Book Review: ‘Abandoned’ by Tim Walker

A great historical fiction novella to introduce Tim Walker’s ‘A Light in the Dark Ages’ series.

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Set at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, ‘Abandoned’ tells the story of the settlement of Calleva Atrebatum, and the determination of its people to resist the fearsome invading  Saxon raiding parties who threaten their home and their lives. 

This is a story of bravery and commitment, and of townsfolk uniting for a common cause. The danger they face is very real, and in their determination to survive and overcome, the reader witnesses both the best and worst of human nature. 

The story gives us a realistic and thought-provoking view of a period of history that is little-known to most, and foreshadows the rest of Walker’s series which continues to tell the story of post-Roman England and those who seek to  not only live there but also to control it.

Walker’s storytelling is fluid and lively, full of action, adventure and intrigue. The cast of characters is varied and interesting, ranging from slaves to the ranks of Briton members of the Roman army who, like their countrymen, were left behind when the Romans evacuated to Gaul. 

At the end of this novella, the reader is left feeling as though they have become an ally of the people of Calleva Atrebatum, and keen to discover what happens next in the following book in the series. 

‘Abandoned’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Malevolent Manifestation’ by Lucretia Stanhope

Another excellent instalment in an outstanding paranormal book series.

Must happiness always come at a price? 
In the world reigned by Gwen and Brac, the answer is most definitely “yes”.

In this ninth book in Stanhope’s Elemenhtal Witch Trials series, the members of Gwen’s family find themselves enmeshed in a web of consequences of alliances and liaisons of the past, while fighting a new and unknown opponent, and regret becomes a constant reminder that the past cannot be separated from the present and the future.

While Gwen’s family must work together to solve the mystery of their new antagonist, Destiny comes to the forefront of the storyline as she has not done before, demonstrating her strength and maturity as never before. It is refreshing to see her owning her gifts and demanding to be allowed to use them, rather than remaining the helpful wallflower she has been thus far.  

Although fraught with challenge and pain, this story is balanced by moments of beauty and joy, and by the celebration of achievements and triumphs, captured by the author to give the reader a sense of hope and anticipation of what is yet to come. 

This series continues to evolve and captivate the reader, demonstrating both the depth and complexityof the characters and story lines, and the skill of the author who has created them. 

‘Malevolent Manifestations’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

 

Book Review: ‘Never Again’ by Lily Luchesi

A powerful story, as terrifying as the true horrors of the historical events on which it is based.

There have been many horrors inflicted by humans on others in the last 500 years. Sean Wireman has witnessed them all. 

‘Never Again’ is a paranormal exposition of the consequences of human hatred and cruelty. 

The story is told from Sean’s perspective as both a witness and a sufferer of persecution, oppression and torture. The story is overwhelmingly dark and somber, but for those characters who bring light and relief into Sean’s life. The bleak and heavy tone of the writing suits the events of the story very well, yet the reader is aware that it is impossible for them to feel as weighted down by despair as Sean does.  

The main character is both flawed and heroic and, although he is not human, the reader develops a strong affinity with his emotions and responses, particularly the passions that characterise him, and his anger and heartbreak, which are portrayed so vividly they are palpable. 

The very powerful message of this novel is that the evil of the past must be resisted and put to an end. The horrors of the past must never be allowed to occur again. The reader is left in no doubt whatsoever that, like Sean, each of us must play our part in making that happen.

A gripping and often confronting read, ‘Never Again’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Children Of Darkness’ by Courtney Shockey

‘Children of Darkness is a grim tale filled with foreboding and brooding suspense from which there is little relief. Even when the protagonist forces herself to relax, both she and the reader remain slightly tense with the sensation that the respite can only ever be fleeting. 

Shockey builds the tension and darkness until it is almost tangible, then delivers blow after blow that suck the air from the reader’s lungs and keep them on the edge of their seat. 

This is a very well crafted horror story that keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

‘Children Of Darkness’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Kiss of Quicksilver’ by Dona Fox

A dark and disquieting tale.

This dark little tale by Dona Fox evokes a strong sense of desperation in her protagonist and other characters in their grim quest for survival.

Much like being thrown into the deep end of a dark pool, the reader is plunged into the action, yet only gradually realises the depths into which they have been submerged. There are some very effective moments of realisation and revulsion accompanied by an uncomfortable sensation of disquiet and doubt in the reader’s mind, both heightened by the tone of normality with which Fox infuses the narrative.

Easily read in less than half an hour, this is a perfect diversion during a break or over lunch on a busy day. Or… perhaps not while you’re eating. 

An excellent horror story, ‘Kiss of Quicksilver’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘A Different Kind of Angel: A Novel’ by Paulette Mahurin

A compelling story based on real events.

It is not difficult to be horrified by the level of cruelty that humans will inflict on one another, especially where prejudice and power are involved. There is much in this book that tells of the trauma, the emotional and physical scarring, and the horrors experienced by the victims of such torture experienced not only by those who survived the government pogroms against the Jews in late 19th century Russia, but also by those exposed to the depths of degradation meted out to those who found themselves inside the cruel, cold walls of the notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. 

Based on the true story of Nellie Bly’s infiltration of the asylum and subsequent exposure of the abuses and brutality that occurred there, and on the experiences of many who fled Russia in the hope of making a new life in America, ‘A Different Kind of Angel’ tells the stories of Klara Gelfman and the other women she meets inside that institution. 

The book certainly has its dark moments, but it also gives emphasis to the resilience and kindness of people like Klara and her friends Catherine and Nellie. These women are inspirational in their ability to rise above the pain and muck time and time again, reminders to us all of the power of encouragement and kindness in the face of hostility and fear. 

Mahurin tells a compelling story. The characters are strongly drawn, and the depictions of the various behaviours of the inmates of the asylum are vivid and, one suspects, based on careful study and research. At no time is the narrative insensitive to the plight of the insane, nor to the individual qualities of each woman and her mental illness. The reader has a strong sense of how their lives and conditions could be  vastly different given proper care, nutrition and some kindness, and feels deeply grateful to the few souls who showed these women as much compassion as they were able to. 

Overall, the story is more encouraging than depressing, and most enlightening. Despite the darkness, the message of the story is  positive and empowering, especially for those enduring some kind of misery or darkness in their own lives. 

‘A Different Kind of Angel: A Novel’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘A Stag In The Shadows’ by S.E. Turner

The fourth book in S.E. Turner’s Kingdom of Durundal series is an excellent read.

“So many paths cross and entwine with another, and then each one returns to its starting point.” 

Ajeya’s words to Dainn are true of both what they observe at that point in the story, and of the story itself. ‘A Stag In The Shadows’ is as compelling and breathtaking a story as the three books that precede it in Turner’s Kingdom of Durundal series, but it also draws together the threads of the stories from each one and reveals the bigger picture of the whole tapestry. In this, it is very satisfying to readers who have followed the series from the beginning, yet it is not the end as there are still questions to be answered and mysteries remaining to be solved in the following book. 

Even for readers who have not read the rest of the series, this book is independent enough of the others to be a most enjoyable read, although it is fair to say that those who have read the previous instalments will get more out of it.  

The reader becomes involved in this story early on, and develops a strong sense of allegiance with the characters by the time the tensions really start to rise. Just like the characters do, the reader must wait for each development and revelation to occur as the story unfolds, once again positioning characters and reader alongside one another and against those who threaten them.  There is drama and action aplenty to balance the waiting and suspense. 

‘A Stag In The Shadows’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here