Review of XX by Rian Hughes

At Jodrell Bank Observatory in England, a radio telescope has detected a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin—a message that may be the first communication from an interstellar civilization. Has humanity made first contact? Is the signal itself a form of alien life? Could it be a threat? If so, how will the people of Earth respond?

Jack Fenwick, artificial intelligence expert, believes that he and his associates at tech startup Intelligencia can interpret the message a find a way to step into the realm the signal encodes. What they find is a complex alien network beyond anything mankind has imagined. 

Drawing on Dada, punk and the modernist movements of the twentieth century, XX is assembled from redacted NASA reports, artwork, magazine articles, secret transcripts and a novel within a novel. Deconstructing layout and language in order to explore how idea propagate, acclaimed designer and artist Rian Hughes’s debut novel presents a compelling vision of humanity’s unique place in the universe, and a realistic depiction of what might happen in the wake of the biggest scientific discovery in human history. 

Having finished XX this morning I feel a sense of bewilderment and also weirdly, relief that I have made it to the end of nearly 1000 pages. 

XX had all the makings of my new favourite book, the premise is phenomenal and I really enjoy mixed media formats and graphic novels. I started out a little lost but immediately absorbed, I had easily sunk 200 pages without even realising. I loved the backstories of the characters, especially Harriet, learning how they came to be together to unpick this potentially world changing discovery. I also loved Dana and the conspiracy theory sections about what she experienced. The early snippets of wiki entries, interviews and magazine articles were frighteningly true to life with the kind of xenophobia that parts of humanity turn to when they don’t want to just accept that they are scared about what they don’t understand.

The DEMn were fantastically realised, I loved Girl 21 and her tweet style communication the most, her # conveying so much more in a couple of words than any of the others could in several pages, but XX themself I found impossible at times. The science is super-sciency and very in depth, I would presume that there is a high degree of fact and research but who knows! It sounded like it knew what it was talking about although I did feel very lost at times. I did however very much enjoy the use of patterns and how the most seemingly innocuous of breadcrumbs led to an exciting chase across the landmarks of London. I think the reasons why these pattern chasing sections stood out so much was due to the fact that quite a high proportion of the story takes place in a single room.

Downsides for me however though were the huge swathes of exposition which meant the actual story got lost, the use of font for XX’s sections was impossible to read and left me feeling disorientated and I was unimpressed with the comments about using a Burka as a disguise to escape and the use of word rohypnol to explain a lost passage of time. I also hate the fact that for parts of the story XX succeeded in making me just feel stupid

Ultimately for me XX was an amazing story idea which became lost in its need to be something it’s not. At half the size this could have been a really decent fast paced sci-fi thriller, but design is what makes Hughes intrinsically Hughes but sadly this is where it just didn’t work. These were initially the parts I looked forward to for their uniqueness and I wanted to try and unpick the pattern, by the end though i looked forward to them for the very reason that it was a quick way to get through 20 pages.

I feel conflicted because what it did well was done amazingly well but the rest was just too much for me.

Thank you to Black Crow PR and Picador for sending me a copy for review, its a book that I’m glad I read even if my experience fell short of what many others found to be a 5 star read.

3*

Review of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler

Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.

But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

Fireborn is a fantastic middle grade fantasy that ticks all the right boxes.  It is full of adventure and just the right amount of peril along with a good old battle between good and evil.

Twelve is a great protagonist and as we explore her story we discover that it’s not surprising that she has built up such a tough exterior, although underneath she has a great loss to deal with and explains her arrival at the Lodge.  When a child goes missing it’s understandable that because of her loss, Twelve wants to be the one who goes out to find them. Whats unexpected are  her travelling companions. Dog, a powerful lodge guardian having their first feeling of freedom for many years, and a few others like her but who have very different reasons for tagging along.

As the reluctant allies journey on, they are confronted with all sorts of magical and monster filled challenges, like they are going through trials and at each turn they must learn to trust just a little more, even when confronted with their most terrible truths. I really loved this way of writing their quest and it gave them all the opportunity to shine in their own way.

The action was brilliantly written, so fast paced and filled with great imagery as the young team put into action all they have learnt about their craft and each other. I think I probably read the last half of the book non stop, it was so exciting!

I loved how wholesome the book felt though, despite the often grim surroundings the friendships shone through in a beautiful depiction of found family, forgiveness and acceptance. I would highly recommend Fireborn to any young reader or indeed any reader, including those like myself who are perhaps quite wide of the target audience! I’m passing this onto my 10 year old daughter to read next and I hope she loves it as much as I did!

Blog Tour: Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan

Hello lovelies! Today I’m very excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan and I’m grateful to Titan Books for having me along! I have a shiny excerpt for you, but first here’s the blurb!

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

If that’s got you intrigued, which I hope it has, then please read on as I have an exclusive extract for you:

118 Maple Street

Friday, July 9

     “It’s a hairbrush night,” Rhea Schroeder called up the stairs to her daughter Shelly. “Don’t forget to use extra conditioner. I hate that look on your face when I hit a knot.” 

     She waited at the landing. Heard rustling up there. She had four kids. Three still lived at home. She had a husband, too, only she rarely saw him. It’s unnatural, being the sole grown-up in a house for twenty-plus years. You talk to yourself. You spin. 

     “You hear me?” 

     “Yup!” Shelly bellowed back down. “I HEAR you!” 

     Rhea sat back down at her dining room table. She tried to focus her attention on the Remedial English Composition papers she was supposed to grade. The one on top argued that the release of volcanic ash was the cheapest and smartest solution to global warming. Plus, you’d get all those gorgeous sunsets! Because she taught college, a lot of Maple Street thought she had a glamorous job. These people were wrong. She did not correct them, but they were absolutely, 100 percent wrong. 

     Rhea pushed the papers away. Sipped from the first glass of Malbec she’d poured for the night, got up, and scanned the mess out her window.

     She couldn’t see the sinkhole. It was in the middle of the park, less than a half mile away. But she could see the traffic cones surrounding it, and the trucks full of fill sand, ready to dump. Though work crews had laid down plywood to cover the six-foot-square gape, a viscous slurry had surfaced, caking its edges. The slurry was a fossil fuel called bitumen, found in deep pockets all over Long Island. It threaded outward in slender seams and was mostly contained within the park, but in places had reached under the sidewalks, bubbling up on neighbors’ lawns. There was a scientific explanation, something about polarity and metal content. Global warming and cooked earth. She couldn’t remember exactly, but the factors that made the sinkhole had also galvanized Long Island’s bitumen to coalesce in this one spot.

     All that to say, Sterling Park looked like an oozing wound.

     They never did find the German shepherd. Their theory was that a strong current in the freshwater aquifer down there had carried him away. They’d likened it to falling through ice in a frozen pond, and trying to swim your way back to the opening.

     He could be anywhere. Even below her feet. Funny to think.

     This evening, the crescent was especially quiet. Several families had left town for vacations or to get away from the candy apple fumes. Those who remained, if they were home at all, stayed inside.

     Just then, pretty Gertie Wilde emerged from 116’s garage. She carried a haphazardly coiled garden hose, its extra slack spilling down like herniated intestines. Gertie’s big hair was coiffed, her metallic silver eye shadow so glistening that Rhea could see it from a hundred feet away. She stopped when she got to the front yard, hose in hand.

     Rhea’s pulse jogged.

     Gertie peered inside Rhea’s house, right where Rhea was standing. She seemed frightened and small out there, like a kid holding a broken toy, and suddenly, Rhea understood—Gertie had no outdoor spigot to which to attach her hose. She needed to borrow. But because of the way Rhea had acted at the Fourth of July barbeque, she was afraid to ask.

     A thrill rose in Rhea’s chest.

     Margie Walsh screwed it up. She came out from the house on the other side of Gertie’s and walked fast to meet her. Waves and smiles. Rhea didn’t hear the small talk, but she saw their laughter. Polite at first, and then relaxed. They hooked the hose, then unrolled a plastic yellow bundle, running it the length of the Walsh and Wilde lawns. Water gushed and sprayed. A Slip ’N Slide. With the temperature lingering at 108 degrees, its water emerged like an oasis in a desert.

     Pretty soon, Margie’s and Gertie’s kids came out. Fearless Julia Wilde gave herself ten feet of running buildup, then threw herself against the plastic and slid all the way down until she landed on grass. Charlie Walsh followed. Each took a few turns before they could convince rigid Larry. At last, he did it, too. But Larry, uncoordinated and holding Robot Boy, didn’t build enough momentum. Only slid halfway.

          The lawn got torn up. The kids got covered in mud and then hosed themselves off and started over. Tar from the sinkhole stuck to their clothes and skin like Dalmatian motley.

     Now that the seal was broken, all of Maple Street opened up and shook loose. The rest of the Rat Pack and some of their parents streamed out. Laughter turned to screams of delight as even the grown-ups joined in.

     Rhea watched through her window. The laughter and screams were loud enough that muffled versions of them permeated the glass.

     Gertie didn’t know any better. With her central air-conditioning broken, she’d probably gotten used to that slightly sweet chemical scent. The rest of them were stir-crazy. Figured, if a pregnant woman was willing to take the risk, the rest of them were pansies not to go out, too.

     But anybody who watches decent science fiction knows that the EPA isn’t perfect. The stuff her neighbors were rolling around in tonight might glue their lungs with emphysema twenty years from now. Even her husband, Fritz, who never had an opinion about anything domestic, had announced that if the hole didn’t get filled like it was supposed to, they ought to pack the family into a short-term rental. He’d crinkled his nose that very first night it happened, grudging fear in his eyes, and said, “When it smells like this in the lab, we turn on the ventilation hoods and leave the room.”

     Rhea ought to warn these people. She was obliged, for their safety. But if she did that, they’d think she was a killjoy. They’d think it had to do with Gertie.

     She played the conversation out in her head. She’d go out to 116, trespassing on Gertie’s property, and urge them to go home. To take hot showers with strong soap. They’d put down their beers, nod in earnest agreement, wait for her to go away, and then start having fun again. Probably, they wouldn’t say anything mean about her once she was gone. Not openly. But she knew the people of Maple Street. They’d chuckle.

     She backed away from her window.

     Returned to her papers. Sipped a little more Malbec as she reviewed the next assignment in the pile, which was written in 7-point, Old English font. It was about how the last stolen election had proven that democracy didn’t work. We needed to move into Fascism, only without the Nazis, the student argued. She took out her red pen. Wrote, What???? Nazis = Fascism; they’re like chocolate and peanut butter!

     Between the papers, the people outside, her husband at work, and even her children upstairs, Rhea felt very alone right then. Misunderstood and too smart for this world. All the while, Slip ’N Slide laughter surrounded the house. It pushed against the stone and wood and glass. She wished she could let it in.

Good Neighbours is available now through Titan Books as Paperback or Ebook

Review of Ten Low by Stark Holborn

Ten Low is an ex-army medic, one of many convicts eking out a living at the universe’s edge. She’s desperate to escape her memories of the interstellar war, and the crimes she committed, but trouble seems to follow wherever she goes. One night, attempting to atone for her sins, she pulls a teenage girl – the sole survivor – from the wreck of a spaceship. But Gabriella Ortiz is no ordinary girl. The result of a military genetics programme, she is a decorated Army General, from the opposing side of the war to Ten. Worse, Ten realises the crash was an assassination attempt, and that someone wants the Ortiz dead…
The pair bury their hatreds and strike an uneasy deal to smuggle the General off-world. Their road won’t be easy: they must cross the moon’s lawless wastes, facing military hit squads, bandits and the one-eyed leader of an all-female road gang, in a frantic race to get the General to safety. But something else waits in the darkness at the universe’s edge. Something that threatens to reveal Ten’s worst nightmare: the truth of who she really is and what she is running from.
 

Ten Low is a wonderfully realised story, the comparison to both firefly and Dune is really quite accurate although there are not many laughs to be found on Factus, although Gabi’s scathing sarcasm often comes close. Its been a while since I have read a pure science fiction book and I had no idea how much I needed this.  The story is totally immersive and the narrative is so strong that I could almost feel the dust in my mouth as I was reading. Factus has a very mad max style vibe, forgotten about, making its own rules, yet a moon which has many of it’s own superstitions born out of being right next to the void. The presence of the “Ifs” was probably my favourite part of the story, how they changed and developed as an entity as Ten started to remember more of her troubled past was fantastic to read.

There were great dynamics in the book as well, I loved how Ten’s friendships played a huge part in the story, the unconditional support for what she was doing was beautiful to read along with the diversity contained within those friendships. Her relationship with Gabi was the star of the show, a back and forth of emotion and rivalries as bits about each of their histories gets revealed leading to a shift in their tentative peace each time, some much harder to reconcile than others

What I didn’t like about the book, and its a personal stylistic thing rather than any real failing, is the way it’s laid out. The book is split into parts but there are no chapters within those parts, it’s just a rolling narrative relying heavily on scene breaks to give a stop point. Ten Low is the second book I have read this month with this style of approach and it’s not one that I really enjoy unfortunately.

If you want a pacey and punchy sci-fi, full of great friendships and a twisting story that will keep you guessing, I really recommend Ten Low! Thank you to Titan books for sending me a finished copy for review.

4.5*

Review of Balancing Act (Battle Ground #6) by Rachel Churcher

Corporal David Conrad has life figured out. His job gives him power, control, and access to Top Secret operations. His looks have tempted plenty of women into his bed, and he has no intention of committing to a relationship.
When Ketty Smith joins the Home Forces, Conrad sets his sights on the new girl – but pursuing Ketty will be more dangerous than he realises. Is Conrad about to meet his match? And will the temptations of his job distract him from his target?

Balancing Act is a tie-in novel in the Battle Ground Series, revisiting the events of Darkest HourFighting Back, and Victory Day from Corporal Conrad’s point of view.

Balancing Act is a welcome return to the Battle Ground series and an interesting change of narrator. Corporal Conrad was the perpetual thorn in Ketty’s side and his side of the story is wonderfully told. The final 3 books are condensed well and the change of location for much of Conrads tale makes this book so much more than an companion point of view. Whilst Ketty and Bex played their game of cat and mouse, Conrad’s foray into the resistance began and it was both captivating and page turning, The way the stories wove together were wonderfully crafted and the momentum was steadily building throughout, if you’ve read the earlier books you’ll know whats coming but it still comes together in a wonderfully surprising way.

Conrad is not a likeable character, he is utterly conceited, so blinded by his own good fortune in the gene pool the idea that someone could get one over on him was unthinkable, the other side of his interactions with Ketty were interesting to read, I just wish I could remember more of Ketty’s narrative at that time. Despite making him a womaniser and all round awful human being, Rachel Churcher almost made me think to feel sorry for him at one stage, he was very well written in this book and his own overinflated voice and the confidence he projected in his power over women was a little consuming at times, because as the authors note says, sadly most women have experienced a David Conrad in their lives.

If you’re a fan of the series you will love this additional insight which really helps to round out the story and also gives us a bit more Ketty, which can only be a good thing.

4*

Balancing Act is out today and you can grab your copy here: http://getbook.at/BattleGroundBook6

 

Review of The Cottingley Cuckoo by A.J. Elwood

Captivated by books and stories, Rose dreams of a life away from the confines of the Sunnyside Care Home she works in, until elderly resident Charlotte Favell offers an unexpected glimpse of enchantment. She keeps an aged stack of letters about the Cottingley Fairies, the photographs made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle, but later dismissed as a hoax. The letters insist there is proof that the fairies existed. Rose is eager to learn more, but Charlotte allows her to read only a piece at a time, drawing Rose into her web.
As the letters’ content grows more menacing, Rose discovers she is unexpectedly pregnant, and feels another door to the future has slammed. Her obsession with what really happened in Cottingley all those years ago spirals; as inexplicable events begin to occur inside her home, she begins to entertain dark thoughts about her baby and its origins.

As a person who was captivated by the story of the Cottingley Fairies growing up I was excited to start reading this book and I’m grateful to Titan books for sending me a copy for review, however, this was a book that wasn’t a great fit for me.

The book is split into two parts both are interspersed with one sided letters from a Mr Fenton who is corresponding with a representative of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which are used as background to the main plot and serve to drive the story forward as the tale unfolds. The first part I enjoyed the most, the start of the unsettling ability that Charlotte Favell had to get under Rose’s skin, but Rose sadly was a character that I was unable to really warm to. She was deeply unsatisfied with her life and therefore ripe for the twisted fancies of a bitter old woman, I was surprised at how easily she became ensnared but that fed into Rose’s desperation to be something more. The story did well at maintaining an air of menace and unease, playing off the plausible fantasy of someone who wants to believe.

However for the second part I just felt mostly confused, the lack of post natal care troubled me and whilst it worked to serve the purpose of the story, as someone who personally suffered from PND I felt that lack of accountability perhaps poorly researched. This sadly distracted me from the story as Rose became more and more frantic and pulled into the story Charlotte Favell had woven, she worked in a place filled with health care professionals who were seemingly oblivious to her erratic behaviour. Thinking about it the second part felt more like one woman’s struggle to survive an illness whilst caught in a web of cruelty.

I enjoyed the writing style for the most part, the subtle way the letters show a spiral descent was well played out and it managed a creepy feel throughout, I just struggled to get on board.

3*

Review of The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Hello hello everyone

Today it’s my stop on the Titan Books Blog Tour for the wonderful The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec!

When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.
 

The Witch’s Heart is wonderful story of Angrboda, it’s woven into 3 interestingly laid out parts, each with their own distinct feel. The first has a loneliness to it as Angrboda starts to make a life for herself outside of Asgard, despite the often solitary existence though she makes a comfortable life for herself until it is turned upside down by the presence of Loki turning up mainly whenever he wanted something from her, but whilst he is not there Angrboda is joined by the wonderful Skadi and what starts as a reciprocal relationship born out of necessity turns into a wonderful friendship. The story progresses into one with a lovely homely feel to it as Angrboda and Loki’s dynamic develops into one which is more and their children and members of Skadi’s family come into the fold.

What really made the book for me was the opportunity to see a different side to Loki, whilst he is still the trickster, its the softer and more vulnerable side to him that he only lets slip outside of Asgard that was wonderful to read. His dynamic with his children was so interesting, even though I felt that often his attitude towards Angrboda left a lot to be desired in my mind. This then leads me onto Skadi who is probably my favourite character in the book, she is stalwart in her relationship with Angrboda, their friendship built over many years of respect and reciprocation, I adored how their characters developed together.

The story was so cleverly written that it went from being a wonderful, if not a little unconventional, family existence to one where a sense of unease began to be woven within. It snuck up on me, the feeling of apprehension as we got closer to the time of Angrboda’s visions, I had spent so long with these characters going about their daily lives that I suddenly wasn’t ready for what was inevitable, I felt a joy with being with them and they had been so carefully wrapped up in their world that I was troubled by the underlying tone. The cruelty that Angrboda suffered is still present in Asgaard and it starts to seep into Angrboda’s existence through unwelcome guests, troubling dreams and ultimately betrayal. I was so emotional at what she then goes through and how the story changed again to one still of loneliness but also one of redemption and forgiveness.

As the story hurtled towards it’s inevitable cataclysmic conclusion I was also left feeling uplifted by how in a way whilst one cycle was broken, one started anew but this time with a new hope and an ending that felt comforting and as it should be.

If you are are a fan of Norse mythology but are looking for a different take on an old tale then I really recommend that you pick up The Witch’s Heart.

4.5*

The Witch’s Heart is available now through Titan Books

Review of The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.
The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.

Firstly I would like to thank Borough Press and Tandem collective for the gifted copy of this book for a read-along. You can check out my Instagram story highlights to see my thoughts as the book progressed.The End of Men, as you would think is going to be a difficult read, not only in that it describes a virus that doesn’t care age but may also brings home the stark reality of grief and how that impacts on the human psychology when there is no support around because the world is collectively grieving.

The End of Men was very much a book of 2 halves for me, the first was so captivating I absolutely loved the pacing and the different point of views. I found it interesting to follow some of these characters from the start to the end but others we get a tiny glimpse. My favourite of the glimpses was a lady in Russia who discovered an empowerment that many of us, I’m sure, could get on board with. Amanda made the book for me though she was stoic and knew how to get the job done, even when those around her refused to admit that a job needed doing.  The description of society as the virus took hold was stark and for a book that started to be written in 2018, what would have seemed far fetched a year ago felt strikingly realistic.

However, the second half faltered. Whilst there were many individual elements that I really took pause on, such as trying to fill traditionally male dominated roles in society and how to protect male newborns, there were many parts that I felt were over laboured. I glazed over most of Dawn’s chapters and Maria’s journalistic articles just didn’t work for me as they didn’t stand out from the general writing style in the way a news article should. Her “edgy” journalism just felt careless. It just think it didn’t achieve what it set out to in the closing stages which is a shame as the first section was so fantastic.

Some parts of the social commentary though were well done, I especially liked the way that those left with nothing reacted to those who had blessedly had escaped with their lives relatively intact and the small lights of hope and normality peppered throughout. However, I can’t deny that I spent a lot of the end just waiting for it to, well end, so I think that this will round out with a 3.5 for me.

BBNYA Blog Tour – Review of The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition and/or the BBNYA tours organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website (https://www.bbnya.com/) or our Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR SIGN UP FORM HERE. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering. 

The Lore of Prometheus has a fantastic opening vibe and John Carver an instantly likeable anti hero. Like so many of our special forces returned from Afghanistan he has a heavy dose of PTSD and is struggling to get back to any semblance of a normal life. Its desperately sad that the guilt he feels about managing to keep a roof over his head has him turn away from other veterans less fortunate living on the London streets. One things for certain, he has not lost his training and after a particularly brutal street brawl he finds himself with no choice than to return to the place that broke him. I think it really helped me that I was a huge fan of the show Homeland because I could really visualise where he was and the streets and markets he found himself in. These opening pages were great, I loved how he became sharp, in his element, and honestly I could have read so much more of this stage.

The introduction of Mackenzie was unexpected and their eventual shared incarceration came together well as is the reason for it. I’m not sure I would describe their abilities as magics in the traditional sense but more like powers, think Umbrella Academy here, some that are discovered are easily concealed but others are truly terrifying. I did find that this middle stage of incarceration was a little repetitive and it was actually Mackenzie’s chapters that shone through here, the small taste of freedom that was snatched away being the ultimate tipping point. I liked how the story became about balancing humanity with self preservation and the murky waters in between.

The closing stages picked up the pace again and, in places, and when the depth of the facility and the depravity of those behind the programme becomes clear it really becomes quite horrifying. I liked how everything was a challenge but also how after just a short time together John and Mackenzie clicked into to place with each other, to work together in unexpected ways. I struggled a bit with the comic book style super villain I have to say but that said the ending was satisfying and the measure was right given what they faced.

I ultimately enjoyed the Lore of Prometheus, I think I would have loved it more if the middle section was pared down as it felt like a long read at times. But the characters are great, falling on the darker end of morally grey, their psychology becoming their biggest help over the hindrance they initially seemed, hopefully we’ll get to see more of them in future as they certainly deserve to be on the page again.

4*

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)! 

BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (If you love beautiful books you NEED to check out their website!) And the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.

 

Review of The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.
When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.
Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.
But no one has ever survived.
With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

I finished The Prison Healer yesterday and that ending has still absolutely rocked me! I loved this book so much, the characters, the story, the way it made me feel and that cover is fantastic too! Lets dial it back though, and start with the characters. Kiva was a great protagonist, a survivor bound by her oath to help those in need no matter what. I loved her focus and determination and that despite the looming trials she had to solve a mystery shrouding the prison at the same time, this girl is the queen of multitasking. She is supported by a great case of side characters, some more on the morally grey side than not, it is a prison after all and not everyone is falsely imprisoned! I have to address the half star docking in the room though as the romance was enemies to lovers style, which is not my bag at all and whilst I admired Kiva’s stoicism with keeping her head down and focusing on the work I did have to eye roll when she started inner monologuing about Jaren’s dreamy eyes and cheekbones – I get that there is a market for romance but I feel that it wasn’t really necessary to drive this story forward.

And drive forward it does, for me there were no lulls at all, Kiva moves from task to task methodically, I read the second half of this book in one go as I just didn’t want to put it down.  The prison was an epic backdrop to all that was happening and was a character in itself with so many areas both displayed and hidden, the sinister Abyss and the dank aquifier each one with its own sense of foreboding every time Kiva left the sanctuary of the infirmary. Whilst the story does follow quite a few of the traditional YA tropes it does them well and the diversity of the setting breathes new life into them. That is what makes The Prison Healer such a great read though, it takes a story that you think you know and simply just does it better.

It does get dark though, Kiva is met by a relentless tirade of verbal and physical abuse and there is a TW for self harm here although its discussed in retrospect rather than the act being carried out. There are parts that I didn’t think I could bring myself to flip the page to read what I thought was coming but the brutality is thankfully always brief but it is impactful when it happens really showing the power of fade to black.

I think I’m going to leave it there because whilst there is so much I want to say, it is such a unique story that I don’t want to spoil anything and also I’m struggling to articulate all the ways this story made me feel. Its a mid paced read which somehow manages to feel like an electrifying faced paced page turner. Also Tipp is adorable and I want to wrap him up in a giant blanket and feed him milk and cookies. So yes, please read The Prison Healer, you won’t regret it!

Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for the e arc to review.

4.5*