Saturday, 30 March 2019

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Domingo, a lonely street kid, is scraping out a living collecting rubbish when a jaded vampire swoops into his life. The aristocratic descendent of Aztec blood-drinkers, Atl has suddenly found herself alone and vulnerable and on the run in the dark streets of Mexico City. All she wants is to get out of Mexico but that's easier said than done when you are being hunted by the cops, human gangsters, and a psychotic vampire from a rival cartel.

I really liked this tale of vampire narcos set in modern-day Mexico. It's gritty and bloody and violent with characters who are both complicated and morally grey. I loved the vivid world-building which draws on vampire folklore from around the world, and I also like the way Certain Dark Things subverts a lot of the tropes of vampire novels. Definitely a breath of fresh air into a very tired genre. Great stuff!

Recommended For: Fans of gritty and diverse urban fantasy

Read On: Another fantasy inspired by Mexican mythology is Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for the conspiring nobles of Apeladorn until the day a desperate nobleman hires them to steal a famed sword. This seemingly simple job goes very wrong, however, when the pair are implicated in the murder of a king and become entangled into a dangerous conspiracy. 

I'm really torn about Theft of Swords. On the one hand, it's a pretty standard epic swords-and-sorcery fantasy; the story follows well-worn tropes, and it takes place in your standard medieval Europe fantasy world. Theft of Swords also follows convention when it comes to female characters - they all either are in need of rescuing or are simply plot devices to help the heroes on their way. Despite this, however, the two protagonists and the central mystery were just intriguing enough to keep me reading for hundreds of pages.

Recommended For: Fans of traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy full of sword fights and hair-raising escapes.

Read On: The next book in the Riyria Revelations series is Rise of Empire. A similar but much better (in my opinion) epic sword-and-sorcery fantasy is Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence.

Monday, 18 March 2019

In The Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Deep in mourning and drifting apart, Charles and Erin Hayden leave their American lives to settle in the remote Yorkshire mansion Erin has inherited. Charles buries himself in researching the life of Caedmon Hollow, Erin's ancestor and the long-dead author of a mysterious Victorian fairy tale. Erin numbs her grief with pills and alcohol and unspoken recriminations. But something is stirring in the primeval forest surrounding Hollow House, something evil and long-forgotten. And Charles and Erin must go into the forest if they want to stop it collecting an ancient debt.

I enjoyed In The Night Wood, even though it's not the type of book I normally go for. It's a modern-day ghost story that's as much about grief and obsession as it is about the wildest and darkest roots of English folklore. With its sparse prose and dreamlike pace, In The Night Wood is both wonderfully atmospheric and quietly absorbing.

Recommended For: People who prefer their ghost stories to be unsettling and spooky rather than outright scary 

Read On: Other books about creepy forests include The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves and no recollection of who she is. All she has is a letter in her pocket written by her former self. The old Myfanwy Thomas was a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organisation that battles the supernatural, and if the new Myfanwy wants to discover her identify and track down the people who betrayed her, she must find her feet before anyone realises there's anything wrong.

The Rook is a funny and wildly imaginative urban fantasy that was so much fun to read. Myfanwy is a hilarious, brave, and very likeable protagonist who I rooted for throughout the story. The world-building was deftly done through the amusing and sometimes poignant letters written by the old Myfanwy, and I loved the creative (and oddly specific) nature of some of the superpowers. I loved it!

Recommended For: Fans of Terry Pratchett and Ben Aaronovitch or anyone who likes smart and funny contemporary fantasy. 

Read On: The next in the trilogy is Stiletto which I'll be picking up very soon.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Faith has a thirst for science and a knack for uncovering secrets that proper young ladies are not supposed to have. When she finds her disgraced father's journals, filled with the notes and theories of a man driven close to madness, she's finally discovers a secret that might be too big even for her. Because before her are tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will unveil a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth it reveals. And what Faith really, really wants to know will necessitate the telling of some very big lies. 

The Lie Tree is a gothic historical YA fantasy full of revenge, dark family secrets, and repressed Victorian sensibilities. And, of course, lies that very quickly take on a life of their own. I loved it! And The Lie Tree gets bonus love because almost all the main characters are complicated women who have found their own way to fight their battles at a time when women were supposed to be little more than somebody's wife or sister.

Recommended For: Fans of dark and gothic historical fantasies with a fairy tale feel

Read On: The Lie Tree is a standalone, but I want to go on and read A Skinful of Shadows by the same author.