Award-winning YA author Philip Murdstone is in trouble. His books about sensitive young boys are just not selling so well and his agent Minerva Cinch has the most ridiculous idea to get him back on track- write an epic high-fantasy novel. Philip hates fantasy and has no idea what to do, that is until a creature by the name of Pocket who shouldn’t exist in Philip’s world appears in his life. Now Philip might have an idea for a book, but is he aware of the consequences?
The Murdstone Trilogy is a lot of fun. It does make fun of the high fantasy genre but in such a light-hearted way that you can’t be mad at it. Plus what is says about the genre and all its tropes is true! I’m pretty sure it kind of alludes to the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini as well, a series I love by the way, but it does so in a good-natured way.
There’s kind of two stories going along at once. There’s Philip’s struggle to write and his interactions with his agent and the people in the local village (who are all a little odd) and the story Pocket tells in a fantasy world full of magic and creatures. Philip’s story is fun as it captures his desperation to write but how he is also so ill-equipped to write fantasy, plus Minerva is such a fun character who is a real battleaxe and it’s fun seeing her deal with Philip’s eccentricities.
The Murdstone Trilogy is pretty clever as you’re not always sure if the story Pocket is telling is really happening in a far off land or another universe or if it’s all happening in Philip’s head and he’s going a bit mad. Pocket’s story is full of action, magic, big forces of evil and a lost Prince struggling to save the kingdom. It is in a way paint-by-numbers fantasy but it’s aware of that and Pocket’s story is still gripping.
The Murdstone Trilogy is unlike any book I’ve read before. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and weird and has the best elements of high fantasy but it’s told in a completely different way. 5/5.
Days before his release from prison, Shadow learns his wife Laura has died in mysterious circumstances. As he makes his way back home, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a God who is getting ready for a war. Soon Shadow finds himself in the service of Mr Wednesday as they go on a strange journey across America whilst all around them a storm of epic and supernatural proportions threatens to break.
American Gods is a much-loved, epic book full of Gods, mysterious and lies. I can see why so many people love it but for me it was a bit of a slog to get through. American Gods is a very descriptive story full of characters who each have their own story which may or may not be true. There’s long passages that are dedicated to a myth or legend or some story or character that you’re not sure will ever reappear again or have any effect on the main plot. Also Shadow has these vivid dreams that often make little sense to you or him, at least they don’t till near the very end of the novel.
Shadow is quite a passive main character. He accepts everything that’s going on around him, he takes each encounter with a God or myth or legend in his stride and when weird things happen he just shrugs it off. I found him too easy-going and accepting of the situations he found himself in. You’d expect a character in that situation to have more questions or at least have a little freak out every now and then but Shadow didn’t so it was hard to connect with him.
American Gods is a long book and I never really felt pulled into the story or that I just had to read on until the last 200 pages. I don’t know if it was because there was so much to set up or so many characters and events that didn’t seem that important or interesting but I just felt like I was reading American Gods for the sake of it. As I said, the last 200 pages is when I really got interested in what was going to happen to Shadow (though I never particularly liked him a lot) and the other characters I’d come across.
American Gods is structurally a good book, it’s got twists and turns, death and mystery, suspense and a lot of weirdness, but I never really felt fully-invested in the characters or the story. If anything I now feel glad that I can say I’ve read American Gods when t’s mentioned as an example of a work of great fiction. 3/5.
Kell is one of the last travellers, magicians with the ability to travel between parallel worlds connected by the city of London. There’s Grey London, a city without magic, Kell’s Red London where magic is respected and White London where magic fights against those who wish to control it. Once there was a place known as Black London but no one talks about what happened there. Kell finds trouble as he travels between the worlds, meeting thief Lila along the way and together they have to try and save all the connected worlds.
A Darker Shade of Magic is a very quick read thanks to the action and the writing style. Even the chapters and parts that the book is broken into are pretty short and allow you to read the story very quickly.
The characters in A Darker Shade of Magic are pretty cool. Kell has a lot of power and responsibility (and a really cool coat) but that doesn’t stop him from doing stupid and reckless things sometimes. Lila is the kind of character we’ve all wanted to be at some time. She’s a thief and looks after number one but she does it by being smart and by always being willing to learn. She is kind of that trope of “girl dresses up as a guy in order to progress in life” but I couldn’t bring myself to care that much. Kell and Lila make an odd team, they are complete polar-opposites in many ways but they still manage to work together.
The magical elements of A Darker Shade of Magic are great. It’s interesting to see the language used to make magic happen, or in some cases it’s all about the persons will and intent than saying any magic words. The way Kell travels between the London’s is interesting and how the different societies see and deal with magic is a great way to show how different the worlds are.
There’s a lot of mystery in A Darker Shade of Magic as both you as the reader and Kell try and figure out what he’s got himself into and who he can really trust. His interactions with Holland, another powerful traveller, were great because you could never really pinpoint what was exactly going on with Holland and if he was a good guy or a bad guy.
A Darker Shade of Magic is action-packed, full of magic and mystery and some interesting characters. It’s well worth checking out, especially as the sequel A Gathering of Shadows is released this month and I do think it’s best to go into this book knowing as little as possible. 4/5.
Forty-four year old British Asian Shyama has fallen in love with a younger man and they dream of having a child together. Shyama’s elderly parents Prem and Sita aren’t sure about it but they have bigger problems when it comes to relatives in India taking advantage and Shyama’s teenage daughter Tara couldn’t care less about her mother’s mad plan to have a baby. Meanwhile, Mala lives in a rural village in India, trapped in an oppressive and lonely marriage and dreams of escape. Mala and Shyama each have something to offer the other, but will they both get everything they dream of?
The House of Hidden Mothers has a lot happening in it. While the main storyline is Shyama and Toby’s quest to have a child and how that brings Mala into their lives and affects their family and friends, the other family members each have their own problems too. Prem and Sita have been battling in the courts for their property (which has been taken over by relatives) for decades and their blind faith in the law where it is so easily corrupt has left them almost broken. Tara was the most fascinating character for me, her relationship with her mother really isn’t that great – her mum is so focussed on having a new baby that she ends up neglecting Tara and doesn’t notice when anything’s wrong or just puts it down to Tara being a teenager – and bad things happen to her but she works through them and finds a cause she really wants to fight for and embraces her Indian roots. (more…)