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.
by Stephen Jones
Respected horror anthologist Stephen Jones edits this collection of 17 stories inspired by the 20th century’s master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which a young man goes to an isolated, desolate fishing village in Massachusetts, and finds that the entire village has interbred with strange creatures that live beneath the sea, and worship ancient gods.
"Editor Stephen Jones has chosen some of the best writers out there to compliment the third volume in the series and I am so glad that Titan published them again as they are a treasure to those who want to read more Lovecraftian horror."
by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus is a mage who can see the future, but even he didn't see this day coming. He's agreed to join the Keepers, the magical police force, to protect his friends from his old master, the Dark Mage Richard Drakh. Going legit was always going to be difficult for an outcast like Alex, and there are some Keepers who aren't keen to see an ex-Dark mage succeed. Especially when Dark mages are making a play for a seat on the council, for the first time in history. Alex finally has the law on his side - but trapped between Light and Dark politics, investigating a seedy underworld with ties to the highest of powers, will a badge be enough to save him?
"In the end, I ploughed through this book, oblivious to all external stimuli. There is nothing better in urban fantasy at the moment than Alex Verus, and no one better at writing it than Benedict Jacka."
by Chuck Wendig
Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged. Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move - one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life. The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted? They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.
"I really enjoyed Blightborn, much much more than Under The Empyrean Sky, and it's because Wendig improved on everything I liked about the first book while addressing some of the issues. He increased the complexity of the world and underpinned it with a rich and fascinating history. He introduced a far more compelling overarching plot that I want to see through to its final resolution. He made the characters far more sympathetic and relatable, with a more diverse range of motivations driving these characters in interesting directions. He made me want to drop everything and read the third book, and for me, that is the most important part of all."
by Lucinda Hare
The Grand Master sat back in his chair with his blue eyes closed and sent a small prayer earthwards. The White Sorcerer had returned a little after the hour of the sabre-toothed rabbit, having encountered difficulties no greater than an ageing broom; but the news he brought was the worst possible; their fears justified; the WarLock known as the Black Raven for his totem had indeed returned to his ancient lair in the realm of men.
"In short, this is a book for everyone. Want to enter Hare’s world - pick up this book. You don’t have to have read the Dragonsdome Chronicles to understand this (but they are brilliant - so you really should read them!). The final difference with this book was Hare’s fantastic illustrations - saved only for the front cover of the previous novels, The Sorcerer’s Glen is filled with them - the work of both Hare and local primary school children. Overall: This book gets 5 toffee-wands (out of five!)."
by Jon Wallace
Kenstibec is a Ficial - a genetically engineered artificial life form; tough, skilled, hard to kill. Or at least he was. He's lost the nanotech that constantly repaired him. Life just got real. Just like it is for the few remaining humans in this blighted world - the Reals; locked in a fight over a ruined world with the Ficials they created to make Utopia. And now Kenstibec must take a trip to the pinnicle of our failed civilisation. The Steeple is a one thousand storey tower that looms over the wreckage of London. It is worshipped, feared and haunted by attack droids and cannibals. And the location of a secret that just might save Kenstibec's life.The only way is up.
"Steeple exceeds the first volume of its trilogy in terms of character and plot. It is fast paced with a lot of interesting action set pieces, but it also gives us the time to find out a lot more information about the word before the events in Barricade. Steeple is focused on a smaller geographical area than Barricade and this gives us a better understanding of what is left of the human population and the everyday world that they have to live in. Steeple has really left me wondering what chaos Kenstibec will bring to the third book and Jon Wallace’s imagination has shown me that if the sky’s the limit, Kenstibec will find a way to bust through it."
by Anthony Ryan
Queen Lyrna has survived the bloody siege of Alltor. Now she must rally her troops and take back the capital from the Volarian invaders. But driving her hated enemy out of the Realm will not satisfy her lust for vengeance - she wants to pursue them across the ocean and burn their empire to ashes. To do so, she must place her faith in the Seventh Order: men and women who wield terrible powers, born of the Dark itself. Vaelin Al Sorna would sacrifice his life for his queen - and may yet have to. Only by unmasking the Volarians' mysterious Ally can the tide of war be turned. To this end, Vaelin must travel deep into the icebound north, in search of a man who cannot die - and he must do it without the aid of his blood song, which has fallen ominously silent...
"Queen of Fire is a perfect conclusion to a masterful trilogy. The characters are second-to-none, and though the author requires a bit too much retained knowledge on the part of the reader, it is made up for by relegating such revelations to secondary status behind the lives and outcomes of these characters we have grown to love, admire, and hate."
by Alex Marshall
Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history. Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.
"A Crown for Cold Silver reminded me a little of The City by Stella Gemmell in its structure and construct and Joe Abercrombie books in its dark motifs. If you like your Sanderson, Gemmell and Abercrombie then this is the book for you."
by Kelly McCullough
Aral Kingslayer has nothing to lose - and only justice to gain. Torn apart by the death of his goddess, he must avenge her in order to save himself from being lost forever... It’s been nine long years since the death of his patron, Namara, and exalted assassin Aral Kingslayer desperately misses the thrill and glory of being a higher power of justice. Now he is haunted by the ghosts of the past - and by the ghost of the lost goddess herself. When Namara calls upon Aral in a dream to seek justice for her death and the ruination of her temple, Aral must obtain the help of his fellow former Blades and his Shade familiar, Triss, to pursue the vengeance he knows Namara deserves. Even if it means attacking Heaven’s Son - and going against one of their own - in a bloody battle of epic proportions...
"Kelly McCullough’s Darkened Blade caps off a fantastic series of books that have all the speed and flare of Michael J Sullivan, and the depth of David Gemmell and James Barclay. They might be a quick read, and a little less polished than some of those McCullough may be compared to, but the enjoyment factor outweighs almost any criticism you could lay against this fantastic series."
by Peter Higgins
The Vlast stands two hundred feet tall, four thousand tons of steel ready to be flung upwards on the fire of atom bombs. Ready to take the dream of President-Commander of the New Vlast General, Osip Rizhin, beyond the bounds of this world. But not everyone shares this vision. Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian have not reached the end of their story, and in Mirgorod a woman in a shabby dress carefully unwraps a sniper rifle. And all the while the Pollandore dreams its own dreams.
"It does get a little too wordy and descriptive at times at the cost of moving the plot forward. Higgins is an undoubted master of words and world building, but I felt this one got a little bogged down in detail at times. I wanted the fast action and excitement of the first two and instead had long-winded descriptions. That is the one criticism of an otherwise flawless and excellently written thriller. Radiant State is a compelling and worthy conclusion to the Wolfhound Century series."
by Kelly McCullough
Aral was an assassin and sorcerer in the service of Namara, one of her Blades of Justice. Then his goddess was murdered, her temple destroyed and her followers slain or driven into hiding. For six years Aral's been living as a jack of the shadow trades, picking up odd jobs on the wrong side of the law and trying to stay out of sight. Now Aral's one time fiancee and fellow Blade, Jax needs his help. The forces that destroyed Namara are on the move again and she needs Aral's help to stop them. Before he knows it, Aral's been sucked back into a deadly assassin's war...
"Crossed Blades picks up a great story, and returns to the polished and fast-flowing writing style of the first book in the series. Kelly McCullough is definitely positioning himself alongside Michael J. Sullivan as a writer to be watched, writing compelling and fast-paced character-driven fantasy with a flair for the magical."
by Claire North
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. 'I nearly missed you, Doctor August,' she says. 'I need to send a message.' This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
"The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a slow story told sporadically by a man trying to remember all the important things that happened in his 15 previous lives that gradually weaves in and out of Harry's various lives giving you layers of context before accelerating towards a satisfying climax. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it to anyone looking for a great fusion between literary and sci-fi concepts."
by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars inhabitable. They were, they believed, mankind's last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie, and that the Red were nothing more than unwitting slaves to an elitist ruling class, the Golds, who had been living on Mars in luxury for generations. Darrow infiltrated Gold society, to fight in secret for a better future for his people. Now fully embedded amongst the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his dangerous work to bring them down from within. It's a journey that will take him further than he's ever been before - but is Darrow truly willing to pay the price that rebellion demands?
"Golden Son is an improvement on Red Rising in every single facet, which is quite a feat considering how much I enjoyed Red Rising. Brown has managed to take all of the cool things we love about action oriented sci-fi, and combine them with wonderful characters and a compelling story that seems to get deeper each time I look back on it. Also, the way Golden Son ended has convinced me that Pierce Brown is some sort of sadistic monster who enjoys seeing our reactions as our favourite characters are taken away."
by DK Mok
When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted--for political reasons--to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince. Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm. Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.
"There was no love story, save for one of friendship and familial love, and the hero was a girl cursed with destruction. I can safely say that this is one of my favourite stand alone fantasy novels, and that I definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys fantasy. "
by Ben H Winters
Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force. But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank’s safety is only relative, and his only relative - his sister Nico - isn’t safe. Soon, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out... for everyone.
"I thoroughly recommend this series to all readers who enjoy excellently written books exploring human behaviour within a pre-apocalyptic setting."
by Peter Newman
The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.
"There is a truism in the reading of the Vagrant, that people are the same regardless of whether they are Demon tainted or not, that they will survive by any means and resist even when the idea of hope is just that - a dream long forgotten, secreted away within their heart. Why are these concepts true? Because we are human and Newman has captured this attitude and portrayed it well."
by Kendall Kulper
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother - the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic - steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe's power. The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches' help to thrive. Avery has never read a dream that hasn't come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance.
"Ideal for readers wanting a coming-of-age story in a deeply involving setting with plenty of drama and emotion."
by Sebastien de Castell
Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats - legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom - have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission. Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King's final task: he has found his Charoites - well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren't for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio. That's not even mentioning the Greatcoat's Lament...
"Knight’s Shadow is a killer read that had me in my chair until 3 in the morning. And while I look forward to seeing Sebastien de Castell grow more as a writer, he’s already well on his way to being a favourite."
by Tim Marquitz
Escaped from prison and back in his own body, life has taken a turn toward the domestic for Frank “Triggaltheron” Trigg. His days are filled with diapers, formula, and baby farts, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course it couldn’t last. A raid on Frank’s home threatens his family and throws his life into chaos. He scrambles to survive, his enemies growing more numerous at every turn. Pushed into a corner, Frank must find a way to fight back before his world is razed to the ground, taking everyone he knows with it. And it’s only Monday.
"Collateral Damage is a big step forward, one that addresses the criticism of recent books while also paving a clear path forward. The story had a tight plot from start to finish, cool enemies for Frank to fight, it made me laugh, it made me emotional, it was still a lot of fun, and it left me wanting more Demon Squad right now."
by George RR Martin
Among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, romantic figures who cross treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms, to bring news, gossip, songs and stories to a waiting populace. Maris of Amberly, a fisherman's daughter, wants nothing more than to soar on the currents high above Windhaven. So she challenges tradition, demanding that flyers be chosen by merit rather than inheritance.
"Windhaven may be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in the past two decades, but that surely makes it one of the best fantasy stories ever told."
by Pierce Brown
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope. Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
"Red Rising is a book that deserves all the hype it has been receiving. It is not a perfect book, the start can be hard to get into, and parts of the final act seem to be unnecessary at best, but there is so much awesome in this book that I find it easy to look past the faults. Red Rising is a book that has stayed with me for days after I finished reading it, and it has been a long time since a book had such an impact on me."
by Joe Abercrombie
Sometimes a girl is touched by mother war. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named murderer by the very man who trained her to kill. Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. Fate traps her in the schemes - and on the ship - of the deep-cunning minister Father Yarvi. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on her gruelling journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in his eyes and hers, he has one chance at redemption. And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a tool in the hands of the powerful or can she carve her own path? Is there a place beyond legend for a woman with a blade?
"Half the World is a fantastic book that clearly demonstrates Abercrombie's proficiency in the fantasy genre. Half a War cannot come soon enough."
by Mark Charan Newton
The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive... Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered - her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.
"I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Drakenfeld. Mark Charan Newton is an author who is not afraid to try something new, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways. I don't think it strictly falls into "New Weird" territory like his Legends of the Red Sun books seemed to, but it is refreshing to read a style of fantasy that I have not read before."
by Den Patrick
Ten years have passed since the disappearance of Lucien and his protégé, the young swordsman Dino, is struggling to live up to Lucien's legacy. Sworn to protect the silent queen Anea as she struggles to bring a new democracy to Demesne, Dino finds himself drawn into a deadly game of political intrigue as the aristocratic families of Landfall conspire to protect their privilege. Always ready to prove himself as a swordsman Dino is anguished to discover that in order to fulfil his vow he must become both spy and assassin. And all the while the dark secret at the heart of Demesne is growing towards fulfilment.
"The Boy Who Wept Blood takes us further into the world of Demesne and has many interesting twists and turns which keeps you interested in Dino’s dilemmas. It is utterly fascinating how this world has come together and I really enjoyed the fact that although this is a sequel, it has jumped ten years into the future with a completely different protagonist. This could be seen as risky, but in fact gives us a wider understanding of Landfall. I cannot wait to see what happens to Landfall in the following book in this sequence. Whether the next book will be a direct continuance or something completely new, only Den Patrick knows at this time."
by Brian McClellan
Field Marshal Tamas has finally returned to Adopest, only to find the capital in the hands of a foreign power. With his son Taniel presumed dead, Tamas must gather his beleaguered forces and formulate a plan to defeat the Kez - no easy task when you're outnumbered and can't tell friend from foe. The army is divided... With their enemy bearing down on them, the Adran command is in disarray. Someone, it seems, is selling secrets to the Kez. Inspector Adamat is determined to flush out the traitor, but as the conspiracy unravels, he will learn a horrifying truth. And all hope rests with one man... Taniel Two-Shot, the powder mage who shot a god in the eye, is on the run. He possesses the sole means of defeating the Kez, but to do so he must evade treachery at every turn. If he fails, Adro will fall.
"Make sure you check out the Powder Mage Trilogy, if you haven’t already, as it’s one of the top 10 books to come out this decade."
by Jonathan Stroud
Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.
"With a scary cover image from artist Siku, showing ghostly Glam ready to fight the monster, there are interior illustrations in ink drawn by the same artist in a shonen manga style. Jonathan Stroud's The Ghost of Shadow Vale is the perfect read near a roaring fire with a slice of cake and a hot drink. All Barrington Stoke novels are designed to be dyslexia friendly and other titles are; The Goblin of Tara by Oisin McGann, Young Merlin by Tony Bradman, Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Samurai by Ian Beck."
by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures - a talent that's gotten him and his friends out of many a tough scrape. But what happens when someone doesn't want Alex's help? Alex's friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she's in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne's problem is really with him - or if there's a secret she's trying to hide. On top of that, rumours are swirling around London that Alex's former master may be back in town. Alex has no idea what his agenda may be, or who it involves...
"More than simply recommending Hidden, by Benedict Jacka, to you, I want to use Hidden as a reason that you should be reading the entire Alex Verus series! Beautifully written, with characters wrought wholly in three dimensions that tug at your heartstrings and make you angry, this series is the current high point for urban fantasy – no questions asked."
by Charles de Lint
When asked to choose his “very best” stories, Charles de Lint went directly to his fans, who helped him select this collection of timeless, magical tales. From his beloved Newford to the streets of modern Ottawa, these stories take you effortlessly to a place where mystery and myth are right next door.
"Charles de Lint, a fantasy author who has left the same mark on the genre of myth and legend much as the likes of Sir Thomas Malory, Christian Anderson, Grimm, who has found them hiding away in Ottawa’s twilight, turned oral tradition into words on a page and allowed us to remember them all again."
by Daniel Falconer
The ultimate celebration of the final Hobbit movie reveals the full creative vision of the art and design teams, with almost 2,000 exclusive images, including designs and concepts that never made it to the big screen. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Chronicles – Art & Design is packed to bursting with more than 1,800 pieces of conceptual artwork created for the epic final instalment of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Learn how the battle for the Lonely Mountain was plotted, its armies designed and its landscapes shaped, through detailed commentary by the films’ Academy Award-winning creative team members at 3Foot7, Weta Digital and Weta Workshop. From Lake-town and Dol Guldur to Dale and Ravenhill, each section is richly illustrated with concept art depicting creatures, costumes, armour, props and environment design hand-picked by the artists themselves from the Dragon’s hoard of artwork generated for the film. Also included as a bonus feature, unique to this book, is a stunning full-colour, removable art print by Gus Hunter depicting a key moment in the trilogy. Compiled by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer, with a foreword by Costume Designer, Bob Buck, and introduction by Concept Art Director and renowned Tolkien artist, John Howe, this fifth volume in The Hobbit: Chronicles series has been created in full collaboration with key members of the production’s creative team to ensure the most comprehensive and authentic film companion possible.
"This book is, simply put, beautifully stunning. For any fans of The Hobbit movies, or fans of movie making in general, this is a must!"
by Roald Dahl
For the first time in a decade, Willy Wonka, the reclusive and eccentric chocolate maker, is opening his doors to the public--well, five members of the public, actually. The lucky five who find a Golden Ticket in their Wonka bars will receive a private tour of the factory, given by Mr Wonka himself. For young Charlie Bucket, this a dream come true. So when he finds a dollar bill in the street, he can't help but buy two Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights--even though his impoverished family could certainly use the extra dollar for food. But as Charlie unwraps the second chocolate bar, he sees the glimmer of gold just under the wrapper. The very next day, Charlie, along with his unworthy fellow winners Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop, steps through the factory gates to discover whether or not the rumours surrounding the Chocolate Factory and its mysterious owner are true. What they find is that the gossip can't compare to the extraordinary truth, and for Charlie, life will never be the same again.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has had a lot of attention over the years, and has at turns been called imperialistic, racist, patronising and disturbing. There have been countless merchandising deals (a shame the rights were bought by such a rotten chocolate maker as Nestlé), two film adaptations, various computer games, rides, and a Broadway musical. Behind all of that however is a very amazing book that was written fifty years ago, which is still just as fantastic and delightful today as it was back in the sixties. Great ideas, well crafted prose, and an understatement of its morality make Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a modern fairy tale that will likely be popular for years to come, among children and any adults who aren't entirely devoid of any sense of magic."
by Genevieve Cogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.
"The Invisible Library is a world I want to write in. I want the opportunity to play in this sandbox, to visit the Library and meet someone new, and to take them on adventures through this intricate and magical world of alternate Earths and mysterious interdimensional libraries. However, I will have to satisfy myself with Genevieve Cogman treating me to future stories in this world, and I would recommend that you give yourself that same opportunity."
by Patrick Rothfuss
The University, a renowned bastion of knowledge, attracts the brightest minds to unravel the mysteries of enlightened sciences like artificing and alchemy. Yet deep below its bustling halls lies a complex and cavernous maze of abandoned rooms and ancient passageways - and in the heart of it all lives Auri. Formerly a student at the University, now Auri spends her days tending the world around her. She has learned that some mysteries are best left settled and safe. No longer fooled by the sharp rationality so treasured by the University, Auri sees beyond the surface of things, into subtle dangers and hidden names.
"The Slow Regard of Silent Things is joyous offering of literary excellence and a heart-breaking delving of loss, loneliness and the mysteries that are Auri."
by Django Wexler
The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko. He will bow his knee to no Queen. Freshly returned from their recent victories abroad, Colonel Janus, Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass must defeat the Duke, using muskets, magic and every weapon at their command.
"The Thousand Names by Django Wexler is a great book, one you should definitely pick up the moment you have a free moment. Brilliant characters, majestic control of the story, and a fascinating world make this one of the best books I’ve read in a while."
by Sarah Pinborough
Toby's life was perfectly normal... until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test. Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium. No one returns from the sanatorium. Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes. Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.
"The Death House is a hard hitting story about growing up and having to deal with loss; loss of your family and sometimes yourself. The characters cling to a reality that they cannot go back to and constantly have to deal with seeing what happens to the people around them as well as living with the fact that it could be one of them next. All of the characters deal with this differently. I found myself caring about what happened to the characters as they are all portrayed brilliantly. Sarah Pinborough has managed to write one of the saddest love stories I have read in a while, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet by being tragic and yet also triumphant. This story leaves you like some of the best books I have read with a lot of questions that do not detract from the overall story."
by Ann Leckie
Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she only has a single body and serves the emperor she swore to destroy. Given a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to the only place in the galaxy she will agree to go: to Athoek station, to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew - a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.
"Ancillary Sword is quite easily the best book I’ve read so far this year, and unless I encounter a surprise-Terry Pratchett release, I do not imagine that changing by the time the year is done. Ann Leckie continues her meteoric rise to fame, thanks to a thrilling combination of imagination, storytelling prowess, and intelligence. If you haven’t yet, make sure you pick up both books in the series as soon as you can – wines may get better with age, but books deserve to be enjoyed now." Joshua S Hill
by Robert Jackson Bennett
You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air. The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth - but it is likely to cost her everything.
"City of Stairs definitely makes my list of favourite fantasy novels, and I would definitely read a sequel, as well as more of Bennett's work. Excellent and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it." Kat Berwick
by Django Wexler
Late one night Alice Creighton hears her father having an argument with a fairy – a snarling, bald beast with warts and needle-like teeth. The next day her father disappears, never to return. And Alice is sent to live with Master Geryon, an uncle she never even knew existed. Geryon has a dark, mysterious library which is strictly off-limits to Alice. But after meeting a talking cat who is willing to sneak her in, Alice opens a book and suddenly finds herself inside it – and the only way out is by conquering the dangerous creatures within...
"There’s a small cast of well-defined and interesting characters; many readers will love the talking cat, Ashes, in particular. Despite being over three hundred pages, it gallops along nicely through 29 brisk chapters. There are secrets, subterfuges and spells galore amongst plenty of action and some humour." KM Lockwood
by Lindsay Clarke
The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler and richer than our own. So that those stories should not pass from the earth, I have decided to set down everything I know of the stories of the war at Troy – of the way it began, of the way it was fought, and of the way in which it was ended.
"Lindsay Clarke has repainted The Iliad for a modern audience in a manner that is breath-taking at times, done with a touch of humility and in a grandiose style. In taking on a new rendition of one literature’s greatest texts, he has opened himself to failure against the highest standard and, whilst one cannot better the Iliad, he has not done himself and his audience a disservice in making the attempt." travelswithadiplomat
by Kate Elliott
The world of Liath and Alain is breaking apart as King Henry's kingdom is savaged by earthly and supernatural forces, which they alone have the power to understand. The Eika warriors thirst for the King's land and power, their enmity sealed by generations of blood. Bitter in-fighting within King Henry's court and the ceaseless attrition of raiders also weaken his reign. Those who remain true must stay strong as the shadow of the Cursed Ones falls, and the spell holding the exiled from the planet fails. Liath must force her wild sorcery to maturity and Sanglant, her husband and King Henry's heir, must struggle to hold the realm together. The twin destinies of Liath and Alain may yet avert the destruction written in the stars.
"The fifth volume in the ‘Crown of Stars’ saga, The Gathering Storm, has been a long time coming (duly noted by the apologetic author) but the delay has been worth it. We find ourselves trailing two Eagles, Hanna and Hathui, the former riding to join Sanglant and Sapientia who have gone to Jinn trailing Bulkezu as their prisoner, the latter heading towards King Henry who has been possessed, the Skopos and the insidious Hugh. Amongst this the small fervent band of ‘heretics’, numbering Sigfrid, Ivar and the beautiful Baldwin amongst them end up at the monastery where Alain is desperately attempting to forget who he is and seek peaceful obscurity." travelswithadiplomat
by Jonathan Green
Fighting Fantasy gamebooks have sold over 17 million books worldwide, in over 30 languages. But when Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone sat down to write The Warlock of Firetop Mountain they had no idea this one book would go on to spawn another eighty or more titles, and have an immeasurable impact on a generation of children growing up in the 1980s. Part history, part celebration, YOU ARE THE HERO chronicles more than three decades of Fighting Fantasy. Written by Jonathan Green (author of seven Fighting Fantasy titles), this mighty tome will appeal to anyone who ever wiled away a washed-out summer holiday with only two dice, a pencil, and an eraser for company.
"Jonathan Green’s history of the Fighting Fantasy scores very nearly top marks from me due mainly to two main things. The first is the artwork, the book is crammed with the cover and internal art from all of the Fighting Fantasy books – I don’t think I can express in words how iconic these images are for a generation of fantasy literature fans. It is true, as Jonathan Green suggests that one of the main draws for the series were the monsters and pictures of the monsters that accompanied them; this is true of this book as well. If you have no interest in the history of Fighting Fantasy (hard to believe I know) this book should take pride of place in your collection anyway just for the sheer amount of great fantasy art (sometimes in very different styles) in one volume." Joe Warren
by John Scalzi
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves 'locked in' - fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. 1% doesn't seem like a lot. But in the US that's 1.7 million people 'locked in' - including the President's wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, 'The Agora', where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally 'ride' these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse...
"This is an inventive sci-fi story, with so many ideas buzzing around that you should feel disorientated and yet it is so well written that you never feel frustrated or lost by what has not yet been revealed. For speculative fiction the technology levels are not beyond our comprehension and at least communication-wise we seem to be heading in that direction. The political and business aspects that are based on power struggles work really well in this context. If you have never read anything by John Scalzi, I recommend going out and getting yourself a copy of Lock In as quickly as possible." Michelle Herbert
by Lucinda Hare
'The SDS must change if we are to survive. We have to become one people again, as we once were, who live and train and fight together. You have both demonstrated your ability to do this, young though you both are. You come from different peoples; one noble born, the other the son of a scout. One desiring to fly dragons when tradition allows only men to do so; the other proving in the best tradition of his people that you do not need to wield a sword in your hand to protect those you love.'
"But what truly separates Hare’s novels from other books is the deeper message they convey - and this continues with SDS. Hare offers us a world where the underdog can triumph, where you can be who you want to be, where girls can fly dragons, but also dress how they want. Quenelda is still very much a girl in a boys' world and this is what makes a story about old folklore so modern. We see Quenelda battle through, (literally, at times!) as she tries to deal with life as a young girl and her growing dragon magic. Once you've reached the last page, sit back and hope for a film adaptation and a line of frying pans as merchandise." Liz Wride
by JG Ballard
Through a ‘leaking’ of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees metamorphose into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering skins lurch down the river. Pythons with huge blind gemstone eyes rear in heraldic poses. Most flee the area in terror, afraid to face a catastrophe they cannot understand. But some, dazzled and strangely entranced, remain to drift through this dreamworld forest: a doctor in pursuit of his ex-mistress, an enigmatic Jesuit wielding a crystal cross and a tribe of lepers searching for Paradise.
"As readers we experience this transition through Ballard's coruscating language of prose, his fine attention to using a full prism of tropes that assail us with a sense of colour and light, time and time again. It is Louise Perot who idly notes that "when you first arrive here everything seems dark, but then you look at the forest and see the stars burning in the leaves". It is the reader who, at the final page, realizes the stars are Ballard's words, the leaves the pages of his novel, the forest the entirety of his masterpiece." travelswithadiplomat
by Ursula Le Guin
George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality - and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power. Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George's powers, he comes to astonished belief. When he allows ambition to get the better of ethics, George finds himself caught up in a situation of alarming peril.
"This is a fantastic example of classic science fiction – a fascinating moral conundrum focusing on the question: Just because you can do something, does it mean you should?" Cat Fitzpatrick
by Mark Lawrence
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.
"Just go ahead and read Prince of Fools. It is a fantastic book that does so many things right, and that I have really struggled to find fault with. The Liar's Key cannot come fast enough." Ryan Lawler
by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. As Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it's something awful. This time, it's worse than that. Mab's involved Harry in a smash-and-grab heist run by one of his most despised enemies, to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure horde in the world - which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Dresden's always been tricky, but he's going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess - assuming his own allies don't end up killing him before his enemies get the chance...
"Skin Game is a celebration of the originals of Dresden novels, that time in his past when he only had to juggle a couple of near impossible challenges and survive. We now have a seasoned thinker and fighter able to handle whatever is thrown at him, and yes he still gets the proverbial handed to him most of the time. Stacking up the last three books, this has definitely been my favourite, this is Dresden through and through." Fergus McCartan
by Lauren Beukes
Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this. Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real. Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city. And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity. A killer who wants to make you whole again…
"If you’re a stickler for a novel to only be written in one genre, then this isn’t the book for you, for everyone else welcome to a truly intelligent story. Lauren Beukes goes from strength to strength with each book she writes." Michelle Herbert
by Darren Shan
When Hagurosan is told to take an offering to the shrine, he reluctantly begins his trek up the mountain. But when he gets hungry and eats the cake meant for the spirits, things take a turn that no one could have expected. Now Hagurosan must face the consequences of his actions.
"Hagurosan is an easy to read short novel that has a heart-warming ending, and a message that people could help each other in a crisis if they try."
by George Orwell
Animal Farm is set in a farmyard where the animals decide to seize the farmer's land and create a co-operative that reaps the benefits of their combined labours. However, some animals see a bigger share of the rewards than others, and the animals start to question their supposed utopia. Little by little, the rules begin to mysteriously change, and the pigs seem to gain power little by little, making the animals question what society they were striving for in the first place and whether their new-found freedom is as liberating as they might have hoped.
"Animal Farm by George Orwell was first published in 1945 and will be celebrating its seventieth birthday next year. It is still a keen area of debate whether it remains relevant for readers of this generation - I certainly believe it is, and the fact that it is still studied as part of the United Kingdom’s English Literature curriculum would add further credence to this opinion. I re-read the novella last night and found its themes and messages just as powerful, moving and relevant as they must have been seven decades ago." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review
by Edward Cox
Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us. It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls 100 feet high. Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh. The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth - and the lives of one million humans - Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.
"When I first started reading The Relic Guild, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I soon found myself engaged in the richness of Labrys Town and its varied residents. The story structure itself was split between many different perspectives and two different timelines, but this never felt confusing. Instead it was this structure that drew me in, wondering what had happened in the past that would lead to the events in the present." Michelle Herbert
by Tom Lloyd
The eyes of the Land are on the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan plots his revenge against Scree's rulers. Suffering under an unnatural summer drought and surrounded by volatile mercenary armies that may be its only salvation, the city is a strange sanctuary for a fugitive abbot to flee to, but he is only the first of many to be drawn there. Kings and princes, lords and monsters; all walk the sun-scorched streets while the evenings witness the performance of cruel and subversive plays that work their way into the hearts of the audience. Elite soldiers clash after dark and the city begins to tear itself apart as the sanity of its citizens crumbles, yet even chaos can be scripted. There is a malevolent will at work in Scree and one that has a lesson for the entire Land; nations can be manipulated, prophecies perverted, and Gods denied. Nothing lies beyond the reach of a shadow, and no matter how great a man's power, there some things he cannot be protected from.
"Tom Lloyd’s The Twilight Reign series is surely shaping up to be one of the best epic fantasy series of the past several decades, and while I’m late to the party, I can’t wait to keep going."
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