ARC Book Review: The Spinner’s Child by Crispina Kemp

The Spinner’s Child is the first book in the soon-to-be-released series The Spinner’s Game by Crispina Kemp.

My thanks to Crispina Kemp for the ARC of this book in return for an honest review. The Spinner’s Child, and the rest of The Spinner’s Game, will be available from 21st March 2020 from Amazon, and is currently available for pre-order.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

The Spinner’s Child is a fantastic, enchanting read. Wonderfully written, it’s a highly imaginative historical fantasy, filled with engaging characters, captivating locations and a gripping storyline. Recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Spliced with dark material, sprinkled with the mystical. Join Kerrid’s journey through the timeless first days… and into the Spinner’s Web

Cursed, friendless and shunned, fraudulent seer Kerrid, born of a fisher-hunter clan, holds two beliefs. That in her psychic abilities and exuded light she is unique, and as Voice of the Lady she’s exempt from an arranged marriage. Both convictions are shattered when nine boats arrive from the east carrying the ancient Chief Uissinir who wants her for his wife, and five of his sons who emit lights and share tricks like her own. Forced to make an unwise judgement, a trail of death follows.

Questions plague her. Why does she dream of babies dying? Why does a voice in her head taunt her: Suffer the loss, suffer the pain? And what is she that no matter how lethal the wound, she does not die?

What is she to kill with a thought?

Favourite Quote

She prayed to the Lady of the Hills, to her sons and First Woman too, She prayed for deliverance from the end envisaged by Breathman Bargli. Any decision, please; any doom other than eaten by cats.

(From The Spinner’s Child by Crispina Kemp, Chapter 3)

Review

I was lucky enough to beta-read this book (the whole series, in fact) and instantly fell in love with the characters, the story and the setting.  So, naturally, I was keen to read and review the ARC when given the opportunity to do so.

The Spinner’s Child is the first instalment in a five book historical fantasy series. Highly imaginative and epic in every sense, it tells the story of Kerrid.  This first book covers her childhood through to the first years of her becoming a woman.

Kerrid is a wonderful main character.  I connected to her very quickly, and at times, was brought to tears by things that go on around her.  My! Things are not easy for her. Her relationships, even to her mother and father, are never straightforward.  As her journey of self-discovery progresses, she is faced with ever more complex issues and her fate isn’t often in her own hands.

Then there are the questions to which she must find the answers.  Who is she? What is she? Why is she different?  It is this search for answers that motivates her, even when things seem bleak, showing a strength of character I greatly admire.

Other characters I liked were Sarat – of course!  I can see how his crafting abilities must have seemed like magic to those uninitiated in their process and his interactions with Kerrid were sweet. There was also Breathman Bargli…a wise and sensible man with such a kind heart.

The world-building is fantastic.  You can clearly see where the author has researched meticulously.  The knowledge and descriptions of cultures and societies, settlements, handicrafts and textiles are rich and detailed, but there is no overloading of information.  The language and terminology adds an extra layer of authenticity and helps to bring this vibrant setting to life.

However, it is the mythologies and spirituality, but especially the “feast fables” that captivated me the most. These stories within the story are really interesting, and harken back to a time when lore and explanations of what was, what is and what will be, were to be found in easily recognisable tales, ones that were simple to recall and to repeat. These are the first stories and those that told them, the first storytellers.

The author has a striking writing style, which I enjoyed.  The story is superbly crafted and perfectly paced, and I must mention the book cover: it captures the essence of the tale perfectly. And, a note on the formatting: the book is nicely laid out, includes a beautiful map of the area in which the story is set, and there are lovely graphics to be found on the title pages. Ebooks can often look plain and functional compared to print books, their only nod to aesthetics being drop caps at the beginning of chapters, so in comparison, this comes across as beautifully presented.

All-in-all, a splendid, enchanting read.  The second book in the series is Lake of Dreams, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.  Highly recommended, especially to those who enjoy historical fantasy.

Rating

Book Review: Dawnthief by James Barclay

Dawnthief is the first book in The Chronicles of The Raven by James Barclay.

Quick review (read on for full review)

A solid, engaging start to a fantasy series, with a fresh take on magic, a fast pace and a cast of characters that is both varied and interesting.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Raven: six men and an elf, sword for hire in the wars that have torn apart Balaia. For years their loyalty has been only to themselves and their code.

But, that time is over. The Wytch Lords have escaped and The Raven find themselves fighting for the Dark College of magic, searching for the location of Dawnthief. It is a spell created to end the world, and it must be cast if any of them are to survive.

Favourite Quote

They didn’t take a contract because they believed in the cause.  In fact the cause was largely irrelevant.  The job had to be made worth their while, worth their reputation and worth their attendance. Worth the risk.

(From Dawnthief by James Barclay, page 50)

Review

I had tried to read this book once before, but for some reason really struggled to get into it.  However, I always try to give books a second chance if they sound like books I should love, and I’m so glad I did.  Although I found the start a bit of a slow burn as I tried to get acquainted with the world, characters and storyline, I did find the book engaging once I got into it.

There’s plenty of action and adventure to be found in the story.  In that respect, it reminded me a little of Stan Nicholl’s ‘Orcs’ series which I read last year, in as much as fantasy plus action equals a fast and energetic pace.

I enjoyed the world-building.  It mixed simple geography – the world is divided into two, with the “goodies” on one side of a mountain chain and the “baddies” on the other – with a more complex structure because of the magical colleges and the fractious relationship between other cities.  I also liked how magic worked in this world and how it differed between the colleges.

It’s a big book – my copy was over 500 pages – and in the beginning, when I was trying to get into the story, it felt a little overwhelming, but that was quickly replaced with eagerness to discover what was coming next, which to me often felt unpredictable and unexpected.

A couple of things didn’t make sense to me.  One was a strategy that seemed a little counter-intuitive in certain situations, and the other, which I won’t mention for fear of spoilers, I hope will make better sense as I read subsequent books in the series.  That being said, these two thins were not enough to severely limit my enjoyment of the book.

On the whole, I liked the characters and found them engaging with interesting back stories. The concept of The Raven was a good one, and as the theme of brotherhood runs through the book, you can see how it affects the characters and their motivations.

Overall, I’m looking forward to reading book two in the series, Noonshade.

Rating

3.5 / 5


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #16 in the list: a book you didn’t finish on your previous attempt to read it

Book Review: The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in the Glass and Steel series by C. J. Archer.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Engaging, entertaining and a good first book in a series.  A fun read, with an interesting cast of characters and a great setting.  Looking forward to reading the next book.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he’s ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won’t tell India why any old one won’t do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London’s best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she’s certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she’ll find herself unemployed and homeless again – and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life.

Favourite Quote

“You’d better not wager anything you can’t afford to lose.”

(The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer, Chapter 17)

Review

I’ve been meaning to read “The Medium”, the first book in the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy, by this author for ages.  I can’t remember how long it’s been sitting on my digital shelf, but it’s been there a while.  Then when I was perusing the same set of digital shelves last week for an indie read, this cover called to me.  To be fair, I think this book has also been waiting at least a year for some attention, and it’s finally got it.

First thing’s first. I love the cover.  The colours and fonts are eye-catching, and the imagery is well-suited to the story.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is a fantasy story set in Victorian England; I’m not sure there are enough elements in it to categorise it as steampunk, at least not yet – that might come as the series continues.  I found the storyline very interesting: characters from the Wild West on a quest through dark and gritty Victorian London, with the help of young, destitute woman with connections to the city’s watchmakers.  What’s not to like?

I liked the characters.  India Steel, I liked on the whole, though on a handful of occasions I questioned her thinking / actions.  It’s always nice to come across a character who turns out to be stronger than she thought possible, and who has what it takes to triumph over the difficulties in her path, and this is how I saw India for the majority of the book.  Matthew Glass, again was a likeable character.  His secrets gave him a mysterious air, though the way he was portrayed suggested (to me, if not India) that he could always be trusted.  As for the rest of the characters, they are quirky and / or disreputable, and I think they worked well in both the setting and the story.

I was engaged enough with the story to not want to put the book down.  I wanted to see how this first instalment would end, and even though I anticipated much of what was to happen, I enjoyed the reading of it, and there were still a number of plot twists I didn’t expect.

I couldn’t decide between awarding this book 3.5 or 4 stars, but the beautiful cover encouraged me to be generous.  For the first book in a series, I thought it did a good job introducing the reader to the world it is set in, and to the cast of characters, and I’m looking forward to continue reading it.  The next book in the series, The Mapmaker’s Apprentice, has been added to my TBR list.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #19 in the list: A book by an indie author.

Short Story Review: The Taking by Stan Nicholls

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting short story, offering further insight into the world of The Wolverines.  4 / 5

Summary

It’s Braetagg’s Day, a day of festivities for Orcs, but when the focal point of the celebrations goes missing, there’s only one place to turn if the day is to be rescued before word gets out regarding what’s happened: The Wolverines.  To make things even harder for the elite warband, they have a new member in the ranks, having only joined The Wolverines that very morning.  Will their inclusion help or hinder the mission?

Favourite Quote

‘Humans were eating the magic.’

(From The Taking by Stan Nicholls, pg 693)

Review

I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning (see my review here), Legion of Thunder (see review here) and Warriors of the Tempest (review here)) which also included this short story, The Taking, and I have reviewed each of the stories separately.

This short story is set before the start of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy.  It’s Corporal Coilla’s first day in The Wolverines.  As the only female orc in the warband, I find her character intriguing.  She’s strong and intelligent and one of my favourite characters from the trilogy.  I was also pleased to find included in the story the other characters from the three novels I’d already read, especially Jup and Alfray, another two of my favourites.

This was a fantastic short story that showed another dimension to the Orcs, offering more cultural background to their race and the world they live in.  Once again, there was plenty of fast-paced action and the storyline did not disappoint.  It was engaging and entertaining and has only further ensured I continue on reading this series.

The Taking is perfect for those already familiar with the setting and the characters.  I found it to be an interesting, insightful read, which only added to my enjoyment of the series and the world in which it is set.  Sometimes short stories can fall flat if they follow on from high energy, full length novels which are full of adventure because there just isn’t the space within the word limit to emulate the bigger storylines and subplots.  That isn’t a problem here.

All-in-all, this was a great read and a wonderful addition to the Orcs series of stories.

Rating

Book Review: Warriors of the Tempest by Stan Nicholls

Warriors of the Tempest is the final book in the Orcs: First Blood Trilogy by Stan Nicholls.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Fast paced and action packed, Warriors of the Tempest was a fantastic final book in the trilogy. Exciting, unpredictable and unputdownable. 4.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The third volume in Nicholls’s critically acclaimed fantasy finds Maras Dantia drowning in war. Stryke, head of the renegade orcs, and his warband have found the long-lost relic they need–but still do not know how to use it. And, while they try to figure it out, enemies hunt them from every corner. Worse yet, the three sisters are close to forming an alliance that will overturn history. Time is running out to save the world. Nicholls’s masterworks are the first to tell the story from the other side–from the point of view of the orcs, the villains of Lord of the Rings.

Favourite Quote

Jennesta’s chariot was decked with flowers.  She’d had the whirling knives removed.  It wouldn’t do to upset potential subjects by cutting their legs off.

(Warriors of the Tempest by Stan Nicholls, pg 625)

Review

I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning (see my review here), Legion of Thunder (see review here) and Warriors of the Tempest) which also includes a short story, The Taking, and I will be reviewing the books separately.

Now I’ve got to the end of the trilogy, I can say wholeheartedly that this is one of the best fantasy series I have read in recent years.  Honestly, I felt a little sad when I finished it.  I never imagined how entertaining orcs as main characters in a book could be.  Not only that, I never thought that I would find myself rooting for them and hoping they would come out on top.  Stan Nicholls has seriously changed and challenged my view on Orcs.

I couldn’t possibly pick one single favourite character but I thought Stryke was a great leader; he was insightful and perceptive and I can see why others wanted to follow him.  Coilla was feisty and Alfray was wise.  Haskeer was amusing and Jup dependable…Outside of the Wolverines, I thought Krista, the High Priestess from Ruffet’s View, was interesting and provided a counter balance to the portrayal of humans in the story.

This was a fantastic end to the trilogy.  Once more, this volume was fast paced and action packed, full of battles and unexpected plot twists.  The ending was exciting, unpredictable and unputdownable.

Again, we got to see places not yet visited in the previous two books.  Maras Dantia was an interesting world to explore, both geographically and with regards to the people who lived there.

Warriors of the Tempest was a great final book in Orcs: First Blood. Though I’m at the end of the trilogy, I’m pleased to see that there are more books in this series, which have been duly added to my ‘Have To Buy’ list…I can’t wait to read more about Stryke, Coilla and the rest of the Wolverines.  In the mean time, I have the short story, The Taking, to read and review…

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Legion of Thunder by Stan Nicholls

Legion of Thunder is the second book in the Orcs: First Blood Trilogy by Stan Nicholls.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Addictive, compelling, unpredictable.  A refreshing fantasy read set in an interesting world and peopled with engaging characters. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A blistering sequel to the acclaimed Bodyguard of Lightning takes you into a world full of wonder, magic, and encroaching dark. In the land of Maras Dantias, peace once reigned. Then the humans came, wreaking destruction, killing the enchantment, and bringing war. Even the climate changed, with once-warm summers now autumnal. Of all the races in Maras Dantias, the Orcs, led by Stryke, were the most ferocious. Now, he and his troops have become renegades, chased by his own people as well as the humans. Only a long-lost relic can save them now–and the rest of Maras Dantias, too. But, time is running out and a new foe endangers them all.

Favourite Quote

Alfray remembered that gnomes were notorious for knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.  Good road courtesy, for instance.

(Legion of Thunder by Stan Nicholls, pg 314)

Review

I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning (see my review here), Legion of Thunder and Warriors of the Tempest) which also includes a short story, The Taking, and I will be reviewing the books separately.

As the second book in the trilogy, Legion of Thunder was just as good as the first book, Bodyguard of Lightning.  Sometimes middle books in a series fall flat or are simply there to fill out the space between books one and two, but not so in this case.  The plot moved with purpose and direction and did a great job of continuing to hold my interest after the first book whilst setting up the story for the final book in the trilogy.

Once again there is a lot of fast paced action, and plenty of well-written fight scenes and battles.  If you’re a writer and what to learn how to write battle scenes, I recommend you give any of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy a read.

The world-building continued to fascinate me. Whilst the story unfolded, we got to explore more of Maras-Dantia, as well as meet more of the wide-ranging folk who live there.  My favourite were probably the centaurs but the gnomes were quite fun too (see favourite quote above).

Once again, I was surprised at how easily I found myself willing on the orcs that make up the warband the Wolverines.  This fantasy story is so refreshing and unique.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traditional fantasy with the usual tropes, but once in a while it is nice to be taken by surprise.  I didn’t know what to expect because the story isn’t predictable.

Whilst I’m writing this review, I have already finished reading the final book of the trilogy, Warriors of the Tempest.  What I have read has been addictive and compelling, and I’m pleased that I had all three books of the trilogy to hand in the omnibus edition; I would have hated waiting to get my hands on the next one (these days, I tend to only read paperback books rather than ebooks).

Rating

Book Review: Bodyguard of Lightning by Stan Nicholls

Bodyguard of Lightning is the first book in the Orcs: First Blood Trilogy by Stan Nicholls.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An unusual and surprisingly engrossing fantasy that sees orcs take centre stage; full of action and fast paced, this is an interesting world, full of interesting characters.  As soon as I finished the first book in the trilogy, I had to start reading the second. 4 / 5

Summary (from Amazon)

A fast moving, action packed epic that for the first time tells the story of fantasy’s traditional enemy, giving orcs their own heroes, motives and destinies.

An epic quest that takes orc warband leader Stryke and his warriors on a journey to secure five artefacts of power with which they hope they can buy their freedom but which actually hold the key to everything and the explanation of the sudden incursion that is leeching the magic out of Maras-Dantia.

Favourite Quote

‘…it continues to this day, and grows more fevered. The rounding-up of free-roaming animals for their meat and hides, the overgrazing…’

‘The fouling of rivers,’ Coilla added, ‘the levelling of forests.’

‘Putting villages to the torch,’ Jup contributed.

‘Spreading their foul diseases,’ Alfray said.

(Bodyguard of Light by Stan Nicholls, pg 109)

Review

I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder and Warriors of the Tempest) which also includes a short story, The Taking, and I will be reviewing the books separately.

To begin with, this story takes what we usually find in fantasy stories and turns it on its head.  Orcs, while not wholly the good guys (that would be far too simplistic), in terms of this tale, the orcs that make up the Wolverines (the warband led by Stryke) are pretty much the heroes.  On the opposite side is nearly everyone else, including humans.  So, from the outset we know this isn’t going to be your usual fantasy fare.

I quickly became caught up in the story.  It’s strange, because I never thought I would easily find myself supporting orcs, let alone positively liking them.  Perhaps they’ve just had too much bad press in fantasy stories…?  Hmm… Or perhaps, which I think is most likely, they have never before been portrayed as they have in these stories (at least, not in the stories I have read).  Usually they are seen as stupid, mindless, skirmish / battle fodder, yet here they are presented as intelligent, sensible, sensitive to the environment, and even on occasion, capable of mercy and compassion, and not just towards their own kind, but other species of the elder races, and sometimes even humans, albeit, rarely.

I found myself genuinely liking and rooting for some of the characters, Stryke and Coilla especially, but Jup the dwarf and Alfray too.  But there are some truly nasty characters peopling the story too, the worst two being Jennesta, the part-human part-nyadd Queen of Cairnbarrow and Kimball Hobrow, the leader of one of the two groups of humans, who are split along religious lines.

The world the author has constructed is fascinating, as is how humans are depicted.  If aliens were to stumble across Earth, I wouldn’t be surprised if the conclusions they draw about us are the same, at least in terms of wilfully damaging the environment.  I spent a long time studying and appreciating the map of the world – geographer here! 😉  It’s an absorbing, varied landscape, with some interesting sounding place names, such as “Scratch” and “Ladygrove”.

There is much action to be found in the story and as such, the pace is fast.  It is also comes across as a bit gory – a bit too much for my liking, hence the losing of a star when I came to rating it.  That being said, it held my attention firmly, from start to finish, and, as soon as I finished it, I threw myself straight in the next book in the series.  So, overall, I found this book addictive reading.

If you want something different to the usually fantasy read, and enjoy lots of well-written fights and battles, there’s a good chance you would like this.

Rating