Book Review: The Ambassadors’ Mission by Trudi Canavan

the-ambassadors-mission-front-coverThe Ambassadors’ Mission is the first book in The Traitor Spy trilogy by Trudi Canavan.

The Traitor Spy Trilogy is the sequel to The Black Magician Trilogy (my reviews for which you can find here: The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice, The High Lord)

Set twenty years after The High Lord and the Ichani invasion, Sonea is now one of two Black Magicians in the Magicians’ Guild.  The Guild is still fearful of black magicians, so by having two, they can each ensure that the other is not getting up to anything they shouldn’t.  And that’s not the only change – Kyralia and the Guild have come quite far since our last visit.

Sonea and Akkarin’s son, Lorkin, has now completed his own studies at the Guild, but struggles a little, living in the shadow of such famous parents, and is feeling restless.  When he hears that Lord Dannyl, his mother’s friend and the former ambassador to Elyne, wants to go to Sachaka and become the new Guild Ambassador to the strange land to the north, Lorkin is determined to become his assistant.  But being Akkarin’s son has consequences, as he comes to discover.

Whilst this is going on, Sonea has problems of her own to deal with back in Imardin.  A “thief hunter” is on the loose in the city, killing off Thieves.  When an old friend is targeted, she is drawn into the hunt for the one responsible, especially because there is a suspicion that they might be a rogue magician…something she knows more than a little about…

As some of you may know if you’ve been around this blog long enough, Trudi Canavan is one of my favourite fantasy authors, which came about upon reading The Black Magician Trilogy. (Which, in my opinion, is one of the best trilogies ever written.)  And, the first book in the sequel trilogy certainly lives up to them.

It was great to catch up with some of the old characters: Sonea, Rothen, Cery and Dannyl, as well as get to know to some new ones: Lorkin, Tyvara and Anyi.  The way the plot has advanced over the twenty years between the series is consistent and believable, and the story flows with ease between the different story threads and points-of-view.

Sachaka is an interesting if harsh country, with customs quite different to those found in Kyralia.  There are no servants employed there, only slaves, something that makes Kyralians understandably uncomfortable.  And magic is quite different there too.

All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Ambassadors’ Mission, and look forward to reading book 2 in The Traitor Spy TrilogyThe Rogue.  I would gladly recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy fiction, but would suggest that they might want to read The Black Magician Trilogy before embarking on this one.

Short Story Review: Who Stole the Fish? By Peter Tremayne

murder-through-the-ages-front-coverWho Stole the Fish? is a Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne.

It is 664 AD, Ireland.  The Abbey of Durrow has an important visitor, an emissary from Rome.  Naturally, at the evening meal, an extravagant dish is to be served to their guest: a great salmon.  Only during the early part of the meal, Sister Fidelma’s presence is required in the kitchen by Abbot Laisran.  The fish has gone missing, along with the man who has been cooking it.  And the abbot wants the mystery cleared up before the emissary hears anything about it.

But where is the fist?  And where is the cook?

Although I have a number of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries sitting on my bookshelves, I have yet to get around to reading one.  So this short story is my first introduction to the sleuthing nun, and I must say, I liked her.  She is sensible, logical and observant – nothing escapes her notice.  I am now determined to read a full-length novel staring Sister Fidelma in the new year.

A great read!

I found this short story in, Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, edited by Maxim Jakubowski.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean, cold-hearted, miserly man, whose life is changed when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.  Marley informs him that he will be visited by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

And so begins one of the most famous tales of redemption in literature….

It has only been a few years since I last read A Christmas Carol, but I was surprised to learn that when I checked my review index, I hadn’t reviewed it.  (I knew that A-Z index would come in handy one day).  So, I thought it would be a great addition to this year’s Festive Reads Fortnight.  To add a little festive fun to the reading of it, I read a chapter a night, by candlelight, in the run-up to Christmas Eve, the last chapter being reserved for the night before Christmas.

What struck me most about the story on this particular reading, was the humour with which Dickens tells the story of Scrooge, something that I think I haven’t picked up on previous readings.  Of course, humour isn’t something one readily thinks of when reading Dickens, but it’s refreshing to read an old classic in a new light.  However, that doesn’t mean that the philanthropic message and the plight of the poor was lost.  Nor the warning that by putting money before all else, you will create a cold and lonely life for yourself: a message that is just as important today, as when the story was written in 1843, I think.

Compelling reading, and perhaps my favourite Dickens story.

Short Story Review: A Dangerous Nativity by Caroline Warfield

When the Duke of Murnane dies, the responsibility of running the estate falls on his widow’s brother, William, Earl of Chadbourn.  But when he arrives, he finds a rich, vast estate in a state of disrepair.  As he goes about the business of taking stock, he stumbles across a small holding and cottage on the edge of the estate and is instantly taken with the young woman he finds there.  She is strong, intelligent and knows about farming.  But what is her story?  And why does the family have nothing to do with the big house?

I thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas short story set during the Regency.  The love tale itself is charming, the idea of the boys nativity play hilarious, and the cast on the whole, easy to warm to.  I would certainly enjoy reading more of these characters in the future.to see what becomes of them all, and I would happily re-read this story again…

I downloaded A Dangerous Nativity for free from Smashwords.

Winter Magic – an anthology update

You might remember a few months ago I was looking to put together an anthology of short fiction and poetry on the theme of “Winter Magic”.  At the beginning of December, the anthology was released on Wattpad.

final-cover

To learn more about the anthology, what it’s about and what talented authors have their amazing work featured in it, click the cover above.

You can read the anthology for Free, by clicking here.

Not on Wattpad but still want to read it?  Click here.

Book Review: Jingle Spells edited by Heather Marie Adkins (part 2)

Here’s the second part of my review of the CyberWitch Press anthology, Jingle Spells.  If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Molly by Brittany White

Molly has had a tough life. Now living on the streets, she is in a bad way.  When she is held at knife-point and robbed in a dark alley, she is saved by a stranger, who realises what she is.  But if he knows, others will too. There’s no way Molly can imagine the danger she is in…or how special she is…

As I read this short story I couldn’t help but feel for poor Molly.  She’s had such a hard time – I had to keep reading just to see how things turned out for her.  An engaging read.

Holiday Dreams by K. Laslie

Ayden is quite different and always has been.  He dreams things that eventually come true.  It’s a secret he’s never been able to share, and so he’s kept it to himself for years.  But one winter the dreams change and what he is shown scares him.  Is he going to be able to deal with what he has seen this time?

I liked this story; it’s different, and Ayden is a character one can easily empathise with.  His story is a hard one, made harder because of his “gift” but it was interesting to read how Ayden developed throughout the tale.  A compelling read.

The Witch’s Brew by Heather Maria Adkins

Daiya runs “The Witch’s Brew”, a coffee shop in Tates Creek, where she adds a little bit of magic to each drink she brews for her customers.  On the way home from work one night, Daiya discovers the body of a murdered man in the woods.  But who is he?  And who has killed him?

I loved this story, and if I was in Tates Creek I would definitely be getting my hot drinks and pastries from “The Witch’s Brew”.  Daiya is a great main character and my kind of witch – magical and practical.  The supporting cast are great too, as is the setting.  A thoroughly captivating read.

So that wraps up my review of the anthology.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  All the stories were quite different, and I would certainly like to read more from each of the authors in the future.  I am honoured to have my work appear amongst theirs.  You can download a copy of Jingle Spells for FREE via Smashwords, by following this link.

Book Review: Jingle Spells edited by Heather Marie Adkins (part 1)

Up first for 2016’s Festive Reads Fortnight is Jingle Spells, a multi-author anthology from CyberWitch Press, which you can download for FREE from Smashwords.  I usually review the short stories in an anthology individually, but this time I am going to divide the review into two parts.

Now, before we begin, a little disclaimer: this post is equal parts shameless plugging and book review.  Why?  Because I have a short story in it.  Needless to say, I’m not going to review my own contribution, but I will add a short description of what it’s about, just in case anyone is interested.

So, let’s begin…

Jingle Spells is the first of the CyberWitch Press Short Fiction Anthologies, and is edited by Heather Marie Adkins, who runs the small press.  She also designed the pretty cover.

Solstice Flames by J. Laslie

Solstice Flames tells the story of Anya Sutherland, an ordinary girl from Meade Harbour, Massachusetts, awaiting the coming of the school’s Holiday Dance, where rumour has it, Heath Lockhart was going to ask her to go with him.  Anya couldn’t be more excited or more nervous, but in the run-up to the dance, something she can’t explain begins to happen to her…

This was quite an individual tale, where the modern world maintains out-dated laws.  I really felt for Anya, and I wasn’t sure how the story was going to end, which kept me guessing until the very last lines.  A great read.

A Midwinter Manifestation by Sammi Cox

It is Midwinter Eve, and Maeve Featherstone, a modern-day sorceress, is having a quiet night in and hoping to plan her Winter Solstice celebrations.  However, her presence is urgently required at Evie Whitworth’s house. Evie has repeatedly been told to stop dabbling in magic, but she never listens.  The question is, what has Evie done this time?  Will the arrival of an unexpected guest ruin the festive period for Evie and the entire village of Wood End? Not if Maeve can help it…

This is the first short story to feature the Secret Sorceress, Maeve Featherstone, but look out for more from her in the future…I have a few ideas planned, and some all ready finished…

The Witch’s Shoes by Sidonia Rose

Arwen goes out one evening with her cousin to a club, in the run-up to the winter solstice.  In the club she meets Brogan, next to whom she wakes the following the morning, only to find that the room is full of falling feathers.  It’s clear that magic is afoot, but Arwen has no idea who Brogan is and what his presence means for her.

This story is told from both the viewpoints of Arwen and Brogan, which added a nice dose of humour to the story as we saw it unfold from their individual perspectives.  An interesting read.

Part 2 will be posted soon…