Tag Archives: Fiction

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

My latest read was fuelled by a desire to conquer my fear, a genuine attempt at tackling one of my long-standing fears head on. So I read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

Firstly let me clarify that I have had a fear of The Woman in Black since I was 16! My first encounter was seeing the play at the theatre with the rest of my Drama class. As much as I could tell you what an amazing performance it was, and how the minimalist effects were perfectly executed- it was so much more. It was an outstanding performance which has successfully cemented a fear in me of The Woman in Black. Just thinking about it makes me shiver, and afterwards I had nightmares for 2 months. Now that’s some performance!

Then there came the film with Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Arthur Kipps. Admittedly there are differences between the film and the theatre adaptations, but these were to be expected. But the film succeeded in re-instating my fear of The Woman in Black, and taking it to a whole new level. The film brought The Woman in Black’s dreadful and terrifying face right into my personal space- I must get round to writing a thank you card to the relative who bought me the DVD!
To this day there are parts of that film that I have not been able to watch, simply because I was able to watch the sequence leading up to it, and then my nerves gave out and the cushion moved in front of my face, so fast it’s become a permanent reflex whenever The Woman in Black is mentioned.

It wasn’t until I saw my brother with a copy of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, that I then realised that both the film and theatre productions are adaptations from an existing work; therefore I’d done it all backwards!

The Woman in Black

So moving on to my most recent encounter with The Woman in Black….Susan Hill’s novel was much more subtle and eerie than I imagined. She successfully depicts the drab and desolate Eel Marsh House so poignantly that it’s an image hard to forget.
I didn’t know what else to expect from the novel, but I enjoyed the reminiscent ‘retelling’ perspective. Whatever horrors the story revealed, there was a survivor, able to tell the harrowing tale in great detail.

Somehow when reading Kipp’s tragic story, it hit me much harder than it did when I saw the play or film- and don’t forget the film ends completely differently to the book. Hill shows literary skill in creating such an ordinary character, whose life bears no resemblance to my own; and yet throughout the novel I cared for him. I cared for his welfare; for his sanity and for his family; almost as much as I care for my own.

What many readers forget in heavy action or mystery novels are the easy to miss, mundane and everyday occurrences. But rather than skip these events, Hill uses them to build her readers a solid picture of Arthur Kipps; giving us a reliable and believable centre for the plot. The relating of normal, everyday events makes the supernatural events starker than they would have been if the entire novel was littered with them. In fact I was surprised by the end, when you count the relatively few encounters Arthur Kipps has with The Woman in Black, the affect those encounters had not only on Kipps but myself as well…if you’re not even slightly shaken by the retelling of Kipp’s story, then you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

I did find the ending a little bleak as it seemed to just tail off into nothing. It did end for Mr Kipps at least, that much was clear. But it was a little abrupt; it’s not quite a cliff-hanger so there’s no build up or expectation for a second novel; but you don’t get much satisfaction in it either. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected more from a thriller/ horror novel, but I did want more for poor Mr Kipps.

Did reading the novel put my fears to rest? Well not so much, for a few nights I was jumpy amongst the hallway shadows. But I did feel I understood Arthur Kipps and his story much better, and enjoyed the experience whilst reading it. Those chapters which delved into the back story of The Woman in Black were fascinating, I simply wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery- I wanted to be able to put her spirit to rest. When a book can give you the same chills as a play or film, then you know you’re onto something good!

© Gemma Feltham, 25th July 2015

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Filed under Fiction, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller

Shopaholic to the Stars- Sophie Kinsella

Well what can be said of the latest instalment of Becky Bloomwood’s life? I’ve been following Becky’s story for many years now and I always enjoy following her crazy adventurous spirit.

Shopaholic to the Stars is well written, well-paced and is consistent, as I’ve said before these are three things all good books should be. Kinsella’s depiction of Becky Bloomwood truly makes her character and spirit come alive off the page. It’s the kind of world you wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall of.

By chapter 3 I was totally imbedded into Becky’s story. I had become emotionally invested in Becky’s family, friends and life in general, any reader paying attention will find the same- I wanted Becky to prosper and have every positive outcome possible. Kinsella, in my opinion, just has that knack of revealing just enough detail; at just the right time. The surprises are constantly flowing but you never get distracted from the main plot. The minor characters Kinsella interjects throughout add detail and flavour to the story. Shopaholic to the Stars is anything other than predictable.

shopaholic to the stars

The strongest emotion I felt whilst reading Shopaholic to the Stars was frustration. This was a consistent feeling I had- not towards the author, but rather Becky herself. This novel and the subsequent instalment to follow, I expect will prove to be the steepest learning curve for Becky Bloomwood since the very first novel in the series, Confessions of a Shopaholic. There were times I simply wanted to jump into the pages and scream at Becky, maybe shake her round the shoulders a bit! But it certainly says something of the skill of the author when then written word can fuel such a charged emotion for an extended period of time.

The last two chapters are the most dynamic and explosive regarding the plot, but as usual Kinsella delivers a stylish adventure with pizazz and panache. This novel is full of lively characters old and new and compelling plot twists. Stylistically I find most of Kinsella’s novels follow a pattern common to many other novels categorised as ‘chick-lit’; but that doesn’t mean that their not worth reading- far from it! Kinsella’s style is easy to read, almost conversational, if you haven’t got a lot of time to read, or like to read in short bursts Kinsella is a writer you should definitely try.

I wouldn’t say this is the ideal novel to read as a stand-alone. It would definitely provide a better experience for the reader if you were to start from the beginning of the series; which is something I sincerely recommend you do (don’t just watch the terrible movie and then think you can pick up the story from Shopaholic to the Stars)!

Overall Shopaholic to the Stars is an enjoyable read, but admittedly I’m not a fan of the cliff-hanger ending Kinsella leaves you with. Now don’t panic Kinsella is already promoting the next instalment so I’ll be reviewing that as soon as possible, but for now we’ll all just have to wait!

© Gemma Feltham 17 July 2015

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Filed under Chick Lit

Carrie- Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most recommended and loved horror novelists, until now I’d only seen two films based on King’s work, so as my first introduction to Stephen King’s novels I selected Carrie.

The first thing that hit me when I started reading Carrie was curiosity as to how similar the novel and film would be. But I quickly forgot about any kind of comparison; as the novel quickly had me engrossed in the narrative and compelled to keep reading right until the very end.Carrie The format of Carrie threw me at first, written from numerous perspectives, jumping between different time frames and interjections written in note format throughout- it certainly wasn’t your typical novel style, and not what I expected. Once passed the first few chapters I had gotten used to the flow of novel- I found the trick was to simply read it, not try to analyse it, not trying to remember what happened next in the film, and not trying to make the flow of events or how they are dictated; fit to any other written style.

I had high expectations for King’s narrative style, his reputation would not be what it is if he couldn’t deliver- and I was not disappointed. His attitude to Carrie’s story is extremely sympathetic, and his true skill in manipulating the reader really shines when by the end of the book it’s still Carrie White that the reader feels sorry for; despite all the death she causes.

Admittedly knowing the ending of the book was slightly disappointing but, reading the run up of events, finding out about Carrie’s history with her mother (much more than you get from the film) was very entertaining, it kept the novel grounded in a recognisable reality, despite its paranormal plot.
Carrie herself is a character which many readers would understand on some level, sharing some of her experiences and emotions and having that connection to the main character is what makes this novel more terrifying- the idea that perhaps you, the reader, could be as destructive a force as Carrie would make you think twice.

Overall Carrie was an enjoyable read, it may not have left me with nightmares but I’m certainly not complaining. The plot was gripping the twists were engaging and for the most part the characters were realistic and believable. If you’re considering trying King’s work I would recommend Carrie as the novel for dipping your toe into the horror genre.

© Gemma Feltham 13 June 2015

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Wedding Night- Sophie Kinsella

Recently I’ve had a break from reading, throwing myself into other enjoyable creative outlets. But I’ve found my way back to the wonder of the written word and am thoroughly enjoying it.

I chose the novel Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella simply because, it’s written by one of my favourite authors. It’s a method of choosing a book which has been tried and tested and I’m rarely disappointed.

wedding night

I found Wedding Night a refreshing take on the romantic ‘chick lit’ novel. Without giving too much of the premise of the book away, I enjoyed the sisterly dynamic between the two female protagonists. It’s more common for ‘chick-lit’ to feature best-friends in this dynamic rather than sisters. Being an elder sister to two siblings, it’s a relationship I can easily identify with which made the novel even more engrossing. I found myself wondering ‘Would I have said that?’, or getting excited when I thought ‘I would definitely have done that’!

After a somewhat slow start, by chapter 10 the events have spiralled and the pace becomes much more frantic and exciting. In some places I felt the novel focused too much on the sexual element, but it does undeniably have its place in the plot of the novel. With a fast paced the plot thickens rapidly. There is a wide variety of characters, a good mix of antagonists and protagonists and in general there’s an interesting mix of encounters; that many readers will find lively and will easily identify with.

Despite the pace of events, character development in Wedding Night is steady. Some may feel it’s a little slow but I find that it’s a common trait in novels which shift perspectives regularly throughout. Kinsella skilfully builds relationships, bridges the two perspectives where events require it and reveals character traits through interesting and often amusing events and circumstances. The result is believable characters, you know who you like and who you don’t. As a reader I quickly discovered characters who infuriated me and those who brought out the romantic side of me. It is a testament to the author who can induce such an emotional response.

Wedding Night is a whirlwind of emotion, the pace once it gets going it doesn’t let up- I couldn’t put it down. Whilst some of the events I imagine will only ever happen in novels and films, there was enough real character, real emotion and realistic dialogue to carry those more theatrical plot twists. The flow of the novel is steady, it keeps up with the pace of events and there were enough plot twists to make every chapter interesting.

Whether you are familiar with Kinsella’s work or not I strongly recommend you give Wedding Night a go. It’s the perfect novel for fans of romance and ‘chick-lit’ fiction but it would also suit readers who generally prefer more light-hearted reading and happy endings.

© Gemma Feltham 22 April 2015

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender: Guest review by Violet Buttercream

Review of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Reader alert: This review may contain spoilers. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Author: Leslye Walton

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Romance

 Ratingstar rating star rating star rating star rating star rating

Synopsis: Out protagonist (Ava Lavender) looks back at her family history and the past residents of Pinnacle Lane to try and discover why she has wings, beginning with how her grandmother was born. Her family has always had a history of affliction with love and Ava is unprepared for what she discovers. Alongside side this is sixteen-year-old Ava’s life, unsure what to make of her wings, just trying to fit in.

 My thoughts: “Love makes us such fools”

This tale was not just written it was threaded and crafted and I feel like it has burrowed inside of me.

It has an atmosphere to it that just leaves you with goosebumps and an inexplicable understanding of the weight of human love and suffering and an insight into the choices we make and those we don’t and the impossibility and certainty of sorrow.

…Ava Lavender is so breathtakingly real and honest even in the fantastical parts there’s always a groundedness a sense of truth and palpable emotion. It is a story about love without being a love story. It is about motherly love, unwanted love, all-consuming love, endless love and I love this book to the moon and the stars. It is easily the best book I’ve read all year, possibly ever.

“My grandmother fell in love three times before her nineteenth birthday. My mother found love with the neighbour boy when she was six. And I, I was born with wings, a misfit who didn’t dare to expect something as grandiose as love…my story, like everyone’s, begins with the past and a family tree. The following is the story of my young life as I lived it…I have travelled through continents, languages, and time trying to understand all that I am and all that made me such.” 

I think it is suitable for all ages and holds its own with fairytale and mythological qualities while being refreshingly contemporary. This book is definitely not another formulaic YA novel.

As Goodreads describes it (and I think they can do it better than me) “Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.. Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.”

The writing is intoxicating and rich and flowing with darkness. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea (a girl turns into a bird) but even if you hate “magical” books read this because YES THAT IS A PEICE OF MY HEART BETWEEN THE PAGES. There are many characters, but they are all beautifully developed and the book unfolds simply so it is easy it follow (It is also relatively short despite it’s depth.)

 The strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is strange and beautiful and so, so much more and I urge everyone to read this divine book.

Your friend, Violet Buttercream

Check out my blog! http://booksandbakingandfeminism.blogspot.co.uk

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Filed under Guest blog post, Magical Realism, Romance, YA

Gone, Lisa Gardner

Gone by Lisa Gardner is a complex, thrilling and extremely fast paced novel. If you are trying crime thriller for the first time this would definitely be one to recommend.

Having said that this isn’t for the faint-hearted, Gardner works hard to include as many emotions as she does plot twists. Throughout the whole novel I had a suspect in mind- I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only does that say something about my terrible detective skills, but also it says a lot about Gardner’s ability to surprise her readers, and to confine the reader’s knowledge to what is necessary- trying to read between the lines did nothing to reveal the true criminal’s identity.

Going back to the pace, it was very fast- my advice to any reader giving this a go is to take your time, don’t read it when you’re very tired as you will miss interesting revelations and small details; also pay attention to the start of each chapter- every new chapter starts with a date and time-stamp which is crucial to keep in mind, when trying to keep up with the pace of events within the novel.

Gone is such a successful and compelling novel because it is so character driven. Rather than the requirements of the plot dragging the lead and supporting characters behind it; I very much felt encompassed by the array of lively and believable characters, Gardner very much fills the novel to the brim with supporting characters. Sometimes this technique is hard to pull off quite as well as Gardner does, it can feel crowded, but Gardner is wholly successful.

Descriptively again Gone is full to the brim, the emotions run raw and believable throughout and there is a brilliant mix of past and present tense; that keeps the current story alive and also gives the reader the character background they need, to feel more akin to the victims and supporting characters alike. There were so many plot twists and interesting facts littering each chapter than I couldn’t bear to put it down.

Gone lisa gardnerI really couldn’t find fault with this novel and if anyone is thinking of trying Lisa Gardner’s novels I say go for it- I myself am currently reading another of her novels- proof that I truly did enjoy reading Gone.

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The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton

It was the beautiful cover and intriguing title of The Miniaturist that caught my eye in the window of Waterstones. The eager recommendation of the cashier after reading the blurb, sealed its fate that I had to read it.

The novel opens at an easy pace, befitting of the chapter’s content. There are no introductions as such but you get a good sense of the types of people who surround our leading characters. Chapter one couldn’t have provided a more varied group of people. The nervousness of Nella Oortman is almost palpable, but the sense of intrigue remains constant throughout.

Burton invites the reader in with a haunting feeling of desolation. This is made all the more poignant by Burton’s use of the third person pronoun, you couldn’t get further away from knowing Nella and her sister-in-law Marin. For me this only made me want to dig a little deeper.

The miniaturist

Nella’s venture into Marin’s privacy opens a new element of the novel. There is definitely more to Marin than her drab clothes and pious manner. There is an exotic and wild hidden persona, yet to be fully revealed. The so-far so slow pace of the book makes this thus far the most exciting part of the novel. Even more so than the arrival of the cabinet house, an exact miniature replica of the Brandt household.

Burton describes Seventeenth Century Amsterdam with vigour and the novel reads as reasonably well researched. Her depiction of the first feast Nella and her new husband attend together is a sumptuous but brief one.

I found the tone of the whole novel to be cold and distancing, coupled with the use of third person pronoun throughout- each character is always referred to by name- I felt as though I was forever being held at arm’s length, never being allowed close enough to the characters so I could never get to know them intimately. This is clearly a reflection on how Nella is feeling in her new and unwelcoming home with her forbidding sister-in-law. Just as this was not what I had anticipated; Nella’s new marital life is also not turning out as she had imagined.

Authors, in my experience, usually work very hard to do the very opposite of this approach adopted by Burton. They usually want readers to feel like you could be in the novel, whereas the style of The Miniaturist forced me to remain a reader, a spectator; rather than a participant in the novel. It is not at all what I expected. As I don’t come across this feeling often I would have thought that I would find it off-putting, but there was still enough plot and intrigue to retain my interest.

As the hidden magical elements begins to flicker to life, my anticipation to know what would become of the (creepy) miniaturised house and its supernaturally accurate furnishings grew. I was pleased when I finally found something I can relate to in Nella- her mixed feelings about the local parish church she visits. Burton gives the readers the sense that Nella doesn’t know how to feel about this building that is filled with the dead beneath her feet; and is grander than she is used too.  I felt the same when visiting German churches some years ago. But once the chapter had moved on I immediately felt my connection with Nella had been lost.

At almost a quarter of the way into the novel (about page 141 in my copy), the most lively and plausible characters are by no means the focus of the novel. By page 176 you encounter some truly surprising twists, Burton is good at revelations but the magical element has still yet to be developed or fully explored; and it’s the lacking of this element that was so much promised and hyped up in other reviews I’ve read and promotional comments seen, that left me feeling extremely frustrated.

The feminist theme is not flaunted but nor is it covert throughout The Miniaturist, but it is a constant and evident element in Nella Brandt’s (nee Oortman) story. The rise and fall of the women in the Brandt household is matched only in the rise and fall of the pace of the novel. In my reading I found some chapters were a bit slow, but this added detail and context to the events of previous or forth-coming chapters. By no means does it have a constant pace, it makes for a more exciting novel to read in some respects.

Three quarters into the novel and I only just feel as though I’ve broken the surface with our main characters Nella and Marin. I’m afraid the novel will end before I’ve had a chance to really get to know them. I’ve seen them develop to some extent, become more “real”. Their back stories have been somewhat fleshed out, but as a reader Burton only offers flashes of who they are in that moment in time. Their strength wanes and they falter in their circumstances; at the same time my understanding of them falters too.

The Miniaturist is an enjoyable novel. Its themes are broad, in the context of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam, they are still relevant today. But I still couldn’t shake the constant feeling of the novel being very distant and disconnected. If this is what Burton intended then I must congratulate her. It was full of shocking twists and unexpected plot revelations, keeping the reader at arm’s length so consistently makes these inclusions more prominent, more shocking and harder to predict.

However, I personally found the book more interesting as a piece of historical fiction but not as a piece of magical realism. For me the magical element was just lacking too much, popping up at times too few and far between. Despite the comments of other reviewers, I don’t feel it is in the same league as Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. I feel as though the claims and comments from critics, especially those claiming the book to be full of “magical realism”, led me to have expectations that for me the book just didn’t meet. I expected far more than the novel had to give and thus I don’t feel I’ve been able to fully appreciate it on its own merit.

In this case I would suggest people fully let themselves be propelled towards giving The Miniaturist a go because of its beautiful and intriguing cover and the interest you generate from reading the blurb for yourself. Disregard all claims and critiques from the various newspapers and other authors.

The last 150 pages are far more engaging that the previous chapters, the plot thickens and surprise and heartbreak are around every corner. The pace is quickened to what felt like a breakneck speed- I was so keen to find out what happened next. It’s quite a contradiction to what I had until this point thought was a rather melancholy paced novel.

The summarise: The Miniaturist has a compelling cast of characters despite their elusiveness, a gripping plot even with the rather pedantic pace and a tone and atmosphere so gripping and haunting that you could easily imagine Danny Elfman writing a superb score for the film. You should aim to go into this novel with as little prejudice as you can muster, in the hope of enjoying it fully.

© Gemma Feltham 31/08/2014

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Filed under Historical fiction, Magical Realism

Inferno by Dan Brown

Following a suitably short, but none-the-less intriguing if rather stark and violent prologue, in the first chapter of Dan Brown’s Inferno, readers are greeted by a very confused Dr Robert Langdon; immediately readers are thrust into this latest fast-paced, nightmarish adventure. Having read many of Brown’s previous novels, being re-acquainted with Robert Langdon felt like meeting an old friend, familiar but new at the same time because it’s been a while. It was a lovely feeling which allowed me to immediately sink into the novel and I dare say other readers would feel the same.

Characters who initially suffer from amnesia or memory loss as Langdon does are fascinating, because there are endless scenarios, multiple possibilities which could explain how they came to be in that predicament. It is always an exciting adventure finding out exactly what happened; and in doing so Brown allows readers to indulge in making up their own answers, before the secrets are revealed. But of course painstakingly revealing secrets is Langdon’s (and therefore Brown’s) forte. Combine this literary technique with a rapidly changing pace and the inclusion of both long and short chapters, and you’ve got a novel which grips and pulls at a reader’s every sense and emotion.

InfernoAs is my usual thoughts on Brown, Inferno is gripping, full of suspense, eloquently detailed (although some may feel it’s overly descriptive) and educational in a fun way. Art History has never been so appealing! In comparison to The Da Vinci Code I found Inferno somewhat darker in tone. This comes from the very nature of the possible impending threat, a topic which is very much at the fore front of the global political agenda, the nature of some of the characters and some quite shocking and stark violence within the pages. Whilst you hope never to be in Robert Langdon’s shoes, as a reader you get a thrilling and adrenaline-fuelled adventure to enjoy from your sofa, bed, bath or wherever!

In particular I must praise Brown for his ability to convey to the reader everything Langdon sees, hears and feels. There is a fluidity to the novel each revelation, clue cracked and new location appears sequentially with ease, again the change in pace and length of chapters assists with this. You do not merely have to be a spectator, Brown gives his readers the opportunity (through his literary prowess) to step into the novel and become Langdon, his companions and to an extent even his adversaries.  Inferno is full of plot twists and turns, cliff-hangers and extremely detailed and intriguing back stories, for characters whose role in the novel is often not fully explained or understood; until it is revealed at the very end. The deceptions revealed in chapters 81 and 82 in particular I found truly astounding- I never saw them coming! At one point I was so stunned I closed my book and just thought about what I had just read. The level of thought put into the concoction of deceptions such as Brown’s; if they truly exist in the world well… but each reader will make of that what they will, but it makes for very gripping and very entertaining reading

There is some repetition within the novel, and at times the amount of paragraphs given to describing the numerous places and countries Inferno involves can be distracting from what is an otherwise a well-established plot. One does wonder how much of the description is for the scriptwriters of the film, and how much is for the actual readers.

Overall I think it’s a good addition to the adventures of Robert Langdon. Fans should find it enjoyable to read but also those just being introduced to Dan Brown’s novels will find they can equally enjoy the novel without needing to have read any of his previous books. Despite the numerous negative reviews out there this series will always be one of my favourites and I will continue to buy Brown’s novels, simply because of the experience I get when reading them.

© Gemma Feltham 15 June 2014

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Filed under Adventure, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

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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Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural

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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