Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett

As I am sure I have said before, dear reader, my local library does a “If you like —, you might enjoy —” kind of referral service. Several times I have been introduced to new authors this way and this week’s review is no exception. This particular book was referred to me as I am a fan of authors like Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. As I am always looking for new books to enjoy, I checked this one out.

It is the year 2010 and Queen Elizabeth XXX sits upon the golden throne. A world run on alchemy and where magick and superstitions rule. Sir Rupert Triumff has discovered a nasty plot to dethrone her majesty and throw Great Britain in to chaos. He’ll have to sober up long enough to find the culprit and save the empire, that is if Lord Gull and the Royal Guard don’t find him first.

I loved this book. Stephen Baxter said ‘[Triumff] reads like Blackadder crossed with Neal Stephenson…’ and I couldn’t agree more. Though the book takes place in 2010, because the Renaissance occurred slightly differently with an emphasis on magicks and alchemy, the setting is more like 1710. Fights are still done with swords and fists, ruffs and codpieces are all the fashion. It’s almost reminiscent of the Discworld novels, of which I am a major fan.

Like Terry Pratchett, Abnett uses a good deal of verbal puns and wordplay with the story. Having a bit of knowledge of how history actually went definitely helps with some of the jokes. Having a crude sense of humor is vital otherwise you’re not likely to enjoy this.

The copy I got from the library had an excerpt of the next novel called ‘The Double Falsehood’. It definitely grabbed my attention and I’m keen to try and track it down.

I gave this book a great rating over on Good Reads for good reason. I loved this book. It was quite enjoyable and I found myself laughing out loud several times. A definite recommended title – check it out!

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

When Buzzfeed published a quiz not too long ago asking readers ‘Which of these vampire stories have you read?’, I was intrigued. Going through the list I realized that while I had read a good deal of the titles listed there were just as many that I had not. Of course this meant a trip to the library!

In The Passage, the search to build a better soldier leads to disastrous results. Twelve men, each pulled from Death Row, are given an injection of an unknown virus. Thought to be hidden under the strictest security, the unspeakable happens when the the compound is breached and the twelve test subjects are released onto an unknowing country. Chaos descends and those that survive find themselves in a long and brutal fight.

Among the survivors is Amy, a six year old child and refugee from the doomed government experiments. Carrying her own version of the virus, Amy’s path is a long one. Spanning not only miles but decades as she travels to a time and place where she will finish that which should never have begun.

I found The Passage to be an incredible, thrilling read. At over 700 pages some readers will find it’s length, and subsequent weight, to be a bit daunting. I urge readers to look past that. Absolutely pick up this book.

The first 100 or so pages are a bit slow, but if we liken the story to a kind of chess match it makes it easier. And to me, that’s the best way to describe the unfolding action. The first part of the story is like the opening gambit; pieces are set up and opening moves are made. The players are feeling each other out, neither quite having a strategy just yet.

With the second and subsequent parts, strategies have been developed and are in effect. Nearly 100 years have passed since the Virals began to wreak havoc and those that remain have learned to survive. The action is not as fast paced as in the beginning but is just as brutal. Told through a combination of journal entries and prose, the story of survivors continue.

At times the story is heart wrenching and others it is joyous. Actions and reactions are real. The Virals might not be, but the way humanity bands together – their highs and lows – feel true.

Again, I urge my readers to pick up this book. Do a few arm exercises (since it’s a heavy tome!) but then open it up and enjoy!

Beauty: A Wicked Sleeping Beauty Tale by Sarah Pinborough

The third and final novella in the wicked fairy tale series by Sarah Pinborough is Beauty. A wonderfully dark retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, we find all the regular characters – Beauty, the Prince, the evil fairy and even the cursed spindle. Pinborough takes these well known characters and gives them a new twist for a new audience.

The Prince has come of age and his father the King decides his son needs to have his own adventure. Stories of a mysterious kingdom are perfect for the boy and paired up with a Huntsman, the two set off. Along the way they meet Petra and her Grandmother and soon find the kingdom itself. Surrounded by a forest of thorns the entire kingdom is asleep and in the castle at its’ heart is the beautiful sleeping Beauty. Waking the princess seems the best course of action, but not everyone believes this to be true. And when she is awakened, the three adventurers find that not everything is as peaceful as it seems.

Unlike Charm which was a retelling of one fairy tale, Beauty is a combination of several stories in to one. At it’s heart is Sleeping Beauty, but woven in are the well known Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood, and even Rumplestiltskin. All are woven together so seamlessly and effortlessly. I found it entertaining to pick the threads of the stories apart and see what came from where.

Like other works by Pinborough, Beauty is well written and very engrossing. Again, this is NOT for children. Dark and seductive it is reminiscent of the original tales and should appeal to nearly all readers. I highly recommend this one.

Blood Ties Book One: The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout

The things that go bump in the night are often the things that fascinate us the most. There is a sort of unknown taboo feeling about them that seem to draw us in. No matter how dangerous these things can be, we humans find them darkly fascinating.

Dr. Carrie Ames is a new resident at her local ER. When a John Doe comes through the doors and subsequently dies from his injuries, it sets Carrie on a path that changes her life forever. Because she ran from the ER originally, Carrie looks to confront her fears in the Morgue and is brutally attacked and left for dead. Though she survived the attack, Carrie is changed and not for the better.

Looking for answers, Carrie finds Nathan Grant, a fellow vampire and member of the Movement. The Movement seeks to eliminate all vampire in order to save mankind and the vampire who turned Carrie, Cyrus Kerrick is enemy number one. Nathan then gives Carrie a choice – join them or be killed by them.

To add insult to injury, Carrie learns of her ‘blood tie’ with Cyrus. A sort of psychic bond it ties Carrie to Cyrus, allowing him to read her thoughts and even control her emotions towards him. She finds herself attracted to Cyrus but also Nathan. What is a girl to do?

Despite the interesting premise, I was rather disappointed by this book. Though the action was fairly solid, the characters were not. I found them all one-dimensional and not at all interesting. The main protagonist, a vampire who is evil and cruel just because he can be. The potential love interest, another vampire with a checkered past who still has feelings for his long dead wife. The main female character, emotionally stunted with a less than loving childhood. Tropes, all of them, and not in a good way. For me, there was only one interesting character I wanted to know more about and he died!

Dark and gruesome at times, eye-rolling bad at others. Personally, I did not enjoy this book and won’t be seeking out the others in the series.