Angels of Music by Kim Newman – Book Review

Title: Angels of Music

Author: Kim Newman

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Alternative History, YA, Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5


One of my favourite fantasy authors has always been Kim Newman. I discovered him a couple of years ago, when I first started getting into The Gothic, and devoured his alternative history version of the Dracula tale – Anno Dracula – and I loved how he retold the canon in new and imaginative ways. Luckily, I was sent his newest book for review, and I knew from the front cover that I would love it.

angels_music_final_2Angels of Music is a retelling of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera tale (note, very different from the Lloyd Webber musical), and follows the plot of The Phantom running detective/crime fighting underground syndicate made up of talented female agents who solve the crimes that the higher levels of society would like to keep out of the public eye. Basically bohemian Paris’ Charlie’s Angels. The toxic underbelly of Paris is revealed, and with automatons, vampires and mass murderers running riot through the city, it only takes one spark of a flame to ignite a terrifying series of events.

Angels of Music reunites some of Newman’s best loved characters, with Kate Reed and Irene Adler coming into play as one of The Phantom’s agent ‘Angels’, and gives mini stories throughout the novel that links together at the end.

Written in the traditional Newman style of different historical characters coming into play throughout the text, and different historical events being retold to fit the narrative, it felt like coming home to an old friend, and not forced or false at all. I also find myself Googling these events, just to read the real history.

I really enjoyed the different Angels, and with the plot moving forward in a linear fashion, girls leave and get replaced with others. All in all, Newman wrote 18 different Angels, all with different characteristics and back-stories, which provided an interesting read. None of them felt really left out and rushed, and none of them really seemed repeated. I particularly liked THE JAPANESE LADY and the vivacious CLARA.

All in all, this is another brilliant novel from Kim Newman. It hasn’t faltered in quality at all, and I love that he’s gone into another Gothic figure of interest and completely put his own spin on it.

Angels of Music is out now.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S Denning – Book Review


Title: 
Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

Author: G.S Denning

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Alternative History, Fantasy, Mystery, Detective Fiction, Retelling, Supernatural


When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, there have been dozens of reimaginings and retellings of the famous figure.  Whether it be young Holmes, modern day Holmes, American Holmes or Robert Downey Jr Holmes, we’ve seen Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters been changed and rejigged for different audiences.

So when I was sent Warlock Holmes for review, I wasn’t surprised that another author had given our favourite consulting detective a new story and a new life. But what I was surprised about was how much I enjoyed this crossover.untitled203_1

In the original stories, Sherlock Holmes was a genius whose deductive skills were unparrelled and his mind was virtually unchallenged by regular people. Warlock Holmes, on the other hand, is an idiot. A good man, yes. A font of archane and witchy powers, who communicates with demons, devils and otherwordly creatures, yes. Yet his deducing skills rival that of a knat. So when he meets and subsequently befriends the brilliant Doctor Watson, they make an unlikely but excellent duo. And with the help of the nilistic vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade and actual ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, Holmes and Watson go through a delightfully ‘weird’ version of London and solve mysteries.

This book reimagines six of Sherlock Holmes most popular cases (excluding Baskerville) and puts the occult spin on each one. And through each one, the writing is easy, fluid and comedic. Denning sticks to the original stories quite well, which gives the stories a good standing to fall back on. And with the addition of fantastical creatures, it just adds more to the text, rather than take anything away.

Throughout the text, Denning has swapped the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, yet it doesn’t lessen the relationship between the two men. I actually love the more idiotic and dim Holmes, as he does excel in the occult-ish sense, but lets Watson take the lead. The author also has put a fair bit of slapstick and quite silly comedy throughout, but as this wasn’t meant to be a serious retelling of the Sherlock Holmes saga, I felt like it didn’t make it feel too childish.

As a whole, the book is easy to read and very enjoyable for Sherlock Holmes fans. With Moriarty cropping up as a malevolent spirit who possess Warlock on occassion, and then coming to quite a dramatic ending, I actually found myself eager for the next book. Denning has left it with a marvellous cliffhanger, and to be honest, has written such a good retelling, it almost makes it feel believable.

All in all, a funny and lighthearted retelling of Conan Doyle’s stories, and a must-read for fans.

Warlock Holmes is out on the 27th May 2016 – Pre-order it here!

 

The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder – Book Review

Title: The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack

Author: Mark Hodder

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult Fiction, Alternative History, Sci-Fi, Mystery


“Every time we are faced with a choice, and we are faced with them every minute of every day, we make a decision to follow its course into the future. But what of the abandoned options? Are they like unopened doors? Do alternative futures lie beyond them? How far would we wander from the course we have steered were we to go back and, just once, open Door A instead of Door B?”

As I’ve stated before in various blog posts, I’ve been experimenting with reading more fantasy and sci-fi literature. Yet, one crossbreed that I haven’t really touched on is the ‘Steampunk’ genre. So, when I had a six-hour train journey to cope with, I borrowed Mark Hodder’s The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack from a friend, and inadvertantly found myself falling into an alternative historical novel that not only ticked the ‘steampunk’ genre, but also had elements of mystery, fantasy and questions of morality.

Set in an al7293120ternative Victorian (or rather, Albertian)  London, and with the use of actual historical characters and events, Hodder’s book brings together a narrative that involves all the power of the Victorian engineering, industrial and manufacturing prowess, along with a labyrinthine collection of murder, mystery, genetic engineering, folklore, sexual deviance, chimney-sweeps, abductions and an underlying current that can only be called ‘pure steampunk’. And who, I hear you ask, is our guide through this intricate world? Who will be the Virgil’s to our Dante’s? The famous explorer, scholar and swordsman, Sir Richard Burton.
After a serious public and personal humiliation, Burton is unsure of what his future holds. His former friend and contemporary, John Speke, has gone missing and presumed dead and his career has suffered a colossal blow. So when he is recruited by King Albert to be the ‘King’s Spy’, he throws himself into the investigation wholeheartedly. And his first mission? To investigate a series of sexual assaults, who have been committed by a  presumed folklore creation, known as Spring-Heeled Jack, and to discover why half-human, half-dog creatures are kidnapping chimney sweeps. But as he gets deeper and more involved in the crimes, Burton finds himself in the underbelly of the London’s most depraved circles, where science, morals and ethics run wild and without consequence.

Now, as a a debut novel, I was very surprised over the quality of the writing, the complexity of the plot, and the well-crafted characters. Debut novels can sometimes be hit-or-miss, and it can be due to the author’s writing style, delivery of story or way they’ve been crafted. But when I read this, I was impressed.

One thing that I really enjoyed with the novel was the universe it was in. I love alternative history, and was very excited to read a novel that was Albertian, rather than Victorian.  I cannot fault the world-building, as Hodder has really taken on the steampunk idea, ran with it and made it both incredible, yet highly believable. He provided a credible and quite scientific reason for all the steampunk-ness of the novel, and wrote the eugenics side of it in a highly fascinating and technical manner. Hodder explored quite deep topics, such as ‘humanity versus technology’, ‘freedom from slavery’, and ‘what distinguishes us from animals’ in a careful and well-written way, and he also excelled in having various different storylines which didn’t really muddle up or get too convoluted.

In the novel, the characters were also fairly well imagined. As well as the reimagined historical characters, we have different social groups who have their own quirks, and different ages and sexes have been portrayed. However, what did confuse me a bit is that this book is supposed to be focusing of Burton, and the poet Algernon Swinburne, but these are probably some of the least explored characters in the entire book. But, as this is a series, I can see room for more development and backstory. And
Swinburne is quite hilarious in the sections that he is in, so I am hoping for more of him. There was also a need for more female characters. Apart from the odd mention of a woman, the only interesting woman were Isabel Arundell and Sister Raghavendra, yet compared to the men, they barely feature in the novel.
The reason I wouldn’t give this a 5/5 rating is because the last section of the book does get slightly muddled up.It seems almost rushed, and feels slightly unfinished. Now, despite this being a series, I don’t believe the next book is a continuation. So to leave it feeling as unfinished as it does isn’t that great. Also, sometimes the amount of steampunk description did feel too heavy, and too complicated. The same goes for the storylines. However, all in all, I found this book highly enjoyable! A fairly fast-paced fantasy, steampunk adventure and one that I will be eager to continue with! But please, if you’ve read any other steampunk novels, let me know in the comments below.

Links!

To buy the book – Waterstones /Amazon

Link to the author’s website – Click Here

Link to the author’s twitter – Click Here