This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

30 June, 2014



Pages: 66
Publisher: DarkFuse
Published: 10 June 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Driving home one day from a conference, Daryl seeks a shortcut through a barren countryside. He chances upon a mysterious village whose residents seem rather odd. But they have something to show him—a creature so strange he can hardly believe it exists.

And that's only the beginning of Daryl's problems, as he seeks to escape something far worse than he can ever imagine.

Something utterly horrific and extremely savage.

   This novella begins with an established Horror trope. You know, the one where someone gets lost and finds themselves in a place that is both surreal and eerie. Interestingly enough, to me at least, this happens in Yorkshire, where I moved four months ago. Although I live a little bit from where this is happening, I am familiar with the type of location this is set in.
   Tropes aren't something that are inherently bad, although for some reason they are often talked about as if that was the case, and in this case Fry does use it to good effect. It doesn't really transcend the trope it starts out with though, although it does tweak the story such that it moves in a slightly unfamiliar direction.

   Fry does a very good job at building the atmosphere of the novella. Mostly he does so through the main character, Daryl, a character we learn a lot about in a short timespan. Daryl is an excellent protagonist for a story like this, and the author has made a very good choice in who he lets us see what unfolds through. It's unclear whether Daryl is shaped by the story, or the story shaped by Daryl, he is just a so good fit that the distinction between the two gets pointless to me. I'll leave it with the character and story perfectly complement each other.

   I already mentioned that the story makes some tweaks to the trope it uses. I found those to be both refreshing and unsettling. Unsettling in the way that it does somewhat mess with your preconceptions. The way it doesn't quite turn how you expect it to makes the story a bit unreal. It just feels like it is not quite right, it just doesn't do what you thought it would.
   Of course that feeling of unease is a plus for a Horror story, and it heightens the feeling of unease and suspense that the story conveys. but it was a little bit distracting at times for me. Not the fault of the author, but a disconnect between the story and my preconceptions about how this trope will move.
   The only slightly weak point in this story is the ending. It felt a little unsatisfying to me. It is not a bad ending, it was just that the rest of the story gave me expectations of something a little bit more than what I got.

   Overall, this is a good read. It accomplishes both creating a great atmosphere and letting us get very close to the main character in a very short time. It does also tell a nice little Rural Horror story that manages to be unsettling in both its familiarity and unfamiliarity.
   If you want a quick Horror read that makes good use of a familiar trope, I can recommend picking this up. It is a tale that is well worth spending a little time with.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley

LINKS:  Gary Fry   DarkFuse

26 June, 2014


Cover photo* by Caras Ionut


ISBN: 978-1-444-78862-4
Pages: 405
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 3 June 2014

On the cover:

A riveting cat-and-mouse suspense thriller about a retired cop and a couple of unlikely allies who race against time to stop a lone killer intent on blowing up thousands.

Retired homicide detective Bill Hodges is haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular: in the pre-dawn hours hundreds of desperate people were lined up for a spot at a jobs fair in the distressed Midwestern city were he worked. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. Eight people were killed, fifteen wounded. The Killer escaped.

Months later, on the other side of the city, Bill Hodges gets a taunting letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he is preparing to kill again.

Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, must apprehend the killer in a high-stakes race against time. Because Brady's next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

   This novel has more in common with King's Hard Case Crime novel Joyland than with most of his other novels. That is to say it is a Crime novel, unashamedly so. (Although it is easy at this point to argue that Stephen King Novel is really it's own literary subgenre.) If you have read Joyland, you will be well aware that King can pull of an excellent Crime novel when he tries. He certainly makes an effort to do so here.

   At first glance there is not much that is new here. The detective coming out of retirement to solve a large case is not exactly a new invention when it comes to Crime. There are some fresh elements in this novel though, mostly his two helpers. The first one, Jerome, seems at first to be a token Computer Whiz Kid, but he turns out to have a much larger part in what is to enfold than what can be suspected from our first meeting with him. The second one, Holly, -well- it's hard to say much about her without giving anything away. It will have to suffice to say that she is hardly a typical character, she has greater complexity than most "sidekicks".
   Bill himself is perhaps closer to the faulty Noir Crime detective, but he has something extra to him too. And his role in the final showdown is certainly a novel one, and it comes with its own share of suspense as to where we will see the character end up.

   There is one point at which this novel is much the same as other King novels, it has King's trademark build-up. We really get to know the characters and their situations. Here that includes Brady, the titular character - and the story's villain. In some ways it is Brady that we come closest too, it is him that we get the most intimate details about. He is never sympathetic though, King tells his story without making you feel sorry for him.
   This means that there is absolutely no suspense in who the killer is, but there doesn't need to be any either. It is not what the narrative is going for, and I can't see that this story would be improved by not knowing who the heroes are looking for.

   The paragraphs above makes for four main characters, which could be a bit much if every character got the same space. There is however a focus on Brady and Bill. We do not get to see much from other viewpoints, and neither do we have to. Aside from these four there are several other characters in supporting roles, they are all well realised. King once again shows us he can do very good characters, and let us get really close to them as we follow their story.
   One character did however cause a problem for me, that character is Janey. She is absolutely a good character, and she does come off as someone you would like to spend time with. However there is a part of her story that I felt was a bit cheap. Too easy, and not really up to the standard of the rest of the book. (It will be obvious what I mean if you read the book.) I don't really know if what I am talking about could be done differently without changing other events around, but what happened did feel like a bit of a letdown. This did not majorly effect my experience though,  it just made it a little less of a perfect novel.

   When it comes to the level of suspense, King is masterful as always. The novel starts out with a tense and eerie prologue. After that the tension soon starts to build gradually. By the time you get towards the end of the book you'll most likely be on tenterhooks. The last one hundred pages almost left me breathless. At that point the level of suspense is off the charts. This might not be Horror, but it doesn't really hold back in creating the feeling the constant reader will be familiar with from king's other work.

   To sum up, I found this to be an excellent King novel. Apart from the small flaw mentioned above, there is nothing wrong here in my opinion. This should be excellent reading for any Crime fan, and I will also recommend this highly to King's SFF fans. It is simply a wonderfully told story that should appeal to anyone who wants some suspense when they sit down to read.


* The cover of the edition I have is actually a special cover only available in-store at UK's WH Smith High Street stores. It has a colour difference, and looks like this: 


LINKS: Stephen King   Hodder & Stoughton   Hodderscape

18 June, 2014


   The giveaway is over. I took the entries and assigned them each a number, and then put it through a random number generator. The winner is:


   I have been in contact with him on e-mail, and the book will be on its way to him this week.

   I've been a bit quiet lately. The reason is that I haven't had much time lately. And what I have had has been flying past. I'll have some reviews up starting tomorrow. For those that have been waiting for reviews; I am sorry for the delay. They will be coming up shortly.

06 June, 2014


   Since I haven't gotten many entries, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that I have a giveaway going. You can read all about it here. It will be going until midnight 14 April. I'm afraid it is open for Europe only, but if you live in Europe, please enter!

   I've been a bit quiet on the blog the last two weeks, but will have more stuff up from Tuesday. Upcoming reviews include: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King, The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem, and Best British Horror 2014 edited by Johnny Mains.

   Have a good weekend everyone!

03 June, 2014


Cover design by Jo Thomson using Shutterstock images.


ISBN: 978-4472-4765-4
Pages: 387
Publisher: Tor UK
Published: 27 February 2014

On the cover:

A Blackhart's Calling:
to banish evil and hold back the night

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she's living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since their home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it's not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn's enemies.

As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves - it's that or lose everyone she's learnt to love.

   What do you get if you cross Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tale retelling, Lovecraftian Elder Gods, and add a bit of romance? Well, if you are Liz de Jager you'd have the mix necessary to write a great book.

   After a very nice introduction to our main character, Kit Blackheart, we quickly learn about how special she is. This may give you a moments pause, it did for me, there are a lot of characters that have something special about them or who outright are the chosen one in modern Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy. (Harry Potter arguably belongs to that "slash"-genre.) Actually, that is an unnecessary worry. It didn't take long before I completely forgot about it, and it doesn't come into play in that sense in the story.
   Kit is nowhere near a carbon copy chosen one, she comes across as a fully formed person that isn't necessarily the brightest, strongest, fastest, etc. in the room. And that made her all the better in my opinion. Even though she is not an average young woman, she is very relateable. She seems like the sort of person you will meet at some point in your life, someone who despite what makes her special is not too far removed from someone you might meet in your local bookshop.
   This is the type of Fantasy that demands good characters, and de Jager handles characters very well. Kit isn't the only one that feels very real, all of them comes vividly to life on the page. Even the villains of this story are really fleshed out, and although their motives are definitely otherworldly they make perfect sense in context. Something I feel is a necessity for immersion into Fantasy, and something de Jager delivers on.

   Characters aren't everything in Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy, and once you are satisfied they are up to scratch (, which they certainly are here), what you usually look at is the setting. The Fae world as a setting predates Fantasy as a genre, and it takes a deft touch to use it without it feeling stale. De Jager manages it with aplomb though. It's clear that she has done her research, but she has made her own spin on the source material, the myths and Fairy Tales, and made a world of her own that feels fresh to the reader.
   Infodumping can sometimes be a problem in Fantasy, de Jager manages to avoid it by integrating it very well into the text. A lot of information is passed to the reader in conversations and other character interactions, but it always flows very well and never feels like showing off the structural supports of the story. Some extra bits are left for chapter introductions, and I really liked those. They give lots of interesting little snippets of information that feels like garnish on a good meal.

   So far I've spent a lot of time on the framework the story is built on, the characters and their world, time to move on to the story itself. It's a really fast-paced one. Not that it always moves along at break-neck pace, because it doesn't. There are some passages where we get to know the characters, and discover what is really going on. Those passages are however far from boring. However de Jager has a tendency to drip feed things, and I did get impatient at times. Although I have to stress that it wasn't the bad impatience, but the good type where you just have to keep reading to see what will happen next.
   I said above that this was fast-paced, and there is a lot going on. At times there is so much happening that it leaves you almost breathless. Fortunately de Jager manages to steer the reader through events with a deft hand. Even when there is a multitude of things happening at once the author manages to keep it focused so that it never gets confusing. Tension levels are high throughout, and there are some cliff-hangers that does not make stopping reading a real option. The last quarter of the book is not a good place to take a break from reading, you'll probably need to know how it will end at that point - I did.

   This is an excellent Urban Fantasy novel, especially for those that like a helping of Fairy Tale in their Fantasy. Kit Blackhart is an excellent main character, and the supporting cast are also a joy to get to know. Add in great worldbuilding and a fast-paced story that refuses to let the reader go, and you have the ingredients for what is in my opinion a must-read for fans of both Contemporary Fantasy and Fairy Tale retellings.
   De Jager's debut leaves you with an appetite for more. I am certainly looking forward to the next volume in The Blackhart Legacy.

LINKS: Liz de Jager  PanMacmillan (Tor UK)  Tor UK Blog