Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Somnambulist and The Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle

The Somnambulist and The Psychic Thief is the first in a new series from prolific author Lisa Tuttle. Following a break from her previous employer; Miss X at The Psychical Society, Miss Lane is in need of accommodation and employment when a notice in a newsagent window catches her eye: "Consulting Detective Requires Assistant" Miss Lane soon finds herself working with Jasper Jesperson and together they investigate strange occurrences in Victorian London. Soon they are asked for help by Miss X herself when a number of well known psychic mediums go missing. A fantastic first instalment to what I hope will be a long running series. While there is a subtle nod to Holmes and Watson, Jesperson and Lane are very much their own characters. Miss Lane is a delight; independent, resourceful and free thinking and Jesperson and his mother are fantastically drawn. This is the first book I've read by Lisa Tuttle but it certainly won't be the last. Lisa is a favourite of Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin and she deserves a wider audience so here's hoping that this series gives that to her.

Thank you very much to Olivia Mead for sending me a copy of this book for review it is available now from Jo Fletcher Books. 

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

US Cover                           UK Cover
This was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2016 and it did not disappoint. In fact I thought it was actually better than the first book. This book sees Lila really come into her own travelling with a pirate band throughout the kingdom she has the opportunity to prove herself and make new friends and it becomes increasingly obvious that despite her "outlaw" status she has a great deal more freedom than Kell. Meanwhile Kell along with the rest of Red London is preparing for the Element Games a sort of Olympic games for magic. However despite his defeat of the Dane twins and Holland's apparent death it seems that Black London is not finished with Kell yet. The storytelling is whip-crack smart as expected from Victoria Schwab and in this instalment we get even more world building and new and interesting characters are introduced. I would urge you to read the first book in this series A Darker Shade of Magic as A Gathering of Shadows follows on where that book left off.

UK Cover

A Darker Shade of Magic introduces Kell, one of the last of those who can travel between the different versions of London that overlap each other and that can only be accessed by a traveler using blood magic. Kell is a native of Red London where magic is used everyday, he frequently travels to the much duller Grey London where George III is the reigning monarch and magic has been forgotten and the much more dangerous White London ruled by the vicious Dane Twins, White London also has a traveler; Holland but can they trust each other?

While Victoria Schwab is a successful author of Young Adult novels she makes the leap to Fantasy for adults easily and these books have a great deal of appeal for teens also. I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of Deborah Harkness, Laini Taylor, Genevieve Cogman or the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. 

Thanks so much to Titan Books for sending me review copies of these two titles. Both books are available in paperback and the final book in the series will be published in February 2017. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Revelations of Carey Ravine by Debra Daley

Following last year's stunning Turning the Stones, The Revelations of Carey Ravine returns to Georgian England this time to the bustling city of London where Carey and her beloved husband Nash aim to make their mark and some money among the high society. Everything in the couple's home is rented, so that they can appear wealthy while their debts are mounting. Nash is convinced that every new scheme will be the one to lift them out of their middle class origins and into the noveau riche nobility. Carey meanwhile is translating French erotica and dreams of greater literary endeavour. When Carey is visited by an old friend of Nash's from his time in India she is intrigued, her father disappeared many years before in India and while Nash dismisses any connection to her father out of hand Carey begins an investigation of her own which reveals corruption and scandal at the highest level which will have devastating consequences for her own life.
This is a wonderful novel with an utterly brilliant and believable cast of characters and deft and skillful plotting. I was hooked on Carey's story and on Carey herself so utterly of her time and yet in many ways so thoroughly modern. Debra Daley is a real hidden gem in historical fiction who deserves greater attention. If you are a fan of Laurie Graham, Katherine Clements or enjoyed Janet Ellis's The Butcher's Hook then this book is for you.

Thank you to Olivia Mead for a review copy. The Revelations of Carey Ravine is published by Heron Books and available in hardback now. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine

Barbara Erskine's lastest book returns to the landscape where she set her debut novel Lady of Hay 30 years ago. Miranda, Andy to her friends has lost the man she loves and her home. After nearly ten years together her beloved Graham is dead and with no will his home that he shared with Andy is now the property of his estranged wife Rhona. Andy is left rudderless but she is offered a lifeline by an old friend; Sue is heading to Australia for a year and she needs a house sitter for her beautiful home in the Welsh Borders. Sleeper's Castle is old and full of shadows and secrets so Andy is really not surprised when she begins to dream about the past. In the early 1400s Catrin lived at Sleeper's Castle with her father a poet and a bard. Catrin also writes poetry but she must keep it secret for her father is a controlling man and Wales is in turmoil as shifting allegiances bring war to their door and it is a dangerous time to be a bard and a seer. As Catrin and her father are drawn into the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr and she begins to fall for a handsome English widower, Catrin's story seems determined to be told.
Barbara Erskine once again beautifully blends past and present allowing the tension and darkness to seep from the past into the present. Loyal fans will not be disappointed with this new book and new fans will be equally enchanted. If you have not yet discovered Barbara Erskine you are in for a treat. She cleverly weaves together mystery, history, romance and the gothic and will appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon and Susanna Kearsley.
This book will be released on June 30th 2016 from Harper Collins who kindly sent me a proof copy to review.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

Kate Williams’ novel continues the saga of the de Witt family, in the aftermath of the Great War. The period covered is 1919-1926, and comparisons to Downton Abbey will be inevitable. Williams, however, is a writer of powers much greater than the soap-opera variety of Downton, with a knack for creating sympathetic, if not always likeable, characters and flawless dialogue. She captures the era perfectly, and Celia the book’s main protagonist gives it a name: ‘war fatigue’. There is a listlessness and lack of drive in many of the characters: without the war and with an uncertain future, what are they to do now? Celia feels too old and ugly for love and she fails at Finishing School. Cousin Louisa feels that at many of the parties she attends in London people are portraying a false gaiety, their smiles falling away when they think they are unobserved. Emmeline is fading from tiredness, raising twins. Rudolph, home from the internment camp, is in rapid decline; though barely fifty he looks eighty. The old order is crumbling, as all the drive and energy in the book is with those who wish to create a new order; Tom through business, and Samuel through protest.
The book is also a mystery and a family drama. The story opens with the death of a young woman, and the reader will spend 400 pages wondering, did she fall? Or was she pushed? We are given three points of view: Celia, Louisa and briefly, Arthur. While the mystery invites the reader in, it is the meticulous attention to detail and wonderful characterisation which will captivate readers and hold their attention. Williams is certainly a writer to watch.

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

Janet Ellis has written a startling and original historical novel inThe Butcher’s Hook. The smart, astute and fascinating heroine and mesmerising narrative belie the fact that this is a debut. Anne Jacob is a middle-class girl in the middle of the 18thcentury, hungry for books and for knowledge, but a betrayal at the hands of her tutor leads her to explore other avenues of learning and realise the limits of her world. Following the loss of her beloved baby brother, Anne detaches herself from emotion until she meets Fub, the butcher’s boy, and in him she finally finds purpose and passion.
Determined to make a life for herself separate from her parents and the plans they have made for her, Anne will go to any lengths to maintain her newfound happiness, no matter how dark the path she must tread. The book highlights the restrictive limits set on women in the Georgian era and the psychological damage such restriction could lead to, and it is also an immersive portrait of London: its sights, smells, tastes and sounds. While Anne is at the centre of the narrative, we also see her mother, worn out by countless pregnancies and grief; the maids Jane and Grace, limited by their position but ever watchful; and the men who control the women around them with a word, a smile or a frown. The book is also a wonderful portrait of the intensity of first love and the madness of that intensity. Highly recommended. Published by Two Roads Books.

This review can also be viewed at the the HNS website Here

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye has produced an audacious homage to Jane Eyre just in time for Charlotte Brontë’s 200th birthday. Unlike recent books which re-write a classic from the point of view of another character, Faye gives us another Jane altogether, one who is entirely aware of Brontë’s heroine and aware of how that story mirrors her own but only in the broad sweep of the tale; in detail Jane Steele is a very different heroine, a murderess, a liar and a teller of tales.
Jane suffers at the hands of her aggressive cousin, her cruel aunt and her even crueler headmaster, and like Jane Eyre she is called wicked, but for Jane Steele this accusation is true because she takes revenge on those who threaten her and her loved ones. When Jane applies for a governess job at Highgate House, she sees a chance to regain her lost inheritance, but what she finds is a new family and the love of Mr. Thornfield. Added to this is a high-octane crime caper involving the Anglo-Sikh wars, lost jewels and some dastardly East India Company men.
Lyndsay Faye has created an enthralling gothic tale which is both a tongue-in-cheek homage to the Victorian novel and a superbly crafted, plot-twisting crime thriller. She has pulled off a masterstroke with this book, perfect for fans of Charlotte Brontë and Arthur Conan Doyle. Published by Headline.

I reviewed this book for The Historical Novel Society Magazine. See the original review online Here

A Fever of the Blood

Frey and McGray return for a second outing in de Muriel’s new novel. The story opens in January 1889 with a brutal killing at the Edinburgh lunatic asylum, and the investigative duo are immediately involved, as McGray’s own sister is also a patient there. The first in the series, The Strings of Murder, introduced the unlikely pairing of the gruff ‘nine nails’ McGray and the exiled Londoner, Frey, and in their second investigation, as before, McGray tends to speak with his fists first, while Frey is more cautious. The majority of the action in this book takes place outside the policemen’s jurisdiction as they chase a suspect onto a train and end up in Lancashire. Just as in their previous case, there is a supernatural element as the men find themselves the target of a dangerous secret society of witches and a curse that stretches back through the centuries to the time of the Pendle witch trials.
This is a fast-paced, well-researched and thoroughly spellbinding read. The mismatched pair is as entertaining as Holmes and Watson at their best, and the supernatural element brings an entertaining twist. There are a number of insightful moments of character development which hint at further episodes to come, and while the book is clearly a sequel to the first in the series it can easily be read as a stand-alone. Published by Michael Joseph and available in paperback now. 
I  reviewed this book for The Historical Novel Society magazine. You can see the original review online HERE

Dacre's War by Rosemary Goring

Once again Rosemary Goring dazzles the reader with her vivid and intense writing, her fast paced plotting and her characters which leap from the page. I simply couldn't put it down. ‘Dacre's War’ continues the story of border chieftan Adam Crozier and his courageous wife Louise, begun in ‘After Flodden’. Once again Rosemary Goring dazzles the reader with her vivid and intense writing, her fast paced plotting and her characters which leap from the page. I simply couldn't put it down. It is now ten years later and Adam leads an alliance of Scottish border clans while Lord Dacre is now the most powerful man in the North of England. When Adam learns for certain that Lord Dacre organised his father's murder he is determined to bring him down. The action moves swiftly and the story is related from multiple viewpoints; Adam, Louise, Dacre and his daughter Joan, which adds to the intensity. Rosemary Goring is an incredible writer and I cannot recommend her highly enough, if you are a fan of historical fiction especially Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels; then this book is for you. While ‘Dacre's War’ could be read as a stand alone novel I would recommend reading ‘After Flodden’ first if only so that you can learn more about this amazing cast of characters.

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Florence Grace’ is the second Novel by Tracy Rees following the very successful Amy Snow. Set in Cornwall and London in the 1850s, this is a beautifully written book perfect for fans of Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton. The story centres around Grace, orphaned at a young age she discovers her connection to a wealthy but notorious London family. She leaves her poor life in Cornwall behind, saying goodbye to her beloved moors she travels to a family she has never known and does her best to adjust her speech and her manners. However it is only with her cousins Turlington and Sanderson that she finds joy and companionship. Florence Grace is a wonderful page turning novel, gripping, emotional and unputdownable. I was utterly enthralled. Tracy Rees is a fantastic storyteller. The character of Florence was vivid and sparkling and the settings were beautifully crafted. A definite 5 star read.  Thanks to LoveReading and Quercus publishers for a copy of this book.