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I do think the author is a remarkable story teller and I very much enjoyed reading the book. It was very pleasing to see how quickly the action was launched and how the novel maintained its pace. The first sentences almost had the rhythm of the horse’s feet and I loved the fact there were no wasted words. Reading and enjoying the first few paragraphs of a new novel is often key to whether the reader reads on and I loved this first chapter, which could have belonged to many genres. The novel has a clear story line full of well distinguished characters with quite distinct personalities. Obviously as it is based on actual historical events there is an interest in ondering about the accuracy and truthfulness of the portrayal. In this case that simply adds to the general intrigue. Most of the writing is extremely plausible but there were odd moments when I had doubts - for example I had to suspend belief in the scene between Goering and Margaret where they held their conversation. I found it difficult to believe Margaret was likely to pick up important information within the pattern of her life. However this did not detract in any way from my enjoyment of the book. Setting the novel during the mid part of the twentieth century gives it solidity and purpose. It is instructing the reader at the same time and giving a neat and clear explanation of what was happening during the pre-war and war years. For a reader it is always good to learn something from a novel which is separate from understanding the plot and the interaction between characters. I would highly recommend this book. Maxine Broadbent
Gosh this a fascinating little book, I really did feel as though I was discovering a forgotten manuscript. Translators notes greet you at the start, advising that a complete text from the 11th century has been found and translated using cryptology. Thomas Woodward describes his life from 1066 when he was taken in after a raid and trained to become a spy, through to 1098 when he explains his life and the decisions he has made to his son. James Hutson-Wiley has created a simple diary-like discourse, Thomas describes the world around him, in particular, the trade of goods, including sugar, with clarity. Stuffed full of interesting tidbits I sank into this world and galloped through the pages. The Sugar Merchant surprised me, I thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn to the 11th century and found a fluid, absorbing and worthwhile read.
The Devil’s Apprentice is a YA fantasy novel written from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old boy who finds himself in hell – literally. It’s an adventure story with a twisty mystery to solve, with some innocent early-teen romance and historical references as well. It’s the first book in The Great Devil War series. The book is very well written and well translated from Danish, with plenty of dark humour. It features impressive world building through vivid imagery, and I enjoyed visualising the author’s clever concept of Hell and its occupants. The Devil’s Apprentice reminded me of the Harry Potter series, as the plot is complex enough to satisfy teenagers and adults (of all ages), yet simple enough to entertain pre-teens. It covers some moralistic themes, including good versus evil, knowing right from wrong and that even the most angelic people can have a dark side, so its suitability will depend on a child’s maturity. As expected, the book focuses mainly on death, with a mention of suicide and punishment/redemption in the afterlife. Some adults may disagree with certain concepts, but the book would provide a good starting point for discussions. I’m not surprised The Devil’s Apprentice is a popular series in Denmark and I can see it potentially doing well in the UK too. I found it highly compelling and raced through it. As soon as I finished, I eagerly looked forward to the next one, which is always a sign of an enjoyable read. Victoria Goldman
Total madness and a feel of Harry Potter, but for adults this time. Huge cast, a map, street index and comedy I have never come across in a "horror" story before. Set in Yorkshire which I love having lived in West Yorkshire some 20 years ago. So know where the author is coming from. Weird but good characters and well written this author has a great imagination. This is such a romp and oh my goodness this is the third- I urge readers to read all three of these novels and the seaside thrown in as well for good measure. Bizarre but strangely I enjoyed this - hope there is a chance of book 4. I am certainly seeking this author out. Jane Brown
High-intensity YA fantasy ablaze with magic, conflict and high-stakes hazards. This fiercely-paced fantasy novel centres around fifteen-year-old Phae, whose father is an all-powerful mage, and whose mother is of the Lintari, a band of warrior earth guardians. As such, Phae’s blood had “the potential to make her one of the most powerful beings the old world had ever known”, a fact that sits somewhat uncomfortably with her. She feels “anger at herself, anger at her parents; anger at her mother for not being there; anger at her life. Why couldn’t she just be normal?” Except she isn’t normal, and when her tutor meets an untimely death, Phae feels compelled to leave the Magical Isle to seek safety on the mainland, where much danger and conflict awaits. Throughout, the intensity of Phae’s story journey never lets up and perhaps the impact of some key scenes would benefit from more ebb and flow between the relentlessly high-octane action. Overall, though, this is a gripping read, driven by snappy dialogue and a sense of adventure. Joanne Owen
The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire is a beautifully written historical fiction novel loosely based on Thomas De Quincy’s early life. English essayist Thomas de Quincy (most famous for “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”) is the first protagonist that we meet, some years after most of the novel’s narrative takes place. The story is told to us in alternating chapters told by Thomas, Anne and Tuah. Thomas we are familiar with; Anne, is a young girl when we meet her. Forced by life, bad luck and circumstance into a life of prostitution. Tuah, is a young orphaned boy when we meet him. Taken from his home by Dutch slave traders and bought onto a ship bound for the UK. Tuah is sold to the ships captain who takes him under his wing and teaches him English until they arrive in the U.K. Thomas after a troubled early life finds himself on the streets of a London as a young man. He has no idea of how the real world operates having been bought up relatively comfortably. You might ask what connects these characters. Well it’s not at all clear at first, but as the narrative progresses we begin to see how they are unquestionably linked. Thomas falls upon hard times when he arrives in London, abandoned by his family, he is discovered by Anne on the street following an altercation with some men of less than desirable character. They are strangers to each other, of different worlds but drawn together by a need for companionship and laudanum … and that’s where the real story begins. The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire is highly recommended for any historical fiction fan. Vicky-Leigh Sayer