Tag Archives: Fantasy

All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

*This review may contain spoilers*

Oh where to begin?!

I was first introduced to Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy by watching the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ series on Sky and I was hooked. It’s a brilliant adaptation of the first book in the trilogy, and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of series.

But having already watched the series I did find that it impeded my reading of the first book in trilogy, which is titled ‘A Discovery of Witches’. Knowing about the general plot from the tv show and having enjoyed it so much, and being left with such a cliff hanger, made me seriously impatient to find out what comes next. I had to force myself to be patient with book, and allow myself to be fully immersed in the world Harkness has created, in a way only the novels can truly provide.

The plots and characters Harkness has created are wonderful. They are very real, relatable and supernatural all at the same time. As a reader I connected with so many of them, and when one of my favourites seemed about to meet an untimely end I was genuinely horrified – I simply had to carry on reading just to learn their fate in that moment.

The love, romance, hopes, dreams and hardship between Diana and Matthew are stuff great loves are made of. The Romeo and Juliet elements are unmistakable and the paths they travel both together and alone are inspiring.

A tale of witches,vampires, daemons, magic and love – at times the pace of the novel was almost agonizing as Harkness lingers in the details and seemingly mundane nuances, but when the tempo picks up with rapid speed in the way that it does, as a reader you’ll be glad of the reprieve. Ultimately those extra details are what ties the plot, the characters and their relationships together. They also ground the story, making it more relatable, and believable.

The relationships and plot between the books are expertly intertwined. Harkness is careful to allow new experiences to shine, but also doesn’t let the reader forget the key moments, making sure they are gently reminded and teasing them into place book after book.

Harkness’ inclusion of real-world places, objects, life and famous people from history are so satisfying. It makes it all the more intriguing to see how it be done in the tv series to come.

In short I would 100% recommend this trilogy and the accompanying tv series. But consider reading the first novel before watching the series, so you can fully enjoy everything the book has to offer.

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Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale, by David Andrew Crawford

Dark Solus: An Assassin’s tale is a fantasy tale that is truly filled with adventure, battles and some raw emotion. The start of the n but novel is intriguing and suitably suspenseful, it certainly sets the scene for the kind of world the reader is going to enter; at the same time it’s not overly detailed so the rest of the novel has plenty to offer.

Moving on as you read further you’ll find the novel has a good pace, with interesting characters being introduced all the time, consistently adding depth, intrigue and much appreciated context to the events of the main character’s (Dark Solus) journey. However during my reading I was not totally taken with the choice of names used. Whilst the names are somewhat unusual and therefore fitting with the fantasy genre, it found all but the name ‘Mephisto’ was somewhat lacking. In this I include Dark Solus. His name does fit the role he must take on during the novel and befits his history, but I felt it was somewhat out of line with my perception of the rest of his character.

Dark SolusCrawford has a good use of adjectives, his depiction of a hell-horse is not only unusual as I’m normally greeted by hell-hounds or the knights of hell and even the apocalypse horsemen, but it’s also an incredibly thoughtful quite frankly beautiful and depiction. Another impressive nod to this skill is the paragraph in which Mephisto transforms himself into an imaginatively detailed, well-timed and a plot twist which hints at other striking plot twist possibilities. In keeping with this level of detail is the magic lessons between Dark and Mephisto, which I found very interesting as this is an area of fantasy I find many authors skip over, or rely on the reader to assume the character’s level of skill.

By Chapter six the reader will have proof that Crawford is capable of producing believable, engaging and detailed battle scenes time and time again. Although violent in nature (as most epic battles are) and seemingly cruel, Crawford never lets the reader forget that all the violence and cruelty comes from a boy with a tragic past and a promise to fulfil and perhaps readers will feel more sympathetic towards Dark for this.  By chapter seven a story of love, loss, revenge, and magic has truly blossomed into a decent work of fiction.

At one point in chapter seven I found an amusing homage to what I could only recognise as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and ‘The Stigg’. Though amusing it was unnecessary and I felt it actually spoilt the atmosphere of the novel, by removing me as the reader from the world of magic I’d settled into, making it feel all the more out of place.

It’s clear there are a variety of literary and cultural influences within Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale from the Greek fates, harpies, Hades and Kraken like creature; to Viking Thor and Loki (Lore) right through to Tolkien’s dwarves with a lost home. Not forgetting the trials of Heracles (Hercules) which are clearly reflected in the quest Dark undertakes throughout his journey.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash but Crawford pulls apart each influence,  using only what’s necessary and doesn’t let his inspirations digress from telling Dark’s story. As a reader picking out each influence as you read further is interesting and I found myself all the more engaged with the novel by being able to do so.

There are plenty of back stories Crawford could utilise and expand upon into short stories, which I would certainly be interested in reading. It has such a rich mythology and detailed sub-plots that there are plenty to choose from and fan fiction fantasy writers would also do well to give this novel a try.

Overall Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale is well worth the read for fantasy lovers, but also it’s got a bit of everything so it’s a good choice for introducing young or reluctant readers to not only the genre but reading in general which is always a plus.

© Gemma Feltham 2nd June 2014

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Ezekial #1- Created and Written by David Kraine, Art and Letters by Patrick Beavers

Ezekial is a compelling story of an ordinary boy, born on earth but whose parents had to flee amidst the destruction of planet earth, finding refuge on New Earth. Kraine’s written story is great- as with all comics it’s relatively brief at first, but the back story grows the more you read and there’s enough detail to cement a reader’s interest, without giving too much away.

The characterisation is strong, believable and relatable despite the supernatural references to Ezekial’s abilities; strengthened by the clear and concise style Kraine writes with. What was meant by ‘I’ll find you’? I can’t wait to read the next instalment. The artwork is simply fantastic; the images of the forest in which Ezekial lives are particularly stunning.

EzekialThe colours used by Beavers are highly appropriate and intriguing, overall the artwork has a certain ‘oil-painting-esque’ quality to them, which was a welcome change to the somewhat ‘plasticky’ finish I’ve found in other comics. I would definitely recommend Ezekial to fans of the sci-fi/ supernatural, it’s especially suitable for anyone just venturing into the world of comics.

© Gemma Feltham 1st March 2014


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Wish- C. H. Aalberry

Wish by C. H. Aalberry, the last novel I read in 2013, is very fast paced and action-packed- Aalberry doesn’t hold back when he immediately launches the reader into the world in which the novel is set.

Initially readers are first introduced to two very different, but equally interesting characters. Aalberry writes with a unique compassionate edge that leaves readers wanting to know more about even the most arrogant characters. A plot of self-discovery is a staple one of the fantasy genre and Wish is no different in that respect. But the characters, their carefully crafted traits and slowly revealed backgrounds are unique and carry this plot well.There are elements of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia; it has a clear story line with easily likeable characters. Any aged reader who is a fan of all the above should enjoy this fantasy-adventure.


I did come across the occasional spelling that seemed out of place. I find this is often the case with fantasy novels- authors feel that a differentiated spelling keeps the reader grounded in the fantasy. Whilst this may well be true, especially for works such as The Lord of the Rings, but in my experience (for the most part) words that require the reader to reach out to their common sense to deduce their meaning; will always take the reader further out of the novel- rather than pulling them farther in.

Otherwise Wish is consistently written, concise where appropriate and offers detail in equal measure of humour and sincerity. There are some delightful instances of personification. I found it really lifted the tone of the novel, keeping it interesting and intense but also retaining some lightness in its tones- reminding the reader that this is an adventurous fantasy tale.

The more I read the more I wanted to know about our main character Dak and his companions.  Aalberry has a wonderful knack for bringing characters to life- making them more appealing and enjoyable.  Often novels with a lot of side-line characters have too many to do them all justice, so they get forgotten or lost in the plot, suddenly disappearing. But in Wish, although the reader meets new characters in each plot twist and indeed each chapter, throughout the novel I felt that Aalberry did his best to do each character justice. Each one had a back story of sorts, each had a part to play in either Dak’s or Aventur’s story, because of this care and attention to detail I never felt that any character had been forgotten.

Wish has plot twists in every chapter, absolutely brimming with action, magic and adventure. It’s well-written, uncomplicated, easy to read and enjoyable because of all that.

© Gemma Feltham 9th January 2014


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The Birr Elixir- Jo Sparkes

Summer has finally arrived and with it comes holidays lying on the beach with a good book or e-book. To start my summer get away early I escaped into the fictional world within The Birr Elixir, the first book in a series titled The Legend of The Gamesmen penned by Jo Sparkes.

First impressions are good, the prologue is strong and offers important detail for the rest of the novel rather than just being a large and unnecessary paragraph. Continuing onto the first chapter Sparkes sets a comfortable pace which is consistent throughout and an easy flow of events, revelations and character development. There appears to be some clumsiness in the sentence structure of this first chapter, but the further you read this is rectified and the writing becomes much stronger; subsequent chapters are much better.

As the plot thickens it becomes increasingly clear that there is much more to this novel than first appears- magic, adventure, action and a prince it’s got a bit of everything! On an aesthetic level I found the cover of this novel rather dark and foreboding- which made me think that the plot would be much darker than I found it to be.

The Birr Elixir

Moving on, as the reader continues to read The Birr Elixir they will slowly get to grips with Sparkes’ characters. My favourite character name of course belongs to ‘Snark’, one of Sparkes’ villains, whose name I have taken to appreciate as a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark. In keeping with the style and pace of the novel, the development of key characters Marra and Drail is suitably consistent. Most interesting is how Sparkes patiently carves and depicts Marra’s life up until the present. Upon reaching the half-way point in the novel, a reader may find it difficult to determine whether or not Marra’s story so far is happy or sad. At this point, given the events thus far and the parts of her past which have already been revealed, I would say it is at a relatively happy medium- making her more relatable and believable in the minds of the reader, but she’s not so predictable as to run the risk of her becoming a boring and lesser character in subsequent titles.

Sparkes has successfully presented her readers with a well-balanced selection of characters with a variety of backgrounds and individual stories to tell. The focus on the sport featured in this book at first took me by surprise. Reminiscent of quidditch from the Harry Potter novels, rather than detracting from the novel it adds a further dimension to the characters and locations presented to the reader; and I have to say it is the most exciting sport I’ve read about in a piece of fiction since being introduced to quidditch. Sparkes also offers readers an intriguing and exotic setting for this fantasy novel. ‘The flats’ and desert lands are described in such a way that draws in the reader, as they are reminiscent of the lands of Ancient Egypt as seen in popular films like The Mummy and Indiana Jones.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted fantasy. The writing is light and easy to read, the plot clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend to both young and old fantasy fans. I for one thoroughly look forward to reading the rest of books in The Legend of The Gamesmen series.

© Gemma Feltham 2nd August 2013

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The Black Elf of Seaward Isle- Joni Parker

The Black Elf of Seaward Isle by Joni Parker is an eclectic piece of fantasy fiction. The first chapter of any novel is important for scene setting, back-story and first impressions to carry you through the rest of the book. The Black Elf of Seaward Isle immediately launches the characters of the novel but is limited in its time and location settings. We arrive on Seaward Isle during an unknown time, later discovered in the novel, but there was some lacking detail in the depiction of the main character’s (Alexin) first journey. The next few chapters offer slow progress regarding character development,  but Parker is still able to retain the reader’s interest and keep them engaged enough to continue reading.

The Blaack Elf of Seward Isle

The odd time structure and lack of fixed location is interesting but I often felt as though I was reading Alex’s diary- it was a little ‘and then this happened, and then that happened’, largely due to its relatively simple sentence structure. The essentials are always substantially detailed without complexity or wayward tangents. It would definitely be suitable for a young adult reader but many of the other topics including death make it suitable for a wider audience. However “Ham” is a terrible nickname for anyone, even if your name is Hamlin. By the end of the battle in Chapter 2, you’ve started to get a much clearer insight into Alex’s nature. Here the character development really begins. Many of the place names and character names are perfectly fitting and well chosen for the setting of the novel, which appears to lie within the realm of medieval magic. However other names occasionally resonate as too modern and therefore are a little out of place for this kind of setting. But that is more a matter of the individual’s opinion.

The most interesting part about this novel for me, is the big mix of influences. The reader is treated to a truly eclectic mix of magic, elves, dwarves, Amazonians, titans, pirates and humans. This mix is unusual for me to obtain from one book, and I enjoyed it to the point where I often wished Parker had offered more detailed and longer descriptions. Alex’s history and heritage is slowly but consistently revealed through the novel. By chapter 4 the reader is all the more intrigued and wants to know more about her descendants and their story. There are also many good sub-plots which really keep the main narrative alive and full of intrigue- in particular the mystery of the Elvin Lord Odin.

One outstanding thing about Parker’s novel is that she always keeps you guessing. The story is so unpredictable and the style widely unknown to me that is it all the more engaging to read. My favourite scene, the Presenting Ceremony is in chapter 5. This scene really highlights Parker’s ability to convey emotion as well as action. Her talent shines as her depiction of Alex’s emotion in this scene brought a lump to my throat. At this point the reader is invested in what happens to Alex, a connection has been forged between reader, character and author.

By the time you reach the end of novel, the reader will be confident in the links between the varying characters and the roles they play in the telling of The Black Elf of Seaward Isle. The novel reads consistently if a little simple and would benefit with some added depth and refinement for future installments.

Overall the novel reads well, it is an engaging , interesting, light and enjoyable read. Although it may seem a little bare in places, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you realise you’ve got a concrete story, with some real gems as sub-plots. There isn’t room for the reader to get lost, wander off topic or get bored- the action just keeps on coming!

© Gemma Feltham April 27 2013


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