Book Review: The Sword Saint (Empire of Salt #3) by C. F. Iggulden

Name:  The Sword Saint (Empire of Salt #3)
Author:  
C. F. Iggulden
Number of Pages:
384 (Hardback)
Published:
August 8th 2019 by Michael Joseph
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

Cities have been broken. Empires have fallen. And darkness is coming.
Success has drawn a cold gaze. A false king seeks dominion. His soldiers will bring desolation and despair to Darien. With treachery on all sides, the ancient capital looks set to fall.
Yet within the walls of that great city, a small team gathers. Tellius knows each one: a hunter, a gambler, a dead man, a wielder of threads – and the sword saint of Shiang. When Darien herself is threatened, Tellius will ask them to stand.
A city is worth more than the lives of those within. Darien’s streets and courts and homes and taverns are a bonfire on the hill, a beacon of life and light in the world.
That is why they will die to save her.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The Sword Saint takes us back for the final time to the Empire of Salt and the city of Darien, a place that has experienced much turmoil over the preceding books yet still stands, protected by the young King Arthur and the Twelve Families with their magical stones and powerful artefacts.
Into the city comes a young prince, the son of the King of Féal. Tellius suspects from the outset there is something not quite right about the newcomer, and questions whether he is who he claims to be, and who this so-called king is.
When one of the Darien family heads is murdered, it swings the council decision to form an alliance with this prince, yet there is much plotting and scheming and of course, Tellius was right in his suspicions and when the prince himself comes under attack it isn’t long before there is talk of war and Darien is threatened once again.

I picked up The Sword Saint straight after finishing Shiang so there was a certain similarity in plot that I wonder if I’d have noticed having had the actual gap between the two novels being published. I was hoping to find out more about the Twelve Families and their magical stones and artefacts. I liked the supporting characters of Regis and de Guise last time around, and the way they played off each other whilst battling together, and Lady Sallet was a good character too so I’d have loved more of them to round off this trilogy. These are minor things really and didn’t take anything away from enjoying this final chapter in the Empire of Salt.

It was nice to visit this world again and for familiar characters from previous novels to feature once more. Old faces return for the final showdown, called back to defend Darien with various magical abilities, or ‘knacks’ as they are known. Elias Post, who can see a short way into the future, Nancy, the woman who draws in power, Vic Deeds the gunfighter and the Shiang swordsmen Hondo and Bosin form a team to try and act as first defence for Darien, taking on this new enemy out on the road before they have chance to reach the city.
Watching these very different people drawn together, learning how to work to defend the city they call their own was good and provided some individuals characters to follow during the battle.

The fight scenes are exciting and fast-paced, with the inclusion of all kinds of magic lighting up the darkness, quite literally at one point. There’s a darker magic at play on the side of this new king of Féal, which makes for a formidable enemy.

The Sword Saint combines magic, battles and schemes and throws characters we’ve come to know over the trilogy right into the middle of it all to bring the tales of the Empire of Salt to an eventful conclusion.

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Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts By Paul Tremblay

Name:  A Head Full of Ghosts
Author:  
Paul Tremblay
Number of Pages:
400 (Kindle edition)
Published:
September 27th 2016 by Titan Books (first published June 2nd 2015)
Genre:  Thriller, Horror

Goodreads

The lives of the Barretts, a suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia. To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to halt Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Head Full of Ghosts centres around the Barrett family – sisters Marjorie and Merry (Meredith), and their parents – and events of years ago.
The story is told as a grown up Merry looks back on events during her childhood involving her sister Marjorie’s possible illness/possession and their ill-fated involvement with a reality tv show documenting said events called The Possession.
There are also blog entries by horror fan Karen, who has watched The Possession and is writing a series of articles based around the show and the episodes.

The way the story is told makes for much speculation as a reader. Merry relates events of the past to a woman intending to write a book about the family, but she openly states that she sometimes wonders about things she remembers, and whether they really are memories, or whether they’ve been affected by things she’s seen, read and heard in the years since the event. The gap between being eight and twenty-something also makes it more grey than clear-cut, and as various discrepancies begin to appear between the narratives, it makes you wonder even more exactly what happened and what is true.

The relationship between the young Merry and her older sister Marjorie starts out in such a way that it’s hard not to be drawn in – two sisters, loving books and making their owns stories and pictures, and enjoying growing up together. The tale becomes gradually creepier, and it all starts early on in the way these shared creations take on a slightly more sinister air before Marjorie’s behaviour starts to become more unnerving. The speculation as to whether Marjorie is ill, or making it all up, or genuinely possessed keeps you thinking.
Merry is great as a central character – she’s likeable, creative, and engaging. In the midst of the ensuing chaos once the tv crew arrives, and as Marjorie’s situation becomes more serious, you just want both of the sisters to come through it all okay.

The house itself almost becomes a character, with it’s black and white staircase, disorienting layout and Merry’s cardboard house in her bedroom and the sunroom that later becomes the diary room for the reality show. It’s quite atmospheric at times.

The story has a gradually increasing creepiness, rather like the ‘growing things’ that feature in one of Marjorie’s slightly darker stories. There’s definitely something wrong, and the hints that there is something coming makes you keep turning the pages despite a fairly good idea that it’s not going to be something good.

The book delivers in the way of twists as well, which makes it quite hard to talk about at length because the last thing I want to do it spoil it for anyone. I’ll just end by saying I ended up pretty engrossed in the tragic tale of the Barrett family.

Book Review: Shiang (Empire of Salt #2) by C. F. Iggulden

Name:  Shiang (Empire of Salt #2)
Author:  
C. F. Iggulden
Number of Pages:
368 (Hardback)
Published:
September 6th 2018 by Michael Joseph
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

IF THESE STONES COULD SPEAK . . . THEY WOULD CALL FOR WAR.
In Shiang, the young king rules without dissent. Mazer swordsmen stand watch on every corner, looking for the first sign of rebellion. This city is a place of quiet and slow dignity, like a man eating rice with a razor pressed against his throat.
Yet with one sharp movement, order is overturned. The balance of centuries is undone in the sudden spill of blood – and in the darkness, something terrible returns to Shiang.
Far to the west, four Shiang masters approach the city walls of Darien. The sword saint and his companions have crossed a continent to bring an old man home for punishment. They will not be denied, even if the whole city stands in their way.
TWO ANCIENT CITIES. ONE FINAL WAR.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Following on from Darien, Shiang continues the story of the Empire of Salt. The story begins in a new city, Shiang, far removed from Darien and the characters we came to know first time around.

Shiang introduces us to new main characters; a group of swordsmen sent by the king to bring home his uncle who has been located in none other than Darien, and another group who also set out on the long road to Darien.
Both these groups are interesting, from Masters Hondo, Bosin, and twins Hi and Je, the Mazer swordsmen tasked with escorting the king’s uncle back to Shiang, to the dangerous group who, via the power of one of the magical stones, manage to return from a grey land and occupy other bodies. Gabriel becomes the leader of this group when he realises just how much power he has and decides he wants to take first Shiang and later Darien.

All roads eventually lead to Darien where some of the characters from the first book make an appearance, most notably Tellius and Lady Sallet. Vic Deeds makes a brief appearance too.

Once the two groups completed their perilous journey and reached Darien I thought the pace really picked up and I found it difficult to put the book down, especially as the families of Darien unite and bring their magical artefacts out to defend the city against the threat of these powerful soldier-mages determined to take control of the city. The magic and the stones and their various powers made it exciting reading, especially when pitted against enemies who wield great power drawn from another stone.

The final book in the trilogy, The Sword Saint, had just been published by the time I picked up Shiang, and so I’m continuing the adventure of the Empire of Salt, to see what lies ahead for Darien and these characters I’ve followed for two books.

 

Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Name:  The Escape Room
Author:  
Megan Goldin
Number of Pages:
368 (Paperback)
Published:
August 8th 2019 by Trapeze (first published July 30th 2019)
Genre:  Thriller

Goodreads

‘Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.’
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.
Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

In The Escape Room four colleagues are trapped in an elevator for the duration. And what a bunch they are; I don’t think I’ve encountered such a wholly unlikable group in a novel for quite a while. When I first started reading there was a moment I was hesitant. I decided to read on a little further, and suddenly, something just hooked me.

There are two narratives. In the current setting a group of four colleagues from Stanhope and Sons have been lured to a ‘meeting’ which becomes an apparent escape room challenge.
They’re all highly successful, ruthless, competitive and in danger of losing the lucrative jobs that keep them in such high-flying lifestyles.
When the clues to their escape start to become increasingly personal, their survival instincts kick in and the tension mounts as their hopes of rescue begin to fade.

The other narrative follows the rise of new recruit Sara Hall, who joins Stanhope with good intentions; she hopes to be able to support her parents with part of her salary. Over time Sarah admits she has become more used to the ruthless attitude the company encourages and of her fellow employees.  She’s not particularly comfortable with some of her choices though, and forms a friendship with another colleague, the brilliant Lucy, whom the team tolerate mostly for her financial acumen.

The chapters go back and forth between the two narratives and leave you wondering just what happened to the two more likable characters of Sara and Lucy, and which of the elevator group, if any, will make it to the end of their ordeal as secrets and betrayals finally come to light and the truth about why they were selected for the escape room is revealed.

The Escape Room is fast paced, compulsive reading, a tale of bad behaviour, endless ambition and the desire for revenge, of secrets exposed and wrongs righted in an elaborate way. If you’re looking for an entertaining read to see you through these last days of summer then The Escape Room might be one to try.

 

Book Review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Name:  Good Omens
Author:  
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Number of Pages:
384 (Paperback)
Published:
March 5th 2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Apparently 2019 is the year of my discovering new-to-me authors whose works have been around for a while and then wondering how on earth I’ve missed out on them for so long.
I picked up Good Omens after watching the new tv series; I wanted to see if I would enjoy the book as much as I’d liked each colourful, bizarre, entertaining episode of the show, and it turns out… I did!

Would I have picked this one up had I not watched the series first? In all honestly, possibly not, the story may have sounded a bit too bizarre, but once I started reading, I found it difficult to tear myself away from the world of Crowley and Aziraphale. So, how to describe Good Omens?

The end is nigh, but years previously there was a mix-up involving a group of chattering nuns and a certain demon which resulted in an epic mistake… the Antichrist is missing. It’s a problem because the demon in question, Crowley, and his heavenly counterpart Aziraphale, have come to enjoy their existence on Earth and their Arrangement which sees neither good or evil triumph completely and keeps things ticking over quite nicely so they can enjoy all this world has to offer and each other’s company at the same time – unlikely as it may seem, the angel and the demon have formed a solid friendship over the many years of their existence.
So, neither of them really want the upcoming apocalypse to begin, and set out to locate the Antichrist and see if they can put a stop to it all.

I love these two central characters and their companionship. They’re so different yet they work so well together and balance each other out. I enjoyed every page of them together, whether it be trying to discover the location of the missing Antichrist, or planning to go for lunch at the Ritz.

There were so many little moments in Good Omens that made me smile, so it’s probably the first impending-apocalypse novel to achieve that. It’s a quirky, fun, bizarre caper of a novel with all manner of randomness – aliens, a 30-ft-tower of fish on the M6, the Bikers of the Apocalypse, a unique approach to team building exercises and Crowley’s poor Bentley, eventually willed on by nothing more than his own imagination. I laughed a lot throughout this book.

The characters, aside from the angel and the demon at the heart of the story, are so varied. There’s Anathema Device, descendant of the witch/creator of the Nice and Accurate Prophecies… and Newton Pulsifer, descendant of the Witchfinder Major behind Agnes’ eventual demise, and a group of kids, the Them, who live in the idyllic Tadfield, growing up alongside Adam, who is more than he realises. Oh, and a hellhound called Dog.
And that’s before I get to Shadwell and Madam Tracy, who make an unlikely team and get involved in averting the end of the world as we know it.

Good Omens is certainly one of the most unique books I’ve read recently, and I doubt I would ever have picked it up had I not checked out the tv series first. What a treat I’d have missed. Plots, sub-plots, random moments of laugh-out-loud humour, colourful characters and imaginative situations, Good Omens has all this going for it. Can’t wait to check out other books by these authors in the future.

Book Review: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

Name:  Twisted
Author:  
Steve Cavanagh
Number of Pages:
352 (Paperback)
Published:
May 21st 2019 by Orion
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:
1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.
After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I picked up Twisted, glanced at the brief synopsis and ventured online to try and find out more before I started reading. As it happened, quite a few reviews said this thriller worked best the less you knew, and I decided to stop looking before I ended up tripping over inevitable spoilers. Guess what? They were right! The less you know, the less you see coming and that makes for an enjoyable read.

It makes Twisted a great book to recommend, but a little tough to review, so I have a feeling this will be fairly short, but that by no means reflects on the book at all. I just don’t want to risk giving anything away…

Twisted is about books, writing, hidden identities, betrayals and deceptions, and that’s about all I’ll say in terms of plot. It’s cleverly plotted and perfectly titled, for just when you think you’re getting a grip on the ‘who’, the ‘how’ or the ‘why’, there’s the next twist, delivered at the perfect time to leave you reeling and rethinking your ideas as you read on.

Twisted certainly delivers a fast-paced thriller. It is a page-turning read that builds the suspense and raises the stakes right through to the very end. It draws you in and keeps you guessing. This is the first Steven Cavanagh book I’ve read, but I already have a copy of Thirteen and after enjoying this one so much I can’t wait to discover more of this author’s work.

Book Review: A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker #17) by John Connolly

Name:  A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker #17)
Author:  
John Connolly
Number of Pages:
720 (Hardback)
Published:
April 18th 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural

Goodreads

The new thrilling installment of John Connolly’s popular Charlie Parker series.
He is our best hope.
He is our last hope.
On lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.
Each is a sacrifice, a summons.
And something in the darkness has heard the call.
But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. From the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.
Parker fears no evil.
But evil fears him . . .


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Book of Bones is the 17th in the Charlie Parker series, but only the second book I’ve read after picking up The Woman in the Woods earlier this year. What a find this series is! I don’t know how I missed it for so long. The stories offer a wonderful mix of crime and supernatural and some memorable characters. This story begins shortly after events of The Woman in the Woods, and I am glad I read that book first.

A Book of Bones follows Charlie Parker and his allies Louis and Angel, along with rare book expert Bob Johnston who is knowledgeable in the ongoing search for the Fractured Atlas, an old book said to have enough power to alter the world forever.
Parker is in pursuit of the lawyer, Quayle, and his sidekick, a woman known as Pallida Mors. When last we saw this pair Quayle believed his search for the scattered pages of the Atlas was almost complete and that everything was about to change.

The search for this dangerous duo takes our heroes across Europe and to Britain, where a series of murders is keeping the police occupied. We follow D.I Nicola Priestman and her team as the body count rises, each being discovered at a site of historical significance.

There are stories within the main story, historical events of a strange nature, from a disappearance from an archaeological expedition to a murder in Whitechapel, and these tales added atmosphere and creepiness to the modern-day search for Quayle and Mors. I loved these interludes almost as much as the main narrative.

A Book of Bones is a vast and epic tale, and one that draws you in right from the start. Towards the end I couldn’t stop reading ‘just one more chapter’, but I didn’t want it to end either! At least I have the rest of the series to discover whilst eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Charlie Parker’s story.