Other Stuff

March TBR and Other Things to Come!

I know this is a few days late, but I wanted to finish my last read, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, before even thinking about what I was going to read next. Those damn Physics books really take it out of you, but I’m back in my comfort zone with fiction and ready to throw myself completely back into reading!

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I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the next book in The Firebird Chronicles series by Daniel Ingram-Brown, The Nemesis Charm (if you haven’t already, check out my review of the first book in the series, Rise of the Shadow Stealers). I’m already about a third of a way through this and am thoroughly enjoying it so far. It’s a little darker in tone than the previous book, but includes the same heartwarming whimsical fantasy that I loved in the first one. Keep an eye out for my review of this one!

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I’ve had Carry On since Christmas now, and despite having been incredibly excited for its release, I just haven’t read it yet and I really don’t know why. I’ve heard only good things about it, and I adored the Simon Snow segments in Fangirl (along with the rest of it). Also, Harry Potter-esque fantasy with meta-commentary on the Chosen One trope and a well-written LGBT romance, which you practically never see in this kind of fiction? Yes please!

 

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Well written LGBT fiction seems to be a theme this month, because I’ve heard nothing but amazing praise for The Song of Achilles. Which is great because, as a massive Classics nerd, this is right up my alley. Also, as a massive Classics nerd, I know exactly what happens, so I’m preparing to have my heart ripped out and stomped on, which is exactly what I want…for some masochistic reason.

 

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And finally, The Edge Chronicles. I grew up on these books; I always associate them with family holidays to a tiny bungalow right on the coast – possibly the last place in England that ran entirely on gas – where my Mum would read them to us just before bed. I’ve been meaning to re-read them for years but haven’t got around to it until now. I remember the stories being equal parts fantastical and gruesome, and the illustrations were darkly beautiful. The Gloamglozer, a shapeshifting demon who held terrifying grudges, particularly scared me as a child. I haven’t spoken to very many other people who have read them though, so if you enjoy gory fantasy then I cannot recommend these enough.

In other news, I’ve spent the weekend completely revamping the blog (do you like it? Please say you like it.). I’ve decided to start dedicating more time to this, so I’m hoping to introduce some new post styles, a wider array of material and at least some kind of regular post schedule! So keep an eye out for not just more reviews but things like writing tips from an enthusiastic amateur, book recommendation lists and posts about my experiences working in a library (hopefully!) arriving soon.

So that’s my round up for what’s to come in March. Has anyone else read any of these? Or do you have any recommendations for next month’s list? I’m always open to suggestions, even if I do have a TBR pile taller than I am…

 

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Book Reviews, Reviews

The Firebird Chronicles: Rise Of The Shadow Stealers Review

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Apologies for the long unplanned hiatus. It turns out that moving cities and starting a new job takes up a lot of your time! Hopefully I’ll be able to start posting with more regularity. To kick us off again, a book I was sent for review by its author, Daniel Ingram-Brown, who may be the world’s most patient man and who you should definitely check out here or on his Twitter.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers is one of those books that you would never normally find but somehow stumble across – or in my case, get sent a copy after a Twitter connection – and reading it makes your week. The premise is charming, fanciful and wonderfully meta: set on an island where fictional characters are trained to fit their roles in their respective novels, Fletcher and Scoop team up for a quest to restore their lost memories of their lives before they were at Blotting’s Academy and to attend the wedding of the mysterious Storyteller.

I have to say I found Rise of the Shadow Stealers rather surprising, and not in a bad way. I came to it assuming from the cover and blurb that it would be children’s fiction (not that that’s a bad thing in the slightest. Critics sniffily dismissing something as children’s fiction irritates me no end). It’s actually quite sophisticated for that genre though, interweaving a delightfully whimsical fantasy plot with more mature themes, like maintaining morality in difficult times and finding your purpose, and drawing heavily on religious symbolism and metaphor throughout. This can get a little heavy-handed in places, particularly the religious parallels, but for the most part it’s skilfully interwoven with the fantasy narrative that means you can read it on whatever level you’d like: whimsical fantasy, Christian literature, good old fashioned morality tale and so on. A lot of reviews made comparison to the Narnia series and I can definitely see their point. Rise of the Shadow Stealers stands on its merits as a charming fantasy novel, but it really comes into its own when you delve deeper and think about the messages behind it all.

While the plot is technically about Fletcher and Scoop’s quest to reach the Storyteller’s wedding, it’s as much about their growth as characters as it is about getting from to B. This is a world inhabited by purposeful stereotypes (the infinitely wise but slightly batty old mentor, the outrageously evil witch, and even one character who proudly identifies herself as a Snob), who can at times feel a little 2-D by themselves, but this does help to emphasise the fact that the two protagonists develop naturally and realistically enough that I was really very fond of them by the end. Their flaws are what make them important as characters, and so they’re nicely fleshed out and allowed to make mistakes. Fletcher in particular undergoes some notable development, and his transformation is well handled and enjoyable to witness, because the characters, like the rest of the book, are charming and you find yourself really rooting for them as they undergo their quest.

The real triumph of the novel, however, is the world building. You can really tell that Ingram-Brown had great fun creating Fullstop Island (which is just the most adorable name ever) from the ground up to create a setting that lives beyond what we see in the story. It’s my favourite kind of world building too, where tiny details and minor characters are fleshed out beyond just filling their role to advance the plot, even if they just appear in once scene. Particular favourites of mine were the batty and slightly weird ladies who run the tea shop and one very special character who appears at the end, who you will have to read the book to find out about. If nothing else convinces you to give Rise of the Shadow Stealers a go, the joy of it’s construction should be all the persuasion you need.

You’ve probably noticed the common theme in this review: ‘charming’. You can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading this book, and I would recommend it to anyone out there who needed a little cheer to brighten their week. I’m definitely looking forwards to the sequel and what Daniel Ingram-Brown has up his sleeve for his characters next.