The Qwillery | category: Claire North


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018

Hiya! Hope you haven't missed my week in review too much. I did treat you all to a full review of Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews last week so didn't totally miss out on some 'Melanie time' :) I had a confession to make. This will be only 1 of 2 WIRs for the month of June. Sorry! I am going to be away for the next two weeks so won't have a chance to let you know what I have been up to. Hopefully this week's WIR won't disappoint. So lets get to it. What did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018
The first book I am going to tell you about is Claire North's latest novel 84K, set in a dystopian England which tells the story of one man trying to right a very tragic wrong. Theo Miller was quite content living a quiet life, working for the Criminal Audit Office. In North's version of England the country is controlled by two 2 powers - the Government and the Company. Crime isn't punished, it's paid for. Murder, rape, theft? It all has a price and as long as you have enough money then you are safe. If you don't then it's to the workhouse or some other heinous form of slavery until your debt is paid off...if it ever can be paid off. Theo was responsible for assessing the monetary penalty for each crime that comes across his desk. His job was just that...a job until one day his ex, Dani, is murdered....right in front of him. This time murder isn't just a number with a pound sign attached. This time the murderer is going to pay if Theo has to start a revolution to make it happen.

I have to be honest, this was a difficult read. North's version of England is very, very dark. The poor are fodder for the Company working in sweatshops and factories. Women could be raped or brutalized for only a few thousand pounds in compensation - none of which the victim ever receives. The rich have it all. They can do anything to anyone without any recrimination. There is no joy or beauty or humour anywhere in this story. It is very Dickensian in its bleakness. The story flits between Theo on his quest and Theo on a barge being cared for by a stranger called Neila. I could never figure out which were the past or present events which made it very easy to miss a key moment in the story if I got distracted. North has an unbelievable imagination and I have always loved her books (the Fifteen Lives of Harry August is in my top 10 favourite books of all time) but I don't think 84K will be. This was a very intricate and interesting tale but not one to read if you need a pick me up or are having a bad day.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018
A couple of weeks ago I came across Grace Draven's Night Tide which is set in the Wraith Kings world. Zigana is the illegitimate daughter of a lord earning a living from the sea. When an evil sea creature starts to lure the local villagers to their deaths she knows she must do something to save them. But what can she do and can she do it alone?

I was looking for a quick and easy read and as this is a novella it certainly fit the bill. Zigana is pretty much your archetypal heroine - beautiful, kind and talented. The only thing that seemed to indicate that she was the widowed daughter of a poor fisherman, still living with her parents was that her skin was a little tanned. Otherwise, she seemed to have been spared the effects of living a difficult life in a harsh environment. The story is pretty straight forward although I did find it quite sad. Zigana has a hard life and a lonely life. The one man who could have made her happy is far out of her reach. I believe Draven may return to this character but I will have to wait and see.

Anyway. That is it for me this week. Hopefully, I haven't been too much of a downer with all the gloomy books I have been reading. I will plan to read something more jolly ASAP! Until then happy reading.

Orbit, May 22, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018
From one of the most powerful writers in modern fiction and World Fantasy Award winner comes a dystopian vision of a world where money reigns supreme, and nothing is so precious that it can’t be bought….

The penalty for Dani Cumali’s murder: £84,000.

Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.

These days, there’s no need to go to prison – provided that you can afford to pay the penalty for the crime you’ve committed. If you’re rich enough, you can get away with murder.

But Dani’s murder is different. When Theo finds her lifeless body, and a hired killer standing over her and calmly calling the police to confess, he can’t let her death become just an entry on a balance sheet.

Someone is responsible. And Theo is going to find them and make them pay.

Perfect for fans of speculative fiction such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go, Claire North’s moving and unnerving new novel will resonate with readers around the world.

Previous books by Claire North:
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
The Sudden Appearance of Hope
The End of the Day

By the same author, writing as Kate Griffin:
A Madness of Angels
The Midnight Mayor
The Neon Court
The Minority Council
The Glass God
Stray Souls

Night Tide
April 28, 2018
eNovella, 72 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018
Something hunts the surf at night, luring villagers to their deaths with a lullaby of sorrow and the torture of nightmares.

Blessed with the gift of water-sight, Zigana Imre senses the presence of an ancient predator drawn by a hunger for human flesh sweetened by grief.

With the help of a child of earth, she will battle a spawn of the sea to protect a loved one and save a man who will one day fight to save a world.

--Previously published in the now unavailable Teeth, Long and Sharp anthology, Night Tide is a 21k-word, stand-alone novella that takes place in the world of the Wraith Kings series.--

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018

Hello! I am writing this while watching highlights of the royal wedding. I am not really a royalist and but I decided to tune in anyway. Partly it was a good excuse to eat orange scones....which I have to say are delicious. It also meant I could use the antique tea set that I barely have an opportunity to take out of my china cabinet. Did you watch?

This wasn't one of my more prolific weeks reading. It was Wednesday when I realised I wasn't even halfway through a single book. In my defense it was the release of the season finale of both Lucifer and of Dynasty so I had to watch those.  So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
I read The Master, the 3rd Gameshouse Novella, by Claire North. I had reviewed the two previous books months ago and loved them. The final instalment does not disappoint. Silver decides to make a stand and challenge the Gamesmaster to the ultimate game - for control of the Gameshouse. The Gameshouse has sustained him for centuries along with the other elite players but he has decided he has had enough.  This is the ultimate game. The largest and most deadly game of chess ever played where not just the pawns are sacrificed.

This is a fantastic novella. Your head will be positively spin at the number of locations that Silver finds himself. North has a real gift of describing her characters and their environment without a lot of prose which means that she is able to send Silver on a manic journey from one country to the next and next and next in just novella. In this series North creates characters who you can't help but like even though they are pretty uncaring and rather evil. I was really cheering on Silver from the sidelines and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. If you want a great series of novellas that are both standalone but interconnected then look no further! These are must reads.

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
I was determined to finish The World Awakening by Dan Koboldt so that I could tell you all about it. So now I have a confession. I just couldn't finish it. I had planned to cheat as I got over halfway through and was going to skip to the end but I just couldn't. I discussed my inability to finish this book with the hubinator. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that meant I couldn't face reading it. As I mentioned book two was pretty dull and not much happened whereas in book 3 it was almost non stop action. The closest reason that the hubs and I could agree on was that it was just too juvenile and the hero wasn't very heroic. Its a shame as I really liked the first book. Sorry!

Well that is it for me for this week. I am planning to have more to tell you about next week. Promise! Until next week Happy Reading!

The Master
Gameshouse Novella 3
Redhook, November 3rd 2015
eBook, 100 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of chess, backgammon – every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes – those of politics and empires, of economics and kings . . .

And now, the ultimate player is about to step forward.

The World Awakening
Gateways to Alissia 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, February 13, 2018
   eBook, 448 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 3, 2018
   Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
"The World Awakening is a great conclusion to what is a very readable and highly enjoyable series. Characters that are more than the sum of their parts, a world that has so much to offer, and a story that races along apace – the Gateways to Alissia books have it all." -- SFFworld

Quinn Bradley has learned to use the magic of another world. And that world is in danger.

Having decided to betray CASE Global, he can finally reveal his origins to the Enclave and warn them about the company’s imminent invasion. Even if it means alienating Jillaine…and allying with someone he’s always considered his adversary.

But war makes for strange bedfellows, and uniting Alissians against such a powerful enemy will require ancient enmities—as well as more recent antagonisms—to be set aside. The future of their pristine world depends on it.

As Quinn searches for a way to turn the tide, his former CASE Global squad-mates face difficult decisions of their own. For some, it’s a matter of what they’re willing to do to get home. For others, it’s deciding whether they want to go home at all.

Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval and The Island Deception, The World Awakening is the spellbinding conclusion to the Gateways to Alissia fantasy series from Dan Koboldt.

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017

This is going to be short WIR this week as I have been a been busy reading books I can't review....or at least not yet. The Qwillery is participating in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 3 and I am busy trying to find the next winner (I voted for the book that won the last SPFBO). I am also part of the beta review group for Michael Sullivan's third instalment of the Legend's of the First Empire Series - Age of War. It will be quite a while before I can tell you what I thought. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
I discovered a great series of novellas from Claire North - The Gameshouse. Novella number 1 - The Serpent - is set in the 1700's in Venice and centers on Thene who was married off at the age of 15 to a drunken lout who gambles away her dowry. When she is forced to join her husband at the mysterious gambling house aptly named The Gameshouse she doesn't realise how much her life will change. The better you are at gaming the higher you rise in the leagues until you are playing a game far more sinister than you ever expected. Kings are toppled, wars are won and lives destroyed by the roll of the dice and all because of the Gameshouse.

No one really knows where the Gameshouse exists but it seems to exist outside of time and the games that are played are for higher stakes than a few coins. The way that North sets out her world inside the Gameshouse is very descriptive but she leaves enough to the readers imagination so that you can picture it in your mind. Not only is the plot compelling but the way in which North tells Thene's story is really unique. The reader is cast as an observer, following Thene throughout Vienna on her journey to win the game. Through the alleys and canals of Venice we follow Thene as she puts her pieces in play hoping that she has made the right choices. Finding out whether she wins is a nail biter. This is a fantastic read and very difficult to put down.

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
Novella 2 is The Thief which it is set in the 1930's in Thailand. It starts again, in the Gameshouse where this time Remy Burke makes a dangerous gamble. He has to play a real life game of hide and seek. If he loses the game he loses all his memories so winning is the only option. From north to south and east to west Remy travels through Thailand trying not to get caught. Whether he wins or loses is for you to find out.

Yet again, another fantastic novella by North. Despite the fact that Remy was a bit of a drunken loser he still made you want to root for him and pray that he won the game. The Gameshouse seems even more sinister in this instalment than before and seems to take on a life of it's own. This is another great (and short) read. Don't miss out.

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
Now, I feel I must apologise. I have had Urban Enemies for a few months now. It is an anthology of short stories all about the bad guys. Several popular authors contributed short stories of their favourite baddies that you love to hate including Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire and Kelly Armstrong. I have to admit I couldn't finish it! I have surprised even myself. I think the fact that Jim Butcher's contribution was the same one as in the anthology Dark and Stormy Knights (St. Martin's Griffin; July 2010) was a bit too disappointing and rather turned me off. I am not the biggest fan of short stories and when they all center around the antagonist I seemed to lose interest very quickly. Sorry!

That is it for me this week. I hope you have had productive weeks and I am looking forward to telling you about novella 3 of the Gameshouse series - The Master - next week. Until then Happy Reading!

The Serpent
The Gameshouse 1
Redhook, November 3, 2015
eBook, 100 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
In 17th Century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.

There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favours may be invited to compete in the higher league . . . a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles.

Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman, who is about to play, may just exceed everyone's expectations.

Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules . . .

The Thief
The Gameshouse 2
Redhook, November 3, 2015
eBook, 100 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of chess, backgammon - every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes - those of politics and empires, of economics and kings . . .

In 1930s Bangkok, one higher league player has just been challenged to a game of hide and seek. The board is all of Thailand - and the seeker may use any means possible to hunt down his quarry - be it police, government, strangers or even spies . . .

Urban Enemies
Edited by Joseph Nassise
Gallery Books, August 1, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017
Villains have all the fun—everyone knows that—and this anthology takes you on a wild ride through the dark side! The top villains from seventeen urban fantasy series get their own stories—including the baddies of New York Times bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, and Jonathan Maberry.

For every hero trying to save the world, there’s a villain trying to tear it all down.

In this can’t-miss anthology edited by Joseph Nassise (The Templar Chronicles), you get to plot world domination with the best of the evildoers we love to hate! This outstanding collection brings you stories told from the villains' point of view, imparting a fresh and unique take on the evil masterminds, wicked witches, and infernal personalities that skulk in the pages of today’s most popular series.

The full anthology features stories by Jim Butcher (the Dresden Files), Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville), Seanan McGuire (October Daye), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), Domino Finn (Black Magic Outlaw), Steven Savile (Glasstown), Caitlin Kittredge (Hellhound Chronicles), Jeffrey Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Sam Witt (Pitchfork County), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock), and Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches).

Melanie's Week in Review - April 5, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - April 5, 2015

To those of you who celebrate - Happy Easter and for those who don't Happy 'Eat a lot of chocolate' Day or Happy Passover ... or if you are my sister Mary Happy Birthday. It's a celebration weekend all around. Well it should be but it has turned out to be a very the end to a rather tense week for me. Lots of work to do, my well planned birthday present to my sister has gone missing in the post, blocked drains, and a broken land line. So of all this a couple of good things have also happened. I have caught up with some good friends from high school, shared some really good memories and of course, read a couple of good books. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - April 5, 2015
I was having one of my 'shouldn't be doing this' perusal of Amazon and I came across Jeffe Kennedy's Rogue's Paradise (Carina Press, September 8, 2014). I had completely forgotten about this series.  I should preface that with saving that I didn't forget about it because it was bad but that I simply forgot! This is the third (and I believe final) in the Covenant of Thorns series which finds Gwynn and Rogue together, at last although on the run from the evil Queen of Faerie - Titania. Despite their evident physical attraction Gwynn is not sure whether Rogue loves her of his own free will or whether Rogue is under Titania's compulsion. Gwynn knows that the only way her child will be safe, and her love of Rogue assured is if Titania is defeated. Defeating the Queen of Faerie isn't as straight forward as it seems.

I thought that Rogue's Paradise was OK. I always had a problem with this series and the pseudo abusive relationship Gwynn and Rogue had. This instalment is about 80% sex and 20% plot development. While it has an HEA at its heart it does take a long time for the H and the E to actually materialize. The only real drama occurred when the uber evil Titania showed up although Kennedy did have a couple of very good twists waiting for the reader at the end. Kennedy makes Faerie seem quite unappealing....well except for Rogue who is hotness incarnate! Overall, this series gives the reader an alternative view to Faerie although Titania is as evil as ever. Rogue with his extra long limbs and Gwynn with her 'humanity' make for an interesting couple. Not quite the love match that you expect from your typical HEA but worth a read all the same.

Melanie's Week in Review - April 5, 2015
I only managed to read two books this week. I am blaming the fact that my commute was only 4 days instead of 5.Well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. I finished my week with Touch by Claire North (Redhook, February 24, 2015). You may remember I read The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August last year. If you don't remember have a readTouch tells Kepler's story. Who is Kepler? You should be asking who he...or she isn't. Kepler is a ghost that can transfer to anyone's body merely by touch. When Kepler's favourite 'skin' is viciously murdered he decides to take things into his own hands and find out who or what wants him dead.

I really enjoyed this book. Not that reading about heinous murders is that enjoyable but North really knows how to write a good murder mystery. North creates interesting characters and is able to describe her environment so clearly that you feel like you are there with the characters. However, I did find Touch very similar to 'Henry August' as both books deal with entities that didn't die and evil organisations that want them to. While Henry was re-born Kepler merely transferred his consciousness to a new body time and time again. This works to his advantage as within a number of days he is able to solve the mystery as to why his favourite skin 'Josephine' is murdered whereas Henry has to live his life over and over again. As much as I enjoyed Touch I did think the plot and the style of writing was a 'samey'. If I was to recommend one over the other I think I would have to vote for The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August. 

Well that is all for me this week. I am hoping for better progress although with another four day week I am not sure I will get through that much. Fingers crossed! Until then Happy Reading.

Melanie's Week in Review - December 21, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014

In the run up to the Christmas holiday I have had lots of extra commuting time which means extra time to get through a few books. Even with the extra time I only managed to read 2 books and a short story. I am hoping Santa brings back my reading mojo and leaves it in my stocking as I would like to get a bit closer to hitting my Goodreads reading challenge. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014
I started the week with a nice short, short story. The Lightning God's Wife by Grace Draven is a story within a story and starts with Martise from Draven's Master of Crows series. Martise recounts the tale of Revida, an outcast rain priestess, a long drought and what happens when Revida rescues a man and his young children. I don't want to say too much as this story is very brief and I could easily give the whole plot away in a few sentences. What I can say is that I enjoy reading more of the characters from Master of Crows even if only in a few paragraphs.

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014The first full length book I read this week has turned out to be one of the best books I have read this year. If you haven't heard of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North then I urge you to get to your local book story or find it online, post haste! Harry is the orphan of a young woman who had the misfortune of being the servant of a wealthy, damaged and violent man. His mother dies during his birth and Harry is adopted by the gardener of his natural father. His life turns out quite uneventful as a series of events keep him poor and relatively uneducated. Well...that was his first life anyway. Harry is a 'kalachakra'  - someone who is re-born, time and time again, in the same place, in the same year and all his memories intact. The story actually starts in Harry's 11th life when a young girl is waiting by his death bed with an urgent message that the world is ending and its up to Harry to save it. North takes us back and forth through Harry's lives as he tries to solve the puzzle of who and what he is and what he needs to do to stop the destruction of not just the world but of his timeline (think Back to the Future).

This is a 'can't put down' book and engaging from the first page. North manages to make Harry likeable even when he has to do some of the most unlikeable things. As the story moves back and forth through his lives you are never too sure what will happen next, or what could happen next. I felt quite sorry for Harry in many ways for having to re-live his life over and over even though he was able to make use of his mnemonic memory to make money, learn a variety of languages and have several different careers from mechanic to doctor. This is a great book and a must read which I can't do justice to in this mini review. I hope you find out for yourself.

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014
The final book I have to tell you about this week is Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein. I received this book from the publisher (via NetGalley) following my review of The Red Magician which I really enjoyed. Goldstein tells the story of Molly who was orphaned (another orphan) at a young age and raised by her eccentric aunt Fentrice. Its not until a private investigator tracks her down that she discovers she comes from a magical family who used to travel across the States as a vaudeville act. It's not long before she uncovers a number of skeletons in a number of closets and the extent of her family's magical powers.

I was looking forward to this book and after the first few chapters I thought it showed real promise. Midway through I was however, a tad disappointed. During the first few chapters I thought this book was going to be a bit of a cross between The Night Circus and The Troupe and perhaps this was why I found it disappointing. I didn't feel that Goldstein adequately developed her lead characters - specifically Molly. I didn't engage with her and therefore, didn't emphasize with her or her situation. I liked the idea of the labyrinth but I didn't feel the other magical elements were constructed sufficiently. The magical abilities of certain characters started out as straightforward mind reading and ended up being able to create complex illusions including manipulating people and events. There didn't seem to be an explanation for how or why this happened which made this novel feel like the development of the plot had been rushed. Overall disappointing but it wouldn't put me off reading other books by this author.

That is it for me this week. I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have a great holiday and that Santa leaves you some fantastic books under the tree. Until next week Happy Reading and Happy Christmas.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 10, 2018Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018Melanie's Week in Review - August 6, 2017Melanie's Week in Review - April 5, 2015Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014

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