Book Review: Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Prince Caspian is the fourth book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable and engaging fantasy read, with a wonderful cast of characters, both old and new, and with a different Narnia to explore. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Pevensie siblings are back to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

Favourite Quote

“That’s the worst of girls,” said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. “They never carry a map in their heads.”

“That’s because our heads have something inside them,” said Lucy.

(From Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis, page 105)

Review

Prince Caspian was the second Narnia book written by C. S. Lewis to be published.  However, in the chronological reading order it is actually book four, and it is this order I am reading the series in.

I think Prince Caspian might be my favourite book in The Chronicles of Narnia so far. I loved the time travel aspects of this book, with hundreds, if not a thousand years having passed since the Pevensies were kings and queens of Narnia. The country as they remember it no longer exists, the people having changed and the landscape having evolved with the passing of time.  Yet, all the things which made Narnia special lives on in folklore and memory.

Lucy, as always is my favourite, but Edmund really has grown up. The lessons he learnt in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe have had a profound effect on his character, whilst Peter and Susan are more adult than children, which is reflected in their decision-making, making them appear a little out of step with the world they find themselves back in.

The names of the characters were well-chosen.  Not only did they sound like they reflected the characters, but they were just simply awesome.  A few examples being the mouse Reepicheep, the centaur Glenstorm, the giant Wimbleweather, the dwarf Nikabrick.

Again, I can’t help but see parallels with Tolkien’s writings, and I love that they were friends and were part of the same writing group, so would have discussed these aspects of their books together. Yes, I digress…In this instalment, it was that small people can be brave and save the world, and as for worldbuilding / fantasy elements there was a part that reminded me of the march of the ents…

There was only one part of the story I didn’t like, and it did interrupt my enjoyment of the book, albeit briefly. It was when a group of schoolgirls were said to be “mostly dumpy, prim little girls with fat legs”, (page 171), and a group of schoolboys, “who looked very like pigs” with “mean little faces” (page 172). The descriptions seem unnecessarily mean and cruel, and there appeared to be no justification for it.

The next book in The Chronicles of Narnia is The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, and I must say, I am really looking forward to it. After enjoying Prince Caspian so much, my expectations have risen…

Rating

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy is the third book, chronologically, in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fairy tale-like story full of beautiful landscapes and adventure. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Horse and his Boy is a stirring and dramatic fantasy story that finds a young boy named Shasta on the run from his homeland with the talking horse, Bree. When the pair discover a deadly plot by the Calormen people to conquer the land of Narnia, the race is on to warn the inhabitants of the impending danger and to rescue them all from certain death.

Favourite Quote

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

(From The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, page 130)

Review

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. It had a fairy tale quality to it which I liked. I didn’t expect most of the tale to take place outside of Narnia, in the kingdom to south called Calormen, but I found the location fascinating.

One of my favourite parts was the description of the journey north, and the different landscapes they passed through as they try to reach Narnia. I liked the characters.  Bree and Shasta, and Hwin and Aravis were interesting and I liked how Shasta and Aravis interacted. Aravis’s shy, gentle talking horse was my favourite. And, although the main characters were different, we still got to meet the Pevensies, who were now all grown up.

What I really didn’t like about the book was that you can’t get away from the undertone of racism in some of descriptions of the people. This certainly dates the book back to a time when this was acceptable, and it did hamper my enjoyment of it, hence the loss of a star, though I wonder if it should have lost another…I did struggle to rate this book because of this.

I noted a couple of similarities between Lewis’s Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The first was the use of the name “Bree”.  The second was a description of the city of Tashbaan, which reminded me a little of Minas Tirith.  I still prefer Middle Earth over Narnia, both in terms of location and stories, but I am really enjoying this series and am happy to be working my way through it, from beginning to end.

Chronologically-speaking, The Horse and His Boy, is the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia, but it was the fifth book to be published. The next book in the series is Prince Caspian, which I am really looking forward to reading. I hope I get around to doing so soon.

Rating

Book Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Enchanting and unforgettable, a wonderful fantasy read for both children and adults alike. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Narnia…the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.

Favourite Quote

There were so many to choose from, but in the end I picked this one:

“…Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

(From The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, page 17)

Review

It’s been many years since I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and having read the first book (chronologically speaking, not in terms of publication order) in The Chronicles of Narnia earlier in the year, I thought it was time to read the most famous instalment in the series.  I must confess to feelings of slight trepidation as I opened the book.  I didn’t enjoy The Magician’s Nephew as much as I hoped I would, and so couldn’t help but wonder if I would find this book as enjoyable reading it as an adult as I did as a child…

My fears were completely unfounded.  I loved it.  The characters were engaging, the world-building enchanting and the story itself, certainly unforgettable.  I enjoyed reading it as much as I did when I was younger.  It’s nice to know that the story has stood the test of time (at least for myself).  There’s a comfort aspect to reading something you enjoyed as a child.

The characters, of course, are memorable: Aslan’s personification of “good” versus the White Witch’s “evil”, Mr Tumnus the Faun and the four children.  Lucy was always my favourite of the latter, but this time round, I did feel a lot more sympathy towards Edmund.  There were a few I had forgotten until I started reading: Mr and Mrs Beaver, but perhaps more importantly, a rather well-known seasonal figure…

The Christian themes that are woven through the tale / inspired the tale, are clearly visible to me now, though at a younger age they probably didn’t even register with me.  I have always been one to get swept up in a story without necessarily paying attention to hidden themes and subtext.  However, this time I did notice but I didn’t find them overbearing.  I just noted it and moved on as the story carried me away.

I liked how the narrator was separate from the story and spoke directly to the reader. It meant that the tale was peppered with little snippets, such as hoping the reader never felt as sad as…, which really added something to the storytelling.

One of my favourite lines comes from the dedication at the start of the book, and I just think it is so magical:

“…But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Over all, I still prefer Tolkien’s writing, and Middle Earth to Narnia, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed this book any less because of it, and I have no doubt, I will return to re-read it, again, and again, and again…

The next book in The Chronicles of Narnia is The Horse and His Boy, which I don’t think I read as a child…

Rating

Book Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Forever is the third book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable and fitting third book in the trilogy.  I love Maggie’s Stiefvater’s style of writing. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

then.
When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.

now.
That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.

forever.
Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment–a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

Favourite Quote

Overhead, the stars were wheeling and infinite, a complicated mobile made by giants. They pulled me amongst them, into space and memories.

(From Forever by Maggie Stiefvater, page 85)

Review

It had been a few years since I read and reviewed the first two books in The Wolves of Mercy Fall trilogy (you can read those reviews here: Shiver, and Linger), back in 2017.  So I thought it was about time I got around to complete reading the trilogy.

I like the way Maggie Stiefvater writes.  There is fluidity to passages and the imagery she paints with words is amazing (see Favourite Quote above).  There is just something very simple but full of impact in descriptions like that.

The setting for the story, by which I mean the natural spaces, is stunning.  I loved the descriptions of the woods, and as the story moved towards the final third / quarter, the pacing really picked up.

Grace and Sam were (of course) the stars of story.  Their romance and what it must survive and overcome is quite unlike anything else I’ve read, probably because the forces at work are so beyond either of their control.  Out of the two, Sam was my favourite: he’s got a lot going on but handles the pressure fantastically.  Grace, for all her intelligence, was more self-involved and seemed occupied with a fair few “I want to do / see…” thoughts, some of which didn’t really make sense to me, given the danger that was all around them.

Although it was interesting to see what was going on from Cole and Isabel’s perspective, and they do have their own storylines and parts to play in the overall story, which I appreciated, I sometimes felt they were a little too distracting.  However, that wasn’t the case each and every time the POV switched to them, but on occasion it felt like the story was moving further away from Grace and Sam.  What I learned as I was writing this review, and thinking that their story would have made a great spin-off, is that there is another book in this series, Sinner, that focuses on Cole and Isabel! Woohoo!  Another book added to the ever-growing TBR list…

One of the highlights of the series is how being part-human part-wolf is portrayed.  There are no “werewolves”.  There is no magic.  It’s not even paranormal, at least not in the way we often expect the paranormal to be.  It just is.  It’s more science and biology than anything else, and I think that really sets this story apart from other YA paranormal books that I’ve read.

One thing I didn’t really like about Forever was the ending, by which I mean the final chapter.  Although it completed the narrative of the trilogy, I felt it was left a little too open for it to feel satisfying.  It left me with more questions that I wanted answers to, but, overall, I enjoyed the story and was glad I finished the trilogy. Now I’m looking forward to reading Sinner

Rating

Book Review: Lake of Dreams by Crispina Kemp

My thanks to Crispina Kemp for providing me with a copy of Lake of Dreams in return for an honest review…

Lake of Dreams is the second book in The Spinner’s Game series by Crispina Kemp.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Enchanting and magical, this historical fantasy series goes from strength to strength. The characters, setting and story kept my attention from the very beginning and did not let up until the last page. A fantastic read.  Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Powerful visions… but can their dreams reveal the truth of Kerrid’s fantastical origins?

In the first book of The Spinner’s Game, Kerrid explored and developed her powers, gained a glimmering of what she might be, discovered the source of the accusatory voice, and worked to transform her status to that of a genuine shamanic wise-woman, able to enter the Spinner’s Otherworld Web. At the last, the Spinner tasked her with the eradication of Neka, the snake-demon. To do this she must understand the cause and the source of their Asaric nature.
The eldest of Gimmerin’s Asaric brothers also wishes to discover this source. But to join his quest Kerrid must gain the approval of all the brothers, hindered by Gimmerin’s repeated efforts to undermine her, and the strange pull she feels to the second-born brother, Jiar.

A unique and captivating story of a tapestry unravelling.

Set in the between-time, when hunter-gatherers turned to settled agriculture, when spirits and demons morphed to gods, the five books of The Spinner’s Game takes Kerrid’s story across continents and weaves through ages fraught with floods and droughts to become the prototype of our most ancient myths.

Favourite Quote

They had been boys, they hadn’t had to cling to their lives. They could be wolfmen, farfooting, a convenient cover for running away.  She’d been a girl, to be wed or be dead.

(From Lake of Dreams by Crispina Kemp, chapter 7)

Review

First, I love the book cover.  The colours – that ice cold, crisp morning blue – really draws me in, making me want to read this book.  And that tiger…amazing! I like the chosen text too: A quest from frozen wasteland to lake-bed slumbers…Can their dreams reveal the truth?

I read and reviewed the first book when the whole five-book series was first published earlier in the year (you can find that review here).  I loved that book, and as I’ve previously mentioned, having beta-read the whole series, I fell in love with the characters, the story and the setting.  So you can imagine how happy I was to be offered the chance to review book 2 (if you can’t, I was very, very, very happy!).

Lake of Dreams sees a change of location for Kerrid, leaving behind the village of her husband, Gimmerin, to trek northwards  to the frozen lands where his brothers are waiting for him to join them.  And, although Kerrid is not invited, it is her and not Gimmerin, who insists they go.  Their welcome is to be as frosty as the world beyond their hide-and-bone dome…

Kerrid is growing in strength and knowledge in this instalment, and with both of those comes an increase in power and understanding.  She has a lot to contend with, from the jealousy and possessiveness of her husband to the open hostility of some of the brothers.  Then there are those who don’t necessarily like her, but desire her.  Mixed in with all this, there is genuine love too, a connection that goes beyond explanation and comprehension, but one that cannot be ignored.

As for the Uissids, these brothers are funny and chaotic and difficult and impossible to manage, but their interactions – with Kerrid and each other – make for compulsive reading.  To find the understanding and knowledge of their origins, and to complete the task given her by The Spinner, Kerrid must somehow make them accept her but how can this be done when there is so much conflict? Kerrid’s journey of learning does not only see her tread the paths of a wise-woman in the otherworldly web, as she must also learn to navigate and overcome the obstacles of the living.   After Kerrid, my favourite character would have to be Jiar…

One of my favourite parts of the book was the descriptions.  I loved how the landscape came to life, I could see it clearly, imagining it as if I was there.  Then there’s the mythology, and the ancient history, the references to early cultures…Lake of Dreams is indeed a rich and rewarding read.  It’s the sort of story I can easily get lost in, and quite happily so. There is a lyrical quality to the prose that I just find enchanting and magical.

Do you need to read the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child, before reading this? Good question.  I would say, ideally, yes.  That story is wonderful in its own right, and it will ensure you understand Kerrid’s backstory and who the people are around her.  However, is it absolutely necessary? Probably not, as the author does a great job of providing you with the information you need to know without burdening you with it.  I believe if you choose to begin the story here, you will be able to follow it.

Although the book is not short, I managed to finish reading it within a couple of days, so hooked was I on the story.  Every time a free moment appeared in my day, I would sneak in an extra chapter’s worth of reading…

The third book in the series is The Pole That Threads, and I am looking forward to reading and revisiting it, tremendously 🙂

Rating


You can find Lake of Dreams on Amazon and Goodreads.  Connect with the author, Crispina Kemp, by visiting her website.

Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book, chronologically, in The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Some enchanting descriptions mixed with some memorable and profound passages make this book worth a read, and sets up the next book, the most famous of The Chronicles of Narnia, perfectly. 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

When Digory and Polly are tricked by Digory’s peculiar Uncle Andrew into becoming part of an experiment, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime. What happens to the children when they touch Uncle Andrew’s magic rings is far beyond anything even the old magician could have imagined.

Hurtled into the Wood between the Worlds, the children soon find that they can enter many worlds through the mysterious pools there. In one world they encounter the evil Queen Jadis, who wreaks havoc in the streets of London when she is accidentally brought back with them. When they finally manage to pull her out of London, unintentionally taking along Uncle Andrew and a coachman with his horse, they find themselves in what will come to be known as the land of Narnia.

Favourite Quote

‘Ah, but when I looked at that dust (I took jolly good care not to touch it) and thought that every grain had once been in another world – I don’t mean another planet, you know; they’re part of our world and you could get to them if you went far enough – but a really Other World – another Nature – another universe – somewhere you would never reach even if you travelled through the space of this universe for ever and ever – a world that could only be reached by Magic…’

(The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, page 25)

Review

As I mentioned in previous reviews this year, I’m spending a little of my reading time returning to childhood classics, some I’m re-reading and others which I haven’t yet read.  Having a pretty collection of The Chronicles of Narnia sitting on one of my bookshelves (they’re not mine but my sister’s and I said she couldn’t have them back until I’ve read them – that was a fair few years ago now!  Sorry Sis!) I thought it was high time to begin working through the series.  I only remember reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe during my formative years, but to be honest, I can’t recall too much from the book itself, but I did enjoy the 2005 film adaptation (although it took me a fair few years to get around to watching that…)

There is a part of me that wants to compare Lewis’ Narnia to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but I think, that would be wholly unfair, so I won’t.  At least, I won’t until I have read all seven books, and then it will only be a maybe.  We shall see…

Although The Magician’s Nephew is the first book chronologically in The Chronicles of Narnia, it wasn’t the first book in the series to be written, and there were times when I was reading that this was obvious, and when it was noticeable, I did find it to be quite jarring.  Yet there were also times that  this very same thing offered an “Aha!” moment or two.  Also, it is worth pointing out that this is basically the “Genesis” of Narnia, how that magical world came to be and how people from our world discovered it.

One thing that struck me was its concept of good and evil comes across as very basic.  There are simply bad people doing bad things so that the good characters can do good things.  As a children’s book of instruction on how to behave, I suppose it works, but as an adult reading it, I found my enjoyment of the story quite limited.  I wanted to know why the bad people were doing bad things, I wanted to know what their motivations were.

As to what I really loved about the story…of course, the world described is a beautiful one, and the descriptions are beautiful in their simplicity.  And there are some wonderfully profound quotes peppered throughout. Then, there is Aslan…mystical and enchanting, he is a wonderful character.  Polly and Digory were likeable too.

I’m quite excited to be reading the next book in the series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I feel that, although The Magician’s Nephew was a little up and down in terms of what I enjoyed and what I did not, book two – the most famous of The Chronicles of Narnia – has been set up perfectly.

Rating

Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Beautifully written, every sentence is infused with magic and enchantment. Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Favourite Quote

We are sorry, we are sorry.

Sorry you were caught, I said. Sorry that you thought I was weak, but you were wrong.

(From Circe by Madeline Miller, page 171)

Review

I read Song of Achilles and was blown away by Madeline Miller’s writing.  So I knew I was going to enjoy this book, and I did.  But do I think it’s better than Song of Achilles?  That’s a tough question.  What I can say is that I came at these two books with quite a different mindset.  I didn’t like Achilles as I started SoA but that book transformed how I thought of him (I wouldn’t go as far as saying rehabilitated him in my mind, but he certainly became a little more sympathetic).  Conversely, with an interest (read: obsession) in paganism, witchcraft, ancient history and mythology, Circe had always been one of those figures I felt drawn to.  So in this instance, the question is: was the Circe of the book the same as the Circe I had imagined myself.  And the answer to that would be no?  Did I like the book any less because of it?  Certainly not!

This book is a masterpiece.  Beautifully written, every sentence is infused with magic and enchantment.  It is a tale of transformation, and a tale of power.  It is also a tale of loneliness and isolation (quite a fitting read during lockdown, don’t you think…)  It is a tale of love and loss, a tale of motherhood, a tale of witchcraft.  It is worth pointing out that the book is a retelling of Circe’s story as it is found in mythology, rather than an reimagining.

The island of Aiaia was evocatively brought to life with rich and vivid descriptions of the landscape and the fauna and flora.  It was certainly my favourite location of the book, though I enjoyed the trip to the palace of Knossos on Crete.

If you know the story of Circe, you will not be surprised by the cast of characters we meet as her tale unfolds.  Even though she is only a nymph, considered to be the lowliest of immortals, her life spans generations. Mortals, immortals and monsters…she encounters them all. But it is Circe herself who unremittingly captures the attention.  As a character, she is not perfect, far from it.  She can be benevolent, loving and kind, not to mention is resilient and shows us how to be self-reliant and independent.  Yet she can also be cruel and harsh and is responsible for terrible things, but she also is forced to endure terrible things too.  For a divine being, she is unquestionably human.

As I mentioned, this is a story of transformation where Circe becomes so much more than anyone expected and it terrifies those around her.  It is this, most of all, that I will take away from the book.  Our power, our witchcraft, is our own and with it we can find the strength and determination to achieve more than anyone else, or even ourselves, believe possible.  It won’t be easy.  As Circe says, witchcraft is drudgery, it’s dirty work, and it won’t always succeed at the first attempt, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever work…

Highly recommended!

Rating

Book Review: Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Quick review (read on for full review)

A richly described setting and an almost whimsically enchanting tale combine to create this gentle, charming read. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from inside cover)

To Gilly Ramsey, during her lonely childhood, the occasional brief visits of her mother’s cousin Geillis were a delight, appearing to the unhappy child like the visits of a fairy godmother. Years later, when Cousin Geillis was dead, and had willed her house, Thornyhold, to Gilly, the latter discovered that ‘fairy godmother’ was close enough to the truth. For Cousin Geillis, with her still-room, and her herbalist’s practice – and her undoubted powers – had long been known to the locals as a witch. And Gilly, inheriting ‘the witch’s house’, inherits, too, in spite of herself, her cousin’s reputation. She is approached by neighbours, some innocent, some not so innocent, but all assuming that she, too, is a witch, and a possible addition to the local coven. There is some truth in this, for Gilly, to her own surprise and discomfort, finds that in difficult moments she can call on power of a kind; it is as if Cousin Geillis is still somewhere in house and garden, weaving her own spells.

Gilly, once so shy and insecure, is gradually forced, by the very real powers at work in Thornyhold, to choose her own path through the enchanted woods. This, with the aid of an engaging small boy with a sick ferret, and then of his father, and even of her too-helpful nearest neighbour, Agnes, she finally does. Thornyhold, with its enchanted defences against evil, puts an end to loneliness and insecurity, and allows Gilly to move forward with confidence towards a new and satisfying life.

Favourite Quote

I suppose my mother could have been a witch if she had chosen to. But she met my father, who was a rather saintly clergyman, and he cancelled her out.

(From Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, page 7)

Review

Set during the years following World War II, this book is made up of a little bit of everything: a journey of self-discovery, witchcraft, fantasy, romance, suspense, sadness and even comedy, and that makes it quite a difficult book to place, I think.  What I can say, is that I enjoyed it.

Gilly Ramsey’s early life is bleak and lonely due in no small part to her parents.  Her mother comes across as cold and distant and her father is preoccupied with his duties as a clergyman.  I couldn’t help but wonder as I read, if either had really wanted a child.  The only glimmer’s of light the young Gilly receives come in the form of her mother’s cousin, Geillis, after who she is named.  She appears, often out of the blue, and comes across as if not a little strange, at least a little unusual, and naturally, she is.  Gilly’s life is influenced and shaped greatly by these three people, and it rather sadly, takes the death of them all to come into her own.

The witchcraft described in the story is of the hedgewitch variety – country herbalism, folklore and low magic.  I could read endless passages on the magical and medicinal properties of growing things.  The English countryside is richly described: flora and fauna, Stonehenge, the ruins of an old house, villages and hamlets, farms, fields and woodlands.  But it is Thornyhold that captures the attention and the heart: an old cottage (though fairly sizeable in dimension) surrounded by forest and wildlife.

The pace felt quite slow to begin with, and reading about Gilly’s childhood was not particularly fun, but as the years moved on and she arrives at Thornyhold, Gilly not only discovers who she really is – compared with who she has had to be her whole life – but learns about the strange and mysterious Cousin Geillis.

I would love to have had more information about Cousin Geillis’ relationship to Gilly’s mother, and even how her mother felt about her cousin.  Did she envy her life and freedom? Was she jealous of Geillis’ apparent closeness to her daughter?  As I moved through the story, I thought there might be more to this storyline than kindred spirits, but if there was, it never materialised.  And, as I wasn’t completely convinced by the romantic element to the story, or how the suspense element was resolved, yet overall enjoyed reading the book, 3.5 stars sounded like a fair rating.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

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