Warboys. I for one hope that there will more books for me to read.

Snowed by Maria Alexander

December 26, 2016 - 7:44 am No Comments

Snowed by Maria Alexander

Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press on 2nd November 2016

259 Pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

 

511nz3llvzlCharity is a 16-year-old genius this has caused her to be an outcast at school. What hadn’t helped is she was the founder member of the Sceptics Club due to her non- religious ideas.  Aidan is a homeless boy that Charity’s mom bought home, talking like he has stepped out of a Jane Ayre novel, he will not tell anyone about his family and where he has come from. There is an instant attraction between them but when one of Charity’s bullies turn up dead, Charity and Sceptic club start to investigate and find out more about Aidan and his evil father than they expected. Adding to Charity’s problems is also her drug dealer, regular bad boy brother Charles, who blames everyone else for his wrong decisions.

I took to Charity straight away, even though she was constantly bullied, she stuck to her beliefs and didn’t change herself to fit in. It was a pleasant change to have a girl who was into robotics and science. All her history made her a natural born leader that was admired within her close nit of friends. Aidan character came across as a really sweet and you can understand why Charity’s mom took him in. I enjoyed how he took to modern technology and embraced the simple tasks of learning to ride a bike and to get a part time job. One of my favourite characters was Michael keeping himself to himself, I loved his one liners and I enjoyed how the author developed these characters throughout the book, telling us more about their stories

Even though, throughout the book there were hints of who Aidan’s dad was. The way the author wrote about this Jekyll and Hyde character, I ended up doubting my suspicions as I could not just believe it, so when Aidan’s story came out, it was still a surprise.

This book is tagged as a children’s story, but I would say that this story is great for adults and teenagers alike. I tend not to read books with a Christmas theme, but I am glad I read this. This story has everything for a YA fantasy read, action, with a touch of romance and you get the horror element from Aidan’s brother and sisters. I got so into the story that I could not believe that it ended on a cliff-hanger, but after I read the acknowledgements I was pleased to come across the epilogue which I thought would complete the story. How wrong I was, it just made me yearn for book 2. My first book from this author but will definitely not be the last. A good read Christmas or not

Fight Like a Girl edited by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall

October 30, 2016 - 11:46 am No Comments

Fight Like a Girl edited by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall

Authors- Roz Clarke, Kelda Crich, KT Davies, Dolly Garland, KR Green, Joanne Hall, Julia Knight, Kim Larkin-Smith, Juliet McKenna, Lou Morgan, Gale Sebold, Sophie E Tallis, Fran Terminiello, Danie Ware and Nadine West

Published by Kristell Ink, Grimbold Books on 6th March 2016

249 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

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This book has a good selection of stories for fantasy and Sci-Fi lovers, each story set in different land or time, but one thing in common, each story had a woman that was not afraid to kick some ass. Every woman had a story to tell whether they were a sword for hire, a mother, a soldier or just fighting to survive, they had to act on their wits and they were there to prove that there is nothing wrong in fighting like a girl.

So not to go on for ever I am going to review the stories that really grabbed my attention.

The Coyote by KR Green: Set in dystopian Brighton, Kai is a young girl with a very good sense of hearing. This talent had helped through many a scrape. A member of the Circlet, Kai, is a highly trained fighter and is on a mission to try and bring peace to the Buddhist community. Throughout, this short story was full of action, with Kai relying on her hearing to get the mission done, this made it an intense read.

Vocho’s Night out by Julia Knight: Vocho and Kacha are brother and sister, working for the guild, they are hired to protect a mysterious cargo. After a failed attempt to steal the cargo, they work together to find the real reason why they were hired. Like most siblings they are in competition with each other to be the best and as both are experienced sword fighters this does get interesting. I found this story to be a fun read, and the ending was comical. This has been a good introduction to the Duellists trilogy which I now want to read.

Fire and Ash by Gaie Sebold: Riven is a soldier who is suffering with PTSD. The last of the Dancers, a renowned troop she lost all her colleagues in one epic battle. Not wanting to go on any more with her life, she prepares to die until a ring changes her mind. Whilst reading this story, I felt really sorry for Riven with everything she went through, but whilst on this journey her character changes to determination, she gets stronger and you are willing her to survive and to learn to live.

A quick mention about the cover, when I saw this I had to smile to myself as when I was little girl I used to have a book of paper dolls to dress up and I wish that my dolls had outfits like these on the cover.

I must be honest: I had not read anything before by these authors and I have kept asking myself why not.  Each story was well written and celebrates women. Now every time I hear you fight like a girl, I will know that it is a compliment as if I or any other girl fights like the girls in these stories then they will be strong, resourceful and not take any nonsense.

A great collection of stories that will keep your interest from the first word