Tag Archives: 4.5 stars

Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless, Catherynne M. ValenteDeathless by Catherynne M. Valente

First Published: 2011

Pages: 349 (Paperback)
Form: Novel

Rating:star4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

Catching up on some reviews that, for various reasons, I never got round to writing in 2013.

Deathless is an absolutely fantastic, wonderful, intelligent, beautifully-written book. A  retelling of the Russian Fairytale, Marya Morevna and Koschei the DeathlessValente transports the story into the politically turbulent setting of 20th century Russia, and asks the very questions  I asked myself when I read the original ‘Who is Marya Morevna? And why and how does she have Koschei the Deathless locked up in a closet?’

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Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes, Ben AaronovitchBroken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

First Published: 2013

Pages: 357 (Hardback)
Form: Novel
Series: Peter Grant #4

Rating: 4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there any connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

I hesitate to call this book the best in the series only because Rivers of London holds a very special place in my heart that is impossible to replace. It was the first book I read after seeking help to manage my depression – and as such marked the first time I had managed to truly and unreservedly enjoy anything for months, possibly years. But, if I try to remove that from the equation, Broken Homes is definitely the best written and best plotted of the Peter Grant books so far and, without a doubt, has the most exciting climax.

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Fables, Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland, Bill Willingham & various artists

Fables 18 Cubs in ToylandFables: Cubs in Toyland

Form: Comic Book (Trade Paperback)
Series: Fables, Volume 18 (issues 114-123)

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists:
 Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Gene Ha, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green
Colourists: Lee Loughridge, Art Lyon
Letterer: Todd Klien
Cover Art: Joao Raus

Rating4/54/54/54/54/5

Warning: This is volume 18 of an ongoing series  – it’s going to be impossible for me to avoid spoilers completely for previous volumes.

Her [sibling] was crowned the new North Wind, but all Therese Wolf got was a lousy toy boat.

She doesn’t much like the thing – and that’s before it starts whispering to her in the middle of the night, encouraging her to run away from home. But with her father preparing [sibling] for [their] new responsibilities and her mother busy with the rest of the brood, a magical journey might not be such a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Therese’s voyage takes her to the desolate shoreline of Toyland, where dwell the broken-down playthings of the Discardia. Wooden, metal, plastic or stuffed, they’re all looking for a queen to fix their bodies and their realm.

But these toys are broken in more ways than one.

As her family – led by her wild brother Dare – frantically searches for her, what will become of Therese when she discovers the terrible truth about Toyland? And what price must be paid to save her life – and her soul?

Without a doubt the darkest volume of Fables yet, this volume is also the best addition to the series for a long time. It’s not up to early Fables standards, and I’m still not quite sure that the series was best served by continuing after the main plotline of the Adversary was concluded, rather than ending it on a satisfying, epic conclusion – Fables has been starting to show the wear and tear of a story stretched out beyond it’s initial plotline for a while now – but this has restored some of my faith. Continue reading

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The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells

The Island of Dr Moreau, H.G. WellsThe Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G.Wells

First Published: 1896
Pages: 143 including afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel

Rating: 4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

A terrifying, prescient portrayal of a scientist trying to create a new super-breed, The Island of Doctor Moreau was described by H.G. Wells as an ‘exercise in youthful blasphemy’.

Edward Prendick, the single survivor of a shipwreck, is rescued by a vessel carrying a menagerie of savage animals. Soon he finds himself stranded on an uncharted island in the Pacific with the strange vivisectionist Dr Moreau, whose experiments have led him to break the laws of nature, turning beast into man with horrific results.

A short but absolutely excellent novel. H.G. Wells is one of the founding fathers of science fiction and The Island of Doctor Moreau is one of those early  blends of science-fiction and horror that (like the best of both genres)  also offers an uncomfortable insight into human nature. A bit like Frankenstien but without the tedium, and better paced. Continue reading

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A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords, George R.R. MartinA Storm of Swords 2, George R.R. Martin

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A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

First Published: 2000
Pages: 1123 excluding character lists (Paperbacks, book 1: 569, book 2: 554)
Form: Novel
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #3

Rating: 4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

Warning: I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for this book in my review but there is really no way to discuss the book without revealing spoilers about the first two. Even just the blurbs for this series are pretty spoilerific so everything’s going under the cut.

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The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Publisher: Vintage Classics (Random House)
Pages: 609 (Paperback)
Form: Epistolary Novel

Rating:

Marian and her sister Laura live a quiet life under their uncle’s guardianship until Laura’s marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. Sir Percival is a man of many secrets – is one of them connected to the strange appearances of a young woman dressed all in white? And what does his charming friend, Count Fosco, have to do with it all? Marian and the girl’s drawing master, Walter, have to turn detective in order to protect Laura from a fatal plot and unravel the mystery of the woman in white.

This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years (ever since studying The Woman in Black for my A levels) and somehow just never got round to picking up. Thankfully Goodreads came to my rescue again when one of my groups set it as their August group read and forced me to finally grab myself a copy and get reading. And I’m very glad they did because it’s the sort of book that’s right up my alley. Continue reading

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Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

Publisher: Puffin (Penguin)
Pages: 294 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Percy Jackson #3

Rating:

It’s not every day you find yourself in hand-to-claw combat with a half-lion, half-human.

But when you’re the son of a Greek god, these things happen. All I was trying to do was bring two new demigods back to camp. But the arrival of the manticore changed everything. Now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and the general of the Titans wants to unleash a tribe of skeleton warriors on the world.

This is the one where only five of us heroes can join the dangerous quest to defeat the doomsday monster – and our camp’s oracle has predicted that not all of the chosen five will survive . . .

Can Percy save Annabeth – and the rest of the world – before the curse destroys him forever?

My super-slow marathon of Percy Jackson continues and I have to say I’m still enjoying these books immensely. Might have to stop relying on the library soon and buy myself a set of paperbacks for whenever I’m in the mood for a fun-filled Greek-mythology fix. If you didn’t like the first two books this one isn’t going to convince you, it’s very much more of the same – Percy and his friends battling Greek monsters and deities in modern-day America. But if you’ve enjoyed the series so far this is a pretty solid addition to it.

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