Tag Archives: novel

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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Upcoming writing competitions

As well as reading and writing these reviews I’m always looking for new inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. So here’s a list of upcoming writing competitions for you to browse.

Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is for unpublished novels by women over the age of 21. Submit: first 30 pages, plus a synopsis. Judges: Literary agent, Madeleine Milburn, and Dr Lindsey Traub. Prizes: £1,000; shortlisted entrants will be given half hour consultations. Entry fee: £10 per entry, closes 12th March 2014.

Brittle Star creative writing competition (stories and poems) – Prizes in each genre: First £250, Second £100, Third £50. Fee £4 for first entry then £3 subsequent entries. Closing date is 12 March 2014. 2014 Brittle Star subscribers get second entry for free. 

Exeter Writers’ Short Story Competition is open to writers anywhere in the world. Stories up to 3,000 words in any genre except children’s. First prize £500, second £250, third £100, plus publication on their website, and an additional prize of £100 for the best story from a Devon writer.  Entry fee: £5 per story closes 31st March 2014. Website or send SAE to Competition, 202 Manstone Avenue, Sidmouth, UK, EX10 9TL.

Bath Short Story Award – No story theme’; 2,200 word limit. Entry is £8 and prizes range from £50 to £1,000. Closing Date is 31 March 2014.

Short Fiction Journal competition – No restriction on theme. Entry is £10 for up to two stories or £5 for one. First prize is £500, second prize is £100. Closing date March 31 2014.

Writers’ Village Foundation – Debut novelists can win a £500 bursary to have their novel professionally critiqued at the Writers’ Village Foundation. The top eight submissions will also gain personal feedback from the award judge, novelist Michelle Spring. Entry is £12 and the deadline is 31 March 2014.

The Brighton Prize is a new competition for stories of 1,000 – 2,000 words on any subject.  Prizes: £400; 2 x£50. The top three writers will be invited to read their work at the Brighton Fringe Festival, and the top ten will be included in an anthology and will receive tickets to the Brighton Fringe. Entry fee: £6 per story closes 1st April 2014.

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Angel’s Breath- Yvonne Von Innes

My latest read ‘Angel’s Breath’ is a contemporary piece of vampire fiction about human nature, our sacrifices for love and humanity’s struggle to persevere.

Set in a time of Brean’s life that many would be able to relate too, ‘Angel’s Breath’ by Yvonne Von Innes has the potential to be applicable and appealing to a wide audience. It’s vampire fiction at its most tasteful and refined. The concept of the vampire very much symbolises the darker side of human nature. But admittedly I prefer my vampire fiction to be a little grittier and much more prominent.

The vampire elements of this story are very much secondary to the human elements this is just one of the reasons why you would carry on reading. The relationships, emotions and even the plot is all governed by Brean’s hopes of retaining as much of his humanity as possible. It pulls you in with the heavy focus on the human versus supernatural and good versus bad- two wars which all the main characters endure on some level.

angel's breath

Innes’ characters are evidently strongly influenced by their surroundings. This is something which in my opinion, can be difficult to effectively convey, in a way which makes it noticeable to the reader. Yet Innes has managed to successfully allow the reader to make the connections between the character’s environment and their personalities. The relationship Innes builds between Brean and Viara is painstakingly and purposefully built. It’s a relationship built not only to be tested, but to last and endure. The great thing about it is that the language is so skilfully used, that the reader is able to feel, understand and imagine every small step their relationship takes. This doesn’t appear to be a reflection of the fast-paced world of dating and relationships in real life- but it is more refreshing to read because of these differences. The inspirations for this novel are clear as the more savvy reader may notice the main vampire is called Drake Clarmont- aka Dra…cla..?

Although consistent I found the character development too slow for my own curiousness. After introducing such complex characters, it would have been nice to understand them better- particularly Viara and her involvement with the allusive organisation PEACE. Furthermore, the inclusion of an organisation such as PEACE in a novel, requires the author to ensure their reader is fully aware of their purpose, role and (to put it simply) why they are such a big deal. For most of the novel PEACE is either non-existent or in the background. Details about PEACE are offered far too sparingly and when they do surface there is nowhere near enough given, therefore the reader remains uninformed. While this does offer the reader the opportunity to experience and learn at the same pace as main character Brean; by the end of the novel it is clear that Brean has been brought up to speed and yet the reader is still none the wiser. In the final chapters the action of the novel reaches its peak and the hidden agenda of PEACE is still only briefly glimpsed.

The concept of a ‘blood child’ is intriguing. In my reading it would appear to be somewhere between having a blood donor and a slave. But what makes it so intriguing is that it’s not something I remember coming across in any other vampire fiction I’ve read- and I’ve read a lot. A novel that can offer you something totally new is the best kind. Overall the novel isn’t worlds away from other works of vampire fiction. But there is enough variant in the details, characters and plot to prevent the reader from becoming bored.

There is a continuous flow to the novel which makes the plot easy to follow, helped by the strong and authoritative tone and detailed descriptions, wherein Innes is able to clearly convey all the required human emotion. However I did manage to spot one spelling mistake, proof that proof-readers and editors are not always to be relied on. Fortunately this doesn’t detract from the rest of the novel’s events. The pace of the final chapters is noticeably increased, to the point where it feels a little rushed. There’s no easing as the time-frame jumps forward several years, where Innes offers the reader a brief insight into seemingly happy but demanding new lifestyle that Brean and Viara seem to have created for themselves.

Reading Innes’ ‘Angel’s Breath’ was an enjoyable and thoroughly engaging read. It was consistent in the level of detail offered, and both tone and pace were well matched to the topics explored and events which unfold. However there is always room for more character development to fuse a reader’s interest.

© Gemma Feltham May 6 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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The Covenant of Genesis- Andy McDermott

The Covenant of Genesis’ first hint at its content is its wonderfully colourful cover. 4th in the series following Dr Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase in their archaeological endeavours across the world, pulling you deeper than you thought possible, into both archaeological theory and fact along the way. You don’t necessarily have to have read the first three novels in the series, as The Covenant of Genesis is a brilliant read in its own right. But in order to fully appreciate the complexity and depth of the character development, I strongly recommend you read the series in chronological order.

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Overall it is a consistent, well written piece of work. It is also extremely well paced throughout. The action sets your heart rate up to thump through the adrenalin fuelled chapters, but McDermott also allows the reader to rest, digest and keep up with the turn of events at regular enough intervals; so that the gunfire may have ceased but you’ve got more than enough motivation to keep reading as the plot thickens, evolving at every turn of a page. The novel is action packed to the brim, but appears to be consistently well researched. In particular it is littered with punchy witticisms, adding both to the events in the plot as well as the reader’s understanding of the characters. Despite the pace, there was the odd occasion when I wished I could skip forward to the answer. The little details in between enhance the bigger picture, but the downfall of good writing is sometimes you just can’t wait.

McDermott offers his readers some truly brilliant scenes, but he also creates fantastic plot twists that are both incredulous but entirely believable at the same time- always keeping the reader fully immersed and engaged in the story.

For the severely squeamish reader beware of descriptive paragraphs throughout those chapters, which detail blood and the deaths of various Covenant members amongst others. I found myself physically flinching at the breaking of bones. But this level of detail is a testament and credit to McDermott, as he shows that gore and death can accentuate a novel. In the chapters of The Covenant of Genesis, the reader is confronted with multiple deaths throughout, and the imaginative mishaps are not used sparingly. That being said it does read as excessive, death orientated or overly aggressive, and therefore it does not detract from the character’s mission or the overall plot.

The initial concept for this novel is in fact very simple, and is one that I’m sure many other author’s has used, adopted and adapted. But this level of adaptation from this concept is sincerely new to me as a reader. The clearly researched but also imaginative descriptions of each location from Antarctica to Sudan are eloquent, consistent and believable- you can see the landscape in your mind as the events unfold.

The ending may be far from what a sympathetic reader might want. But none the less it left me wondering what would come next for Nina and Eddie, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment in The Cult of Osiris.

© Gemma Feltham April 7 2013

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April 7, 2013 · 3:58 pm

A Place For Passion

A new year, new start. I’m Gemma and with a budding new career in a publishing house- an industry I’ve always wanted to work in, I’ve decided to keep tabs on my reading during 2013, by writing a review of each book I read throughout the year. 

My first entry is dedicated to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, a novel I have always told myself I would read; “because it’s a classic” but never found the time nor inclination until I graduated. First it was a case of getting a copy, then came the nitty gritty part’ actually reading it.

Never the less, I am a firm believer that ambition, dedication and hard work will see good things happen. Books and reading have always been a passion of mine and this year I’m determined to give that passion a real place in my life, rather than a hobby I always feel I neglect too often. 

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Stay tuned for more thoughts as I turn the pages of novel after novel in the coming months- 2013 is going to be filled with adventures!

© Gemma Feltham January 9 2013

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