The Peculiar. Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins, p/b, £6.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
The Peculiar is the tale of an alternative England where a Cold War between the Faeries and Humans insinuates itself through the magic infused steampunk streets. Our main concern is Bartholomew Kettle: a changeling, along with his younger sister, born of a human mother and a faery father who has long since flown the nest. He finds himself in the midst of frightening intrigue which threatens the brittle peace, and which requires a changeling to further the agendas of those hiding in the shadows.
I can tell you now that fans of anything steampunk, and of ethereal ‘proper’ fae tales, will love this story. The clockwork machines which fill the cities – serving a dual purpose of making life easier as well as drowning out the magic which would otherwise lie heavy in the air – are beautifully described and give the world its own very particular enchanting identity, Bachmann is extremely good at describing the scene and capturing the details you want to ‘see’. He’s also quite adept at creating a menacing atmosphere – the villains in the story make the hairs on the back of your neck quiver with unease, if not quite standing on end.
An area in which I feel he is significantly weaker would be how engaging the main thread and protagonist are. I found Kettle to be unlikeable, selfish and at times boring or plain stupid. I think that it is entirely possible to have a character such as this as key figure, as long as they are also engaging. However, I very quickly did not care a jot what happened to him, although I remain very interested in his sister, Hettie.
It seemed apparent that Bachmann had struggled with back story and depth to some of the characters too; one character is done away with towards the later parts of the story, and the tone of things goes quite flat without any resonance for the sadness of how this has happened. It left me feeling very much that certain (or all) of the characters were like functional little cogs and screws being fit together and discarded in the clockwork of Bachmann’s story, rather than becoming fully rounded figures of their own.
Having said this, I think perhaps the best character of the whole book is Arthur Jelliby – he does go through some development and is the most reassuringly human and fallible in his reactions and actions.
All in all, it is an enjoyable read which employs many of the best fairy tale devices and ideas in what I’m sure is going to develop into a strong series – the ending is a complete cliff hanger and I can’t see why any publisher wouldn’t already have Bachmann writing the sequel.
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.
Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked, Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins, h/b, £14.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
This is the seventh book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I’m guessing that they’re aimed at 12 – 16 year olds, although I’ve read them all and loved them so far. I received this latest book with great anticipation, and have to say it didn’t disappoint!
The series is the story of Skulduggery Pleasant, a detective who has magical powers, and just happens to also be a living skeleton – a kind of skeletonised Dr. Who (although much better written than much of the recent stuff…) Really though, it’s the story of Stephanie Edgeley aka Valkyrie Cain who, since the first book, we’ve followed as she partnered Skulduggery into the world of magic and crime-fighting.
I’m not going to tell you much about the story of this particular book as I don’t want to give any spoilers regarding the content of previous books: I strongly recommend that if you fancy reading this one, you pick up the first six books – believe me you’ll be giving yourself a really enjoyable read! Suffice to say, this story follows the same formula as previously in that Pleasant and Cain set out to save the world again, but this time there’s a particular focus on protecting the sanctity and authority of the Sanctuary in Ireland. (The Sanctuary is the organisation which safeguards the world of magic and keeps its members in line to protect the non-magical world.)
In previous books the Big Bads have mainly come from the realm of magic; in this one they are regular humans who’ve suddenly started manifesting mixtures of magical powers that make them powerful, and highly dangerous – both to themselves and others.
I have only one criticism of this book and it applies to all seven books: Derek Landy is a great, creative, and genuinely humorous author; however, each book starts of with a tone that just feels like it’s trying a little bit too hard. Things kick off in an awkwardly too cool, too witty style, almost like he doesn’t believe he’s a good enough writer. Thankfully, things always soon settle down to become absolutely engrossing, funny, and thrilling.
This book is such a good read, although I think they’re progressively becoming much more serious in tone. The violence has always been fairly brutal and realistic, but there are specific parts of this that take another step up – I don’t think this is a bad thing in a book aimed at teenagers, especially as the genuine impact of violence is always present, despite the magical body armour, etc.
One thing that especially impressed me was the epilogue – now, promise me no peeking because this is worth the wait! There’s been an issue that’s been slowly simmering away in the background and I honestly would have expected it to come to the forefront much earlier. However, with how Landy has kept things ticking along, even though you might expect this, it’s going to come as a genuine shock. I cannot wait to read the next one now!
This, along with the preceding six books, is a brilliantly paced, funny, thrilling and engaging story. You should go out and buy all seven right now – I can’t understand why these books haven’t had the same kind of reaction as the Harry Potter books, and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean as soon as you start reading and can’t stop!
Department 19: The Rising. Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Book two of Hill’s excellent Department 19 series follows the adventures of Jamie Carpenter. At the age of 16, Jamie became Department 19’s youngest commissioned operator, proudly following in his father’s footsteps protectingEnglandfrom vampires and werewolves.
Together with his vampire girlfriend, Larissa and their good friend Kate, they hunt down vampires across the country, trying to find a way to prevent the oldest vampire of all – Vlad Dracula – from regaining his full strength and laying waste to the world with his vampire armies.
Hill has done an excellent job of combining traditional vampire mythology with modern day warfare, while avoiding the whole “Twilight” teen vampire love story. Some vampires, like Dracula and his lieutenant Valeri Rusmanov are vicious and evil – they view humans as cattle, no more. Others, mainly those turned against their will, are pacifists – living off animal blood sourced from friendly butchers, unwilling to take human lives.
While the back cover states that this is suitable for ages 13+, this is a gripping read for lovers of vampire fiction young and old. Hill keeps the reader on the edge of their seats throughout, with action-packed scenes and tender moments sharing page space well.
Department 19. Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins, s/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Department 6 is the army. Department 13 is MI5. Department 19 is the reason you’re alive. Department 19 was formed by the legendary Abraham Van Helsing in 1892 at Prime Minister William Gladstone’s urging.
Since then, Department 19 has been protecting the British public and working with other, similar international agencies to protect the world from all manner of supernatural threats in absolute secrecy.
Jamie Carpenter thinks his dad is pretty boring – just a regular MOD civil servant, until one day he is executed outside his house by a group of armed soldiers in black uniforms. Jamie and his mother are informed that he had been selling information to terrorists, and have to move to escape from vindictive, patriotic neighbours.
Two years later, after his mother is kidnapped by a vampire, sixteen year old Jamie begins to realise that there was more to his father than met the eye. This is backed up when he is rescued by Victor Frankenstein – not the scientist, but the monster who has taken his creator’s name in tribute to him.
Jamie’s adventures are thrilling, and his friends and foes are well depicted – brave men and women serving their countries, fighting against sadistic vampires. Lives are lost, and friendships are made in the epic fight against some of the oldest vampires on earth.
Carnival of Souls. Book ReviewComments Off
HarperCollins, p/b, £9.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Mallory has reached that age where she is seriously starting to think about boys, well, one boy in particular actually: Kaleb. He is attractive, confident, and he even knows she exists. The problem is that Mallory and her witch father are permanently on the run because of something he stole from daimons. Mallory has spent her whole life moving from place to place, never having any real friends and training with her father daily in case she ever has to fight off the monsters that are tracking them. It has been five years since her mother walked out on them and Mallory is beginning to get fed up of life the way it is.
Aya is of the ruling caste, which means she is destined for one thing: to breed. Except Aya does not want that life for herself. In the restrictivedaimonCityher only other option has been to shun the proper way she should be living and enter Marchosias’ Competition. The winner will become ruler, which for Aya would mean she could change her fate and live the way she wanted. But the competition is a series of fights to the death and only one can win.
The characters are certainly the main strength in this book. Each one is easy to empathise with and drawn with a deeper emotional depth than many encountered in young adult fiction. Each of them is restricted by their circumstance and the reader is given insight into those restrictions and the acts they are forced to perform to escape them. Each of the point of view characters is linked with the others in a complex manner that Marr reveals slowly to great effect.
Carnival of Souls gives us more of the exciting, otherworld, young adult fantasy that was rich in Wicked Lovely. Here we have two heroines, one self-confident, assertive and powerful, the other a complete contrast. Two journeys: one a traditional coming-of-age as Mallory discovers who she really is, the other a unique exploration of the repressed female fighting against the boundaries of her society.
This is a strong opening to a series that promises action and tension throughout, as well as following a cast of characters that is varied enough that every reader will find at least one that they bond with, whether it be the innocent, the rebel or the refreshingly humble hero. Anyone who enjoys young adult fiction, the supernatural or character-based stories should read this. The only down side is that it ends rather too abruptly, the sequel a definite requirement.
Harper Voyager Announces Global Digital Publishing Opportunity for Debut AuthorsComments Off
In this time of accelerated evolution in the field of digital publishing, the editorial leaders of Harper Voyager in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia are delighted to announce an exciting joint venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the global science fiction and fantasy imprint.
For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager is offering writers the chance to submit full, unagented manuscripts for a limited two-week period. The publisher is seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. Harper Voyager is home to some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy, including George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan, among others.
The submission portal, www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia. Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.
Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.
The submissions and digital publications are a joint, global effort by Harper Voyager, spearheaded by Deputy Publisher Director Emma Coode in the United Kingdom, Associate Publisher Deonie Fiford in Australia, and Executive Editor Diana Gill in the United States. The three editors note that: “No other publishing company has done a coordinated submission period for unagented authors across three continents, and all of us at Harper Voyager and at HarperCollins Publishers are absolutely thrilled to be launching this huge opportunity. We look forward to discovering and digitally publishing many new exciting voices globally at HarperVoyager.”
Three-book deal with HarperCollins for Neil GaimanComments Off
Publishers Weekly reports that Neil Gaiman has signed a multi-book deal with HarperCollins. The deal involves three YA novels and two picture books. Publishers Weekly states:
“Both picture books will feature a new character created by Gaiman, a little panda named Chu, that is known for having an outsized sneeze. The first book, Chu’s Day, will be illustrated by Adam Rex; it is set for 8 January 2013.”
“The other three titles in the deal will include a middle-grade novel called Fortunately, the Milk, which will feature art by Skottie Young and which HarperCollins calls ‘an ode to the pleasure and wonders of storytelling itself.’ Gaiman will also write a sequel to the 2009 book Odd and the Frost Giants (also published by HarperCollins), which features characters from Norse mythology. The third novel in the deal will be a middle grade book, and is currently untitled.”
HarperCollins to publish official tie-ins to The Hobbit filmsComments Off
HarperCollins has acquired exclusive worldwide publishing rights from Warner Bros Consumer Products for tie-in books to the two highly anticipated films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, directed by Peter Jackson and productions of New Line Cinema and MGM.
“Inspired by the two films based on The Hobbit, the HarperCollins companion books are a fantastic way for fans of the world of Middle-earth to immerse themselves in the film experience,” said Karen McTier, Executive Vice President of Domestic Licensing and Worldwide Marketing for Warner Bros Consumer Products. “HarperCollins has a strong history with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and we know that the detailed tie-in books will bring The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again to life in an in-depth and imaginative way.”
The Hobbit, first published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937, has been a perennial bestseller since starting life with a very modest 1,500-copy print run. Since then, it has gone on to sell many millions of copies in more than 50 languages, and in this 75th anniversary year of its publication, is set to captivate another generation of readers. HarperCollins acquired the publishing rights to The Hobbit and its sequel The Lord of the Rings when it bought Unwin Hyman publishers in 1990, revitalizing the books’ sales and steering their publishing and book licensing through the unprecedented heights of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in 2001-2003.
Author, biographer and broadcaster Brian Sibley, who recently won the BBC Audio Drama Award for his dramatization of The History of Titus Groan, has returned to New Zealand to write the behind-the-scenes Official Movie Guides, while novelist and former Tolkien editor Jane Johnson is writing essential Visual Companions to introduce filmgoers to the remarkable world of the two films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Bestselling New Zealand author and photographer Ian Brodie is writing the Location Guide which highlights the spectacular locations in New Zealand that have provided the settings for the films. In addition, HarperCollins will be breaking new ground with a range of children’s books in the form of annuals, movie storybooks and feature titles, as well as a new series of lavish hardbacks written and designed by the award-winning team at Weta, who are working closely with the production team to guarantee that these books will be bursting with insider information and stunning visual imagery.
Authonomy announces digital imprintComments Off
“Authonomy is a writing community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. They aim to flush out the brightest, freshest new literature around.
If you’re a writer, authonomy is the place to show your face – and show off your writing on the web. Whether you’re unpublished, self-published, looking to get published, or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy writing community.
And if you’re a reader, blogger publisher or agent, authonomy is for you too. The book world is kept alive by those who search out, digest and spread the word about the best new books – authonomy invites you to join its community, champion the best new writing and build a personal profile that really reflects your tastes, opinions and talent-spotting skills.
Authonomy are now thrilled to announce that they will be launcing a digital publishing programme dedicated to authonomy’s best authors! The books will be hand-picked by the authonomy Editorial Board, worked on by HarperCollins’ finest publishing teams, and published as HarperCollins digital originals across all possible devices. This new HarperCollins list will look to publish one book a month, starting in January 2012. Most importantly, all of the titles will have been discovered on the authonomy.com website and will be published digital originals. The bestselling titles will go on to have print editions.”