Saturday, 28 December 2013

Grimm: The Icy Touch by John Shirley

This book is based on the hit TV series Grimm. For those that don’t know, the series is set on the idea that the creatures from fairytales are based on truth. 

Wesen, as they are known, have human form but also a second beast form which they can change into. There are many species of Wesen including Blutbaden (wolves) and Daemonfeuer (dragon-like). A Grimm is a human with special abilities who police the Wesen to protect not only unknowing humans, but other innocent Wesen. 

Portland detective Nick Burkhardt is a Grimm and in this story, is drawn into a dangerous case along with his human partner Hank Griffin, where a criminal organisation known as The Icy Touch is recruiting Wesen into their gang and brutally slaughtering anyone who refuses. 

At first it seems to be a violent drug smuggling operation, but Nick soon uncovers an ancient rivalry and death oath with the gang’s ruthless leader that could have dire consequences for Nick and everybody dear to him. 

I hadn't seen the TV series before reading this book, but I still wanted to review it because of the supernatural, fairytale and crime elements. There wasn't much fairytale reference, but the Grimm world and mythology is very interesting and detailed. 

It took me a little while to get into it at first, as I felt I didn't know the lead characters as well as I should, but then the storyline takes on a life of its own and I was hooked. I loved reading about all the different types of creatures and their personality traits. I also enjoyed the historical flashbacks with Nick’s ancestors. 

I’m sure this is a great addition to the world of Grimm; I’m certainly curious about the series now. This book is an entertaining, action packed read for fans of the show, and also fans of creature tales and supernatural crime. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

The View from the Tower by Charles Lambert

In Rome 2004, politician’s wife Helen is at her hotel with her lover. Less than a mile away, her husband is assassinated. Helen suddenly finds herself in a convoluted web of police investigations and public spotlight after the high profile murder.

Her lover, who was also her husband’s best friend, finds his dark past catching up with him, and Helen feels pressure from her in-laws throughout the media frenzy. 

As she begins to uncover more about her husband’s death, she thinks back on her own history and the people and politics she used to be involved. She finds she discovers more about her marriage after her husband’s death than she ever could have realized when he was still alive. 

The story starts quite boldly; Helen meets her estranged lover and the murder of her husband happen at the beginning. After that, the story slows down, with lots of flashbacks and plenty of details as the character’s secrets and pasts are unraveled. I found that the slow pace actually suited the story. I would have liked a few more shocks, but as it is, it’s still an engaging novel. 

The descriptions of Italy make a picturesque backdrop against the chaos of the politics and civil unrest of the time. The events surrounding Italy at this time were completely new to me, I’m not a huge fan of politics, but told through Helen’s eyes as an Italian citizen and with interactions with local characters; I found that element quite interesting. 

This book is very character led. As well as Helen and her lover, there are other characters involved, even minor ones who have their own back stories that link in with the main plot line, which kept things interesting. There is just the right amount of drama to keep the edge up. It’s full of betrayal and secrets which make for a gripping story. Slow burning, yet detailed, The View from the Tower is a sophisticated tale for crime fiction readers.

Published in the US/Canada/Ebook: 31st Dec 2013 - UK + RoW: 2nd Jan 2014

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

She by H. Rider Haggard

I was very lucky in October to win a set of She books By H. Rider Haggard from Hesperus Press. The four books make a very attractive set and I was intrigued by the stories, She itself first published in 1886. Both my mother and my grandmother read this book when they were at school, so I wanted to see if this classic would hold my attention in the same way. 

Professor Horace Holly is disturbed one night by his oldest friend who tasks him with taking on the care of his young son Leo, and also bestows upon him a strange box and an unbelievable legend. Later that night, the poor man passes away. 

Holly does what is expected of him and raises the beautiful, golden curled Leo Vincey on whose twenty-fifth birthday, they open the box and Leo decides that they must go in search of the fantastical legend as depicted by the contents. 

Their adventure takes them to the heart of Africa, where after a shipwreck and days of travelling, they are taken in by the strange Amahagger tribe. For a while they live with the tribe and eventually, are taken to see the beautiful and terrifying white queen of Kôr, Ayesha. 

They are introduced into her kingdom and she decides that Leo is the reincarnation of lost great love and she shows them many secrets that she has learnt in her 2000 years of existence. But what started as a curious adventure ends up becoming a journey of life and death. 

The language is very old fashioned, which is to be expected given the time it was written. Sometimes, I like delving into older novels as they are more challenge. There is a lot of description; of characters, of landscapes, of events, sometimes a little too much for me, but it all serves to paint a vivid picture of a unique story. The characters are all well written; I loved the relationship between the ugly, reclusive Holly and his ward, the handsome, young Leo. As for Ayesha, she is every bit as stunning and terrible as you can imagine her to be. 

I think for its time, She has pushed the boundaries of the worlds and stories that can be thought of, and it is unsurprising that it has been published again and again over a hundred years since its first publication. Intelligent and engrossing, this is an adventure and a half for hardy readers of this genre. I’m looking forward to what the next books have in store.