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The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster (The Glenaster Chronicles Book 1)

Esther Lanark was five when the first shadow of the Witch of Glenaster touched her remote village. By the time she reached her tenth year, rumours and ill fortune were flying on the wind, and stories of men with their eyes gouged out and the symbol of the Third Eye on their foreheads were becoming commonplace. Even when refugees began to pass through her village, Esther’s home remained untouched – until one night, disaster left Esther to find out exactly what she was willing to do for revenge.

The Witch of Glenaster is a young-adult fantasy with a refreshingly dark slant, and despite the inevitable help and protection rendered to the children by mysterious and competent strangers, the level of coincidence is kept to a plausible minimum. The world-building is detailed and solid, and author Jonathan Mills resists the urge to insert a magical last-minute save, which I deeply appreciated. I did find that after all the build-up, the finale fizzled out a little, but other than that, this is an eminently readable story. The characters have their own pasts, wants, and resentments, and the characterisation of Esther’s infant brother, largely non-vocal, demonstrates the author’s technical skill. While this may not be ideal bedtime reading, it’s certainly a worthwhile read for all ages of reader.

Caligation, Brhi Stokes

Caligation, Brhi Stokes

Caligation

Ripley Mason is a college drop-out, hitch-hiking his way to adventure on the roads of the US, when a car accident catapults him into an existence where nothing is quite as it should be. The city of Caligation, surrounded by impassable fog, is home to shape-shifters, vampires, and people able to manipulate elements – and there appears to be no highway back to normal. When Ripley gets desperate enough to take the only job on offer, with the local Mob, he doesn’t realise the level of trouble he’s about to embroil himself in.

Caligation is a gritty urban fantasy read, featuring a moderately clueless human dropped into a world where almost everyone can kill him and a fair number of them want to. With a strong focus on the main character, this book gives a close-up of the cycle of denial, despair, and acceptance in a city where nothing is quite as it seems. The furred, scaled, and feathered alter egos of the story stole the show, to my mind, especially Nyx the crow who alternately thinks she’s a cat or a badger and loves head-scratches. While I found that the story started slowly, it gathered depth and momentum as it headed into a thought-provoking ending. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a read a little left of normal; it’s technically strong and the plot and characters will pull you in.

Bodacious Creed, Jonathan Fesmire

Bodacious Creed, Jonathan Fesmire

Bodacious Creed (The Adventures of Bodacious Creed Book 1)

Anna Lynn Boyd has done well for herself; madam of one of the most reputable brothels in Santa Cruz, surrounded by a loyal staff and with enough money to fund her own research into automatons. However, when the famous lawman James ‘Bodacious’ Creed comes to town in pursuit of a multiple murdered, Anna finds her safety, her business, and her cover at risk – and the only way she can fight back may involve opening the Pandora’s Box of her very private research publicly.

Bodacious Creed was my first-ever steampunk-zombie-Western, and I must admit that if my brush through the first few pages hadn’t immediately grabbed my attention, I might have moved on to one of my better-trodden stamping grounds. I would have missed out if I had done so. The melding of genres worked extremely well, and the underlying plot structure was well-thought through and plausible. I found that the variety of the automatons, their functions, and their designs was one of the strongest parts of the book, which supported various twists and turns as the story progressed. The pacing was also excellent. I did find a few areas where a detailed copy-edit would have enhanced the excellence of the read, but overall I would recommend this book without hesitation, and I’ll be looking out for more stories from this author.

Circuit Trilogy, Rhett C Bruno

Circuit Trilogy, Rhett C Bruno

The Complete Circuit Trilogy (Omnibus Edition)

Executor Rising
Progeny of Vale
Earthfall

Talon Rayne, ex-enforcer to one of the overlords of the Ceresian clans, is dying. The element that provides gravity to the stations and asteroids that house humanity in the solar system is lethal on direct exposure, and his days are numbered. Isolated as he is from his previous position, the rumours are still disturbing; freighters going missing, and the Tribunal, fervent worshippers of the spirit of Earth, are stepping up their enforcement among the scattered settlements that humanity calls home. When Talon’s previous masters call on him for one last mission, Talon has no idea what he’s about to stumble into…

The Circuit Trilogy is an epic science-fiction adventure from author Rhett C Bruno, set in a future where unrestricted resource exploitation has left Earth itself uninhabitable, and the human population is spread through the solar system in a web of stations, moons, and asteroids. With an eclectic group of protagonists, including ex-Tribune Cassius Vale, a dying Ceresian, and  a very current, increasingly disaffected Tribunal Enforcer, the conflicts of personality and ideology run deep. In some cases, I felt that the characters could have been developed more early on; any hints concerning why Sage Volus acts as she does aren’t forthcoming for some time, which made her more difficult to relate to early in the story. Equally, while the reader becomes increasingly aware of the depth of the world-building as the trilogy progresses, it isn’t very apparent in the earlier stages of the story, and frankly I feel it deserves the mention. However, with a storyline rife with politics and plots, and the stakes nothing less than Earth itself, this trilogy is an enjoyable read.

Only Human, Leigh Holland

Only Human, Leigh Holland

Only Human (Act One): The Pooka’s Tales: Speak of the Devil

Cobbles are hard. They’re hard regardless of whether you’re human, or a semi-mythical being out of Celtic folklore currently disguised as a harmless pigeon. While reflecting on this unfortunate fact, our hero is picked up by the parish priest. However, with healing comes shape-changing, and with shape-changing come unwelcome questions, like ‘What are you?’ and ‘What’s your story?’

Only Human Act I: The Pooka’s Tales: Speak of The Devil is an interesting take on Christian mythology as interpreted by a Twyleth Teg, a figure out of Celtic fairy tales. The protagonist’s turn of phrase is entertainingly narcissistic, although unfortunately he’s the unseen narrator through most of the book. I say ‘unfortunately’, because the interplay between the self-absorbed, joke-cracking ‘Rory’ and the sober parish father was one of the strongest aspects of the read for me.

To anyone familiar with the TV show ‘Lucifer’, some of the set-up of the main tale will be familiar, along with the portrayal of the Devil as a misunderstood anti-hero. The writing makes light going of subject matter that has bogged down many a story, and the pacing is excellent. I, personally, have issues with stories that go through multiple layers of reality, so I found that aspect of the book off-putting, but I have to give the overall idea points for original characters.