My review page for books I have enjoyed!

Enough about my own books – here are some in the science fiction and fantasy genres that I have enjoyed recently:

Dan Fitzgerald’s The Living Waters

Oh…that delicious feeling when a book wraps you into its world. So that even when you surface, you feel the characters tugging at you to draw you back to their ‘lives’. This ticks all my star boxes and more, so much more.

There are lovingly-crafted main characters to care deeply about: ‘Painted Faces’, Temi and Sylvan; ‘minder and meditator’, Gilea; ‘free spirit’ Leo (who owns the most heart-breaking moment of the book) – with point of view segueing seamlessly between them, so that you can learn of their hearts and minds. Fitzgerald’s other characters, too, are convincingly and intricately imagined, whether from different races, such as the ipsis, or even other forms of being, such as the sitri.

There is truly amazing world-building – Fitzgerald’s imagination in creating the living waters and their world is unique and irresistible – and all of this told in evocative prose which is a real joy to read.

Another essential ingredient for me is the reading-pleasure afforded by the forward momentum of a story which may be “sword-free”, but is certainly not danger-free. Last, but very far from least on my list, is the fact that The Living Waters puts forward a world view filled with painful moral dilemmas which reflect those of our own.

Please don’t miss this! I can’t wait for the second part… and not only have I bought the ebook, I’m going to treat myself to the printed book, drawn in by that enticing cover and the knowledge that I will want to re-read and re-read this super-special book.

Jonathan Nevair’s Jati’s Wager (Wind Tide 2)

I already knew and admired the character of Jati from Nevair’s fine first novel: Goodbye to the Sun. In this volume, a young, traumatized stowaway, Ailo (aptly and frequently referred to as ‘firecracker’), joins the veteran fighter and survivor of the Patent Wars. In an imaginative move, access to Ailo’s thoughts and feelings, together with commentary on these, is skillfully achieved through the device of using Ailo’s adolescent thoughts and emotions in duet with an interior voice within her, Gerib – Ailo’s invisible friend/mentor and guardian of memories not yet bearable. The interaction between Ailo, the incomparable and inspirational Jati, and the others in the crew, who each contribute to Ailo’s growth as a person, is a joy to read. Of course there is action too – often violent and filled with confrontations, betrayals, selfless-sacrifice, the conflict between political ends and ethical values – but the unique characters bring so much more to the plot…become the plot. No spoilers! I commend this brilliant book to all lovers of sci-fi and speculative fiction.          

Jonathan Nevair’s Goodbye to the Sun (Wind Tide 1)

This is such a well-written, brilliantly conceived piece of Science Fiction. The characters (particularly Keen Draden, Razor and Jati) are complex and believable creations – not lifeless, heroic ideals, but ‘real’ people, torn and damaged by the competing pull of war, rebellion, lost comrades, lost family, lost love and the conflicting demands of irreconcilable causes. The worlds they inhabit are all too imaginable places of intrigue, political and military maneuvering, and the endless heartlessness of diplomatic power-plays that care nothing for the individual caught up in the ‘game’. I loved the book.      

Ron Randall’s Another Fairy Bastard: Rise of the New Arcana

Wow, I really enjoyed this book: it’s quirky and original. The characters are so well created. Dalton’s baptism of fire – in the world he didn’t know he belonged in – is a whirlwind of action. Umi is amazing – loved her too. Well, all the cast are great – couldn’t put the book down! Can’t wait for the next.

Dan Fitzgerald’s Maer Cycle

Hollow Road

This is a mature and compelling book. Initially I was drawn into the story by Carl, Finn and Sinnie, three friends, imaginatively created as individually believable characters for readers to care about. I expected that they would be the focus of the entire Maer cycle. But the books offer so much more, as access to differing POVs enables readers to learn more about the Maer culture, opening up new perspectives which change apparent enemies into individuals who have the potential to become friends and lovers. There is much for the contemporary world to learn from this thought-provoking and original fantasy.

The Archive

The first book in this cycle showed how enemies are individuals too: ways in which they are alike, ways in which they differ. The second book doesn’t disappoint as readers come to better know characters such as Ujenn, Grisol and Dunil, originally met in book 1, and also new characters, especially Ayal and the fabulous (in the fullest sense of the word) Tcheen. I’ve missed out so many – to them I apologise. Each new mind takes life and, as the cast of characters widens, so too can a reader’s understanding of differing cultures and ways of being. It takes a special kind of writer to wield such a varied character list without any becoming ciphers along the way. The relationships that develop between unlikely and likely individuals are sympathetically handled and entirely believable. 

The Place Below

Book three in the amazing Maer Cycle carries inclusivity to its ultimate, as Sasha (almost an anthropologist in a fantasy setting, but so much more) and Tcheen travel in search of Ka-lar stories and tombs, with Kuun’s tale eventually converging on theirs.It is difficult to say more without giving spoilers affecting this and earlier volumes.  Please don’t miss any of these books, they are so worth reading!

Paralox by Joe Potter

A brilliant book from the realms of Orwellian fiction, Paralox is a gripping and frequently chilling reminder of the ultimate dangers of accepting a world-order that advocates totalitarian control (think Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot) as the only way forward: the free-thinking mind seen as the ultimate enemy of humankind. 

The story begins slowly, with ideas (philosophical and political), and the speculative science behind inter-dimensional travel and the power of thought, gradually and intricately detailed in the opening chapters. The calm before the storm! Later the pace is breath-taking as the protagonists fight for survival, hindered at every turn by the manipulative machinations of a megalomaniac as he drags humankind toward destruction. With such a broad sweep of action, the author never forgets the supreme importance of portraying individual characters who live and grow as you read. Emmitt, Samantha and Sarah, together with the worlds they exist in, are so convincingly portrayed that from about the mid-point I could hardly bear to put the book down – desperate to know what would happen (physically and mentally) to fictional characters who had become very real to this reader.

There appear to be some typo’s but as a UK reader I’m never sure of the differences between UK and US English. In any event, they should be ignored. Once you are immersed in Paralox all else pales by comparison.

Finding Caleb By Lauren Rigby

Loved this book. The alternating first person POV (or rather I think they now call this version head-hopping) between the two main characters works brilliantly. Readers are aware of the traumatic events in the past that have triggered Caleb’s depression and nightmares. Mila’s ongoing suffering is sensitively and poignantly detailed, including the horrific abuse she is subjected to by the leader of the Vultures gang. If you have enjoyed The Sanctuary and New Haven (as I have) this book will definitely not disappoint. Mila and Caleb are such beautifully rounded characters: I felt that I got to know them as ‘real’ people. Nice too to encounter the (now older) characters from the earlier books.

The End of Dreams by Marcus Lee

A truly epic finale to a truly epic trilogy: difficult to write about without revealing spoilers galore! I loved the book and found it really difficult to put down. One of my favourite moments is when the sacred moonwood tree is brought to life for Shinsen and his Horselords…read the book for details! 

As the denouement approaches, there is treachery, betrayal, greed, lust for power and for immortality. Set against this there is constancy, sacrifice and a bittersweet love (leavened with psychological realism in the form of teasing and laughter) summed up when one of the characters promises: “We live together, or we die together. In this world and the next, I’ll always choose to be by your side. Never forget it!” I won’t say who said this, or when. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book: so well-written

Sci-fi review coming up!

Sera Storme by Marcel Barker.

Marcel Barker has written a thrilling sci-fi adventure set in a dystopian universe. I literally couldn’t put it down. Sera Storme is a brilliant hero, striving to protect herself and her daughter, Lani, from a ruthless criminal enterprise. Sera is a bounty-hunter, hell-bent on making sufficient money to buy her way out of a debt the organisation is out to collect. Her usual partner, Sabian, is left in the dark until she needs him to stay in the background and protect Lani, while she battles to defeat a dangerous fugitive.  Can’t say more without giving spoilers, but all the characters are really well-crafted, making you care what happens to Sera, Sabien and Lani and to the other characters who help them. A great story for lovers of SFF and strong female ‘leads’.

My book for today is probably in the speculative fiction genre:

The Sanctuary by Lauren Rigby

Drama and love in a dystopian world.

Lauren Rigby has created a grim reality in this dystopian, post the “final war,” world. I like the way the POV alternates between the two main characters. Necessary to avoid readers being alienated from one of these for what, without knowing his thoughts, might seem the darkest of betrayals. There is sex (never graphic) and violence, but the sympathetic portrayal of the characters (after the early chapters) draws readers in and makes them want everything to turn out well. Faint Lois Lowry vibe maybe? I look forward to the next in the series.

Marcus Lee’s Kings and Daemons

I loved this first book in Marcus Lee’s ‘The Gifted and the Cursed’ trilogy. Compelling world building and brilliantly original (and diverse) characters promise that this will develop into an excellent epic fantasy. Of the ‘gifted,’ Maya is the perfect hero from the beginning. Her growing relationship with Taran is so convincingly handled (including the teasing and laughter.) Other relationships are also a joy to watch develop: it’s difficult to say too much about the rest of the characters without including spoilers! Oh, apart from mention of the Witch King, leeching life and vigour from the land to renew his own – a worthy villain. This is a great read. Difficult to put down!

Today’s review in the epic fantasy genre is the second book in Marcus Lee’s trilogy:

Tristan’s Folly by Marcus Lee

The middle book in Marcus Lee’s ‘The Gifted and the Cursed’ trilogy lives up to the promise of Kings and Daemons. In book one, the Witch King was established as the unequivocal villain of the piece, yet with book two more complex shades of wickedness continue to emerge, with unlooked for betrayals and the knowledge that selfish greed and acquisitiveness are no less life-sapping than Daleth’s brand of evil. Parts of Tristan’s Folly will be upsetting for readers who have learned to care for the central characters. I won’t give any spoilers away, but readers have to hope that book three will offer truth and healing to those affected.