Our recommended books of the month. Page 1.

Every month a book comes along that is just that little bit special, a book that stands head and shoulders above the others that have been read and reviewed. This book becomes our Book of the Month and below can be seen the winners since the award began in June 2009.

The Dog Stars

by Peter Heller

Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined.

"I’ve read a great deal in this genre over the past 30 years and I’ll put The Dog Stars up there with the best. And what makes it a more fulfilling read for today’s audience is that it is current and all the more believable for it. I guess the easiest (and arguably laziest) comparison I can make is to like this book to a cross between Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Stand. I should point out that its length is very much the former and not the mammoth size of the latter."

15+
9/10

Beren and Luthien

by JRR Tolkien

Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year. Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril. In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father's own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

"I recommend this book to those that have read many of Tolkien’s works. If you enjoyed Tolkien’s poetry editions, such as Beowulf a Translation and a Commentary and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, along with the books set in middle-earth then this will undoubtedly be for you. However, readers who are expecting to just enjoy a prose story will, ultimately, be disappointed with the content here."

15+
9/10

Stardust

by Neil Gaiman

Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...

"If you haven’t lost all sense of romance, and are able to still believe in the beauty of stars, Stardust is absolutely a must read."

12+
9/10

Senlin Ascends

by Josiah Bancroft

While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd. Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

"An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece where I was on Tom's side every step of the way. I'd read Arm of the Sphinx next if I could but as an #SPFBO judge, I'm currently busy trying to find some more gems like this."

15+
9/10

The Ninth Rain

by Jen Williams

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces - talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza 'Vintage' de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure'lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall...

"Hold onto your fantasy hats, broom sticks and dragons and any hope you had for not falling in love with Tor, Vintage and Noon."

15+
9/10

The Court of Broken Knives

by Anna Smith Spark

They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust. In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion and only one man can see it. Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built. The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.

"This book truly is grimdark of the highest order with one of the most complex, beautiful and destructive characters ever written. Queen of Grimdark is a pseudonym well earned. If you mixed beauty, darkness, complexity, death and poetry then you would have something that is a lot like Smith Spark's debut."

15+
9/10

With Blood Upon the Sand

by Bradley Beaulieu

Ceda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim--that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will--but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable. Ceda could become the champion they've been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Ceda's friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades. When Ceda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Ceda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her...

"The pacing in With Blood Upon the Sand is great, it is very descriptive and yet never boring. You really get a sense of fear for the characters wellbeing, not just physically, but emotionally. The story is very inventive with lots of twists making it heart-rending. Çeda’s story has a long way to go and I can only imagine that we are in for a tempestuous ride, especially with how the book ended on such a fantastic cliff-hanger."

12+
9/10

Dead Men Naked

by Dario Cannizzaro

After the sudden death of his best friend Neil, involving a 6-foot giant crow and quite some Tequila, Lou’s life takes an unexpected turn towards the impossible.  As Lou discovers his unwelcome gift to see Neil’s ghost, he starts to question his sanity; but the real challenge is just coming up. Mallory, a self-proclaimed medium, offers her services to help Neil pass over. Drunk on spirit, lust, and hope, Lou agrees to perform a ritual, which, unforeseen, leaves him alone to face death. Not any death, but his personal one; a skinny, sarcastic anthropomorphic embodiment of his end-of-time which - who? - goes by D. Summoned during the ritual, D will help Lou in the search for Angelene, Mallory's twin sister, the only clue to finding the medium-at-large, and reverse the ritual. The strange duo begins a road trip from dusty interstates to lousy strip clubs, during which they’ll have time to know each other and discuss the meaning of life, love, and what does it mean to be mortal.  Will our unconventional couple find Angelene, and persuade her to help in the search for Mal? Will Lou be able to save his friend Neil, or his own soul for that matter? But more importantly: will he make peace with his own Death?

"I would recommend this to fans of Neil Gaiman, particularly those who enjoyed the Sandman and Death comic book series’. Obscure constructs such as death have been personified, and the everyday world has been bombarded with the fantastic. However, that’s not to say that Cannizzaro writes like Gaiman; he is funnier for one and the structure of this book is far less regimented. This book is humorous, tragic at heart and, most of all, strangely perceptive. I recommend it most highly."

15+
9/10

Age of Assassins

by RJ Barker

Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land's best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder. In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.

"The writing style, to begin with, was unusual. I cannot put my finger on why exactly. It took me about a chapter and a half to understand the flow and appreciate what was being written here. I know it is difficult to write a story in the first person that is truly emotionally engaging yet Age of Assassins definitely is. This story is completely self-contained. The culmination is perfectly composed and the majority of the seeds that have been planted come to feature in the finale... but not all. This is a trilogy so of course there are some loose threads but the majority of these are implied throughout the background rather than at the forefront of the narrative. The epilogue sets things up brilliantly for Blood of Assassins. It is the perfect mix of fantasy and mystery. A stunning and mysterious debut outing where we follow deadly assassins that may be tracking an assassin who is even deadlier. Highly recommended."

15+
9/10

A Conjuring of Light

by VE Schwab

The precarious equilibrium among the four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari -begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. Lila Bard, once a commonplace but never common thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery and the Night Spire crew are attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible, as an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown and a fallen hero is desperate to save a decaying world...

0
10/10

Tyrant\'s Throne

by Sebastien de Castell

Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead King's dream: Aline is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In neighbouring Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies and even worse, he is rumoured to have a new ally: Falcio's old nemesis Trin. With the armies of Avares at her back, she'll be unstoppable. Falcio, Kest and Brasti go racing north to stop her, but in those cold, treacherous climes they discover something altogether different - and far more dangerous: a new player plans to take the throne of Tristia, and the Greatcoats, for all their determination and skill, may not be able to stop him.

"If I could recommend one series from the last five years that I hold up as the most action-packed and emotionally-riveting, I would be hard-pressed to look past Sebastien de Castell’s The Greatcoats Quartet."

12+
9/10

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

by Mathias Malzieu

Edinburgh, 1874. On the coldest night the world has ever seen, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation. But Dr Madeleine is no conventional medic and surgically implants a cuckoo-clock into his chest. Little Jack grows up different to other children: every day begins with a daily wind-up. At school he is bullied for his 'ticking', but Dr Madeleine reminds him he must resist strong emotion: anger is far too dangerous for his cuckoo-clock heart. So when the beautiful young street-singer, Miss Acacia, appears - pursued by Joe, the school bully - Jack is in danger of more than just falling in love... he is putting his life on the line.

"I found The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart to be a beautifully written and enchanting adult fairy tale. A lovely little novel and I would recommend it readers who also love Tim Burton’s films."

12+
9/10

Blackwing

by Ed McDonald

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

"This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree."

15+
9/10

A Tale of Time City

by Diana Wynne Jones

When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!

"Whether you’re a vintage Wynne Jones fan or are discovering her books for the first time as I was, whether you’re an eight year old more interested in reading than socializing, or indeed a thirty four year old still more interested in reading than socializing, Time City is absolutely worth a visit."

12+
9/10

The Guns of Empire

by Django Wexler

As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brilliant General Janus bet Vhalnich, the opposing powers have called all sides to the negotiating table in hopes of securing an end to the war. Queen Raesinia of Vordan is anxious to see the return of peace, but Janus insists that any peace with the implacable Sworn Church of Elysium is doomed to fail. For their Priests of the Black, there can be no truce with heretics and demons they seek to destroy, and the war is to the death. Soldiers Marcus d'Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass find themselves caught between their general and their queen. Now, each must decide which leader truly commands their loyalty--and what price they might pay for final victory. And in the depths of Elysium, a malign force is rising--and defeating it might mean making sacrifices beyond anything they have ever imagined.

"The Guns of Empire serves to further cement Django Wexler as one of the best authors currently writing, and his work as truly spellbinding. I am as excited and eager for the next book in the series as I am any author’s work, and am secretly pulling for a deus ex machina plot twist to save at least one of the characters from being stone dead."

15+
9/10

Red Sister

by Mark Lawrence

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse. Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive...

"The finale of this story was utterly breathtaking. Nona is one of my favourite characters in fiction. Lawrence has created one of the most engaging fantasy worlds that my mind has allowed me to visit."

15+
10/10

Wrath

by John Gwynne

Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh. Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he's to counter the threat Nathair represents. His life hangs in the balance - and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.

"If you follow the frequency of my reviews then you will be able to analyse that I have devoured the stories from John Gwynne's fantasy epic saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, at an inhuman pace, and the reason for this is that they are spectacularly envisaged works of art."

12+
10/10

Doomsday Book

by Connie Willis

For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin - barely of age herself - finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

"One of the major reasons I read speculative fiction; possibly the major reason, is to see beauty in darkness. To see flawed, real and decent human beings up against vast, incomprehensible and alien situations and see them triumph. Doomsday Book is a book with no gigantic battles, no sweeping events, and very little by way of actual villains, a small, intimate story of a tiny medieval village, one traveller a long way from home, and her mentor's efforts to help her. Yet, it is one of the most truly compelling books I've read for a considerable time and one I wouldn't hesitate in recommending."

15+
9/10

Ruin

by John Gwynne

The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make; choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands. Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm. Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow - he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.

"This is one of the top 15 books I have ever read. It did everything that an author should aspire to present to a reader. Mythical, magical, intense, brutal, poignant. If you are reading this and have not started The Faithful and the Fallen, stop being silly."

12+
10/10

The Creeping Shadow

by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Lockwood needs her help. Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover! What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick. But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core...

"This is a grisly tale, in the best possible way. You’ll jump, laugh, be moved and be left wanting copious amounts of tea and biscuits. What else can I say? It’s brilliant, just as expected, just like every book I’ve read by Stroud. The scariest thing of all though is that the next book might just be the last... Please say it ain't true."

12+
10/10

The Burning Page

by Genevieve Cogman

When it's your job to save the day - where do you start? Librarian spy Irene has standards to maintain, especially while on probation. And absconding from a mission via a besieged building doesn't look good. But when her escape route home goes up in flames, what's a spy to do? However, it seems Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across dozens of worlds. Worse still, her nemesis Alberich is responsible -and he plans to annihilate the Library itself. Irene and assistant Kai are posted to St Petersburg, to help combat this threat. Here Alberich emerges, as Irene tries to save her friend Vale and foil assassination attempts. Then one incredibly dangerous opportunity to save the Library emerges. Saving herself would be a bonus…

"This is not just an admirable follow up, but an author in complete control of her talent and her characters. The Burning Page is not only hard to put down, it’s hard to walk away from."

12+
9/10

Valour

by John Gwynne

The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize... Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

12+
9/10

Rig

by Jon Wallace

‘My nanotech is dead. By definition I am no longer Ficial. On the other hand I don't experience your emotions. That makes me inhuman. Like I said: neither one nor the other.' Caught in a world that is too busy destroying itself to care for anything except how to exploit the weak, Kenstibec is the ultimate outsider: he used to be invulnerable but now he's just a killer with no-one to kill for. But when the old world is ending everyone needs a reason to live, someone to live for. Kenstibec is on a quest. A quest that will take him across a freezing ocean and into the cold heart of a new world order.

15+
9/10

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

"When I finished the last page of The Bear and the Nightingale, I was exhausted. Not in a bad way, but it really is an emotionally draining novel. So much of the story is very personal and Ms. Arden does an excellent job of making you emotionally invested in the characters. It is truly a testament to Ms. Arden’s skill in her craft that she can create such a wonderful reading experience."

15+
10/10

Time: The Immortal Divide

by KS Turner

This world and all worlds are fated to end. The prophet, Jychanumun, has tried to prevent it. He has spent millennia walking between life and death to find a way. The powerful Shaa-kutu have tried to prevent it. They have fought with wits and weapons and given their all. Despite their best, nothing seems capable of stopping the formidable Arrunn from completing his final fateful move. So, can Tachra change that fate? Tachra stands between shadow and light. She has no tools or weapons, only the Earth power and true-vision. Perhaps her fellow humans will ascend to greater knowledge and unlock a new discovery. Or, if she can decipher the Book of Fate, perhaps that will hold a key to saving them all. But when that last prophecy comes, will she make the right choice?

"I have been highly impressed by Turner’s trilogy throughout. I’ve loved the ambition, the attempt to bring something fresh to the genre and I’ve also liked the style, the pacing and the thoughtfulness imbued throughout the work."

12+
9/10

Gilded Cage

by Vic James

A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything. Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

"In the end I was left emotionally spent and wanting another book to read immediately so that I can find out more about this amazing world that Vic James has envisioned. Extremely impressed is all I can really say. I recommend this to everyone regardless of what genre is your favorite. Even though it would be classified as Dystopian, the story is so well-written and compelling that any reader can appreciate and enjoy it."

15+
9/10

The BFG

by Roald Dahl

"A true genius ... Roald Dahl is my hero" David Walliams

"Terror, wonder, love of language and hints at a wide and fantastic world, The BFG has it all. I can only echo the BFG's words about his own favourite book, Nicholas Nickleby by Darlse Chickens: "I is reading it hundreds of times and I is still reading it and teaching new words to myself and how to write them. It's the most scrumdiddlyumptious story"." Fantasy Book Review

On a dark, silvery moonlit night, Sophie is snatched from her bed by a giant. Luckily it is the Big Friendly Giant, the BFG, who only eats snozzcumbers and glugs frobscottle. But there are other giants in Giant Country. Fifty foot brutes who gallop far and wide every night to find human beans to eat. Can Sophie and her friend the BFG stop them? Let's hope so - otherwise the next child a gruesome giant guzzles could be YOU.

9+
10/10

The Golem and the Djinni

by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899. Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

"The Golem and the Djinni is first rate historical fantasy fiction which makes you care deeply about the characters and instils and eagerness and a need to find how it will all end. It is a wonderful debut novel that brings to life a 1899 New York every bit as atmospheric as the London Conan Doyle created for Holmes. This is a book that consistently delights, a charming love story with pleasing emotional depth."

15+
9/10

The Watcher of Dead Time

by Edward Cox

Labrys Town, home to a million humans cut off from the rest of the universe, has been invaded. Those who protected it have been deposed. The Relic Guild are scattered across the worlds of the Aelfir. Many of them are dead or dying. The Genii control everything. The war is almost over. Clara, a young woman barely able to control her werewolf side, has seen her friends and mentors killed in front of her. She is the last hope for Labrys Town. But someone else is watching...

15+
9/10

Dragonlance

by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world. No one expected them to be heroes.

"Today’s generation of teenagers would say you do not understand magic if you have not read Harry Potter. Yet, every generation should understand that they are not the first to tread in dreams of magic and if you love Harry, then you will love Dragonlance."

12+
10/10

Hope and Red

by Jon Skovron

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly trained as a warrior and instrument of vengeance. Red, an orphan adopted by a notorious matriarch of the criminal underworld, learns to be an expert thief and con artist. Together they will take down an empire.

"Superb fantasy packed with daring pirates, brave warriors, intelligent thieves and revolution. Hope and Red is a phenomenal read with something for everyone – I can’t wait for the next book in the series."

12+
10/10

The City of Mirrors

by Justin Cronin

In life I was a scientist called Fanning. Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died. I died, and then I was brought back to life… Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future. What she finds is not what she's expecting. A journey into the past. To find out how it all began. And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.

"If you have already read the first two volumes, you probably need no encouragement to move on to the third. If not, you can be sure that this is one trilogy whose conclusion is in no way a let down, and seen as a whole, is a truly exceptional work, and one which I suspect will be joining [The Lord of the Rings] and the [Duncton Chronicles] on my frequent rereads list, quite astounding for something which I initially thought would be "a fun zombocalypse"."

15+
10/10

A Study in Brimstone

by GS Denning

Warlock Holmes is an idiot. Frankly, he couldn't deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are his arcane power, the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety ... and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

"I have to admit to laughing a lot reading this, and I haven’t laughed like this for a long time. If Conan Doyle wrote literary masterpieces, this was a true guilty pleasure and enormous fun. I understand Denning is already working on the next Warlock Holmes adventure, and I predict this will be a very popular series."

15+
9/10

Burned

by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus has a magic shop in Camden, London, and an uncanny ability to see the future. But suddenly everyone can see Alex's future. Because the Mage's Council of Great Britain just named him a traitor and ordered his death in seven days' time, and there's no way anyone can get out of that. Alex's friends - Luna and the other apprentices he's taken in - are tainted by association. They'll be marked for death too when the ruling comes into play, and Alex becomes locked in a race against time to save them. But with only seven days to work with, will he have time left over save his own skin?

"Benedict Jacka books, no matter how far into the series we progress, remain must-reads for anyone reading this review. Benedict Jacka writes books that I can’t put down, turn aside, or sleep on. They must be read immediately, and I am left an emotional wreck once they finish, knowing that I have to wait months until I can return to the company of some of my favourite characters."

15+
9/10

This Savage Song

by VE Schwab

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one is safe and monsters are real...

"This is an intriguing start to a new series, there are a lot of questions about who ultimately benefits from the truce ending, will it be humanity or the monsters?"

12+
9/10

Jurassic Park

by Michael Crichton

On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park. An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now one of mankind's most thrilling fantasies has come true and the first dinosaurs that the Earth has seen in the time of man emerge. But, as always, there is a dark side to the fantasy and after a catastrophe destroys the park's defence systems, the scientists and tourists are left fighting for survival...

"This is definitely a modern classic. This is the book that I recommend to anyone that asks me for a book to read. There are very few books that I can actively read over and over again and still find them as amazing as I did the first time I read them, and this is definitely one of those books."

15+
10/10

Infernal

by Mark de Jager

Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by a war, as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction. Disoriented and pursued relentlessly by enemies, he will have to learn what he truly is, or risk bringing the world into ruin...

I for one am eager to read more from the author – newcomer Mark de Jager. As a writer he has a flair for this type of story, and I can see him taking the character of Stratus far. If you enjoy the likes of Joe Abercrombie, this is definitely a book to check out and an author to keep an eye on.

- Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Stiletto

by Daniel OMalley

THE CHECQUY: A centuries-old covert organization that protects the nation from supernatural threat. THE GRAFTERS: A centuries-old supernatural threat. After centuries of rivalry and bloodshed, two secret and otherworldly organisations - The Checquy and The Grafters - are on the verge of joining forces, and only one person has the supernatural skills - and the bureaucratic finesse - to get the job done: Myfanwy Thomas. But as a wave of gruesome atrocities sweep London, ingrained paranoias flare, old hatreds ignite and negotiations grind to a halt. It is up to Myfanwy to find the culprits before they trigger a devastating, all-out, supernatural war between the reluctant allies.

"Stiletto will make you laugh out loud and cringe in horror, but will never leave you bored. Whether you’re a fan of urban fantasy, London, or whether you just enjoy good writing, Stiletto must make an appearance on your bookshelf, electronic or wooden, soon. This is definitely one of my favourite books so far this year, and I can’t wait for more."

12+
9/10

The Last Mortal Bond

by Brian Staveley

The Annurian Empire is losing a war on two fronts - and it's unclear who is in command. Adare is stationed in the thick of battle and now calls herself Emperor. However, she can't hold back the nomadic Urgul forces for much longer. She needs her brilliant general, Ran il Tornja, but will he betray her again? Her brother Kaden is the true heir, yet he'll accept a Republic to save his divided people. And he faces something even more terrible than war. He's unmasked Ran il Tornja as a remnant of an ancient race who attempted to destroy mankind. The general plans to finish what they started, and is amassing all the power he needs. The empire calls on the Kettral, its toughest soldiers, but their order has been decimated. Its last fighters are in disarray, but could they still turn the tide of war? Most disturbingly of all, capricious gods walk the earth in human guise. And their desires could seal the fate of a world.

"For anyone who maybe read the first book and didn’t think much of it, or for those who simply haven’t gotten around to The Last Mortal Bond yet, I recommend you drop whatever you are doing and pick it up. Brian Staveley writes a story that is inescapable in its tragedy and beauty, covering peaks and valleys both literal and literary, and leaving you intriguingly haunted by what we have witnessed."

12+
8/10

Twelve Kings

by Bradley Beaulieu

In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she's never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha'ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It's the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother. As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools - they've ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she's ready to face them once and for all.

"Bradley Beaulieu has written a beautiful novel that is intricately detailed without ever feeling overly complicated. The characters, of which there are many, are well written and their lives feel whole, even the characters who may only be seen in a chapter or two. Each character is given a role that will further Çeda and Emre's story. There is a rich mythology flowing through the story and I really enjoyed the history of the Twelve Kings and how, even they are not as harmonious as you would imagine. This is a story that shows how important the narrative you tell will affect your own standing in the world."

12+
10/10

The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats

by Mark Hodder

Sir Richard Francis Burton's expedition has returned from the future, bringing with it knowledge of technologies that must remain secret if history is to proceed as it should. However, when one of his colleagues turns rogue, the secret falls into the hands of the very people most likely to misuse it. Betrayed, Burton and Swinburne watch in horror as the Empire's elite employ the technology to secure their positions of privilege. When London's parks are transformed into concentration camps, artists and philosophers are declared enemies of the State, and propaganda proliferates, the king's agent finds himself on the wrong side of—the king! Can Burton and his band of hunted revolutionaries overthrow an apparently indestructible and immortal autocrat ... and if so, at what personal cost?

"This book provides a triumphant ending to the series. I remain hopeful that we will see the adventures of the unlikely heroes again in some form or another."

15+
9/10

Stranger of Tempest

by Tom Lloyd

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he's not forced to rely on others or kill without cause. Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won't turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he's met over the years. So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine...

"Although Stranger of Tempest isn't perfect, there are a lot of positives here. I thought this book had a great opening, an awesome ending, and relentless action scenes - with good humour and crew comraderies thrown into the mix for good measure. This can be read as a complete standalone as everything is wrapped up nicely. I am pretty excited about the follow-up Princess of Blood which I believe is due for release July 2017. This is pretty enjoyable fantasy story with a protagonist that cares."

15+
8/10

The Silent Army

by James A Moore

The City of Wonders has been saved by nearly miraculous forces and the Silent Army is risen, ready to defend the Fellein Empire and Empress Nachia at any cost. The power that was hidden in the Mounds is on the move, seeking a final confrontation with the very entities that kept it locked away since the Cataclysm. Andover Lashk has finally come to accept his destiny and prepares to journey back to Fellein. The Sa’ba Taalor continue their domination over each country and people they encounter, but the final conflict is coming: The Great Wave of the Sa’ba Taalor stands to destroy an empire and the Silent Army prepares to stop them in their tracks. Caught in the middle is the Fellein Empire and the people who have gathered together on the final battlefield. The faithful and the godless, the soldiers and killers alike all stand or fall as old gods and new bring their war to a world-changing end. Some struggles are eternal. Some conflicts never cease. The Gods of War are here and they are determined to win.

"The Silent Army is a book that improves on every facet that made its predecessors great. This feels like a satisfying conclusion to the first arc of a much bigger story, because this book ends a bunch of plot threads that began right back at the start of the first book, but it leaves some big threads wide open begging for more. I need more stories set in this world. Please indulge me, Mr Moore."

12+
10/10

The Wheel of Osheim

by Mark Lawrence

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth getting back out alive and with Loki's Key is all that matters. Loki's creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jal's fortune back in the living world. Jal plans to return to the three Ws that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other, larger, plans... The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster and it will crack the world unless it's stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there's nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jal and Snorri face many dangers - from the corpse-hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue; but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim will exert its power. In the end it's win or die.

"This book has everything - magic and sci-fi, humour and horror, truths and lies, and then some more lies. There is no unnecessary obfuscation of secrets within secrets behind secrets - the Red Queen's war is a rather transparent war that creates drama by putting characters in situations with many viable solutions, and not knowing which one the characters are going to pick. This trilogy is essential reading for all fantasy readers."

15+
10/10

Daughter of Blood

by Helen Lowe

Malian and Kalan are coming home, but already it may be too late. The Wall of Night, dangerously weakened by civil war among the Derai families that garrison it, is on the verge of failing. Everywhere their ancient enemy, the Darksworn, is on the move as the threads of an old pattern begin to tighten about Kalan, and Malian searches for answers in the fabled Shield of Heaven, which every account agrees was broken beyond repair. In Grayharbor and in the Red Keep, a child and a young woman are caught in conflict's maw, as whispers gather around Dread Pass and a Darksworn prophecy points to Malian herself being the stake the ancient enemy will drive into the heart of the Derai Alliance.

"Helen Lowe need not be stereotypically compared to George R. R. Martin, for she has as much of the talent with her own way of writing that she should be a household name for fantasy readers the world over. The Wall of Night is shaping up to be a modern classic of fantasy storytelling, and needs to be on your to-read list."

12+
9/10

A Gathering of Shadows

by VE Schwab

Kell is plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, he is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila. As Red London prepares for the Element Games - an extravagant international competition of magic - a certain pirate ship draws closer. But another London is coming back to life, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning. Black London has risen again - and so to keep magic's balance, another London must fall.

"Although I wasn't a big fan of A Darker Shade of Magic, I found that I was unable to put down A Gathering of Shadows. The characters are a lot more engaging and the supporting characters feel more well rounded, with the inclusion of other empires the world is far larger and it was really interesting to get other points of view on magic in a world full of it. There are many plot points leading into the next novel, but the cliffhanger really does make you hope that the third book will be coming sooner rather than later as it leaves you wondering what will happen to each of the characters!"

12+
9/10

The Liar\'s Key

by Mark Lawrence

The Red Queen has set her players on the board… Winter is keeping Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the luxuries of his southern palace. And although the North may be home to his companion, the warrior Snorri ver Snagason, he is just as eager to leave. For the Viking is ready to challenge all of Hel to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has Loki’s key - now all he needs is to find the door. As all wait for the ice to unlock its jaws, the Dead King plots to claim what was so nearly his - the key into the world - so that the dead can rise and rule.

"The Liar's Key does everything a good sequel should do - it moves the story forward whilst improving on every facet of the previous book. Lawrence is getting better with every book, and I can't wait to see how he concludes this story with The Wheel of Osheim."

15+
10/10

Nod

by Adrian Barnes

Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no-one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no-one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand can still sleep, and they've all shared the same golden dream. A handful of children still sleep as well, but what they're dreaming remains a mystery. After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises.

"For me, the story is excellent, dark and doom laden enough to encourage me to read on to the very last page, the characters well created and fleshed-out, this is one for those who like their doom extra dark and disturbing."

15+
9/10

The Sudden Appearance of Hope

by Claire North

My name is Hope Arden. I am the girl the world forgets. It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit - you will never remember who I am. That makes my life tricky. It also makes me dangerous...

"The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an excellent novel. It's not one that will entertain as much as her previous novels, but one that looks at complex themes with much more depth before providing a biased social commentary. For that reason I can't say that this book is for everyone, there is barely any escapism to be found here. This book will engage you with the prevalent social issues of today (mid-2016), making you pause and think about our pursuit of perfection as defined by Hollywood and the mainstream media."

12+
9/10

Morning Star

by Pierce Brown

Darrow is the reaper of Mars. Born to toil, carved to fight, destined to lead. But he is a broken man. Exposed as a Red in a world ruled by Golds, he has been captured and tortured until he is something less than human. And yet, he is humanity's last chance. He must call on every last ounce of strength in facing a godlike, ruthless enemy. Darrow was born a Red. He became a Gold. Now he must transcend them all and become the hero his people believe he is.

"Pierce Brown finishes his first trilogy with an almighty bang, and has now let us know that there will be more books to come in this universe with a handful of favourite characters returning (those who survived at least). I can think of only a handful of other debut trilogies that have come close to what Brown has achieved, and it's scary to think that Brown will only get better from here."

12+
7/10

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