Historical fantasy

The Final Strife

The Final Strife

Author: Saara El-Arifi Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

A debut that sings, in fact roars with strong vibrant themes, beautiful storytelling, and fabulous characters. Three women sit centre stage as the trials begin to find the next rulers of the Empire, each has different coloured blood and were born to very different roles. This is the first in the The Final Strife series, and Author Saara El-Arifi has created the most compelling world with roots in Ghanian folklore and Arabian myths. A vivid energy crackles into life from the start. The sense of place is immense, I saw, I felt, I believed. The three very different young women who lead in the story, in such different ways, have fascinating characters. The story flows through some thought-provoking topics, from oppression and rebellion through to drug addiction. Love can be found in its many guises including friendship as well as romance. While tyranny rules, this in an inclusive land in terms of relationships and diversity. I would say this is definitely not for younger teens due to content, but is suitable for those heading towards their twenties as well as adults. This first book sets up the continuing story rather wonderfully and I can’t wait to see where we head next. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, The Final Strife, so very clever, bold and provocative has set aflame a new world that promises much, highly recommended.

Star Books
Against All Gods

Against All Gods

Author: Miles Cameron Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

The tyranny of the gods is absolute, and they are capricious, malevolent and almost all-powerful, playing cruel games with the fates of mortals for their own ends . . . A vibrant and powerful epic set against an alternate Bronze Age, this tale of gods, men and monsters, conspiracy and war, is a rich, compelling and original read from a master of the historical and fantasy genres. The people caught up in toils of the gods are merely trying to survive. Victims of vicious whims, trapped by their circumstances or pushed beyond what the mortal frame can bear, a handful of god-touched mortals - a scribe, a warlord, a dancer and a child - are about to be brought together in a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy to reach the heavens, and take down the corrupt and aging gods . . . who are already facing troubles of their own . . . An epic that draws on a wide variety of myths and legends, gods and heroes, this new trilogy is a must read for fans of Dan Simmons and Madeline Miller alike. 

Diary of a Heretic

Diary of a Heretic

Author: Ross Stein Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/04/2022

Luxury and debauchery leads to a frantic quest to save a soul in this historical fantasy. The opening to ‘Diary of a Heretic’ by Ross Stein immediately made me inquisitive. The strange and stealth-like actions of the characters and the impression of urgency, the appearance of a figure in a mirror raises questions as we are sent back in time to discover how Al Valentine ended up standing in front of that mirror in Damascus. When Etienne appears in a stupor at the door of Al Valentine’s shop the cogs are set in motion for Al to discover a diary detailing Etienne’s past and setting him on the path to help Etienne reclaim his soul from a demon. The plot, explained simply like that may sound far-fetched, but there’s plenty of nuance and body throughout the narrative so that the fantasy elements blend in seamlessly. As a reader I saw the tortured shell Etienne has become while hearing about the exploits, loves and losses to get him there. I grew to admire the courage of the character that, despite his struggles, faced the challenge to take back the soul he sold. As pieces of the puzzle and the path to achieving such a feat are unravelled, I marvelled at the events of that first chance encounter which brought Etienne to Al, the best placed person to help him. Perhaps it was divine intervention? ‘Diary of a Heretic’ is a richly detailed story. I felt as though I walked the streets of Paris with them, and gazed upon the same pieces of art. This is a story of love and redemption and I think it would appeal to other historical fantasy fans. 

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Wild and Wicked Things

Wild and Wicked Things

Author: Francesca May Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/03/2022

Darkly suggestive and consuming, this historical fantasy novel offers a nod to The Great Gatsby. Annie Mason finds herself in an unknown world of blood magic and murder when she investigates her inheritance. This is set just after the First World War, where witchcraft, which had a huge influence in the war, has been all but banned. At the beginning I wondered if I had entered a realm already formed as I found myself hesitating and searching for information that wasn’t immediately available. However, I soon settled in and immersed myself in the stormy and decadent atmosphere, where the urge to live as large a life as possible after the effects of the war hits hard. The plot bubbled along in the background as the characters took centre stage. While Annie and Emmeline throbbed with energy as they explored their feelings for each other, the secondly characters added real depth and flavour before pulling the story together. Author Francesca May successfully evokes the excess of the time, and also balances the abuse, dark magic, and violence that can be found in the story with the innocence of Annie, love and friendship. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month, Wild and Wicked Things successfully steals into thoughts and thoroughly provokes feelings.

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Moon Witch, Spider King

Moon Witch, Spider King

Author: Marlon James Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/03/2022

Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in Marlon James' epic Dark Star fantasy trilogy, blazes with African myth and the unconquerable force of a 177-year-old moon witch who insists she isn’t a witch at all — a woman who’s refused to be silenced or supressed through her long, traumatic, ferocious life. While the rich fantasy world and characters bring Neil Gaiman to mind, and the raging, carousing language evokes the spirit of Angela Carter, Moon Witch, Spider King is fiercely original, instantly captivating, and soaked in history. Despised and abused by her family as a child for being a “motherslayer”, Sogolon escapes their shackles and enters a whorehouse, whereupon the madam seeks to groom her “to be the next forbidden lily”. But it’s not long before she’s taken by a noblewoman, later transcending her orphan origins and captive childhood as she becomes a woman, and transforms into a moon witch, a powerful female force in a misogynistic world of shapeshifting creatures, rising and falling empires, and detonating feuds. Haunting, harrowing and utterly immersive, Moon Witch, Spider King is shot-through with a potent exploration of power, and quite unlike anything else.

These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights

Author: Chloe Gong Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/2021

'A deliciously dark twist on Romeo and Juliet' Natasha Ngan, New York Times bestselling author of Girls of Paper and Fire In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens . . . The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city in chaos. Juliette Cai is the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang - a network of criminals far above the law. Roma Montagov is the prodigal son of her greatest rivals, the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. He is also Juliette's first love . . . and first betrayal. When a deadly madness strikes gangsters on both sides, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, and a monster in the shadows. And as the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns - and grudges - aside and work together. For if they can't stop this mayhem, there will be no city left to rule. Filled with romance, intrigue and betrayal, this heart-stopping fantasty retelling of Romeo and Juliet is perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane.

Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/06/2021

The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico. He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me. When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her. Noemi's more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she heads immediately to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin. She's tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin's new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who is fascinated by Noemi; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi's dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family's youngest son. Shy and gentle, he wants to help - but he might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family's past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family's once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemi, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

Tracker is a hunter. Known throughout the thirteen kingdoms as one who has a nose, he always works alone. But he breaks his own rule when, hired to find a lost child, he finds himself part of a group of hunters, each stranger and more dangerous than the last. As the mismatched gang follow the boy's scent from perfumed citadels to enchanted darklands, Tracker starts to wonder: Who really is this mysterious boy? Why do so many people want to stop him from being found? And, most important of all, who is telling the truth and who is lying? Marlon James weaves a breathtaking tapestry - at once ancient and startlingly modern - exploring the fundamentals of truth, limits of power, excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all. Chronicling the same events but telling a very different story - who will you believe? Read THE DARK STAR TRILOGY in any order! 

The Reversible Mask An Elizabethan Spy Novel

The Reversible Mask An Elizabethan Spy Novel

Author: Loretta Goldberg Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/12/2018

Loved it and can highly recommend. It is obvious lots of research has been done of the times, politics, war, people and European countries. The storyline starts off quite slowly in the early years of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Edward Latham is a witness to her progress to Oxford, the token Papist in a Protestant court. To ensure his soul is not lost he leaves hastily for Scotland to serve Queen Mary. All does not go to plan there and he ends up as a clerk to the Duke of Guise. Rashly he decodes a letter and so begins his career as a spy. The book continues with Latham encountering danger in many forms up to the Armada. Hopefully there will be a next book to continue Latham's story.  Linda Amos, A LoveReading Ambassador

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