A Taste of Blood Wine. Book Review(0)
Titan Books, 501pp p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
Originally published back in 1992 — long before Stephenie Meyer and Charlotte Harris made vampires trendy again — the majority of those featured in A Taste of Blood Wine are charming, sophisticated, and to quote the author, ‘devastatingly gorgeous’; and they all debunk the popular vampire myths about exposure to daylight, stakes through the heart, garlic, crosses, etc. This makes for a promising start in my book, and I’m pleased to say this delicious tale of love, lust and a passionate affair that stretches beyond the grave, is truly delightful. Step forward Charlotte and Karl, a magnificent pairing, and a timeless couple that deserve a place up there with the very best of genre lovers.
Set against the decadent backdrop of 1920s England, a post-WWI society enjoying a hedonistic boom in which champagne parties and illicit substances are all par for the course, we meet the Neville family, and the incredibly charismatic Karl von Wultendorf… Needless to say, Karl is the vampire in question, and despite his best efforts, falls for one of the Neville sisters.
For her part, Charlotte is the odd one out: while her two sisters, Fleur and Madeleine, spend their days enjoying the social aspects of society; she herself longs for the isolated comfort and familiarity of her father’s Cambridge laboratory, away from what she considers a circus parade of bourgeois grooming rituals. It takes a special kind of man, like Karl, to bring her out of her shell, but alas, not before he is already engaged to be married to her sister, Madeleine… Cue the beginnings of a great love story, and a gothic romance that tugs at the heart strings and leaves you all a-tingling, with hairs down the back of your neck, the works… It’s interesting to note that at no point does Karl ever deny being what he is, and he goes to great lengths to keep Charlotte firmly ‘in the loop’ in a vain effort to steer them off a path that could — and inevitably, will — lead to a life of ruin and damnation for them both…
I should say that prior to reading this, I never really cared for vampire tales: surely there’s nowt new to say about handsome Dracu-likes and beautiful preening teen tearaways? And even True Blood seems to have wandered so far off base in later seasons as to be nigh unrecognisable… But there’s the trick, y’see… Blood Wine isn’t just a gorgeous love story at heart, it’s about social suffocation, about a pair of individuals who are striving to break free from family ties, and it’s about a divided family who through no fault of their own have become embroiled in vampire politics. Moreover, the author’s clarity of vision and interesting take on vampire myth is both original and dare I say, breathtaking.
Among the vampires on Karl’s side, we’re introduced to Kristian, the closest thing to a lord of vampires in the book; one who believes wholeheartedly that vampires will inherit the Earth and are servants of God brought to this world to cleanse it of humans by sending their souls — their very essence — to the Lord himself for judgement. Karl is but one of his ‘flock’, but he is the unruly child, if you will, the one who resists all attempts to bring him to heel, and yet still Kristian loves him over and above all the others, eventually resorting to dastardly tactics to try and goad him into submission. It’s a battle of wills that crosses time and death itself, and makes Kristian a truly frightening and obsessive antagonist.
There’s so much here to love, not least of which is the concept behind The Crystal Ring, a whole other realm that vampires can use to escape the binds of the human world; also, there’s the Weisskalt, a mysterious icy cold plane that Kristian uses to great effect to detain those who displease him. Then there’s the writing, the characters, the depiction of forbidden love, and betrayal, the setting… To be honest, there’s very little herein that I didn’t love.
To say more would be to reveal too much, and I want you to read it for yourself, but I would like to add that the writing is gorgeous, by turns haunting, lucid, and all-round beautiful, and I am hugely grateful to Titan Books for republishing such a great series — a series that many, like me, would have probably missed the first time round — and for giving them such a great set of new covers as well. This first instalment is eminently readable, absorbing, and all-round brilliant, a lovely piece of work, and definitely a must-have whether or not you’re a fan of vampires. It’s a book for fiction-lovers and anyone that claims to appreciate the written word, I think. And I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the series: A Dance in Blood Velvet, The Dark Blood of Poppies, and The Dark Arts of Blood (the latter an all-new instalment due October next year).
Magician’s End. Book Review(1)
HarperVoyager, h/b, £20.00
Reviewed by Craig Knight
The fate of the Black Magician and all of Midkemia is revealed in the last volume of the Riftwar Cycle. The Kingdom of Isles teeters on the brink of civil war as the throne lies empty and the most terrifying threat ever to face the Conclave of Shadows emerges in the mountains of the GreyTowers. All races, ally and enemy alike, must unite if Midkemia is to survive.
In 1983 a book named simply ‘Magician’ appeared on the shelves of bookstores and began the epic Riftwar Cycle that would span three decades and thirty books. Readers would journey to alien worlds, other dimensions, the depths of Hell and even to the Big Bang itself. Now, Raymond Feist brings this amazing saga to a conclusion with Magician’s End.
Pug, the eponymous Magician, has long been prophesised to see all that he loves die before he himself can finally rest and this story brings all the events of the previous novels to a head. Feist has set himself an enormous challenge with this final book and the expectations are high. The Riftwar Cycle itself has produced some incredible books over the years from the stunning heights of the original Magician to the outstanding spin-off Empire trilogy (written with Janny Wurts). It hasn’t all been good though and there were low points with some dubious stories crawling out of Midkemia (yes, Demonwar Saga, I’m looking at you) but Feist has always shown that he can deliver enthralling stories and maintaining the same story world for thirty years is an amazing achievement.
Magician’s End is a large book, bigger than usual for a Riftwar novel at a lofty 650 pages or so. This isn’t surprising really given the number of story lines that Feist has to wrap up here. The story jumps and darts between characters and worlds which risks losing the reader but Feist shows his skill and manages to hold it all together well. All of the characters, both new and old, are given story time and there are even a few cameo appearances from some unexpected characters. Their appearance does seem a little contrived in places but Feist can be given this indulgence as he brings his tale to an end and seeing them again brought a smile to this reviewer’s face.
The story does take its time to build up the action and the world-ending threat appearing in the GreyTowers is given little attention in the first half of the book, concentrating as it does on the civil war of the Kingdom. Pug himself is conspicuously absent for a long time and the story initially seems to focus a little too much on the characters of Hal and Ty. Readers wanting to see Pug and Tomas, his boyhood friend from Magician, appearing on every page may be disappointed, but fear not, there is plenty of time to tell their story and Feist does manage to pull this off on the whole. It’s quite easy to imagine that Feist could have written a 2,000 page novel here with all that is happening and sometimes the action does feel a little rushed, but the frantic pace actually serves this story well and the feeling of chaos and impending doom seeps out of every page.
Feist has always been one for epic fantasy and this novel takes epic to a new level. The very existence of reality itself is under threat in Magician’s End and the scope of the story is quite dizzying. This could almost have been a saga in itself and Feist packs a lot in so there’s no room to get bored here.
Magician’s End is an ambitious book and almost succeeds in living up to the high expectations of this final novel. The characters are the centre-point of this story, quite rightly, and even the usually flat character of Magnus is fleshed-out with more of his emotions and backstory revealed. Feist manages to close the annals of Midkemia on a high note and goes out not with a whimper but a giant, ear-shattering blast. I challenge anyone who has been with the saga over the years not to have a lump in the throat or a tear in the eye as they close the cover on this incredible book and incredible saga. Thank you, Ray, for this worthy conclusion and all the wonderful tales over the years, it’s been quite a ride.
Oh, and does Pug meet his Magician’s End? Well, you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself, won’t you?
Red Moon. Book Review(0)
Hodder & Stoughton, h/b, £17.99
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
There are lycans among us. Most of the time we don’t even notice them, because they don’t cause any trouble. Our friends, neighbours and colleagues may have the disease (In Percy’s world the affliction is caused by a prion) and be perfectly good citizens who live a full and normal life without ever eating anybody. But it gets interesting because there are radical lycans who commit acts we would recognise as terrorism. And there are extremist right-wing anti-lycan groups who see them as sub-human and would exterminate them given a chance. The lycans have a homeland, their own nation state where they can do all the wolfy stuff they like, but there is always unrest and the US has an uneasy relationship with the Lupine Republic, part peace-keeper and part military occupier.
Percy has gone to a lot of effort to make the political aspects of this novel realistic, to the extent that, despite the werewolves, it reads more Tom Clancy than Stephen King. He has a lot to say on the subject of US foreign and domestic policy, and he is using his created world to talk about real-life situations in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, as well as AIDS, prejudice in general, extremism in all its forms, and particularly the American right’s attitude to all of these.
However, he also tells a good story with several interweaving strands so we see the conflict from every angle. His characters are engaging and his writing solid enough to balance the occasionally over-heavy satire, so you can just read and enjoy the story if that’s the way you roll.
Mainly, it’s a big, meaty, satisfying thriller. Enjoy it for the characters, the pace and the grandeur and ambition of the plot. Read it as a big adventure story and I promise you’ll have fun.
Seoul Survivors. Book Review(0)
Jo Fletcher Books, p/b, £16.99
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby
Whenever I write a review I always look for something positive to say, for whatever I may think about a writer, director or anyone, they have put a lot of effort into their work. So here it is: the cover’s nice and conveys the general idea of the book, which is a Science Fiction story set in the present, using genetics as the background. Between the covers, however, it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s chock full of two-dimensional characters in one-dimensional scenes to the point where you know what’s going to happen and nothing is a surprise. As for the sex scenes…what a waste of ink and paper.
There are five main characters, Johnny Sandman, Da Mi, Damien, Sydney Travers and Mee Hee. Let’s start with Sydney, a girl so gullible (yes, also she’s blonde, slim and attractive) she believes everyone and ‘looks for the good in everything’. Naturally, she’s taken advantage of by everyone throughout the book, so much so that her final stand is unrealistic.
Johnny Sandman is a one-dimensional bastard. His proclivity towards domination and rage is obvious from the first and it doesn’t change from there, not that you’d expect it too. What does come as a surprise, and totally out of left field, is that he used to be a hitman. We learn even more about him in an information dump at the end which is right out of a bad B movie. Da Mi is a typical evil scientist who only wants the best for the world, as long as she’s in charge, while Mee Hee is North Korean peasant who wants nothing more than a peaceful life while worshipping Da Mi. That leaves Damien, the only character in the book with any soul. Not perfect by any means, but at least he is a well rounded character and worth reading about.
Then there’s the sex which, at a rough estimate, takes up about 150 pages of 450, all of which is a serious contender for the bad sex award. The first 100 pages are almost wholly about the sex lives of Sydney and Johnny with a dash of Damien thrown in. Mee Hee and Da Mi are thankfully allowed to live without being tortured by the un-erotic prose. Sex with a gun, sex with a corpse, some of which is recorded for later viewing by minor characters and Da Mi, and more detail about a woman’s vagina than a medical dictionary. If a lot of this sex was removed there would have been more room to improve the characters, the story and the book. Throughout, I got the distinct feeling that the writer, publisher and editor were trying to cash in on the 50 shades of grey phenomenon. All of which is a crying shame as there is a good story underneath it.
In any book there will be things you want to know more about but the writer leaves blank, which is made up for by the things they fill out. The only thing filled out in this book is Sydney’s vagina. Where did the nuclear bombing of Wembley come from? Why do we suddenly find out about Johnny Sandman’s life at the end in one big info dump? You could leave out Mee Hee’s story and the book would still be complete.
In short, this book is a mess that needs a serious rewrite and a red pen taken to vast tracts of the text. It has the germ of a good story about love, control, abuse and genetics, a pleasant cover and, in Damien, a good character. What it lacks is everything else.
Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire. Book Review(0)
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, p/b, £6.37
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby
This is a novel aimed at the young adult market, but shouldn’t be disregarded by adults. Why? It’s good fun.
Eric is a half-vampire. His mum’s normal while his dad’s a vampire who skipped off when he’d impregnated Eric’s mother. Since then, Eric and his mother have had to move several times after he’d bitten various kids, and spends part of his life every week taking a syringe to sheep and cows to get some blood.
Being a half-vampire means he has ‘gifts’, such as being able to calm people and animals by talking in a calm voice, sending them to sleep occasionally, and telekinesis. The last of them comes as a great surprise to him. He has a wheelchair-bound friend called Joseph and has the hots for a girl called Kacey. Well not quite the hots, but they do get on well.
Yes, it’s full of teen-angst and drama (it’s aimed at them remember), such as how do you kiss a girl without sucking her blood at the same time (something he manages) and ‘am I gay’. What lifts this out of the ordinary is Eric’s attitude. Think Harry Dresden as a youngster, lose the bad language and the killing and you’re there.
Eric’s mum travels a lot for her job and leaves him alone for several days at a time, but as he’s a half-vampire, sensible and strong for his age she doesn’t worry too much. One trip, she takes him to Edinburgh where he meets his dad…and wishes he hadn’t. His dad turns out to be a drug-addict and the blood Eric sucks leaves him feeling sick for a day or two. On the plus side, he gets to meet another vampire, one his mum fancies, and some acolytes who are happy to let him drink some of their blood. When he returns home, all hell breaks loose: well alright, I’ve exaggerated a little, but he does end up in a serious fight with someone who’s trying to kill him.
The one thing that kept me reading this book was Eric. He doesn’t need much blood, nor does any vampire for that matter, and he explains his need to be indoors as a case of Porphyria. Garlic? Loves it. Crosses? Only when playing football, not that he does play football, but…well you get the idea. In short he’s a normal kid that most adults and children would recognise.
I enjoyed the book and found it an entertaining read. I’ll leave the final few words to my 11 year old son: “Dad, can you keep reading that to me. It’s so funny.”
Emilie & The Hollow World. Book Review(0)
Strange Chemistry. p/b. £7.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Emilie’s aunt and uncle do not understand her. Just because her mother ran away to become an actress they automatically assumed that Emilie would ‘go bad’ too. Well, they were half right. Emilie is running away. Unfortunately it is not as easy as she first thought. For starters, you can’t get very far on an empty stomach, and second, you can’t fill a stomach if you have no money to buy food.
Emilie’s target is the Merry Bell, a steamer that she knows can take her away from her aunt and uncle’s assumptions and rules, away from repression, and away to her cousin’s home where there is hope of a job and a new life. But as Emilie is fast realising, her escape is not panning out as she planned. Hopes of the Merry Bell and an easy journey are whipped away and she has no option but to take her chances on a different ship.
Emilie’s plans go from bad to worse as her adventure takes her to a whole new world hidden deep inside the world she knows – the Hollow World. This is an adventure story that is easy to love, filled with strange sea creatures, aetheric currents, sorcery, locomotives, airships, mermen, betrayers, robbers, and enough excitement and grit-your-teeth moments to keep you hooked.
Emilie is a fantastic heroine given just the right blend of confidence and determination. She is practical and sensible, cunningly observant and gifted with a very quick tongue. She’s ever the optimist, always convinced deep down she is heading for something better despite the numerous difficulties and dangers along the way. This is a take on the classic ‘girl in another world’ adventure story and Emilie’s quiet innocence adds to her appeal.
This character trait goes perfectly with the steampunk elements of the world, which are described in beautiful detail and are easy to visualise. The story is a little on the short side – good for the pace, not so good for those of us that like to wallow in other worlds for more considerable periods – but there is more than enough scope in the world and story for a sequel.
Wolfhound Century. Book Review(0)
Gollancz, h/b, £20
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
Wolfhound Century has already received a barrage of publicity and attention, yet still remains difficult to classify under any cosy subset of genre fiction today. Is it science-fantasy, alternate-world history, a noir detective-thriller, or a steampunk myth in the making…? We have tree spirits, a totalitarian Soviet-style cold war society, a hard-nosed detective, nasty villains, a sundered moon, and a world ‘beyond’, as well as angels falling from heaven, and giants and golems wandering the streets, too; the latter being mechanical-style automatons usually ‘implanted’ with the brain of a dog (no kidding).
So where to start? Well, it’s much easier to tell you what it’s not… finished. Yes, this book tips 300+ pages of large type and doesn’t reach an end, nor even any form of satisfactory conclusion — indeed, it feels like the story has been arbitrarily cut in half by the powers that be, leaving the reader hanging, twiddling thumbs, and vexed. Of course, we are promised the second part next year (called Truth and Fear, I believe), but that doesn’t stop me as a reader feeling cheated at only having half the story.
Wolfhound Century introduces us to Vissarion Lom, a hard-boiled detective who has failed to progress up the ranks due to rubbing a few too many of his bosses up the wrong way. Fair enough, you say, yet another good detective with a bad attitude and probably a troublesome past: so far, so perfunctory… But then Lom is instructed to report directly to the head of secret police, and sent to Mirgorod, and from that point on nothing is as it seems, and all bets are off as they say.
Mirgorod is the capital city of Vlast: a totalitarian state and home to warring factions, home-grown terrorists, and a police force that’s anything but lawful. Ruled with an iron fist (sorry), mired in corruption, and skirted by dangerous revolutionaries and free-thinking ‘artists’, Mirgorod is not a happy place — indeed it’s wet and it’s miserable, and home to a hidden ancient landscape, called Lezarye. There are only fleeting glimpses of the latter, but the author evokes a real sense of a world-beneath-our-world as he utilises Raku Vishnik (one of Lom’s few ‘friends’) as a kind of archivist, taking photos of things that no longer exist or maybe never did…
It’s beautifully done, and the story deftly switches tone and pace as we follow Lom through the Vlast underworld on the hunt for Josef Kantor, a terrorist with a penchant for poetic destruction and a lot more besides. He’s not the only one with an appetite for violence, and I’d put Artyom Safran well up there with many a badass villain, not to mention his ingenuity in the face of adversity throughout.
If things were that easy we’d have no story, so the deeper we dig, the more threatening and violent the action becomes, and soon we are entirely buried in a fantastical city that draws heavily from Russian history and its fairytales — very heavily from what I gather, but that’s another story. We are also introduced to Maroussia, Kantor’s step-daughter, and —it must be said— one of the few female protagonists in the entire book. Initially she struggles to come to terms with her father’s actions, or even to trust Lom at all, but as things spiral out of control and her life brutally wrecked, he literally becomes the only person she can depend on, forcing the narrative down a path that feels precarious yet utterly enthralling. And all the while, like a sickening disease, a fallen angel is creeping towards Mirgorod in search of something called the Pollandore, key to the promise of a better world and alternative future, but one that many are seeking to destroy, including the fallen angel, the head of the secret police, and Kantor himself, but all for reasons of their own.
It doesn’t get any easier to understand the nuances of the plot, but this is a lightning read, with short sharp chapters, relentless pacing, and a sparkling patchwork of destruction and misery — it’s like a crazy painting in which the brightest colour is dark grey, and the inkwell a murky shade of black and blacker, but nonetheless, for all that, it’s still a thrilling masterpiece.
I remain sore at the fact that there’s only half a book here, but what a half it is… brilliant world-building, great writing, and a pace that challenges you to put it down and then slaps you in the face with a constant niggling itch to return — a truly excellent debut, and Higgins’ writing style ensures it just keeps flowing: in merely describing something as simple as a dash through rain-soaked streets, the author leaves you reaching for a towel and shivering from the clinging damp that lingers long after you’ve moved further down the page. Very highly recommended, and another book that may find its way onto many 2013 shortlists, but don’t ask me to name which ones.
The Crash. Book Review(0)
Atom, p/b, £6.99
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby
There are two things to say about this book before launching into the review proper, the first of which is that it’s been translated from German, a language which I speak albeit at a basic level. As those of you who speak a second language will know, direct translation can be hard. Translating one word is relatively easy, but when you get to sentences with a cultural meaning it can be nigh on impossible. The German word schadenfreude has no direct comparison in English, which is why we use the original. Whereas English has only one word for love, Greek has three, agape, philia and eros. Subtleties and nuances in meaning can also be lost. The direct translation of the phrase ‘I am hot’ from English to German is ‘ich bin heisse’. However, if you say that to someone in Germany they’ll think you have the hots for them and want to have sex. We have a number of words and phrases we can use to describe rain, which have no bearing on their everyday, normal use: stair rods, cats and dogs, chucking it down and many more. A direct translation of these phrases will cause problems. It’s why the experience and ability of the translator is vital when transcribing from one language to another.
The second thing to take into account is that this is a young adult novel.
Now that’s out of the way, here’s the review: It’s awful, terrible, frustrating and has sucked several hours out of my life I wish I could have back. It’s almost as bad as Twilight.
It’s set in an elite college on the edge of the Canadian Rockies and the main characters are 18-20 years old, the children of rich and powerful parents. There is nothing likeable about any of them and I could happily push the lot of them into a crevasse and leave them to die slow deaths while they argue about whose nail polish has the best colour. The girls are just as bad. They’re the kind of people who think a disaster is turning up to class in the wrong clothes and whose world would fall apart if a designer shoe got scuffed.
The blurb on the back talks of the character Julia and her desire to discover more about the valley, but the book itself focuses on the character of Katie West with brief point of view changes to Julia.
The story itself only really gets going after 200 pages and is not a fantasy. It is, at best, a ghost story, at worst a teenage angst story.
The main plot concerns Katie West and her desire to climb a mountain called The Ghost. Julia is her best friend who’s obsessed with a boy called Chris, who treats her like dirt but she loves him anyway. In short, the group of friends avoid a visit from the Governor-General by going to climb the mountain, have trials and hardships and learn about each other. The subplot is about a group of missing children who got lost 30 years ago, hence the ghost story aspect.
If you really do feel the need to read this, start at page 200 then read through to the end and you might just enjoy it; but for me the biggest problem with this book is not the story, it’s the translation.
Krystyna Kuhn has over 20 novels to her name and has been a freelance writer since 1998, writing in German for a German audience, and this book is the second in a series set around GraceCollege. The German editions of these books are highly regarded by the readers, getting a large number of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. The English version has only managed two reviews, both of which were 2 star ones. Why the dichotomy?
I believe it’s down to the translation. I find it hard to believe that a writer with 20 novels to her name is that bad, whether you like her work or not, or the Young Adult genre. An interesting point to note is that Kuhn’s book has also been translated into other languages, French and Polish were two others I found, and all use the same word as the title: The Catastrophe. For some reason, the English title has been changed to The Crash when there is no crash anywhere in the book, unless you include an avalanche or think that a clash of personalities amounts to a crash.
The person who’s done this translation does a lot of work in the industry, so isn’t a fly-by-night operator, but I feel she’s totally missed the boat with this book, both with the title and the content. I would be interested in reading it again if it were translated by a different person, but as things stand I can’t recommend this book to anyone.
Krystyna Kuhn is probably a good writer in her genre, but this translation does her no favours at all.
Zenn Scarlett. Book Review(0)
Strange Chemistry, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
A very large number of youngsters, especially girls, dream of working with animals. Most of them never do. Many adults, especially from the older generations had the idea that SF for youngsters was mainly aimed at boys. To a certain extent it was. Times have changed but the combination of animals and SF is a rare combination. There may be the odd pet, or the enhanced lab animal, or aliens but not a focus on off-world, non-sentient creatures other than those that want to eat the explorers. That is what makes this book a joy.
The setting is a far future Mars. To make it liveable, the deeper valleys have been equipped with generators that produce a sort of force-field that keeps a breathable atmosphere in. The precarious life of the colonists has worsened by a rift with Earth. The government there blames aliens for the virus that very severely reduced the population. Mars deals with aliens. Much of the technology that keeps the Mars situation going comes from earth and it is beginning to break down with little hope for replacements.
The main character is Zenn, a seventeen year-old girl whose only ambition is to be an exovet – not entirely surprising as that is her family’s trade. The clinic is in a Ciscan Cloister, originally set up by a religious order but now only lip-service is paid to regime. It used to be a thriving exovet school but Zenn is now the only student, her uncle the only tutor (her father is off-world and her mother missing presumed dead). The patients are exotic, alien pets or zoo specimens. Many of them are large. Local people perceive them as dangerous. Some are.
Naturally, there are factors that complicate the situation. The lease for the land that the Cloister is on and the clinic uses, is up for renewal and there is a growing opposition by the town council to its continued presence, possibly linked to the rift with Earth. Zenn is concerned that her father hasn’t been heard from for a while and is worried that something has happened to him. Her end of year tests are immanent and if she fails them, her future as an exovet will be non-existent. The problem here is things have started to go wrong. When she is working with the animals she sometimes gets a fleeting communication with them that breaks her concentration. She tries to explain this to her uncle but as it is outside his experience, he puts it down to imagination and stress. The thing that worries her most is the accumulation of small incidents that could be put down to her negligence. Taken with all the other things, she is convinced that someone is trying to sabotage the clinic. On top of this, the towner boy, Liam, who helps out around the place is beginning to have an effect on her hormones. An added problem, likely to feature more heavily in future volumes is the disappearance of starships that are guided by creatures called Indra.
This appears to be the first of a series and has all the right ingredients to capture the imagination of a mid-teen reader and many will be able to relate to Zenn’s problems. They are unlikely to notice the issues about the plot that an adult reader might spot, the main one being why would an alien species bring a pet, however exotic, all the way to Mars for veterinary treatment? The same adult may also be able to spot the likely plot progression and identify the root of some of the menaces before Zenn does. This aside, the characters are engaging, the dangers real and setting believable. I look forward to seeing how the series progresses.
Book of Sith. Book Review(0)
Titan Books, h/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Brin Lunt
Allow me to begin by stating that this tome is probably not for the uncommitted Star Wars fan. The only thing it can be genuinely compared to is the Light Side version, released a couple of years back, called The Jedi Path. More a research manual than a get-engrossed novel, Book of Sith contains references to Lord Kaan, Wayland, Mara Jade, Iella Wessiri and Beskar, amongst many others. Only a person who knows the significance of those names would fully appreciate Book of Sith; for others, it will probably mark their first step into the vast, almost unending galaxy that is the Star Wars Expanded Universe. For the purposes of this review, I’ll assume that you, the reader, know a little something about the characters already.
Book of Sith, like The Jedi Path, is split into numerous chapters. Sith contains seven – two from the hand of Sidious, one each from Plagueis, Malgus, Bane, Sorzus Syn and Mother Talzin. Each extols the virtues and necessities of the Dark Side and how to attain its power. The book in total covers 10,000 years of in-universe history, making it possibly the most complete text book the Expanded Universe has come up with.
Each chapter is denoted by a different sort of fraying at the page edges, as well as differing textures, which adds to the novelty of the book. It really does feel like a compilation of chapters torn from the pages of others. The different chapters are likewise written with differing styles and fonts, as befits the various authors.
Similar to The Jedi Path, most of the pages are annotated by the former owners and readers of the book – Sidious appears again, as does Vader, Asajj Ventress, Luke Skywalker, Quinlan Vos, Mace Windu and Yoda. It can be quite interesting to read these additions, especially when one addition replies directly to another. The annotations likewise span the course of in-universe history, with the latest additions (similar again to The Jedi Path) coming from the hand of Luke Skywalker, a decade after the Battle of Yavin depicted in Star Wars: A New Hope.
I do have to question the inclusion of a section by Mother Talzin on the Nightsisters of Dathomir – you wouldn’t usually expect to find a chapter devoted to a Dark Side Sect in a book compiled by the Dark Lords of the Sith. But then, I suppose the editors needed to include something to entice the fans of that newest generation, the fans who see The Clone Wars cartoon as the highest echelon of Star Wars-based entertainment.
I found the book fascinating and informative. However, I’m a fully-fledged Star Wars fanatic, who loves nothing better than to research the huge history contained within the galaxy far, far away. There will be others who’ll think it’s an entertaining collection. Whatever your view, whether you’re an avid reader, watcher or collector, Book of Sith makes a fantastic addition to your bookshelf. Just don’t get lost in it. If once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny…