Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Cover:

So after four weeks of teasing, I am finally proud to show you the front cover of my first book. "The Ritual of the Stones."

"So that is what all those weird pictures were for!" I hear you say. So what do think? Like it, hate it? I wanted something different from the generic hooded figure on the front cover. Yes, I am aware that type of cover sells best, but I think this type of cover really pops out at you. Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts.

We are still on for a mid July release folks. The Proofreader will be handing their revisions into me today. I spoke to them earlier in the week and their exact wording was, "Hi Rob, I am working on it now (excellent story, by the way!) will have it back to you by Friday."

I don't know if you read that bit in brackets but it is freaking awesome.

The other image I was waiting for is also completed. This is the map of Frindoth. I will not be showing the map on the blog, that will just be a treat for those of you that buy the book.

My timetable over the next few weeks is as follows:

w/c 01st July - Nothing. I have just had an operation on my hand and typing is painful.
w/C 08th July - Run through all the changes the proofreader has made and amend the novel accordingly.
w/c 15th July - Format the novel and upload it on the Kindle. My son's birthday is the 20th July - wouldn't it be nice to launch the book on his birthday?

See you soon folk.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review - Joyland

Joyland – Stephen King
“Joyland” will be the 21st book of Stephen King’s that I have read. I am sure I don’t need to say anymore on the man then I have already said in previous reviews. However, the interesting thing about “Joyland” is that King has no intention of releasing the book in electronic format at this stage. He has cited that he wants to pay homage to the old fashion crime/detective books of the past. It is an interesting choice but certainly didn’t alienate me from snapping the book up.
The Blurb:
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
For anyone that has never tried Stephen King before. Maybe you have listened to his detractors or horror simply isn’t your thing, I implore to read this book. At only 283 pages long it will not up too much of your time but what it does do is give you a perfect insight into Stephen King’s writing style.
There are not many people better than King in finding a likeable “voice” to tell a story. His point of view characters are always so candid, so natural and so damn readable.
“Joyland,” focuses on Devin Jones (Jonesy), a 21 year old boy who is besotted with his girlfriend Wendy. When Wendy breaks his heart, Devin spends obtains a summer job at Joyland, a third tier amusement park. It is here that we are introduced to the world of the carnival life. It is a subject that I am becoming increasingly fond of having enjoyed the TV show, “Carnivale,” and Robert Jackson Bennett’s, “The Troupe.”
King openly admits in a letter at the end of the novel that although he used a reference book for many the carnival terms and language, he also made up a few of his own. The truth is it doesn’t matter. Not unless you are a carnie purist. To me, King captures the essence of the Carnival world perfectly.
Devin is a great character. Naive in love, he has an innocence that is engaging. The enjoyment he experiences working at Joyland oozes through the pages. The summer evenings spent with his new friends makes you yearn for the endless summer of your youth. No one consistently writes coming of age stories as good as King and this one is up there with the best.
Each secondary character introduced is a joy to read. Unlike some of his other novels, where the characters are extreme in their nastiness, King shows us just enough of each character to hint at what they are like. It is helps create the element of mystery around the novel whilst also creating an emotional depth.
The supernatural element although present, is broadly kept into the background of the story. It works well as a result. Although, the characters do not doubt there are some outlandish elements to their lives, it never intrudes on how they go about their business. 
This book is part of the “Hardcase crime” novels - a series of novels that deal with old fashioned noir crime. To be honest the link is tenuous at best. There is nothing distinctive about the writing style akin to the noir genre and even the crime element is minimal. What you do get is a fantastic yarn. Elements of the novel are very touching and had me beaming at the book. The ending (which I think King is finally getting very good at), is well resolved and satisfying. “Joyland” although short is King at his best.
My rating: 9.4

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review - The Black lung Captain

The Black Lung Captain – Chris Wooding
I enjoyed “Retribution Falls,” Chris Wooding’s first entry into the tales of the Ketty Jay series quite a bit. It was fun, witty and action packed. The characters had enough about them to set it a notch above other books of its kind. The reviews for the “Black Lung Captain” whilst still good were not as favourable as the first. Still I was looking forward to flying with Darian Frey again.
The Blurb:
Darian Frey is down on his luck. He can barely keep his squabbling crew fed and his rickety aircraft in the sky. Even the simplest robberies seem to go wrong. It's getting so a man can't make a dishonest living any more.
Enter Captain Grist. He's heard about a crashed aircraft laden with the treasures of a lost civilisation, and he needs Frey's help to get it. There's only one problem. The craft is lying in the trackless heart of a remote island, populated by giant beasts and subhuman monsters.
Dangerous, yes. Suicidal, perhaps. Still, Frey's never let common sense get in the way of a fortune before. But there's something other than treasure on board that aircraft. Something that a lot of important people would kill for. And it's going to take all of Frey's considerable skill at lying, cheating and stealing if he wants to get his hands on it . . .
Strap yourself in for another tale of adventure and debauchery, pilots and pirates, golems and daemons, double-crosses and double-double-crosses. The crew of the Ketty Jay are back!
For me, “The Black Lung Captain” improves on “Retribution Falls” in every way. Although Darian Frey is undoubtedly the star of the show, each member of his crew has enough personality and back-story that they could conceivably be the lead protagonist.
It is the sign of a good book where I enjoy every character when they appeared on screen and was sad when they left. This is exactly what happened in “The Black Lung Captain.” Darian Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, a heap of junk that he is very fond of.  He is unsure of his path but knows there is something missing from his life.
Frey’s obsession with Tranica is both satisfying and monotonous. You yearn for him to find some happiness but deep down you know it is not going to happen. It is part of the charm of the novel. When Frey is on form he is a lovable rogue however, if there is a criticism it is that when Frey does wallow, his self monologues tend to be a bit repetitive.
Tranica herself is a great character. She is enigmatic and ruthless. Just when you think you have her figured out, she surprises you. Chris Wooding does an excellent job of demonstrating her softer, more tortured side which explains why Frey does not want to give up on her. 
After the events of the first book, the team on board the Ketty Jay are more cohesive. Frey also feels something akin to love for them now and actually cares what happens to them.
However, his leadership leaves a lot to be desired. Darian prefers to ignore the problems and sullen moods of his crew members operating on the “if I leave it long enough the problem will fix itself” school of thinking. Sometimes this is effective, often it is not. As a result, the issues of the crew slowly manifest until they reach a point of no return. It makes for interesting reading as each character’s actions are justified and you are able to empathise with their plight.
The most intriguing of these stories belongs to Jez and Crake. Both have secrets that eat away at them and both struggle to come to terms with their present situation.  The Ketty Jay might be a refuge for those who do not wish to have their past questioned but it also full of crew that just want to belong. Jez and Crake fit this description perfectly and it is their inner turmoil that prevents them from fully fitting in.
Not all of the crew’s back-stories work. Harkins’ character is fairly flat and Silo’s history although interesting is underutilised. There is also the rather out of place POV of Slug the cat.
The plot hurtles along at 100 Kloms an hour. The rest of the supporting cast pop in and out like a revolving door but it is always interesting and always good fun. There are more twists and turns here then you can count, but they don’t ever feel contrived.
There are some nods to other films and books (hello Star Wars and Hulk). Some of them work and some feel a bit copy cat like.
Chris Wooding has created a world where flying ships and guns exist but technology never feels like the dominant force. The inhabitants are struggling to find their place and make a nice safe haven for themselves, but there is always the chance that anything good is temporary.
The ending is very good. What ending isn’t where lives are at stake and a climatic battle is fought?  All in all, I really enjoyed “Black Lung Captain.” I would recommend it to anyone that loves fun, cool novels where the characters are riveting and interesting.
My rating: 8.8

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cover tease 4 of 4: Stones


"But they are just garden stones aren't they? What the hell have you done Rob? The book had better be good because all you have shown us of the cover is a flower pot, some soil, a hand and some garden stones."

Next week my friends, next week. All will be revealed.

The Gloom is coming.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review - Red Country (JS)

Red County by Joe Abercrombie
(Review by JS)
Having loved this authors other work- Best Served Cold and the First Law books, I bought Heroes and then this one as soon as they were published with no hesitation, but then due to my rather large pile of books to read I was forced to leave them on the shelf.
After being off work for a length of time though, I was able to catch up on many of these books, and these two were moved speedily to the top of the pile.
This is the description: 
They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. However, vengeance is following.
Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she will have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. However, it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.
Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust...  The past never stays buried...
Now you will read some reviews where people complain that this is a western style novel not me though. I have always loved Westerns, (I have a collection of old spaghetti western films at home, which my husband always shakes his head over when he goes through our DVD collection) so really liked this concept.
The story starts with Shy returning to her home from a supply trip with her stepfather Lamb, to find her home destroyed and her brother and sister stolen. She is determined to get them back so the two of them set off on a quest to find the people responsible and to get the children back.
This sounds a simple plot, but the author creates a journey that is vivid and full of danger and the reader meets brilliant new characters and also some much more familiar.
Now Shy like the lead character Murcatto in ‘Best served Cold’ is no weak female. She is an excellent strong lead with good back-story that comes out more as the story goes on. She has self-doubt due to her past, but this if anything makes her more of a complete character, which whom the reader can connect.
Lamb, what can I say about him? Anyone who has previously read Joe Abercrombie books will recognise him without a great deal of difficulty, but his real name is never mentioned. Shy herself is completely unaware of his other persona, and her shock at seeing this darker side of her cowardly stepfather is very entertaining.
I liked the characters of Temple, Sweet; actually, it is easier to say I liked the whole Fellowship, as all the characters are good and added to the story as a whole.
There are reviewers who say that this book is a let down and that it is the weakest of all the Abercrombie novels, I totally disagree. This is a fine novel, which to me shows a strong writing style which if anything is getting better as the books continue. Yes, maybe the plot slows slightly at times, but this is normal for many large books, and to me does not affect your enjoyment of the novel as a whole.
I read Robs review of this book, which he wrote last year, and he mentioned that this was a contender for his book of the year. Having now read it, I must say that I feel the same but for 2013 instead.
10 out of 10 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review - Warlord (JS)

Warlord by Angus Donald

Review by Jacqui Slaney

This was a book I delayed reading, having read the others relatively quickly, for some reason, every time I went to read this one, I made excuses, and read something different. Strange I know, considering how much I enjoyed the earlier books, I suppose it is because I always have a fear when I am reading a series that a later book will let me down, but I finally gave in, and started to read.

This is the description:   
May 1194. Finally released from captivity, Richard the Lionheart is in Normandy engaged in a bloody war to drive the French out of his continental patrimony. Using the brutal tactics of medieval warfare - siege, savagery and scorched earth - the Lionheart is gradually pushing back the forces of King Philip of France. By his side in this epic struggle are Robert, Earl of Locksley, better known as the erstwhile outlaw Robin Hood, and Sir Alan Dale, his loyal friend, and a musician and warrior of great skill and renown.
But while the battles rage and the bodies pile up, Robin seems only to be interested in making a profit from the devastation of war, while Alan is preoccupied with discovering the identity the man who ordered his father's death ten years earlier - and the mystery is leading him to Paris, deep in the heart of the enemy's territory ...
Although as I said, I was strangely wary about reading this book, I could not have been more wrong. As in all the books, the writing is excellent, fast paced with brilliant characters.

The story is again told through the eyes of Alan Dale, a loyal supporter of Robin and Richard and a strong warrior in his own right. The main plot in this story is that he is looking into his fathers’ death and trying to find ‘the man who cannot be refused’, the one who ordered his hanging.

In his quest, Alan meets his family in France and faces mysterious assassins who seem to be either trying to kill him or anyone who could possibly assist him in his quest.

There are numerous sub plots to add to your interest, there is a relic which could possibly be the Holy Grail, and Alan’s’ ongoing relationship with Goody and Nur.

Although Robin for a lot of this book is relegated more to the sidelines, he is still a strong presence throughout the story and very much a kind of anti- hero, which is so good to read. Alan is always bemoaning the fact that Robin could be so such a good man, but too be fair you can’t really imagine him as anything else, there is also a suspicion that it could be Robin is the one behind all the deaths following Alan on his journey.

There are numerous fights and battles, the descriptions of which are very vivid, and make great reading, although the description of what burning oil poured from a castle on to an attacking army can make you wince.

It is hard to say to much more about the story without giving much of the plot away, but read the books especially this instalment, as this series just keeps getting better, and I really will not delay on the next one.

10 out of 10

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cover tease 3 of 4: Hand


 But whose hand is it? Will it go on the cover? I'll level with you Rob it looks a bit rubbish like that.
This is infuriating, show us the cover already.

The blog has been playing up recently. Every time I have tried to post I have received error messages. I have managed to get in tonight and uploaded as many posts as I can. I am well aware that the first two teasers did not necessary show on the other posts and so I've included them also below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

FW: Book Review - From the Dead

From the Dead – Mark Billingham

I really enjoyed “Bloodline” at the start of the year, so much so that it made me question why I had fallen behind on Mark Billingham’s DI Thorne series. It is rare for me to return to an author before 6 months have elapsed, but I found the lure of Thorne too much.

The blurb:

When Donna Langford receives a very recent photo of her ex-husband in the post, she gets the shock of her life. Because she's just spent ten years in prison for organising his murder. When her daughter goes missing, Donna believes there can only be one man responsible and hires Anna Carpenter, a determined young private investigator, to find him. DI Tom Thorne worked on the Alan Langford case, so when Carpenter brings the photo to him, he refuses to believe that the man whose body was found in a burned-out car ten years before can still be alive. But when a prison inmate that he and Anna interview is viciously murdered, Thorne starts to understand that Langford is not only alive, but ready to get rid of anyone who could threaten his comfortable new life in Spain...

Whilst most books in this genre rely on the actual crime to spark interest in the novel, Mark Billingham has enough confidence in his characters too simply carry on their lives from where they left off in the preceding entry.

“From the Dead” does contain an interesting prologue but we join Thorne as he experiences another ordinary day at work. The ongoing difficulties with his girlfriend Louise are still evident as are the ever present nuances of his co-workers.

Thorne begins this novel a little lost. He is disillusioned with how his life is progressing and so when the interesting and a youthful Private Investigator called Anna Carpenter comes along, he latches on to her enthusiasm and feels obligated to protect her.

The dynamic between the two characters is excellent and allows Thorne to ignore his real problems in his relationship by burying himself in his “work.” The engrossing thing about this novel is that Mark Billingham once again demonstrates how fallible his protagonist is. Thorne repeatedly makes mistakes: from his reluctance to acknowledge the case initially, to his treatment of suspects involved. He regularly forms incorrect first impressions and trusts the wrong people.

The plot itself is nothing original but as I have mentioned in other reviews of this series when the characters are this good and interact with each other so naturally the plot can take a back seat for all I care.

Having said that, apart from the final third I found the plot very interesting. That is not to say the final third is dull, it just meanders slightly and the story loses its focus a tad.  The antagonist is mostly anonymous which is good as anymore page time could have resulted in him becoming too cartoonish. Mark Billingham shows us enough of him to get the message across that he is arrogant and not nice and that is all that is needed.

Other new characters are good. Donna Langford is well portrayed as the long suffering wife, as is the aforementioned Anna Carpenter.

The ending is good whilst not being outstanding. All plot threads are tied up, whilst ongoing aspects on Thorne’s life are left tantalisingly unanswered.
Overall, “From the Dead,” is a good, solid addition to the series.

My rating: 8.6

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review - Vespasian: Tribune of Rome (JS)

Vespasian: Tribune of Rome by Robert Fabbri

Review by Jacqui Slaney

One advantage of being off work is that you can catch up on books that have been sitting in your reading pile for a while. This one, I bought a while ago, and as it sounded promising, I purchased the sequel (you can tell how long I had this book) as well.
This is the description:

"ONE MAN Born in rural obscurity ONE DESTINY to become one of Rome's greatest Emperors 26 AD: Sixteen-year-old Vespasian leaves his family farm for Rome, his sights set on finding a patron and following his brother into the army. However, he discovers a city in turmoil and an Empire on the brink. The aging emperor Tiberius is in seclusion on Capri, leaving Rome in the iron grip of Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus is ruler of the Empire in all but name, but many fear that is not enough for him. Sejanus' spies are everywhere - careless words at a dinner party can be as dangerous as a barbarian arrow. Vespasian is totally out of his depth, making dangerous enemies (and even more dangerous friends - like the young Caligula) and soon finds himself ensnared in a conspiracy against Tiberius. With the situation in Rome deteriorating, Vespasian flees the city to take up a position as tribune in an unfashionable legion on the Balkan frontier. Even here, rebellion is in the air and unblooded and inexperienced, Vespasian must lead his men in savage battle with hostile mountain tribes. Vespasian will soon realize that he can't escape Roman politics any more than he can escape his destiny..."

As you have probably noticed, lately I have been reading quite a few books about the Roman Empire, all different times and all very different in style.
This one shows Vespasian’s early days long before he became well known and details his childhood experiences, how he joined the army and his discovery of the danger of Roman politics.
I read some reviews about this book and there is a very strange split of opinion, the majority of people seem to love it, but a few seem to think it is the worse thing ever printed.  I must admit after reading 50 shades I take a lot of reviews with a pinch of salt, they are not helpful and find fault with strange things such as typos from books being put into the E-book format, which is really noting to do with how good the book itself was.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Anthony Riches and Simon Scarrow novels, I was genuinely a bit doubtful if this series could be as good, this book after all was a debut novel, so I half expected to be disappointed especially with some of those negative reviews at the back of my mind but I need not have worried though.

The style of writing shows some inexperience, especially at the start, but this does improve as it goes on. Characters are not quite as developed as you would like, but again this is a debut novel and the first in a series, so this is not unexpected.  Vespasian is well described as is his relationship with his brother, his man Magnus is a great character who I really liked, I also found the dialogue between characters grow more natural by the end of the book.

The plot maybe a little far fetched at times, in-depth conversations about power struggles in front of naïve youths did seem a little odd, but I still found the story enjoyable as there is plenty of action to keep the reader entertained with fights, chases and battles, not to mention the politics of the day.

So I would recommend this book, yes it starts a little rough, but I have high hopes for the series as a whole.

7 out of 10 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cover tease 2 of 4 - Helvastas Soil

Here is the second tease for my cover:

What the hell? I hear you scream.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book review - NOS482

NOS482 – Joe Hill

For those that regularly follow this blog you will know that I am high on Joe Hill’s work at the moment. I was attracted to the cover of his latest novel even though I was very slow in picking up the significance of the number plate. The blurb only heightened my anticipation.

The Blurb:

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it's across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing - and terrifying - playground of amusements he calls "Christmasland."

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble - and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx's unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He's on the road again and he's picked up a new passenger: Vic's own son.

Inevitably Joe Hill’s early career will always draw comparisons to his father’s (Stephen King’s) work. Normally I hate to draw such a comparison and think that Joe Hill is definitely emerging from his father’s long shadow. However, with “NOS482” more than any other work I’ve read of his (“Heart Shaped Box” and the first two collections of “Locke and Key”) Joe Hill emulates everything I love about Stephen King.

The book focuses on Victoria. A young girl with the ability to find lost things at will. All she has to do is cross an old bridge on her bicycle and she magically finds herself where the item she wants is located. As a child this gift is innocent, however, each time Vicky takes a trip across the bridge, the ride takes its toll (excuse the pun). The lines between reality and craziness become blurred. The result is that Vicky spends most of her life confused about her memories and paying the price.

She is an excellent character. Although she loathes herself, as a reader you have the privileged information that what she sees is real and therefore you are always rooting for her. You sympathize with how she is and stand by those that support her.

Joe Hill ensures every character has depth. There is not one character that does not possess a flaw of some kind. From Vick’s lovable husband Lou, to her parents and to the one that reaches out to her most Maggie Smith (who has her own special ability).

It is Vicky’s son Wayne that garners the most sympathy though. With a childhood such as his, the poor boy does not stand a chance. Joe Hill does a terrific job of capturing his resilience and innocence.

The stand out point of view characters though are Charles Manx and Bing. It is the fashion at the moment for all characters to be portrayed in shades of grey. No one finds an out and out villain realistic anymore. Whilst this might be true, I miss the stories where someone is evil for the sake of being evil. Charles Manx fits that bill perfectly.

He abducts children and takes them to Christmas land. Although, he has his own warped selection process that he uses to justify his actions, it does not detract from the fact he is a sadistic and malevolent being. Joe Hill does a terrific job in describing Manx as the sinister bastard that he is. Every time he speaks you sense the saccharine venom that rolls off his tongue. The way he talks of Christmas land made my toes curl.

Joe Hill takes the one holiday that everyone loves and somehow transforms it into something evil. Even the Christmas songs suddenly have a creepy edge.

When we finally see Christmas land it does not disappoint. Horrific is an understatement. I don’t think I will ever look at a Christmas tree in the same way again.

Mr Bing is a despicable character but for different reasons. He worships Charlie Manx and his devotion and desperation to get to Christmas land are a different kind of scary. For someone who starts off fairly normal his descent into darkness is harrowing.

The novel sags ever so slightly in the middle. There were times where I wondered how the story could actually continue for another three hundred pages. I should not have worried as the pace picks up and hurtles towards the conclusion.

It is an ending worth waiting for too. The inevitable showdown meets all expectations. I like dark endings but even I longed for a happy ending as I approached the last fifty pages.

Joe Hill continues to impress. I have not read Horns but this is a major step up from “the heart shaped box.”

My rating: 9.2

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book review - Inferno

Inferno - Dan Brown

Dan Brown receives a lot of criticism from so called high brow readers. It is the vogue to deride his novels and his apparent inability to write. The fact that his books regularly sell into the millions is dismissed as ‘the public not knowing any better.’ Shortly before “Inferno” was released, I read an article that mocked Brown’s writing style by imitating it in an unflattering light.

Are these people jealous? You bet they are. I freely admit I do not always find Brown’s writing the most engaging I’ve ever read, it is also simplistic at times. But, BUT, I have always found his books highly enjoyable. Surely that is what counts?

The blurb:

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante's Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante's dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

The thing I like most about the Robert Langdon novels is that they explore familiar conspiracy theories and make them fun. Each mystery is cleverly unravelled, to the point where it makes you want to do some research on the matter.

“Inferno” is no different. The problem of the earth’s population versus the finite resources is a common one. Yet Dan Brown brings the issue to the fore in an exciting way.

The opening of “Inferno” is good. It would have been easy to proceed down the tried and tested path of Robert Langdon being drafted in to solve a mystery and become embroiled in a race to save the world. This is of course exactly what happens, yet the set up is unique as Langdon awakes in a hospital bed with no memory of the last two days.

It is a great way to start as from the outset Robert does not know who he can trust. Everyone he meets he suspects (although not as much as he should). The result is that we get to see the mystery from the beginning with the added bonus of the feeling that Robert has been here before.

The supporting cast is good but nothing special. Sienna has a reasonable back story but we never really explore her past to any degree. Everyone else are rather generic characters that have been seen before and no doubt will be seen again.

As I mentioned above, the strength of the novel was never going to be the characters but more the mystery and the fun action sequences. Unfortunately here, I was disappointed. The story revolves around Dante’s Divine Comedy. Whilst this is interesting as are the clues that lead on from this, the set up feels too contrived. The links do not sound plausible and half the time, Robert solves clues that Brown tries to make more complicated than they actually are.

In fact, take away the whole Dante link and you feel the story could still progress fine without it. This is a shame as it has always been what makes Brown’s novels tick.

“Inferno” is also the first time I genuinely got irritated by Dan Brown’s writing. The incessant need to describe any building of note to the nth degree is infuriating. Langdon could be fleeing for his life in a tense car chase, but he will still remark on the cathedral he passes, when it was built, by whom and mention a fact about said person’s life. Sometimes this fact is interesting, sometimes not. Always it is inappropriately placed and affects the flow of the scene.

Brown also has the annoying habit, of stating the text when someone is speaking in a foreign language and then providing the translation straight after. Inutile, pointless.

Finally, his dialogue in places is bad. He uses the “as you know,” line way too often to provide a massive info dump to progress the story.

Whilst the problems I highlight exist in his other novels, they did not feel so prominent as in this one. Maybe it is because the mystery is not so engaging, maybe I am clutching at straws.

The action scenes are good. Langdon is no action hero but uses his knowledge of the famous buildings to good effect. This works well and feels natural.

The ending is more of a whimper than a bang. I feel rather ambivalent towards it. Whilst Robert has a significant role, I was left scratching my head by it all and not because I was confused.

“Inferno” is not a bad novel, I enjoyed it for the most part, despite the irritations. I thought it was below the standards of the others though.

My rating: 8.0

Saturday, June 1, 2013

General Update

Book two update:

First of all, I haven’t done anymore writing on book 2 in the past two weeks. I have done some intense planning, but no actual writing. I did a similar thing when I wrote the first book i.e. got over the half way stage and then really started to map out how I was going to bring the book home. I am not a planner per se as I find once I have figured out the content of the book, I am less enthusiastic about writing it.

This sort of planning is more of a sketch of each character and figuring out where I want them to be at the end of the novel and how they are going to get there. As this is the second book in a trilogy, I think I feel confident in not bringing to a close all of the character arcs but allowing them to continue into the third book.

Ritual of the Stones update:

The main reason for not adding to my word count is I have concentrated all my spare time on re-reading the “Ritual of the Stones.” I am two thirds through the final edit and I am checking everything makes sense in terms of geography and timelines etc. I had done this before but this is the final run through before I send the book to the proof-reader on the 17th June. I have a launch date in mind. Nearer the time I will maybe put a countdown timer up on the blog.

Ritual of the Stones cover update:

I have now had four meetings with my graphic designer and we have virtually finalised the cover. I am dam proud of it, considering the limited resource I had. I have taken pictures of the early versions and placed them against other covers and mine really holds its own. That is of course me being biased, but I hope you will agree.

The process has been exhilarating and complicated. Richard (graphic designer) has done every image from the wording to the pictures in layers. What this has allowed us to do is to remove elements of the picture we don’t like without disrupting the whole cover. It is a good process and certainly makes it easier for me to say, “I don’t like this or that,” without worrying about crushing Richard’s feelings.

“Shut up and let me see the dam thing,” I can hear you say. Not so fast. It is nearly done but not yet. What I will do is to show you images we have used to contribute towards the cover. A sort of teaser if you will. The first of these is below:

View IMAG0107.jpg in slide show

These are exciting times.