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The Watchers boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Watchers boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Watchers boxed set: If There Be Giants and Second Son

If you enjoyed Indiana Jones, and the interweaving of fact and myth, past and present, this series is for you. Author Ellison Blackburn takes a solid grounding of English weather and archaeology, and adds a breath of mythology and mystery that raises the plot from merely interesting to a delightful exercise in what-if.

If There be Giants

Mallory Jacks and her best friend, Paisley Bourne, shared a passion for archaeology as children. Years later, Drs. Jacks and Bourne, once again working together, are summoned to a farm where the farmer has uncovered a possible henge site. As they begin to unearth the stones, they make a discovery that has the potential to overturn both the scientific and the religious communities.

If There Be Giants is a story of archaeology and myths, giants and visions, set in Cornwall, the seat of all British legend. Ellison Blackburn has created a story richly woven with archaeological detail and Christian mythology, and peopled it with her strongly-characterised protagonists. This is one of the author’s strongest books to date, a fascinating debut to the new Watchers series.

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, following  Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book.

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale

Logan isn’t sure if he’s dreaming, dead, or simply finally lost his marbles. There’s a woman he should know, a personal history he should know, and all he has is a blank in his head. There are doors that lead to impossible geography and photos that could never have been taken. However, crazy or not, something is clearly very wrong – and like it or not, Logan has apparently been elected general saviour of the world.

Beyond the Vale is one of those books where you spend the first few chapters just as confused as the protagonist, trying to figure out what’s going on. The author succeeds in conveying that utter disorientation particularly realistically in this book. However, coming out of that disorientation, you will pretty much perforce be very keyed in on the characters in the plot; Logan’s development through the book is a key theme and provides a lot of food for thought, especially since his development is all you find out about him until the latter stages of the book, where some of his missing past comes to light. The storyline is richly layered, and provides more thinking material the deeper you choose to delve into it. Definitely something to pick up for all the fantasy fans out there.

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Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, picking up simultaneously to the ending of If There Be Giants. This installment follows Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs. However, Grey is faced with more and harder choices than he might have believed possible, and both he and his soul mate, Mallory Jacks, will be tested.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book. This second novel in the series focusses strongly on the interpersonal relationships of the characters, leaving the first book’s tale of the landmark discovery at Gwellen and its scientific exploitation more as a side note to Grey’s personal journey and the questions it raises. This book will definitely enthrall readers who enjoy exploring the boundaries between science, philosophy, and religious belief.

Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly (Original: Bruciate Lentamente, translated Sarah Jane Webb)

I really hate having to quit on a review read. Unfortunately, Burn Slowly was one of the ones I had to give up on. Part of the trouble I had with the story was the use of language. While it was fluently translated from the original, the narrative style was so densely-worded that the pace of the story was almost brought to a halt, and even deciphering what the story was, was challenging. For the record, my first language is English, but when I’d got a third of the way into the book, and still hadn’t come across enough to indicate whether I was reading a science-fiction tale, or a thriller, or the hallucinations of an unhealthy man on drugs, or even where any of the three options might be eventually headed, I’m afraid I stopped trying. To my regret, there is only so much time I can spend on forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying.

From what I was able to gather, the book may have had some strong points if my stamina hadn’t given out at the pacing. Among other things, the author had clearly done some research into ancient legends to support his book; the characters were definitely well-fleshed out. It just wasn’t enough to persuade me to keep pounding my head on the prose.

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak: World on Fire Book 1

Raven’s Peak takes a unique twist on urban fantasy, painting a thin veneer of normality across a reality of madness, murder, and demons, held back by the forces of the Council, a quasi-religious Star Chamber that works in total secrecy. However, the Council has its back to the wall, and their decision to bring one of their top hunters out of the black site prison where he’s been since he got too good at thinking like his prey precipitates the events of the whole story.

Lincoln Cole has managed to weave a lot of the Christian mythos of demons and exorcism into this plot, and the result is a nice mix of the darkness of ‘The Exorcist’ and the choreographed violence of ‘Kill Bill’. While I felt that the book could benefit from another proofread, the author’s talent and imagination were more than enough to draw me into the book, and his story and characters kept me there. The contrast between Haatim, a privileged son of the mundane world, and Abigail, a Council hunter trying to claw her way back after a demonic possession that cost her her mentor and most of her standing in the Order, is particularly well done.

Although Raven’s Peak is clearly the first in a series, it makes a strong standalone read and avoids the temptation to end in a real cliff-hanger. Abigail is guaranteed to please any reader who prefers heroines whose IQ exceeds their bust size, and the layers in the plot combined with the depth of the characters offers rich ground for many future books. I’ll be looking forwards to the next one.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.