One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) by Mark Lawrence

OnewordIf you visit my blog you’ll know that Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite authors and so I’m very happy today to be reviewing One Word Kill as part of the tour organised by 47North.  Further details are below.

One Word Kill is a slight change of tack and see’s this author taking a sidestep into the world of science fiction.  This is a story involving time travel and friendship and is also something of a shout out to the 80s.

I will confess straight out that I know next to nothing about Dungeons & Dragons, I know – break out the pitchforks and roast me over a hot flame already.  I also admit that science fiction is not my ‘go to’ genre and on top of that, time travel can be a little bit hit or miss for me.  Basically, I guess this book had its work cut out and so I’m relieved to say that this was a very enjoyable read.

As the story sets out we meet Nick Hayes just as he discovers he has cancer.  Nick is a fairly regular fifteen year old, a little bit awkward, doesn’t know how to relate to his mum, thinks girls are from a different planet, has a small group of close friends, doesn’t really fall into the ‘in’ crowd but has no real grumbles as such.  He gets together with his friends at weekends to thrash out the latest stage of their D&D game and the biggest change to his world was the recent inclusion of a girl into their small circle – and then of course the shocking news of his illness.

Then other things start to happen.  Events in Nick’s everyday life seem to be mimicking things that occur within the D&D game he plays with his friends and on top of that a stranger seems to be stalking him.  Not to elaborate on the plot it seems that this stalker needs Nick and his friend’s help for a most unlikely rescue situation.  And, as if you needed more, at the same time it seems that Mia, the recent female addition to the crew, has caught the attention of, in my gran’s words, ‘a thoroughly bad sort’!

So this all comes together in a roiling mess of events that escalate into something crazy before eventually untangling themselves and rushing headlong at a conclusion.

What I thought was really good here – the friendships and banter were very well done.  Basically these are a bunch of nerdy teenagers who get together to geek out.  The language of games overcomes everything after all and the interactions and dialogue flow really well – for me, these characters felt real and behaved the way I would expect.

If you love the 80s you’ll love all the little shout outs and whilst I admit that I probably missed a few along the way part of the fun is spotting those things that resonate  personally.  I enjoyed that this story had a familiar feel, think Stranger Things and Back to the Future but also imagine hints of The Goonies and Stand By Me, yet,in spite of that, it was different from the norm in that, as you would imagine with the inclusion of a seriously ill main character, the story has a serious feel.  There is still that sense of camaraderie that you would anticipate but there’s also an element of sadness that you would expect to accompany such a serious issue.  But, before you become all doom and gloom – there is also hope thrown into the mix so bear that in mind too.

The science fiction elements – well, this is time travel, and I can go round and round in circles with the whys and wherefores.  I think the explanations here are done well, probably a little bit over my head in some respects – all the split, multiple timelines and quantum physics (yeah, straight over the top of this one’s noggin) but to be fair I don’t think there’s too much convoluted E=MC2 going on here so I’m sure most people will find this a fairly easy, maybe even ‘soft’ sci fi read.

In terms of criticisms.  The only thing I would mention, and I do tend to bang on about shorter stories – this feels like it could have used a little more padding.  This is a very quick page count and I appreciate that the brevity gives the story a snappy feel but at the same time it also left me feeling that the ending was a little bit rushed, there was a sense that some things slotted very conveniently into place at various points and also, occasionally a feeling of being ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’.

On the whole One Word Kill is a fast paced adventure, it is a story that compels you to turn the pages quickly to see what will happen next and put bluntly there’s never a dull moment.

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

Details of the other blogs taking part in this tour are below:

One Word Kill Blog Tour Poster .jpg

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Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence

Holy sister is the final book in the Ancestor series and brings to a conclusion Nona’s story.  If you haven’t read the first two books then this review may contain spoilers so be aware of that before reading this (although I do try to avoid spoilers as a general rule).

To be honest, and before I say anything further about Holy Sister I must confess that I find myself totally in awe – I’ve read three complete series by this author and every single book has been a five star read for me.  If you read fantasy and like your speculative fiction to sit within the grimdark genre then you should be reading Mark Lawrence.  I grow tired of repeating the same things in each review and perhaps need to come up with something different but for consistency’s sake I’ll say it yet one more time.  Mark Lawrence writes incredibly well.  I love his writing first and foremost but then he also has the ability to bring a much longer game into play whenever he creates a story. If you’ve read the first book in this series you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you pick up this final instalment.  His imagination and creativity is amazing, he writes his characters into the most ridiculously difficult situations but then gives them ways to get out of them when it feels otherwise hopeless.  Here he’s taken a nunnery, I kid you not, and turned it into a school of novices, not only for those wishing to take holy orders but those wishing to take a much more lethal way of life.  I think when this author started the Ancestor series I’ll admit I thought it was a bit of a risk.  Here he’s taken a young girl as his main focus and placed her as a novice.  It doesn’t really sound like your usual grimdark fayre and yet it works brilliantly.  It’s a bold move that paid off and one that I think will hold appeal to a much wider audience.  To be clear, Nona is not Harry Potter.  There is still bloodshed and death painting these pages but none of it is there for the sake of it and the grim surroundings and brutal lifestyle all help to lend extra focus to the friendships found within these pages.

I’m not going to talk about the story.  The series in its entirety is plotted to perfection and you need to read to the end in order to get the full picture.

The story is told in two timelines.  The ‘present’, which sees Nona coming towards the end of her novice training. We’ve jumped forward three years, the ice is encroaching and with it the advance of two armies, one from the east and one from the west with the Emperor firmly ensconced in the middle.  Things don’t look good, it’s highly likely that the novices won’t complete their training before being recruited into battle and Nona and her friends are conspiring together, yet again, to try and find a solution.  In case you’re asking what happened after Grey Sister.  Well, the other storyline picks up directly after the conclusion of that book.  Nona and her companions have escaped death and have a brief reprise but they still need to return to safety and Zole is carrying a prized possession that will lead their enemies to them.  Acting as decoys Zole and Nona take to the ice.

What I loved about this.

The setting is brilliantly imagined.  This is indeed a brutal world – mostly covered in thick ice with just a thin corridor of habitable space that is slowly shrinking and creating desperation in the surviving population.  The wars here are not ones about money and power but more a simple matter of survival.

The characters.  Well, I think everyone will have their own favourites of course.  Nona is an excellent character and one that I feel a lot of readers will love.  She values friendship and its this quality that gives her such desperation within the pages of Holy Sister when she has to make difficult choices about who to save first!  Here is a person who can forgive and it’s really unexpected, put simply she never wants to give up on a friendship when it can still be redeemed and she makes some very unusual decisions here related to promises.  Zole, wow, what a character.  Her arc was quite unexpected, well, in some ways it was expected but in others it was completely surprising,  She is still cool as a cucumber and totally badass.  I really liked her and I had a stomach clenching moment when reading this – but I’m not going to tell you why.  Nona also has a small group of very close friends, closest among them being Ara.  The two have a beautiful friendship that blossoms into something more. Then we have the Sisters.  My giddy aunt.  I love these women.  Abbess Glass plays the long game, even when she’s no longer around she’s in fact still meddling, she has a longer game than Lawrence himself in fact.  Sister Apple and Sister Kettle – I love them both.  I think Kettle is probably my favourite although in this instalment Sister Pan definitely showed what she’s made of – and it’s pretty awesome stuff!  Where did that come from!!  I don’t want to give away spoilers though so my lips are sealed yet again.

What more can I possibly say without giving away plot points.  I could tell you to read this series.  I strongly recommend it, in fact I beg you to read it, I just want you to be happy after all, you can thank me later.

Any criticisms.  No.  But, I will just mention that the ending is sort of bittersweet.  There is war amongst these pages and it’s never pretty and almost always unforgiving.  Characters die.  I expected it and yet it was still shocking.  I didn’t want anyone to die and yet at the same time I knew it was inevitable.  What I can say is that the death here was not contrived but felt like a natural part of the story.

I picked up Red Sister with trepidation and then said in my review ‘it’s a great start’.

I devoured Grey Sister in a couple of days and then said it had ‘paved the way for something that promises to be dramatic’.

I can finish my review of this series by concluding that the end was indeed dramatic.  Holy Sister is a wonderful conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining series. I raced through the pages of this book and in some ways that gives me regret because really I wanted to stay longer in this unforgiving world but, the beauty of all of this is that I can read it all again!  I closed this book feeling totally satisfied and with a massive book hangover.  What more can I possibly say.  Read this series.

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

Bound (Book of the Ancestor #2.5) by Mark Lawrence

BoundBound is a short story that can be read in one sitting.  As part of the Book of the Ancestor series it sits neatly between Grey Sister and the much anticipated final book of the series Holy Sister, and I definitely recommend that fans of this series pick it up.

This is a deliciously tantalising treat to be gobbled up eagerly before the next instalment drops.

The story begins with Nona and some of the other novices trying to steal some brandy for a dorm party!  This is when they overhear a conversation by some of the nuns in which they discover that random murders seem to be taking place amongst the wealthiest members of society.  From here we have a short adventure that chiefly involves Nona and Ara and helps to highlight the special friendship that they enjoy, a friendship that is enhanced even further after a kiss leads to unexpected entanglements.

I won’t elaborate further on the plot.  It’s an intriguing story and incredibly easy to read.  For me, as with all of Mark Lawrence’s books – the writing is the key to my enjoyment.  His writing is gorgeous and it just hooks me every time.

To be honest, I don’t do romance in books but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading a good story where romance plays a role and that’s certainly the case here.  This is a school for novices learning to potentially become assassins but let’s not forget that it’s also a school of young girls who are becoming adults and in the process sometimes think about other things beyond stabbing and poisoning.  This instalment shows the ever developing friendships between the novices.  A school of girls who are ruthless and yet at the same time completely naive in certain areas of life that other people naturally enjoy.  Ara is being sent out into society and having been absent for some time, and with the realisation that secret trysts may be involved is determined to practice her kissing skills!  This leads to an unexpected turn of events that adds an entertaining sideline to the story.  I won’t say any more because I don’t want to give away spoilers other than to provide a little clarity – there may be a short side order of kissing here but there’s also bloody carnage for the main course.

This is a great addition to the Book of Ancestor series.  Grab a copy, find a comfy chair and experience a brief interlude of reading pleasure.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.

Friday Face Off : Mirror, Mirror on the wall

FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall – A cover featuring a queen

I suspect I may have used this cover before but I don’t recall 100% so I’m using it again.  I did have a couple of others in mind but plumped for this one – and if you’re thinking ‘hang on, where’s the queen – check out the bottom left cover:

My covers:

My favourite this week:

Prince1

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring a wolf or wolves

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

14th September – “He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

21st September – ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – a cover featuring clouds

28th September – Eyes wide shut – a cover featuring eyes

5th October – “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” – A cover that is ‘noir’

12th October – “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”  – A cover for a mystery novel

19th October -“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”  – A horror cover

26th October – Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover feturing a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th april – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Friday Face Off : ‘In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow’ 

FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

‘In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow’ – A cover featuring icicles or snow

I had a few books in mind for this but I think I’d used them before, in fact there’s a possibility that I’ve used the book I’ve gone with although I can’t remember.  My choice this week is : Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

My covers:

My favourite two:

My favourite this week is:

redsister2

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover that is steampunk

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

27th July – “I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams.”  – a cover that is steampunk

3rd August – “Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.” – a cover featuring a starry sky

10th August – ‘…Christine, who have torn off my mask and who therefore can never leave me again! – A cover with a mask

17th August – ‘Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’ – A cover featuring a door ajar or closed

24th August – ‘To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead, or excessively old!’ – A cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

31st August – ‘“Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy’ – A cover featuring a goblin or dwarves

7th September – ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall – A cover featuring a queen

14th September – “He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

21st September – ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – a cover featuring clouds

28th September – Eyes wide shut – a cover featuring eyes

5th October – “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” – A cover that is ‘noir’

12th October – “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”  – A cover for a mystery novel

19th October -“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”  – A horror cover

26th October – Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover feturing a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th april – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

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