#SPFBO 8 Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson : Review

SPFBO71024_1

What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

MissPercy's

Today I am posting my fifth and final review for the books that I rolled forward (see my feedback posts for batch No.12 and 3).  All told I carried forward five books, The Hidden Blade by Marie M. Mullany, The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce, Scarlight by Evid Marceau, Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson and over the next few days I will review each book in the order I read them.

So, without further ado here’s my review for Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson:

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a fantasy reader in possession of a gargantuan stack of unread books, must surely be in want of just one more book containing an outrageously cute dragon.

Miss Percy is an absolutely delightful, regency period, fantasy of manners style story that won me over with apparent ease.  The writing is wonderful, the plot is well thought out and totally absorbing, the characters are Austen-eque but with a slightly more uptodate sensibility and for those readers out there who usually shy away from fantasy elements, but who are in good need of a period drama, I implore you to give it a try, because, whilst I cannot deny that the inclusion of a dragon definitely falls most firmly into the realm of make-believe, the way this story is told, it feels almost less sensational than forgetting to wear a bonnet.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Mildred Percy, a spinster in her forties who lives on the slightly begrudging charity of her younger sister in the quaint village of Upper Plimpton, Wiltshire.  Immediately you are given to understand that Mildred’s life is given little significance by the family at large.  Her sister, Diana Muncy, gave Mildred a place to live following the death of their father and never fails to boss and belittle her sister as she sees fit.  Secreted away in a dusty room beneath the attic Mildred fills the role of Governess, childminder/entertainer, trouble shooter, housekeeper, general dogs body come beating block together with ‘any other duties as and when required’.  I’m probably making it seem a lot more dreadful than it was because Mildred certainly doesn’t seem to complain until her circumstances alter slightly and she begins to look at things through a different lens.

Following the death of their Great Uncle Forthright, Mildred is set to inherit certain items.  Neither of the sisters are quite sure what this inheritance will entail although Diana is hoping for something worthwhile (i.e. money) that she can no doubt take control of.  Meanwhile, a trunk arrives at the house one evening whilst the family are out.  It contains all sorts of fascinating objects, rocks and the like, journals and books and although Mildred doesn’t imagine her sister will have any interest in the contents she becomes strangely possessive and decides to hide the trunk, an escapade that is more strenuous than she first imagined and eventually concludes with the local vicar, Mr Wiggan, assisting with the endeavour.  From here the two form a friendship with Mildred visiting the Vicarage to discuss the contents of the trunk – now imagine, one of those unassuming rocks cracks open and delivers a, not-seen-in-I-don’t-know-how-many years, dragon.  Surely these are creatures of fairytales and myth – or maybe those tales arose out of truth that has long since been forgotten.

To be honest I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot but instead go into my thoughts and feelings.

Firstly.  Mildred.  What a wonderful creation she is.  I loved her.  She likes to talk to the readers and share little snippets of what she’s feeling and I couldn’t have enjoyed these interactions more if I tried.  It’s an absolute revelation watching her develop an understanding that her life is worth something, she’s not just an add on for the Muncy family and seeing her stand up to her bully of a sister made me want to do a little air punch. Her slowly developing relationship with Mr Wiggan is cosy and heart warming and comes with the added benefit of friendship with  Mrs Babbington (the vicarage housekeeper and a dab hand with anything baked – you might want to invest in a supply of biscuits before picking this one up because the constant descriptions of tea and sweet delights are indeed mouth watering).

Secondly, I can’t deny that I love reading stories set in this sort of period and this is executed so well.  The writing is positively delicious, I found myself immersed and actually a little resentful when interruptions, such as eating or sleeping, interrupted proceedings.

Thirdly, the plot develops a winning thread when a new character appears on the scenes, believing that the inheritance should rightfully be his.  This takes the plot out of its comfort zone and what I particularly enjoyed was that this took Mildren totally out of her comfort zone, like Bilbo, she goes on an adventure leaving her cosy little hole shaped life behind – whist also realising that it will be difficult to ever return to it.  Of course, Mildred is blissfully unaware that she is being pursued and this only serves to heighten the tension.

Fourthly, Fitz.  Fitz the dragon, I mentioned above his excessive cuteness.  He’s a great judge of character and immediately develops a strong attachment to Mildred, perching on her shoulder and trying to protect her when situations arising.

What else can I say? I loved the chapter openings, I really enjoyed watching Mildred’s awakening to the fact that she could have a life of her own, there’s a lovely, slow blossoming relationship and I thoroughly enjoyed sinking into a period novel with a difference.

Overall, I had a thoroughly good time reading this and can’t wait to read what comes next when I suspect Mildred’s actions will become positively scandalous.

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

#SPFBO 8 Between Ink and Shadows (Between Ink and Shadows #1) by Melissa Wright : Review

SPFBO71024_1

What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

Between ink

Today I am posting the fourth of five reviews for the books that I rolled forward (see my feedback posts for batch No.12 and 3).  All told I carried forward five books, The Hidden Blade by Marie M. Mullany, The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce, Scarlight by Evid Marceau, Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson and over the next few days I will review each book in the order I read them.

So, without further ado here’s my review for Between Ink and Shadows (Between Ink and Shadows #1) by Melissa Wright:

Between Ink and Shadows is a book that took me by surprise in a good way. This is quite a short read and described as fantasy romance I wondered whether it would work it’s magic on me as neither short books or romance are usually my ‘go to’.  As it happens I was quite happy to be proved wrong.

Imara is a kingdom divided.  On the one hand we have the King, ruling the kingdom and declaring the use of magic illegal, meanwhile, beneath the city streets we have the Trust who make a living in its use.  The magic within these pages is dark and menacing.  The Trust is all about power, they use betrayal, cohesion and blackmail to swell their ranks luring people in with the promise of power, wealth, beauty, etc, and then keep them indefinitely bound using blood contracts and threats.  As the story begins we meet Nim, she is owned by the Trust, repaying a debt incurred by her father.  Each month she pays a tithe and each month she is given another job to undertake on their behalf.  Her latest job involves stealing from the castle itself, from the King’s closest advisor, Warrick Spenser, the King’s Seneschal.  When she’s caught she has only two options – go to jail,stand trial and face the possibility of hanging, or save her skin and become an agent for the Seneschal.

Okay, so straight to what I enjoyed with this one.  Well, I’m not going to deny that there is quite a blatant,not to mention fast moving, clear as the nose on your face romance that you can see, even from the far reaches of deepest space, is inevitable.  As soon as Nim and Warrick meet, as sure as eggs is eggs these two are a dead cert.  There it is,no point in beating about the bush. Now, I’ll be honest, this would normally put me off a little, in my defense (as mentioned) romance isn’t my first choice of book to pick up (I ain’t judging) although I don’t mind a light touch as long as it’s not the full story.  So, I was wrong (unfortunately this seems to be happening more often that I’d like of late) because whilst, yes, this is a romance, it’s also a lot more. In fact, considering the length of this book I’m surprised at just how much the author has managed to cram into the book.

The world building in some respects is light. For example, I would be hard pressed to tell you anything of Imara.  Going off the way Nim travels about so easily it feels like a tiny place, there really isn’t a feeling of scope.  I’d also be hard pressed to pin a feel for period on this although there are some pointers, such as the wearing of trousers being highly irregular for a lady and it feels like a place that has a certain level of social conventions implied rather than outright stated.  I think I only have a loose understanding of the magic. We have a ‘dark queen’ who has strong magic – I’m not sure why some people had magic in the first place but apparently this can only be inherited.  Other people use the magic of the Trust by striking a bargain, unfortunately these bargains are rarely what they seem.  They’re always loaded in the Trust’s favour – in fact the Trust reminded me a little of the fae, tricksy and you need to be careful with the wording.  Basically be careful what you wish for because whatever it is that becomes important to you is going to be the very thing that is taken as payment. No magic without sacrifice.

There are a fairly small, easy to keep track of, cast of characters.  Lady Nimona Weston, daughter of Bancroft Weston, now fallen from grace. Nim spends the early hours of the night dressed as a thief, sneaking through the city streets and taking trinkets from people to lure them into the Trust’s web. Warrick, the mind candy, works for the King rounding up illegal users – but he’s keeping some pretty hefty secrets.  We have a few people helping Nim such as Allister the valet,Alice the maid, Margery the best friend. And Wesley, who works for Warrick as a messenger- I can’t deny they’re a likable bunch.  And, of course, Warrick’s nemesis, Calum.  Son of the dark queen.  He collects people and he and his mother are ambitious, maybe no longer content with the confines of their underworld.

So, I found myself with a whole host of questions as the story developed and to be fair, I found that these were answered by the conclusion together with a clear opening for book 2 which I would certainly like to pick up.

In terms of criticisms. This won’t come as a surprise to some people who have heard me bang on relentlessly about short books – I wanted more. I mean on the one hand, and considering the length the author succeeds in making you want to keep reading on into the early hours.  On the other hand, I think this could quite easily have included an extra 100 pages without any detriment in fact it would have helped to develop the characters and place – okay, it wouldn’t be quite as punchy – but, just more.

I received a copy from the author for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

#SPFBO 8 The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce : Review

SPFBO71024_1

What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

Bloodof

Today I am posting the third of five reviews for the books that I rolled forward (see my feedback posts for batch No.12 and 3).  All told I carried forward five books, The Hidden Blade by Marie M. Mullany, The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce, Scarlight by Evid Marceau, Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson and over the next few days I will review each book in the order I read them.

So, without further ado here’s my review for The Blood of Crows:

I had a good deal of fun with Blood of Crows.  It started strong and the momentum was continuous. A well thought out story with magic and heists and a murder mystery that threatens the stability of the realm.

As the story begins we meet Ren and his Partner Martin, they’re on a job which involves stealing a precious book from the Praetorian Order.  Both are under contract to the Order’s militia to act as peacekeepers so they are ultimately biting the hand that feeds them.  From the outset we’re thrown into the world and it is immediately apparent that magic exists.  Sigils are used for protection and on top of this the Order uses Inquisitors – feared greatly these are more akin to feral animals than human beings.  What also becomes immediately apparent is that Ren is different, he’s contracted to the militia and must wear the bracelets that seal his knack (elemental magic) – but, he actually doesn’t have a knack – or at least it hasn’t awakened so far.  What Ren does have is an ability to see the magic sigils that are used throughout the city for any number of purposes and this undoubtedly gives him an unknown advantage in terms of getting in and out of difficult situations.

The pacing for the story is really good.  It’s not chaotic or rushed but at the same time it feels like there’s always something going on to keep your attention and it’s written in a way that delivers information smoothly as you find yourself becoming immersed in the plot.

Speaking of plot – we start with a robbery, we move on to murder and to cut to the chase this becomes a race for our character Ren to discover the identity of the murderer before the whole shebang is hung at his door.

Firstly, I liked the characters.  Ren has a lot to discover during Blood of Crows, a few home truths that are unsettling and a further mystery that we haven’t even touched on at this point, and we are along for the ride.  Ren is an easy to like character, he’s young, sometimes a little over confident but then that’s swiftly countered as he blunders around or finds himself in an embarrassing situation.  He cares about others even though that puts him at risk and he’s usually fighting against the odds. Ren’s apparent lack of magic puts him at a massive disadvantage in terms of strength, speed, even quick thinking.  He is thankfully quick on his feet and has a couple of very good friends.  Molly is a young woman who over the years Ren and his partner tried to help.  I really liked Molly, she is a master with gadgets and has a way of winding Ren up in a playful sisterly fashion.  Haim is a young student who helps Ren through a tricky situation.  She becomes involved in the investigation and is quick thinking and very capable and she and Ren eventually start to develop feelings for each other – although no romance as such at this point – just lots of side eyeing each other followed by furious blushing and awkward moments.

I thought the author also did a really good job of drawing her ‘bit’ characters, especially the victims – hear me out – they only have short starring roles unfortunately but they’re brought to life, albeit momentarily, in such a way that made me care about them and want somebody to come to their rescue.

Secondly, I liked the sense of place. I wouldn’t say it was groundbreaking as such but there’s a sense of comfort in reading something that’s so easy to imagine.  We don’t travel outside the boundaries of the city but this is a place broken easily into different layers, the wealthy situated on the upper terraces moving slowly down according to status until you have the lower echelons known as the Sprawl -aptly named for its sprawling twisted streets of crumbling ramshackle buildings and alleys.  The City has an uneasy alliance that seems to teeter on the edge of failure.  Many years ago peace was struck and the Accords were agreed upon and signed up to – signatures from the University, The Praetorian Order and the Royal Family keep the individual stakeholders from breaking the peace.  However, certain elements within the City are now straining against those boundaries drawn up years ago.

The magic is element related and people can have the knack for one or more elements.  Earth relates to strength, Air to speed and agility, water for healing, Fire for intelligence and there is a further strand which I won’t mention here as it needs to be uncovered as the story expands.  Sigils can be used for any number of things from protecting entryways to making it impossible to scale walls and elemental magic can be used to imbue these sigils.

Finally, the plot has a good pace, I enjoyed the writing and more than that I really enjoyed the fact that the story has the sort of balance that I enjoy.  The author makes good use of certain moments to lighten the moment and not only does this give the reader a bit of respite from some of the darker elements but it also does make those moments more shocking somehow.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I don’t have much to be honest.  I did have a small query concerning Ren and his abilities and I don’t, even now, feel that I really know what’s going on in that respect (I won’t mention what my query relates to as it would involve a spoiler).  Also, – that ending!  What?!  I am looking at you Alex C Pierce.

Heists. Easy to like characters. A murder mystery.  Potential civil unrest. An unresolved mystery that I’m thinking may be touched upon in the next book and an ending that throws everything up in the air.

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

#SPFBO 8 Scarlight (Castles of the Eyrie #1) by Evie Marceau : Review

SPFBO71024_1

What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

Scarlight

Today I am posting the second of five reviews for the books that I rolled forward (see my feedback posts for batch No.12 and 3).  All told I carried forward five books, The Hidden Blade by Marie M. MullanyThe Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce, Scarlight by Evid Marceau, Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson and over the next few days I will review each book in the order I read them.

So, without further ado here’s my review for Scarlight (Castles of the Eyrie #1) by Evie Marceau:

The story begins with a six year old princess, Bryn, sneaking out of the castle during a celebratory gathering to rescue a small animal believed to be a potent of war.  Unfortunately, the little princess is attacked by wolves and would surely have died if a young boy had not come to her rescue, a Baer Prince in fact.  The Baer Royal family are a wild sort that rely on magic, scorned by the rest of the Kingdoms their lands lie in the Outlands overlooking the sea.  The Baers believe that a life saved is a soul owned and so having saved the little Princess the Baer Prince and Bryn are now soulbound.

We then jump ahead ten years where the same princess is being outfitted for a ball for another gathering.  One in which it is hoped she will draw the eye of a good marriage prospect, a Baron no less.  As the guests arrive the Baer King and his family are unexpectedly amongst the number. They haven’t visited the castle since the ‘wolf incident’ and their appearance takes Bryn by surprise, not entirely unwelcome as she seems as fascinated by the youngest Prince, Rangar, as he is with her.  Unfortunately, an uprising is planned, to take place during the distractions and the castle descends into violence and fire.  Bryn only escapes with the help of the Baer Prince and his family and is taken to the Outlands.

I enjoyed Scarlight, it was easy to get on with although to be honest I wouldn’t say I was the target audience for this.  This falls into the kind of enemy to lover YA fantasy romance that I tend to stay away from these days, primarily because they don’t usually have the level of detail that I enjoy and this definitely felt a little light in that sort of detail, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Now, take my YA reference with a pinch of salt, I’m not an expert and I would also say that including a certain level of sexual content this would be on the higher side of YA – maybe NA. Basically, I’m unsure so if you’re thinking of picking this up and have concerns then check with the author.  Put simply, given the ages of the characters, the slight naivety, particularly on Bryn’s part, the fairytale feel, the lack of bad language and gore (there is of course bloodshed but it really takes place off page) –  I jumped to the YA conclusion, but there is some sexual activity present which gave me pause for thought and so I hold my hands up and say I’m not the oracle here.

The world building is one of the areas that felt a little flimsy.  We have a number of kingdoms that exist with a tentative peace. The Mirien, where Bryn is from seems to flourish, the Baersladen, on the other hand, appears to be remote and considered a more harsh way of life, the people there practice magic and are considered outdated and barbaric by some of the other kingdoms.  I didn’t pick up much about the rest of the country other than there are people from the Hytooths and the Surins.  The Mir people seem to be more genteel or refined, or at least that’s how they wish to appear, but this seems to be more face value as Bryn’s family are considered tyrannical – which is the reasoning behind the uprising – and are generally disliked by their own people.  The Baersladen do indeed lead a simpler life, less focused on possessions and wealth but overall their lives seem to be generally on the whole, happy ones.

The characters.  Well, we predominantly focus on Bryn and Rangar and I thought the author succeeded well in creating great chemistry between the two going from a smouldering, broody, untrusting sort of relationship to one that really fizzles.  There are other characters involved, particularly Rangar’s middle brother Valenden who seems to be the rogue of the family and enjoys stirring up rivalry with his younger sibling.  I did enjoy Mage Marna.  She seems a little more switched on than some of the other characters.  She is covered with hexes that help to focus her magical ability and she takes Bryn under her wing and teaches her some simple magic.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, as mentioned above I can be a stickler for information and this one is a little light in that respect.  That being said, this has a fairytale feel to it so I did cut it some slack and went with the flow, and,.I won’t deny that I was enjoying the build up of tension between the two central characters.  I didn’t quite buy into the whole aspect of Bryn’s family being tyrants – surely she would have noticed this – I realise that she’s quite innocent and protected in a fashion and was never really included within the ‘inner sanctum’ of the realm’s machinations, but, at sixteen I think she would be able to detect something out of order if her family were so universally unpopular with the people of their realm?  It felt a little flimsy to me but it didn’t spoil the read, it just nagged me a little.   Also, the whole ‘soul bound’ idea.  I like this but I would say it comes across more like an individual belief than something physical – I may be reading it wrong but to me Rangar and Bryn both seemed romantic by nature and the idea of them being bound felt more like an ideal or ‘fancy’ than something that could be felt.  Just my take of course at this point and things could change as the series progresses.

All that being said this was an enjoyable read.  I felt like it really gained strength as the book continued and I do enjoy a good story with a fairytale style and a little bit of romance where nothing is totally set in stone.  In that respect I would mention that this concludes on something of a cliffhanger.  Not my favourite way to end a story but I can see the reasoning as it certainly makes you keen to pick up the next instalment.

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

#SPFBO 8 Cover Competition

SPFBO71024_1

If you follow my blog you’ll probably be aware that I take part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) competition as a judge.   SPFBO 7 finished recently and SPFBO 8 is due to commence after a short break.

What’s SPFBO?  This is a competition for self published authors of fantasy fiction.  It’s the brainchild of Mark Lawrence and it’s mission (other than to boldly go….) is :

‘The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.’

Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list. 

As with SPFBO 7 The Critiquing Chemist and I will be teaming up again.  We had a lot of fun last year discussing our batch of books and can’t wait to start tucking into this year’s entries.  Check out the Critiquing Chemist’s intro and book cover post here.  These two ladies are just amazing and I can’t say enough good things about them and the charm and intelligence that they brought to our team last year, joining up has definitely been one of my better decisions. 

My SPFBO7 wrap up and intro to SPFBO8 will be posted shortly. 

In relation to the Cover Competition. 

Every year, as part of SPFBO, there is a cover competition.  Each of the 10 judges chooses 3 covers from their selection of books and these are then voted on by both the judges and the public.  Go ahead and take a look at all the lovely covers and make sure to vote on your favourites once the link becomes available (keep your eyes peeled here).

Below are the covers from LB=TC2′s batch.  Feast your eyes :

Scarlight

toaA

HellbornKing

The lich

Reign of

The World Breaker

WttSS

TFU

Falhorne

FountainGirl

Fallingthrough

EverAlice

Wherethevalle

Memoriesof

MissPercy's

Cutthroats

Crownkeeper

Theheretic

oneofone

DenofThieves

SerGhostwriter

Between ink

Elusionof

DarkHilarity\Asteriu&

The Hidden Blade

AKing's Radiance

TheAgeofFire

HIGH RES Cover

BloodofCrows


And the three covers chosen by Lynn’s Books and The Critiquing Chemist/Bookish Boffin’s are: 

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

Which covers are your favourites??


Next Page »