Book Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Name:  This Is How You Lose the Time War
Authors: 
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Number of Pages: 
209 (ebook)
Published:  
July 16th 2019 by Saga Press
Genre: Science Fiction

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

My Rating:

4halfdiamonds

My Thoughts:

I was in the mood for something completely different when I picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War. I hardly know where to begin with this one. I was totally engrossed in this story of two agents on different sides of a long and complex war through time and space who take up a correspondence that spans years and sees them go from rivals to friends to falling for each other despite all the things that should keep them apart. So romantic, and the writing was lovely, lyrical, and inventive. I need more books like this.

Red and Blue take up a correspondence, and the novel proceeds in epistolary format, which is something I usually enjoy. This style of storytelling seems to flow well, and it works particularly well here as we fly through times, landscapes and space, each changing so quickly that these letters allow you to just go along with it.
Each new letter is a wonderful work of imagination, from the way it is written (in seeds to be consumed, or tea leaves, or water to be boiled), to the way it’s read (one has an instruction to burn before reading, another is read through a sting, another by the consuming of the previously mentioned seeds).

It becomes clear early on that Red and Blue are obviously fascinated by each other even as their respective sides, Red’s Agency and Blue’s Garden, demand that they hunt and destroy each other across all manner of times and landscapes, and the way the whole thing comes together is well done.
I wondered if I might have trouble following something that jumps around so freely through all manner of times and settings, doubling back on itself, going through vast swathes of time into futures unknown, but in the end it all made sense and I was swept up in the story of these two time travellers.

This Is How You Lose The Time War is probably one of the most unique tales I’ve read this year and I really enjoyed it. It was a book that I found myself wanting more of, and once I’d finished I felt tempted to go back and start all over again. At 209 pages it’s definitely one you could read more than once and probably pick up things you may have missed first time around.
And what of Red and Blue? Can they become more than adversaries on opposing sides of an endless conflict. Will their ending be happy, or will their roles on opposing sides keep them apart forever? Finding out was definitely a memorable reading experience.

Series Review: House of Crows (All My Darkest Impulses, Fog Descending, Circling the Drain, Love the Way You Lie) by Lisa Unger

AllMyDarkestImpulses FogDescending
CirclingTheDrain LoveTheWayYouLie

That long-ago summer, four friends came face-to-face with strange, dark events they couldn’t explain away. As they grew up and left town, they all tried to forget. Instead, their secrets shaped their lives, haunting each of them in their own way. Now, in this chilling four-part serial by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger, it’s time to come home.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

All My Darkest Impulses – 56 pages
Fog Descending – 60 pages
Circling the Drain – 60 pages
Love the Way You Lie – 76 pages

All books were published on May 27th 2021 by Amazon Original Stories

AllMyDarkestImpulsesAll My Darkest Impulses is the first in a four part collection of short stories that make up House of Crows. I read The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger last year, another short story, and enjoyed it so much that as soon as I saw this series of four connected stories, I knew I’d have to give it a try. Apparently the series is loosely inspired by The Haunting of Hill House and that’s just one more reason it found it’s way onto my endless list of books to read as autumn approaches.

In this first instalment we’re introduced to the house at the centre of it all. Merle House – massive, decrepit, an unwanted inheritance to Matthew Merle, who goes there with his family with the view to making it saleable and being free of the place, for of course, there’s a history attached, one that is teased at in this opening tale, and it involves Matthew and a group of friends during their younger days.
We also meet Claire, one of Matthew’s childhood friends who knows something of the history of Merle House. Years later it still seems to haunt her, and a traumatic experience during work starts Claire thinking that it may be time to return.

Creaky old house, strange noises in the night, visions that may be dreams, things that can’t be possible and yet in the moment they are, all courtesy of Merle House. There’s an air of mystery and menace about the place, and All My Darkest Impulses is a great introduction to what I hope is going to be en entertaining series. After something of a swift conclusion I think I’m going to read the rest of the series right away as they’re all already available, so, on to book 2…

FogDescending Fog Descending is the second volume of the story, and focuses on another of Matthew’s friends, Ian, a man working as a ‘spiritual cleanser‘, ridding homes of negative energy. Ian shared that summer with Matthew and his group of friends, when a girl went missing, and strange things happened.
The narrative goes between Ian, his memories of the past, and continues the thread set up in the first book, resolving that cliffhanger and continuing the tale of Merle House and introducing the Dark Man – a myth, or something inexplicable but real? Who knows?
There are some wonderfully creepy moments in this short tale, all adding to the overall mystery of Merle House and a past that draws this varying group of people back together. It also reveals more about the mysterious Havenwood, briefly mentioned in the previous story, now brought to atmospheric and eerie life as Ian recalls the abandoned place in the woods that he and his friends stumbled across all those years ago. As with the previous story, this one concludes with Ian’s realisation that he must return home, that things from the past need dealing with.
And so, with one remaining member of the childhood friendship group to meet, I’m moving on to…

CirclingTheDrainCircling The Drain, the third in the House of Crows series, and our introduction to Mason. I moved straight on to this volume without reading the blurb, it’s the continuation of one larger story after all, so I had no idea we would meet the adult Mason working with troubled teens suffering from anxiety. He’s doing his best, grateful for the opportunity he’s been given, and trying to make the most of it, so when the past comes calling via one of the group members looking him up online and finding out about a missing girl from years ago, it’s not great news.

The story switches between Mason and the Merle family, back at Merle House, where Matthew’s daughter Jewel is experiencing things that cannot possibly be real, and getting involved with an online friendship with someone called Eldon, apparently a boy she met in an online game, to whom she confides some of her worries and fears.
I enjoyed the ongoing mystery and general air of the supernatural around Merle House, from the weird noises, to Matthew’s late-night wanderings, to the realtor in search of answers about her family’s past.
Mason’s willingness to assist someone asking for help gets him into all manner of trouble and leads to the inevitable return to face the past of Merle House. And so we proceed to…

LoveTheWayYouLie Love The Way You Lie, the fourth and final volume in this enjoyable series. The final book blends past and present, truth and revelations, and things long hidden finally come to light. The myth and legend of the Dark Man is finally revealed as Matthew and his friends reunite once more to try and find Matthew’s daughter Jewel, missing and presumed to have ventured out to Havenwood, and put to rest their shared and troubled past.
It made for exciting reading as the conclusion drew closer. It’s fraught and I couldn’t put the book down, needing to know whether Jewel would be safe and what had really happened to this groups of friends years ago.

I really enjoyed reading this series. The narrative switching between the present and past, the way the group came back together, the darkness at the heart of Merle House, bleak, tragic and awful. I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoilers, but this series is well worth a read.

Book Review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Name:  The Devil and the Dark Water
Author: 
Stuart Turton
Number of Pages: 
498 (ebook)
Published:
  October 6th 2020 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Mystery

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. Anyone could be to blame. Even a demon.And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

There’s trouble at sea in the latest novel from Stuart Turton. After enjoying The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so much I had high hopes for this book and it certainly didn’t disappoint with a marvellous blend of murder mystery, eerie and possible supernatural goings-on, and intrigue amongst a varied group of people drawn together within the confines of a ship bound for a long voyage back to Amsterdam. When the ship is threatened before the journey even begins, it sets the tone for what is the come…

I’m not quite sure where to begin as there are many things that made this a gripping read.
It is a great mystery with a slightly claustrophobic air as all those people board the ship bound for Amsterdam. It’s wonderfully eerie as rumours abound that some kind of demon going by the name of Old Tom is actually what threatens the voyage. The air of malevolence and threat from this apparent demon – the presence of a shadowy figure glimpsed at portholes and in darkened corridors, whispers that it may be able to possess people and therefore walk undetected – all adds to the air of suspense and paranoia among the passengers and crew, many of whom are convinced that something evil is onboard the Saardam.

Amongst a memorable cast of characters are Samuel Pipps, Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel.
Pipps is a famous detective, perfect to get to the bottom of the strange happenings, but on this occasion he’s also a prisoner, confined to a darkened hole of a cell within the depths of the Saardam, awaiting his fate as he’s transported back to Amsterdam to face trial for an alleged crime.

Arent is a famous solider, and protector and companion to Sammy Pipps. He reluctantly comes to the fore to pursue leads that Pipps himself is unable to, having previously worked on cases with the great detective. He searches for the truth whilst seeking out his friend and mentor for advice whenever he can, doubting his own abilities after past experiences.

Sara is the wife of the Governer General. Having witnessed the initial threat to the voyage she’s reluctant to endure the journey and put her daughter at risk, but unable to convince her husband not to travel she immerses herself fully in the mystery, trying to find answers whilst exploring parts of the ship she really shouldn’t be venturing to. She’s driven by an urge to protect her daughter and never shies away from potential danger. Sara and Arent Hayes are drawn together despite being very different.

There are some wonderfully written moments which I was going to describe but it’s better to discover them in the reading of the story, a story that really keeps you guessing. Is there anything to this talk of Old Tom, or is it being magnified by a group of scared and superstitious people adrift and under threat from some unknown source?
I found myself trying to anticipate whether there was a human element, someone with a vendetta or reason to cause all this trouble, or whether it’s all so extraordinary that there’s no other explanation than something supernatural, and if that’s the case then how on earth will the passengers of the Saardam survive their journey?
I tried to guess for a while before the narrative just grabbed me and I sat back and went along for the ride. The final third of the novel was all action, as the situation gradually became clear, and I couldn’t tear myself away from needing just one more chapter to discover what would happen next.

I loved The Devil and the Dark Water. A group of people stranded at sea, confined together, the crew awash with colourful characters, from the rich and powerful to the roughest sailors, all at the mercy of someone or something, the ambiguity of the threat, the eeriness, the fact that there is such a mix of people to suspect of the various crimes and many possible reasons for someone to want vengeance, the potential that it’s something supernatural after all, it all made for an exciting read.

Book Review: Later by Stephen King

Name:  Later
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
248 (ebook)
Published: 
March 2nd 2021 by Hard Case Crime
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.
Later is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel IT, Later is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

Later is the story of Jamie Conklin, who discovers as a young boy that he can see dead people. Not only that, for the brief time that the dead linger, he can converse with them, and they are bound to tell the truth if asked questions. At first this unique skill is used to harmless ends, bringing small comfort to a recently bereaved neighbour, but it’s a skill that can also be used for less well-intended means should the wrong sort of person become aware that it’s possible.
And of course, that’s what happens, leading Jamie into all manner of trouble as he grows up and he’s dragged into danger in the real world whilst also somehow managing to attract the attention of something entirely other, something that he’s not sure he’ll never be rid of.
So, for the most part Later is a thriller, but there’s a supernatural twist to the tale which I enjoyed. 

I always enjoy one of King’s epic-length novels, and am currently working my way slowly through the Dark Tower series for the second time, but this novel, at less than 300 pages was a really nice change. There are a lot going on in a short space of time – great characters, awful characters, and an engaging narrative from Jamie as he tells of his unique talent and the things he encountered because of it.

I liked the family relationship between Jamie and his mother, trying her best to support herself and her son, her knowing about his talent and accepting that it’s real whilst trying to make sure it stays a secret, and the friendship between Jamie and Professor Burkett, who becomes convinced that the things Jamie confides to him aren’t just tall tales spun from a vivid imagination.
There’s also Liz Dutton, former partner of Jamie’s mother Tia, who wants to use Jamie for her own career salvaging prospects, regardless of his reluctance. She’s more unlikeable than any of the otherworldly things that Jamie sees, and will go to great lengths to get what she wants. Talking of the supernatural, there’s certainly one figure I would have liked to know more about. So much more. I would love another novel featuring Jamie, just to know more about that particular story.

Later is a fast-paced, exciting, slightly creepy read with an good narrator and quite a small but interesting set of characters. Definitely one to pick up if you’re looking for something exciting with a hint of the supernatural.

Book Review: The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1) by Andrew Mayne

Name:  The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1)
Author:  
Andrew Mayne
Number of Pages: 
382 (ebook)
Published:
October 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

The Naturalist is a page-turning thriller and proved to be addictive reading for me. The story follows Professor Theo Cray, an academic working in bioinformatics who finds himself suspected of murder when one of his former students is found dead. So begins a hunt for a serial killer who most of the police are not convinced even exists.

Theo is an intriguing central character. He knows how to analyse information and data in ways that others may not see, to look for patterns and use his knowledge and skills to make discoveries and connections that are not initially obvious. This comes in useful when he finds himself initially at the centre of a murder inquiry. A former student turns up dead and Theo is brought in for questioning.
That would be alarming enough for most, but when the death is declared the result of a bear attack Theo isn’t happy. The evidence and the signs point to human involvement and instead of getting out and back to his usual life, Theo immerses himself in tracking the data and following where it leads, despite this putting him back under the eye of the police.

The plots drives on at a rapid pace that left me wanting just one more chapter before I had to put the book down as Theo follows the patterns and becomes increasingly convinced there is a serial killer operating in the area and that it’s been going on for many years. There are some wonderfully creepy moments throughout as Theo narrows down the options as to who this killer might be and where they might be.
Alongside all the action the story includes all kinds of science information and it’s delivered in a fascinating way without being overwhelming.

Some of the actions Theo takes as he discovers more evidence seems likely to raise suspicions against him again and yet he doesn’t stop, he’s so convinced there is more going on that random animal attacks. He puts himself in danger more than once and the lengths he goes to to convince the police become more and more extreme.
Following a trail that becomes more grisly with each revelation leads inevitably to an exciting final showdown.

I really enjoyed The Naturalist, and as it drew to an exciting and tense conclusion I was almost sorry I’d reached the end of the tale, but it’s the first book in a series and I would certainly like to check out more of Theo Cray’s adventures.

Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Name:  Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author:  
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Number of Pages: 
367 (ebook)
Published:
July 23rd 2019 by Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it–and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan God of Death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City–and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.Mixing the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with Prehispanic mythology, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vivid, wildly imaginative historical fantasy.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a magical tale from Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Last year I read Mexican Gothic, and I enjoyed that so much I wanted to check out more by this author. The strikingly colourful cover and the tale of a quest undertaken by a young woman and a Mayan god was intriguing and so I began.
An adventure, a quest, a strong-willed young woman kept in a place she has no desire to be in by an overbearing family, and an immortal being in search of items that will restore him as the rightful ruler of a vast and varied underworld. How could I resist such a tale?

There’s a lot to enjoy here, so let’s begin with the main characters. Casiopea Tun is a young woman longing to escape, to dance, to swim in the sea, to drive an automobile, to experience life. Her family may have other ideas, mainly around Casiopea keeping house and doing chores. Little does Casiopea realise that someone is about to enter her relatively small world with the potential to make all her daydreams and more possible…

Hun-Kamé is the God of Death lured into a trap by his own brother and imprisoned with some help from those in the human world. I liked him just as much as Casiopea, from his remoteness to begin with, him being a god and all, to the way he slowly began to change as the pair travelled across the country, taking in many places and experiences as they moved closer to finding the items that would restore his power and give him his position back in the underworld.

The story evolves as Hun-Kamé becomes more human and as Casiopea takes on small bits of power in the face of all manner of wondrous beings, most of whom are set against them, having allied with Hun-Kamé’s brother.

There are many exotic settings – big cities and towns, the likes of which Casiopea has never seen before, places where there is dancing, colour, and music. The striking contrast to this is the otherworldliness of Xiabalba, a vast and elaborate kingdom where all is dark and grey.

As Casiopea begins to realise that in the end Hun-Kamé is still a god, that it’s unlikely there will be a time ‘after’ their shared adventure, I started to wonder how it could all end, and whether there really would be any future for these two, so different yet so tied together through their adventure.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a great read – a tale of love, adventure and forgiveness. I’ve enjoyed both of the books I’ve read so far by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and I would love to read more. I like the sound of Certain Dark Things, so perhaps that will be my next choice.

Book Review: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King

Name:  The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
612 (ebook)
Published:
March 11th 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published August 1991)
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

Roland, the Last Gunslinger, is moving ever closer to the Dark Tower, which haunts his dreams and nightmares. Pursued by the Ageless Stranger, he and his friends follow the perilous path to Lud, an urban wasteland. And crossing a desert of damnation in this macabre new world, revelations begin to unfold about who – and what – is driving him forward. A blend of riveting action and powerful drama, “The Waste Lands” leaves readers breathlessly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

The Waste Lands is the third volume in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King and throws us straight back into the action as new threats in this strange world reveal themselves.
Events from the recent past are starting to catch up with Roland. His previous actions affect his state of mind as he attempts to make sense of the truth of a boy called Jake, whom he is convinced is real but also never existed.
There’s a good recap of The Gunslinger in a conversation between the trio as Roland tries to reason out the mystery of Jake. I’ve gone from one book to the next so far with no break so it’s fresh in my mind still, but worth noting if it’s been a while since you picked up previous volumes.

The Waste Lands reveals more about this world, about the way it is formed, and the idea of the Dark Tower being the centre around which everything else is built. There’s talk of the Tower, and the Beams which hold the world together, the fact at the world is getting bigger, but also starting to decay; things are failing, becoming weaker, and Roland thinks that may impact other worlds too. The sheer scope of what may be at stake if the quest fails becomes clearer.

There are still hints of something very similar to our own world, little details such as the name Shardik reminding Eddie of rabbits, and previous mentions of familiar songs. These things, and the descriptions of the technology of the Great Old Ones almost makes it feel as though Roland’s world is possibly somewhere way in the future.

The group grows closer as they learn more about each other, and how to work as a team. Eddie and Susannah learn how to be gunslingers in this dangerous world where a mistake could mean death. As the travels continue Roland opens up, becomes more human somehow, less remote and closed off, especially as the group encounters other people. He’s a fascinating character and the way his history is teased out makes you want to know more.
The lengths these characters go to for each other and the risks they take show their bonds are strengthening. One particular reunion made for wonderful reading, and again showed Roland’s humanity. There’s also the introduction of a unique animal companion in Oy, the billy-bumbler, a stray who becomes part of the group and joins them on their adventures.

Aside from Roland’s world and all it’s mysteries, there are some great settings within our own world, including The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, a bookstore that Jake visits on the day he goes truant, and where he finds something that may become very important as time goes on.
The Mansion in Dutch Hill is a fantastic setting for a final ‘drawing’. It is a house with so much atmosphere it’s almost, and literally, a character for the too brief duration of its appearance. That section of the story reminded me of reading about the House of Usher, a tale I hadn’t read the first time I read this book.

Other things to discover in this story include a visit to River Crossing, a place where people try their best to survive in a harsh landscape. There‘s also the intriguing history of the city of Lud with it’s ongoing battles and the way the world moved on.
And, of course, there’s Blaine the Mono, built up from the moment that Jake first picked up a child’s story book about an apparently different train. More on Blaine later.

The build up to Lud and Blaine still somehow doesn’t prepare you for the sheer scale of what happens when our group arrive in the city. They encounter a wild place inhabited by different factions, and discover the way they live, their rivalries, and the perceived threat from the ‘ghosts in the machine’ that fuels their fears. It’s intense, and the last third of the book is a real rollercoaster. There’s so much going on, so much danger, so much threat, and times when it looks like the end for various members of the group.

And then there’s Blaine. How can a monorail train, and one that hasn’t been in use for many many years, possibly centuries, become such a dominant character? I mean, it’s a train! It’s also much more than that. That’s the Dark Tower series for you. And it’s a series that I am very glad I decided to read again, because it’s just as entertaining the second time around, and I cannot wait to venture on to the next volume, Wizard and Glass. I’m really glad the series is complete, because The Waste Lands ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, and even having read the books before, I need to get back into the adventures of Roland and his ka-tet.

Book Review: The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

Name:  The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2)
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages:  
438 (ebook)
Published:  
March 11th 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published May 1987)
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, encounters three doors which open to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous, volatile Odetta Holmes. And confronts deadly serial killer Jack Mort. As the titanic forces gather, a savage struggle between underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower…Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

The Drawing of the Three picks up Roland of Gilead’s tale only hours after the conclusion of events in The Gunslinger. Roland is on a beach, deciding where to go and what to do next, and that’s about the only moment of peace he has as new threats reveal themselves almost immediately and then the mysterious ‘drawing’ that the man in black talked about begins to happen. From there it’s all action. Things that were only hinted at during The Gunslinger start to play out in this novel, and the story really takes off.

Gone is the Old West feel to the story, as Roland discovers ‘our’ world, or more specifically the eras of our world inhabited by those who will be drawn into his group, or ka-tet, those bound by fate, and without whom Roland’s quest for the Tower cannot continue. They’re a vastly varied group, drawn from different ‘whens’ but the ‘where’ is New York during different decades – the 80s, 60s and 70s respectively.

Through these meetings more of Roland’s own character is revealed, his drive and determination in his quest, and the lengths he will go to should it be necessary, but this volume really belongs to those who must travel with the gunslinger- Eddie Dean, Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker and someone drawn after the gunslinger’s encounter with an apparent serial killer.

Each of these new characters is afforded a great introduction – to us, to each other, and to Roland – and once they leave their own world behind it should be onward into the strange world that Roland inhabits.
I don’t want to elaborate too much on these characters, the joy is in the discovery, but they’re an intriguing bunch, and at times it’s impossible to decide whether the group are going to be able to join together to venture into this wild and strange land of the gunslinger, or whether there will be trouble before the quest even starts. Through various sabotage attempts, illness and trials, the mysterious Tower seems an incredibly long way off at times.

I enjoyed Roland’s varied forays into our world, and the way he learned to navigate a place that to him was as alien and strange as his own world must be to those he has drawn there. This came through wonderfully in the final third of the story, when he encountered Jack Mort. I don’t want to spoil anything, so won’t say more.

For all the action, and there’s plenty in each of the locations that Roland draws his three from, I did enjoy the quieter moments as the group progressed along the interminably long beach towards an unknown destination. Moments in which Roland and Eddie could talk, find out more about each other, and form a bond of friendship. Moments where Eddie and Odetta could bond over the strangeness of their situation, Detta Walker permitting. It gave the story a nice balance.

And so as this volume of the saga ends, the three have been drawn and the group are about the leave that awfully long beach and it’s horrors behind. On to The Waste Lands. I don’t think it will be long before I pick that book up. The Tower awaits…

Book Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Name:  The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages:  
340 (ebook)
Published:  
11th March 2010 by Hodder (first published 1982)
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

In THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, THE GUNSLINGER leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So begins the epic tale of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his quest for the Dark Tower. I’ve decided to reread the books, see how much I remember from the first time and to see what else I discover this time.

It’s an intriguing beginning. Why is Roland so determined to follow? Who is the man in black anyway and what is he to Roland? Some of this will be revealed throughout the duration of the story.
It begins as a traditional Western type tale, as one pursues the other and they pass through the town of Tull. Although their paths never cross directly, between them they manage to wreak havoc of various kinds and leave destruction in their wake, and still the pursuit relentlessly continues.

The story draws you in, as Roland travels across the desolate and barren desert and up into the mountains, often reflecting on his past – hints of a completely different life lived in castles and a walled city, of courtly intrigue, schemes and plots, of friends and loves lost along the way. Of a young boy on the path to becoming a gunslinger but forced to challenge his teacher in order to become a man as various threats to his family and home become apparent. I loved these glimpses into the life that Roland left behind.

The Gunslinger introduces this strange world, a mix of the Old West but with hints of our own world and a time that has possibly been and gone. As Roland often reflects, ‘the world has moved on’. It’s similar to our world, with some familiar features, such as songs, ‘Hey Jude’ is mentioned more than once, but it’s also quite different, a world of magic and mutants, and a place that I’m looking forward to spending more reading time in (again).

On his travels Roland meets a young boy, Jake.  Jake is not from Roland’s world, and doesn’t quite remember how he came to be at the abandoned way station where he encounters the gunslinger. It becomes clear as the two journey on together that Jake may be important in Roland’s relentlessly determined quest to find the man in black. This eventually throws up an interesting dilemma for Roland, What will he do, if a choice has to be made between a newfound friend and a long-time adversary?

The Gunslinger packs a lot into quite a short novel, and serves as a good introduction to Roland and his quest for the Dark Tower. To end, another quote, ‘go then, there are other worlds than these’, something that Roland is about to find out as his epic quest continues.

 

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Name: NOS4A2
Author:
Joe Hill
Number of Pages:
995 (ebook)
Published:
First published April 30th 2013 by William Morrow
Genre:  Horror, Thriller

Goodreads

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.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

NOS4A2 is a tale of two people, massively different in every possible way, yet destined for a collision course due to their unique abilities.
There are different worlds, the regular world, and the world of inscapes, the world of the imagination. Not everyone can access these worlds, and they’re different for everyone.
For Vic McQueen, she has the unique ability to find lost things via a covered bridge that appears only for her, so she can go where she needs to.
For Charlie Manx, he has Christmasland, more on that soon.
There are apparently others with talents too, and they’re all harnessed through different things.
Vic‘s ability first comes to light when, as a young child out riding her bike and thinking about her mother’s lost bracelet, she rides across the Shorter Way bridge and emerges in a completely different location. Later on, her childhood bicycle is replaced by a motorbike.
Manx owns a classic Rolls-Royce Wraith, which not only allows him to access Christmasland, but drains all the goodness out of its passengers as fuel for the journey. Manx long ago left anything good in himself behind, and so he needs passengers. As they are drained, Manx seems to take on some of their vitality, becoming younger as time goes on.

NOS4A2 starts out with a spooky, eerie air, but also adventure as the young Vic discovers her power for finding lost things, and the story picks up pace as years go by and Manx threatens Vic’s family, deciding that a fair exchange for her telling tales about him and getting him incarcerated, robbing him of his family (his own daughters are in Christmasland, and they’re happy to see him when he returns), is to repay her in similar fashion by taking Vic’s son from her and introducing Wayne to the Christmasland kids.

It’s immersive and detailed with great world building, particularly with Vic’s magical covered bridge, right down to the bats that reside in the roof space and the way the bridge degrades over time. There’s also the playground of Charlie Manx, Christmasland, with it’s reindeer-go-round, enormous Christmas tree festooned with unique decorations and the Sleighcoaster. Christmasland where every day is Christmas and party games include Scissors for the Drifter and Bite the Smallest. Warm and cosy it is not, but the residents seem to enjoy the place.

On to the characters surrounding our two leads. First, the good…

Lou Carmody is wonderful. When Vic stumbles into him whilst fleeing for her life he accepts it without question, hauling her onto his motorbike and riding away from danger. He’s heroic but in a quiet way. Lou is steady, dependable, trying his best to be a good father to Wayne, and to support Vic through her trials, and they are many. His faith in her, even when what she’s saying seems impossible or incredible, is unwavering.

Maggie Leigh, friend and fellow person with unique skills (courtesy of a unique set of Scrabble tiles) is the Here, Iowa librarian who Vic meets in her earliest travels across the bridge and who returns when it’s apparent that Manx may not be gone after all. She’s a tragic character who seems to have a lot of hardship and hurt in the years between her first and second encounters with Vic, and I would have enjoyed more glimpses into the years that separated their encounters.

And now for the bad…

Bing Partridge is a disturbed individual long before he becomes enthralled with Charlie Manx and Christmasland, and this only gets worse with the promise of Christmasland dangled before him by Manx. If he just does the things that Manx asks, then he’ll be able to visit this land of magic and wonder, so he thinks. He is truly monstrous with his basement of horrors, and has no redeeming features at all. For all that Manx is a bad ‘un, and he really is, Bing is skin-crawling.

As a reader of Stephen King I enjoyed the nods to other works including the Dark Tower series and IT. As if Manx wasn’t scary enough, the idea that he possibly knows of Pennywise or The True Knot from Doctor Sleep… I’ll leave that thought there.

I’ve enjoyed a number of books by Joe Hill now and NOS4A2 is another one to add to the list. It’s a book that languished on my TBR list for far too long.  I wish I hadn’t waited because what a book it is. For a pretty long book it never felt too drawn out.   Time spent with these characters made me root for Vic, for her desperate attempt to save the life of her son, and to hope that she triumphed over the threats against her family.  I can’t say more about whether she does win through in the end, you’ll just have to pick up the book to find out.