Rainbird, Rabia Gale

Rainbird, Rabia Gale

Rainbird

Rainbird is a half-breed, child of an eiree and a human. As a child, she was forced to work as a circus act, her vestigial wings damaged to prevent any hope of escape. When she killed to escape, she became a fugitive from human law, and her father became the only one willing to shelter her. When Rainbird discovers a huge expanse of bonerot infesting the sunway, the source of heat and light for human settlement, the authorities react with disturbing indifference. However, behind the facade of indifference are political and species conflicts not safe to tangle with – and Rainbird and her father are caught in the middle.

Rainbird is a powerful view into the life of a despised half-breed, a child of nether the eiree nor of humanity, and shunned by both. Her overwhelming loneliness is one of the driving forces of the story, and her wary, fugitives’ view of the society she lives in is compelling. Despite or because of the very serious themes of race, isolation, and discrimination underlying the story, this is a gripping book, the whole woven into a fast-paced sci-fi / fantasy read that readers of both genres will enjoy. Rabia Gale’s unique talent for writing very different, very plausible worlds and societies is guaranteed to keep you fascinated until the last page.

 

The Brodsky Affair, Ken Fry

The Brodsky Affair, Ken Fry

The Brodsky Affair: Murder is a Dying Art

The Brodsky Affair covers the discovery of a lifetime for introverted art dealer Jack Manton. Several of the works of the enigmatic Russian painter Brodsky have been missing since his incarceration during World War II, and when Manton sees what looks like a pair of Brodskys surfacing in an obscure online art auction based in Australia, on offer for a fraction of their value, he’s initially half-convinced that he must be mistaken. However, when closer examination proves them to be irrefutably real, Manton realises that he isn’t the only person looking for the missing Brodsky paintings, and his competition is well-heeled – and well-armed.

Ken Fry has a nice touch with his genre, creating a set of believably human characters caught in circumstances that become increasingly more dangerous and lead them across most of Europe. The first few chapters give a bad impression of the book, as they hop from character to character before settling in for the ride, but as the danger level escalates from rude letters from the bank to armed mafiosos and car chases across Paris, the story becomes increasingly gripping. Present-day scenes are neatly interwoven with historical cameos following Mikhail Brodsky himself, caught on the Russian front of World War II. The action is well-written, and the author avoids the frequent temptation in thrillers to cast their protagonist as the next Jet Li, keeping the story credible. Certainly a worthwhile thriller read.

 

Fly on the Wall, Alfy Dade

Fly on the Wall, Alfy Dade

Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall: Fairy Tales from a Misanthropic Universe is a collection of short stories showcasing the kind of dark twists and bloody morality that evoke Martial’s epigrams and the Grimm fairy tales, with sets that often wouldn’t look out of place in a Tarantino movie. The writing of the stories pulls in similar dramatic contrasts. While one will read very much like a classic fairy tale, the next can come across as slasher horror, to the point that I found that the author’s technical versatility in this aspect was one of the most interesting points of the collection.

Alfy Dade’s themes, running from a page to several thousand words, range from inevitability to consent, the point often coming from a completely unexpected angle to make the reader think and rethink. While short story is a type of writing I almost never read, I still found several of these made for compelling reading, playing as they do on fatal weaknesses, broken minds, and unifying the book with the realisation that, in the end, everyone’s struggles end the same way. The book is starkly depressing, technically brilliant, and certainly worth exploring for anyone looking for food for thought and a no-punches-pulled view of society.

Dark Hunger, Demetrius Sherman

Dark Hunger, Demetrius Sherman

Dark Hunger

Dark Hunger follows the small private investigations firm of Sunday and Grey, run by a pair of ex-cops tired of the corruption in the system. When Peter Sunday takes on a missing-persons case, he expects a typical story of a young Latino man run away to join a gang. He doesn’t expect it to tie into a string of shady get-rich-quick offers, murders, and disappearances going back months, and it isn’t until sources start turning up dead that he begins to see the deadly connections. However, even Peter, with all the cynicism imbued by years in the police force, has no way to predict the nightmare he’s going to find…

Demetrius Sherman’s novella offers a solid supernatural thriller, where the clues to the supernatural elements are laid early in the plot, allowing the reader to watch Peter stumbling closer and closer to the heart of the mystery while remaining completely oblivious to the danger. While I didn’t find the way the characters were written made me particularly sympathetic towards them, and in many places the writing got in the way of the story for me, I did find that contrast between the supernatural clues and the detective fixated on finding a normal explanation was an interesting, well-structured aspect to the story. Overall, despite feeling that the characters could benefit from more development, Dark Hunger certainly shouldn’t be dismissed, especially for thriller and suspense readers.

The Birr Elixir, Jo Sparkes

The Birr Elixir, Jo Sparkes

The Birr Elixir (The Legend of the Gamesmen Book 1)

The Birr Elixir is a near-legendary potion, which only the elite of herbalists are able to mix – or can find the ingredients for. So when the captain of the local Comet team, Hand of Victory, comes into the herb shop asking for an energy potion, Marra, a bare one year into her apprenticeship, makes the first energy recipe she sees in her dead mentor’s recipe book, never realising the significance of the recipe. When that same potion helps the Hand of Victory team to achieve an impossible win, they rescue Marra from a beating from her abusive keeper, along with his mysterious, unconscious captive, and set off on a journey that will take them to the edges of the continent and beyond.

Jo Sparkes’s writing is a pleasure to read, keeping the story moving along briskly – from the unknown, unconscious man the Hand of Victory rescues along with Marra to the descriptions of the Comet matches, this is a fast-paced, enjoyable read, spiced with vivid descriptions. While the underlying story initially comes across as a typical maiden in distress plot, The Birr Elixir actually offers much more depth, with a victim who grows into the strength to defy her opressors and work with the men who rescued her to prevent a much larger injustice. The larger themes in the story complement the adventure and add layers of richness to the read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, including younger readers.