Review: The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

The Ashes of London

Book One of Marwood and Lovett

by Andrew Taylor

Historical Fiction | 496 Pages | Published by Harper Collins in 2016

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

As the Great Fire rages and the utter devastation of London becomes ever more apparent, murder, mayhem and conspiracy abound. In order to protect both himself and his father, James Marwood must solve the unfolding mystery as it cuts dangerously close to both home and the crown.

Wonderfully descriptive and incredibly evocative throughout, The Ashes of London is a feast for the senses that had me guessing to the very end.

| Synopsis |

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

| Review |

A raging inferno. A mysterious young woman. A cold-blooded murder. As the Great Fire consumes all in its path, James Marwood, the son of a former traitor and a government clerk, becomes embroiled in murder and conspiracy as a body is pulled from the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. With the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death going well beyond the inferno, and talk of dark and dangerous conspiracies abound, Marwood must unravel a mystery which comes uncomfortably close to home.

Written with historical and atmospheric detail, The Ashes of London weaves a tale of freedom, murder and rightful vengeance amidst the flames and destruction of The Great Fire of London. Six years have passed since Charles II returned to the thrown and the pursuit of those who sentenced his father still holds the country in a vice of fear and distrust. As tales of murder and violence emerge from the ruins of the city, it becomes ever more apparent that a dark and dangerous conspiracy may be gaining traction in the heart of London itself.

Amidst the crumbling ruins of the old city, a tale of old enemies, bitter betrayals and freedom emerges as the protagonists, James Marwood and Catherine Lovett, vie to survive in the death throes of the old city and escape the sins of their fathers. From the raging inferno and crumbling city, to the ensuing fear and chaos, Andrew Taylor has written a rich and evocative novel which breaths life into the 17th century and conjures an atmosphere of tension, fear and suspicion.

With Utopian visions of Christopher Wren’s London, and the frightening, desolate comparison of a devastated city, the true strength of The Ashes of London is the evocative quality of Taylor’s writing as Restoration England comes to life. The plot steadily winds its way through these stark descriptions, which in no way hinders the tension developed in the ensuing chaos, to portray a city of profound corruption, excessive greed and unexpected optimism.

James Marwood, our first-person point of view character, is a likeable and interesting protagonist who finds himself in a number of hopeless situations as he hunts for a killer across the crumbling ruins of London. Whisked into plots far beyond his control, he must jump to the whims of his masters whilst protecting his ageing and ailing father who, as an ex-prisoner of the crown, often lets slip his treasonous views to the detriment of both himself and his son. As the narrative weaves a complex tale of treachery and murder, James must skilfully navigate both the dangerous streets of London and the upper echelons of society.

In alternating chapters, the story shifts from the first person perspective of James Marwood to the third person perspective of Catherine Lovett, daughter of a puritanical traitor. Cat is a gifted and unusual female (for her day), who whiles away the hours drawing and reinventing London under the watchful of eye of her aunt and uncle. But all is not as it seems in their household as Cat undergoes cruel manipulation and abuse at the hands of her family. Strong, forceful and fiercely independent in a world where she has few friends, Cat is a character whose traumatic life spurs her to live, to survive and to pursue those passions which give her both hope and a reason to live.

Andrew Taylor has written an incredibly vivid tale which relishes in detail, description and atmosphere. As James and Cat’s narratives circle one another in a tense and skilfully plotted tale, their stories converge in a satisfying conclusion which leaves neither king nor pauper untouched. With characters portrayed with as much verve as the city itself, The Ashes of London undoubtedly proves that Taylor’s reputation for both historic and crime fiction is unashamedly deserved.

The Ashes of London is a beautifully detailed and skilfully written novel which had me guessing to the very end. With a narrative paced by its descriptive and atmospheric journey through London, this is a novel to be savoured as the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, and noble and ignoble are hopelessly blurred.

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Review: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Sharp Ends

by Joe Abercrombie

Fantasy | 287 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2016

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

Sharp Ends is an anthology of thirteen stories set in the world of The First Law. With brilliantly dark humour, action packed battles, and frequent blood-lettings throughout, this is a collection which delights in introducing new faces amongst familiar friends and enemies, and is nothing short of a thrill ride from beginning to end.

| Synopsis |

The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.

Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.

Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.

And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left – his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine…

Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.

| Review |

Introducing characters old and new, Sharp Ends is a chronological set of short stories that mark events both significant and insignificant, told and untold, from the world of The First Law.

Exciting and darkly humorous throughout, this collection displays Abercrombie’s wit, clever writing style and skilful characterisation as he forges links throughout the Circle of the World. And whilst knowledge of the other novels is not essential, overall enjoyment is likely to be increased by an understanding of the overarching events, backstories and familiar names and faces that comprise much of this anthology.

With a theme of two new central characters running throughout this collection, in Small Kindnesses, Skipping Town, Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd and Tough Times All Over, Shev and Javre prove a brilliant and engaging comedic duo who are thoroughly deserved of a series of their own. And with other favourites including A Beautiful Bastard and Made a Monster, which bring us face to face with familiar and long loved characters, this is an anthology which truly does have a story for all fans.

A Beautiful Bastard

[ Kadir, Spring 566 ]

A Beautiful Bastard takes us to a time before The First Law, when Sand dan Glokta was a swaggering cavalier whose skill was only outweighed by his ego. Told from the perspective of a blubbering and gushing Salem Rews, or Superior Pike as we now know him, this is a brilliant tale of Glokta’s magnificence before his destruction at the hands of the Gurkish. A thoroughly enjoyable and amusing tale, this short story is made all the more brilliant by the knowledge of Glokta’s and Rews’ futures and also features a cameo by Corporal Tunny.

Made a Monster

[ Carleon, Summer 570 ]

Logen Ninefingers returns to Sharp Ends in Made a Monster; a wonderfully brutal tale which showcases his bloody, brutal violence and features almost none of his redeeming qualities. Told from the perspective of Bethod, with more than a few glimpses of Scale, Calder, The Dogman and Curnden Craw, we see the Bloody Nine in all his fearsome glory from the side of those who dread the edge of his sword. A brilliantly bloody tale, Made a Monster provides a glimpse of Bethod’s determination to right his terrible wrong in creating the Bloody Nine.

Small Kindnesses

[ Westport, Autumn 573 ]

Small Kindnesses introduces us to Shevedieh, the best thief in Westport, as her life on the straight and narrow is brought to an abrupt end when a large, red-headed woman washes up on her doorstep. Accompanied by Severard – yes, that’s Practical Severard of Inquisition fame – her life is turned upside down by a job gone wrong, with her small act of kindness ending up her saving grace. This introduction to our recurring characters, Shev and Javre the Lioness of Hoskopp, is a funny, bloody and somewhat grim beginning that paves the way for a strange and wonderful relationship.

The Fool Jobs

[ East of the Crinna, Autumn 574 ]

The Fool Jobs tells the tale of Curden Craw and his dozen as they accept a contract to retrieve a mysterious item of value – a thing, let’s say – from the village of Fox Clan prior to the events of The Heroes. With nostalgic cameos from Wonderful, Whirrun of Bligh, Jolly Yon Cumber, Brack-i-Dayn and Scorry Tiptoe, The Fool Jobs is a funny snatch and grab tale that’s equal parts messy, bloody and hilarious.

Skipping Town

[ The Near Country, Summer 575 ]

In Skipping Town we return to Shev and Javre as they complete a job for Tumnor at The Weeping Slaver. Only there’s something not quite right, the job is more than likely a double cross and it’s high time they skip town. This action-packed and blood thirsty addition is brilliantly brutal and develops the powerful. warrior-like character of Javre as she is pursued by a mysterious and dangerous order from which she has fled.


[ Dagoska, Spring 576 ]

Hell tells the tale of the Siege of Dagoska from the perspective of Temple, who later features in Red Country alongside Shy South. A brutal, fiery and chaotic tale, Hell captures the dangerous atmosphere of a city under siege and the terrifying arrival of the Eaters.

Two’s Company

[ Somewhere in the North, Summer 576 ]

Two’s Company rejoins Shev and Javre as they meet Whirrun of Bligh on a flimsy bridge over a remote canyon. In a humorous and brutal bout between warriors, the Lioness of Hoskopp and Cracknut Whirrun find themselves treading over familiar, sword swinging ground as they are pursued by both Bethod and the Fifteen. Two’s Company is a funny, engaging and brilliantly bloody tale that could easily hold its own outside of this anthology. 

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

[ Styria, 580 ]

Wrong Place, Wrong Time tells the tale of three somewhat innocent bystanders who find themselves swept up in the wholesale destruction wrought by Monzcarro Murcatto as she enacts her revenge in Best Served Cold. From the Banking House of Valint and Balk, to Cardotti’s House of Leisure and the battlefields of Ospria, no one walks away untouched by The Snake of Talins’ vengeance. Wrong Place, Wrong Time is an exciting and bloodthirsty tale that showcases three brilliant alternative perspectives in the ensuing torrent of chaos, flames and blood.

Some Desperado

[ The Near Country, Summer 584 ]

Some Desperado tells the tale of Shy South before the events of Red Country. As she flees from three bounty hunters armed with nothing but a bag of gold and the clothes on her back, she must use all her cunning to fight, trick and escape her pursuers before she ends up hanging from the gallows. Some Desperado is an action packed, gritty tale which is a wonderful return to a familiar favourite.

Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden

[ Near Barden, Autumn 584 ]

In Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden, Pale-as-Snow is preparing an ambush against a troop of Union soldiers accompanied by Bremer dan Gorst in his position as Royal Observer – a position he’s been forced into after the disaster at Cardotti’s House of Leisure (which appears in Wrong Place, Wrong Time). Written during the events of The Heroes, this story is an action-packed and bloody skirmish told from numerous perspectives and proves that there’s nowhere safe when the swords start swinging.

Three’s a Crowd

[ Talins, Autumn 587 ]

Shev and Javre return in Three’s a Crowd after Shev’s lover, Carcolf, is abducted by Horald the Finger as a consequence of the events in Small Kindnesses. In a story laden with familiar faces – Vitari, Lieutenant Forest, Corporal Tunny and Lance Corporal Yolk to name but a few – Shev and Javre must embark on a rescue mission which unveils some uncomfortable truths for the Lioness of Hoskopp.


[ Averstock, Summer 590 ]

Freedom is an extract from Nicomo Cosca’s biography written by Spillion Sworbreck as he accompanies the Company of the Gracious Hand during the events of Red Country. A exaggerated, farcical and glorified narrative ensues which paints Cosca in hilariously flowery and heroic language as his company sack (nay, save!) the hillside town of Averstock. Freedom is a ridiculously funny tale which reads as though Cosca had written it himself.

Tough Times All Over

[ Sipani, Sping 592 ]

Tough Times All Over tells the tale of a mysterious package, which could well be the thing from The Fool Jobs, as it changes hands across the city of Sipani. The narrative is exciting and well written with the POV changing character each time the package is picked up, handed over or pilfered in its journey across the city. Joined by faces both old and new, Tough Times All Over is a fitting end to a brilliant anthology.


Darkly humorous with brilliant characterisation throughout, Sharp Ends is a wonderfully witty, nostalgic and exciting look at the stories between stories, alternative perspectives and unrecorded events that make up the Circle of the World.

I highly recommend reading this collection whilst already immersed in the universe of The First Law as each story weaves subtle links and ties through almost every other Abercrombie novel and discovering new connections heightened my enjoyment throughout. Consequently, this literary device may be lost on new readers or those who haven’t returned to Abercrombie’s writing in some time.

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Friday Firsts: Monstrous Regiment

Welcome to Friday Firsts – a weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. First paragraphs. First impressions. A new favourite?

| Friday Firsts: August 28 |

Monstrous Regiment

Book Thirty One of Discworld

by Terry Pratchett

Fantasy | 476 Pages | Published by Doubleday in 2003

| First Paragraphs |

Polly cut of her hair in front of the mirror, feeling slightly guilty about not feeling very guilt about doing so. It was supposed to be her crowning glory, and everyone said it was beautiful, but she generally wore it in a net when she was working. She’d always told herself it was wasted on her. But she was careful to see that the long golden coils all landed on the small sheet spread out for the purpose.

If she would admit to any strong emotion at all at this time, it was sheer annoyance that a haircut was all she needed to pass for a young man. She didn’t even need to bind up her bosom, which she’d heard was the normal practice. Nature had seen to it that she barely had any problems in this area.

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| First Impressions |

I am so very exciting to be diving back into another Discworld adventure, this time with Monstrous Regiment, the thirty first novel in the series.

With a premise which sees Polly Perks joining the army in order to save her brother, this is an opening that oozes Pratchett’s wit, charm and flare throughout these two short paragraphs. And knowing just how wonderful Pratchett’s writing is, I’m in no doubt that this will be another wonderful, humorous adventure across Borogravia.

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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Review: The Man with One Name by Tom Lloyd

The Man with One Name

A Tale of the God Fragments (Book 0.5)

by Tom Lloyd

Fantasy | 68 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2018

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

Offering a gritty and Western style adventure, The Man With One Name introduces a younger, more sober Lynx before he finds himself a part of Anatin’s Mercenary Deck. Action-packed, exciting and just a little bit on the short side, this prequel is a fitting introduction to a series that always leaves the reader wanting more.

| Synopsis |

Salterin is a town full of fear. Fear and sheep. But mostly fear.

It lies in the north of a principality recently shattered by the Hanese war, cut off from its neighbours and warily watching the advance of winter. Bandits and wolves haunt the woods, but something worse lies within. A monster named Therian has installed himself as lord of the manor and no one is foolish enough to oppose him.

In their hour of need comes a man with one name. A man who will not suffer monsters. Or mutton. But mostly monsters.

| Review |

More than a year has past since the Hanese war, and Therian, a thug and self-appointed lord, has assumed control of the town of Salterin where cruelty and lawlessness now prevails.

Lynx, a drifter and a gunslinger, blows into the troubled town just when it needs him most. Striking up an unlikely friendship with local sheep farmer Sulay, a hardened old woman with a love for herding dogs, Lynx sets out to right the wrongs that fall at his doorstep and protect Salterin from the mounting trouble within.

A troubled town. A strange drifter. A convenient job opening as lawman. In a tale where even the title is an homage to Eastwood and the Western genre, The Man With One Name proves a fun and engaging twist on familiar Western tropes. And with only a hint of the gambling, drinking and debauchery we have grown accustomed to in The God Fragments, this prequel provides both a fitting introduction and an interesting background to Tom Lloyd’s brilliant protagonist.

Lynx, an ex-soldier of So Han, is a man with a past who strives to do the right thing even when it could cost him his life or his freedom. As he falls into the position of Salterin’s lawman, a position that reflects both his honour and his affinity for trouble, we are granted a brief but fascinating insight into his character before his association with Anatin’s Mercenary Deck.

With more than a hint of the Wild West, and described with the familiar richness we’ve come to expect from Lloyd’s writing, this novella introduces us to the untamed, rustic lands that lie between bustling towns. And with characters comprising an intriguing array of the good, the bad and the undoubtedly ugly, we are given a fascinating snapshot of those inhabiting this beautifully rendered frontier town turned dictatorship.

With particular favourites in Sulay, a grizzled and feisty sheep farmer, along with her herding dogs, whose lovable and dangerous nature quite often steal the show, this short novella manages to field both interesting characters and maintain more than a hint of the action-packed, bloody and descriptive writing that Stranger of Tempest wields with abandon.

Highly entertaining, if a little short, The Man With One Name provides a fitting, Western style introduction to The God Fragments that is entirely self-contained.  And, after whetting my appetite for a meaty, mercenary caper, I believe it’s high time that I added Princess of Blood to my library.

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Friday Firsts: The Court of Broken Knives

Welcome to Friday Firsts – a weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. First paragraphs. First impressions. A new favourite?

| Friday Firsts: August 21 |

The Court of Broken Knives

Book One of Empires of Dust

by Anna Smith Spark

Fantasy | 470 Pages | Published by Harper Voyager in 2017

| First Paragraphs |


Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain.

Down to close work like that, men wrestling in the mud, jabbing at each other, too tired to care anymore. Just die and get it over with. Half of them fighting with their guts hanging out of their stomachs, stinking of shit, oozing pink and red and white. Half-dead men lying in the filth. Screaming. A whole lot of things screaming.

Impossible to tell who’s who anymore. Mud and blood and shadows and that’s it. Kill them! Kill them all! Keep killing until we’re all dead. The knife twists and jabs and the man he’s fighting falls sideways, all the breath going out of him with a sigh of relief. Another there behind. Gods, his arms ache. His head aches. Blood in his eyes. He twists the knife again and thrusts with a broken-off sword and that man too dies. Fire explodes somewhere to the left. White as maggots. Silent as maggots. Then shrieks as men burn.

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| First Impressions |

The Court of Broken Knives has been on my TBR ever since it came out in 2017 and, after several inordinately busy years, I have finally gotten around to reading it.

Lyrical, beautiful, bloody, grim and battle weary through and through, it will come as no surprise to those who visit my blog regularly that this style of writing is exactly my cup of tea. And, after those evocative, visceral opening paragraphs, I can’t quite believe I waited this long!

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

A Novella

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 136 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

To Be Taught, If Fortunate tells the tale of the crew of the Merian as they explore the universe in a quest to understand life as no one yet knows it. Following their passions, their hopes, and their dreams, this is a tale that binds us to their mission in an exploration of exhilarating highs and terrifying lows.

In a narrative suffused with joyful discovery and mounting despair, To Be Taught, If Fortunate warms the heart and sets the soul soaring to the stars.

| Synopsis |

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

| Review |

Ariadne O’Neill is an astronaut and flight engineer aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian. After near three decades of sleep, she and her crew awake above their vessel to complete their mission amongst the stars – an ecological survey of exoplanets known or suspected to harbour life.

The development of somaforming has enabled astronauts to adapt their bodies to new environments; to survive crushing gravity, sweltering heat, dangerous levels of radiation and below freezing temperatures. Under the protection of this genetic supplementation, the research team are able to adapt, survive and survey their surroundings in earnest; cataloguing planets, ecological habitats and ensure there is a record of all sentient life.

Written in the form of a communications report to earth, Ariadne condenses the journey and experiences of the Merian and her crew into four equal parts, each telling a tale of discovery and wonder as the crew explore a different planet. These linked journeys are overflowing with worldbuilding and scientific details, both of which form the backbone of this novella and allow Becky Chambers to showcase her beautiful, literary prose – a quite different experience to that aboard the Wayfarer.

The descriptions of the Merian – the inflatable habitat modules, the close internal quarters, the interconnecting spaces – are some of my favourite in the whole novella, and give a sense of home in a vast and endless wilderness. Similarly, the descriptions of somaforming are well thought out and provide a considered explanation for how humans have been able to endure space travel and commence their exploration of new worlds. The science, however, is developed with a light touch and never overwhelms the narrative.

While this novel focuses more on the exploration of worlds rather than the characters inhabiting them, there is still a drive and goodness behind Chambers’ creations which give the reader hope and an emotional connection to the narrative. Ariadne, Elena, Jack and Chikondi are interesting yet relatable creations, albeit ones whose jobs are intertwined with their hobbies and their passions. and their unique shared experience aboard the Merian makes for a fascinating read.

There is a simple beauty to Chambers’ writing and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a unique and memorable novella with a focus on joy and discovery, and the impact of the journey on the crew. Told from the single point of view of Ariadne, Chambers skilfully unravels a meaningful narrative which has been written with nothing short of warmth and love for the human condition and our seemingly in-built desire to explore the stars. This is a novella that seems real, feels real and, though fairly light on the science fiction, is effortlessly engaging throughout.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate can best be described as a love letter to the stars, to space exploration and to the people who make it all possible. It eloquently captures the joy of space travel, the awe of discovery, and new possibilities that can only be imagined a world away from home. While this novella is perhaps not the equal of Chambers’ Wayfarers series, it has a beauty and a charm all of its own that captures the imagination and sets our minds soaring through the universe around us.

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Friday Firsts: A Little Hatred

Welcome to Friday Firsts – a weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. First paragraphs. First impressions. A new favourite?

| Friday Firsts: August 14 |

A Little Hatred

Book One of The Age of Madness

by Joe Abercrombie

Fantasy | 471 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2019

| First Paragraphs |


She prised one eye open. A slit of stabbing, sickening brightness.

‘Come back.’

She pushed the spit-wet dowel out of her mouth with her tongue and croaked the one word she could think of. ‘Fuck.’

‘There’s my girl!’ Isern squatted beside her, necklace of runes and finger bones dangling, grinning that twisted grin that showed the hole in her teeth and offering no help at all. ‘What did you see?’

Rikke heaved one hand up to grip her head. Felt like if she didn’t hold her skull together, it’d burst. Shapes still fizzed on the inside of her lids, like the glowing smears when you’ve looked at the sun.

‘I saw folk falling from a high tower. Dozens of ’em.’ She winced at the thought of them hitting the ground. ‘I saw folk hanged. Rows of ’em.’ Her gut cramped at the memory of swinging bodies, dangling feet. ‘I saw… a battle, maybe? Below a red hill.’

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| First Impressions |

I could not be happier to be back in the world of The First Law. In just a few opening paragraphs, that ever familiar narrative style springs from the pages and throws us back into a chaotic, bloody and treacherous world.

With a whole host of new characters, a few familiar favourites, and a plot that weaves the past through the smoke and steam of  industrial revolution, A Little Hatred is already turning out to be a brilliant read.

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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Review: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Going Postal

Book Thirty-Three of the Discworld Series

Book One of Moist von Lipwig

by Terry Pratchett

Fantasy | 352 Pages | First published by Doubleday in 2004

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

Going Postal tells the tale of Moist von Lipwig – con artist, thief and professional liar. When his innumerable crimes finally catch up with him, he is offered the position of Postmaster General in return for his life, a position which might just be trying to kill him anyway. Tasked with restoring the defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office, Moist von Lipwig has one chance to prove himself as he goes head to head with Discworld’s biggest corporation.

With Junior Postmen, golems and letters aplenty, Going Postal is a madcap tale that delights in absurdity and is nothing short of a joy to read from beginning to end. Exquisitely written and absurdly funny throughout, the thirty third addition to the Discworld series couldn’t be more highly recommended.

| Synopsis |

Moist von Lipwig is a con artist…

… and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork’s ailing postal service back on its feet.

It’s a tough decision.

The post is a creaking old institution, overshadowed by new technology. But there are people who still believe in it, and Moist must become one of them if he’s going to see that the mail gets through, come rain, hail, sleet, dogs, the Post Office Workers Friendly and Benevolent Society, an evil chairman . . . and a midnight killer.

Getting a date with Adora Bell Dearheart would be nice, too.

So perhaps there is a shot at redemption in the mad world of the mail, waiting for a man who’s prepared to push the envelope . . .

| Review |

Con-artist, swindler and thief – Moist von Lipwig was extremely good at his job, that was until he wasn’t. Arrested and sentenced to death for his innumerable crimes, he no longer has any tricks left up his sleeve.

But as the hangman’s noose tightens around his neck and the world turns black, a new opportunity emerges. Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, will grant Moist a reprieve if he should accomplish a deceptively simple task. As Ankh-Morpork’s new Postmaster General, Moist von Lipwig must restore the Post Office to its rightful position as the preeminent messenger service of the city – a job easier said than done.

The Post Office is a tired, derelict building overflowing with thousands of undelivered letters; his staff amount to one ancient Junior Postman and one Apprentice Postman with an unhealthy obsession for pins; his predecessors have all met untimely and often gruesome deaths; and he must go in direct competition with the business behemoth, The Grand Trunk Semaphore Company

But if anyone can con an entire city into believing he actually knows what he is doing, then Moist von Lipwig can. Aided by his unfortunate staff, an ever watchful golem, and the chain-smoking Adora Belle Dearheart, Moist von Lipwig may just be able to deliver. His life most assuredly depends upon it.

Discworld is ever an analogy for our own world and our own human failings, and Going Postal is no exception. It pokes fun of petty bureaucracy, of unnecessary rules and regulations, and of our inclination towards the absurd. It is a brilliant satire that feels all too British and all too familiar, and acutely demonstrates the genius of Terry Pratchett’s wit and observation.

From pin collectors to stamp collectors to clacks enthusiasts, Going Postal turns the mundane into a bright and witty narrative that becomes ever the more humorous the closer to reality it gets. Refreshing in both its plot and in its delivery, this is a novel that revels in the ridiculous as it takes the reader on a not entirely sane journey through Ankh-Morpork’s establishment.

The city of Ankh-Morpork, its crumbling Post Office and its ever more deficient postal service are described in vivid detail from the perspective of an outsider to the city. And in this somewhat derelict building occupied by the (perhaps quite literal) ghosts of thousands of undelivered letters, Moist von Lipwig more than proves his mettle in a surprising narrative that is laced with phantoms, intrigue and the occasional letter.

The progressive and prosperous clacks towers – something akin to a gargantuan version of Chappe’s Telegraph – thread their way across the city and out to destinations afar, and provide the reader with a sense of the enormity and impossibility of the task at hand. They – the unforgiving Grand Trunk Semaphore Company and their prolific director Reacher Gilt – also play the role of chief adversary in this tale, stirring up long held anger and providing Moist with an unpleasant reflection of his own unsavoury past.

And even if the insanely brilliant plot and richly developed world weren’t enough, Mr. Pratchett suffuses his tale with a myriad of madcap, brilliant characters that more than steal the show throughout. Our protagonist, Moist von Lipwig is a conman, a thief and a liar but he also plays an important role as the eyes – and sometimes the voice – of the reader as he experiences Ankh-Morpork, the Post Office and the strange people who inhabit it.

Supported by the ageing Junior Postman Tolliver Groat, who has a penchant for the Regulations and dangerous home remedies, Apprentice Postman Stanley, who has an unhealthy obsession with pins, and Adora Belle Dearheart, Manager of The Golem Trust, the character of Moist von Lipwig is only made more brilliant, more astute and more likeable by their apparent absurdity.  And the ever watchful and knowing presence of Lord Vetinari, who plays the role of puppet master so deftly and in such an eloquent manner, unashamedly charms with his darkly manipulative character.

Terry Pratchett has a created a flawlessly brilliant novel with a vibrancy and humour that suffuses the narrative from beginning to end. His wit is sharp, his writing is punchy and to the point, and his prose conjures a world of sheer bureaucratic brilliance that both mocks and endears us to The Ankh-Morpork Post Office, and perhaps even our own real-world equivalent.

The thirty-third addition to the Discworld collection is anything but stale, providing a refreshing and brilliantly witty tale that both surprised and captivated me throughout. For fans of Discworld old and new, Going Postal couldn’t come more highly recommended. Never have three hundred odd pages felt so few.

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Friday Firsts: The Ashes of London

Welcome to Friday Firsts – a weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. First paragraphs. First impressions. A new favourite?

| Friday Firsts: August 07 |

The Ashes of London

Book One of Marwood and Lovett

by Andrew Taylor

Historical Fiction | 496 Pages | Published by Harper Collins in 2016

| First Paragraphs |

The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It roared its rage. It was the voice of the Great Beast itself.

Part of the nave roof fell in. The sound stunned the crowd into a brief silence.

Otherwise I shouldn’t have heard the whimpering at my elbow. It came from a boy in a ragged shirt who had just pushed his way through the mass of people. He was swaying, on the brink of collapse.

I poked his arm. ‘Hey. You.’

The lad’s head jerked up. His eyes were wide and unfocused. He made a movement as if to run away but we were hemmed in on every side. Half of London, from the King and the Duke of York downwards, had turned out to watch the death throes of St. Paul’s. 

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| First Impressions |

The opening paragraphs of The Ashes of London are an incredibly evocative start to the book. The fall of St. Paul’s is captured so vividly – the heat and the flames and the ash falling from the sky – that you are instantly transported to the terrifying and chaotic Great Fire of London of 1666.

This is a book which quite clearly provides a richly detailed backdrop on which to hang its tale of freedom and murder, and I cannot wait to unravel what happens next.

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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