Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review - Wool (JS)

Wool (Wool Trilogy 1) by Hugh Howey


Review by Jacqui Slaney
I bought this book, as I liked the look of the next in the series. Yes, I know that is a strange reason for buying a book but that is what happened. I did not know the author, but the whole idea sounded very readable.
This is the description:
In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. To live, you must follow the rules. But some don't. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.
As I have mentioned in other reviews, I do like science fiction, in fact, they were the first books I read, but some can be disappointing and difficult to read with very technical writing and poor characters that were as interesting as lumps of wood. This book does not fall into that category I am happy to say.
I found within a couple of pages of starting it, that I was hooked. The first character you meet, Holston the sheriff, pulls you in and by the time you meet Juliette the real main character, you cannot put the book down.
Imagine living inside a Silo, your life restricted to the different landings and the stairwell that runs from Down Deep to Up Top, where the airlock is and the canteen. This is where you can look out through screens and see what remains of the world. The screens are dependent on the people who choose to go or are sent outside by the judge to clean them. The result of which is a clean viewing lens and the death of the cleaner due to their space suit failing. Imagine living in this Silo and that the only time that a child can be conceived is when someone has died. Imagine what happens when someone popular and loved is sent outside to clean and what would happen to the mood of the silo when a rumour starts about the quality of the suits used for the cleaning.
You think all this would be hard to imagine, but this novel is so good, the writer makes the scenario very believable for the reader. You feel that you are there and you empathise with the different characters.
There are different points of views but in no way does this distract from the story, if anything it makes the story more tense and suspenseful, and ensures interest in even some of the secondary characters.
Juliette or Jules as she calls herself is a brilliant main character. She is strong and resourceful, though she still has doubts and fears, which make her more real. I liked Lukas with his stargazing and Bernard is someone everyone can dislike.
Normally by now in the review I am writing the part which says I like this book but.., but honestly I cannot find much fault. I can pick holes and say at times the pace of the story dips, but that is being very fussy.
As you can tell I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to all to read, as for me, well I’m going to read book 2.
9 out of 10

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review - Republic of Thieves

Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
Sometimes authors are a victim of their own success. Scott Lynch launched his career with two fantastic books. Unfortunately he then suffered from a well documented illness which led to a prolonged six year wait for the third entry into his “Gentleman Bastards” series.
With all delays there is a sense of inevitability these days that the reviews will always be mixed and the book will be met with general disappointment. I therefore made a point of letting the pandemonium die down after the release before enjoying the book with my views untarnished.
The blurb:
After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke's own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke's childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke's life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal - to destroy Locke forever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.
It was like Scott Lynch had never been away. Having recently re-read both preceding books in preparation for ROTs, I can safely say the style of writing and natural dialogue remains as strong as ever.
Once again, Scott Lynch tells two stories at once. One is concerned with the present day and the other returns to the familiar flashbacks of the Gentlemen Bastards and their time with chains.
In both we finally meet the eagerly anticipated Sabetha. For those that don’t know she is the one member of the Gentleman Bastards that we have heard mentioned a lot but have never met. Up until ROT, all we knew of her was that she was well regarded, dangerous and Locke pined hard for her.
What Scott does is interesting as essentially we are meeting two versions of Sabetha. In the interludes we meet the younger, more insecure incarnation and in the present day we witness Sabetha as a more closed off and confident woman who has established her place in society.
I have to admit, I liked both versions very much. She is strong, cunning and selfish but also retains a certain charm. It is easy to see why Locke falls for her in a big way and Lynch does a good job of conveying just how attractive she is by having others desiring her too.
Her relationship with Locke however is not so well handled. There is something a little too babyish about their dynamic and there are often times when one misinterprets what the other says or how they act, when their meaning was so blindingly obvious. A lot of the relationship also felt too drawn out so it felt frustrating rather than endearing. Even the other characters got annoyed at the pair’s reluctance to take move from a platonic relationship, this is fine to happen once, but when your own creations start repeatedly getting frustrated with the relationship, it is a sign that maybe the reader will too.
It did not detract from my enjoyment too much, but it did irk me slightly. Locke is stronger in this entry. He is back to being his assured self and is at home when improvising or getting out of trouble. His antics are amusing and you always feel like he has something extra up his sleeve which is the Locke you want to root for.
Jean on the other hand is relegated to a more supporting role once again. He does get his own POV chapters but is far less influential this time round which is a bit of a shame.
It was also nice to get reacquainted with Callo and Galdo in the flashbacks. The twins constant banter was a massive loss in “Red Seas Under Red Skies.”
Of the two stories the flashback plot is probably the stronger. The parts in Camorr in particular are excellent and the cast of actors who perform the play of Republic of Thieves is stronger and more diverse. If I had a quibble, it would be that the parts where Lynch had his characters read out lines from the play were a little tedious. The verses went on a little too long and felt unnecessary. I had little doubt that Lynch has probably written a whole play to support the story, it just felt a little self indulgent to include large portions of it and didn’t really add anything to the story for me. 
The present day storyline is enjoyable enough. It is fun reading about the one-upmanship the two sides of the political parties partake in, but there is never really the sense of danger involved. Yes there is the external threat from the Bonds Magi but you always get the sense that the outcome of the election doesn’t really matter.
What is good is that we learn more of the Bonds Magi and their background. We also learn a bit more of Locke’s past which is interesting to say the least.
Overall I enjoyed the Republic of Thieves a lot. It certainly disappoint me in any shape of form although it was not without its minor flaws.
My Rating: 8.6

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pewtory the lesser bard chapter 16 - Confrontation

To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 16 – Confrontation
Archie “mmm’d” appreciatively as the two plates were placed on the table in front of him. Pewtory sat opposite the peddler and was thoroughly on edge. He looked at the entrance of the Boar’s tusk tavern - waiting for the town’s guards to burst through the doors at any moment and arrest him.
The dinner in front of them was roast chicken and looked mouth watering. Pewtory could smell the sour taste of the lemon that had been squeezed over the meat along with another spice, cumin perhaps? Mounds of potatoes, golden and crisp spilled over the variety of fried vegetables. The bard saw carrots, suede and cabbage drowned in thick syrupy gravy. The food was the most appetising thing he had seen in weeks, yet still he was reluctant to touch it.
Archie Freestone had no such qualms and stabbed a fork into a potato and plopped the whole thing into his mouth. He then spent the next few seconds doing a serviceable impression of a monkey and revealing the contents of his mouth to all as he frantically waved his hand in front attempting to cool his tongue down.
Pewtory was confused. At the town entrance, the bard had waited as the peddler had driven the clattering cart towards him with a scowl on his face. Archie had jumped down and jabbed Pewtory in the stomach.
“You and me need to have a serious conversation,” Pewtory merely nodded bracing himself for what was about to come next. “Food first!” Archie had said and then ushered the wagon inside the town announcing his trade much like he had done at Gandara.
Those were the only words they had exchanged. Pewtory had followed the peddler like a culled child with his head bent and gaze firmly to the floor.
“Why are you not eating?” Archie said.
“I was waiting to see what you had to say?” Pewtory replied.
“You need your ears for that, not your mouth. Eat up, my treat.”
Thoroughly bewildered Pewtory did as instructed. The chicken was gorgeous and soon the bard was lost in the meal. Archie ordered two goblets of wine and the two enjoyed the meal in companionable silence.
Pewtory finished his meal first and sat back with a contented smile. Maybe Archie was allowing him one last decent meal before he turned him in. If that was the case, Pewtory could have no complaints. He sat back in his chair and studied the tavern.
It was dark, small and very busy. A fire roared in to one side smothering the room with the comforting smell of a logs burning. The customers all huddled together, nursing their drinks and speaking in low murmurs. From the snippets of conversations he overheard, the visit of the witch was very much the agenda of most people’s attention. A few glanced at him and Archie and shook their heads in disgust. Even if Pewtory was dressed up in his bard’s attire, the message was clear at this moment in time, strangers were not welcome in Compton. One particularly large man, with grey fluffy hair, downed his beer and openly stared. He moved the beer across to the waiter to be refilled with one hand whilst the other gripped the counter until it trembled.
Pewtory considered the wisdom of the way Archie had announced their arrival only moments before. The peddler was ignorant to the looks he was getting. He lifted his plate and drank the last of the gravy before washing it down with wine. When he had finished he let out a loud contented sigh. Pewtory shrank lower into his wooden bench and ensured the fish were covered underneath his cloak.
“We need to talk about what happened on the farm.” Archie said instantly bringing Pewtory’s mind back on the peddler.
“Did you get my message?” Pewtory asked. He did not like the stern expression on Archie’s face. He had never seen him like this before. The peddler pulled at his beard as he stroked it.
“No I did not get your message.”
“But I left it in the middle of the barn?” How could he have missed it? He couldn’t have made it any clearer?
“Ah so I am liar now am I?” Archie threw his hands up in the air. He shook his head from side to side and blew out his cheeks, looking at Pewtory as if he had just discovered he was not who he thought he was.
“Of course not, I just thought you’d see it. I spelled it out in stones.”
“Stones? What did it say?”
Pewtory frowned. What did the Peddler think it said? “Hope you liked my work? Catch me if you can? Victim number twenty seven?
Pewtory leaned across the table and beckoned Archie to do the same. He looked around and then whispered.
“It said, ‘NOT ME”
Archie nodded several times and sat back leaning against the wall. He bit the inside of his mouth as he considered what he had heard.
“I swear Archie. It was not me.”
Archie was silent for a few seconds before he launched into his tirade.
“What in the blue moon are you wittering on about? I thought we are friends and now you are trying to insult my intelligence.”
“I...I...I wasn’t?” Pewtory spluttered. He felt his mouth bob up and down like Willow and Wisp. He could not comprehend Archie’s reaction. It made no sense. Why would he be worried about Pewtory insulting his intelligence? Did he think he had been just masquerading as a bard but was really a murderer this whole time?”
“I get up in the morning first thing looking for you. I go to the barn to find it empty. No sign off you, no sign of that other bard nothing. Imagine how much of an idiot I looked when Red Jack comes up next to me and finds you gone, especially when I had spent most of the night, singing your praises and telling him what a special talent you were.
Red Jack was furious I had brought you to the farm and was up for killing you himself, but there I am, reassuring him that you were a good man and my friend. I informed him that we were travelling companions and I had high hopes for our combined skills.
And then, not only had you left without me, now you have the audacity, the front to sit there in front of me and claim it ‘wasn’t you.’ Well who was it then Pewtory? Some other you? Were you not in control of your thoughts?
I may not be the sharpest man, but I have feelings. If you didn’t want to travel with me all you had to do was tell me. I would not have taken offence. Much offence anyway.”
Archie finished his rant by pushing his plates across the table, he folded his arms and jerked his head away from Pewtory clearly sulking. His raised voice had caused the inn to go silent but again the peddler seemed oblivious to his actions.
Pewtory felt his cheeks burn as he registered the curious looks from everyone in the tavern. It seemed every eye in the place was upon him, judging him. He did not care though. If he was confused before, his mind was blown now.
There was no body? They had not found Lionel the Lark or the stones that Pewtory had constructed but how? How was that possible? Had Pewtory imagined it? Was it some damn awful dream? No, he knew it wasn’t? He might talk to his fish but he knew he was not crazy. It had happened he was sure of it. He could still recall the crack as the bard’s neck snapped.
Now that the entertainment was over, most of the tavern returned to their drinks. Pewtory watched as a barmaid sauntered towards him. She held a round tray level with her shoulders, on it was another goblet. She had a black bob of hair with a red streak on one side. She was curvaceous rather than large and was well covered for serving wench.
She stopped at his table and placed the goblet in front of Pewtory. It contained more wine.
“Compliments from a friend,” she said in a lazy drawl.
“Who?” Pewtory asked immediately scanning the bar.
“The guy over there,” she pointed towards a vacant bar stool near where the large man sat. “Oh, he was here a second ago. I guess he disappeared.”
Pewtory had no doubt that he had.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing update

Writing update:
First of all I would like to apologise for the lack of attention the blog seems to have had recently. I have gone from posting content three times a week on a regular basis, to only one item a week at the moment. My reasons for this are plentiful but you probably don’t care. Still I am going to tell you them all anyway.
First of all, my blog partner in crime has been ill again. Jacqui was required to have another operation for the same condition as before. She is recovering at her home as we speak but I’m sure you will agree we wish her all the best and a speedy recovery.
Next the dog ate my homework! Well not quite but there have been some issues with the blog. I always have several reviews scheduled in advance in case for whatever reason I am unable to write any. Somewhere along the line these have disappeared. I have managed to recover one or two but the rest are gone. I will re-write them but please have a little patience whilst I get things up and running again.
Thirdly, NaNoWriMo happened. For those of you that aren’t aware, in the month of November, writers of the world unite to try and bash out 50,000 words in one month. It is a Herculean effort, especially for me who prior to November was churning out around 5K a week. This is the main reason for the lack of attention to the blog and I apologise. The good news is that the sequel to the Ritual of the Stones is getting written a lot faster than it would otherwise have been.
As of today, I am behind on the target amount of words but only 5K behind. It is about where I expected to be at this stage and have a few days earmarked to catch-up.
So please have a little patience, continue to support the blog and the reviews will start again next week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pewtory the Lesser Bard Chapter 15 - Arrival at Compton

To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 15 – Arrival at Compton
As the hours sped by, Pewtory began to relax, sure he was not being followed. He only checked behind out of habit by the time the sun had reached its zenith and the tall chimneys and grey walls of Compton loomed into view.
He had heard rumours that the mayor had grandiose plans to establish the town as a major force in Brimsgrove but Pewtory struggled to see how he was going to achieve this. Despite its centralised location in the region, the town was too enclosed with trees for merchants to travel to regularly and serve as any real trading outlet.
Compton was a useful stop for those travelling to Lilyon from the north western regions and nothing more.
Pewtory crouched down and observed from a distance. The town was surrounded by a stone wall the size of a man. There was a main gate on the eastern side of the town and this was patrolled by two very bored looking guards.
Ordinarily Pewtory would have strolled up to the gates and announced himself loudly in an attempt to garner attention. Although logic dictated that there is no way news would have reached Compton yet the events at the barn had made him paranoid and he did not wish to take any chances.
“This is stupid,” he muttered to himself. He was acting like he was going to storm the town not find a random woman in it. He needed to be inside and mingling if he was to find Elsie Brookman, not skulking about in the shadows. No one knew him here and if news had travelled to the town of a deranged, murderous bard, than that did not have to mean him it was him. If he was lucky the residents of Compton would probably assume it was Lionel the Lark anyway.
“You’ve received word, that your nephew is to be one of the soldiers presiding over the Ritual and you are on your way to see him in action,” he said to himself making up an excuse for entering the town. At the end of his staff, one of the fish splashed in the bowl, Willow by the sound of it. “Quiet, unless you want to be left here with Beth.”
Convincing himself of his fictional backstory, Pewtory removed the feather from his ear and wiped the make-up from his face. He then carefully unpacked his mandolin and kissed it, before burying it in his blanket and stowing it in a thick bush. He prayed it would not rain.
“Sweet dreams Beth. I will be back as soon as I can for you, I promise.”
He rolled up the sleeves on his shirt to disguise the frilly cuffs and then for good measure, smeared mud on one side of his face to give him a rougher appearance. He could do little about the purple streak in his hair, other than tie it up and hope the guards did not notice it.
“Really I should leave you too as well,” he said to Willow and Wisp. “You are the biggest give away.” He looked long and hard at the fish who stared back blankly. “Ah come on then,” he said, and tucked them under his arm.
The guards looked bored as he approached. Both were young and were pitted with spots. One slumped against the town wall and barely glanced at the bard through dirty brown locks. He chewed on a blade of grass that was slick with his saliva. The other rested his hands and chin on the hilt of a sword that nestled in the ground. It was an awkward pose as the sword was quite short and so the boy was forced to stoop and part his legs.
The armour they wore was a similar design to the guards at Gandara. The padded vests were in even worse condition though and ripped in places.
“State your business,” the stooped guard mumbled in a tone that could not be less bored. His voice must have just broken, as it was deep and he screeched parts of the sentence. He blew out his cheeks as he spoke as if Pewtory was the biggest inconvenience in Frindoth.
“I’m here to sack the town, raze it to the ground, rape the women and enslave all the children,” Pewtory said.
“Really?” The boy suddenly stood up from his sword and struggled to pull it from the mud. The other one pushed himself of the wall with his shoulders.
“No! Of course not really. Do you think I would tell you if that was my plan?”
“How do I know that you aren’t bluffing now?”
“I’m sorry?” Pewtory said, now it was his turn to be genuinely confused.
“Well it seems to me, that if you wanted to sack the city, graze it to the-”
“Raze it.”
“Yes, raze it to the ground and all that other stuff. Then announcing it and then denying it would be a good way of trying to fool us guards.”
Pewtory was stunned into silence. The two guards looked at each other and smirked as if they had just outsmarted Frindoth’s greatest criminal mind.
“Do you get headaches often?” he asked finally.
“Don’t tell him Garett,” said the grass sucker.
“Look I am on my way to Lilyon for the Ritual,” Pewtory said. He thought about adding the rest of the story he had just rehearsed in his head, but decided it would be lost on the guards.
“Oh,” said Garett, “You best come on in then. Although I warn you the witch was here a few nights ago. Compton is not a place you want to be.”
Pewtory was more touched by the boy’s warning then the ease in which he was now being allowed to enter the town.
“Do you know who was selected?”
“Not yet,” Garett replied. Pewtory could see the fear in their eyes and felt guilty about teasing them. “But there will be three of us.”
“That is what the witch said.”
Pewtory’s mind raced. Three stoneholders from the same town was unheard of. Was there some significance or was it a massive coincidence? It couldn’t be coincidence, the Ritual was random in who it selected, but three people from such a small town was too much to be a fluke.
He thought of the stranger appearing to him so close to Compton as well. There had to be a reason behind it all.
“By the moons I hope it is not either of you two,” the bard said.
Garett nodded but the other lad puffed out his chest defiantly. “If it is than I shall do my duty to Frindoth.”
“Quite,” Pewtory said.
He was about to enter the town when a loud clattering noise accompanied by the unmistakable clop of hooves on the road behind him caused him to whirl around. His stomach lurched as Archie urged his horses on as they galloped towards him. The peddler saw Pewtory and frowned.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book review - MEG: Hell's Aquarium

Meg: Hell’s Aquarium – Steve Alten

There are action books that can do action incredibly well but are poor in terms of story and characters (Matthew Reilly – I still love you) and then there are the ones that are a cut above the rest (James Rollins).

For me Steve Alten’s Meg series definitely falls into the latter category. “Hell’s Aquarium” marks the fourth book (exluding the short novella) in the series and came out last year. Despite snapping it up, I have been delaying reading it as it would mean I was up to date in the series. Turns out I couldn’t resist any longer.

The Blurb:

The Philippine Sea Plate... the deepest, most unexplored realm on the planet. Hidden beneath its ancient crust lies the remains of the Panthalassa, an ocean that dates back 220 million years. Vast and isolated, the Panthalassa in inhabited by nightmarish species of sea creatures long believed extinct.

Tanaka Institute, Monterey, CA.:

Angel, the recaptured 76 foot, 100,000 pound Megalodon, has birthed a liter of pups -- five females -- far too numerous and aggressive to keep in one pen. One solution: A Dubai royal prince is building the largest aquarium in the world and seeks to purchase two of the "runts."

The deal hinges on hiring Jonas Taylor's 21 year old son, David, to be their trainer. Jonas reluctantly agrees, and David is off to Dubai for the summer of his life-- --not realizing he is being set-up to lead an expedition that will hunt down and capture the most dangerous creatures ever to inhabit the planet!

The thing about this series and so many action books, is that within the first 30 or so pages, you know exactly what is going to happen. You meet a character, they talk in a certain way, they might behave in a certain fashion and instantly you know how their story arc is going to turn out.

With “Hell’s Aquarium,” I guessed what was going to happen to everyone and even foresaw the plot twists a mile off. Maybe, it is because it was what I would have written or maybe because it is wholly unoriginal, but I really wanted to be surprised by the characters and unfortunately I wasn’t.

Jonas is still dam likeable. He struggles to run the aquarium that now hosts five Megalodons and finds himself increasingly embroiled in the bureaucracy and politics one would associate with running such a controversial theme park. What is refreshing is that he hads a genuine hatred for the sharks. This attitude is consistent and makes sense given all the anguish and heartache they have brought him.

In this entry to the series, Jonas’s son David takes a more prominent role. The rest of his family flit in and out and have no direct bearing on the plot. This is okay, as they do not take up valuable page time with unnecessary prose, but it would have been nice to see Jonas care for them a little bit more.  The only real emotion he demonstrates is for his son and his faithful friend Mac – who remains as cynical as ever.

David is far from likeable initially. He is your typical, young arrogant, the “world hates me” type of man. Dwarfed in his father’s shadow, he longs to prove himself in his own right. This story makes up the backbone of the plot as David seizes an opportunity to work in Dubai at a brand new aquarium. Despite Jonas’s protestations, his son goes anyway inevitably landing himself in deep water (see what I did there?). There is also a sub-plot regarding a group of radicals that believe the Megs should be freed, but this never really comes off and is tedious more than anything.

David’s arrogance and naivety allows him to be easily manipulated by practically everyone in the novel. His romantic interest verges on implausible yet somehow Alten still seems to make it work. I also found myself slowly growing to like David as he was humbled as the novel progressed.

It may sound like I am being critical about the lack of originality of the plot and characters but that doesn’t mean they are bad. As far this type of book goes, they are above average and just enough complexity is provided to raise them above two dimensional cut-outs.
There are even a few good secondary characters. Brian the drill instructor for example, is a nice foil for David’s character and allows the reader to witness a softer facet of his personality as he repeatedly outclasses the brass young man.

Despite the characters and the plot being highly predictable, the main reason I read this series is to be entertained. After four books it is a marvel that Alten can still write about a giant shark attacking people and make each scene sound fresh and exciting. Alten is truly skilled and delivers a mixture of scientific anatomy of the sharks and other prehistoric creatures without losing the reader in the process.

Some of the staged action scenes are truly breathtaking and are a pure joy to read. The set pieces also feel fairly natural and not contrived. Admittedly, you always know when one is about to happen, but the suspense and tension are always handled nicely.

The ending was suitably grand and there was also a nice surprise included which helped raise the enjoyment of the novel in my eyes. This series continues to be a guilty pleasure of mine that I have recommended to others, who are now firm Steve Alten fans. Bring on Meg 5.

My rating: 8.4

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pewtory the Lesser Bard: Chapter 14 - Flight and Decision

To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 14 – Flight and decision

The sun had just begun to appear over the horizon as Pewtory gathered the last of the stones and positioned it with the others. He stood up, stretched his aching back and then surveyed his hastily constructed work. He then lent down and adjusted the position of two of the stones to make the words clearer.
This time when he stepped back the words, “NOT ME” were clear to anyone that could be bothered to read them. It would have to do. He had already spent far too long, lingering in the barn then was necessary. The discovery of one dead bard with another very much alive bard standing next to the corpse in the middle of nowhere equated to only one thing. No amount of charm and protestations would save him from the noose.
Still he wanted to leave some sort of note to the peddler to let him know that he was not culpable for the death of Lionel the Lark.
Pewtory had left the stones inside the barn by the entrance. They should be noticed there, as for the murdered bard he had not dared to touch him. He had stared at him for a long while, unable to move or process what he had just witnessed. He had hoped that by some bizarre chance, Lionel the Lark would have survived the ordeal and would have suddenly started breathing again. However, all that had changed was that his horribly disfigured neck had changed to a deep purple.
It was not that Pewtory had not seen death before, (in fact he had actually dealt it out himself on occasion), but he had never witnessed an act so randomly violent, especially when unprovoked. He had thought about covering Lionel the Lark with hay as a sign of respect and to give him more time before the body was discovered, but the act would have been pointless once he had decided to leave the message with the stones.
Pewtory took a final look at the stones, gathered his possessions and then set off in the morning light.
* * *
Pewtory had been on the road for an hour before he forced himself to slow his pace. He had been doing a mixture of jogging and walking briskly. His feet were wet where he had veered off of the main path and headed across the grasslands and his neck was sore from continually looking over his shoulder.
Despite not sticking to the road, he remained close to it, as he had never been to Compton and so relied on the main road to take him there. The main road had meandered and several times his journey through the rough terrain cut across the road which although risky, gave him comfort to know he was travelling the fastest and most direct route to the town. Lionel the Lark had said he had been there the night before last, so it couldn’t be too far.
His legs burned and he yearned to stop but did not trust he had put enough distance between him and the barn. He hoped that Archie might believe him, but Red Jack Thomas would not be so trusting and if Archie could be believed, who knew what resources the farmer had at his disposal. Jitsuam farm certainly had more to it than initial appearances.
Another half an hour and Pewtory was forced to stop. He had entered a forest some time ago, and now felt certain he was concealed. He slumped to the ground and got his breath back. He glanced behind him out of habit and stared through the trunks that were three times the size of his slender body. A movement in the distance set his heart racing, until he identified a small brown rabbit, hopping oblivious on the forest floor. The sight made his stomach rumble and he fished around his pack for the last of his dried meat. With Lionel’s generosity and having decided to ride along with Archie, he had not given much consideration to replenishing his supply of food, the rabbit would make the ideal breakfast but he did not have time for the hunt.
He uncovered Willow and Wisp and sprinkled food into their bowl. Neither of the fish touched it. The both bowed their heads and Wisp’s tail was firmly underneath her body.
“Ah come on guys, you can’t be that upset, we barely knew the man,” Pewtory said. The fish did not change their positions and continued to ignore the food. “Is it because you think I’ve made up my mind? Well I haven’t, not completely anyway. What am I supposed to do? It is not as if I have a choice.”
Both fish turned in unison and faced away from the bard.
“I can see your point, the murder of a few people I come into contact with, is nothing compared to the death of thousands but it doesn’t feel that way. Besides if I don’t stop this Elsie Brooker from attending the Ritual then he will just find someone else, some other poor unfortunate wretch as a tool for his abhorrent bidding. Isn’t it better that I take on that burden and gain some fame out of it?
Rather my name live on the tips of people’s tongues than someone else. I am already famous for murdering a bard and nothing can change that, why not go the whole hog and become the most famous bard ever?”
Willow responded by flicking his tail and sending a splash of water towards the bard. It did not quite reach him but made him angry all the same.
“What in the moons do you know? You’re just fish. You couldn’t possibly understand what I am going through right now.” This time both fish sent a wave of water that dribbled onto his shirt. “Splash me again and I swear I will tip you out and leave you to drown on the floor.”
Pewtory realised he was shouting and looked around afraid that someone might have heard him. The forest was silent save for the early morning calls of the lapwings and bluejays. He flinched as a movement in the trees caused the branches to stir. It was only a squirrel leaping from branch to branch, but it was enough for him to realise he had dwelled in the same place for too long.
Not taking his eyes away from the treetops he huddled down close to the bowl and whispered to the fish, “We will talk about this later, for now we need to be on the same team in order to survive.” With that, he scooped up the fish and scurried ahead into the trees.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review - Broken Homes (JS)

Broken Homes By Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London 4)
Review by Jacqui Slaney
Being a  fan of this series, I bought this book very quickly on it's release, but promised myself that I wouldnt rush into reading it. Afterall, I had numerous other things to read, and if I read it too fast which was my habit, I would have ages to wait till the next one. But then being told that hospital visits and a opertaion was again on the cards, I decided to give in to temptation and just read it.
This is the description:
A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer? Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load. So far so London. But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection?
And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?
This is the fourth in the series, and though you can read this one without knowing the rest, I would recommend that you read these books in the correct order as the knowledge of the main characters gained from the other books does help in your enjoyment.
As in the others the story is told by Peter Grant a police constable who due to a series of rather strange events now finds himself a trainee wizard belonging to the Met Police's magical branch, not something he saw coming when he applied for the job.
I know I have mentioned this before in other reviews, but I really like the character of Peter, he has some great dialogue which at times is really funny. The descriptions of his skills training I enjoyed, the author manages to make  the idea of someone standing in an housing estate garden in the Elephant and Castle practicing werelights and floating water balls quite believable. The supporting cast of Lesley and Nightingale are here as are Toby the dog and Molly whose cooking skills are very entertaining.
This story has a slightly different feel at start with seemingly different events, murder, suicide and burglary all happening. But then the common thread is found in a particularly nasty death and Peter and the team see that the Faceless Man has appeared again.
There are reviews that say that the start of this book is too slow, that too much time is taken up by police work. But I found the interactions with the ordinary police good and stop me if I am wrong, but  Peter, Nightingale and Lesley are all members of the  police, though with magical skills so you are going to get police procedures written about in such a setting. People also complain about typos and the need for editing, yes there are mistakes here and there in the text, but there are not many and do not distract from the story.
The writing and detail as in the other books are excellent, there is something about reading a book set in a place that you know well, that makes it somehow comfortable to read,  as it is much easier for the reader to visualize the scene. The use of the supernatural creatures is also skillfully woven into the tale and shows what happens when you seriously upset one.
The threads of the plot are pulled together well, though there is a major upset at the end which you may not see coming, but is still shocking even when you half expect it and makes the characters even more real to you.
This twist leaves a major opening for the next book, which I for one will definitely be looking out for.
9 out of 10