NetGalley Review: Knightmare Arcanist (Shami Stovall)

NGBanner
I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

TL;DR – A superb start to what I’m sure will be a spectacular series!

5Button

Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anyone who loves an easy-to-read tale of magic and heroism

About the Book…

Knightmare Arcanist is the first book in the Frith Chronicles series. It follows a Volke, a gravediggers apprentice who yearns to be an arcanist – a magician paired for life to a magical creature, capable of amazing feats. But the circumstances of his birth make this dream unlikely, until one day everything changes.

What follows is a tale of magic, mystery and heroism where friends can become enemies and enemies can become friends.

What I thought…

I absolutely loved this book. Stovall has created an engaging and wonderful world, filled with magic and wonder and well thought out characters abound.

I love the magic system. The idea of being paired with a mystical creature whose magic influences your own is a wonderful idea and I really enjoyed seeing how each magical creature approached problems in their own unique ways. I also particularly love Nicholin the rizzel (a magical creature). He’s cheeky and adorable and quite frankly, I NEED one.

Another thing I loved about this book was the way the characters interacted. The book starts on an island with Volke and his adopted sister paired against Zaxis and Atty, the islands snobby to-good-for-the-likes-of-you favourites. But it isn’t long before this dynamic starts to change in interesting and unexpected ways, and I can’t wait to find out where it goes.

This book was also incredibly easy to read. It was well paced and engaging throughout. I didn’t want to put it down and before I knew it, the book was finished!

Final Thoughts…

I didn’t want this book to end, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next instalment. In the meantime, I plan to get hold of Stovall’s other books Star Marque Rising and The Ethereal Squadron as soon as I am able!

Definitly give this book a go.

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Evenfall (Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos)

NGBanner
I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

3-5Button

Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fantasy and magic fans

About the Book…

TW: This book contains descriptions of self harm and sexual assault.

“As if waking up in an unfamiliar world isn’t enough of a surprise, Ember gains a new title to her name. Savior.” (Goodreads).

Long ago, the world was fractured. Split into three parts across magical lines. And only Ember has the power to piece reality back together again. But to do so, Ember and her friends must steal an powerful artefact from the castle of the evil Crescent Prince.

Evenfall is chock-full of magic and adventure and has the potential to be a really fun series.

What I thought…

Here is a brief list of words I never want to hear again: Argent, Obsidian, Sapphire, Utterly. I’m starting with this because it annoyed me so much. There are a handful of descriptive words that are massively overused in this book and it just irked me something fierce. Now moving away from petty gripes…

The basic premise of Evanfall is actually something I really enjoyed. A world split along magical lines, each inhabited by a population with it’s own unique form of magic. A saviour that has to stitch the world back together or all hell’s going to break lose. Very much my cup of tea. Pure magical fantasy. The execution, however, left a little to be desired.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. There wasn’t a great deal wrong with the execution, it was just too fast! I really struggled to keep track of what was going on, even from one page to the next at times. The basics of the story I could follow, but the specifics I struggled with. It felt like it needed to be longer, just to slow the pace a little. I just found it too intense, and I hadn’t recovered from the last big thing before the next big thing kicked off.

I also felt confused, really quickly. Ember appears in a new world. Not a strange world, a world she literally had no idea even existed until right that second. She immediately meets someone who in no-time-at-all she is best friends with. A little later she encounters the Crescent Prince, the villain of the piece. Keeping in mind she has never heard of him before and only knows anything about him because of minuscule amount her new friend has told her. So obviously, she immediately fears him for no apparent reason. Then even later, she falls head-over-heels in love with him after being kidnapped by him, and completely changes her mind about the man she has been told is a bloodthirsty tyrant after a brief conversation about how much the rest of the world sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, if your negative opinions are based on basically nothing, then I absolutely see why you would change your mind almost immediately when confronted with new information, it just feels a little weird.

Final Thoughts…

Evenfall was an enjoyable, if intensely annoying, read. I’m not sure I’d read it again, but I would definitely read the next book in the series, so take from that what you will.

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Dinosaur Jazz (Michael Panush)

NGBanner

I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

3.5 Button

Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of  classic fiction novels, action adventure and dinosaurs.

About the Book…

The island of Acheron is an incredible place. A land where all manner of prehistoric creatures live in conjunction with ‘ape men’ and humanity. Acheron is a hugely popular tourist destination, made all the more popular by the absence of prohibition. Drinkers, gamblers, cutthroats and gangsters mix with hunters, holiday makers and the wealthy elite all across this impossible island.

Sir Edwin Crowe (son of the island’s discoverer) is a dinosaur guide and gentleman adventurer. But when a sinister corporation tries to take control of his island home, Crowe and his rag-tag band of associates find themselves in the middle of a war.

This book runs strongly in the vein of classic pulp adventure novels.

What I thought…

I have some very conflicting thoughts about this book. It has me in two (or more) minds, and it was very hard to rate.

On it’s surface, I love it. I love the concept – think Jurassic Park in the 30’s with a big dollop of Indiana Jones thrown in and you’re not far off. The story is exciting – it’s definitely a page turner. Conceptually it’s right off my Christmas list. Which leads me to my other thoughts.

First off, let’s talk about racism. I get that it’s set in the 30’s (or 20’s, or whenever prohibition was), but when you’re telling a story about a time-travelling island full of dinosaurs and crazy warlords,  I think you’ve already thrown out enough ‘realism’ to avoid referring throwing in negro or oriental, or repeatedly calling one character the Jew lawyer. Call me ‘snowflake’ all you want, scream ‘historical accuracy’ until you’re blue in the face, but when you’ve got dinosaurs and time travelling magic ruins and a white dude who thinks he’s Genghis Khan reincarnate, you can afford a bit of racial sensitivity. Actually while I’m on the subject of race stuff, I may as well throw in that every single non-white or non-British/American is a criminal or a gangster or a smuggler. Every. Single. One. Plus the ‘Ape Men’ are treated as savages and servants etc. Don’t get me wrong, Panush was aiming for a certain literary style, and he absolutely nailed it, I just personally felt it was unnecessary.

That said the writing was, if a little weird at times, pretty solid and very enjoyable. The main character was actually kind of annoying, but that was more to do with my own personal taste than the writing. My favourite characters were, as far as I’m concerned, CRIMINALLY underutilised, but I’m hoping I might learn some more about them in the next book.

Final Thoughts…

Panush has absolutely nailed the feel of the genre, and written a really entertaining story to boot. It’s just a shame about the time period.

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Den of Shadows (Christopher Byford)

Kwik Reads


Goodreads Link

There is a special place in hell for Franco de Monaire, I hope he finds it.

TL;DR – An exciting tale about travelling casino, a crime lord and an insane law man.

4.5 Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

I bought this book because I’ve been given the second and third books in the series to review and I thought I’d take the chance and read the first one to set things up – this was a good call on my part.

The story follows Franco, and his troop of showgirls in their train-mounted wandering casino. The Gamblers Den rolls from town to town along the frontier, bring a night of joy and release to the miserable folks that live there. All is going swimmingly until they hit a town called Windberg, and suddenly everything falls apart.

This book is a bit peculiar for me, in that the ‘main’ character, Franco, is the one I hate most and the supporting cast, who get less of a backstory, I really love. Franco is, with the best will in the world, a jerk! The way he treats Misu – a woman who spent 4 years under the thumb of a disgusting crime lord – is frankly despicable. And hypocritical. Maybe I missed something somewhere, but I fail to see how anybody could read this book and not want to slap Franco so hard he ends up in another dimension.

It’s an exciting tale, full of gun fights and flashbacks and fights between more-or-less-good and evil. It’s a lot of fun. The only thing that bugged me was the occasional use of peculiar language, or where sentences seemed to use words in an order I’m unfamiliar with – but nothing sticks out enough for me to remember specifics so it can’t have been that big a deal.

I’m looking forward to the next book!

___________________________________________
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Exile of the Seas (Jeffe Kennedy)

NGBanner
I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

4 Button

Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of fantasy romance

About the Book

Princess Jenna has escaped from the clutches of her abusive and evil husband and headed across the seas aboard the Valeria. On the journey she meets a warrior priestess called Kaja who helps her conceal her identity and make her own way in the world. But her husband and his goons are never far enough behind.

This book is equal parts fantasy adventure and romance novel.

Trigger Warning: This book contains references to serious sexual assault, abuse and bodily mutilation. It’s not particularly graphic, but it comes up a lot and might be distressing (I certainly found it upsetting).

What I thought

It took me a little while to get into this book, and it wasn’t until I had finished it that it was the second book in a series, which explained why I thought the author assumed a whole lot of knowledge on my part when starting the book. My bad. But once I got my head around the setting I found it a very enjoyable read.

The book focuses on Jenna, beginning with her passage on the Valeria (under the name Brian), and quickly see’s her becoming an acolyte of the Goddess Danu, under a new name, Ivariel. We see Ivariel go from her sheltered, submissive (and horribly abusive) past life in Dasnaria to becoming a warrior and making her own way in the scary new world.

I liked the fact that Ivariel wasn’t just dumped in the world and competent. In fact she was beyond useless in most regards and stayed that way for most of the book. Her strengths came from the skills she actually had experience of. She was given a knife to practice with and couldn’t even grip it – but she was athletic and able to learn because of the way she was raised. This meant that Ivariel was believable and very relatable.

This book contains constant reference to the horrors of Ivariel’s old life – which as I mentioned above, is horrific – and it’s upsetting. Upsetting to the point where I’m not sure if I could read the first book because I’m worried what it might contain. That said, this book also tries to focus on her path to healing the wounds of the past, which is considerably nicer. Ivariel goes from mentally scarred and disassociating when sex is referenced, to having romantic and sexual feelings for another character. Which I can understand to a point, although one element did stick out like a bit of a sore thumb – please skip the following box if you want to avoid spoilers:

Spoilers: Ivariel takes a vow of chastity (and silence) and the start of this book, which she chooses to end over the course. The bit that stuck out for me is that the very last thing that happens in this book is that she gives up her vow of chastity – something she took because of how psychologically (and physically) damaged she was in regards to sex – and it seemed like an incredibly big leap for her to take for no apparent reason. Yes she’d just had her life saved, but her only ‘sexual’ interaction in the books at that point had been a kiss, where she had punched the kisser in the face, and a forced stripping where she killed everyone. I just can’t imagine that she would give up that vow just to say thank you, or because someone mentioned in passing that the vows were a sort of shield. But perhaps that’s just me.

I also liked that the romance in this was not too heavy. It was there and building the whole way through but it didn’t take precedent over the plot of starting a new life, which I worried it would.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this book, although I could have done without quite so much horrible backstory. It’s a good read, but if you think for even a minute that the triggers I’ve highlighted might be an issue for you, then don’t risk it, otherwise it’s worth a look in.

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Foundryside (Robert Jackson Bennett)

NGBanner
I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Book of the Month
Book of the Month (August 2018)

EBBanner

Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Fans of fantasy and adventure. Also anybody else at all.

About the Book

Sancia Grado is a thief. A good thief. But she is also different. Tevanne is a strange land, that runs on a form of magic known as scriving. If you know the write sigils, you can alter objects and change their behaviour – legend has it that an ancient group called the hierophants could use scriving to bend reality to their will!

Sancia is a scrived human. The only scrived human. She started her life as a slave and she was experimented on – but the scrived plate in her head gives her some special abilities which make her an excellent sneak thief.

Sancia is offered the job of a lifetime – steal one item for more money than she could ever hope to see in her lifetime. She takes the chance, and then her world falls apart.

What I thought

I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I mean I really, REALLY loved it. It’s 512 pages long, and I must have read 350+ of them in one sitting – I would have read three quarters of the book in one day if I’d had the energy to keep reading. It was that kind of book.

First of all, we’ve got to talk about scriving. At first this seems like your pretty average magic stuff. Say the right words and it does what you say kind of thing. But it isn’t. It goes WAY deeper than that. Bennett goes into considerable detail over the course of the book about the mechanics of scriving, the theory, the practical uses and the history. It’s rare to find a magical mechanic in a story that has been this clearly thought out, which would be worth big points in my book on its own, but it was the way this information is relayed to the reader that really made this book stand out. We never get too much information in one go – it doesn’t feel like you’re reading fictional non-fiction – you get just enough information to understand without breaking the flow of things…and it’s just really cool.

I’m not sure if the following paragraph counts as spoilers, but I’m gonna talk a bit about why scriving is awesome:

  1. Scrived objects are logical and stupid – you can only change them in ways that make sense. For example, you can make wood stronger, by scriving it to act like stone, but you can’t make it melt by telling it that it’s ice, because that’s too different.
  2. BUT you can do cool things with it if you are clever. For example, you can make a cart propel itself by telling the wheels they are rolling down a hill and telling them how steep the hill is. This leads to some wild things later on.
  3. It’s hard work. You’ve read got to know what you are doing to make it work, and experimentation can be really dangerous because its so easy to get things wrong – because of this, it’s a rich mans game, which has led to a really horrible unequal society.
  4. It controls (almost) everything in Tevanne. It’s so understandable. Sometimes you read about something amazing in a story and wonder why it’s under utilised, like the Force in Star Wars. If I had the force I would never stop using it, all the time for EVERYTHING. But they never do. But in Foundryside, those who can afford scriving, use it for everything they possibly can. It supports buildings, changes weapons, powers foundries, it is everywhere, and that can lead to big problems.

I’m sure there is more I could say about why I like this element, but I don’t want to go on and on. Trust me though, it’s really cool and it stays cool all the way through.

Secondly, two words. Unexpected Queers. I’m not the only queer person who, unless explicitly told otherwise (and often even then), assumes every character in everything is 400% queer. Then I find out it’s not the case. Well guess what – there’s at least 3 actual, factual queers in this book (by my count). Which is GREAT. Not just because they are queer –  but because it’s written completely naturally. Nobody bats an eye. In Tevanne, it’s perfectly, completely and utterly normal to be queer. And that is so refreshing. It’s so nice to read a book that – to the best of my knowledge – isn’t presented as queer-lit where a characters queerness is just another part of their character. It was also really nice to be right for a change, after deciding a character was queer.

Thirdly, the plot. I am a big fan of the idea that if it’s gonna go wrong, it may as well go catastrophically wrong. I like it when things go to hell, real fast. It’s fun and I like seeing how it can get worse as much as I enjoy seeing how that characters fix the problems – and this book did not disappoint on that front. I found every page more exciting than the last (especially the pages involved in the previous paragraph 😀 ). Everything went from bad to worse, and was written really well so you actually care about it.

Finally, the mystery element. This book has a lot of folklore in it – tales of the Makers or Hierophants or Ancient Ones – a race of giants who could bend reality to their whim with scriving. It also includes a talking key and a bunch of weird artefacts which are all surrounded in mystery. You find yourself constantly guessing how the ancient mysteries actually work, and how to solves the puzzles the characters are trying to solve – and I was right about 50-70% of the time. Actually if I’m honest this was probably the only element (besides some peculiar phrasing at times) that I didn’t like as much – mainly because for some things (for example, how the ritual works), I knew how it worked so long before the characters I wanted to yell at them for being so dense! But I suppose that’s the advantage readers have over characters – we get the extra context.

Final Thoughts

I loved it and I think anyone with even a vague interest in the fantasy / adventure genre should read it immediately. Also, I cannot wait for part 2 in the series!

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: The True History of the Strange Brigade (Short Story Collection)

NGBanner
I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

3.5 Button

Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: People who have bought, or intend to by the game. People who like short adventure stories.

About the Book

This book is a short story collection about the Strange Brigade and how its various members came to join it. The Strange Brigade is – if I’ve understood correctly – a secret branch of the British Empire that fights demons and investigates the paranormal.

What I thought

Overall, I quite like this book. More often than not I found myself wishing the stories were longer, sometimes wishing I could have a whole book dedicated to one character – the stories of Anjali (Peccavi, Or If Thy Father by Mimi Mondal) and Nalangu (Nalangu’s Trials by Gaie Sebold) spring to mind.

Since this is a short story collection, I will try and briefly give my thoughts on each story.

Was Jerusalem Builded Here (Cassandra Khaw) – this may be my least favourite reading experience ever, and I am including the time I dropped a book in the bath. The story jumped all over the place, and I just barely finished it with an understanding of what the plot was. It also included some seriously weird writing…for example:

“…hair the hue of menstrual tissue…” and “Agatha snapped, quick as a crime”.

The first is just gross and the second doesn’t make any sense at all, and these are not the only examples to be found.

If I had to sum up this story using a quote from the story itself, it would be this:

“You’re still not making any sense. Gracie ventured closer, feeling out of her depth. “What are you talking about?”

Ripples in a Polluted Pool (Johnathon L. Howard) – This story follows Captain Fairburne from an ambush in Marseille to an outbreak of pacifism in India. It’s actually a shame this one was a short story. The first part was alright, and I lost track of things during the transition from British Army Captain to member of the Strange Brigade in India, but the second half was great and deserved to be told properly.

The Professor’s Dilemma (Tauriq Moosa) – This story has a hint of Indiana Jones about it, and I love it. A professor is all set up to go on an archaeological dig when his father goes missing and he is attacked by a vicious beast! This one was well written and definitely left me wanting more.

Nalangu’s Trials (Gaie Sebold) – This story follows Nalangu, a girl who becomes a demon hunter, and sets off on a quest to rescue a child from Leopard people. Some of the writing seemed a bit off to me at times, but the story itself was really good. Definitely wanted to know more.

Where You Bury Things (Guy Adams)  – A man on the run from British law finds himself seeking his fortune in Australia. We learn about his past ask he follows a group of strangers into a mysterious cave. The story started off interesting, and I liked the idea of it, but it sort of lost steam towards the end. It built itself up to be really interesting and then just sort of ended.

Peccavi, Or If Thy Father (Mimi Mondal) – Anjali is cursed – her whole family is cursed, and it’s her fathers fault. She is destined to be killed – her brothers have both just died, and her father is on deaths door. Reading that back I realise how terrible I’ve made this story sound, and I sincerely apologise to the author – but this story is actually my favourite one so far. I would really like to find out what happens to Anjali (and her other not-dead secret brother Mahesh) after this story ended, which I suppose is exactly what this book is supposed to be doing…

The Island of Nightmares (Patrick Lofgren) – Lieutenant-Commander Hachiro Shimizu and his squadron were sent on a mission – to capture a mysterious island and establish a base to help Japan run the Europeans out of Asia. But they’ve been captured by the cannibalistic inhabitants of the island. Just when Hachiro thinks things couldn’t get any worse, he learns that the ruler of the island plans to unleash the terrible monsters that live there on the rest of the world, killing everybody. Hachiro must find a way to stop this from happening. This story was pretty cool. It was well written and an interesting story, although I am left with one considerable query about just how the Bad Guys were supposed to carry  out their plans since you are not supposed to be able to sail out from where their ship is. But maybe I missed something. It also mentioned a cowboy member of the Brigade I have no memory of, which either I’ve forgotten or was never told about, either way I feel like I’m missing out.

Tessie’s Song (Joespeh Guthrie) – Tessie, pilot extraordinaire, is attacked by the undead in a bar, and promptly recruited to the Strange Brigade as a pilot. On her first mission she finds herself struggling to extract the Brigade from an island infested with undead and dinosaurs! This story was the only one that had the main character join the Brigade within the first few pages, it also felt like very little happened. I realise its a short story and you can’t cram too much into it, but in comparison to say, The Island of Nightmares which I had just finished, it just felt sort of hollow. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, was just a bit underwhelming.

Final Thoughts

I nearly stopped reading this book after the first story – and I’m glad I didn’t because the rest of it was enjoyable. Actually it seems quite odd to me that the first and last stories were the ones I enjoyed least, which is unfortunate, but then very few people enjoy every story in a collection of shorts by different authors.

I get the feeling that reading this book would be a lot better if you had literally any clue about the game it was written to accompany – which I don’t. That said, reading this book has persuaded me to look up the game and see what it’s about so I suppose it did it’s job quite well.

This book lost a few points in my ratings because of how much I disliked the first story, and a bit more because it felt a bit rushed. Please note, I am not saying it felt ‘short’. It’s a book of short stories, they are supposed to be short. What I mean is that many of the stories felt like the authors had a whole book in mind, and then were forced to condense it into a half-hour read, which led to a lot of things that weren’t explored in the way it felt they needed to be. I would have preferred to read a series of short books, or even a collection of slightly longer stories, just so the characters could have been done justice.

___________________________________________
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Sky Chasers (Emma Carroll)

sketch-1529442960484


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A fun little book that got me reading again!

TL;DR – The story of two children (and a duck, a rooster and a lamb) taking to the skies.

5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

I spent a whole week completely unable to read anything for more than a minute until one evening I picked this book off my shelf and just read. It came easily.

The book follows Magpie, child thief turned aviator. After a series of accidents, Magpie finds herself in the employ of the Montgolfier family, who happen to be attempting to achieve the first powered flight by use of a hot air balloon. What follows is a tale of adventure, discovery and excitement.

I loved this book. I always say that age ratings in books aren’t good for much. Just because you’re older (and in my case WAY older) than the age range for a book doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and get a lot out of reading it. Reading should be for fun, and that’s what this book is. Fun. It’s a well written easy read, with lovable characters and an exciting plot.

___________________________________________
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Lost Christmas (David Logan)

sketch-1529442960484


Goodreads Link

This book reads like that list of ‘really bad metaphors’ that surfaces on the net every now and then – and I LOVE it.

TL;DR – This is the story about a boy whose life falls apart on Christmas eve, and if you’re wondering why I read a book like this at the beginning of July, I should point out that apart from the references to snow – which I don’t think I have ever seen at Christmas in the UK anyway – the book could have been set at any point in the year. It’s not just a Christmas story is what I’m saying.

4Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

Goose’s parents both die in a car crash on Christmas eve, and in the following year his life has gone from happy and carefree, to casual criminal and a destroyed childhood. The only good things left in his life are his Nan and his dog. His Nan has Alzheimer’s, and he’s just lost his dog. Then this somewhat magical weirdo appears and turns things upside down.

The first thing that stuck out was on the first page – “His all-over-the-place hair was all over the place”. It’s childlike and weird, and it totally sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is written with a childlike quality that I really loved.

The next thing that stuck out was that I guessed the ending literally the second it was possible to do so. I’ve thought about it and I don’t know why it was so obvious, but it jumped out at me immediately. That said, I wasn’t disappointed to discover I knew the ending, and really enjoyed reading it.

The story is entertaining, the writing is funny, and the plot is quite clever, if a little cliche. It’s just a nice, easy read.

I can’t abide Christmas books – which is probably why I liked this one. If it wasn’t for a title and the occasional mention it could be just winter or any other cold place (that also happened to be called Manchester).

I recommend this one to anybody who likes a good story with a very casual writing style.

___________________________________________
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Series Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

34921369_2055367931380701_6619621171048480768_n
Goodreads Link | Author Website

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Laozi

TL;DR – A beautiful example of the “Unlikely heroes go on a dangerous journey” genre. Exciting and fun, and definitely worth a read.

4-5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Series Details…

Released: 2015-2018

This series is made up of three books: Ghosts of Shanghai (2015); Shadow of the Yangtze (2016); Return to the City of Ghosts* (2018).

*Or, The Pale Revenant

See the reviews of the first 2 books here:

Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)

The Story…

The Ghosts… series follows the exploits of Ruby – a western girl, born and raised in Shanghai – and her little band of friends on an epic quest through China in the 1920s.

In Ghosts of Shanghai, Ruby and her friends have discovered an ancient Toaist almanac and have set out to learn its magical secrets by trapping a fox spirit. They soon meet a mysterious hermit in the old temple which they use as a base, Lao Jin, who amazes the group with his martial arts skills. Things soon take a turn for the worst as the political situation in Shanghai begins to deteriorate and Ruby suddenly finds her best friends, Charlie and Fei, are mixed up in something dangerous, resulting in broken friendships, families and a kidnapping.

In Shadow of the Yangtze, Ruby and Charlie set off to rescue Fei (who was kidnapped in book 1). The book follows the pair from the relative safety of Shanghai, into the Chinese interior – a dangerous place filled with warlords, revolutionaries, and spirits! This book has more of everything – more action, more folklore, more romance…

In Return to the City of Ghosts, things take a bit of a format twist, and we are introduced to ‘the author’, who tells us how everything has been told to him by the Ruby, decades later. Ruby and her friends must make it back to Shanghai – and you needn’t think that it will be easy!

Why Did I Read Them…

My sisters were bothering me to at least try the first one, but I never got round to it, but since they happened to be sitting there when I finished the last book I was reading I thought I’d give it a try. I read the whole series because the books were so much fun.

What I liked…

The biggest draw for me was Ruby. She was just so COOL. She’s brave, caring, smart and open the world. She lives in Shanghai and just absorbs Chinese culture – she doesn’t reject it like her parents and the other westerners living there. She speaks the language, knows (a little) about the religions and folklore, and she just loves the culture she’s been brought up around. It’s nice to see.

The story itself is really fun. It is well paced, so no matter how much you read in one sitting you always feel that certain something that draws you back in – you just want to find out what comes next.

Note: The following contains SPOILERS. If you wish to read it, just highlight the blank space (I’m making the text white).

I don’t like romance stories. They annoy me. As such, I was really worried the minute the romantic element was introduced between Ruby and Charlie. It built up in the second book quite a bit, and was a big theme throughout it, and I was worried that Return… would feature a heavy romantic theme. As it turns out, it didn’t. There was a bit here and there, but mostly it was just action and peril. This was a massive bonus for me.

What I disliked…

In a previous review I noted that Sedgwick has a tendency to make up random words – as it turns out, this is not actually true. I looked up the words (like jinked and snicked), and as it turns out they are real words, and he uses them correctly. He also uses slang contractions like ‘brolly’ (umbrella) and ‘loco’ (locomotive) – words I do actually know. The reason I am mentioning this in the ‘dislike’ section is because while they may be real words, they really stood out. I don’t know why, they just did – it was more strange than bad though.

Spoilers: As above.

The ‘big bad’ villain in this series was a gang boss called Moonface. He kidnapped Fei and kicked the whole journey off – which was why I was massively surprised to discover that the showdown – Ruby and Lao Jin VS Moonface and his army – was finished in a couple of pages, right at the start of Return…!

Having finished the book I can now say that this isn’t much of a problem as the story is really about the journey and not the destination, but it really stood out while I was reading.

Final thoughts…

I loved this series. Ruby is an amazing character and I loved reading about her. They setting was great, and the writing, while a little odd at times, was really good too. I would recommend this to anyone who likes easy, adventure fictions – providing they don’t have hangups about stories with ghosts and spirits and magic.

 

___________________________________________

Please note: Although my family do know the author, I have do not. I am reading them because they come recommended by my younger sisters, not because of any connection to the author. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!