Monday 20 July 2015

Some reviews

Old Market is an area of Bristol just off the main shopping area. It’s kind of isolated by a big interchange and is known, now, as Bristol’s gay quarter. Around twenty years ago I lived there for a year or so. This book explores the history of this small area. The title of the book is in reference to the churches and the red light nature of the area. There are a bunch of interesting buildings in the area, including Trinity - a former church turned community centre and occasional music venue and the location of Bristol’s anarchist book fair (there is also an anarchist bookshop in Old Market) & the old gin palace (Palace hotel). This books explores the history of these two iconic buildings, as well as many more. The area has a rich history which is ably brought to life by the two authors who spent eighteen months in research and interviewing many of the current and former residents.

Overall – Does exactly what is says on the tin, gives you a history of an area in Bristol

Sorcerer to the Crown (A Sorcerer Royal…

“In the tradition of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” It’s a tough act to live up to, and possibly an unfair comparison. Regency period, check, magic, check, English magic in decline, check and yet that’s as far as the comparison goes. Cho has a superlative grasp of the language of the period - ”May I ask what possessed you to wreak such wanton destruction upon my conveyance?” he said in an indignant whisper. “I cannot conceive how you think I will contrive to take you to London in a chaise that has no wheels.” You may take this as either a strength of the book, or as a weakness depending on your reading habits. 

Zacharias, a freed slave, has been elevated to Sorcerer Royal, during a period of decline in English magic, taking himself to the borders of Fairyland to investigate he stops off at Mrs. Daubney's School for Gentlewitches, a girl’s school which teaches its pupils that ladies do not perform magic, as is only proper. There he meets a gifted dark-skinned orphan with a mysterious provenance and decides that women should, after all, be taught magic.

This book does well on the diversity front, adding PoC and women as prominent characters and has an intriguing premise but, for me, it didn’t quite deliver on its promise. 

Overall – If you love regency romance and think it can be improved with magic then you should check this out

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn: One More…

Inspector Glebsky goes on vacation at the Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, a remote ski chalet past the bottleneck pass, and expects to relax in solitude. He finds the inn inhabited by a host of bizarre characters, including a stage hypnotist and his ward of indeterminate gender, an incredibly rich couple, a physicist mountain climber and others. When an avalanche cuts them off and there is a dead body which may, or may not be human, Glebsky is forced to investigate, even if he usually only specialises in fraud.

This is an odd little book, which shifts from farce to science fiction and is well written but never really did it for me. I’m just not a big fan of farce. I had similar problems with The master and margarita which this book reminded me of, with its surreal comedy, that failed to make me crack a smile. There is a nice introduction by Jeff VanderMeer though and I enjoyed this book a lot more than Bulgakov’s. 

Overall – Zany oddball comedy crossed with a 1940’s scifi film that subverts the tropes of detective fiction

Europe at Midnight by Hutchinson Dave

This is a second book in the same world as the marvellous Europe in Autumn although I expect you can read this as standalone without missing too much, as it’s not a direct sequel. Hutchinson himself describes it as a spin off and there is a third book in the ‘series’ in production. The book concentrates on two main characters, both intelligence officers, but very different. Europe is splitting into ever smaller polities, breakaway micro-nations like the city of Dresden who have built a hundred foot wall around themselves and an economy built on information. The Xian flu has decimated the population of Europe and there are a great series of economic crises. If this wasn’t bad enough Jim is recruited into a new department when a stabbing on a London bus holds the key to an invasion by a nation from another universe.

Although the book feels as though it loses its way a little towards the end, and leaves things open for the third book, the first three quarters are utterly gripping and kept me turning the pages fully immersed in the fascinating world Hutchinson has conjured and is therefore well worth seeking out.

Overall – Excellent addition to the Europe in Autumn World, I look forward to seeing what Mr Hutchinson does with the third book.

The Written Graphic Novel (Emaneska) by Ben…

Ben Galley is a self-published fantasy author whose Written books have enjoyed a lot of success. The first volume of the series has now been turned into a gorgeous graphic novel, via a kickstarter.

Image 302462 original

Farden is one of the Written, a sorcerer, and he is tasked with a quest. Something has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell. Something very old, and something very powerful. Five scholars are now dead, a country is once again on the brink of war, and the magick council is running out of time and options. This is a tale of magick (with a k apparently), dragons, drugs and betrayal. I’ve not read the book, so can’t say if it’s a good adaption but expect it is with the same author. The art is very good, although occasionally the transitions are a little hard to follow and the plot uses a bunch of fantasy tropes, but gives them enough of a spin to keep your interest. Some of the backers had their images included in the art, which is pretty cool.

Overall – Gorgeous art, interesting Kickatarter project

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