The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice by Elton Gahr. Reviewed by Jenni for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading The Thirteen Gates by Elton Gahr.

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Elton Gahr’s The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice reads like a juvenile novel.

When I say that, I don’t mean that it reads like a novel for juveniles or young adults – though that is obviously the age group it is geared towards—but rather the juvenile production of a young author, one who still hasn’t grasped the nuance of ‘show, don’t tell’, the finer points of foreshadowing, or the basics of plot structure.

In many reviews, this is where I would say something about how writing a novel is hard, it’s an arduous process and finesse comes with practice but Gahr has upwards of 15 distinct works according to his Goodreads page, so I’m not sure practice is the answer here.

The plot of Thirteen Gates follows teenaged Quinn, an accidental apprentice wizard, his best friend Tim (a Samwise Gamgee allusion who is introduced as such in literally the first chapter), and Hanna, an ifrit who maybe wants to kill the boys. Guiding from beyond the grave is Nate, a real wizard who sets the friends on their quest through a series of journals bequeathed to young Quinn in Nate’s will. Over the course of the novel our protagonists bound easily in and out of Gates that we’re told take decades to learn to traverse easily. These Gates lead to alternate worlds that we’re told can be deadly to the uninformed, but seem to mostly be populated by beings willing to help our protagonists once things are explained to them. The entire novel culminates in a showdown in New York City against the denizens of Olympus where, again, Quinn saves the day by doing something we’re told is extremely difficult and takes decades if not centuries to learn.

There are some interesting pieces to Thirteen Gates, but there are also strong intimations of other, better, YA fantasy books, like Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and The Mortal Instruments. If the author could mature into his writing and shape those pieces properly, there might be an exciting novel somewhere in the mix, but for my own preference, I’d just as soon re-read The Lightning Thief instead.

3/5

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The day that Nate died everything changed for Quinn. His long term mentor had helped him through the death of his father and far more. It also changed for everyone else, because Nate was a wizard who had closed the thirteen gates five hundred years ago. And now with his death those gates have opened and magic has returned to the world.

With corrupt wizards, monsters, fae, jinn and nameless elder abominations returning the world is almost entirely unprepared, but unbeknown to him Nate was teaching Quinn far more than it had first appeared. By convincing him to read books that explored the gods of Olympus, the adventures in Wonderland and many others he was teaching Quinn to be a wizard while hoping that the day the boy would need to learn to use magic might never come.
Now Quinn must prove that he isn’t a murderer, learn to control magic and protect the world from powers it hasn’t faced in five hundred years all while avoiding being killed by his best friend’s ex girlfriend.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘It’s how you get to that ending!’ @deBieJennifer Reviews #HistoricalRomance Miss Wetherham’s Wedding by Linore Rose Burkard

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenny has been reading Miss Wetherham’s Wedding by Linore Rose Burkard

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Alright readers, if you are picking up a book titled Miss Wetherhan’s Wedding, the third in a series called The Brides of Mayfair, complete with cover art depicting a pretty blond in a period gown, you know what you’re here for.

Not as steamy as a Julia Quinn, not as sexless as an Austen, Burkhard strikes a nice balance with her characters and settings, and that’s exactly how I would describe this one. Nice. There’s a rake, there’s a heroine in a jam, there’s a meddling spinster and some servants and a scheme that we all know is going to go awry, and in the end there’s a happily ever after.

There are stakes, of course there are stakes—reputations might be ruined, someone might have to (gasp) leave London, and someone might enter a loveless marriage, but come on lads. Are we really that worried about any of these people?

Burkhard has spent some time researching her era, there are fun, period-specific phrases used by various characters and some clothing descriptions that the casual BBC watcher would not have picked up on. Burkhard knows her genre and obviously loves it, and good for her.

A friend studying chick-lit for her PhD tells me that with books like this, it’s not the fact that you know the ending from the back cover blurb that matters, it’s how you get to that ending. The journey, not the destination, and a few other decorative mug phrases.

If that is the case, then the road through Miss Wetherham’s Wedding is pleasant. There’s banter, there’s dancing, sherry is consumed, there’s a fun wardrobe for our heroine to don and several fancy events where she can show it off, and in the end problems are solved by everyone marrying the person we thought they would.

If you’re looking for mystery and tense, upper-crust intrigue, this isn’t exactly it, but, if you’re looking for a nice little read on a sunny afternoon, Miss Wetherham’s Wedding might just be your cup of tea.

4/5

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Every step she takes to ensure his happiness is a nail in the coffin of her own.

Miss Wetherham, a matchmaker, must agree to the devious plan of a society rogue before she finds herself destitute. Helping him gain back his lost love will protect her independence and survival. But can any amount of money protect her guileless heart from falling for his charms?

Nick Dellacort is determined to restore his pride and gain back the bride he lost. Miss Wetherham is the woman able to help him do it and he’ll make it worth her while. But once he sets the devilish wheels in motion, can he persuade her to abandon the scheme and choose instead a scoundrel like him for a wedding of her own?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Tongue firmly in cheek’ #Humour @deBieJennifer Reviews Norse #Mythology #Shortstory Creation by @bjornlarssen, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Creation by Bjørn Larssen

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“In the beginning, a God opened his eyes and sat up, utterly confused.”

Thus opens Creation, Bjørn Larssen’s latest take on Norse mythology. Tongue firmly in cheek, this self-professed heathen riffs on godhood, omnipotence, and what would happen if a few drunk uncles went on a bender on the blank canvas of the universe.

Spoilers, they’d invent chickens.

And then they’d invent the ‘containers’ chickens give birth to.

Personally, my familiarity with Norse mythology leans heavily to the second generation and the escapades of our favorite Marvel Vikings, not the Allfather and his unruly brothers at the dawn of time, so I can’t speak to how closely Creation adheres to the original mythos. I can say that as someone new to the lore, I never felt lost.

Did Odin just describe a cow as wrapped in material for clothes, full of food on the inside, and capable of producing drink? Yes, and isn’t that a deliciously sideways way of viewing the first cow in existence?

Now if you’ll excuse us, Zaphod Beeblbrox and I will take a cut from shoulder in white wine sauce.

And the reviewer makes a deep cut Douglas Adams joke for no one but herself, her Dad, and maybe the author. She has a feeling Larssen might be a Hitchhiker’s fan.

 Let go and roll with the madness, dear readers, because that is the kind of ride you are in for with Creation. Off-kilter in the best way possible, Creation is a book where the punches (and punchlines) just keep coming. Peopled by three gods trying to fumble their way into creating everything, and a cow that’s pretty certain she wants to keep the food inside her on the inside, Larrsen has a page turner on his hands. At under 70 pages, Creation is short enough to read in a single sitting, but worth savoring for those of us who like to mull over our comedy a bit.

Or read it in one go and be eager for more. Apparently this is only the first in a whole series called Why Odin Drinks— if most of his days are like the ones described by Larssen, I don’t blame him!

5/5

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In the beginning there was confusion.

Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly? Your brothers keep creating mosquitoes and celery and other, more threatening weapons. What can your ultimate answer be – the one that will make you THE All-Father and them, at best, the All-Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About?

“FML! That answer’s why I drink!” – Odin

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Crackling with energy’. @deBieJennifer reviews #Fantasy Asperfell by @thatjamiethomas @UproarBooks #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Asperfell by Jamie Thomas

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Before we begin, I should announce two very important facts: Jamie Thomas’ Asperfell has a sequel, The Forest Kingdom (2021), and that sequel is already out and available for all the impatient binge readers out there.

Now, may we carry on with the review?

Asperfell opens with the assassination of a king and the subsequent punishment of his assassin, as seen through the eyes of our narrator, Briony Tenebrae. What follows is a tightly knit political drama as the royal court of Tiralaen devolves into a viper’s nest of corruption and suspicion, driven there by the unbalanced young king who sits on its throne and his fear of Mages. This fear, in turn, spawns from the old king’s death at the hands of one of Tiralaen’s most promising young Mages, the former heir apparent and new king’s older brother, Prince Elyan. Briony serves as the reader’s eyes and ears to this devolution and through her lens we feel every fresh cruelty of this growing police state.

The titular Asperfell, in turn, is a parallel world to the one Briony and all of Tiralaen inhabit. It is the place where Mages who have broken the kingdom’s laws, or simply existed outside the king’s control, are banished to. In Asperfell, exiled Prince Elyan now rules over the worst and most powerful Mages of Tiralaen, and it is to Asperfell that Briony must venture if she wants to save her home.

Does that sound complicated?

Good, it is.

If you are looking for a tidy fantasy world full of straight forward character relationships, motivations, and resolutions, look elsewhere. Asperfell and Tiralaen are not realms for the faint of heart. Here, the usual trappings of fantasy worlds, glittering castles and courtly manners, only mask the growing rot at the heart of both realms; rot beautifully encapsulated in a single, pivotal scene described by Briony in hindsight as just one instance to epitomize the king and his court’s descent into barbarism.

For those of you who have read the book, you know exactly what scene I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, I shouldn’t spoil the surprise.

With a deft hand, Thomas weaves her narrative through court intrigue, a child’s wonder, fell magic, and a young woman’s growing understanding of her own, perilous position. Crackling with energy and full of complex, stunningly rendered characters, Asperfell is a knockout of a first novel and a compelling opener for what promises to be a powerful trilogy.

5/5

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Only the darkest and most dangerous of Mages are sentenced to pass through the gate to Asperfell.

Not one has ever returned.

Never did Briony dream she might set foot in the otherworldly prison of Asperfell. She was, after all, neither Mage nor criminal. She was simply her father’s little whirlwind—fingers smudged with ink, dresses caked with mud—forever lost in a book or the spirit-haunted woods surrounding her family’s country estate.

But Briony always had a knack for showing up where she was least expected.

Only by braving the gate of Asperfell could Briony hope to find the true heir to the throne of Tiralaen and save her kingdom from civil war. And so, she plunges into a world of caged madmen and demented spirits, of dark magic and cryptic whispers… and of a bleak and broken prince with no interest in being rescued.

Hauntingly beautiful and lavishly told, Asperfell is a must-read for fans of Jane Austen who always wished she’d dabbled in blood magic.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Wilson creates a miasma that steeps through her pages’ @deBieJennifer reviews #SpeculativeFiction This is Our Undoing by @raine_clouds #TuesdaybookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading This Is Our Undoing by Lorraine Wilson

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Lorraine Wilson’s This is Our Undoing, opens with a standoff between a conservationist looking for what has killed a protected species, and local villagers who want to harvest the carcass.

This standoff between Lina, our protagonist, and the native Bulgarians whose land and animals she studies, in many ways epitomizes the many conflicts in Wilson’s debut novel. A lone scientist with the backing of an international organization but little real power of her own, and a group of people who distrust outsiders with good reason and fight for their independence in the only ways they know.

Across the novel the sweeping geopolitics of Wilson’s world are funneled into just a few individuals caught in the maelstrom that is the volatile near-future her characters inhabit. This is a world in which many western nations have become some version of a police state, global warming has irrevocably reshaped the landscape and the climate, and violent tribalism has become the order of the day.

There are dangerous secrets of every kind in all the characters Wilson meticulously crafts for her narrative, secrets of the old family variety in Lina’s past, to the shady allegiances of her research partner, Thiago, the militant inclinations of the villagers they live in close proximity to, and the truth behind a statesman’s murder in London and his family’s flight to sanctuary in Lina’s mountainous home, all tease the reader in a steady drip of information as the narrative unfolds.

Much of This is Our Undoing’s power comes from the atmosphere Wilson creates; a miasma that steeps through her pages until something as innocuous as a string doll hanging beside a door, or a child laughing in a sunlit meadow, becomes a source of unease for characters and readers alike.

Wilson’s novel is, at its core, a story about people and their choices. People good, bad, and otherwise caught up in events far greater than themselves. Choices given, choices made, and choices taken away. Choices from the past that come back to haunt the present, choices in the present that can ripple out to create the future. Through each step of the novel, her characters make, re-evaluate, and cope with their own choices and the choices of others, leading inexorably to a climax that is at once cataclysmic, and incredibly intimate.

To explain more would be to spoil a truly fantastic novel from a fresh new voice.

Brilliant in concept and haunting in execution, This is Our Undoing is a fantastic first outing from an author whose work I, for one, cannot wait to see more of.

5/5

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Could you condemn one child to save another?

In a near-future Europe fracturing under climate change and far-right politics, biologist Lina Stephenson works in the remote Rila Mountains, safely away from London State.

When an old enemy dies, Lina’s dangerous past resurfaces, putting her family’s lives at risk. Trapped with her vulnerable sister alongside the dead man’s family, Lina is facing pressure from all sides: her enemy’s eldest son is determined to destroy her in his search for vengeance, whilst his youngest carries a sinister secret…

…But the forest is hiding its own threats and as a catastrophic storm closes in, Lina realises that to save her family she too must become a monster.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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A Crime-Solving Forensic Handwriting Expert Solves The #Mystery in Dead Letters by @sheila_lowe

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Dead Letters by Sheila Lowe

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4/5

I always think it’s a treat when an expert in a particular field becomes an author, and a special treat when said expert/author understands how to incorporate their expertise into a story without absolutely inundating the audience with the minutia of their field. Sheila Lowe’s Dead Letters, the latest installment in her Forensic Handwriting series is one such special treat.

Dead Letters alternates between Claudia Rose, a professional handwriting analyst like Lowe herself, and her niece Monica Bennett as they are pulled into a plot of international proportions after Monica goes missing in Egypt and Claudia begins her pursuit.

Pulse pounding from start to finish, this was described as a “cozy mystery” when I picked it up, but if you’re looking for gentle humor, quirky heroines, and low stakes you might want to look elsewhere. The stakes here start high, with a niece missing on the other side of the world, feel believably dire, and only get higher as the pages turn and the plot thickens.

This is the Lowe’s eighth book centering on Claudia Rose, her crime-solving forensic handwriting expert every-woman, and Claudia’s family, and the time put into these characters is obvious. Even a newcomer to the series like myself can feel and see that there’s more to these people and their entanglements than simply aunt, niece, husband, brother, father etc. That said, the weight of their history should not be viewed as a barrier for entry to other prospective new readers—the obvious depth to these character relationships and casually referenced past adventures neither confuse nor detract from the story being told in Dead Letters.

All in all a satisfying thriller full of memorable characters, rich settings, and a tightly paced plot, Dead Letters is exactly the kind of novel to fill out your end of summer reading list.

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A heart-pounding hunt begins when Claudia Rose’s young niece goes missing with an archaeologist whose shady past spills into the present. The frantic search takes Claudia to Egypt, Gibraltar, and the UK, where her skills as a forensic handwriting expert of international renown are needed to help foil a deadly terrorist plot—if only she can find Monica before she becomes a casualty.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Let’s Talk About Rape. @deBieJennifer Reviews The Castle by Anne Montgomery, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jennie. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jennie has been reading The Castle by Anne Montgomery

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5/5

There is a conversation in literature, film, and art in general surrounding what can be broadly termed “creator intent”. Essentially, why was this piece of art or music or film or writing produced? How was it intended to impact its audience?

For some novelists, maybe even most novelists, this intent can be boiled down to entertainment plain and simple. Yes, they can tell profound stories with nuanced characters in exciting worlds, but at the end of the day all of these serve at the pleasure of the audience, the readers.

And then you get novelists like Anne Montgomery, where, while the intent to entertain is there, that entertainment is in service to a more profound intention, a deeper message that Montgomery makes explicit.

This is a book about rape, and rape survivors, and the profoundly terrifying truth that very few rape cases are purely random chance—most frequently the perpetrators are known to their victims, lurking in their familial or social circle. Indistinguishable from the innocents.

The way Montgomery conveys this is a masterclass in perspective. Across The Castle, chapters alternate between Maggie, our protagonist who enters this story as a rape survivor with her own boatload of trauma, and the unnamed serial rapist who has her in his sights. Over the course of the novel we learn plenty about the rapist, his backstory, motivations, personal philosophy, and the fact that he has a job that allows him to move frequently and thus leave a place after he has “fed the beast” that is his monstrous appetite—but who is he?

Is he the unfriendly, scuba diving biologist who is on temporary assignment studying the Montezuma’s Well, a natural spring in the National Park where Maggie and most of the characters work? Is he the cute waiter at the local winery who Maggie had a one night stand with, who keeps popping up wherever Maggie is? What about the baker who could work anywhere in the world, but chooses to work in the tiny town abutting the National Park and has suddenly started volunteering with the rape crisis center even though it’s meant to serve Native American women and he’s a white man? Or how about Maggie’s new boss, or the man she felt uneasy about on a hiking trail one day?

The beauty and the horror of Montgomery’s storytelling is that we the audience, despite our near omnipotence when it comes to the minds of both Maggie and her stalker, don’t know. The tension rachets up and the rapist draws closer and closer to this brave, damaged woman, we’re still uncertain about which of these men it is until Maggie herself finds out.

Montgomery’s stated intent, lined out in her Author’s Note, was to draw attention to the truly heartbreaking statistics surrounding rape in the United States, and the prevalence of violence against Native American women. In her intent, in this novel, she is effective.

At one point in the story Lily, Maggie’s friend and the founder of the aforementioned rape crisis center, speaks about anger. After a particularly frustrating day, Lily says:

“You know, Mags, anger is beneficial, if it’s productive. I’ve found being mad doesn’t hurt quite so much if we channel our rage for good. Let’s stay angry, just a little, if it keeps us coming back here. But just a little. Too much anger is counterproductive.”

This is a novel about good rage, about channeling the injustices of the world around us and fighting to do some good with both words and deeds. Lucky for readers, it was penned by a maestra like Anne Montgomery, so that we got a tense, powerful novel in the bargain too.

At the end of her Author’s Note, Montgomery includes web addresses for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, for readers who would like to get involved in addressing this issue. To her plea, I would also add endthebacklog.org, an organization started by actress and activist Mariska Hargtay, of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fame, to address the overwhelming rape kit backlog that is pervasive across all fifty states.

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Maggie, a National Park Ranger, is back at the Castle – an ancient Native American pueblo carved into the face of a limestone cliff in Arizona. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt. As part of her therapy, Maggie volunteers at the local rape crisis clinic.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, always greets her with a warm smile and fills pink boxes with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver, is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses a deep spring filled with strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Then there’s Dave, with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss, Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist, and Maggie is his next target.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS (Due out September 13th)

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A colorful cast and exotic locals feature in #fantasy A Flight in the Heavens (The Theurgy of the Gods Book One) by Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading A Flight in the Heavens by Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr

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3.5/5

If there is one thing to say about Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr’s freshman effort, it is an impressive stack of pages. Buckle your swashes ladies and gents because A Flight in the Heavens is 400+ pages of fantasy adventure, full of the colorful cast and exotic locals one would hope to find in a book primarily centered on a flying pirate ship.

Unfortunately for this reader, the over 400 page factor is where Flight falls flat. Gagné-Cyr has woven a fascinating world from a tapestry of both well-loved science fiction tropes and more modern creations. There’s a distinctly Pokémon-ish feel to this hunt for gods, the badass lady captain with a mech-arm and an impressive war machine under her command is strongly reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in the latest Mad Max installment, and one of the hunted gods reads as patterned on the Great Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke. All three of these are properties I have enormous personal attachment to, and yet all of that promise gets dragged under by the weight of the prose. Where one sentence would convey the meaning desired and deliver a sharper impact, Flight tends to give readers three sentences that are often confused by awkward vocabulary choice.

I read the following pair of sentences twice before I was comfortable with the meaning, and even now the way myriad is used here makes the philologist living in my heart twitch:

“Humans were bound to have come here before. In conjunction with their gods, they had built the deities’ shrines a myriad of eras before.” (A Flight in the Heavens, page 110)

That said, I largely picked up Flight because it came with the warning that there was an LGBTQ+ romance involved and your girl got curious. You don’t see that much in science fiction, at least not from your main characters, so I was interested to see how well that portion of the narrative was handled, and I’m happy to report that it was handled well.

Our two female leads tend to stare and sigh over each other in the back third of the novel, and there’s some awkwardness with a boy being in love with one of them for most of the book without realizing she plays for the other team, but the romantic thread itself is handled with as much grace as the afore-mentioned writing style allows. There’s some shaming and eventual fridging of the resident slut that I’m not wild about, but the leading lesbians are strongly drawn and their attraction to each other is relatively believable.

All in all, I stand by my opening statement. The completion of over 400 pages of anything is an impressive accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated. The fact that a sequel is not only planned, but apparently well on its way, should also be applauded as an impressive accomplishment from a new author.

Unfortunately for me, the clunky prose meant that it didn’t quite soar.

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“I see you my little moppets.”

The king is dead, long live his murderer.

After fifteen years of passive torment, Farrah and her implacable group of renegades endeavour to alter their fates by attempting to assassinate the man who stole everything from them, Daemon Daromas.
Alas, he who wields the theurgy of the gods has no rivals in the lands of Iscar but those foolish enough to challenge their wrath.

When confronted by this ancient and destructive force, the renegades have no choice but to flee the capital and embark on the airship of Iscar’s most notorious sky corsair Captain Feras Sadahl, daughter of the late pirate sovereign. 
Their meeting with the corsair, however, might not have been as welcome as they would have hoped.

As Farrah and her allies set out on a journey to find the means to challenge their oppressor, they soon discover that the price of power is steep and the road to get one’s hands on it, perilous.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Tale From Pre-History, The Drowning Land by David M. Donachie @bayushi_hituro

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading The Drowning Land by David M. Donachie

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I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I pulled David M. Donachie’s The Drowning Land out of the review pile. I mean, I read the synopsis, obviously, so I knew a little about the story, but this was my first experience with a novel centered on early man and I couldn’t help but wonder if that would keep me from caring about the characters.

Would they be too different, too outside a modern mindset, to connect with?

In retrospect, that is a silly thing to get hung up on. I’ve read and connected with stories populated by characters much further removed from humanity than Donachie’s version of paleolithic people, and that’s what Donachie creates—people.

People just as full of fears and foibles, hopes and dreams, cruelties and kindnesses, as people today. People grappling with a world that has simultaneously been gradually changing for generations and is suddenly changing way too fast. And the people who can adapt, those who band together and allow old prejudices to die—they are the people best suited to survive and thrive in this changing world. Any of that sound familiar?

There is a clear message in Donachie’s work, for those looking for one, but there is also an excellent story. A story about two teenagers from different cultures, different species even, learning first to trust each other, and then work together, and then love each other in spite of overwhelming odds and the literal end of the world as they know it. Donachie’s protagonists each bring specific strengths, talents, and skills to their partnership, so watching them stumble through a language barrier and grow into this partnership is a truly rewarding experience.

There is also a villain. Multiple villains, technically, but our primary human antagonist is also a point of view character for a few chapters and there is strength in getting that insight into him. He’s not evil for the sake of evil, he’s just another man trying to fit the changing world into his personal belief system, like all of us are.

Granted, his personal belief system involves human sacrifice, so we can all definitively call him “the bad guy”, but there is a very scared person under that badness and getting that look at his psyche is a visceral reminder of that old truism: “No one is the villain in their own mind.” The antagonist thinks that what he is doing will save his people, just as the protagonists are trying to save theirs.

Because, at the end of the day, beneath the fact that these are all early humans and neanderthal descendants, they are still just people. People beautifully researched, imagined, and rendered by a man with a talent for storytelling and a knack for weaving fact into his work. When you finish The Drowning Lands, I highly recommend reading the Afterword, where Donachie lays out the historical basis for his characters and setting. There’s a retroactive richness added to the experience when you realize how grounded in potential fact and believable hypothesis this novel truly is.

An excellent story, well told, and certainly one I’ll be recommending to friends looking for a fresh new voice.

5/5

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The world is drowning.

Edan’s tribe has always survived by knowing the land and following its stories. But now their world is changing, and they must change with it, or die.

When young fisherman Edan rescues the troll seer Tara from Phelan wolf-touched, he makes a powerful enemy. But Tara’s visions bring them hope that the world might still be saved.

Edan must break away from tradition and cross the Summer Lands in search of a new future, but where does that future lie? With Phelan’s wolf clan? With the Fomor sea-devils? Or with Tara’s uncertain hope for salvation?

The Drowning Land takes us back eight thousand years to the Mesolithic Period when a lost land, Doggerland, still connected England to France across what is now the North Sea. Inspired by the extensive research conducted by archaeologists over the past two decades, this is a story of our distant ancestors and how they confronted the climate catastrophe that overwhelmed their world.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance John Eyre by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

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There is a very specific kind of delight in delving into a novel that retells a favorite story.

We know that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together, but what’s this I hear about zombies wandering around in regency England? What do you mean Maria is a vampire and merrily turning the Von Trapp children into the undead on a whim? Mansfield Park with a mummy curse?

Yes please. Any of it. All of it.

And to these hallowed halls of lovingly upended classics, Mimi Matthews brings us John Eyre, a retelling of Bronte’s Jane Eyre with several delicious inversions. The gender swapping is the obvious one, we have Bertha Rochester and John Eyre rather than Edward and Jane of the original. We have two silent boys of unknown origin for John to teach, rather than the precocious little French girl who was Jane’s charge. And lastly, delightfully, where Charlotte Bronte only hinted at the vampiric nature of the spouse chained up in the attic (see Anatol’s The Things That Fly In The Night if you’re curious about that), Matthews takes the concept and runs with it.

And when I say she runs with it, I mean she runs with it.

We’re back to classic vampire lore here: wolves, mist, silver and sunlight—there’s not a sparkle to be seen and no fixing this vamp with love.

Where the examples listed in the opening of this review all light heartedly melded supernatural elements with the original stories for largely comedic effect, Matthews is telling us a straight up vampire horror, with all the supernatural spooks, classic vampiric powers, and peril that entails.

Fitting, since the original Jane Eyre isn’t exactly a comedy to begin with and trying to make it one might cause some tonal issues.

For me, when reading a retelling like this, half the delight comes from comparing it to the original story. What changes did the second author make to the first’s work? What did they do that works better?

One of the great strengths of John Eyre comes from the dual narrators. Where Jane Eyre is told in the first person “I” and exclusively from Jane’s perspective as the events of the story happen to her, Matthews switches things up. John Eyre maintains a third person “he/she/they” perspective on our main storyline with a focus on the titular character, interspersed with old letters and journal entries from Bertha giving readers her backstory and crucially, slowly unveiling her first husband.

Where Bronte leaves Rochester a gruff enigma, giving readers only hints of how he became the man he is until the final big reveal at the climax, Matthews helps us know both of her leads. We watch Bertha grow from a relatively naïve, if intelligent and well-travelled, heiress into the strong, commanding woman that John meets when he comes to Thornfield Hall over a year later. We learn about both halves of this developing relationship and are more invested in the relationship because of it.

I’m a firm believer that there are no stories so sacred they can’t be retold should the right person attempt it, and with John Eyre Matthews has proven herself to be the right person. If I hadn’t had to eat and do a load of laundry, this would have been a finished in one sitting kind of book. As it is, it’s still a finished in one day book.

Excellent, all the way around.

5/5

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From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

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