Sherlock Holmes Meets Dracula. Book ReviewsComments Off
Reviewed by David Brzeski
I had originally planned to review ‘Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula’ by Loren D. Estleman. On reading it, however, I decided it would be interesting to expand my review to cover a couple of the other Holmes/Dracula crossovers that are currently available. The main books featured in this review are…
SEANCE FOR A VAMPIRE by Fred Saberhagen, Titan Books, p/b, £7.99/Kindle £5.73
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. DRACULA by Loren D. Estleman, Titan Books, p/b, £7.99/Kindle, £6.07
THE TANGLED SKEIN by David Stuart Davies, Wordsworth Editions, p/b (Omnibus with ‘The Shadow of the Rat’), £2.99/Piccadilly Publishing, Kindle, £1.95
The first of the three books under consideration was first published in 1994, but I’m covering it first because it’s actually the eighth book in Fred Saberhagen’s ten book Dracula series, which began with ‘The Dracula Tape’ in 1975. I want to cover this and one other of the series, before I actually get to ‘Seance For a Vampire’.
While not a Sherlock Holmes crossover as such, ‘The Dracula Tape’ does mention Holmes, Watson and even Inspector Lestrade in a way which doesn’t make it plain whether Dracula is talking about the most popular fictional characters of the day, or real people in his world.
Basically, the book is Dracula’s attempt to tell his side of the story, in which he was quite a nice chap really who, while indulging in the occasional consensual nibble at a special young lady’s neck, didn’t generally drink human blood and certainly didn’t slaughter them with wild abandon. Instead, he was the victim of circumstance, superstition and an arrogant Van Helsing, who was nowhere near as knowledgeable as he liked people to think. Saberhagen makes very clever use of the many inconsistencies and lapses of logic in the original novel. It ends with the vampire hunters believing they have succeeded, as per Dracula’s plan. A Kindle edition of this book is currently available from Tor Books.
Book two of the series is ‘The Holmes-Dracula File’, in which we learn that Sherlock Holmes and Dracula are actually related. This is also one of several attempts to furnish readers with a story to go with the unrecorded case of ‘The Giant Rat of Sumatra’, which Conan Doyle refers to in ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’ with the following quote from Holmes: “Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson, … It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.” ‘The Holmes-Dracula file is currently in print in both paperback and Kindle editions.
Holmes makes no further appearances in this series until book eight, ‘Seance For a Vampire’, which is the one published fairly recently by Titan Books in their ‘Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series. That they skipped over ‘The Holmes-Dracula File’ I put down to the fact that it’s still in print from Tor Books. In this one, Holmes encounters a genuinely nasty vampire and is captured, leaving Watson no choice but to turn to cousin Dracula for help. All three books are very readable and I found each to be better than the last.
Loren D. Estlemans’ ‘Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula’ is another of Titan Books’ ‘Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series, which collects and reprints some of the best of the many Holmes pastiches that have appeared over the decades.
It’s not the only Sherlock Holmes/Dracula crossover novel available. It’s not even the only one collected in this series, but it’s definitely one of the better ones. It actually has much in common with that recent trend of mashing up classic novels with a fantastic element (usually, but not always zombies) in that this book does follow (to some extent) Stoker’s original ‘Dracula’, while telling the untold story of Holmes and Watson’s involvement. One of the obvious differences being that the supernatural element in this case, was present in the source novel, rather than being retrofitted by Estleman. The book more or less parallels the original novel up to the point where Dracula flees back to his homeland, hotly pursued by Van Helsing and company. That Holmes was willing to leave the final destruction of the Count to others does seem a little unlikely, but it would have been very difficult to write Holmes and Watson into the rest of the original story without changing too much.
The most recent of these meetings between two iconic characters is ‘The Tangled Skein’, by David Stuart Davies. It’s currently available in an omnibus paperback edition, from Wordsworth Editions, alongside Davies’ take on ‘The Giant Rat of Sumatra’. While I enjoyed all three versions, this was my personal favourite.
Davies chooses to dispense with the bulk of Stoker’s work, leaving us to assume that ‘Dracula’ was a fictionalised account, which left out the involvement of Holmes and Watson and instead added various “fictional” characters, such as Jonathan and Mina Harker, Lucy Westenra, Renfield, etc.etc. In fact the only character from the Stoker novel (apart from Dracula himself) that Davies keeps is Van Helsing. Many readers may find this disregard for Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ novel unforgivable, but for me it works better than trying to shoe-horn Holmes and Watson into the original narrative, as Estleman did. One of the strengths is the way Davies avoids having Dracula himself appear in the book until well past the halfway mark, thus building the tension skillfully. He makes a more convincing job than most of showing Holmes’ gradual conversion from sceptic to believer. He also ties the story directly into ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, which was a nice touch. On the other hand, there are elements which didn’t quite ring true for me. Early on in the book, an attempt is made on Holmes’ life by means of a booby trapped first edition of ‘Great Expectations’, which was stated to be the only one of Dickens’ novels thick enough to hide the mechanism. My problem being that the first book edition of ‘Great Expectations’ was actually a three volume set. I was also unsure of the reference to it having been purchased from an antiquarian bookseller. That is certainly where you’d most likely find a copy now, but would it have been the case a mere twenty-seven years after its publication? Obviously, it was the first single volume edition. There’s another intriguing comparison with the Estleman book. Saberhagen makes good use of the blood transfusion scene in Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ which, since it predated the indentification of differing blood-types, made for telling evidence of Van Helsing’s incompetence. Davies, on the other hand, appears to take the attitude that, if it was OK in the Stoker book, it’s OK in this one and refers to blood transfusions as if they were common treatment in 1888.
I can’t not mention the amusing scene, at the end, in which Davies ties in the canon with the popular image of Holmes in the movies by having Watson give him a meerschaum pipe for Christmas, it being a type he’d never actually tried.
These are just three of the many Sherlock Holmes/Dracula crossovers currently available, although the total number doesn’t come close to the vast number of Holmes/Jack the Ripper crossovers. I’m by no means suggesting that the others are without merit. In truth, I haven’t read many of them. A notable exception is an excellent comic book version by Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen– ‘Scarlet in Gaslight’– the collected edition of which is currently available in a 25th anniversary edition.
Blood of Dragons. Book Review(1)
HarperVoyager, h/b, £20
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Tintaglia is on her way back to the Rain Wilds to reclaim her Elderlings, but her flight is hampered by the pain of infection and Chalced’s cruel arrowhead beneath her wing. She has left Icefyre behind. For a time they mated and fought and travelled together, but that is not the way of dragons. Torn between what she wants and what her ancestral memories tell her she should want, all she can do is fly and hope her Elderlings will help her.
Now that Elderlings have returned to the world and claimed their city, Alise’s life has changed once again. All of her study, all of her hopes to be the one to uncover the city’s secrets and preserve its memories are now irrelevant. All she has craved for so long is gone, and even Leftrin, her true love, has set sail on his liveship, Tarman, leaving Alise feeling more alone than ever. Her only choice is to carve herself a place in the new world.
Elderling singer Selden has been taken captive, tortured and tormented as a ‘dragon-man’, his plight becoming more dangerous by the day. Hest’s situation too becomes more dire, as his journey to reclaim his errant wife turns into something infinitely darker and beyond his control. The desperation for the dragons to take flight and enter the city of Kelsingra has reached a new level. Their inability to fly or hunt for themselves is stunting this new generation of dragons.
Blood of Dragons follows all of these now familiar protagonists as they continue their struggle to rediscover the lost city of Kelsingra and survive Chalced’s corruption. Thymara and the new Elderlings have their work cut out as they endeavour to learn the secrets of Kelsingra and the ancient Elderling magic without losing themselves to its memories. For everyone else, just trying to survive is hard enough.
So too continues the story of the bird keepers and the betrayal that stretches throughout than the Rain Wilds. The correspondence between the various bird keepers and the guild allows us glimpses of some of our heroes of the past and truly rounds the story, illustrating the wider implications of Chalced’s plot and the dragons’ return to the world. These familiar characters and echoes of elsewhere remind us we are still well and truly in the world of Hobb’s earlier and treasured works.
The multiple point of view characters in this book, which include the dragons, mean the reader experiences action and reflection on every aspect of the story. This is a great strength of the series as a whole. There are so many different characters with so many varying motives that this personal view of each of them is necessary to empathising with them and understanding the action. Description is beautiful and detailed as expected, and this volume exceeds expectations about the treasures and answers Kelsingra can offer.
Fans of Hobb’s earlier work will be particularly pleased, as the allusions to other characters and prior events bring back fond memories stretching as far into the past as The Farseer Trilogy. Now the series as a whole is visible, the strength of Hobb’s writing and the scope of her imagination are once again visible too. The story transports the reader to another place and reminds us of everything that exceptional epic fantasy can achieve.
The final part in The Rain Wild Chronicles certainly doesn’t disappoint. The book concludes a series which has detailed the return of dragons and the evolution of a new generation of Elderlings to a world which had all but forgotten them. As with all of Hobb’s work, the end of the series brings an end to a story, but the scope and possibility of all that is happening in the world suggests the action is not yet over; Blood of Dragons is a superb end to a series, but also heralds a new beginning for a world that has been changed.
The Folly of the World. Book ReviewComments Off
Orbit Books, p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Sander is on his way to the gallows, the mob hurling rotten fruit and who knows what else at him. The priest, a proper, honest priest, says his part, not realising until it is too late that the condemned man standing before him is, in fact, looking forward to the noose. Is aroused by it, even. Sander knows it is not his time to die – nowhere near his time. There is a fortune to seek and dying is not part of the plan.
Jan Tieselen is also looking for something. Someone, in fact. Someone with the skills he needs to retrieve something that will change his life and grant him the fortune that should have been his by right. It is a difficult task that will take someone with exceptional skills. Unfortunately it seems exceptional skills are hard to come by and Jan’s search goes on. Good thing he doesn’t get emotionally attached to every potential helper he comes across.
Jolanda is the only daughter of a poor family of dye-makers. Poor, bullied and harassed, she doesn’t have a whole lot going for her, but she sure can swim. Not only can she swim, Jan discovers, she can hold her breath for a hell of a long time. It becomes a stand off between her breath and his patience. Exceptional skills meet a ruthless man with the promise of another life. The hardest decision is really no decision at all, but she hasn’t realised that yet.
Set in the Netherlands after a great flood, The Folly of the World is the story of Jan’s quest to gain his noble standing, and with a little manipulation the fates bring these three unlikely heroes together and pitch them towards the same goal. But when you put a madman, a swindler and a wild girl together, it is unsurprising that their individual motivations do not always add up to the same outcome.
Bullington delivers a story that is at times shocking, frustrating and more importantly brilliant. Very few authors have the ability to successfully make a reader empathise with murderers, liars, perverts and cheats but this one manages it in spades. All three protagonists are twisted, dangerous and damaged in their own ways. They are cold-hearted, relentless in their desires, and downright weird at times, yet you find yourself siding with them and rooting for them nonetheless.
The level of violence, graphic description, depravity and bad language in The Folly of the World means this is definitely not a story for those with weak stomachs or a rigid grip on right and wrong. It is brave, or perhaps daring is the right word, using language and description for maximum impact to disgust and delight the reader in fairly equal measures.
The anti-hero is becoming ever more popular in modern fantasy but this may be the first time a sexual deviant is at the forefront, at least with this level of vivid detail accompanying his urges. We are never really given an explanation as to Sander’s sanity or background, but that doesn’t seem to matter when you have a character who is so alive, so real, and so gloriously filthy and captivating on the page. What matters in this book is not so much the why but the what.
The plot unravels slowly to maximum effect and definitely makes the most of shock and awe to draw the reader in. Sometimes the action is so repellent, but the intelligent grasp of language and the level of visual detail makes you keep reading – a bit like watching a disturbing movie when you desperately want to look away but can’t bring yourself to do so.
Bullington has a gift for dynamic description which invokes all of the senses to woo the reader, willingly or unwillingly, into his world. In The Folly of the World we have the most coarse, base human instincts and the ugliest of emotions laid out on lavish display in a story that combines traditional fantasy tropes with that modern ‘grit’ and realism that defines contemporary works in the genre.
This book goes a step further than other similar attempts at this kind of writing by having a female protagonist who is just as strong, brazen, stubborn and at times cruel as her male counterparts. Jolanda’s character is a skilled combination of a vulnerable young woman and a self-made survivor. She can definitely hold her own against Sander’s psychotic outbursts and Jan’s arrogant need to control, and is a refreshing heroine.
Bullington also embraces something seen but rarely in the genre: the homosexual protagonist. There are a handful of notable gay characters that spring to mind from the last few years, maybe only one or two that depict homosexual love and sex in such graphic and honest fashion as we have here. The Folly of the World is certainly indicative of the way the genre is moving – towards a more open-minded exploration of sexuality that casts aside the taboos of the past – and is a prime example of books that push the boundaries of what is expected of the genre and force the reader to confront new realities within fantasy fiction.
Essentially this is a treasure hunt combined with double-crossing, inexplicable events and a string of misunderstandings and disasters, delivered in a genre cross that blends historical fantasy with elements of adventure stories, thrillers and dark humour. Tension is consistent throughout, and though appalling at times, this is both a cleverly entertaining story and a fascinating exploration of the human psyche.
The Folly of the World is a finalist for a Red Tentacle award at the The Kitschies 2012. Check out the other shortlistees here: http://www.thekitschies.com/red-tentacle.html
Bone Quill. Book ReviewComments Off
Buster Books, p/b, £6.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
Having previously reviewed the first book in this series, Hollow Earth (HERE), I was pleased to receive this sequel. Now I’ve read it I’m even more pleased, given that it is a serious improvement on the first, with most of the issues I identified ceasing to be a problem.
The sequel continues the tale of Emily and Matt Calder, who are a powerful hybrid of Guardian and Animare, and takes up their story two months after we last saw them. The principal concern of this book is of finding their mother Sandie (also an Animare) who went missing after an attack by the Hollow Earth Society at the end of the last book. This time round, Emily and Matt are developing an understanding of the depth, breadth and applicability of their powers, and how to use these to find Sandie.
Like the first instalment of the story, this one has parallel storylines in the past. Without wanting to give too much away, I found these to be significantly more substantial, crucial to the overall story, and most importantly, interesting to read as compared to last time. In fact, this time around, I found these sections of the book more interesting and engaging than the present-timed sections; although I acknowledge that each needed the other to create the fullest picture.
Again I don’t want to give anything away to spoil your enjoyment, but there is a reveal concerning one character and her abilities which caught me by surprise. I very much appreciated this, as it’s not often this happens when I’m reading, but also because I have a fondness for this character and was pleased to see her imbued with such positive power – very much against stereotype.
Just like the previous book, I found this to be an entertaining and quick read. Unlike last time, I’m hoping it continues in book form rather than switching to screen, and that it continues soon!
Brothers to the Death. Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins Children’s Books, p/b, £10.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
It is very important to remember that there is a far greater a difference between books written for children and Young Adult (or teen) fiction than between YA and adult fiction. The distinction between the latter two is often the age of the protagonists and the degree of teenage angst. Children’s books have a difference in style, pace and language and some topics are taboo. They are not cluttered with pages of beautiful prose designed to impress the adult reader with the erudition of the author. Plots are not overcomplicated with sub plots and subtle allusions. They tell straight-forward stories designed to catch the imagination.
Darren Shan is a very popular children’s writer whose appeal is probably mostly to boys. He writes about vampires. Brothers to the Death is the fourth and concluding volume of the Larten Crepsley saga. Larten is a relatively old vampire in love with Alicia, a human woman. She wants to keep their relationship as one of friendship as she sees herself aging while Larten remains ageless. Except for this factor, these vampires seem to behave very much as normal men, eating normal food. They do tend to sleep during the day and don’t go out in direct sunlight. A different race, the vampaneze, are the more traditional, dangerous blood drinking beings more familiar to vampire fiction. The two races do not get on and some vampire factions think the vampaneze should be wiped out. There is an irony in this as the setting at the start is the 1930s. The rising Nazi party in Germany has offered the vampires an alliance which is rejected because the Nazi’s are too brutal and show little sympathy to non-Aryans (though that word is not used).
Disliking rejection the Nazis want to find the location of Vampire Mountain where the most important vampire princes live. Larten is given the job of leading them astray so he and his friend, Gavner, lead the pursuing party round in circles. While this is going on someone murders Alicia and a vampaneze by the name of Randel Chayne is blamed. Larten spends the next thirty years trying to track him down in order to exact revenge.
For an adult reader used to the exploits of such as Dracula, this book may seem a little tame. The violence is low key though there are a couple of good set-piece fights. The ten to thirteen year-old reader will love it. There is no depth to the characterisation and the issues in the book are simplistic but the ten to thirteen year-old reader will love it. This book does exactly what it intends to, entertain the young reader. Anyone who has children or grandchildren of this age would feel very happy to let them read it.
Redoubt. Book ReviewComments Off
Titan Books, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Mags is a bit of a hero in Valdemar, what with his Kirball skills and having saved the day once again, but he’s not sure being popular suits him. Amily’s surgery was successful, Bear and Lena are ready to take the next step in their relationship, everything looks to be going well and soon Mags will have to do the same with his own blossoming romance. In fact it seems to be wedding season, but Mags can’t seem to join in the happiness. Nerves have a lot to do with it, as do the unanswered questions about his past.
Unfortunately for Mags it seems his problems are far from over, and the enemies of Valdemar are once again focused on him. He has to resume his undercover work with the Kings Own Herald and this time it may need a new disguise and a more confident manner. Everything Mags has learned and everything he has feared comes hurtling back to him, but the worst part is, something is watching him. Something he can’t see. Something that feels evil.
Redoubt is the fourth book in the Collegium Chronicles and somewhere between the end of book three and now Mags has managed to tidy up his unique accent into something more readable, which means the pace picks up considerably in this volume. There are moments when the book still has an internal focus on Mags’ thoughts and feelings, but not to a degree where the forward motion is being compromised.
There is a heightened sense of danger in this story and some new supernatural elements elevate book four above the rest of the series in terms of tension and excitement. There is some resolution to the unanswered plot threads surrounding Mags’ background, but the end of the book does not feel like a conclusion to this series and seems rushed.
What is excellent in this story is the heightened sense of adventure. Mags grows as a character, as his survival both drives the story and gives the reader a reason to stay invested. Lackey has managed to connect the reader to the protagonist in a way that wasn’t as solid in the previous books. There are also strong descriptive passages that bring the world more to life, again helping to bring the reader more deeply into the story.
The Red Knight. Book ReviewComments Off
Gollancz, p/b, £14.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
Having heard so much about it, Miles Cameron’s The Red Knight was one of the many books I was most looking forward to reading as 2013 began, and it’s with a heavy heart that I say this ultimately proved a little disappointing, not helped by the frightening number of typos and grammatical errors that seem to abound throughout. I have it on good authority that Gollancz are aware of this problem and trying to fix it for future editions, but anyway…
The problem with any fantasy book of this size — and make no bones about it, this is proper hefty doorstop material — is the ability of the author to hold and retain reader interest, and while I respect the fact that this is the start of what may prove to be a truly epic saga, I struggled through the first 300 pages due to multiple POV switching, often and incessantly mid-chapter (which themselves run to 45-50 pages — a personal bugbear of mine). Had I not been reviewing this title, I probably would have considered giving up long before this, but I struggled on — unperturbed by bad copy editing — and was very glad I did because the second half of the book speeds along, detailing one of the most authentically epic siege wars I think I’ve ever read in my life, and went a very long way towards salvaging this entire volume for me.
In essence, this is the story of The Red Knight, an estranged noble who leads a company of top-notch male and female mercenaries, and takes on the job of protecting a convent from a seemingly random attack by the Wild — a rag-tag collection of creatures mostly comprised of ‘evil’ races: boglins, irks, trolls/golems, daemons, and wyverns. There are humans in the Wild as well: ostracised folk who have opted for a life outside of conventional society. Other than the boglins (who die by the thousands), it’s fair to note that at no point does the author treat the Wild as ‘dumb’— they all have their own motivations and/or desires, and for the most part are happy to be led by Thorn, a tree-like beast of a man turned traitor — some are even lining up to usurp Thorn himself, but that’s a different sub-plot altogether.
Anyway, as things progress, the author piles on the story, and gradually the stakes get ratcheted up until we are ultimately embroiled in an epic struggle between the forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, with the convent standing almost dead centre of this almighty war — and while this is the very core of the story, I’d be doing a disservice to the author if I didn’t credit him with some brilliant world-building and a magic system that’s defined loosely enough for the reader to grasp without overwhelming us with detail. The author is a historian and member of a re-enactment society with a specialist interest in ancient weapons and armour, so it probably comes as no surprise that this does come through clearly in the level of detail he is able to bring to the tale, and certainly made the colossal battles spring off the page regardless of where he picks up the action.
I’ve deliberately been vague regards the plot details, but suffice to say this is epic fantasy on a grand scale, and there are many multiple plot-threads that are well worth savouring on their own, and some huge well-realised personalities to follow. Apart from the Red Knight himself, one of his cohorts is Bad Tom, a particularly strong character throughout the narrative. Ditto the arrogant French knight, Jean de Vrailly — a character who doesn’t feature quite as much, but who you can grow to hate or love within a single sentence.
In summary, I think there are a lot of strong points to this, and if you’re a fan of epic fantasy and massive battles (including but not limited to wyverns practising aerial bombardment techniques and massive hulking trebuchets) then there’s plenty here to love, as well as a number of great characters and private conflicts to lose yourself in. That all said, it proved a real struggle to make it through the first half of the book without losing the thread, and I would say to any author that if it takes me 300 pages to find my way into a story then it’s like as not going to be a story I’m unlikely to finish. In this instance, I was glad I did so and it did prove worth it, but it was only my own sense of duty that got me through that first half…
The Phenomenals. Book ReviewComments Off
Macmillan Children’s Books, p/b, £5.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
The Phenomenals is the first in a new Steampunk-influenced series by F. E. Higgins. I haven’t read her previous work so didn’t really know what to expect, but you may have noticed from my other reviews that I’m always up for checking out children’s books.
The plot and structure are quite appealing: four young protagonists are woven together into an over-arching storyline – each character is based around archetypes, each one with mysteries and sub-plots of their own. They are flanked by some solid – if at times clichéd – supporting characters and villains. I liked quite a few of the characters, although I was instantly bored with Vincent Verdigris, the dashing orphan picklock; are young readers really so keen on this type of character? I have to assume so since they seem to be shoe-horned into every story I read lately. Anyway, that aside, I like the other three main characters a lot and was interested to see how each would develop.
My main, and only real, criticism of the book is its heavy-handed language. Considering this story is aimed at 9 year olds and up, the vocabulary borders on the pretentious and at its best is distracting. It’s just too much in a book of this size to have every single detail described and qualified to such an extent, with words that may create an arcane atmosphere, but may also serve to alienate the young reader.
However, there is much to enjoy in the tale and I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Glass Thorns: Touchstone. Book ReviewComments Off
Titan Books, p/b, £6.39
Reviewed By Laurel Sills
Cayden Silversun is long-faced, morose, clever, talented, and the shame of his aristocratic mother. His ambitions of forming a world-renowned theatre group look to be made reality when Mieka – a dashingly talented elf – turns up to complete his troupe.
This is a tale of the road to fame, reminiscent of the classic rags to riches band story, except this is about a theatre group with supernatural abilities. Imagine actors that could magically manipulate the emotions of their audience. That could make them see, hear and feel whatever they wanted them to.
This is an interesting and compelling idea, with a complex and colourful world surrounding it. I did feel, however, that the story came secondary to the concept. This isn’t your typical plot driven narrative, with the result that this book is certainly not a page-turner. Do not expect suspenseful cliffhangers. You will not finish a chapter desperate to know what happens next.
But is that really necessary? Does fantasy need to have plenty of action in order to make it worthwhile? My answer to that would normally be a resounding no. Give me rich characters and an engaging inner journey and I am a happy bunny. I’m not sure, however, that Glass Thorns delivers completely on this. I kept getting a strange sense of déjà vu, primarily I think, because the (quite excessive) exposition and thoughts of the characters didn’t develop. I feel that there needs to be some kind of shape, a setting up and reaping of something, even if it is only emotional.
There are no real baddies in Glass Thorns; whilst there are a few distant villainous characters, they really aren’t all that scary. There is no Peril, no feeling of impending doom. Not that there has to be a ‘dark lord’ involved, in fact, I appreciate that Rawn has had the vision not to include one. However this lack left a gap that wasn’t filled by anything else. There is a missing sense of urgency.
And so, the conflict has to come from the relationships of the main characters, which is mainly between Cayden and Mieka. Again, this didn’t really develop that much, circling around the same themes of closeness, distance and moods, framed within the disturbing glimpses of the future Cayden sees coming for Mieka. There was a stillness to this book. It lacked movement, energy, drama!
What I did enjoy was the day-to-day detail that Melanie Rawn includes. I like to see how created worlds work on a practical level. How do people live? How do they entertain themselves? What is the architecture like? Rawn invents interesting functional detail, like how the elves’ fear of the dark powers the street lamps. I was left with a lasting impression of place, social dynamics and societal framework, which I think was done very well.
I think there is something genuinely endearing and admirable about this book. It made me look at how my preconceived ideas influence the way I read, and how much my own expectations need to be met in order for me to enjoy what I am reading. Which, I suppose, sounds pretty obvious. But really what I’m trying to say is that it challenged me. Not because it was groundbreaking or experimental, but because it didn’t do what I expected it to do, what I needed it to do.
The question here is: are those needs universal? Perhaps you just need to read Glass Thorns: Touchstone for yourself, and make up your own mind.
Frozen Heat. Book ReviewComments Off
Titan Books, h/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
Are you looking for a book that is easy and enjoyable to read? A book that’s cheesy, funny, yet catches you out with surprising depth and emotion? Do you love Richard Castle? Then Reader, this is the book for you!
Frozen Heat is the 4th novel based in the crime-fighting world of Nikki Heat, who is partnered with journalist Jamieson Rook… sound familiar? The previous three have been rough and tumble, quirky and engaging crime thrillers, which have also set up Heat and Rook’s world, supporting characters, and the basis of their, ‘will they, won’t they, FINALLY they got it together!!!’ relationship… again, are you sensing a theme?
Anyhoo, you may come to this book hoping to enjoy all the cosiness of new-found romance… if so, really? Surely you know that’s not how it works?! Inevitably we get to bask in mere moments of contentment and pay-off for the numerous twists and turns we endured getting here, before of course, Heat’s work becomes centre stage again.
The plot for the crime that kicks off the mystery this time has just the right amount of suspense, gruesome detail, and tantalising connections to Heat’s past to keep you engaged. Indeed, one of the reasons to keep coming back and enduring the torturous meandering of relationships in these books is the overall connecting arc of Heat’s mother’s murder, and in the current story you get so many pay-offs from previous threads as well as opening up further strands of enquiry so that now, we’re not just focused on the murder of Nikki’s mother, but her life too.
The plots and side-stories for these books are always well thought out and structured, although yes, there is cheese; but there are moments that really catch you and are emotive on a level you don’t expect from this type of book. There’s a particular moment around the end of the text where Nikki finds something – and no, I’m not saying more than that because I don’t want to spoil the build-up for you – that really touched me and came across beautifully. Funnily enough, I read that bit around the same time as I got something stuck in my eye… at least that’s the excuse I gave the cat…
OK, yes, I’m a softy and a real sucker for a heartfelt moment amidst the thrills and mystery, but in my defence I do feel it’s done extremely well here. It has the same great balance that the show has (you know the one), and in a lot of ways it feels like you read through at least half a series worth of content.
Overall I love these books – I was going to say they’re my guilty pleasure, but that wouldn’t be true – I just love them! Get hold of them and enjoy.