Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport

│14 APRIL 2022│
PB £8.99│EB £5.49│EA £12.99

Blending fantasy and science fiction, N.E. Davenport’s fast-paced, action-packed debut kicks off a duology on loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.

It’s all about blood.

Blood spilled long ago between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor, ending all blood magic.

Now there is peace in the Republic – but there is also a strict class system, misogyny, and racism. Her world is not perfect, but Ikenna survived in it.

Until now.

With the murder of her grandfather, Ikenna spirals out of control. Though she is an initiate for the Republic’s deadly elite military force, Ikenna has a secret only her grandfather knew: she possesses the blood magic of the Republic’s enemies.

Ikenna throws herself into the gladiatorial war games at the heart of her martial world: trials that will lead her closer to his killers. Under the spotlight, she subjects herself to abuse from a society that does not value her, that cherishes lineage over talent – all while hiding gifts that, if revealed, would lead to execution or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all to find out who killed her grandfather…

So she can end them.

Continue reading “Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport”

TBR Review: Neuroqueer Heresies, by Nick Walker

Available from Amazon for £14.99

My Review

I’ve come across Nick Walker’s work before, seen neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer referenced by other writers, and used Walker’s list of definitions in my own work, particularly the heritage project I’m working on – many people are unfamiliar with neurodiversity, the concept, paradigm and movement, and the vocabulary tha to has developed around it – but I hadn’t done more than skim until someone suggested we read some of her work for a Narratives of Neurodiversity Network Salon. Since I like to support small presses, I bought a copy of Walker’s book.

I’m very glad I did. I’ve spent a decent amount of time reading and cogitating in the contents. I am slightly annoyed to find that the ideas I thought I had that were original have actually been thought before, and articulated more elegantly than I could have done.

Although the stars and constellations metaphor is still mine and mine alone. So far as I know.

Nick Walker has been part of the neurodiversity movement for the last couple of decades, and knows people who were there at the beginning when autistic people started meeting and building culture online. She coined a lot of the words, or knows the people who did, and gives difinative histories and meanings for the words. This book also goes on to explain concepts like neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer in ways that people can understand. With examples.

I’m donating a new, un-Rosie-marked copy of this book to the little autistic library I’m building at my work. I think it’ll be helpful in giving people a different way of looking at their diagnosis and understanding of themselves through the neurodiversity paradigm rather than the pathology paradigm.

TBR Pile/Audiobook Review: Amongst Our Weapons, by Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Audible Audio
First published April 7, 2022

The ninth novel of the bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.

There is a world hidden underneath this great city.

The London Silver Vaults–for well over a century, the largest collection of silver for sale in the world. It has more locks than the Bank of England and more cameras than a celebrity punch-up. Not somewhere you can murder someone and vanish without a trace–only that’s what happened.

The disappearing act, the reports of a blinding flash of light and memory loss amongst the witnesses all make this a case for Detective Constable Peter Grant and the Special Assessment Unit.

Alongside their boss DCI Thomas Nightingale, the SAU find themselves embroiled in a mystery that encompasses London’s tangled history, foreign lands and, most terrifying of all, the North!

And Peter must solve this case soon because back home his partner Beverley is expecting twins any day now. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s about to encounter something–and somebody–that nobody ever expects…

Effortlessly original, endlessly inventive and hugely entertaining–step into the world of the much-loved, number one bestselling Rivers of London series.

Continue reading “TBR Pile/Audiobook Review: Amongst Our Weapons, by Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith”

Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao

3rd March 2022 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99

The Red Tigress, Ana Mikhailov, has returned to Cyrilia, but the country she once called home has fallen under a dark rule. Across the land, the Empress Morganya is tightening her grip on Affinites and non-Affinites alike.

Ana dealt a blow to the Empress when she and her allies turned back Morganya’s troops, but she couldn’t stop Morganya from gaining possession of a dangerous new weapon with the power to steal Affinities. Ana’s forces are scattered, and her alliance with the rebel group, the Red Cloaks, is
becoming more frayed by the day.

What’s worse, she’s lost her Affinity to blood and without it, Ana barely knows who she is anymore – or if she has the strength to defeat
Morganya.

Morganya’s reign of terror is close to crushing the nation Ana was born to rule. And now Ana will finally face the sinister empress, but will she survive? Will anyone? And will her Empire welcome her back to the throne, or turn her out to survive on her own.

The Affinites and Non-Affinites of Cyrilia will determine Ana’s future, if Morganya doesn’t kill her first.

Continue reading “Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao”

TBR Pile/Audiobook Review: False Value, by Ben Aaronovitch, Narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Audible Audio, Unabridged UK Edition, 12 pages
Published February 20th 2020 by Orion Publishing Group Limited

Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company.

Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous ‘silicon roundabout’, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.

Because Terrence Skinner has a secret hidden in the bowels of the SCC. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological – and just as dangerous. 

My Review

The blurb is a lie. Everything is a deception. No, really, Peter has gone undercover, using his gardening leave and the investigation that caused it (death in custody of a suspect – see Lies Sleeping) as a cover. What he finds is a 19th century mystery and a tech guru who thinks he’s created the first true A.I. using a completed analytic engine and a song about Ada Lovelace.

Going under cover brings conflicts for Peter and Beverley, especially after they get to know Peter’s immediate superior and his family (Beverley Brook runs along the end of their garden), and the Librarians of New York start interfering in the operation.

There is the usual explosions and car chases, Peter getting trapped by magical devices, Nightingale being acerbic, Discworld references, and this time with bonus heavily pregnant Beverley.

I listened to this one while I was out and about, or at home crocheting. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is really good at giving Peter Grant a voice. His intonation and reading speed is perfect.

Highly recommended.

TBR Pile Review: Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch

Paperback, 406 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by Gollancz (first published November 13th 2018)

The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run.Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch. 

My Review

I thought I’d read this one, but after finishing the audiobook of False Value I was checking the TBR pile and found it, so clearly I hadn’t. It wasn’t in my Audible library either (it is now) so I hadn’t listened to it instead. Why am I getting Lies Sleeping and False Value read, I hear you cry? Well, the latest Peter Grant novel, Amongst Our Weapons is published this month. It arrived in my Audible library today and I’m waiting for my special edition from Goldsboro Books to be delivered. It isn’t available until 14th April, but I’ll probably have listened to the audiobook by then. It’ll be nice and pristine on my bookshelf.

So what happens in Lies Sleeping? Peter et al. are hunting the Faceless Man. Still. He, Martin Chorley, has a cunning plan to ‘make it all better’, by killing Punch, the spirit of riot we first meet in Rivers of London. There’s an ancient sword, goat sacrifices and attacks on archaeological sites. To find out what all the fuss is about, Peter has to meet old gods, some dead Romans and try not to die, too much.

And Beverley is pregnant.

I enjoyed this book. I always enjoy the Peter Grant books; there are a lot of geeky in-jokes and references to Discworld, why wouldn’t I enjoy them? There are cynical comments about policing in London and the state of the country. I like Peter and the gang, and find the plots gripping.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my mental health because of that heritage project I wrote about a few weeks back, all the horror is taking a toll on my brain, so I’ve been resting, and today, after three quite busy days all I’ve had the energy to do is curl up on the chair with this book and get lost in Peter’s adventures. I find the predictable characters (predictable because I’m familiar with the characters and worldbuilding, not because they’re badly written) soothing. Like Discworld, Peter Grant’s version of London, built by Ben Aaronovitch on the real thing but with a fantasy twist, is a safe retreat. I know there will be explosions, Peter will get into trouble, Molly will feed everyone, Beverley and her sisters will do something entertaining, some major disaster will happen, or be averted by the skin of someone’s teeth, there will be satirical comments about policing and the Government, and references that only fantasy geeks will get. It’s easy to read, get lost for 400 pages and then come back with a more relaxed frame of mind.

I like this book, but you probably should read the other 6 first, or nothing will make sense.

Publication Day Blitz: The Last Gifts of the Universe, by Rory August

Genre:  Light Sci-Fi 

Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3tAeJXk

Blurb 

A dying universe.

When the Home worlds finally achieved the technology to venture out into the stars, they found a graveyard of dead civilizations, a sea of lifeless gray planets and their ruins. What befell them is unknown. All Home knows is that they are the last civilization left in the universe, and whatever came for the others will come for them next.

A search for answers.

Scout is an Archivist tasked with scouring the dead worlds of the cosmos for their last gifts: interesting technology, cultural rituals—anything left behind that might be useful to the Home worlds and their survival. During an excavation on a lifeless planet, Scout unearths something unbelievable: a surviving message from an alien who witnessed the world-ending entity thousands of years ago.

A past unraveled.

Blyreena was once a friend, a soul mate, and a respected leader of her people, the Stelhari. At the end of her world, she was the last one left. She survived to give one last message, one final hope to the future: instructions on how to save the universe.

An adventure at the end of a trillion lifetimes.

With the fate of everything at stake, Scout must overcome the dangers of the Stelhari’s ruined civilization while following Blyreena’s leads to collect its artifacts. If Scout can’t deliver these groundbreaking discoveries back to the Archivists, Home might not only be the last civilization to exist, but the last to finally fall.

Author Bio


Rory August is a speculative fiction writer, animal lover, nature walker, and all around nerd. When they aren’t writing stories about lonely voyages through space, you can find them playing video games, the guitar, or a myriad of TTRPGs. They live in woodsy New England with their cat and husband. The Last Gifts of the Universe is their debut novel.

You can find out more about Rory and their upcoming works by visiting www.roryaugust.com

Author illustration by Camila del Aguilla. You can find more of her work by visiting www.camiladelaguilla.com

Review: Death in the Mist, by Jo Allen

Death in the Mist

A drowned man. A missing teenager. A deadly secret.

When Emmy Leach discovers the body of a drug addict, wrapped in a tent and submerged in the icy waters of a Cumbrian tarn, she causes more than one problem for investigating officer DCI Jude Satterthwaite. Not only does the discovery revive his first, unsolved, case, but the case reveals Emmy’s complicated past and opens old wounds on the personal front, regarding Jude’s relationship with his colleague and former partner, Ashleigh O’Halloran.

As Jude and his team unpick an old story, it becomes increasingly clear that Emmy is in danger. What secrets are she and her controlling, coercive husband hiding, from the police and from each other? What connection does the dead man have with a recently-busted network of drug dealers? And, as the net closes in on the killer, can Jude and Ashleigh solve a murder — and prevent another?

A traditional British detective novel set in Cumbria.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Mist-DCI-Satterthwaite-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09KYJK6H9

US – https://www.amazon.com/Death-Mist-DCI-Satterthwaite-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09KYJK6H9

Continue reading “Review: Death in the Mist, by Jo Allen”