The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Another world is colliding with this one and nobody can or will do anything about it. Nobody, that is, except Tiffany Aching. Tiffany Aching who makes good cheese; who hits monsters in the face with a frying pan; and who has the First Sight and the Second Thoughts (much more useful than the other way around). With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle and a book on sheep diseases, Tiffany ventures into the other world to stop the Queen and to save her baby brother.

It’s been years since I first read this book and I had forgotten just how ‘witchy’ that Tiffany is right from the start of the series that begins with this book. A sensible girl who does what needs doing and who stands up to Granny Weatherwax.

For me, the Feegle are as much stars of this book as Tiffany. They could be a parody but in Pratchett’s hands they become more than that. They’re a wonderful creation (especially the swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers) and a lot of fun.

There’s one line in particular that stands out as totemic of what Pratchett tries to invoke in all of us and which brought a lump to my throat: “Them as can do, has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” Pratchett reminds us with this single line what we’re like when we’re at our best and what we should strive to be.

Book details

Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2003

The Mortal Word (The Invisible Library #5)

By Genevieve Cogman

Rating: 4 stars

Dreamy sigh. I’ve got quite the book-crush on Irene, but then after five books of saving the world (or worlds) while wanting nothing more than to sit with her feet up and a good book, what sort of heartless monster would you have to be to not? I’d love to sit down with her over a cup of tea and discuss books with the caveats that a) I’d be constantly terrified that Things would happen around her and b) I fear that my range and taste would be somewhat disappointing for her.

The fifth book in the series has the much-rumoured peace conference between the dragons and fae finally happening, but the murder of one of the delegates throws the whole thing into doubt, and Irene is brought in, along with her friend Vale, to solve the mystery and save the treaty.

All the machinations of fae and dragon from previous volumes come together here as well as the undercurrent of the role of humans (and the Library) in the multiverse. Irene has to cope with Kai no longer being her apprentice but an agent in his own right, and one whose interests may not always coincide with hers and has to work with both dragons and fae in her investigating team, walking a careful path between negotiator and leader.

After his absence in the previous volume, I’m glad to see Vale back and in a much stronger supporting role than he’s ever had before. Lord Silver also comes back in all his licentious, manipulating glory; he’s such a fun character (although I do feel that the revelation that he was there in order to “control/blackmail” Vale sort of petered out and didn’t really go anywhere, although that’s a minor issue with so many threads swirling around)

The end of this volume now opens up a lot of possibilities and I’m excited to see where Cogman takes the series next. I understand that she’s been contracted for at least another three books, so there will be plenty more opportunities for me to indulge my crush!

PS: subduing a dragon king! Think of the XP!!

Book details

ISBN: 9781509830725
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Year of publication: 2018

Saga, Vol. 9 (Saga, #9)

By Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Rating: 4 stars

Aww, bloody hell, Vaughan, really? Really?! Did you have to do that to us and then just leave for a year? This volume of Hazel’s story is more sedate and familial than of late, as the Family and their companions just try to adapt to life together. The Will and his captor, however, are very close behind them and it won’t end well if they catch up.

Vaughn and Staples are still fantastic storytellers, although I don’t know if I can take much more of this emotional roller-coaster. The highs are magnificent, as the creative pair make us revel in such small things that a family should be able to enjoy together – building sandcastles, bickering and loving each other. The lows, on the other hand, come thick and fast towards the end of the volume and I both am dreading and can’t wait for the next volume (whenever it does come).

Book details

ISBN: 9781534308374
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2018

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

By James Alan Gardner

Rating: 5 stars

Yet another book I picked up from John Scalzi’s Big Idea. The author talked about his desire to write a really fun superhero novel and that caught my attention. Modern superheroes all seem to be full of angst and woe, and this sounded different. And oh goodness, it was so much fun! In a world where monsters and heroes are real, four college housemates get caught up in a science lab explosion (what else?) that turns them into superheroes. Before they can take a breath and worry about the important things (cool costumes and a team name), they’ve got to figure out who is causing all the explosions and stop them from killing a good fraction of the population of the city.

The first thing that really caught my eye in this book was the idea that there’s a pricetag associated with “Dark Conversion” (i.e. being turned into a vampire/were-animal/demon/etc) and that it’s high. The idea that only the One Percent can afford it and suddenly they become so much more visible and (even more) differentiated from the rest of society is brilliant. It’s a compelling metaphor for the rich and how they view the rest of us. By comparison, the Light can choose anyone, no need for wealth or power. One rogue gamma ray and bam, you’ve got superpowers (rather than radiation poisoning). I also like how aware the book is of its own tropes and it meta-analyses them just enough to be fun and not so much to be irritating.

Our protagonist is Kim Lam, a geology student with a past she’d like to forget parts of. Her housemates are science students of various types and get just enough fleshing out to make them interesting (I see from the sample of the sequel at the end of the book at the next one is told from Jools’ perspective, so hopefully each of the team will get their own book and character development) but Kim gets the most. When they develop superpowers, her geology obsession gives her rock-hard skin, and her desire to hide gives her shrinking powers. I’m not sure where her 360-degree roving vision comes from, but it’s not something I’ve seen before in my (admittedly limited) superhero reading and is very cool.

So the book is hugely readable, with a sharp and sympathetic first-person narrator in Kim, with a fascinating world that leaves me hungry for more (I see a sequel is just out!).

Book details

ISBN: 9780765392633
Publisher: Tor Books
Year of publication: 2017

Lies Sleeping (Peter Grant, #7)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, has been unmasked and is on the run, with the full force of the Metropolitan Police bearing down on him. But he still dreams big and Peter Grant and the team have to bring him down before his plans, somehow involving the malevolent spirit Mr Punch, come to fruition.

Blimey, I missed Peter Grant! I know I always go on in my reviews of the comics about how much I miss Peter’s narrative voice, but I’d forgotten just how much I’d missed it until I got a full length novel again. And what a novel. The momentum behind the Faceless Man plot has been building for some time, and this is the payoff. Aaronovitch balances action and character very well as we get reacquainted with old friends (Nightingale, Guleed, Molly all present and correct) as well as new ones. Abigail is getting more screen time as she’s becoming the Folly’s resident archivist and librarian. Peter and Nightingale are keeping her out of the front line for now, but it’s only a matter of time before she gets in over her head (and I can’t wait to see how she gets herself out of it!).

There’s a good depth of research that’s gone into this, mixing up Saxon, Roman and ancient British history and myth and pulling them together into a cohesive story that’s a lot of fun to read. The various relationships all rub along nicely. Nightingale and Peter; Peter and Beverly; and, of course, Peter and Lesley. Their frenemy relationship has felt like the core of the books for some time now and this volume just adds more depth and complexity. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

My edition also came with the short story Favourite Uncle at the end. This is a fun little story, narrated by Abigail, set at Christmas about some of those activities on the side that she doesn’t tell Peter and Nightingale about.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473207813
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2018

The Promise of the Child (The Amaranthine Spectrum #1)

By Tom Toner

Rating: 3 stars

In the far-distant future, Humanity has splintered into a Prism of related species, with the Amaranthine at the top of the pyramid: a small number of immortals who rule ever more precariously, keeping their power by playing the various Prism races against each other. Sotiris, one of the Amaranthine, must travel to Earth (the ‘Old World’) following the death of his sister. Meanwhile, Lycaste is a mortal, living on the Old World, who’s fallen in love with Pentas, but who doesn’t love him back. The arrival of an outsider into their small community changes Lycaste’s life forever.

There is a huge amount of world-building going on here, especially in the early chapters of this book. It throws you right into the middle of things, with explanations only coming later. It makes for a difficult first half or so. It didn’t help that this was the first book that I read after getting an e-reader for the first time, and although there’s a search function, flipping around to reread something the context of what I’ve just read was much more difficult than it would be on paper.

However, even once I got past that and was into the main body of the story, I found it difficult. I didn’t really care an awful lot about Lycaste for most of the book. I found him pampered, whiny and irritating. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that he goes through a lot in the course of the book and develops as a character, but he’s still not really fun to hang around with. Sotiris, our other main PoV character, doesn’t really work for me for a different reason. He’s an immortal, over twelve thousand years old. To him, the mortals are mayflies, and although he tries to protect Lycaste, his motives aren’t pure. And I felt he remained a cipher for the duration of the book (although to be fair, it must be really difficult to write the mind-state of people that old).

The nominal adversary, Aaron, someone who lays claim to the throne of the Amaranthine by virtue of claiming to be older than anyone else, is mostly a shadow figure, only gaining any solid definition in the final pages of the book. But his motivations remain opaque.

Although the pace picked up a lot towards the end of the book, I’m afraid I just don’t feel invested enough to read the rest of the series.

(I got a copy of this book for free from NetGalley[1] in exchange for an honest review)

[1] The author messaged me on GoodReads, *goes to check* good grief, two years ago, and asked if I’d like to review the book. Many apologies for how long it’s to read and review it!

Book details

ISBN: 9781597805902
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Year of publication: 2013

Mister Clip-Clop: Intergalactic Space Unicorn (EDGE: Bandit Graphics)

By Tony Lee, Neil Slorance

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been a fan of Neil Slorance for a while now, so when I saw on his Twitter that he had a limited number of this fun little comic back in stock, I snapped it up. It’s a slight little thing, coming in at 32 pages, but 32 pages of pure delight. Neil says it’s suitable for ages 7 and up, and I’m definitely up! It’s drawn in his trademark cutesy style, and is a lot of fun, as the titular space unicorn falls to Earth and has to team up with a couple of young girls to save the world from invisible Ooze monsters.

Technically I bought this for my niece, but since she’s not seven yet, I’ll just have to *cough* “take care” of it for her for a while…

Book details

ISBN: 9781445157061
Publisher: Franklin Watts

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