Watkins, Paul: The Promise of Light (1992)

The Promise of Light - Paul Watkins

The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army (the army of the Irish Republic) and the British Government and its forces in Ireland. (Wikipedia)

The Promise of Light is for the most part about the above war that happened between 1919 and 1921 and Ben Sheridan’s part in it. However, we also get a look at some of the background for the war and the hostilities that had brought Ben Sheridan to Ireland.

When Ben Sheridan discovers that the man he thought was his biological father isn’t, he also discovers that his adopted father’s background was different from the one he had thought. He and other exiles from the Irish conflict had settled on Rhode Island and tried to gain support for the Irish side of the conflict from the US government. They also collected weapons and money and sent these covertly to Ireland.

Ben Sheridan goes with one of these transports on his way to discover who his biological father was.

Without Ben going to Ireland we would not have had this fictional tale of the Black and Tan war / Anglo-Irish war / Irish war for Independence. Just looking at these three different names for the fighting between 1919 and 1921 shows me how incredibly important the combination of our words is. Words have a great deal of power in forming our world views. Some of the links below use this power in their portrayal of the terrible killings of that time.

Inside my head that is what Paul Watkins shows us with The Promise of Light. We get to see the despair of the innocents and the participants who are brutally murdered and tortured by the other part of the conflict. Except for the people who enjoyed killing, raping and maiming what we are dealing with is a bunch of frightened people who are following some kind of leader. These leaders manage to bring others to their side. Sometimes they use words, sometimes money and sometimes brutality in getting people to support them.

I understand the need to be free of the tyranny of rule by people we feel have no right to rule us. After all I am Norwegian and Norway was used as collateral in wars and went between Danish and Swedish rule for centuries. Then the Germans took us over. But I would stink as a patriotic warrior.

However, I do see how Ben got drawn into the conflict. Chance has the potential of bringing about terrible things in our lives. On his way over to Ireland he did not envision killing others, but that is what he ended up doing. Ben was beaten for the cause and he got to watch people he had befriended killed. He also learned even more about grief than he had thought possible.

Paul Watkins portrayal of this period of Irish history drew me in and kept me reading.


Reviews:


Amazon UK


The Anglo-Irish War (BBC History)

The Black and Tans – who were they? by Tom Toomey

The Irish War of Independence by Noreen Higgins

Timeline of the Irish War of Independence Wikipedia

Nevill, Adam: Apartment 16 (Formerly known as “Down Here With the Rest of Us”) (2010)

Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill

Creepy! I think that’s the best description I can give of Apartment 16. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it was too creepy for an old lady. But if you enjoy horror, then this is the book for you.

The writing is excellent. Adam Nevill uses all of his writing tools with a gifted hand. It’s not often I get this creeped out by a novel, but this time the author won. You know the tight feeling you get in your chest when something is too freaky. Quite frankly, I was scared shitless.

Most likely it was Seth’s descent into madness and the experiences that brought him to that point that did me in. His experiences seem similar to the experiences that Apryl’s aunt Laura had when she slowly lost her grip on reality. Or perhaps it could be said that both Laura and Seth got to know a new kind of reality. Apryl’s experience with Apartment 16 at the very end of the book shows us that what went on with Apartment 16 was very real indeed.

Apryl has inherited an apartment in London. In her apartment block there is an apartment that is a bit off. But opening the door to that apartment would be unwise in the extreme. You see, this apartment is haunted, and it’s out to get you. If it catches you – well you know how it goes. You’d better not be caught and that leaves Apryl in a tighter and tighter spot as the novel progresses.

Enjoy.


Reviews:


Apartment 16 on Amazon UK


Haunted houses in London

Kay, Guy Gavriel: Under Heaven (2010)

Under Heaven

Under Heaven affected me profoundly. I believe it was the depth of Shen Tai’s mourning for his father and his offering to his father’s spirit that moved me most. Imagine setting yourself the task of burying all the bones from a battle twenty years past in order that those spirits might find peace. A more appropriate place for restless spirits than a battleground I cannot imagine.

Kay went on to say that he’s interested in how the course of a person’s life can change in a moment, and how “small moments and events can ripple outwards.” Whether it’s an individual or the life of a people, he pointed out, “significant consequences can begin very inconsequentially. That’s one thing that fascinates me. The other thing that fascinates me is how accident can undermine something that’s unfolding, something that might have played out differently otherwise.”

To Kay, “the human condition is redolent with this aspect of randomness, and I try to work that into all of my books.” (CBC Books)

The choices Shen Tai, his older brother and their younger sister, Shen Li-Mei, make end up having both intended and to a great extent unintended consequences. All three discover that assistance and opposition comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected quarters.

In this story there aren’t any really bad people. There are mainly just people with the regular gamut of human emotions and with varying degrees of ability to do something about their desires. While the Tang Dynasty was a better place for women than the ones before it, women held less room in society than men. As with most places in the world today, women had to be a lot more creative in their maneuvering than men did. Their accepted roles were also very different from the one men were able to hold. To become a warrior like Wei Song, one who even guarded a man, was not something that was open to most women (much like today).

Reading about the role of women was both a painful process but also a delight. Delightful because of the intelligent and brave women I got to meet and painful due to the few changes that have happened in the world when it comes to the roles of women and how true their power is.

Under Heaven is a fairly dark story. Considering the times and the rebellion it portrays that is no wonder. I am trying to decide if I would call it dark fantasy, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate. I love its complexity and many threads that all come together one way or another in the end. What an awful race we humans are. It really is rather sad to see us revealed in all our terrible glory. Under Heaven was an intensely touching book that left me thankful for having found it. According to the author, his goal in writing is to keep the reader turning pages. It worked with me.


Reviews:


Women of the Tang Dynasty

Song Dynasty (the Kitai Empire in Under Heaven)

An Shi Rebellion (simplified Chinese: 安史之乱)

Hua Mulan (Chinese: 花木蘭): female warrior

Uyghur Khaganate


  • Winner of the 2011 Sunburst Award for Adult Litterature
  • Nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Best Novel
  • Nominated for the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

Marion, Isaac: Warm Bodies (2011)

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is Isaac Marion‘s first novel. He has an interesting take on zombieism. According to the world of Warm Bodies, zombieism is not necessarily a permanent state. Just because something is, doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to remain so. But change will bring resistance from the more conservative (both living and zombies).

The main problem with this novel is that it’s message is too obvious at times – in fact spelled out. I felt as though I was being preached at. This is a first novel, though, and as such – pretty good.

I liked the way “R”‘s, the main protagonist, journey was presented. The road from moan and groan to being able to make himself understood on many levels was interesting. It gets kind of gory at times but probably not more than most teen-literature today.

There’s plenty of humor. I especially appreciated the way the schools for the living and the schools for the dead were.


Reviews:


Film-adaptation acquired 2010 by Summit Entertainment to be released 2013

Grindle, Lucretia: The Faces of Angels (2006)

The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle

I have not been able to find an official website or blog for Lucretia (Walsh) Grindle.

In The Faces of Angels we meet Mary Warren. Mary Warren is a widow who lost her husband while they were on their honey-moon in Firenze. At that time Mary herself was attacked and almost lost her life as well.

The Faces of Angels introduces Inspector Pallioti. In this novel, he is trying to figure out who is killing off people Mary Warren has come into contact with. During a previous visit Mary, herself, was nearly killed. Her husband was murdered. Right after she returns to Florence, the killings begin again. It seems the serial killer has taken an interest in Mary.

Rituals for serial killers seems to be a must. So too with this killer. The murders are brutal and the victims are left with little gifts.

I’m reminded me of most British mysteries, where suspicion is moved from one person to the other (while one person after the other is killed). This novel is above average in its execution. Grindle has managed to keep the atmosphere tense through most of the novel. At times the flow hiccups, but for the most part Grindle manages to draw me from one line to the other.

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The other Inspector Anthony Pallioti mystery is The Villa Triste

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The Edgar Allan Poe Awards® 2012: Nominee for The Best Paperback Original

Rothfuss, Patrick: The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle II) (2011)

French cover by Mark Simonetti

The Wise Man's Fear

This novel is a brick of a book – 994 pages short. It is also book no. 2 in The Kingkiller’s Chronicle. You must read no. 1 – The Name of the Wind – first. Otherwise The Wise Man’s Fear will make little sense.

These are the only possible negative things that I have to say about this series. Patrick Rothfuss certainly knows how to write a tale of magic and suspense. I struggled to put the novel down at night and would read for far too long before going to bed. It has been well worth the wait.

As in The Name of the Wind, we have our innkeeper, Kote,  telling the story of his younger days as Kvothe. Kvothe is known as “The Kingkiller” and The Kingkiller’s Chronicle is his attempt at explaining the circumstances that led up to the assassination.

Kvothe is an interesting character. He’s a wonderful mix of dark and light, death and life. There is an innocence about him in spite of his earlier experiences and his willingness to get dark and dirty.

He continues at University in this sequel. Like in the previous novel, Kvothe struggles to make his tuition and still has to support himself by working beside his studies. Kind of sounds like modern-day students, huh.

Kvothe’s ambitions are high and he pays a price for them. Perhaps too high a price in the end. His ongoing battle with Ambrose is costing him. Finally, he is advised to take position somewhere so he can both learn what being a magician is all about and also to get out of Ambrose’s way.

Kvothe goes. He’ll have lots of experiences on the road, some for good and some as plain learning experiences.


My review of The Name of the Wind


Deviant Art: some amazing and some not quite as amazing fanart


2012: David Gemmell award: LEGEND AWARD (BEST BOOK): The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Gilman, Felix: The Half-Made World (2010)

The Half-Made World
Cover artist Ross MacDonald and Jamie Stafford-Hill

The Half-Made World is a combination of fantasy and science fiction set in a Western (Wild West) environment. Half the forces battling in The Half-Made World is set in a Wild West setting and ruled by something called “The Gun”. The Gun consists of demons inhabiting weapons (guns). Humans who take up these weapons end up being possessed by The Gun’s demons and slowly, but surely, they go insane.

The other party of this war is “The Line”. The Line is set in an industrialised environment where steam-engines are possessed by demons and somehow rule the humans in their control. This industrialised world is bleak, colorless and rigid. Both parties want  control of the world with humans as their slaves.

Humans, being what we are, seek to control others through supposed control of the demons. Any reader of human/demon novels knows that humans tend to come out with the poorer deal of any relationship between the two. Power is the lure the demons put before whichever human they seek to control. Ahhh, even people with the best intentions can fall for that temptation.

Somehow a weapon has been discovered that might elude the power of the demons and they do like this possibility. Their emissaries are sent to capture the person known as The General. He just happens to be at a hospital called The House Dolorous, a hospital that is not what it seems to be.

Liv Alverhuysen travels west to the hospital. She is from a part of the country where neither The Line nor The Gun hold control and is not aware of what they are and how strong their forces are. Once at The House Dolorous, Ms. Alverhuysen is supposed to help heal the minds of patients. The various parties meet and fates decided.

I really liked the underlying sense of humor in this novel. The Half-made World is well written, and the text flows from one line to the next. I admire that in an author. There is plenty of tension, a good climax and a fitting conclusion.

Use public libraries

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