Thursday 22 August 2019

Blog Tour: The Song of the Sycamore by Edward Cox

45890442. sy475 The Song of Sycamore 
Edwards Cox
Release Date: August 22nd, 2019
Publishers: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy 
Pages: 496
Goodreads: Add to TBR
A new standalone novel set in a fractured world of magic and technology, from BSFA Best Fantasy and Best Newcomer nominee, and bestselling author of The Relic Guild

On the broken world of Urdezha, Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, one more casualty in the endless war between the city-dwellers and the clansfolk. But now Wendal has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by something he brought back from the wasteland, something old and best left forgotten. The spirits are calling it Sycamore, an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a city like Old Castle, no one is innocent.

With his mind trapped inside a dead body, Wendal can do nothing but watch as Sycamore turns him into a serial killer. Until the magicians take an interest in him. Preserving Wendal's body and trapping Sycamore inside it, the magicians now have the perfect assassin at their disposal. Whenever they need an enemy removed, they can set the killer loose on Old Castle.

The clans are massing. A supernatural storm is raging across the wasteland. It has already destroyed one city, and now it is heading for Old Castle. And the only one who might prevent oblivion is the murderous entity who the spirits are calling Sycamore.

Chapter One

The city of Old Castle rose from the wasteland like an abscess swelling on the festering skin of a diseased world. Across its neighbourhoods and districts a siren called, lifting and falling with an ominous wail that sent citizens scurrying for their homes. Hiding like monsters in burrows, they prayed that this latest threat from the wastes would pass the city by, while fearing that this time, judgement had come to demand penance for their crimes. The people of Old Castle were rank with guilt. The city was populated by murderers.
And it was my home.
Through the chill of evening shadows, I made my way to the outskirts of Old Castle. No breeze disturbed the air, no sound accompanied the siren’s wail; light from a setting red sun did little to warm a tense ambience. Beyond the last of the buildings, I began crossing a stretch of open ground, heading towards the city wall. But it wasn’t me walking, not really, not any more. I could see through my eyes, hear through my ears, smell the stench of the city, but I had no control over my direction. My footsteps weren’t made of my own volition.
I neared the city wall, a sturdy construction, thick and high, unbreakable, but at that moment it seemed merely a thin veil constructed for the illusion of safety. The huge turrets rising atop it housed the mighty ether-cannons which protected the citizens from the horrors of the wastes. But not from me.
‘He’s close.’
These words gurgled from an oily mass slithering over cracked, stony ground ahead of me: a ghoul, wheezing wet breaths, hissing with anger. This thing had been a woman in life, a simple soul; but in death, an oozing puddle fuelled by injustice, out for revenge. Caring nothing for the danger approaching Old Castle, the ghoul sang her Song, a Song of obsession and need, and I couldn’t deny her plea for vengeance.
Rattling machinery.
Up on the wall, the turrets were turning, sweeping the aim of their long, fat cannons left and right. A low, familiar drone came next, baritone beneath the undulating siren, rumbling through the empty streets behind me. From the centre of Old Castle, a great beam of energy shot towards the cloudless pink sky like a waterspout. The city had activated its ether shield. High above the buildings, the energy gathered into a monumental ball of clear, wavering magic before dispersing, smearing, spreading across the length and breadth of Old Castle, forming a barrier between the city and the sky.
Above me, the edge of the shield curved downwards, creating an umbrella that descended liquidly to the ruined ground outside the wall. In a matter of moments, this hive of guilt-ridden souls was secured within a dome of ether power like a city in a snow globe. Sunlight refracted, the siren changed its pitch, the breeze dropped and the air became stifled. The bitter taste of ether dried the inside of my mouth. But it wasn’t really my mouth now.
‘Closer,’ the ghoul hissed.
Cannons tracked the movements of whatever monstrosity the song of the sycamore was coming from the wastes as I followed the ghoul along the line of the wall. With no choice in the matter, I was led to a set of stone stairs rising to a pot-bellied watch post nestled between two turrets. The ghoul slithered up the stairs and I climbed after her like the dutiful puppet I had become.
No sign of movement came from beyond the watch post’s darkened doorway, but I knew a man hid there, a murderer who had nowhere left to run. He had taken sanctuary in the watch post in a vain attempt to hide from death. His subconscious under stood what was coming for him, and why. The dead deserved vengeance.
Reeking of sewage, the ghoul hissed in anticipation, gurgled with longing. Like a snake, her darkness oozed up around the doorway to form an oily frame. I stared into the gloom beyond.
‘Your sins have returned to you.’ My Mouth, using my voice, but it wasn’t me speaking. ‘Won’t you come out and atone with dignity?’
No reply.
The man in the watch post was by no means the first murderer I had tracked that day, and he wouldn’t be the last. I’d been leaving a trail of blood behind me for two days now, and there was an endless river’s worth waiting to be spilled yet.
Whatever will remained to me, I tried to force it into my legs, to make myself turn around and walk away, but I no longer had the strength or presence to make a difference to my actions. I stepped through the ghoul’s stench, entered the watch post, and the man attacked immediately.
He came out of the gloom, big and strong, a blur of motion in the dim light shining through the viewing slit in the back wall. With one arm, he pulled me into a tight embrace, spitting a curse into my ear as his free hand thrust a knife into my side. The blade couldn’t penetrate my ribs and sliced over bone before its tip ripped out of the skin beneath my chest. I was too far gone to feel the damage inflicted upon my body and pushed the man away with force enough to send him sprawling.
‘Kill him,’ the ghoul hissed from the doorway.
The murderer sat on the floor, staring up at me. He was no Magician; he couldn’t see the ghoul of his victim. His expression became stunned when I pulled the knife from my body and showed no distress at the hot blood soaking my shirt and trousers. Panic filled the man’s eyes when I used the blade to point at him.
‘The dead call me Sycamore. I am their Shepherd.’
With another curse, he jumped to his feet, fists clenched and ready to fight. I stepped close to him, dodged a clumsy punch and drove the knife into the side of his neck, down to the hilt. Such a simple and fluid act. I wished I could have turned away and covered my ears as the man dropped to his knees, choking, clawing at the knife’s handle with fingers slicked in arterial blood. Desperate, struggling to breathe, his eyes pleaded with me. He looked to be approaching twenty, the prime of life but not yet old enough to have seen the horrors of war.
When he toppled, falling face down and dead, the ghoul gave a peaceful sigh and slithered across the floor. The oily darkness mingled with the pool of blood spreading around the corpse of her murderer. As though in a show of gratitude, a single tendril reached out to touch my boot before the ghoul faded and disappeared. Finding peace through vengeance, she journeyed on to the other side.
The city siren continued to wail. I continued to drown inside myself.
Stepping over the corpse, I peered through the watch post’s viewing slit to gaze upon the desolation outside Old Castle. The sun was about to kiss the horizon, a sinking red orb quivering through the watery magic of the city shield, shedding the last of its rays upon a broken landscape. Shadows stretched and pointed at the city; the glassy summits of hillocks reflected light with majestic starbursts of rainbow colours. Millennia of humanity’s bad choices had been trampled down into a plain of scorched rock and rusty metal. This was the wasteland. This was the world now called Urdezha, ruined beyond recognition, just like its people.
It looked as though a dust storm was blowing in. A bank of debris rolled across the plain like fog on the sea, hued red by the sun’s backdrop. But this was no act of nature. The storm had been kicked into the air by the hundreds of feet galloping towards Old Castle. A herd of beasts. A stampede of monsters. They were too far away to see in great detail, but these creatures were as big as houses, thundering along on four legs, too many to bother counting. With stocky bodies covered in bony spikes and long horns protruding from great heads, the herd’s charge looked unstoppable. Was this an act of war? Had the herd been driven this way by Old Castle’s enemies? It didn’t matter. The creatures of the wasteland were never a match for the might of a city.
Along the city wall, ether-cannons took aim and fired with oddly subdued whumps. Ether knew ether, they said, and the shield allowed the lethal bursts of magic to pass through its energy and race across the wasteland trailing streamers of displaced air. The first wave of shots smashed into the herd’s front line, punching the life from the monsters. The cannons fired again – and again – and the charge faltered under their fury.
Through the sound of the siren, the drone of the shield and the whumps of ether, distant roars reached my ears. The cannons spat so many bursts of magic that the enemy was soon obscured by dust and debris. Whether or not the remaining monsters had turned tail and fled, leaving their fallen as carrion on the wastes, not one of them emerged from the storm. The abscess of Old Castle wouldn’t be lanced today, but . . . ‘Soon,’ said a voice inside me.
I placed a hand on the wall to steady a sudden flush of  fatigue weakening my legs. The knife wound in my side wasn’t critical, but it was bleeding freely. I needed medical attention, food, sleep, but none of them would be given to me. As long as I could draw breath, my body would continue this rampage, while my spirit, my essence, me, slowly spiralled down into the oblivion of Nothing.
The moment of weakness passed, and a voice gurgled from behind me.
Another ghoul had materialised. It stood in the watch post’s doorway, formed into the rough approximation of a human shape. It held no discernible features and oily shadows dripped from its outstretched arms. The ghoul’s presence came as no surprise; it was simply the next victim of murder to find me. And in this city, on this world, there would always be a next victim.

Extract from The Song of the Sycamore by Edward Cox (Gollancz, £18.99). 

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Review: The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda

The Safest LiesThe Safest Lies
By Megan Miranda
Release Date: June 6th, 2019
Publishers: Penguin 
Genre: YA, Thriller 
Source: For Review
Pages: 352
Goodreads: Add to TBR
From the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger comes a captivating psychological thriller about a girl who must face her darkest fears - but can she outrun the past?

Kelsey has lived most of her life in a shadow of suspicion, raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn't set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers.

Kelsey knows she's supposed to keep a low profile and stay off the grid for their protection, but that plan is shattered when her dramatic car accident and rescue by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker sparks media coverage.

A few days later, she arrives home to find her mother missing. Now, to have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her. And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.

The Review: It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book by Megan Miranda and I remember it was amazing, so I was more than happy to dive to The Safest Lies which is a YA thriller and it’s one I enjoyed.

The Safest Lies follows teenager Kelsey. All of her life she has lived under her mother’s strict rules for privacy and safety. Her mother was a victim of kidnapping years ago but she managed to escape and has never got over what happened to her. It’s when Kelsey is involved in a car crash and is rescued by a student from her school that the events hit the news and therefore putting Kelsey and her mother in danger. Kelsey’s mother has been taken once again and this time, they want Kelsey as well. 

I started the story really not knowing what to expect but I was honestly really surprised. I’m not a big thriller reader. I love my romance stories so I always tend to stick with the same reads. So this was a nice change. And it mainly came from just having read another thriller story, so two together was a big thing for me. But this is the kind of story I like. It had the right amount of suspense, secrets, action and romance for me to keep me turning the pages. Kelsey and Ryan were great to get to know. I enjoyed their story and there romance was super sweet and their moments together were ones to look forward to.  

There is one major twist to the story though that really flipped this story upside-down. Did I like it? Maybe. No, I don’t think so. I spent the first part of the story sympathising for Kelsey’s mother. Her past was horrible and I could understand why she was the way she was. I do think she could have dealt with things better – for the sake of her daughter. But by the end, I couldn’t help but dislike her. I really won’t say more because it will honestly spoil the story for others but the twist for me definitely changed how I felt for her. 

In all, The Safest Lies was a good turn paging reader and one I think many will enjoy and I will definitely be adding more of Megan’s book to my TBR pile. 

Thank you to Penguin for giving me the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review. 

                                                                  Rating: Liked it - 3 Flowers 

Saturday 10 August 2019

Review: What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

42504683. sy475 What She Found in the Woods 
Josephine Angelini
Release Date: July 25th, 2019
Publishers: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: YA, Thriller 
Source: For Review
Pages: 384
Goodreads: Add to TBR
After a scandal breaks in her elite New York City private school, Magda is shipped off to her grandparents’ sleepy Pacific Northwest town to spend a summer recovering under the radar. Over-medicated and uninspired, she spends her days in a fog, hiking in the woods behind her grandparents' cottage.

But then gorgeous wildboy, Bo, stumbles across her picnic blanket and Magda starts believing she might be able to move on from her past. The only problem seems to be the series of crimes breaking out across town, and when a body is found in the woods near Bo’s encampment, it’s clear that Magda’s nightmare is just beginning. She's no longer sure who she can trust. . .

What She Found in the Woods is an addictive and all-consuming thriller with a twist from the internationally bestselling author of the Starcrossed series, Josephine Angelini.

The Review: Josephine Angelini is back with What She Found in the Woods and this time it’s a YA thriller. I’ve been a huge fan of the authors work ever since her debut novel Starcrossed released so I was very excited to see she was writing something different. And it was honestly a fantastic read.  

The story follows a teenage girl Magda, who following a huge scandal at her private school in New York moves to a quiet town to go live with her grandparents after her psychotic break. There Magda tries to get her life back together by trying to become a better person and tries to reconnect with her old friends. It’s when she is out hiking one day she meets Bo, a teenage boy who lives in the woods with his family that things finally start to turn around for her, but when a woman is found dead near where Bo’s family live, Magda starts to question everything that is around her.

I have to say I don’t read many thriller stories, I’m entirely sure why but I’m really glad I read What She Found in the Woods. It’s a compelling and page turning story that gives you insight of what it’s like to be a teenager, but one that is also dealing with life changing experiences and the consequences that follows after.

Magda for me was an interesting character to get to know. I immediately sympathised with her, even without knowing the full extent of her story. She was very likable and also very relatable. When she meets Bo he starts to bring her out of this sort of depression she has been in for several months and I found I really enjoyed the story when they were together. Bo and his family were honestly a mystery but I found I really liked them all from the start. 

There are a few mysteries to try and solve throughout this book that really keeps you guessing and I really enjoyed the reveals when they happened. I was honestly sad to reach the end of the story, and although I would have loved an epilogue just to see where the characters ended up, I also liked how it ended so I can imagine it for myself. 

In all, What She Found in the Woods was a good read and one I really enjoyed, so it’s one I would definitely recommend if you are looking for something different. 

Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for giving me the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review. 

                                                                    Rating: Really Liked It - 4 Flowers 
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