#SPFBO Review :  Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen is the first book I picked up from my fourth batch of books.   My update post will be up soon but I want to post all three reviews first.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first, second and third batch of books here, here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

LWH

I found Little White Hands to be an entertaining story, very easy to read and well paced. I would suggest that this is aimed at a younger audience (maybe MG even- but I’m sure the author will let me know if that’s completely off kilter) but even with this in mind I think this is a book that adults would happily get along with and it would make a lovely book to read to/with children.

The story revolves around a young kitchen boy called Garlan who dreams of one day becoming a knight.  Garlan becomes involved in an adventure that takes him across land and sea in order to prevent the threat of perpetual war sweeping across the land.

The story takes place in a kingdom known as Faeland and Garlan’s adventures take him into all manner of settings with unusual critters aplenty.  This has a coming of age feel and I think will appeal to readers of fantasy who enjoy The Hobbit/The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Arthurian style stories. There are echoes of all of these books throughout, particularly with the ‘winter’ aspects of the story and the young protagonist gave me Frodo vibes – that being said, I want to be absolutely clear that this book stands on it’s own two feet quite comfortably.

I enjoyed the writing and the set up.  The descriptions are enough to give a good feeling for the place without being overly cumbersome.  I liked the main character but probably enjoyed his companion, Oldface, even more – a strange floating piece of wood that is enchanted?  Perhaps not the right word but I think if I over elaborate it will spoil the eventual reveal – but this unusual companion acts essentially as a guide for Garlan.  On top of that I think the story was well thought out, there’s a backstory here regarding the four seasons and a falling out many years ago involving winter.  I don’t want to go too deeply into the plot as I think it would be easy to spoil certain aspects that are best discovered as you go along.

In terms of criticisms. Not too much to be honest.  I think the story might have more ‘all round’ appeal if it had more of a female presence (so,maybe if Oldface had been female for example). I also think a little adult style humour thrown in (not inappropriate for children but that adults will understand and enjoy) although this is just a personal preference.

Overall though, this was an easy and enjoyable read that I practically read in one sitting.

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

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska

#SPFBO Review: Spark City (Spark City Cycle #1) by Robert J. Power

SparkCitySo, Spark City is my second to last book to read and review for the final stage of the SPFBO competition.  We’re so close to the end now and for the sake of time I’m copying the description for the book from Goodreads rather than trying to elaborate on the plot.

‘Erroh has a plan. A simple plan. It’ll never work.

Despite his family’s warrior pedigree, he’d rather gamble and drink while living from one tavern to the next. But when his wanderings bring him upon a gruesome slaughter of innocents he is torn from carefree ways.

Spark City is on the horizon and with it the mysterious trials of The Cull. After a life spent rejecting his birth right, the time has come to pick up his sword and accept his destiny.

With an army marching forward, and unlikely companions buy his side, does Erroh have what it takes to stop the coming war?’

To be honest Spark City wasn’t really for me but that’s not to say that other readers won’t enjoy it.  And, I certainly gave it a fair shot, in fact I distributed the story between regular reading and audio and I think this worked quite well because it was much more obvious with the audio version to establish when Erroh was being sarcastic or self deprecating as oppose to boastful and this made a connection easier at the start of the book.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead.  As we meet Erroh he is travelling to Spark City to take part in a cull – which sounds much more drastic than it really is.  This is a world ruled by females and split into alphas and others – for want of a better description.  The alphas, in order to maintain their strong line usually take part in a selection process (the cull) where females who express interest in a particular male are given a number of days to question him and establish a connection.  Erroh, having spent a number of years on the road (probably trying to escape the reputation of his warmongering father) isn’t eager to share his life with another but eventually faces up to his responsibility and heads to the City.

At the same time it becomes apparent that war is brewing in the form of villages or towns that have been totally massacred by a brutal army bent on death and destruction.

Cast back to Spark City and Erroh takes part in the Cull – which turns into something of a trial to be sure given his inability to read others very well or the fact that he turns up to events either hungover or drunk.  Eventually he leaves with a woman who he is now bonded to for life and this is where the drama begins.  The pair travel south, and to cut a long story short, they eventually come across the invading army and are forced to make a stand.

I confess this is a difficult review to write because I have a number of observations that are probably going to come across as negative but I will try to justify my feelings as best I can.  To be honest, I don’t enjoy critical reviews particularly when there are aspects of a book that could have easily lifted it into a much more enjoyable affair for me if other things had been eliminated.

Firstly, the world building is very skimpy indeed, which isn’t to say that I had a problem getting into the story but I was a little curious about how we came to have a world governed by women – don’t get me wrong and trust me when I say I love that as an idea, BUT, and here’s the rub, it’s a concept that is really only played lip service to.  During a good proportion of the story women are often referred to as whores and I’m not going to deny that I found it irritating.  Of course people use derogatory names when they’re angry, etc, but it seemed to be the norm here and it seems to me that as a writer you’re going to alienate maybe 50% of your audience if you keep objectifying them or referring to them in such a way.

On top of this all the alphas are just simply stunning.  That’s very nice I’m sure but are there any other values that make for a leader or alpha – such as intelligence, to give but one example – or is this simply a system that revolves around desirability – it just feels a little fickle, I would have liked to know a little more of what was going on behind the eyes rather than simply being told they were dazzlingly blue or emerald green.

Then there are the exchanges between Error and his mate – and why on earth do we have this whole wolf analogy thing going on?  These exchanges were the least enjoyable part of the book for me.  The two of them came across as excessively immature and some of their inner thoughts, well, they made me cringe.  Of course, I think some readers will probably love the interactions and enjoy the slow building of sexual tension but they simply weren’t enjoyable for me and given that they make up quite a good portion of the story then this was obviously going to be problematic.

Conversely, there was some very good writing and some of the chapters really gripped me – particularly towards the end with all the warring and near death experiences – am I coming across particularly bloodthirsty in this review or what!  I particularly enjoyed , for example, the chapters when Erroh was travelling with the enemy.  They added substance and a different perspective.

At the end of the day I can’t deny this was a quick enough read, it didn’t particularly work for me per se but I think others will get different mileage from this and it certainly ends at a point that will make those readers eager to pick up the next book.

For the purposes of the competition I rate this as a 5 out of 10.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.