Today I’m reviewing my chosen book from the fifth batch of books. For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches, each batch having 5 books, with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6 and today’s post is my review of my book from the fifth batch.
Outpost is a well written and absorbing high fantasy story set on the war torn planet of Math. The planet Math, already at war, is about to face it’s biggest threat and whilst the majority of the planet is wrapped up in politics, intrigue and warfare a much more deadly foe threatens its very existence. With an underlying love story (very subtle) and three very unlikely allies McKinstry manages to spin a fascinating tale which I found really quite compelling.
The world building. There’s quite a lot going on here. Thankfully McKinstry doesn’t really hang about – we get a few little history updates along the way but for the most part the world building is delivered as the plot progresses. This certainly is a fascinating place. I won’t go into great depth but the way I understood things the Fylking are immortal warriors from another planet, their enemy is the Niflsekt. Many years ago the Fylking created a portal on the planet Math and they still travel back and forth using that gateway. On the planet Math human seers are chosen as Wardens to protect the portal from demons and other such using it and causing mayhem and destruction. Wardens are taught by the Fylking, who occasionally appear to them in their warrior form but more often than not use the spirit of whatever animal they are aligned to – for example a wolf or a bird – maybe even a spider! Apologies if I’ve over complicated that – and believe me when I say the author does a much better job of setting the scene than I possibly can.
In terms of the characters. We have three main characters who all share a connection. Their tales for the most part are told in separate POV instalments but eventually their paths intertwine as they’re drawn into the story.
Othin, named after the trickster God, is a Ranger. Sworn to protect the people he travels a certain path keeping trouble at bay. He’s definitely a larger than life character, fearsome on the battle field, probably equally as fierce in terms of beer swilling he can come across at first as a bit of a womaniser but in fact this impression is not all there is to him and he’s a character that I really came to like as the story progressed. His men are certainly loyal to him and on top of that he’s finally found the love of a good woman. Unfortunately for Othin he’s also found the eye of a rather scheming young woman, who coincidentally happens to be the daughter of his Lord and Master.
Melisande is a wonderful character which is probably why she captured not only my heart but also that of Othin. She is undoubtedly my favourite of the story. She’s a young woman who lives by herself in a cottage in the woods with her cat and her herbs – she loves Othin and looks forward to his visits. She gets by through bartering her knitted goods with the people from the village. The people of the village vary in their feelings towards her. Some are her friends and would protect her, others keep a civil tongue in exchange for her knitted items (which everyone loves) and some outwardly scorn her and would try to rile up the feelings of the others – it’s a tenuous balance and the pitchforks, torches and cries of ‘witch’ are only a hair’s breadth from being broken out. Is she a witch? Not really, she’s more god touched. Melisande is capable of Pattern Sense and whilst this comes across as a very understated form of magic it is in fact much more powerful than she realises. I loved Pattern Sense – I never envisioned myself writing a review and raving about magic that involves knitting – and yet here I am doing that very thing! What can I say – it just works.
Arcmael was born the son of a Lord, privilege and wealth were his right but unfortunately he didn’t live up to his father’s dreams and, having no natural inclination to become a warrior or fight wars, he was pushed out of the family home. His path eventually led to initiation as a seer/warden and although he steadfastly refuses to pick up a sword he now acts as guardian of one of the Gates.
These three eventually find themselves on paths they never expected. Othin finds himself deserting his post – not out of cowardice but to escape the manipulations of the Lord who commands him and try to return to explain things to Melisande. Meliande (or Milly) is forced to run from her home when the true strength of her magic becomes known and the villages take drastic measures and Arcmael, in frustration, banishes the Fylking from his sight leaving him alone and unprotected on a dangerous road.
There is plenty of action going on in Outpost not to mention lots of ‘otherworld’ type creatures. We have the fae that live in the mists of the forests and the wicked goblins that live below the ground – we also have draugr. Based on old Norse myths the closest I can come to an explanation of them is zombie or revenant. And we have an evil warlord who, using spirits of the dead is animating corpses to form his own diabolical army of draugr.
I must say that I really enjoyed Outpost, it had unique and creative world building, likeable characters, that I was always anxious to return to, and plenty of plot to drive the story forward. The world portrayed is quite a gritty and dark one which is offset by the almost fairytale feel of certain elements of the story and the inclusion of a particular tricky God that I would definitely like to hear more from.
I don’t really have any criticisms as such. I found the ending maybe a little bit rushed – or at least comparatively to the rest of the novel and it was an unexpected ending but that being said this is the first in series and we’re left with some firm ideas of what might happen next. Also, I would quickly point out that there is a particular scene in the book that involves an incident with Millie that could be a potential trigger to some readers. I will stress though that this is not at all gratuitous and is a key part of the story that not only moves her story forward but also sees her character develop and strengthen in quite unexpected ways.
In conclusion, I found this a very enjoyable read with likeable characters living in a well imagined world and I would definitely continue to read more in this series.
Outpost is my chosen book from batch 5.
My books so far:
- Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
- Batch 2: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
- Batch 3: As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe
- Batch 4: The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
- Batch 5: Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
- My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!
I now have my final batch update and chosen book to review – my aim is to post these tomorrow and announce my winner at the same time (although it could potentially slip to Tuesday – ‘the best laid plans, etc, etc’).
You may recall my recent post which highlighted a flash fiction event being held over at Lipsyy Lost & Found. That post brought together a number of different themes which bloggers voted on – the idea being that the four esteemed authors would then write a story based on the winning theme. Simples.
The winner of the battle of themes was ‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’ and the four short stories have now been published over at Lost and Found. I’ve read all of these now and have my own favourite – which I have of course voted on!
All the stories are in full below (approx a thousand words each). Go give them a try and see which one gives you the heebie-jeebies – then place your vote. The winner will be announced on the 29th October.
Entry #1: The Secret Of The Basement
By Lily Luchesi
When I was a kid, I hated my house’s basement. No matter how many times my father said I was being ridiculous, my mother said I was getting too old for such childishness, and my older brother called me an assortment of cruel names, I never ever went down there. I always said it would take a life or death situation to get me to go down there of my own accord.
Yes, it was a stupid thing for an adult with a high-class scholarship to one of the best schools in the US to think that the boogeyman was living in their basement, but there you have it. Some childhood fears stick with you forever.
I only returned to the house because my mother left it to me in her will, with very specific instructions that I had to stay there until it sold. With a few expletives in my mind, I did my very best to negotiate with her lawyer. I was pre-law, I knew the drill, and I knew there were always loopholes in every contract, even a will.
Not this time. If I didn’t do as she asked, it would go to the state. When I asked why the house wouldn’t go to my brother, the lawyer replied that he had refused it: he’d claimed a vow of poverty and couldn’t accept the house or the land. Sanctimonious bastard.
I sold it, losing out on a hundred grand. That’s how badly I didn’t want it. However, I still had to stay there and take care of everything inside. I figured I’d hold an estate sale and whatever didn’t sell, I’d toss.
Being back home brought back unpleasant memories of my workaholic dad, my alcoholic mom, and my abusive brother. I hated it.
It took me over a week to price everything–most of which was junk–and then I realized, I couldn’t give the city this house without seeing what was in the basement. What if there was something combustible down there? Or valuable?
My fear of the place was still there, buried deep down but there nonetheless. I felt like an imbecile. I went three times all day today, trying to open the doors and get it over with. Each time shaking limbs and a pained stomach stopped me.
I spent the rest of the day and evening berating myself as I watched the sky darken and the usual autumnal thunderstorm roll in, drinking what was left of my mom’s liquor cabinet. I passed out on the living room sofa, only to be woken by a loud crash of thunder. I flew off the couch, frightened, as the power flickered a few times and then went out just in time for me to see the clock read 3AM. I let my cell illuminate the room, not that it did a great job. Looking out the back doors, I saw that the lightning hit a tree in the neighbor’s yard that had fallen partly into my yard.
Sighing, I threw on my hoodie and went outside to be sure there was no damage to the house. Rounding the side, I was relieved when all I saw was a branch sticking into the doors to the basement. Shielding my eyes from the driving rain, I removed the branch, which came apart with a wet crack, taking with it the old, rusted padlock on the doors.
Despite the fear in my gut and the hangover pounding in my head, I figured the Hell with it and threw open the doors, smelling the wet, moldy stench all places like that have after being closed up for years. And there was something else, something cinnamony.
I began my descent, cell phone before me to cast some kind of light into the inky darkness that seemed to be seeping into my bones just like the cold rain was. The stench got worse, a thick wet smell that made me want to gag.
As I went further down, the doors slammed shut behind me and I jumped. Damn wind. Now it was not only pitch dark except for a foot of smartphone light, it was silent like the grave and I shivered.
Take a look around and get the Hell out, I thought as I finished my descent, breathing through my mouth. I fumbled my cell, trying to get the light to stay steady in my trembling hand. Shouldn’t I at least be able to hear the storm?
The silence and darkness combined was too much. I just wanted out. Finally I got my hand to steady and waved my phone from side to side to get a panorama. What I saw made me collapse on the steps behind me.
Corpses. At least a dozen. Men, women, and children, all in various stages of decay, many so old they were mummified, creating that cinnamon stench. Gaping, rotted mouths seemed to smile at me, and empty, rotted eye sockets stared at me, the intruder in the domain of the dead. Flesh was sloughing off the bones of the most recent ones, and I saw a family of maggots in one man’s eyehole.
I wondered how they all got here, many of them were so old they had to have died in the twenties at least. Fear holding me prisoner, I finally had the sense to turn around and scramble up the steps, only to slip on the rainwater.
I felt backwards and barely felt my leg break. Too much adrenaline in my veins. Grabbing my phone, I checked for a signal to dial 911. Nothing. The storm had hit the cell towers.
I tried calling 911 twenty minutes ago, and I’ve been writing this ever since in my Notes app. I’m never getting out of here, but maybe one day they’ll find my body with the others. Why do I say I’m never getting out? Because the heavy silence was broken by one thing just now: the subtle, papery sound of a body shifting
Entry #2: Come in Here
By Stevie Kopas
“Sorry I’m late,” Jill whispered as she crept through the front door, locking it behind her.
It was just past Midnight and she hoped the baby was already sleeping and that her sister wasn’t angry with her for not arriving home on time, but Maddie was curled up on the couch with a book as usual and smiled when Jill entered the living room.
“How was work?” Maddie asked, marking her page with a bookmark and hopping to her feet, stretching.
“Awful,” Jill sighed. “If I could actually leave when I was scheduled for once I might come home with a better answer. How’s my little bear?”
“Oh he’s great, been sleeping like a baby.” Maddie made a face and laughed. “Well, I mean, he is a baby, but you get what I mean.”
Jill chuckled and walked her sister to the door, giving her a big hug before sending her on her way. She was halfway up the stairs to check on baby Louis when her phone blared from her purse in the living room.
“Shit,” she cursed under her breath, praying that the noise didn’t wake the baby.
She fished the iPhone from her bag and quickly silenced it, looking at the screen.
She frowned, but answered anyway, curious as to who could be calling at this hour.
She was greeted by loud static on the other end and repeated her greeting only to receive child-like laughter in response.
“Maddie? Is that you?” She asked, but the call immediately disconnected.
Shrugging, Jill put the phone on vibrate and slipped it into her pocket. She started back for the stairs when it began to buzz.
“Seriously?” She pulled it from her pocket and rolled her eyes when she saw that it was an unknown caller again. She swiped and answered, trekking up the stairs. “Maddie, this isn’t funny.” The same static greeted her followed by a child giggling; she rolled her eyes. “I hope your parents find out what you’re doing and ground you!”
She hung up and stuffed the phone into her pocket once more before heading for baby Louis’ room. Her little bundle of joy was snuggled up and sound asleep. She smiled and leaned into the crib, gently touching his tiny hand.
“Good night, my angel. Mommy loves you.” Jill whispered.
She checked that the baby monitor was on and working before heading for her bedroom.
She changed into some sweatpants and before she could even get her oversized t-shirt over her head, her iPhone buzzed in her jeans on the floor. She let out an exasperated sigh and answered without even looking at who was calling.
“Listen up, you little shit—“ Jill started.
“Come back in here and play with me.” The little girl on the other end said.
“What?” A slight chill ran down Jill’s spine.
The little girl giggled. “I want to play. Come back.”
She rolled her eyes and scolded herself for letting it freak her out. “Go to bed, brat. I’m done playing for the night.”
She hung up and shut the phone completely off, she’d have to set the alarm on the clock for once.
Jill rolled over and squinted at the clock: 2:57. She groaned and sat up, she could have sworn she shut the phone off before she went to bed. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the screen read Unknown Caller. Jill tried to decline the call but her screen wouldn’t swipe. She hit the power button on the side, but again, the phone wouldn’t respond. In a huff, she threw the covers off and went with her only option: answering it.
“What!” She yelled into the phone.
“Come in here,” the little girl whispered through heavy static. “Come in here and play with me.”
“For the last time… Go. To. Bed.”
Furious, Jill made sure the phone was off. She got up and put the iPhone in a pile of clothes in the closet just in case there was something wrong with it and the little brat kept prank calling her. Just as she was getting back into bed, Jill froze; there was static coming from the baby monitor.
She stared at it for a moment, straining her ears for more sound, but there was nothing. She thought about checking on Louis, but he wasn’t crying and she desperately needed the sleep. Settling back into bed, she had just closed her eyes when the static came through the monitor again, this time, child’s laughter followed. Her eyes shot open and her skin broke out in goose bumps. She glanced at the clock before jumping out of bed: 3:00.
With the baby monitor in hand, she crept toward her bedroom door and again she heard the laughter. There was no denying it this time, it was the same laugh she’d heard on the phone.
“Come in here and play with me,” the little girl said.
Jill panicked and the baby monitor fell from her hands, the static screeching from it, louder now. She sprinted from her bedroom and made a beeline for Louis’ door. She charged through and turned on the light, expecting to find someone trying to hurt her baby, but the room was empty, and Louis remained fast asleep in his crib. She checked on her son, making sure he was okay, her heartrate slowly returning to normal. She cursed herself for being so paranoid, she figured whoever had been calling her had somehow hacked into the baby monitor. She would go to the police tomorrow.
As Jill turned to leave the room, the door suddenly slammed shut and her hands flew up to her mouth. She stifled a scream as she read what was written in blood on the opposite wall just before the lights in the room went out:
I knew I could get you back in here.
Entry #3: The Quiet Life
By Stephen Kozeniewski
My tongue sits in a Mason jar on my nightstand, suspended in denatured alcohol.
Do you think that makes me morbid? Grotesque?
Perhaps. I prefer to think it makes me sentimental. After all, he was an unwilling victim of circumstance.
I couldn’t keep him. The human voice is irresistible to them. Like a pheromone. It draws them. The creatures are strangely reliant on the sense of hearing, even to the detriment of all other senses. I’ve often seen them prowling the grounds at night. But they never try to come in the house. To them, the door may as well be an impassable mountain.
When they hear human speech, though, my God, it’s like they’re miniature tornadoes, destroying everything in their paths. It happened to the Martins across the street. This was after we’d all learned to stay silent. But the stillness must have been driving Ted Martin out of his wits. He made the mistake of playing a song.
It was Elvis singing, not Ted, but that didn’t matter to the invaders. As soon as the King’s voice was on the wind the creatures couldn’t flood the Martin household fast enough. They burrowed through brick, wood, and glass with equal vigor, a chitinous tide rolling in.
So we must do without music or television. Even a single errant noise, crying out after hitting your hand with a hammer and they’ll come.
Watching what happened to the Martins was what finally made me walk downstairs, take the scissors from the sewing nook, and hack out my own tongue. It seemed to take hours, longer because I had to suppress my cries of pain. Just scissoring and scissoring away, choking back the blood as it filled my mouth.
After a while I saw Grace had been watching me. She was sitting in the corner, her head hung like a schoolgirl’s. She’s a large girl. Obese, I guess you might say. I don’t find her especially attractive, but we’ve been sleeping together quite a bit. Mostly just to stave off the boredom.
I’d never even seen her before when this all began nine months ago. That was back when there was still panic in the streets and no one understood what drove the creatures. She turned up on my doorstep seeking refuge. Not really knowing what else to do I’d let her in. She’d been the one to suggest that we try not talking.
She has a terrible stutter and rarely opens her mouth out of fear of embarrassment. She had taken note that her habitual silence had made her all but invisible to the creatures. She’d shared the secret with me full days before the news had suggested it. But by then, of course, most everyone was already gone and of those who remained few of us had the discipline to sit silently in our homes for the rest of our lives.
Then the Martins died, and I cut my tongue out. I was standing there with the bloody scissors and Grace just stuck her out her own tongue and closed her eyes, waiting for me to do it for her. Even with her stutter she didn’t trust herself never to utter another sound.
So now we sit. Day after day. Occasionally reading. Often fucking. We’ve taken to exercising a bit, too, not unlike prison lifting to pass the time. We have conversations on the whiteboard, but neither of us have very much to say. Christ said the meek would inherit the earth. I doubt this is what He meant.
It’s late now. Nearly three o’clock in the morning. With nothing to occupy my mind during the day I’ve become a habitual insomniac. The power went out ages ago and there’s no moon or stars out tonight. I can hear them, chittering away at each other in their own strange language.
In the darkness I’m haunted by memories.
Grace is thumping around in the next room. I wonder if she’s exercising. Perhaps she’s just masturbating. Either way I consider joining her. At least it would take my mind off those damned things.
They start out like black insects, about the size of a fist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are extraterrestrial, but sometimes I think it’s more likely they originated right here on Earth. How could space bugs have evolved to love the human voice so much?
When they hear you they swarm into your mouth. You can crush one, maybe five. But you can’t escape all of them. The “winner” devours your tongue. I suppose when they finally get me they’ll be denied that little treat, at least. Then it latches onto the stem, turning itself into a nasty little prosthetic tongue.
They must tug on your nerves or else secrete some kind of venom, because once one’s gotten in your mouth you stop acting normal. You just walk around, arms and legs wildly flailing, as though the little bugs are student drivers attempting to drive your body.
I’ve looked into the eyes of people possessed like that. You can see them suffering, unable to control their own bodies or even close their mouths over the invader. A fully conscious meat puppet. If I had more guts I would try to kill them when I see them wandering around the streets below. But I don’t want to draw any attention.
A noise pierces the darkness. How is that possible? Grace is fat enough to hide it, but didn’t she know? Damn. I should have used protection. My newborn baby is crying in the next room.
Wake Up Mommy
By A. Giacomi
The sensation strikes me at nearly the same time every night. Midnight, the witching hour, where pregnant women around the world rise to take a piss. Begrudgingly, I slowly glide out of bed and drag my sore feet into the bathroom. Sleep would become impossible once the baby arrived, but sleep was already escaping me in my eighth month of pregnancy, a taste of things to come I suppose.
Returning to bed, I close my eyes and try to summon any god that would hear my prayer for a restful, comfortable sleep for the remainder of the night, as I couldn’t remember what great sleep felt like.
A moment goes by, or at least it feels that way.
A tapping sound wakes me from my sleep. The sound is muffled, but difficult to ignore, it grows a little louder when I sit up in bed, but not nearly loud enough to wake my husband, who is blissfully sleeping beneath the bed sheets, unaffected and quite still.
Glancing towards the only light in the darkness, our alarm clock, I see that it reads 3 am, an ungodly hour that I hadn’t seen since my party years in my early twenties. The sound grows louder, a thumping, drumming sound that I can’t quite describe.
It wasn’t coming from the walls, but it was close…very close.
Still groggy, with eyes half open, I try to shake my husband awake so that he may investigate the sound further, but when I pull back the bed sheets I find his side empty but still warm.
Shouting out to him, I await his reply…
The house remains silent.
Beginning to panic I try to get out of bed, but a sharp pain in my back prevents me from moving any further. Stuck, I call out again, but there is still no answer. My mind races as the thumping sound returns, this time louder and in tempo with my rapid pulse.
As the thumping grows louder and louder still, my pain begins to accelerate with the sound. It was too soon to be in labour, but I was beginning to think the baby might have other plans for its arrival. Gritting my teeth and bracing for pain, I sit up and pull the bed sheets away to expose my belly.
To my horror, when I look down at the round mound attached to me, I find tiny fists are pounding against it from the inside. The thumping was coming from inside of me. This is why it had been muffled, this is why I couldn’t detect its source.
Who would imagine such a sound coming from within?
The pounding of tiny fists is drowned out by my screams, which now fill the house and possibly the neighbourhood.
With fear coursing through my veins, my heart nearly bursting, I forget about the pain in my spine and bolt out of bed and down the stairs in my nightgown. My plan was to seek help from the neighbours next door, they were my best bet until I could locate my missing husband.
Reaching the front door, nearly out of breath, I find a dark figure standing in the doorway. It takes a moment to realize who it is.
“Baby?” I say in a whisper.
As he turns around slowly, I see that it is my husband, but something in his eyes is off. He seemed hollow, like his mind held no memory of me. Waving my hands in front of him, he barely flinches, but when I try to move him out of the way and exit the house, he springs to life and holds me back.
“Stay here.” He says in an eerie whisper.
“I’m having the baby, I think, I have to go to the hospital.” I shout with all composure leaving my body.
He refuses to budge and let me pass.
I scream for help, but the thumping returns and pain surges through my entire body, silencing me. My legs get weak and I’m forced to lay on the cold ceramic floor of the hallway. It feels as though I’m about to tear in half. My husband stares down at me without expression as I writhe in pain.
Looking at my belly once more as my vision begins to blur, I see the tiny fists pounding with so much force that it didn’t seem human, there was something other living inside me, and it clearly didn’t need me anymore, it was about to make its exit.
Today I’m reviewing my chosen book from the third batch of books. For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches of 5 books with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6 and today’s post is my review of my book from the third batch.
As the Crow Flies is a swords and sorcery style story, old school I would call it, plenty of description, with a rogue protagonist with a heart of gold at his centre.
The story starts off with Crow setting out on one last job. He’s giving up the world of thieving, he’s going to settle down with the love of his life and this one last job will set him up for life. Well, apart from the fact that this would be a very short read if Crow’s best laid plans succeeded, so, as you might imagine things pretty quickly go to hell in a handcart. Basically Crow is caught and trapped by a wizard who requires him to steal something precious – something that is difficult, nay almost impossible to take – of course the wizard has a few incentives to motivate Crow to succeed. Firstly, Crow has been poisoned with a slow acting concoction and needs to set out on his mission and return to retrieve the antidote before the poison kicks in and he pops his clogs. Secondly, the wizard has abducted the woman that Crow loves. On top of this, Crow will be accompanied by the bane of his life – Tanris – the lawman who has doggedly pursued him over the years. Tanris is also keen to help Crow succeed as the Wizard has also snatched his wife and his holding her captive.
I thought this was a good read. I don’t think it’s breaking any new ground or smashing tropes down but I thought it was well written, maybe a bit over descriptive in parts but still entertaining.
The two characters, Crow and Tanris, are the main focus of the story. We accompany them as they pursue their goal, both desperate to succeed. I quite enjoyed the verbal sparring between these two and it was interesting to watch their animosity and prejudice develop into an almost begrudging friendship as the days and weeks rolled by. Along the way they encounter a number of situations including haunted underground passages, they also pick up another member to add to their group. A young woman who appears unable to speak and who for the remainder of the story is known as Girl.
The world building is fairly brief to be honest, which is a bit surprising given the descriptive feel to the writing. I wouldn’t say that I picked up a real understanding of the places as such or the culture but I wouldn’t say this was an issue for me in particular as it felt like the story was more focused on our main pair and their travels – in that respect I really must say that I couldn’t help feeling that certain parts of the story had a distinctive nod to Tolkien.
To the characters. Well, we have Crow. He’s a bit of an ego maniac in some ways and he’s not above a little whining but, in spite of himself, he’s not quite the hard hearted pro that he thinks. I actually really liked Tanris – he’s a bit taciturn to say the least – well, to be honest the two of them bounce off each other in a way which makes quite good reading and I found myself having a few laugh out loud moments. Girl, we find out very little about unfortunately so I can’t really elaborate. What I can add in is the dragon that ends up accompanying our gang – I did love the dragon. It changed the feel of the book for me somehow.
In terms of criticisms. I thought that there were parts of the story that were a little meandering. The descriptions at certain points definitely slow the pace a little although in fairness that’s probably more towards the middle of the book. The last third definitely picks up the pace. In that respect, if you’re more inclined to enjoy a fast paced punchy read this might not be the one for you. I found Girl a little puzzling and it was a bit of a shame that she didn’t play more of a role. As it is she felt a little bit like a token gesture in the story. In fact the females of the story don’t really come across in that good a light if I’m going to be totally frank.
Overall, maybe a little bit predictable in some ways and on occasion a tad slow, but I thought the writing was good and I enjoyed returning to an old style fantasy read.
As the Crow Flies is my choice of books from my third batch of books.
My books so far:
- Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
- Batch 2: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
- Batch 3: As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe
- Batch 4: The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
- Batch 5: Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
- My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!
My aim is to review Outpost next and then my book from batch 6 at which point I will also be in a position to choose the book I will be taking forward.
Today is week three of our readalong of Ashes of Honour (October Daye #6) by Seanan McGuire The schedule is over on Goodreads and this week I am hosting the questions. With the customary warning about potential spoilers lets get straight to the Q&A.
So Duchess Riordan is indeed involved in Chelsea’s disappearing acts – a plot which coincides with Samson’s efforts to remove Tybalt from power and “remove” Toby with him … Do you think Samson and Riordan are in cahoots somehow?
Oh my – I never even considered that but now the question has been asked it makes sense! Riordan was speaking to a man on the phone when Toby was earwigging the conversation so that could have been Samson. I’ve become so used to the Queen of the Mists being oddly involved with things or acting strange that I tend to always look in her direction when things go wrong and this has probably blinkered me a little and stopped me considering other people’s involvement.
Speaking of Toby and Tybalt … Not so much a question, but let’s discuss THAT confession from Tybalt!
Well – that little confession clears up so much. For example, why Tybalt originally disliked Toby due to her changeling nature. And, more than being revealing it just helps to build up more of a picture of Tybalt – not to mention just how long he’s actually been around. Plus it feels like the air has been cleared – there’s really nothing standing between Toby and Tybalt now! These two do make a great couple. I liked the remarks in the book – that Connor was in love with ‘Toby the girl’ but Tybalt is in love with ‘Toby the woman’ – I’m not quoting there but there was definitely something along those lines and I thought it was spot on. Toby and Connor were together in a strange hankering after ‘what was’. It never felt right for either of them really – more like they were clutching at straws. I certainly didn’t want Connor to die mind you – but there it is!
Meanwhile, Officer Thornton’s last appearance was not so random. Do you think he might know more than Toby realises about what’s going on, or does he just suspect something more?
The feeling I’m getting from Officer Thornton is that he doesn’t believe Toby. He knows that something is wrong but just not what or why? That’s the way he comes across to me at least. Like turning up at Toby’s house for example – he’s obviously looking into her because otherwise how would he know where she lived? That being said – I don’t like that he’s looking into her!! I don’t really know what his role is going to be in all this – I’m not getting a bad vibe but I can’t help feeling a little bit suspicious. I’m hoping though that maybe Officer Thornton might be a future ally for Toby – he could certainly be very helpful in future cases – in the same way, he could, of course, be very unhelpful.
Lastly, I need to mention that last encounter between Toby and Luna, in which things seem far less cosy at Shadowed Hills than they once were. What do you make of Luna’s reactions, and Toby’s responses to them? Is Toby in the right, or do you think Luna’s not being entirely unreasonable?
At first I was thinking this was strange but now I’m not so sure. It’s always felt as though something strained the relationship between Luna and Toby. At the back of her mind maybe Luna blames Toby for not actually succeeding in rescuing her and more to the point Rayseline? I also sometimes get the impression that Luna maybe dislikes the close relationship that Toby and Sylvester enjoy. Plus, at the end of the day, Luna did send Toby into a situation that would more than likely end up with her death. That must cross Toby’s mind as well – it just feels like the two of them really need to clear the air and speak their minds. As it is it feels as though Toby has hardened a little towards Luna and it feels very much as though Luna has withdrawn into herself. I hope the two of them figure it out – they do have a lot of history between them and not all of it is good but I think they could work it out if the desire to do so was there.
Today I’m reviewing my chosen book from the second batch of books. For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches of 5 with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6. When I wrote my original update for the second set of books I had two potential books that I wanted to continue to read: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little and Vergence by John March. I’ve revisited both these books now and read further and having done so my book choice from batch No.2 is Unwilling Souls and today’s post is my review of that book.
I originally had a bit of a slow start to Unwilling Souls and in fact in my original post I mentioned that I had a few niggles but as I read on the author managed to iron most of those out and did a good job of keeping my attention in what turned into a very enjoyable read with a complex and unique world.
At the start of the story we make the acquaintance of Ses Lucani. Ses is being trained to forge wrightings, tools that help to keep imprisoned the Gods that were banished many years earlier. She lives at the core of the planet, a strange hollowed out cavernous place where the gravitational pull seems to be more akin to what you would expect in outer space. As the story commences Ses is forced to flee the prison after a terrorist attack throws suspicion on her. Ses is the daughter of two powerful people. Put in very simple terms her father is the iconic leader of a terrorist network and her mother is one of the top officials of the centrality which basically means they are on opposing sides and when her parentage comes to light obviously Ses falls under suspicion.
On the run Ses returns to the home of her grandfather but finding that this is unsafe she is forced to move on and seek out the parents who have, for most of her life, denied her existence. Ses has a dangerous road to travel, pursued by the government and a host of their operatives, attacked by cultists and befriended by a boy from a shady network her adventure is going to go a little wild and she will encounter revelations, home truths and treachery along the way.
This is an intriguing world and one that I would definitely like to revisit. I don’t think I fully have a grip of everything, even now at the conclusion of the story, but I think that’s because there is quite a lot going on and the author has had to make a decision about not slowing things down by trying to cram in too much information. I would like to have a bit of a trip down memory lane, as it were, and find out some more about the strange cities and the way that they have grown out of the bones of mammoth beasts – I was especially intrigued by Arach Arbor – which is the realm of spiders – and spiders there are aplenty! I’d also like to know more about the war and subsequent imprisonment of the Gods.
In terms of the characters I found myself liking Ses. She’s a very believable protagonist, she isn’t perfect, she’s not totally kick ass and she certainly isn’t capable of getting out of every situation without help but she’s resourceful and determined and it makes a great combination. We also meet Ses’s parents and a young man called Murien who befriends Ses in her hour of need. I can’t say too much about those at the moment as they’re not quite as well developed as Ses but nonetheless they’re a good supporting cast.
Overall I found this a well written and enjoyable story, I found Ses easy to like, there’s intrigue and deception and lets not forget walking skeletons, soul driven magic and huge spiders – really, what more could you possibly want.
My books so far:
- Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
- Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
- As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe – review to follow
- The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
- Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
- My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!
My aim is to review As The Crow Flies/Outpost and my final book from batch 6 over the next 3 days so that I can then announce my final book.