Book Review: A Clockwork River – J. S. Emery

Book Review: A Clockwork River – J. S. Emery


Release Date:
October 7th 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 736
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. On the banks of the great river Rhumb, its founding fathers channelled the river’s mighty flow into a subterranean labyrinth of pipes, valves and sluices, a feat of hydraulic prowess that would come to power an empire. But a thousand years have passed since then, and something is wrong. The pipes are leaking, the valves stuck, the sluices silted. The erstwhile mighty Rhumb is sluggish and about to freeze over for the first time in memory.

In a once fashionable quarter of the once great city, in the once grand ancestral home of a family once wealthy and well-known, live the last descendants of the city’s most distinguished engineer, siblings Samuel and Briony Locke.

Having abandoned his programme in hydraulic engineering, Samuel Locke tends to his vast lock collection, while his sister Briony distracts herself from the prospect of marriage to a rich old man with her alchemical experiments. One night Sam leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn’t come back…

As she searches for her brother, Bryony will be drawn into a web of ancestral secrets and imperial intrigues as a ruthless new power arises. If brother and sister are to be reunited, they will need the help of a tight-lipped house spirit, a convict gang, a club of antiques enthusiasts, a tribe of troglodytes, the Ladies Whist Club, the deep state, a traveling theatrical troupe and a lovesick mouse.

Review

A Clockwork River is a beautifully written tale set in the town of Little Rhumbsford. The place is not what it once was and the great feats of engineering that were once infamous have now started to decay and fail. The story follows Sam and Briony Locke, two residents of the town as they find themselves wrapped up in an epic adventure. Sam was once a student of hydraulic engineering and is passionate about locks. When one night Sam goes to give a lecture on his lock collection, he does not come home. His sister Briony,  a young woman fascinated by alchemy, will do anything to avoid marriage to rich old man to save her family home. When she discovers her brother is missing she soon finds herself wrapped up in a web of secrets. Will she be able to uncover the truth and find her brother before it’s too late?

A Clockwork River is a chunky book but this compelling story had me captivated right from the very first chapter. I loved the gorgeous language, the fascinating plot and the intriguing characters. J. S Emery has created a really unique hydro punk world and I constantly wanted to know more and more. It was completely unlike anything I’ve read before and despite it being over 700 pages I ended up reading this in just a few days. The story is charming and excellently plotted, making for a quaint and engaging read.

A Clockwork River has some really fascinating characters and this was the thing that captured my attention most. They felt very realistic as there was an immense amount of depth and character development throughout the story. They felt like real, flawed human beings who sometimes don’t get it right. I particularly liked Briony, she’s a clever young woman, determined to avoid marriage and I enjoyed her character arc the most. There are a whole host of fascinating secondary characters too and Emery has created a brilliant cast of characters.

A Clockwork River is one of those books that’s just a pleasure to read. If you’re looking for a unique fantasy story with beautiful prose and complex characters, this book is a must read.

Blog Tour: The Gauntlet and the First Beneath – Ian Green

Blog Tour: The Gauntlet and the First Beneath – Ian Green


Release Date:
August 5th 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 432
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Fight the Storm.

Protect your people.
The endless rotstorm rages over the ruins of the Ferron Empire. Floré would never let the slavers of the Empire rise again. As a warrior of the Stormguard Commandos, she wrought horrors in the rotstorm to protect her people. She did her duty and left the bloodshed behind.

Fight for your family.
Floré’s peace is shattered when blazing orbs of light cut through the night sky and descend on her village. Her daughter is abducted and Floré is forced into a chase across a land of twisted monsters and ancient gods. She must pursue the mysterious orbs, whose presence could herald the return of the Empire she spent her entire life fighting.

Destroy your enemies.
Now, Floré must take up the role she had sworn to put aside and become the weapon the Stormguard trained her to be, to save not only her daughter, but her people…

Review

The Gauntlet and the First Beneath is the first in an all-new fantasy series from Ian Green. The story follows Floré, who was once a great warrior of the stormguard. She has left all that behind her to be with her daughter until one night there are mysterious orbs in the sky and her daughter is abducted, forcing  Floré to embark on a quest to get her daughter back and ensure the Empire she once fought against is not returning to power. This was such a unique and fascinating fantasy story. One that hooked me from the very beginning. The story drops you into the action straight away and there tons of brilliantly plotted fighting scenes in this story. 

The Gauntlet and the Fist Beneath is a well paced story and Green gives the reader a chance to learn about Floré’s life and the world around her. I thought the world building was well done and the magic system and gods were all well explained. I felt like Green did a brilliant job of explaining the world without dumping all the info in at the start of the story, it’s woven into the plot throughout. I also enjoyed learning the history of the world and the fight against the Empire. This made the story really intriguing and I can’t wait to see more of this world as the series develops. I was particularly hooked during the last hundred pages of the book, and I cannot wait to see where Green takes the story next.

Floré is a really interesting main character, a woman who is desperate to get her daughter back. The story does have multiple points of view but she was definitely the character I was most interested in. The Gauntlet and the Fist Beneath is a really impressive debut, one I think lots of fantasy fans will fall in love with. It has fascinating and complex characters, fast paced action scenes and a unique world. If you’re looking for a captivating fantasy read to keep you engrossed on a long summer evening, The Gauntlet and the Fist Beneath should definitely be on your wish list. 
4 Stars

Book Review: The Thief on the Winged Horse – Kate Mascarenhas

Book Review: The Thief on the Winged Horse – Kate Mascarenhas


Release Date: November 12th 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.

But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

Review

The Thief on the Winged Horse is the beautifully told story of the Kendrick Family and their infamous doll shop. The dolls are magic, evoking a feeling or emotion with a single touch. Though the craft was founded by sisters, the secrets of the magic are now known only to the men of the family. Persephone Kendrick is desperate to be a sorcerer, but her family refuses to allow her to learn the craft. When a stranger arrives at the shop claiming to be a long lost relative, Persephone knows this could be her chance to get what she’s always wanted. When one of the most famous Kendrick dolls is stolen, the family are pushed to the limit as they attempt to discover who could have stolen such a precious item.

This is my first time reading a book from Kate Mascarenhas and I completely fell in love. This is such a gorgeous story, full to the brim with lyrical writing and a gripping plot. I absolutely adore magical realism stories but this has got to be one of my favourites. I thought the concept was fascinating and I ended up reading this one almost in one sitting I just didn’t want it to end. I almost wish there was another book because I would love to know more about the Kendrick family and their incredible dolls.

The plot was well executed and it was quite a quick paced story. I was really intrigued by the mystery of the missing doll and attempting to discover who had taken it. I did guess quite early on but that absolutely didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. It was a brilliant story and it was so interesting watching the family dynamics change as the story progressed and Persephone learned the skills she’s always wanted to learn.

While this is my first Kate Mascarenhas book it definitely will not be the last. Her characters were superb and I loved how complex and fascinating they are. Persephone in particular was my favourite. She’s stubborn and determined to learn the skills for crafting the enchantments, even if that means having to stay with her drunken father. Larkin was also a really interesting character and I was constantly questioning his motivations and how truthful he was really being. I similarly really liked Hedwig, who on the surface seems so sweet but had so much more going on. The characters were probably my favourite part about this book, they were vividly described and so gripping to read about.

The Thief on the Winged Horse is one of those books you find yourself thinking about long after you’ve finished read. A beautiful and compelling tale and one fantasy fans will absolutely adore.

Book Review: The Canary Keeper – Clare Carson

Book Review: The Canary Keeper – Clare Carson


Release Date:
February 6th 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 384
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

“In the grey mist of the early morning a body is dumped on the shore of the Thames by a boatman in a metal canoe. The city is soon alive with talk of the savage Esquimaux stalking Victorian London and an eye witness who claims the killer had an accomplice: a tall woman dressed in widow’s weeds, with the telltale look of the degenerate Irish.

Branna ‘Birdie’ Quinn had no good reason to be by the river that morning, but she did not kill the man. She’d seen him first the day before, desperate to give her a message she refused to hear. And now the Filth will see her hang for his murder, just like her father.

To save her life, Birdie must trace the dead man’s footsteps. Back onto the ship that carried him to his death, back to cold isles of Orkney that sheltered him, and up to the far north, a harsh and lawless land which holds more answers than she looks to find…

Review

The Canary Keeper is the dark and compelling story of set in Victorian London. When a body is discovered on the banks of the the Thames an eye witness claims that the killer’s accomplice is a young Irish woman living London. Her father was hanged for murder and soon she becomes caught up in the murder, with the police accusing her of being the killer’s accomplice. In order to clear her name Birdie has to flee for her life and to trace the footsteps of the man she is accused of killing. Her search takes her to the remote town of Orkney where she begins to find that there is more to this murder than she could possibly have realised.

The Canary Keeper was a really interesting story, with plenty of twists I didn’t guess. It kept me guessing right till the very end – I didn’t figure out who was behind the mysteries until they were revealed. Carson creates a really strong sense of atmosphere and I really loved the two contrasting settings – the murky, dark banks of the Thames and the wild harsh landscape of Orkney.

While I enjoyed the mystery I did find the book quite slow paced and particularly around the middle I found the story dragging a little. I wanted to know who was behind the mystery and unravelled a bit slowly for my liking. Despite this I still found the book a really fascinating one and really liked the strong female characters that Carson brought to life in this story.

The Canary Keeper is an atmospheric and enjoyable read, particularly for a dark winter evening. If you’re a fan of historical mystery/thrillers this would definitely be one to pick up.

Blog Tour: Unconquerable Sun – Kate Elliot

Blog Tour: Unconquerable Sun – Kate Elliot


Series:
The Sun Chronicles #1
Release Date: October 1st 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 528
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

It has been eight centuries since the beacon system failed, sundering the heavens. Rising from the ashes of the collapse, cultures have fought, system-by-system, for control of the few remaining beacons. The Republic of Chaonia is one such polity. Surrounded by the Yele League and the vast Phene Empire, they have had to fight for their existence. After decades of conflict, Queen-Marshal Eirene has brought the Yele to heel.

Now it is time to deal with the Empire. Princess Sun, daughter and heir, has come of age.

In her first command, she drove a Phene garrison from the beacons of Na Iri – an impressive feat. But growing up in the shadow of her mother – a ruler both revered and feared – has been no easy task. While Sun may imagine that her victorious command will bring further opportunity to prove herself, it will in fact place her on the wrong side of court politics. There are those who would like to see Sun removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Review

This is my first time reading a Kate Elliot book but when I heard this book described as ‘gender swapped Alexander the Great in space’ I knew I had to read it. The story follows Princess Sun, heir to the throne of The Republic of Chaonia. Fresh from her first victory in battle, she believes this victory will prove her strength as heir to the throne, but there are those who do not wish to see Sun succeed her mother and would like to see her disappear altogether. Sun is going to have to use all of her wits and strength to survive this dangerous world.

Unconquerable Sun is an epic tale and one that really gripped me from the get go. It’s a fascinating story that’s quick paced and full to the brim with action and political intrigue. The world building is excellent – although it took me a few chapters to understand how the world worked and what the terms meant. I soon became completely engrossed in the story and didn’t want to put it down. I must admit I don’t really know much about Alexander the Great but I don’t think that lessened my enjoyment of the story. The story is full to the brim with epic battle scenes and I loved the vivid descriptions of the galactic fighting. I really liked Elliot’s writing style, and she easily brought each battle to life.

Unconquerable Sun has some really interesting characters. We are treated to multiple POVs in this one, but our main protagonist is Princess Sun herself. I found her really fascinating, particularly as she attempted to move out from under her mothers shadow and prove herself as a leader. Although I really liked Sun I think Persephone’s POV ended up being the one I enjoyed the most.

Unconquerable Sun is an incredible start to an all new space opera series, it’s an action packed addictive read and one I’m sure fans of Kate Elliot will love. If you’re looking for a read with vivid world building and tons of action, this should definitely be your next read.