Tag Archives: magic

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Review 

The Beautiful Ones is the first novel I have read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia but I’m really glad I decided to give it a try. 

Hauntingly beautiful this novel tells the story of unrequited love from the perspective of the lover and the loved. 

Set in what is presumably based on historical France (although the time period isn’t clear). Antonina (Nina) is a naive girl from the countryside taking part in her first grand season in the city of Loisail. Nina is staying with her favourite cousin and his wife who seems to inexplicably dislike her. Nina is used to dislike though, her telekinetic powers are why she couldn’t find a suitable husband at home and her less than perfect manners and lack of ability to be ladylike in public just seem to make things worse. 

But Nina’s attention and affection are captured by the enigmatic if slightly distracted Hector Auvray a telekinetic performer, as they become closer she is certain that a marriage proposal is imminent but there are other things at play that Nina knows nothing about. She has become a bit player in a game that goes back more than a decade. 

I found this book to be very engaging. It was an interesting take on a historical novel with the addition of the characters telekinetic powers. It sssms to be more of a play on the usual historical novel, while some things remain true to the times, others show a decided change. Valérie’s spite and malice make her an excellent villain against the naive and yet lovable Nina. This novel highlights the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. 

I really liked the characters of both Nina and Hector and I was rooting for them the whole way through, I won’t say if they had a happy ending though, as always I won’t give any spoilers! 

I’ll definitely look into reading more from this author in the future! 

Darien: Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden. Review 

CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. 

The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. 

Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Nancy, more than just a fumble and a tumble, she has something about her which causes magic objects to fail. Daw has big plans for what they can do with this power but Nancy has plans of her own… revenge. 

Elias Post is an incredible hunter. Because he has a gift of his own. A gift he calls ‘reaching’ but it’s about to get him into trouble when General Justan of the immortal army gets wind of it and decides how he can use it. 

Then there’s Tellius who comes across a small boy who can mimick anything he sees perfectly. Tellius thinks to use him to his own advantage until they get into a scrape and the boy is revealed as not a boy at all but a Golem. 

Overall the novel was fairly fast paced. It changed direction quickly which was sometimes confusing as it switched to the different narratives of all the characters involved. I would have also liked to have seen more world building, other than the name of the city, the fact it has 12 families and that the people worship a goddess not much else was given on the world itself and where it is supposed to be set or even when. We also only meet characters from 3 of the 12 families and I’d have liked to have seen more about them. How did they get into power for example and why are they so important? Just their names would have been nice…

I think this book got off to a great start and I really enjoyed the first 50-65% of it. But as aforementioned it lacked too much in world building and also became very fighting strong. That’s not necessarily a criticism but I’m not that fussed on books with a lot of fighting for like 35% of the story. 

Overall, it was well written and plotted and I think fans of books about action and war with a little magic thrown in would really enjoy it. 

Moroda by L.L McNeil. Review 

Moroda is L.L McNeil’s debut novel in the epic fantasy genre. It focuses on the character of Moroda, a young girl who has lost her status as a Goldstone after her father dies. To top it off she just got arrested and then a dragon attacked their city. Her only option seems to be escape from the city with an eclectic bunch of people which includes; a sky pirate, a Varkain (scary snake man), two Itallans (shape shifters), an Arillian (guy who can fly and create storm weather) and a member of the Imperial Guard. That’s where the adventure begins. 

As they journey across their world, mayhem and magic abound as Moroda is taken out of her comfort zone and has to learn how to fight, fly an airship and try desperately to defend the ones she loves against the evil Aciel. 

Despite being quite a long book, Moroda is an easy read, the characters are easy to remember and the author creates a world much different to our own and yet one which the reader can get lost in. Even better the book is written well and more importantly, edited well making it a very enjoyable read. 

Moroda sometimes came across as a bit of a weakling but don’t worry if you’re getting that vibe because she wins her badass stripes in the end! 

I really enjoyed the history of the different races/species in this book as well. The ideas were new and well written and character creation was authentic and well imagined, more importantly it was original. I especially liked the Varkain and hope I get to read more about them and their history in upcoming novels in the saga. I also loved Amarah the Sky Pirate she is a super cool badass and it’s nice to see a woman in the position of pirate and hellraiser! 

I loved the background on the dragons as well and the idea of them being gods. Dragons have always fascinated me and it was a very interesting take on their nature and responsibilities to the world they inhabited. 

I can’t wait to read more in this saga and can recommend it to lovers of all fantasy series but particularly if you like books like Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series.

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. 

In Calabria by Peter S Beagle. Review 

The Last Unicorn has long been one of the most precious things. When I was little it was my favourite film which I watched over and over again. When I found out it was a book I of course had to read it and it fast became one of my favourite books. I grew up believing nobody else knew about it, like it was my secret thing and then I discovered there was this whole fan base who loved it too and that only served to make it even more special. 
So of course when I found out there was a new unicorn book by Peter S Beagle I just HAD to read it. This one is slightly different though. Set in modern day Italy on a ramshackle old farm owned by a grumpy ‘old’ man it does not at first appear to have any of the magic of The Last Unicorn. Stay with it though. Very similar in style to Summerlong it takes a while for the magic to build up. Finally we have a unicorn on the premises and with it, magical things begin to happen. 

What I’ve always loved about Peter S Beagle’s unicorn novels is the sacred, ethereal characteristics of the unicorns. The amazing power they have behind them makes them also dark but pure at the same time. Like the magic of Tolkien it’s unexpected, it’s imperfect but it’s wonderful. 

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick. Review 

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for my ARC. 
This book was surprisingly brilliant. I say surprisingly because I must admit that while it appealed to me (obviously as I requested it), I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little and think ‘not another novel set in Tudor times’. This may have something to do with the fact that I’ve packed the whole of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Court novels to take on holiday with me. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised. This book was such a page turner. I literally couldn’t put it down! 

The Phantom Tree follows the story of Alison Banestre an orphan in the 16th century who ends up staying at Wolf Hall with her relatives the Seymours and specifically her cousin Mary Seymour daughter of the ex-Queen Katherine Parr. What follows is a tale of time travel, Magic, history and romance both in this century and the past. 

I think what really won me over with this book was the author’s ability to write something which was not in anyway cliched or ridiculous when it was a topic which frankly could have been. Time travel is something which has to be handled very carefully and it was great to see how well it was dealt with and also to see it turned on its head. Here we aren’t talking about someone who who travelled back in time but instead travelled forward and actually coped and adjusted to the modern world. That was the true magic in this story.w

The characters were both engaging and likeable and the language understandable and not overly ‘olde english’ as is often the case with historical novels. 

This is definitely up there as one of my reads of this year. Highly recommended! 

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underwood Review 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC. 

The Witchfinder’s Sister is the debut novel from Beth Underwood. It is historical fiction based on the real life character Matthew Hopkins in the 17th century. 

The story focuses on his fictional sister Alice Hopkins who returns to the family home after her husband dies. Alice returns to her once shy and reserved brother to find he has found new friends and with them a new purpose in life. Witchhunting. 

Alice finds there is nothing she can do to stop her brother and has no choice but to stand by and watch as he tears apart the lives of some of their oldest acquaintances. His treatment of Alice becomes cruel as she begins to investigate what may have brought on this behaviour in him. 

The Witchfinder’s Sister is well written, well researched and enjoyable. It’s not a pleasant subject matter but the character of Alice is easy to empathise with and her interactions with other people are suspicious and somewhat shady which serves to shroud the book in mystery. 

I’d definitely be interested to see more from this author in the future.