Blog Tour: Chasing Shadows by T. A. Williams

After an extended blog break over Christmas (for various reasons), we’re kicking off 2017 with a blog tour. As a big fan of historical fiction, I’m thrilled to be hosting on the second day of the tour for Chasing Shadows by T. A. Williams. In the piece below, Trevor tells us a bit about the book, and his own love of history – I’m currently still reading the book, so a review will follow…

Those of you familiar with my books will know that every now and then a bit of history crops up. In When Alice Met Danny, the period in question is the First World War, with the appearance of a box of letters from a Tommy, in the run up to the Battle of the Somme. What Happens in Cornwall has the discovery of medieval artefacts on a Cornish island and What Happens at the Beach talks about the Cathars of southern France. So I’ve got a thing for history, that much is clear.

My new book takes my love of history to the next level. Chasing Shadows is a time slip book, where a modern couple find themselves following in the footsteps of a similar couple back in the Middle Ages. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a history book, it’s a romance. Or rather, it’s two romances. It’s also a thriller and a mystery. It’s a road trip along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain, the famous Camino or Pilgrims’ Way. The book explores the struggle of people trying to come to terms with appalling misfortune that has struck their lives, the sort of bitter blows we all dread. As I was writing it, I was constantly asking myself just how well I would have coped if I had found myself in the position of my characters.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Camino, let me tell you a little bit about it. This is a route from France, over the Pyrenees and across the hilly and often desolate north of Spain to Compostela, the city where, allegedly, the Apostle James was buried. Why there, you may ask? Well, the story goes that his body floated magically across to Spain from the Holy Land in a stone coffin and somehow got itself interred up in the north western corner of Spain. Now, to the modern eye, the fact that the saint’s body just happened to be discovered at the time when the other two major pilgrimage sites in Christendom, Rome and Jerusalem, were inaccessible due to hostilities may appear just a bit too much of a coincidence. Pilgrimages were (and still are) big business, and the medieval Catholic Church needed the money. Whatever the truth of it, the fact remains that millions upon millions of people believed it and undertook the lengthy journey, mostly on foot, to pray at the saint’s tomb. By so doing they hoped to achieve remission of their sins, or at least, a considerable reduction in the time they would have to spend in Purgatory.

People still undertake the arduous 800 kilometre (500 mile) trip on foot, bike or even horseback. Many still do it for religious reasons, but many do it just because it’s there. I’ve done the whole thing by bike and I’ve also walked a good few of the stages and I would recommend it most highly to anybody. I’m not a religious person – having spent years studying the atrocities committed by the medieval church, my cynicism has grown ever stronger. But you don’t need to be a Catholic, or even a Christian, to follow the Camino and it is, I can assure you, a fabulous experience. You get to meet amazing people from all over the world, see some stunning examples of medieval architecture, and enjoy Spain’s wonderful scenery. You will climb mountains, slog across dry, dusty plains, cross dried-up rivers and make your way through narrow, winding cobbled streets, worn smooth by the passage of millions upon millions of feet before you. It’s the sort of experience you will never forget.

Certainly, for the characters in Chasing Shadows, it is a life-changing experience. If you read the book and like it, then think about trying the Camino for yourself.

Chasing Shadows is published by Canelo and was released on 16th January. It’s available in ebook form and you can find out more about the book and T. A. Williams on Facebook, Twitter or on the author’s website.

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Blog Tour: Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

scared-to-death-cover-ebook-largeA serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

What I Thought:
Scared to Death is a really solid series opener, featuring Detective Kay Hunter. There is a trend at the moment for fantastic women writers, writing equally fantastic female detectives and police officers, and Rachel Amphlett definitely makes an excellent contribution to this.

From the first page, the action is piled on as we see Yvonne and Tony racing to rescue thier daughter, who has been kidnapped for ransom – their nervous energy and the drama of their situation leaps right off the page in a scene which could easily be transferred to a TV or movie screen.

The novel is well paced, with plenty of room to slowly flesh out Kay Hunter and her supporting characters in further novels – even at the closing stages of the book, personal secrets are revealed among the team.

As a premise, the idea of victims being literally scared to death is fascinating, what makes us scared and how does that physically affect us? The thought of the victims’ last moments is unnerving to say the least!!

I really look forward to more from the Kay Hunter series, she’s definitely keeping the strong female detective fresh and alive!

To find out more about Rachel Amphlett, visit her website or find her on Twitter.

Scared to Death is published on 6th December 2016.

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Blog Tour: Gravity by Andy Briggs

img_20161024_193801Eeek! Think that’s a monster? Nope: it’s a person. What terrible weapon could do this…? Errr – well, that used to be top-secret. Problem: it’s not quite so secret anymore. Dev messed up big time the day he let the ruthless Shadow Helix gang into the Inventory. What is the Inventory, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the secret lockup for all the deadly battle tech the world is NOT ready for. Which is why letting it get nicked was a REALLY BAD IDEA. Now the Shadow Helix have Newton’s Arrow: a terrifying weapon that messes with gravity, causing … well, you get the picture from this book’s cover. Dev and his mates HAVE to get it back – even if it means crossing the entire globe. To stop this evil, no trip is too far!

What I Thought:
What a fantastic follow-up to Iron Fist! As good as the first Inventory book was, Gravity picks up the baton and runs with it, making another exciting mystery, with lots of original gadgets and gizmos, helping Dev, Lot and Mason to retrieve the items stolen in the Inventory heist.

There are some new, nefarious characters alongside others who help guide Dev through his missions and foil the evil plans of Double Helix.

Although Gravity is an adverture tale – and there is plenty of that – there are also some important questions thrown up by Dev’s ‘unique situation’ (no book one spoilers!), questions about who we are as people, what makes us who we are and how our mistakes make us human. It’s really nice to see a book aimed at younger readers looking at some of these deeper questions, alongside the obviously entertaining action plot.

About the Author:
Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the, and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events. 


I was sent a copy of Gravity by the publisher (Scholastic) for participation in the blog tour and in return for an honest review – all views are my own…

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Book Review: Skinjob by Bruce McCabe

9780552171083A bomb goes off in down town San Francisco. Twelve people are dead. But this is no ordinary target. This target exists on the fault line where sex and money meet.

Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a badge, a gun and the Bureau’s latest piece of technology. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber – and before he strikes again.

In order to understand what is at stake, Madsen must plunge into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual, and the dead hand of corruption reaches all the way to the top. There’s too much money involved for this investigation to stay private…

What I Thought:
Skinjob is quite an unsettling look at a potential future where our whole lives are recorded and instantly available. It doesn’t go quite as far as Minority Report, in predicting crime, but it uses real potential tech that we might be dealing with in ten years time.

McCabe paints a vivid picture of the porn industry gone into hyperdrive, where the almighty dollar is King – not so dissimilar to today really – and the novel is brilliantly plotted, with twists and turns, leading to a jaw-dropping conclusion.

Daniel Madsen is a typical damaged detective, but he’s not any less appealing for that, and I had hoped to hear that another Madsen novel was on the way but, sadly, no news as yet…

As a debut novel, Skinjob is fantastic and it’s amazing to think that it started life as a self-published novel. It goes to prove that there are some reals gems out there in the self-publish arena!

I was sent a copy of Skinjob by the publisher (Random House) in return for an honest review – all views are, as ever, my own!

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Blog Tour: The Wraiths of War by Mark Morris

Out on blog tour again today – this time, though it could not be a more different book than our previous outing. The Obsidian Heart trilogy by Mark Morris is part horror, part fantasy, with a good helping of time travel. There are elements of steam punk and the time travel angle allows the author to write in both contemporary and historical settings – I don’t think I’ve read something quite so original for a long time.

To celebrate the release of the third book in the trilogy – The Wraiths of War – I’m hosting an exclusive extract today. Hopefully I’ll not spoil myself for the third book!! To set the scene, Alex Locke has obtained a mystical item, a human heart carved from obsidian and, among other things, it has allowed him to travel through time. During the extract below, Alex finds himself in the trenches of World War One…

wraiths-coverTHE WITCH

‘Come on,’ Frank coaxed. ‘Come on, old son. That’s it. You know you want it.’

Stan Little, rain dripping off the brim of his steel helmet, chuckled, and was immediately shushed by the rest of us. He put a hand over his mouth, looking both contrite and amused. Squatting in the trench, plastered in clinging mud, which oozed up over the ankles of his boots, he reminded me of the Speak No Evil monkey.

The rat crept closer, its fur so slick with mud and rain it looked metallic. It was wary, but hungry too, and the gobbet of bread on the point of Frank’s bayonet was proving impossible to resist. Out in No Man’s Land, amid the mud and the corpses, the barbed wire and the shattered remnants of ordnance, it would be able to see nothing of us, hunched below ground level in our water-filled trench. Neither would it be able to smell us; the stink of death on the battlefield would mask our scent. But if we made too much noise it would hear us, whereupon it would be gone in a flash.

Like all the rats here – and there were so many of them they often scampered across our bodies at night – this particular specimen was a big bastard, but mangy and diseased-looking. Frank remained motionless as it moved to within a few feet of his bayonet, the tip of which was poking at an angle above the sandbags stacked on the lip of the trench. I glanced at the men. Stan had removed his hand from his face, leaving brown streaks, and was now grinning, his eyes almost feverish with excitement. The others, shivering in the cold, their uniforms soaked through and plastered with mud, their faces drawn with the effects of dysentery and exhaustion, were staring avidly at the lump of white bread, as if they wouldn’t mind snaffling it themselves.

After prevaricating for a moment the rat suddenly darted forward. As it clamped its teeth around the bread, Frank almost casually pulled the trigger. As ever his timing was perfect. As the rat turned away with its prize, the bullet from Frank’s gun transformed it from a living creature into a red explosion of unrecognisable meat. We watched it, or rather the bits of it, scatter across No Man’s Land. Geoffrey Ableman, a new recruit, barely eighteen, was so entranced by the spectacle that he forgot himself for a moment and raised his head above the lip of the trench to watch its progress.

Instantly there was the crack of a rifle from the German trenches and a bullet whined over our trench and smacked into the mud somewhere behind us. It might have drilled through Ableman’s skull if Reg Coxon hadn’t grabbed him and yanked him back down a split second before the bullet’s arrival.

‘That were yer one and only chance, lad,’ Reg told him in his broad Barnsley accent. He stabbed a finger at the sky. ‘Him up theer’ll not grant thee another one.’

As a grinning Frank descended the wooden ladder propped against the inside wall of the trench, the men surged forward to clap him on the back. His skill at ‘rat bagging’, one of the few things that kept us amused during the grinding hell of trench life, had earned him the nickname ‘Dead Eye’. The only member of our squad who didn’t come forward to congratulate Frank was John Pyke. As ever he sat a little removed from the rest of us, beneath the sheet of rusty corrugated iron that was laid over the top of the trench and served as our only shelter. Eyeing us balefully, Pyke was hunched like a gorilla over the brazier we used to keep warm and to boil water for tea. When I glanced his way he dipped his head, as if he was afraid I might hypnotise him.

It was early December 1915, and we’d been on the front line for five weeks. From when I’d first signed up to becoming a battle-ready soldier had taken around fifteen months. On 5th November we’d set sail for France, the men joking that although we’d miss Bonfire Night at home we’d be seeing plenty of fireworks once we crossed the channel. From Boulogne the eight hundred plus men and thirty or so officers who made up our battalion had boarded yet another rickety train, which had transported us to a railhead south-east of Abbeville in the valley of the River Somme. Although we’d camped there for the night with the intention of getting some rest before the next stage of our journey, it had been so cold that none of us had been able to sleep. Instead we’d walked around for hours, fully clothed and wrapped in our blankets, in an effort to keep warm. Another long train journey the next day, followed by a ten-mile trudge, during which each of us had been loaded down with equipment (rifle and ammo, blanket, ground sheet, eating utensils and other kit), had brought us to the village of Bellancourt. By the time we arrived in what turned out to be a filthy little place, the streets strewn with refuse, we were so exhausted and hungry that we’d been fit for nothing more than collapsing into our billets. Mine was a draughty barn, full of dirty straw, on the edge of the village, but I made myself a makeshift bed and fell into an immediate deep sleep. I woke several hours later to find my body covered in flea bites and the place swarming with rats, some of which had nibbled at my boots and clothes.

A really atmospheric extract, and it gives you a good idea of the rest of the series which is well-researched and uses lots of period detail, without being bogged down. Having read The Wolves of London, I can’t wait to crack on with the rest of the series!

The blog tour continues as follows below, so do please check out some of the other reviews and exclusive content.


I was sent a copy of the Obsidian Heart trilogy by the publisher (Titan Books) in exchange for participation in the blog tour and an honest review – all the thoughts and opinions are my own!

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Blog Tour: The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter

Historical fiction is really my thing – really, really my thing – so I was thrilled to be asked to take part in a blog tour for M. J Carter’s latest Blake and Avery mystery, The Devil’s Feast. By happy coincidence, I was treated for my last birthday to a fantastic reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (I have the best friend EVER) and The Strangler Vine, the first Blake and Avery novel, was one of the recommendations that I ended up buying. Having read that, I can’t wait to get stuck into The Devil’s Feast, but for today, Miranda has written a piece for us about her transition from historian to historical fiction writer.


I am so not a natural storyteller. I started out writing non-fiction, I am an historian by training and passion, and in the biographies and histories I wrote I never had to worry about what was going to happen next.

Then, about fifteen years ago, I had an idea for a Victorian detective, a world-weary working-class guy, brilliantly clever—much cleverer than his superiors, a lone sceptic seeing through the cant and injustice of Victorian England, but forced to kowtow to those above him because he has to earn a living. I knew just where I wanted to put him, in London in the 1840s, the first decade of Victoria’s reign, an amazing city full of surprises, in a time of tumultuous change, amazing inventions, and terrible poverty. A vision had popped into my head of my protagonist going to visit a witness named Charlie Marks in seedy lodgings in Dean Street in Soho. The conversation starts and gradually we realise that this witness, with his huge beard, constantly complaining about the boils on his bottom, is none other than Karl Marx himself. I’d recently read Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx and it had painted a portrait of a raffish, often irresponsible character, who suffered dreadfully from boils on his bum.

Marx only arrived in London in 1849, and so far in my books my protagonist Jeremiah Blake (as he ended up being named) and his sidekick William Avery have only got to 1842 so they’ve a way to go yet, but this first idea started me off thinking about how I could mix real historical figures with my fictional characters, and that all sorts of very surprising people ended up in London during this period, and one could have a lot of fun with that.

Where had all this come from? My incessant history reading, of course. Anyway, the idea sloshed around in my head for years. I had a character and a set-up. But I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do plot. I’d never been a natural at making stuff up, how would I manage now? The key proved, of course, to be my old mainstay, my history reading and research.

I’m never happier than when I’m researching —basically being paid (a bit) to read books and find out about things, and I’ve always been good at gathering a lot of information very quickly. I’d say that historical research kick-starts every plot idea and bump I have.

The idea for my first book came to me when I was reading about colonial India and the Thugs, the bandit gangs who befriended, then strangled, unwitting travellers on the roads of India. I read about the British officer who succeeded in crushing them, and the fact that now there is a fierce debate among historians about whether the Thugs ever really existed, or were a convenient British fabrication. Ah! I had the plot of my first thriller: The Strangler Vine. My second, The Printer’s Coffin, came out of a book I came upon by chance at the London Library about the democracy- and freedom-of-speech campaigners and revolutionaries of the 1820s, who all ended up either selling pornography, and blackmailing in London’s red-light district in the 1840s or publishing gossip mags that blackmailed their subjects.

The third, my new book, The Devil’s Feast, came out of two things. Firstly, reading about Alexis Soyer, the first great celebrity chef, who cooked at the Reform club in the 1840s. His kitchens were so cutting edge and amazing, that people paid to take the tour, and the papers called him ‘the Napoleon of food.’ Secondly, the fact that the 1840s were the beginning of the Victorian ‘fashion’ for poisoning—there were 98 murder trials involving poison over the decade, all of them gleefully covered by the press.

No, I’m not what you’d call a natural storyteller. But when I’m stuck these days I know where to go, back to my history books.

Huge thanks to Miranda for that – The Devils’s Feast is published on 27th October by Penguin.

You can keep up to date with Miranda Carter via Twitter, or Facebook.

The Devil’s Feast
the-devils-feastLondon, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.

Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade – and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted. Where is his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

The blog tour for The Devil’s Feast continues this week, details below, so please do check out some more of the fantastic content Miranda has written…


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Book Review: Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

img_20161007_074424Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

What I Thought:
I gave a quick precis of what I thought of Shadow Magic in the blog tour post I published on Monday, and I can reiterate how good it was.

In that blog tour post, Joshua Khan gave some examples of books that are his favourites and that have been inspirational, and – for the ones I have read at least – you can see some of those influences coming through. Although this is a fantasy book, and there is a necessary thread of magic running through it, there are also lots of threads coming through from real-life history, which make it all the more riveting.

I loved the characters of Thorn and Lily, despite their very different backgrounds and upbringing, they work very well together, and it’s easy to believe that this peasant boy could be our hero. The reveal of the villain is done well, and the scenes in the cemetery have enough zombies for even the most hardened horror lover.

This is the first book in a series with the second, Dream Magic, due in 2017 – I for one can’t wait to see what Joshua Khan has in store for Lily and Thorn!

I was provided with a copy of Shadow Magic by the publisher (Scholastic) in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

51doqoci6xl-_sy344_bo1204203200_When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.

What I Thought:
What an atmospheric book! I love books that are able to strongly evoke their setting and The Gates of Evangeline certainly does that. Small-town Louisiana is painted in as hot and cloying a light as TV would have me believe, but it does not all come from the humidity. The historic Deveau family are all at once close-knit and backstabbing, with a declining matriarch who might not be quite as gripped by dementia as she seems.

Charlie Cates is a likeable heroine, who has been through what no parent ever should, and carries her grief with dignity and a sense of her wanting to move on, but not knowing where to start. It’s interesting to see her move through her grief to a place of acceptance and start looking forward, always accompanied by her son, but not so disabled by the memory of what she has lost.

As a thriller, The Gates of Evangeline works well, there are what seem to be obvious solutions to the mystery, but they are twisted to create a whole other scenario and it is paced very well, not revealing anything too soon. This is the first in a series of Charlie Cates books, the second of which is due out next year – I’ll definitely be looking out for it.

I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher (Century) in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

It’s a busy time for blog tours at the moment, and we’re off again – this time with Middle-Grade fantasy adventure Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan. My review will follow, but Shadow Magic is the first in what promises to be a riveting series set in a land ruled by six great Houses, where magic and mystery flourish and a powerful ruler can still be saved by a peasant boy.


More on that later (summary down below) but first, I’m thrilled to be hosting a piece by Joshua Khan, telling us all about his favourite and inspirational books – I know I’ve read a few on this list, but I’m definitely open to more recommendations!

My fav book of all time, by a long margin. Had this read to me at school during the summer when i was about 7. I remember the moment clearly, looking at the tree outside the half-open window. The story transported me and I don’t think I ever fully came back. It’s probably why I’m a writer.

220px-thebookoflostthingsBOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly
The very grimmest of Grimm fairy tales. Connolly is famous for his Charlie Parker detective series (which has a healthy dose of supernatural too) but this is my fav. Boy gets transported into a magical realm to chase after the Crooked Man. Oh, the creepiest of stories! Managed to get my copy signed. Result!

THE COMPANY OF LIARS by Karen Maitland
Set during the years of the great plague, and the book absolutely drips with atmosphere. You really feel utterly part of the world. The story plays as strange historical fiction but the boundaries get increasingly blurred between what is natural and what is supernatural as the company travels.

Where to begin? Massive in scope, utterly absorbing in detail, rich in history. This is a fantasy world built with love, dedication and a huge amount of care. Deserves all the praise heaped upon it and, at last, fairies down well. Macabre, capricious and inhuman. Meddle with them at your peril. You must get through the first 200 pages though. The same applies to the tv series, the first episode and a half are rather dull, but thereafter, truly magical!

CONAN by RE Howard
Bloody, gutsy, full of passion and raw in delight. Even now no one writes pulse-pounding action the way Howard does. They are not subtle but like sitting round a campfire listening to the roar of an old warrior’s laugh as he tells you his life story. The writing’s not subtle, but it wouldn’t work if it was. It’s pure adventure!

ELRIC by Michael Moorcock
In a way the very opposite of Conan. Elric is a true anti-hero. Born an ruler of a dying empire, physically weak so dependent on drugs and (later) magic, sophisticated and conflicted, he is the Hamlet of fantasy fiction. An albino wearing black armour, dragon-riding and wielding the dreaded Stormbringer, the Elric stories are high fantasy with a string streak of nihilism. It does not end well for ANYONE. I read them when I was a moody teen, which explains a lot, but they have profoundly influenced my idea of what a hero can be and I don’t think Lily Shadow, the heroine of SHADOW MAGIC, would exist without Elric. She’s definitely related to the doomed prince.

9781407130224NORTHERN LIGHTS by Phillip Pullman
I didn’t succumb to the Harry Potter craze. I wasn’t one of those adults reading him on the tube during the late 90s and early 2000’s. In fact I didn’t read Harry Potter until after I’d become a children’s writer. But a friend insisted I try Phillip Pullman. He leant me the first book and I left it on the shelves for months. But he’d ask if I’d read it every time we’d meet so eventually, just to avoid more embarrassment, I did. Once I realised what children’s books were capable of, I was determined to become a children’s writer.

MORTAL ENGINES by Philip Reeves
Probably my favourite children’s author. This is an epic steampunk series with motorised cities, terminators and a huge, rich world of wonder. I don’t know where to begin with this, but you will lose yourself in a setting that, for me, cannot be topped.
The tale starts off centred around Tom and Hester, one a boy working in London, and Hester driven by revenge. They are great by Shrike, the stalker (basically a terminator) begins to develop emotions, and he’s one of the greatest characters in modern fiction. The prequels you learn how he was made and there’s a shiver running through me just thinking about it. The world is complex, and violent. Characters die and very abruptly!

This is a bit of a cheat as it’s a collection of short stories. It includes a Company of Wolves, the story that inspired one of my favourite films ever. So, we’ve got violent, creepy and romantic fairy tales from a feminist angle and we have werewolves. What’s not to love? If you love Carter can I recommend ‘Women who run with wolves’? It’s non-fiction, but similar-themed. It looks as the origins of many world myths and fairy tales as lessons in understanding a woman’s place in the cosmos. Utterly brilliant.

DUNE, by Frank Herbert
This book’s been tainted by the long and increasingly rambling books that followed it, but this remains untouchable in scope, inspiration and scale. Its influence on all the sci-fi that followed, especially Star Wars, cannot be overestimated. What appeals most in the non-European setting (in this case Arabic). When fantasy and sci-fi still struggle to add something (dare I say it?) more diverse in scope, Frank Herbert shows how its done, and this is way back in the 1960s. In its simplest form it’s the struggle between noble houses in the far, far future. Computers are long gone, and superhumans have evolved, such as the human computers called Mentats, swordmasters, and witches (the Bene Gesserit). The book centres around the rule of Arrakis, the planet nicknamed Dune, and the one place that produces spice, the drug that allows navigators to send ships across the vastness of the galaxy. The key player is Paul Atriedes, and his rise from noble scion, to outlaw to messiah.

Huge thanks to Joshua for taking the time out to tell us about some of his inspirations – having read Shadow Magic, you can really see some of the influences in the story.

Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

The blog tour is still ongoing, so please check out the #ShadowMagic hashtag for more reviews and unique author content.

Shadow Magic was released in paperback on 6th October by Scholastic.

I was sent a copy of Shadow Magic by the publisher in return for participating in the blog tour, and providing an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

_20161002_195042Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton deserves a break. Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune teller there.

Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma’s daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. What makes this more intriguing is the jeweller who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma’s current gentleman friend.

Kate can’t help but become involved, and goes to the jeweller’s shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it soon becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby’s idyllic façade, it’s up to Kate – ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden – to discover the truth behind Felicity’s disappearance.

And they say nothing happens in August…

What I Thought:
Death at the Seaside was a perfect marriage for me – historical fiction: check, crime fiction: check! I don’t know how I’ve not heard of Frances Brody before, but seeing as this is the eighth book in the series, it looks like I have some reading to catch up on…

The setting of the book is quintessentially English, and the author has a lot of period detail of the 1920s without it seeming forced, or being full of facts – as a character, Kate Shackleton could easily fit in in the present, but there are lots of subtle reminders that she’s a 1920s girl.

The plot here seems quite straightforward at first, but there is a lot going on and it is all revealed at a good pace, neither too breakneck or too slow to care about, and additional scenes from Felicity’s point of view give another dimension to the case.

I’m not sure how Kate’s supporting characters fit in in the other titles in the series, but they don’t really feature a great deal here and they seem likeable enough.

As I said, I’m quite excited to catch up on the previous Kate Shackleton novels now and see what else this independent lady detective has been up to!

Death at the Seaside is published by Piatkus Books on 6th October 2016.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to participate in the blog tour and to provide an honest review.

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