The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams

ninth-rainWell, what a brilliant start to series this is!  I picked up The Ninth Rain with a certain amount of trepidation.  I confess that I always do so when it’s an author that I enjoy reading – I always worry ‘will this book be as good as?’!  Goodness only knows what the author must feel.  Anyway, after loving the Copper Cat series, yes, of course, I had a certain amount of concern about where Ms Williams would go next but in real style she’s pulled another wonderful number out of the hat.  The Ninth Rain brings to us a fascinating world, populated with a variety of different beings, conflict, characters that you will root for and a good degree of the author’s wonderful sense of humour.  I admit that I’m a little bit in love with Jen Williams at the moment – not, of course, in a  bunny-boiler-stalker fashion you may be pleased to hear (although I may stalk her twitter and Goodreads pages for news of the next book).

Anyway, to the book.  It gets off to a great start.  We read of the Eborans.  Once a mighty empire Ebora now lies mostly empty.  It’s once golden and busy streets are populated by the vines that again encroach and take hold and the few remaining inhabitants are simply waiting to die.  The Eborans are a fascinating race.  They worship a tree God called Ygseril.  Their God bestows upon them an unusually long life, strength and grace.  Unfortunately, Ygseril seems to have declined – or died – or just gone plain missing leaving the Eborans not only starved of his presence but also of the sustenance that he provided and forcing them to seek solace from another source – blood.  As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well with the human population and obviously war ensued until a more peaceful arrangement could be accommodated.  This was long in the past and many of the Eborans have now died as a result of a disease called the Crimson Flux – brought on by human blood!  And so we arrive at Tormalin the Oathless as he prepares to leave his home, much to the disgust of his sister.  Tormalin doesn’t want to sit and wait for the Flux to catch up with him – he wants to experience life and so off he goes with his little spotted hanky packed with goodies to sustain him on his travels!

And so we met Tormalin.  Now let’s meet Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon!  You’ll be pleased to make her acquaintance.  She’s totally eccentric and a real character to boot.  Full of sass and wit.  Vintage’s family have made their fortune in wine and she now has the means to support her real passion in life.  Vintage is something of an explorer and a scientist.  She travels the country looking for clues about the Jure’lia from the broken pieces of their left over crafts.  She’s determined to be ready for the Ninth Rain when it comes and knowledge is valuable. It seems almost inevitable that Tormalin and Vintage should meet up – the brawn to the brains, plus Vintage’s wealth and easy access to wine allows Tormalin a good deal of freedom, drinking and other exploits.  Plus he gets to fight with all sorts of monsters whilst Vintage has her very own protector!

Of course, you’re probably pondering over the Ninth Rain.  The previous eight ‘rains’ refer to attacks by an alien nation.  Hideous attackers who leave a trail of death in their wake.  The only people who have ever been able to stand up to the Jure’lia attacks are the Eborans – oh the irony!  Now, what I love about this is it’s a delicious combination of science fiction and fantasy.  The Jure’lians are the strangest race – at this point, I’m really not aware of their motivations.  Perhaps they don’t have any – perhaps they’re just the downright baddy of the piece – they certainly don’t take prisoners and they create swathes of zombie type people as they swarm forward.  Lets just talk about insects and the screaming heebie-jeebies for a moment – because that’s going on – even the ships that are used for travel.  Anyway, no more of that – I’m not going to give too much away.

To the final character, Fell Noon – a fell witch with powerfully fierce sorcery.  Beware the fell witches!  Oh yes, they’re all evil, destructive, murderous creatures – or are they?  Anybody can manifest this magical ability – it strikes at will and without any recognisable pattern and anybody who displays such talent is immediately taken from their families and placed in the Winnowry.  This is a dreadful place.  Cruel and harsh, the people who run it are religious zealots who treat the inhabitants terribly and at the very heart of it is corruption.

These three characters are going to eventually find each other on the same path.  A darkness is once again growing.  Strange portents and dreams are drawing people together, they know the Ninth Rain is looming.  In the meantime our characters are on a desperate hunt, a race against time to prevent what could be the extermination of everyone on the planet.

 

One thing about Jen Williams is that she can write – well.  And frankly good writing is never going to go out of fashion (in my humble opinion).  It’s a delight to read a book like this, so well written and made to look deceptively easy.  Yet again she brings characters that you will love, in fact to be honest, the plot plays an almost secondary role by comparison.  Plus the world building.  This is a completely different world – it takes a little time to become accustomed to what’s going on but once you sit back and chill it all just falls into place.

I really enjoyed this.  It’s just a delight and I highly recommend it.  I look forward to the next instalment because it appears that there will be critters aplenty to look forward to.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday: Borrowed Souls (Soul Charmer #1) by Chelsea Mueller

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Borrowed Souls (Soul Charmer #1) by Chelsea Mueller.

borrowedsoulsCallie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.

Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.

To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.

With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.

Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.

Not a long wait for this one – May 2017.

The Black Wolves of Boston by Wen Spencer

blackwolvesThe Black Wolves of Boston is the first book in what I hope will be a series.  I enjoyed this, it was different than I expected, in fact much more deep in terms of the set up.  Basically, this is urban fantasy, there are werewolves, vampires, Virtues and Wickers but none of them are quite as I’ve read about them before.  Definitely a thinking piece with plenty to ponder over.  In fact, to be honest, if I had a clearer reading schedule I might be tempted to read this again just because there is such a lot of material to think about.

At the start of the story we meet Joshua. Not more than 24 hours earlier Joshua’s life was torn apart, literally torn apart.  Out at a prom committee event the entire group that Joshua was with were massacred in some sort of frenzied attack and Joshua was left wounded.  He’s not wounded for long though, attacked by not any old animal but a werewolf, Joshua seems to be recovering at a positively indecent rate and pretty soon has to make a dash out of town before any one figures out what he is – or more to the point before he hurts anyone himself.  Hence, we meet Joshua as he desperately charges round a park in Boston trying to catch supper and not only failing miserably but knocking himself on a tree in the process.

It’s at this point that Silas Decker and Eloise enter the scene.  Decker is a vampire – again with a slightly different legend than what we’re probably used to.  Decker has been around for many, many years and at the point at which we meet him his life has definitely lost it’s lustre.  Living alone in a large delapidated house Silas is something of a hoarder and can barely get into most of the rooms of his home due to the clutter.  He’s lonely.  He lacks meaning.  And look, now he’s found a new puppy in the park!  Awww.  Of course, the puppy in the park, or Joshua, although in need of some guidance as to his new status, may also be in need of some much needed help – it’s almost like we have Scooby and Shaggy!  It seems that somebody is seeking our newly created Wolf.  Elise is a virtue.  She hunts evil and has an angelic sort of connection that helps her in this respect.  I’m not going to try and explain this in too much detail.  She believes.  It helps.  Eloise and Decker have a tentative, well, more partnership than friendship.  Decker comes in useful in a tight spot – being already dead and Eloise has access to all sorts of resources at her main home or HQ – a bit like a mission impossible agent.

At the same time we begin to learn something of the Wolves and this does make for some deep reading.  The wolf packs, headed by the Wolf King have a detailed history and I won’t give it away here.  The whole set up of the packs and their territories has been thought of in depth for the purpose of this story and whilst this might in some places make for a little more history at the expense of pace, it does also give a really good foundation for future books and is really worth it I felt.  Seth, the Prince of Boston, and his cousin Jack are having a spot of bother in a story that runs parallel to Joshua’s tale.  It seems that there is an attack underway on the Wolves and with the King being currently away on other pressing family matters this could be more serious than anyone first suspects.

This is a very satisfying read.  It has elements of fun to the story, even hints of romance, that help to temper the darker aspects a little and help to prevent the read becoming too severe and bloodthirsty.

On top of that I think the characters have been really well drawn and are easily to like.  We already have friendships building between the characters that seem to be leading to a bigger sense of family.

In terms of criticisms.  I wouldn’t say this is particularly fast paced in terms of the plot line but I found it an easy and well written story and I was always keen to get back to the story after I’d had to stop for whatever reason.

I would certainly like to think that there would be more books from the Black Wolves of Boston and our unlikely band of characters.  I’d like to see some of the relationships deepen and the family become more emotionally involved and I think there’s so much scope here with the groundwork already laid.

I hope for more.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I love you, I love you not.

Posted On 21 February 2017

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Every Tuesday over at the  The Broke and Bookish we all get to look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  This week’s topic is:

Ten Books I Loved More Than I Thought I Would (or books that you didn’t like as much as you Thought)

I really enjoyed all the books below – much more than I expected.  Brief explanation of my original qualms against each book.

  1. Unwind, Neal Shusterman – I simply didn’t like the sound of this but then it just really grabbed me.
  2. Witch Light, Susan Fletcher – this started out slow and I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the author’s style of writing.  A few pages later I couldn’t get enough of it.
  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – foolishly, the cover for this always put me off – I don’t know why.  Fortunately I got over myself – I love this book.
  4. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt – who knew that I would love western style stories!
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I figured this might be too sci fi for me but I absolutely loved it.
  6. All the Truth that’s in me by Julie Berry – I think this was simply a book that wouldn’t have been on my radar – a good friend recommended this and I loved it.
  7. The Girl with all the Gifts by M J Carey – another book that I’m glad I picked up.  I think the hype surrounding this one put me off a little.  In this case the hypes well deserved.
  8. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore.  The cover.  Sorry, but it just didn’t do it for me.  The book really did though!
  9. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz – another book that I figured my go ‘whooshing’ over my head.  As it happened this was fantastic.
  10. Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu – ditto the above.  I can’t recommend this series enough. 

The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

Posted On 20 February 2017

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thevaliantThe Valiant was one of my weekend reads and a book that I couldn’t put down. I have a bit of a hit and miss record with YA.  Quite often I find that the story lacks the attention to detail that I enjoy and that I feel helps to build the world and on top of that love triangles and instalove more often than not are the flavour of the day.  Fear not in terms of either of those quibbles when picking up this book.  Livingston has bought to us a gripping story about a young woman who, against her own will, becomes a gladiator.  This is well written, uncluttered and fast paced.  The characters are well drawn, particularly the leading lady and on top of all of that it brings the opportunity to read a highly entertaining narrative set in a period of time that I really enjoy reading about.

The story begins with an introduction to Fallon as she trains out in the country with her childhood friend Mael.  Mael and Fallon’s relationship has grown over the years and both of them have feelings of love for each other.  Fallon, however, is determined to follow in the footsteps of her sister Sorcha.  Sorcha was killed in battle, fighting the Romans.  Fallon longs to be part of her father’s war band and on the day of her 17th birthday she believes her wishes will finally come true.  Unfortunately for Fallon things go deeply amiss and although I won’t spoil for you the whys and wherefores Fallon finds herself captured by slavers and shipped off to Rome to be sold to the highest bidder.  One minute Fallon thought her dreams were a hair’s breath away and the next she was snatched from her world and everything she knows.

So, Fallon is sold to a school for gladiators – nothing could offend her honour more.  Worse than that – the school is directly owned by Julius Caesar, a man who Fallon despises and blames for the death of her sister.  Fallon finds herself trying to survive in a school which, in spite of the veneer of sisterhood, has fierce rivalries bubbling just beneath the surface.  Through no fault of her own Fallon finds herself on the receiving end of some rather harsh attention from the other females of the school and although you might expect her biggest challenge to be surviving in the gladiator’s arena it some becomes apparent that Fallon will first of all need to survive the training!  On top of that Fallon has attracted the attention of one of the Roman soldiers and much to her dismay she finds herself becoming attracted to him in return – I will stress, that this romance is not an integral part of the book, it isn’t the main focus of the story and is really well paced! (Just thought I’d chuck that out there).

Why did I love this.  I think that the author has managed to find the perfect balance in so many respects.  Her writing gives you a flavour of the Roman empire without being over burdened with flowery prose or heavy descriptions.  She throws in characters that we know about already such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra but shines a slightly different light on their characters.  Her main character Fallon, is very easy to like.  She’s also incredibly foolish and gullible sometimes but nobody’s perfect after all!  Fallon struggles with her training, she has some ability as a fighter but is in no way perfect.  What she does have as a character is ‘heart’.  She’s been raised as the daughter of one of the Celtic Kings and as such she has a certain demeanour that refuses to be brow beaten.  She simply has spark and I really enjoyed that about her.  Livingston also has a way with words when it comes to the fight scenes.  They’re easy to imagine and frankly exciting to read.  She knows when to draw a line and not labour the point and I just really enjoyed that she sometimes had to make Fallon rely on her wits as well as her fighting prowess.

I really enjoy reading novels set in this period and on top of that the idea of female gladiators just really appealed to me.  I confess that I went into this story expecting to a certain degree to love it – but – I wasn’t expecting it to take me by storm and give me a protagonist, a bunch of surrounding characters, a setting and a plot that surpassed my expectations and that I fell easily in love with.

Perfect pace, unpredictable plot, polished writing and plenty of action.  I loved it – can you tell??  Sign me up for No.2!

In terms of criticisms.  None.  Okay, this is not a fantasy book.  Dragons do not sweep across the horizon and there is no magic.  I guess the only fantastical element could be the inclusion of female gladiators – although there does appear to be some evidence that they did in fact exist!  But mythical creatures and the lack thereof aside I have no hesitation in recommending this.  It was absolutely compelling.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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