Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books That Take Place in Another Country


Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by ThatArtsyReaderGirl. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Books That Take Place in Another Country |

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! When the majority of your books take place in a fantasy world, finding ones that take place in another country is a far more difficult task than you might expect; particularly when the majority of historical fiction, classics and crime fiction you read take place in your own country! Scroll down for my Top Ten… Books That Take Place in Another Country!heart

| 1. |

Chicago, USA

The Dresden Files

by Jim Butcher

heart

In this gritty urban fantasy, Harry Dresden, a wizard P.I. who consults for the Chicago P.D., takes the reader on a journey through the streets, morgues and and crime scenes of Chicago. heart

| 2. |

San Francisco, USA

The October Daye Series

by Seanan McGuireheart

The Changling October ‘Toby’ Daye awakes from a curse to find herself living in modern day San Francisco; a San Francisco populated by the courts of the Fae where fairytale creatures abound.heart

| 3 |

Venice, Italy / Bangkok, Thailand / The World

The Gameshouse Novellas

by Claire North

heart

The Gameshouse has no fixed location but has appeared in various countries over the course of history to play with the lives and fates of kingdoms, countries and players of the ultimate high stakes game.
heart

| 4. |

Azincourt, France

Azincourt

by Bernard Cornwell

heart

This piece of historical fiction tells the story of Henry V’s invasion of Normandy, from the prolonged siege of Harfleur and the subsequent march to Calais, to the Battle of Agincourt itself. This is a tale of war and blood and death.
heart

| 5. |

USA

Vicious

by V.E. Schwab

heart

Vicious follows the lives of two college students, Eli Cardale and Victor Vale. Absorbed in their research into EOs, or ExtraOrdinary people, their discoveries lead them down a dark and dangerous path where morality, ethics and caution are thrown to the wind in their quest of discovery.
heart

| 6. |

Colditz Castle, Germany

The Colditz Story

by P.R. Reid

heart

Colditz Castle, located in the town of Colditz in Germany, was considered an impossible fortress to escape from. Over the course of its four-year history as a military prison, however, over 300 men escaped its walls, 31 of whom completed the dangerous journey home.  The Colditz Story was my introduction to military escape memoirs, which has since become one of my favourite sub-genres of non-fiction. 
heart

| 7. |

Stalag Luft III, Germany (Then) / Poland (Now)

The Great Escape

by Paul Brickhill

heart

The Great Escape tells the story of the escape attempt of 600 prisoners from Stalag Luft III during the Second World War. Like The Colditz Story, The Great Escape highlights the skill, ingenuity and bravery of those held captive; a group of men who would stop at nothing to attempt escape and make their way home.
heart

| 8. |

The Great Hunting Ground (Most of Europe + Part of Asia)

The Mortal Engines Quartet

by Philip Reeve
heart

One of my favourite series from my early teens, The Mortal Engines Quartet is set in a post-apocalyptic world where people live and work on traction cities, great tiered metropolises that move across the land on caterpillar tracks and hunt smaller towns in what is known as Municipal Darwinism.
heart

| 9. |

Rome, Italy

The Leone Scamarcio Thrillers

by Nadia Dalbuono

heart

Set in Rome, the Leone Scamarcio series tells the story of a young detective in Rome’s Flying Squad who must escape his mafia past whilst solving a number of complex and dangerous crimes. With beautiful description of Rome and its criminal underworld, this series transports the reader onto its streets and into the heart of danger itself.

heart

| 10. |

Edinburgh, Scotland

The Frey + McGrey Series

by Oscar de Muriel

heart

Combining crime, history and horror, The Frey and McGrey series transports the reader to Victorian Edinburgh, where paranormal crimes abound the unlikely duo of Inspector Ian Frey of Scotland Yard, and Adolphus ‘Nine-Nails’ McGrey must work together to solve dastardly murders and bring peace to its streets.
heart

What is your favourite setting? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to ThatArtsyReaderGirl and sign up!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Review: The Thief by Claire North



The Thief

The Gameshouse II

by Claire North

Fantasy | Novella | 100 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2015


| Rating |


The Serpent, the first novella in The Gameshouse series, impressed with its enchanting and opulent setting and its calculated narrative which resonated with political intrigue and decisive manoeuvres. The second novella, The Thief, follows on from The Serpent several hundred years later in an equally beautiful but entirely different tale which is utterly gripping from start to finish.

The Thief is a heady, exotic and thrilling tale which takes the reader on a journey – one of survival and victory – across Thailand and Asia. Through jungles and cities, on railroads and by foot, North weaves across the landscape as she spins her tale of The Gameshouse, where bets, debts and the game remain king. This is an exciting, intoxicating and incredibly beautiful tale and, much like The Gameshouse, once it has it hooks in you, it is impossible to let go.

The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of chess, backgammon – every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes – those of politics and empires, of economics and kings . . .

In 1930s Bangkok, one higher league player has just been challenged to a game of hide and seek. The board is all of Thailand – and the seeker may use any means possible to hunt down his quarry – be it police, government, strangers or even spies . . .

The Gameshouse is preparing itself for The Great Game but, first, another pieces needs to be manoeuvred into place. Once more we take up the die and play the game which transcends all boundaries, the game which fells empires and topples kings and where the cost of victory leaves an indelible imprint on the world. Anonymous sentinels stand watch as they recount a tale of hide and seek, a game where whole countries are the board and governments, military and warbands are the pawns.

It’s the summer of 1938 and Remy Burke has made a bet with the notorious Abhik Lee; a bet he made whilst drunk and in no fit state to call terms. The wager: Twenty years of Abhik Lee’s life versus Remy Burke’s memory. The deck is stacked against him and his pieces, those people and forces that he holds in his power like pawns on a chessboard, cannot compare to the powerful hand that Lee holds.

Under such circumstances a game of hide and seek is no easy feat, not when you’re a near six-foot Anglo-Frenchman in the heart of Asia; not when your opponent has such powerful forces to call upon; and not when your opponent would never have made a bet unless he knew he could win. For Remy, victory and survival may just be one and the same thing.

Throughout The Thief, North stuns with her sumptuous and compulsive writing. She paints a picture of 1930’s Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, with such skill and ease that it’s hard not to feel you’ve suddenly been transported there. From the heart of the city, to the wilds of the jungle, to the cracked and dry deserts, North conjures up a world of politics and alliances, of cities and wilderness, and saturates her writing with a wealth of history in this fantastical and enchanting tale.

The Thief is almost reminiscent of those great chase stories, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps or twentieth century escape memoirs, which share a protagonist fleeing across expansive stretches of wilderness and jungle with unknown enemies hidden within the landscape. North delights in stacking the decks against her creation; everyone and anyone could be a piece in Lee’s hand. Trust the wrong person and Burke may lose more than just the game. But even an underdog may yet have a few tricks to play.

Once more the silent observers take the reigns of the tale and steer our course, recounting Burke’s tale in additively florid prose. Their identity remains a mystery and their allegiance remains unknown, but their desire for Burke’s unlikely victory lends them a friendly if other-worldly air. They seem both part of The Gameshouse and separate from it, transcending time and earthly boundaries to observe and record the unfolding of the game.

Remy Burke is an affable and likeable protagonist who, in his own terms, has become a little sloppy when it comes to the game. His fundamental flaws of character leave him with no time to assess and no time to think, his game becoming a chase from start to finish, and the pursued outwitted and outmatched at almost every turn. But friendship may be found by our beleaguered protagonist, even within The Gameshouse, as The Thief sees the return of the enigmatic Silver.

The Thief is an incredibly well written tale which rejoices in its own prose and is almost impossible to put down. This is a series of novellas which, although close to perfect in their own short format, consistently leaves me yearning for more. The writing is poetic, the premise is full of intrigue and excitement, the characters are both likeable and other-worldly, and the power and draw of The Gameshouse is almost tangible. Once it has you in its sights, The Gameshouse will not let go.

I wholeheartedly recommend The Thief, along with the other Gameshouse novellas, to anyone wishing for a beautiful, tense and exciting break from reality. Fantasy, history and intrigue are entwined throughout the narrative for something which, for me, bordered close on perfection. Claire North has once again left me with the distinct impression that I really do not have enough of her work in my life.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Review: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard



The House of Shattered Wings

Book One of the Dominion of the Fallen

by Aliette de Bodard

Fantasy | 402 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2015


| Rating |


Aliette de Bodard is another author I unearthed at the Gollancz Book Festival last year, one who I have been eager to read ever since. The House of Shattered Wings, with its premise of warring angels on the battlefield of a scarred and ruined Paris, sounded far too intriguing to miss. Delaying time only enough to not actually get a signed edition, I made my purchase, opened it up and became instantly absorbed in this broken world of ruinous glory. This is a novel which, despite some minor flaws, is a beautiful and captivating read and promises great things to come from an author who isn’t afraid to turn the world on its head.

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

The House of Shattered Wings follows the story of Paris following the fall of the angels and their subsequent war of dynasties; a clash of powerful houses which has already obliterated Paris and threatens to shake the city to its foundations once again. The Morningstar is gone, disappeared or dead – no one knows. His continued absence has left a void in House Silverspires and his apprentice and heir, Selene, must hold her House together. Something she is prepared to do at all costs.

But when a young angel falls to earth and is rescued from being brutally harvested for her magic, or Angel Essence, House Silverspires is turned on its head. A darkness is stalking its halls, killing its people and will stop at nothing but the complete destruction of the House. As we follow the story of Selene as she fights to retain power, along with Isabelle, the young fallen angel; Philippe, her would be murderer; and Madeleine, House Silverspires’ addict Alchemist, one thing remains uncertain – can House Silverspires survive those who conspire against her? Or will the darkness consume them all?

The true strength of this novel is de Bodard’s skill at descriptive worldbuilding. A ruined Paris is described in sumptuous detail – landmarks stand proud in their ruinous glory and its poisoned artery, the Seine, which has turned black with the corruption of magic, continues to flow through the heart of the city bringing with it death and ruin. de Bodard delights in taking the city apart, pulling down its stonework, shattering its stained glass, and creating a stunning backdrop to this new world of angels intent on underhanded and duplicitous warfare.

This is a novel with incredible vision and scope. Each dynasty, each House, is bound tightly in a web of intrigue, House politics and power struggles. Every character is tied just as tightly to their House, whether through free will or imprisonment, their very lives are linked to the House’s beating heart. And at the heart of House Silverspires is a distinct absence, a void left by the disappearance of the Morningstar. Without his power and influence, and with the other Houses vying for Silverspires’ destruction, it can only be a matter of time before it falls.

Characterisation in this novel is a much harder subject to tackle. Whilst each character is, in their own right, intriguing with the promise of a rich and detailed back-story, there was something about their depiction which failed to inspire an emotional connection in me that they otherwise might have. Madeleine was perhaps the exception to this trait. A flawed essence addict, she stumbles through the novel finding darkness and trouble at every opportunity with the inability to either confront or counter it. She remains a troubled but endearing character throughout whose singular emotional connection served to make her something of a heroine in this novel.

The majority of characters, however, read more like historical figures from a textbook; figures which tend to keep the reader at an arms length, are firmly separated by time, yet remain compelling enough to mitigate any negative impact their characterisation may have on the storyline. These characters remain fascinating to read but a further emotional connection would have served to win me over fully and add yet another dimension to the narrative.

The House of Shattered Wings is a vast and richly imagined novel which perhaps came to a head too soon. Although the storyline wraps up relatively neatly at its conclusion, I felt the absence of Morningstar and would have preferred the main antagonist to have featured more throughout the narrative and particularly towards the end of the novel. Despite these minor quibbles, this is a novel which also exhibits a lot of skill and strength in its writing – I defy anyone to not find any beauty in de Bodard’s descriptions – and, whilst I might not have connected with the majority of the cast, their promise of a rich and detailed history left me anxious to know more.

The House of Shattered Wings is a beautiful book with an impressive list of attributes to its name. Whilst there were some elements of the story which I wish were elaborated upon or explored further, it remains a distinctive, imaginative and exciting novel which takes its time to see you through to the end. I am definitely looking forward to spending more time in the Dominion of the Fallen.


Bookish Beats Suggestion

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Review: The Serpent by Claire North



The Serpent

The Gameshouse I

by Claire North

Fantasy | Novella | 100 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2015


| Rating |


Claire North has been on my radar ever since she was Catherine Webb and publishing novels at the grand old age of sixteen. However, despite this early success, it wasn’t until The Gameshouse series appeared on my feed that I picked up her any of her novels. With a sumptuous, seventeenth century Venetian setting and an enchanting premise, The Serpent is a novella which had me trapped in its web of intrigue and politics from the very start. This is The Gameshouse, where fortunes are made and empires are broken. Will you place a bet?

In 17th Century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.

There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favours may be invited to compete in the higher league . . . a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles.

Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman, who is about to play, may just exceed everyone’s expectations.

Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules…

Trapped in a loveless marriage, Thene must stand by a husband who whiles away his days gambling and whoring, falling into debt and dishonour as he spends every last coin. Finding herself at The Gameshouse, in the company of gamblers and gamesters, fortune makers and fortune breakers, she watches as her husband sinks further into ruin. Unable and unwilling to change his fate, she takes up the dice.

She plays for gold and plays for coin and, when the scales tip in her favour, her actions capture the attention of the house. Called to the higher league, Thene finds that she is playing for far more than she could ever have imagined. This is a game which transcends all boundaries, where players control people like pieces on a board, and where the fate of empires and kings is decided by a roll of the dice. In this game of politics she must claim victory for her king or risk losing all.

The Serpent is a richly imagined tale, brimming with mystery and intrigue, and reminiscent of the old morality tales of centuries past. Venice is depicted in gloriously vivid detail, the architecture of the city and the spirit of its people captured in remarkably lyrical prose. North weaves the fantastical throughout a narrative which in all other ways could be real. This is a novella which lives and breaths its time and place, where it’s as easy to become lost in the pages as in the narrow calles and campos of Venice. North has captured the spirit of a city – the revelry, politics and intrigue – whilst basking in its grandeur.

The narrative is told from the perspective of unseen observers who watch as Thene plays her game of kings; silent sentinels who recount the unfolding of events whilst giving little away as to their form and purpose. Thene is an intelligent and thoughtful character who conjures up an instant rapport, the hardship she endures balanced by her power as a player. The other characters, or pieces – the Priestess, the Fool, the Queen of Cups, and the four kings eager to be crowned – are lent an air of mystery, creating an exciting and unpredictable read which keeps you guessing until the very end.

Claire North has proven herself to be a skilled author whose way with words is sure to impress. Her use of language and her beautiful, poetic prose conveys the excitement and thrill of the game whilst carving out a city and a compelling narrative in wonderful detail. This is a novella centred around politics and power – instantly captivating and utterly absorbing; North is the Gamesmaster and the readers are puppets on her strings.

The Serpent surprised and impressed me in equal measure, and I would recommend  it to fans of fantasy and historical fiction alike. With two more novellas in The Gameshouse series awaiting my attention, along with numerous feature length novels, I’m sure 2016 will be a year in which Claire North features heavily on my reading list – I seriously can’t wait!

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Follow my blog with Bloglovin