#Review The Hedge Witch by Cari Thomas

The Hedge Witch: A Threadneedle novella -a small slice of the Threadneedle universe, with more to come! And the cover is amazing.

About the Author

Cari Thomas is author of the Sunday Times Bestseller, Threadneedle – her debut novel and the first in her language of Magic series.

Cari grew up in the Wye Valley area of Wales and, after studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, moved to London. She worked as a journalist and at a creative agency, before finally doing what she’d always wanted to do: quit her job and write a book about magic.

The result was Threadneedle. Be introduced to a world of wild, ancient witchcraft hidden within today’s London; where libraries made of books breathe dusty pages beneath the city, where witch clubs serve up magical cocktails and vintage shops sell memories. A world where magic gleams light and very, very dark.

Cari now lives in Wales with her husband and son. Discover more on her website: carithomas.com, Follow @Cari_Threads on Twitter.

About the book

Rowan is visiting her aunt – Winne the hedge witch – in the Welsh countryside, to get back to nature and hone her skills, as well as taking a break from her annoying sisters and enjoying some peace and quiet. However, Rowan soon comes to realise that hedges are a serious business and this isn’t quite the opportunity to rest and escape she thought it might be.

Not only that, but mysterious events around the town are causing panic in the secret magical community and cowans – non-magical folk – are starting to take notice. Can Rowan hone her hedge craft, try to make some friends and solve the riddle of the mysterious goings-on, or is magic about to be revealed to the world … or at least Wales?

Review

This is a novella that fits into the Threadneedle universe, a world of magic and of self-discovery. If you haven’t read the first book I would certainly suggest doing so. Saying that, this can absolutely be read as a standalone story and there are more to come.

Rowan is sent to spend her summer holidays with an aunt in the country, very reluctantly I might add. She would rather be spending it pretending to be part of a large social group at school – the truth is she is an outsider who struggles to fit in everywhere.

Part of the holiday regime is learning what her aunt has to teach about being a hedge witch, learning to respect the hedge and communicate with it, to harness the power that flows within her. Power that needs structure instead of erratic emotions and lack of focus, but Rowan is a teenager who would rather discover new friends and break the rules.

It’s a lovely story, a sort of tentacle that reaches from the hive – one of the many threads of magic of this series. It’s also a story for both the young and old.

Buy The Hedge Witch at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:‎ HarperVoyager pub date 7 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Harper Collins.

#BlogTour The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence.

‘The final Book in the stellar new series from bestselling fantasy author of Prince of Thorns and Red Sister, Mark Lawrence.’

About the Author

Mark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. 

His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy, and both The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim have won the Gemmell Legend award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol. Follow @Mark__Lawrence on Twitter

About the book

The fate of the world hangs from the Moon. The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction.

The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.

The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.

The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.

Review

After the first few chapters I knew I would have to go back to the beginning of this trilogy and experience the entirety of the premise and intricate worldbuilding. Saying that, this can absolutely be read as a standalone, and the author has added a short four page – the story so far – recap, for readers  who are new to the series.

I have to say kudos at this point because it’s not a simple task to condense such a mammoth fantasy concept, and the characters, into a short pitch. The kind of recap you can understand and helps a reader to jump right in at the deep end of the third Book of Ice.

Aside from the complexity of the plot, which is a superbly layered sweetmeat of fantasy, origin, myth, science and great writing, there also a nice wee exploration of the area between right and wrong. Where rules pave the directions of the roads societies walk upon, there will always be cracks and areas in between.

And who determines whether those who wander within those areas off the beaten path are rebels, outlaws or indeed the hero in the story? Are the helpful gestures made in an attempt to interfere or support – looking straight at the Convent of Sweet Mercy.

I’m not sure a review can do the plot justice without giving something pivotal away. Every interaction pushes Yaz further toward what everyone expects of her – being the key and answer to the Ark of the Missing. But what if there is so much more to the Missing than everyone thinks?

Reading the last paragraph I can only hope there will be more, so many directions to take and avenues to explore. Right? One can only hope. I know many feel this is his fantasy work come full circle – I don’t, there is always another path to be taken. 

Buy The Girl and the Moon at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Voyager pub date 28 April 2022│HB £14.99│EB £8.99│EA £14.49. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Harper Collins.

#Blogtour for The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour for The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport. The Blood Gift series is definitely one to keep an eye on, as is the author.

About the Author

Nia “N.E.” Davenport is the Science Fiction/Fantasy author of The Blood Trials and its sequel (Harper Voyager). She attended the University of Southern California and studied Biological Sciences and Theatre Arts. She also has an M.A. in Secondary Education. She teaches English and Biology to amazing students. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys vacationing with her family, skiing, and being a huge foodie. She’s an advocate for diverse perspectives and protagonists in literature. 

Follow @Nia_Davenport on Twitter or @nia.davenport on Instagram, where she talks about binge-worthy TV, killer movies, and great books. She lives in Texas with her husband and kids.

About the book

It’s all about blood. – Blood spilled long ago between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor, ending all blood magic.

Now there is peace in the Republic – but there is also a strict class system, misogyny, and racism. Her world is not perfect, but Ikenna survived in it. Until now.

With the murder of her grandfather, Ikenna spirals out of control. Though she is an initiate for the Republic’s deadly elite military force, Ikenna has a secret only her grandfather knew: she possesses the blood magic of the Republic’s enemies.

Ikenna throws herself into the gladiatorial war games at the heart of her martial world: trials that will lead her closer to his killers. Under the spotlight, she subjects herself to abuse from a society that does not value her, that cherishes lineage over talent – all while hiding gifts that, if revealed, would lead to execution or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all to find out who killed her grandfather…

So she can end them.

Review

When your chosen path, your destined path even, is ripped away from you when you least expect it, then you’re allowed to feel salty about it. If the rerouting of your path is fueled by a need to seek the truth and vengeance, then the salty attitude is understandable, although it may cost you a friend or two on the way there. The murder of Ikenna’s grandfather changes her path and sets her on a bloodthirsty, ruthless and character defining one instead.

I loved Ikenna’s anger – rage even.  Is that wrong of me, to enjoy the growly ragey killey vibe Ikenna brings to the table throughout the entire story? The ‘I don’t give two goats – I will never forget and always remember to dot my t’s and i’s, with the weapon of my choice’ – yeh that vibe.

It certainly has a Brown’s Howler’s vibe, and a societal structure fights for restructure and against oppression Red Rising vibe. It doesn’t shy away from the need to assert, for the show of violence, and it doesn’t pull any punches. I enjoyed the snarly, snarky, I talk the talk and walk the walk attitude and feel of the story. Ikenna is such a strongly written voracious character that she leaves a lasting impression.

I have to say I am absolutely loving all of the new voices, directions and reinventions of genres. Davenport is definitely an author to watch going forward. Fantastic energy, creative and wonderfully powerful main character. I would love to see this in screen format. Bring on the next one – soon!

Buy The Blood Trials at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: HarperVoyager pub date 14 April 2022. Buy at Amazon comAt Harper Collins.

#BlogTour Crimson Reign by Amélie Wen Zhao

It’s time for The Conclusion to the Blood Heir Trilogy -it’s the Blogtour for Crimson Reign by Amélie Wen Zhao.

About the Author

Amélie Wen Zhao was born in Paris and grew up in Beijing in an international community. Her multicultural upbringing instilled in her a deep love of global affairs and cross-cultural perspectives. 

She seeks to bring this passion to her stories, crafting characters from kingdoms in different corners of the world. She attended college in New York City, where she now lives. Amélie is the author of the Blood Heir series: Blood Heir, Red Tigress, and Crimson Reign. Follow @ameliewenzhao on Twitter,  Visit ameliezhao.com

About the book

The Red Tigress, Ana Mikhailov, has returned to Cyrilia, but the country she once called home has fallen under a dark rule. Across the land, the Empress Morganya is tightening her grip on Affinites and non-Affinites alike.

Ana dealt a blow to the Empress when she and her allies turned back Morganya’s troops, but she couldn’t stop Morganya from gaining possession of a dangerous new weapon with the power to steal Affinities.

Ana’s forces are scattered, and her alliance with the rebel group, the Red Cloaks, is becoming more frayed by the day. What’s worse, she’s lost her Affinity to blood and without it, Ana barely knows who she is anymore – or if she has the strength to defeat Morganya.

Morganya’s reign of terror is close to crushing the nation Ana was born to rule. And now Ana will finally face the sinister empress, but will she survive? Will anyone? And will her Empire welcome her back to the throne, or turn her out to survive on her own.

The Affinites and Non-Affinites of Cyrilia will determine Ana’s future, if Morganya doesn’t kill her first.

Review

This is the conclusion to the fantastic Blood Heir trilogy, and I highly recommend reading the other books in the series to get the full gist and experience of it – not to be missed. It’s the kind of series you go back and read all over again.

It’s a plot that from the very beginning has drawn from reality when it comes to parallels in the oppression, rebellion, cross-cultural complexities and politics. Almost a reverse magical realism – no pun intended – if indeed fantasy were reality. A seemingly familiar plot of family power struggles, misaligned love and powers that wield both from cruelty and passion, which culminates in a riveting plot and invigorating read.

The author does an excellent job of keeping the story going with just as much zest as before, despite the fact Ransom and Ana have their own paths and storylines to finish – I wonder if pressed whether readers could identify the character who is actually the lead. I’m guessing that’s probably a mixed bag of opinions, because from the very beginning both the two of them, and other major players have attracted their individual supporters.

It’s a tightly created and executed fantasy – maybe worthy of an off-shoot series perhaps – and it’s a shame to say goodbye to the characters and story. Kudos for giving readers a multitude and variety of strong female character, especially the hardcore ones who balance on the wrong side of life. I think the ending was what the world wanted, as opposed to leaving everyone infuriated, hanging on a cliff or eager for another part. I can’t wait to read what the author comes up with next.

Buy Crimson Reign at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperVoyager pub date 3rd March 2022 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99 Buy at Amazon comAt Harper Collins.

#BlogTour Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey.

About the Author

Catriona Silvey was born in Glasgow and grew up in Perthshire and Derbyshire, which left her with a strange accent and a distrust of flat places. She overcame the latter to do a BA in English at Cambridge, and spent the next few years there working in scientific publishing. After that she did a PhD in language evolution, in the hope of finding out where all these words came from in the first place.

Following stints in Edinburgh and Chicago, she returned to Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and a very peculiar cat. When she’s not working as a researcher studying meaning in language, she writes. Her short stories have been performed at the Edinburgh Literary Festival and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Follow @silveycat on Twitter, Visit catrionasilvey.com

About the book

Thora and Santi have met before… Under the clocktower in central Cologne, with nothing but the stars above and their futures ahead.

They will meet again… They don’t know it yet, but they’ll meet again: in numerous lives they will become friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies – meeting over and over for the first time, every time; each coming to know every version of the other.

But as they’re endlessly drawn together and the lines between their different lives begin to blur, they are faced with one question: why? They must discover the truth of their strange attachment before this, and all their lives, are lost forever. 

Review

What’s interesting is the fact both Santi and Thora give themselves and readers the connection and the same clue in every scenario that eventually leads to the solution and conclusion of this story. Not necessarily one you filter out, perhaps because it becomes one of the features on a loop, which makes the two characters identifiable to each other and to us.

The inter-personal relationships change, the power structure and the hierarchy between the two of them. One of the constants is the place, Cologne, which is woven cleverly into the fabric of each loop. Are they loops though or are they glimpses of parallel timelines, reincarnations or jumps in time. Are Santi and Thora trapped in a ever repeating cycle where one of them knows what the inevitable conclusion is and the other is determined to try over and over again.

What sets this apart from other books with a similar premise is the way Silvey creates this visceral connection to the place, much like historical fiction, and the speculative nature of their meetings, all of which culminates in a fascinating ending.

I enjoyed the way the two characters are fused together like soulmates who are destined to repeat the same unfulfilling ending, and yet at the same time are on two different paths. One believes every path is set in stone by a higher power and the other believes the opposite, and yet in a bizarre way Thora also acts as if everything is preordained.

It’s a fascinating and often emotional read, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Buy Meet Me in Another Life at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Voyager pub date 8th July 2021 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at catrionasilvey.com/books

#BlogTour Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour Threadneedle by Cari Thomas.

About the Author

Cari Thomas has always loved magic, inspired by her upbringing among the woods and myths of Wales’ Wye Valley. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at The Cardiff School of Journalism. Her first job was at teen Sugar magazine where she ran the book club and quickly realized she wanted to be the one writing the books instead. She went on to work at a creative agency, spending her spare time researching magic and accumulating an unusual collection of occult books.

She wrote her debut novel Threadneedle while living in London, wandering the city and weaving it with all the magic she wished it contained. She now lives in Bristol with her husband and son, who bears the  appropriately Celtic name of Taliesin.

Follow @Cari_Threads on Twitter, Visit carithomas.com

About the book

Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revelers lose themselves in a haze of spells.

But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift…or a curse?

Told through spells created with knots and threads, this is a story that is both innovative and based in traditional witchcraft.

Review

Anna has always been taught that obedience and constraint are what is most important in life. She hides her true self to such an extent that she falters at even the simplest steps when trying to use magic. Her aunt has convinced her that she needs to give herself fully to become a Binder – no matter the price.

But there is also the world beyond that of her aunt’s dictatorship, a world that Selene lets her taste now and again. A world that Effie opens the door to and Anna needs to be brave enough to walk through said door, regardless of the consequences. There are the consequences and there are also dark, disturbing secrets that are being hidden from Anna.

I hope this is the first of a series, there is so much more to explore after all that meticulous world building. All the secrets and hidden people in a world full of magic, a world that also tries to curb and bind the natural flow of magic and witchcraft.

For me this is a story of sisterhood, but more importantly about how that can be defined depending on the relationship. Blood bonds, bond through the common denominator of being a woman, bonds in relation to societal expectations. 

Simultaneously the story also shows what happens when the threads of sisterhood are torn and women don’t behave in a supportive way with each other, which is actually more of a realistic take on the complicated world of female relationships. They, other women, can be the biggest critic and enemy of women, especially when they adhere to patriarchal rules in order to get validation.

What is at the core of witchcraft and the fear of witches though? It’s not just a fear of the unknown or the inexplicable – it is a systemic eradication of women with a voice, power and healing abilities. It has also always been a rather good way to rid yourself of an enemy. Fear of womanhood, fear of the power a sisterhood can bring to the table. Thomas let’s that aspect flow throughout the story even when that fear is being used as a tactic to control and scaremonger, especially when it’s used by other women.

I really enjoyed it, although admittedly I was always love to read different interpretations of how magic can be and is used, and then woven into a wonderful story. Definitely a book I would recommend.

Buy Threadneedle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Voyager pub date 27th May 2021| eBook & audio | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

kingdom of soulsBarron is an exquisite storyteller. This story should be enjoyed like a glass of fine wine, sip by sip and word by word, as the author weaves beautiful fictional magic. As she conjures up demons, shamans and the kind of magic that sucks people dry.

Arrah feels immense pressure to make her family, her people and her ancestors proud. As yet her ancestral powers have failed to make an appearance, which can be rather embarrassing at the annual ceremony where all the tribes and witch-doctors gather. Her father and grandmother have faith, but her mother doesn’t even try to hide her disappointment.

There is one thing she can try to evoke magic, however it comes with a price – the kind of price that is irreversible. When local children start going missing, including a dear friend, she finds she has no other choice. It’s the beginning of an intricate, vicious and ruthless power struggle. A struggle that will leave death and despair in its wake. It will make Arrah either crumble like a sandcastle or rise to the occasion.

It’s YA fantasy, however it has the intricate world-building and mature complexity of high fantasy. The blurb doesn’t do it the justice it deserves and neither does my inadequate attempt to give a brief idea of the plot. It’s an intense and captivating read. A fascinating exploration of myth, culture and fantasy.

Buy Kingdom of Souls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperVoyager pub date ebook 3rd September 2019, Hardcover 24th September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @renathedreamer on Twitter, Rena Barron on Goodreads