The Friday Face-Off: February 26

Friday Face Off 2cWelcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new feature here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.

| The Friday Face-Off: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss |

I’ve been feeling the Rothfuss cravings. The Name of the Wind was a spectacular début and, eight years after I first read it, I still wait with great anticipation for the third book in The Kingkiller Chronicles. So in this week’s Friday Face-Off we’re paying homage to this wonderful book by taking a good look at its covers.

Published by Gollancz in the UK and Penguin in the US, we have two entirely different pieces of cover art to compare. Take a look and see which one wins your vote.

Gollancz – UK Cover

Penguin – US Cover

| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

The Gollancz UK cover wins hands down in this week’s Face-Off. It’s dark and unsettling and I love those creeping and twisting vines which enclose the hooded central figure (who is also strategically placed in the centre of my heart – a rather disturbing prospect considering his bloody red eyes). Together with that beautiful and whimsical typeface, the entire composition makes for a wonderfully enchanting and rather sinister cover.

I’m a little bit disappointed by the US offering this week, a cover which was introduced for the fifth edition print of the book. The typeface does the composition no favours and, despite the darkened wilderness and the similarly sinister hooded figure in the foreground, this cover just fails to capture my attention.

Comparing the US edition to its previous incarnations I can certainly see the development of a darker and more atmospheric cover but it has a tendency, despite the hooded figure, to remind me more of a crime thriller than a fantasy epic. However, one thing is abundantly clear – Penguin missed a trick when redesigning this cover. Shirtless Kvothe is ridiculously entertaining and the incorporation of an angry and demonic Pat Rothfuss make for two very interesting and highly amusing pieces of cover art.

| The Name of the Wind: International Edition Bonus |

As I was rather disappointed with the US effort in this week’s Face-Off, I’ve decided to scour the globe to see what other beauties can be found. And this search has certainly turned up some good’uns – though no doubt I’ve missed some wonderful covers as there are a rather hefty number of translations! Take a look at some of the gorgeous covers the rest of the world has to offer.

TNotW - Worldwide

 From top left: Serbia, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Japan, Russia and Latvia

Choosing a favourite from this beautiful lot is nigh on impossible – the majority are simply stunning and vary considerably from country to country. The Serbian edition is particularly lovely though – the misty and mountainous backdrop with a lute festooned Kvothe in the foreground make for a beautiful and eye-catching composition.

The French edition follows closely behind the Serbian cover with a landscape bathed in golden light, a distant city and similar foreground Kvothe. Both the Dutch and German editions follow a similar line of thought but use a washed out, almost watercolour backdrop and the typeface, though different, is equally beautiful on each edition.

The Finnish version has a wonderfully folkish cover whilst the Japanese offering is bold, vibrant and showcases Kvothe’s flaming red hair. The Russian edition is an entirely different affair, displaying some beautiful fantasy imagery, and the Latvian cover is bold, vibrant and gives us a defined Kvothe doing what he loves best. Altogether, a rather impressive display of artwork.

Which is your favourite cover? Do any of the alternative editions take your vote? 

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Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue

Book One in the October Daye Series

by Seanan McGuire

Urban Fantasy | 256 Pages | Published by Corsair in 2015

| Rating |
four star

Urban fantasy is one of those subgenres which I love but don’t read nearly enough of. Aside from an extensive foray into The Dresden Files over the last few years, and the odd one or two other novels, my urban fantasy cravings have been left unfulfilled and ostensibly ignored. That was until I discovered the October Daye novels by Seanan McGuire.

Enchanting and entirely captivating from start to finish, Rosemary and Rue is a wondrous foray into the magical lands of the fae, and the gritty, urban sprawl of San Francisco in a narrative which deals out murder, intrigue and excitement in equal measure. This is a novel which rides a wave of pure entertainment, leaves you wanting more and makes you wonder why on earth it took you so long to discover it in the first place.

October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

The Winterrose is dead, murdered by person or persons unknown. With her dying breath she binds October ‘Toby’ Daye to find her killers or face death herself; a challenge not for the faint of heart and one which promises to shake this world, and the world of the fae, to the core.

As a former private investigator, Toby is no stranger to such a request – albeit with less deadly consequences should she fail – but with unknown enemies stalking her every move, a death curse cloying to take hold and a self-imposed exile from those who would aid her, this challenge is going to be anything but easy.

Seanan McGuire has crafted a richly detailed urban setting, one which takes what we know – or don’t know – of San Francisco and intertwines it with the strange, enchanting but ultimately dangerous world of the fae. McGuire effortlessly conveys the charm and grit of the city location whilst simultaneously weaving a thread of magic through its rough streets, narrow alleys and glistening bay to create a vivid picture of a vibrant, gritty and supernaturally dangerous city.

And not to be outdone by reality, the world of the fae is similarly conveyed with rich but short passages of description which seamlessly blend with the narrative – a narrative which maintains a consistent pace throughout and relentlessly drives the story forwards. The hierarchy of the fae, and their courts, politics and lifestyle, are described with enthusiasm, adding another intriguing dimension to a narrative, and emphasising the clash between fae and humanity.

With purebloods and changelings infiltrating the streets of San Francisco, and a protagonist who has obvious deficiencies when compared to the pureblooded half of the fae population, Rosemary and Rue is populated with a vast array of strange and interesting characters whose motivations range from the good, the bad and the completely psychotic. Their strange storylines entwine with Toby’s to create a rich and vivid depiction of a world beyond worlds, and add depth and interest to the fast-paced storyline.

But this is a novel about one (incredibly messed up but ridiculously determined) woman. Toby is a fascinating and complex character; a character who is incredibly hard on herself but remains incredibly likeable throughout – despite her tendency to throw obstacles into her own path. With the King of the Cats, a deranged violet-eyed ex, and a whole host of weird and wonderful fae lurking around the corner, life may be complicated for Toby but it’s certainly never boring.

While the style of the opening prologue didn’t instantly hook me, by the end of the first section I was completely absorbed. The narrative flows easily in an uninhibited torrent of magic, mayhem and excitement. Seanan McGuire’s writing is snappy, dynamic and thoroughly amusing throughout, and with nursery rhyme magic, close encounters of the watery kind, and numerous rendezvous with walking rosebushes, Rosemary and Rue promises great things for this highly entertaining series.

Rosemary and Rue is an wonderful introduction to the October Daye series, a series which provides a light-hearted, humorous and highly enjoyable foray into urban fantasy, and one which will be filling my (virtual) bookshelves for years to come. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good urban fantasy with a touch of the fae – I’ve certainly not looked back.

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Book Haul: February 24

| Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart |

This eye-catching tome arrived on my doorstep just in time for the Girl Waits With Gun Official Blog Tour which commences on 7th March – an event I’m very much looking forward to! With a gun-toting, law-wielding, feisty female heroine, this is one novel I cannot wait to get lost in. So join me on the 9th March as the Blog Tour takes an official diversion to Books by Proxy for my scoop on Girl Waits With Gun.

Girl Waits With Gun - Cover

Girl Waits With Gun

Book One of the Kopp Sisters

by Amy Stewart

Historical Crime Fiction | 416 Pages | To be published by Scribe UK on 10th March 2016

Girl Waits With Gun - Blog Tour

| Synopsis |

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten, true story of one of the USA’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mould. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters from the city to the country fifteen years before. When a powerful, ruthless factory owner runs down their buggy, a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their farm. The sheriff enlists her help, and it turns out that Constance has a knack for outwitting (and disarming) the criminal element, which might just take her back out into the world and onto a new path in life.

Through Amy Stewart’s exuberant storytelling, Constance Kopp catapults from a forgotten historical anecdote to an unforgettable historical-fiction heroine — an outsized woman not only ahead of her time, but sometimes even ahead of ours.

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Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood

Book One of the Powder Mage Trilogy

by Brian McClellan

Fantasy | 561 Pages | Published by Hatchette in 2013

| Rating |

Every once in a while a book – and its accompanying author – crosses your path and completely turns your world upside down. Addictive, absorbing and ridiculously thrilling, these are the books which grip you from their opening pages and refuse to let you go even after they’ve come to an end. My addiction is Promise of Blood – a book so good that it’s acquired its own rating.

Promise of Blood is a tour de force; an unyielding whirlwind of explosive action; an unflinching portrayal of a world, in some ways not unlike our own, where magic, chaos and blood threaten to choke the populace as it vies for freedom, equality and glorious revolution. The first novel in the Powder Mage Trilogy is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read in a long time. Masterfully written. Persistently exhilarating. Bloody brilliant.

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king… Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved… Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

Promise of Blood opens with a society on the brink of revolution; taxes are high, living standards are low, and the whole of Adro is about to be sold out to the Kez by their incompetent King and his royal cabal. With the palace in the throes of a military coup, the Kez threatening the borders, and the populace in the death grip of starvation and poverty, establishing a new government following the rebellion will be no small task.

But the rebellion controls the power of the powder mages, an elite force of soldiers who can use and magically manipulate gunpowder to their own ends, and one of their most renowned number is leading the revolution. Field Marshal Tamas, a skilled tactician and military leader, will stop at nothing to forge a new society out of the dregs of Adro and will wage bloody war on the streets of Adopest to do so.

As assassins, spies and traitors vie to stop the revolution in its tracks, and powder mages and Privileged, a group of powerful sorcerers loyal to the King, execute one another with deadly efficiency, the list of revolutionary allies begins to wear thin. The narrative follows Tamas, his son Taniel and Adamat, a retired police inspector, in converging storylines as they struggle to outmanoeuvre their enemies both on the battlefield and within their own camp. No easy feat when the gods become involved.

Brian McClellan has created a world caught in the throes of chaos and regime change, a world where bloody battles are fought on the streets, and one which resonates with a chord from our own history. Tense, exciting and exhilarating, Adro is effortlessly fleshed out as the action unfolds. With a diverse landscape and a multitude of warring nations at her borders, Promise of Blood creates a narrative which never isolates itself, which resounds with undeniable realism – even with its fantastic elements – and which promises a clash of destructive and supremely powerful forces in the books to come.

This is a world made up of those without power, and the incredible force of those with it: the powder mages; the Privileged; and those with a knack, a single ‘talent’ or power. With the introduction of the Wardens of Kez in the latter part of the novel,  and hints of power of entirely different kind, Promise of Blood introduces a unique and captivating magic system which drives the narrative and lends more than dose of explosive action to the storyline.

But McClellan’s creative genius doesn’t stop short of incredible worldbuilding and imaginative magic systems. His cast of characters are wonderfully conflicted and imperfect creations which retain a distinctive and real quality throughout the novel. This is a society hacked into bloody existence by grizzled war leaders, sly manipulators, devious negotiators and charming dead-shots; a society where an overwhelming cast of supporting characters slot seamlessly into the plot, shaping the narrative and upping its intrigue factor tenfold.

The protagonists of this novel surprise, amaze and intrigue in equal measure and drive the story forwards at a relentless pace. Tamas is a tactical genius with a singular determination, a man who above all else believes in the right of his actions despite the often grim consequences. He is an honest man, but a deadly one, an uncompromising general carved from his own experiences who is sure to remain at the top of my list of favourite characters for years to come.

His estranged son Taniel is similarly engaging. A charismatic marksman known throughout the land as Taniel Two-Shot, a nicknamed earned for his ability to take two enemies down with one bullet, his charming and often humorous personality remains captivating throughout the narrative despite living under his father’s considerable shadow. With Adamat, the investigator working for Tamas; Ka-Poel, a mysterious and strangely powerful savage; and a whole array of mercenaries, mages and potential traitors, it is the characters and their machinations which give drive to the vast majority of this novel.

McClellan has an effortlessly engaging writing style, putting as much depth into his characters as he does his world. The narrative is a none stop thrill ride from start to finish, and McClellan doesn’t flinch from inflicting pain on his characters. Promise of Blood is an intense, exciting and relentless conflict of blood, power and politics; a novel where death is dealt out with abandon and where even the good and honest struggle to keep their hands clean. A stark portrayal of a regime in its death throes and the subsequent struggle to establish cohesive rule, Promise of Blood is nothing short of genius.Promise of Blood is bloody and brutal novel with an imaginative premise and a wonderful magic system. Brian McClellan strides to the top of my favourite new authors list with this flintlock fantasy which rides a line between the epic and the grimdark in an explosion of guns, gunpowder and grit. For those of you who haven’t yet come across Brian McClellan, there are just three words: Read – This – Book. 

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Book Haul: February 23

| The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland |

I’ve been a huge fan of Karen Maitland for a while now – if you haven’t read Company of Liars I urge you to do so – and having had The Raven’s Head on my to read list for far too long I thought it was about time to pick up a copy. I fully expect this to be a literary delight full of disturbing history and superstition.

| Synopsis |

Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head.

Any attempt to sell the head fails … until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain – unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent’s life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment.

Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven’s Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.

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| And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie |

And Then There Were None needs no introduction. As soon as I saw this book I knew it belonged on my bookshelf – the one Christie I’d definitely be remiss to miss!

| Synopsis |

First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

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| Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine |

I’ve never read any Rachel Caine or even heard much about this book before I bought it, though general opinion seemed to be favourable. This was definitely an impulse purchase… but who could resist such a gorgeous cover!

| Synopsis |

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

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Teaser Tuesdays: February 23

Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Expect a new teaser every week!

| Teaser Tuesdays: February 23 |

A Fever of the Blood

Book Two of the Frey and McGray Series

by Oscar de Muriel

Crime | Historical Fiction | 417 Pages | Published by Penguin in 2016

“For a ghastly moment their bodies writhed like worms on a fishing line, as the mob cheered wildly. Then, even as they convulsed in agony the witches’ arms rose slowly, straight like masts, all six pointing at the same spot, somewhere in the crowd.”

~ p. 03, A Fever of the Blood by Oscar de Muriel

| Synopsis |

New Year’s Day, 1889. In Edinburgh’s lunatic asylum, a patient escapes as a nurse lays dying. Leading the manhunt are legendary local Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray and Londoner-in-exile Inspector Ian Frey. Before the murder, the suspect was heard in whispered conversation with a fellow patient – a girl who had been mute for years. What made her suddenly break her silence? And why won’t she talk again? Could the rumours about black magic be more than superstition? McGray and Frey track a devious psychopath far beyond their jurisdiction, through the worst blizzard in living memory, into the shadow of Pendle Hill – home of the Lancashire witches – where unimaginable danger awaits..

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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Cover Reveal: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan – UK Edition

Cover Reveal

| The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan |

Anthony Ryan has just revealed the UK cover for his new novel, The Waking Fire. Blood Song was a phenomenal introduction to this talented author and I fully expect The Waking Fire to live up to expectations. With an absolutely gorgeous cover from Jaime Jones and an incredible premise, it looks like fantasy fans are in for a treat this summer.


The Waking Fire

Book One of the Draconis Memoria

by Anthony Ryan

Artwork by Jaime Jones

Orbit UK – 5th July 2016

| Synopsis |

The New York Times bestselling Raven’s Shadow Trilogy was a perfect read for “fans of broadscale epic fantasy along the lines of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels.”* Now, Anthony Ryan begins a new saga, The Draconis Memoria…

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

What do you think of the cover for The Waking Fire? Does this sound like something you would read?

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Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Book One of the Wayfarers series

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 519 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2015

| Rating |

November’s Sci-Fi Month Read Along at the end of 2015 turned out to be one of the highlights of my reading year. The Long Way to Small, Angry Planet is a wonderful, character driven, space opera which impresses with its ready wit and skilfully developed cast. Chambers draws you into the brilliant, exhausting, exciting and often hectic life aboard the Wayfarer and keeps you hooked to the very end. With countless alien species, clashing cultures and incredibly strange customs, this light-hearted but utterly absorbing novel presents a universe I would wish to return to time and again, and with plans for another Wayfarers novel in the near(ish) future it looks like the prospect is entirely likely.

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

Rosemary Harper joins the mismatched and culturally diverse crew of the Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship which creates hyperspace links between areas of the universe, at the moment a job which sounds too good to be true lands itself on their doorstep. Tasked with creating a tunnel linking the Galactic Commons controlled area with the war-torn galactic core where the dangerous Toremi reside, the crew of the Wayfarer embark on a long, sprawling and dangerous journey across the galaxy – a galaxy which a multitude of weird and wonderful, friendly and darn-right dangerous species call home. This could mean gold, riches, glory, and a chance of a lifetime for the crew of the Wayfarer. But it could also mean death. One thing’s for certain though – life aboard the Wayfarer is about to get much more interesting.This is a novel which is driven by its characters, one which conjures an instant rapport with the crew and one which absorbs you into the lives of the protagonists. Every character is relevant, every single one unique and all are, without a doubt, fascinating. From Rosemary, Ashby to Sissix, to Kizzy, Jenks and Lovelace, every character has a wonderful back-story with a rich and vibrant history which make for instantly addictive reading. The cacophony of cultures aboard ship should be a recipe for chaos, but they all pull together and show what it means to be a family – albeit a very strange one – in a book where the characters provide an unending source of entertainment, enjoyment and thought-provoking dynamics.

Not only do the characters drive the plot of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, they also contribute heavily to the world – or universe – building. The diversity brought about by the myriad of species introduced throughout the novel, and their unique customs and traditions, bring a sense of vibrancy to the storyline and create a cultural backdrop which adds weight and depth to the universe whilst directly contributing to both character dynamics and their continual growth over the course of the narrative.

With the introduction of alien – and AI – species at every opportunity, this is a novel which touches on many human truths; what does it means to be different in our own world? What does it mean to be human? The Long Way to a Small, Angry planet weaves a complex universe which toys with sympathy and empathy whilst delighting in simultaneously fuelling undeniable adoration and considerable dislike for the diverse range of characters throughout. This may be a lighthearted novel but it certainly doesn’t shy away from making you think and is all the better for it.

The development of humanity and the divisions created through history are at all times amusing whilst resonating with a sense of our own history. There is a wonderful contrast between the disharmony of human and alien history and how politics has shaped each of these races, with this clash of cultures providing the driving force behind the conflict throughout the novel. Alongside the strain of political relationships, the comradeship shown between distinctly different species aboard the Wayfarer, and their interactions with those they meet on their journey, creates a distinct picture of opposing civilisations and societies which adds a sense of realism – and a great deal of excitement – to the universe.

Whilst I would have preferred the ‘real’ introduction to the Toremi, the main threat of the novel, to have occurred much sooner in the narrative, and wish more time had been spent mapping out their personal and political motivations, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet remains a wonderful science fiction adventure which is at all times exciting, retains its sense of humour throughout, and leaves you with some thought-provoking questions. Becky Chambers’ obvious skill as an author is showcased by her effortlessly engaging writing, her wonderful character development and a truly absorbing storyline. This really is a book that everyone should read.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is an extremely enjoyable read which I would have been happy to read in weekly instalments for an entire year. The character dynamics and relationships aboard the Wayfarer make for a uniquely absorbing read which should appeal to a wide audience of science fiction newbies and veterans alike. I await the next Wayfarers novel with great anticipation!

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Bookish Beats: Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 


Massive Attack

Listen to with:

A beautiful but gritty fantasy

Such as:

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Massive Attack returns in this week’s Bookish Beats with their phenomenal album Mezzanine. This modern masterpiece is, without a doubt, one of my favourite albums of all time and after a countless number listens has become one of my go-to albums whilst reading. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to a beautiful gritty fantasy, whether its urban or epic or something in between, then you can’t go far wrong with Mezzanine. This album really is a beauty.

Mezzanine is a throbbing, beautifully strange and artistic album which brought a surge of electronica to Massive Attack’s trip hop sound. Released in 1998 to wide critical acclaim, Mezzanine became Massive Attack’s most commercially successful album and, almost twenty years later, it’s not hard to see why. This is an atmospheric and addictive musical masterpiece whose lazy, rolling and electronica suffused beats, and surfeit of wonderful vocalists, have you reaching for the repeat button time after time.

Mezzanine opens with Angel, an almost hypnotic track whose slow beat and drawn out vocals take you to another world entirely. Featuring the reggae singer Horace Andy, whose vocals also appear in every one of Massive Attack’s other albums (his contribution to Heligoland on the track Girl I Love You is one of my all time favourites), this is one artist who doesn’t fail to make his presence felt with this pulsating, rhythmic and incredibly haunting track. Man Next Door, a track which features Andy’s reverberating and beat led vocals, becomes increasingly addictive as it reaches its pitch and is one of my favourite tracks on this entire album.

But there is another outstanding vocal contributor to Mezzanine who is more than worthy of a mention. Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, whose wonderful vocals also feature on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack on both Lothlorien and Isengard Unleashed, is a singer whose haunting and eerily addictive vocals contribute to some of the most stunning tracks on this album. Teardrop is arguably the most well known track on Mezzanine and for good reason; an emotive and incredibly beautiful piece, this is a track which ensnares you in Fraser’s vocals and refuses to let you go. But her genius doesn’t end there. Black Milk, another highlight from this album of highlights, and Group Four, one of my favourite tracks, both carry you above a steady underlying beat on a tide of Fraser’s haunting and brilliant vocals; vocals which truly make for a unique album.

Mezzanine is a phenomenal album which deserves its well recognised status. Horace Andy and Elizabeth Fraser make a stunning contribution and, for those of you who have yet to sample the Cocteau Twins or Andy’s other work, I urge you to check them out. Massive Attack never fail to impress and with Mezzanine have provided a wonderful backdrop to countless literary delights. This is one album which can’t be missed.

Favourite track

10 – Group Four

07 – Man Next Door

Top track for action

04 – Inertia Creeps

Top track for tension

01 – Angel

Top track for emotion

03 – Teardrop



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