Tag Archives: dark

Wintersong by S Jae Jones. Review. 

‘She is for the Goblin King now’

I’ve recently become enthralled by novels like Wintersong which take the dark fairytales of Russia, Eastern Europe and in this case Germany and make them into their own. 

Wintersong tells the tale of Liesel, a young German woman with a passion for music. Music she is not allowed to compose or play because a woman is too inferior to do so. Instead she lives through her brother Josef who is about to audition to receive tutelage from a famous music teacher. Liesel is a young woman who is not just plain to look at but perceived as ugly, especially beside her beautiful sister Käthe. The three children have grown up beside the Goblin Grove, listening to their grandmother’s eerie tales of witches, hobgoblins and sprites. But most particularly of the Goblin King himself. Now they are getting older they don’t believe in her stories anymore. That is until Käthe is kidnapped by the King and Liesel has to go to his underground kingdom to bring her back. 

This book is deliciously dark, it tantalises and teases, it is frightening in parts but at the same time grips you with its intesity. It draws you in and seduces you. The Goblin King, dips between two personas as the thing of nightmares and the man of your dream. It is very, very cleverly done! While wanting to stay lost in the world there is a fear that should you do that, you would never escape. 

There is passion in this novel, but of the dark sort. The ones that all girls who don’t believe in themselves, who view ‘beauty on the inside’ as an ugly truth. The novel doesn’t feel very YA it reads more like an adult novel which I did really like. The border of YA and adult fantasy became blurred which is just right for the dark fairytale theme. 

Wintersong has echoes of a more serious version of the film Labyrinth and the combination of this, and the dark fairytales just makes it devilishly decadent. A true work of art of a novel! I can’t wait for the sequel! 


The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Review. 

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is one of the freakeist books I have ever read. Wow! It’s going to stay with me for a while I can’t deny it. 

It would be easy to imagine from the synopsis of this book that it is a children’s or young adult book about a young boy called David who loves to read and ends up becoming part of a story. I was imagining it to be a modern take on The Neverending Story, how wrong I was. This is definitely not a children’s book and I would be reluctant to allow a teenage child of mine to read it. Despite having a child as the main character, it is definitely a book for adults only. 

Let’s start with the plot; David is a young boy who features as the main character in the novel which is set in the late 1930s around the time of the Second World War. David’s mum dies of what we can presume is cancer, and David and his father move in with David’s father’s new girlfriend Rose. David hates Rose because he sees her as a threat to his mother’s memory, and he hates her more when she gives birth to David’s brother Georgie. 

David suddenly begins to have blackouts and during this time he sees into another world where A Crooked Man wants him to be the new king, he can also hear books whispering to him now. Then one night, lured by the voice of his dead mother, David ventures into a new land, a land of fairytales and nightmares. 

The book is written extremely well, the prose is of a high quality and it is clear that the author has a fascination with folklore and fairytales but he adds a darker twist. I was going to phrase that as deliciously darker but there is nothing delicious about the horrors he includes. From children learning too much about what adults do when they’re alone, to weird hunters who carry out freakish experiments (which put me off my pizza and that’s no easy feat). 

I think the shock factor works better because the book is not like you’d expect, if you’ve read the original Grimm’s fairytales then you’ll have an idea of how dark and nasty some of the stories in this one can be. But only an idea. This novel surpasses those early tales for gore, death, mutilation and physical and mental abuse. Trust me when I say that you will no longer view the characters of fairy tales quite the same again. 

An amazing if difficult (graphic content) read that will stay with me for a long time to come. 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Review 

‘It was late winter in Northern Rus’, The air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow. The brilliant February landscape had given way to the dreary gray of March, and the household of Pyotr Vladimirovich were all sniffling from the damp and thin from six weeks’ fasting on black bread and fermented cabbage. But no one was thinking of chilblains and runny noses, or even, wistfully, of porridge and roast meats, for Dunya was to tell a story.’ 

From the first paragraph, detailed above, it is immediately apparent that Katherine Arden has a skill beyond many other writers. The skill for weaving a story in beautiful language, a skill which usually comes around an author’s 3rd, 4th or even 5th novel. But this is actually Katherine’s debut. 

Thank you firstly to Penguin Random House and Del Rey Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This is not going to be a difficult book to review. Mainly because it was beautiful from start to finish. From it’s wonderfully, colourful cover to its neat black font. But mostly because of its imaginative, detailed and phantasmagorical story. 

The story focuses on the family of a Russian lord. The setting I would say is around the time period of the 1800s and Russia is in the midst of a bleak winter. Pyotr and Marina already have 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl when Marina announces she is with child again. She also announces that this one will be different, more like her own mother who came from nowhere and won the heart of Russia’s Grand Prince. Here is where Vasilisa is born. Vasilisa has a sight beyond that of her siblings. She alone can see the spirits and demons who protect her home from the threat in the forest and she alone can save them when the rest of her people turn to God. 

The story is magical, in that it mixes the real world with that of fairytales and other worlds. I’m not talking the fairytales mass produced by Disney either, these are the dark tales of Russian folklore, demons in the night, whispers between the trees and the nip of wolves on your ankles. Placed in a setting of freezing midwinter when the trees are bare and families starving, mistrust and fear breed. 

Though the story is far from fast paced it keeps the reader gripped with anticipation and dread as the threat comes closer. The bitterness of a jealous stepmother, the devotion and misplaced trust of a pious priest and the hint of devilry just around the corner sends a thrill down the readers spine. 

The writing itself is beautiful, Katherine Arden creates a world and weaves the magic into her words with beautiful descriptive sentences, excitement and desperation as we, the readers sit with baited breath, unsure what is around the corner. 

A truly magical and yet terribly dark story of what happens when bedtime stories become real life. Katherine Arden is the author to watch. 

Anemogram Review 

When the author of Anemogram, Rebecca Gransden contacted me a few days ago asking if I would like to review her debut novel I happily agreed and told her I should have read and reviewed it in a couple of days. In reality it took me only three hours. 

This was due to the fact that this was a mind blowingly addictive book which I could not put down. 

The language and writing style is so rich that the only other author I could possibly compare it to is Peter S Beagle. That in itself is the biggest compliment I could possibly give. The type of writing which is sometimes discouraged in this day and age and the type of writing I happen to love. Like someone describing what they see on a cinema screen. It’s incredible. It’s delicious and in the case of this book it’s highly disturbing. 

The underlying currents of horror, sex and perversion reminded me a little of Lolita but without the sexual element at all. I’m not even sure that sentence makes sense but it’s how this little novel made me feel. 

The sense that this child was somehow ‘otherworldy’ was a pervading undertone throughout. The unsuriety of what would happen next. The confusion, the whole damn book is a riddle! 

It was incredible. I can’t help but go back to the language and the writing because it made the book. The obsessive and sometimes disgusting things which went on (I refer you to the picking of the scab). Mixed in with the constant question in the readers mind of WHO IS SHE? 

It’s dark, it’s creepy, it’s the stuff of nightmares while not exactly being scary. It’s weird and wonderful and utterly frustrating and it’s the best book I’ve read all year.