I actually read some books this year!

One of the side effects of moving from reviewing to publishing, was that outside of Fox Spirit titles my reading plummeted. Like really dropped through a hole into the deepest oubliette. This year has been better. It’s not been multiple books a week, but it has been multiple books, so here is a round up of my reading this year. Yes it’s very positive, that’s because my reading has become extremely selective and I move on from things that don’t grab me quickly. 

Raising Fire by James Bennett
James has written a number of short stories for Fox Spirit, is a dear friend from our shared days in Leicester and will always hold a special place in my reading heart because dragons. The Ben Garston series is fantastic. The pace builds over the three books, which travel all over the world, drawing myth, fairy tales and folklore together in a modern setting.  Raising Fire is the third book and the series ended in an amazing climax. For fans of Dragons, fae, myths, old gods, history, King Arthur, gold, heroes getting beaten up a lot.

Blood Bind the Pack by Alex Wells
This is book 2 of I think just a pair. It picks up pretty much where the first leaves off. These are great novels, set on a planet that is colonised and blending the high tech of the planet owners with the day to day wild west on motorbikes vibe of our sort of heroes. I loved the world building, I loved the characters and these books have put Wells firmly on list for future purchases. Look out for these if a) you loved Firefly, b) you really wanted to love Firefly but needed it to be better, c) you like good book. Or any combo of those really.

The Hunter by Andrew Reid
Andrew has also done the odd short story for Fox Spirit and we have a shared affection for whimsical death and amazing female MMA fighters. The latter is what put this book on my TBR. Also the fact that Andrew is a great writer. It’s a thriller romp of the highest order. Tremendous fun, the lead character is everything I want from my MMA fighters and this book beats its way to the truth goddammit and into my heart.
For fans of Haywire, MMA, thrillers, drama and fun, the tense and violent kind of fun. 

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
If you haven’t heard of Pinborough yet you have to choose, go back under your rock or come blinking into the light? She started in horror and has written fantastic YA and some brilliant twists on fairy tales. Cross Her Heart is, so far, the only book I have read that doesn’t expose her genre core. It’s none the less excellent for that. Hidden pasts, people with secrets, spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. This is deep, gripping thriller on the intimate level of individual lives, rather than a grand Bondesque international platform. 
For fans of thrillers, Killing Eve, personal drama, missing their stop because they were reading. 

Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows, Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows
I got halfway through the first and ordered the second so I didn’t have to stop reading. Which worked well as they pick up book 2 pretty much where book 1 leaves off. There is a lot to unpack in these books. They are portal world fantasy, but rich and involving and Foz created a phenomenal cast of character who I was genuinely sorry to leave behind. I could have lived here for many more books, but this story was told at least and it was satisfying. 
Lots of representation here too, because if you are creating a fantasy society it doesn’t have to follow in the worst traditions of old white guys writing what they deem to be ‘historically accurate’ medieval style worlds. #justsaying
Pick these up if you like action, adventure, portal worlds, Sarah Connor (no fate but what we make).

The Poison Song by Jen Williams
I feel emotional just talking about this series of books. I want to be Vintage when I grow up. Pleeeease? Last in the series, was a year for them it seems. The Winnowing Flame trilogy is a phenomenal set of characters, the world building is fantastic (pun not intended but I stand by it) and the story telling will leave you cheer sobbing by the end. A lot of what is in these books has a comfort factor for regular fantasy readers, we have all seen elves and forests and evil Queens before, but Jen brings something new to each of them. Please read these so we can talk about all our favourite bits forever. Jen has done one story for Fox Spirit. 
For people with a soul, animal lovers, warriors, poets, readers and pretty much anyone really.

The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Another finale, and Adrian brings his YA(?) at least YA appropriate trilogy to a close. I put off reading this briefly because I was terrified of how it would all end. It was amazing. The series is brilliant, and I fell in love with Many Tracks early, partly because she is a bit snippy and not sure what she is doing and overwhelmed a lot of the time, so very relatable. 
Adrian has done a number of short stories for Fox Spirit and is a super and prolific writer. If shapeshifting (sort of) adventures and battles for the soul of every sentient thing in the world doesn’t appeal to you, then check out the award winning Children of Time, or his Empire of Black and Gold books or anything of the other SF or Fantasy he has done. 
For fans of shapeshifters, fantasy, YA, epic world ending stuff.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry
Christina Henry has been working her way through old favourites and doing other stuff with them. In Alice we are moved to a world of horrific crime bosses and a girl in a mental facility with PTSD. Still a fantasy world, but Henry’s White Rabbit is very different. I have pretty much been on a grab everything I see by Henry since then and The Girl in Red Delivers. Fundamentally a story about a girl, trying to get to her grandmothers house, during a zombie apocalypse. 
Buy this one if you enjoyed the others by this author, love a Zombie story, or just need something a bit different.

Three Mages and Margarita by Annette Marie (and three more in the series)
I actually chomped through the first four in this series in short order. Tremendous fun, light easy reading, playful, urban fantasy at their heart but no sexy times so if you prefer your books flirty but chaste these are good. It’s mundane stumbles into magic, in over her head, but wants to help her friends kind of stuff. Nothing groundbreakingly new but done well and perfect for an over taxed brain to escape for a bit. 
For fans of Buffy, Lost Girl, urban fantasy that’s easy on the angst.

Chase the Dark by Annette Marie
As with the others, light fun adventurous fantasy. This didn’t click with me as well as the first series so I have left it at one for now. Still fun though. I really do think Marie gives a great fun read and you should check her out for when you need something with plenty of action and adventure but light on the angst.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
This one blew me away quite honestly. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and brilliant and I love it. It kicks off with a young noblewoman who is locked in a battle of wills with her step mother and doesn’t understand the stakes at play. By the time she realises, it is too late to stop her life moving totally out of her own control. I don’t know what else to say, it has angry gods, fierce women, magic, I just *babbles incoherently*. Buy it. 
For fans of fantasy, romance, magic, political intrigue and awesomeness. 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
This is a book about stories. It’s a book about many things. If you read the Night Circus you have some idea what is coming, but this one is more so. You can drive yourself mad puzzling as you go or you can throw yourself in and let it draw you through it’s wondrous twists and turns. I recommend that path. It all comes together in the end and the journey is a joy.  
For fans of letting go, setting fire to bridges, boats and other dreary worlds….to borrow from The Cure. 

The Family by Louise Jensen
A family thriller exploring relationships, particularly between mother and daughter. I picked this up after an event  saw Louise speak at and it’s good fun, tense, has a few unexpected moments and is a solid read. It’s not something I would normally have picked up off the table, but it was a quick read and delivered on the promise of developing tension that I look for in a thriller and the unravelling of lies. 
For fans of thrillers, family drama, psychological thriller.

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
Juliet has a few shorts with FS and is well established as a brilliant mind in SF & F both on the page and off it, as well as something of a sword wielding badass. The Green Man’s Heir is right up my street and possibly living in my shed. It’s rural contemp fantasy, bit of murder and mystery, some fantasy creatures, a bit of an understated hero getting into scrapes. Just lush and fresh and wonderful. The pacing, writing, worldbuilding, characters etc are all on point and the story engaged me pretty much instantly. This was an easy read and picking up the sequel was a no brainer.
For fans of dryads, druids, long walks in the woods, men who work with their hands and mysteries. 

Gumiho, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
I think this is YA again, certainly the key characters are that age group. It’s based around the mythology of women who are foxes and eat men’s livers to survive. I fundamentally approve of all these things. The story takes place largely in Seoul and as well as men’s livers Korean comfort food features memorably in this story. It’s sad and sweet and magical and a brilliantly written fantasy adventure. It peppers bits of mythology through the book between chapters building the feel of history to the events unfolding. It also had me wondering how many times my youthful drama’s would have been avoided if I had just been frank with my parents and them with me in return. I might owe my mum a bottle of something. Or several. I lost myself in this one happily.
For fans of foxes, mythology, YA adventure, fantasy, eating men’s livers. 

I am currently reading Redeemer by C.E. Murphy who I love as a writer and read a lot in my reviewing days. It’s fab, I will try and pop back with a few words when I am done. 

 

 

 

Countdown to Christmas Day 10

Today we are recommending another Fox Spirit skulk member, but not our own publications. That is because in addition to some incredible short stories with us, in the last few years James Bennett has been writing novels. Awesome novels with DRAGONS. 

James is interviewed in two parts on Damien Seaman’s blog where he talks about his writing, his travels, the need for representation and getting his book deal

series image from Orbit.

:

Part 1 is here 

Part 2 is here

I have read the first two books in the Ben Garston trilogy and am very excited to get my foxy paws on the third.

And as we are reviewing this month here are my super quick reviews of the first two:

Chasing Embers
James Bennett takes myth, fairy tale, history and the almost real world and expertly pulls the threads together to weave a tale of dragons, daring adventures and ancient foes.
It’s also the heartbreaking and powerful story of a young girl’s desperation, betrayal and hope.
A fantastic story and a complete tale, with the promise of more to come.

Raising Fire
The first novel in this series created a rich world where history, myth and fairy tale blend together and offered us a protagonist driven by duty more than heroism as it built towards a climax. This second volume picks up with the fallout of the previous years events, dropping the reader straight into the action as we discover that far from being allowed to fade back into the background, Red Ben is going to be fighting for his life.
The focus in the second novel is on the eastern and western guardians of the remnants and the lore and the machinations of the Envoy, leading us through Xanadu in the past, Paris in the present and of course, a little bit of London among others. The threads of loss, betrayal, longing and survival weave throughout the fantastic story telling and compelling characters. It’s faster paced than the first, full of visceral battle scenes, with the occasional potent moment of sorrow or despair, rooting it deeply in the readers heart.
James Bennett is a superb storyteller and this series is a must read for fans of knightly adventures, dragons or fantasy, or pretty much anyone who reads fiction really.
I would recommend reading the first, but technically I think you could dip straight in at book 2, Bennett drops just enough breadcrumbs to follow the plot without the full background, although I think it is a shame to miss out on book 1 personally.

Aunty Fox Reads

When I started Fox Spirit I gave up book blogging formally, and only occasionally post about the books I am reading. I thought the run up to Christmas is a good time to share some of my recent reads though. I don’t gt as much time as I used to but these were all especially enjoyable.

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng 

I fangirled at poor Jeanette at Sledge lit because I loved this book. It is not an action packed book of fae adventures and magic, it is more a thoughtful look at religion and self through the attempt to convert the fae. Although not a great deal happens in terms of outward adventuring the main characters are forced to re examine everything they believe about themselves and the meaning of their own souls. The book never feels slow, part of its magic I suppose is that it feels as though there is a great deal going on even when it is all in the subtext, but this is what I imagine dealing with the fae would be like. A genuinely delightful and thought provoking read.

Raising Fire by James Bennett

This is the second in James’ trilogy, although it you want to dive straight into all action you could pick it up here. I think you would be missing out because Chasing Embers is fantastic and full of gorgeous world building. Once again Ben Garston, the only dragon left awake by the accords, spends much of his time fighting for his life and trying to work out who to trust. This book blend myths and fairytales from various parts of the world with a little history, building into James’ glorious version of reality. full of adventure and dragons. Read it. 

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

I picked this up because of the hardback cover. It’s a young adult, maybe middle grade read and it deals in demons and possession. It’s good fun. Not as complex as the Bartimaeus books which are my gold standard for this sort of story, but the characters are interesting and it’s a quick entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed the developing relationship between Prosper and his unwelcome passenger. Family dynamics are never as simple as they seem, so perhaps this is a good choice for Christmas.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I don’t buy books because people advertise them on social media, but occasionally someone I follow (a lot fo them are writers) will say something that will make me go and google their work. I downloaded Heidi’s book on Kindle for a look as it was on offer, then 3 chapters in, bought the paperback and the sequel. It’s a simple enough concept, using maps to Navigate through time as well as place, but it’s brilliantly executed and thought out and the element of time travel makes everything a little more complex. I enjoy the lead Nix and her relationships with the crew and her father. Really entertaining novel asking the question, what would you do for love and how far is too far? 

 

Aunty Fox Reads…. quite a bit really

I have been asked about books. Not the ones we publish, but what I buy outside of Fox Spirit and specifically what other small presses I look to for my reading material.

I went for quite a long time since starting FS without reading much outside of it, then I changed jobs. Just over six months ago I found myself with a commute by train and it has been heaven. So let’s start with a list of books I have read and enjoyed since August and the reasons I read them.

A note before I start, every one of these books was excellent and I would recommend them all so assume high stars all round. I am bad at reading books that don’t draw me in quickly.

books delicious books

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough – I know Sarah a little and have read her work before, so was happy to buy and read her recent releases, confident I would enjoy them.
The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Zen did a story for us which was superb. I like to support writers who have supported us with their stories by buying their books, add to which, I really like reading all the writers we work with so it’s a low risk strategy.
Burning Embers by James Bennett – James is a friend, a Fox Spirit writer and a fantastic story teller. No brainer.
Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold – I loved Gaie’s earlier novels, I nearly died of squee when she did a story for us so obviously I had to have this.
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Adrian is a fantastic writer and again, has worked with FS.
Alice by Christina Henry – The original Alice always struck me as darker than people think, I was intrigued. I was also looking for interesting novels by women.
Lost Girl by Adam Nevill – Apt 16 terrified me, Adam is a great writer and a lovely man, we must try and weedle a story from him one day.
Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney – this one just looked interesting and Paul’s name is one of those where I am always a bit, have we met? Or have I just come across his name so many times I think we have met?
How to be Dull by Basil Morley Esq – Basil Morely is actually K.A. Laity who writes and edits for FS among others and never fails to entertain me.
The Red Tree By Caitlin Kearnan – Picked this up years ago because it looked interesting, and it languished on the shelf. I thought I would give it a try as part of my bid to make my reading more diverse and I was rewarded richly.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston – recommended and indeed supplied by a publicist friend who knows what I like
Escapology by Ren Warom – Ren is amazing, which I know because we published her novella so obviously I had to read this.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Rare occasion where I actually got around to the book group choice but a fantastic book that has set me off collecting up more feminist non fic.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – Part of my personal challenge to be more diverse in my reading. Joseph is a Native American writer and I loved the sound of this particular book. It’s great btw.
Nemesis by Agatha Christie – I love Christie, I love this story, charity shop comfort read.
Clockwork Heart by Dru Paliassotti – Bought this forever ago, and it appealed when I did a shelf search.
Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs– enjoyed the film but was curious as a friend who loves the books was very cross about the changes.
Love across a Broken Map by The Whole Kahini – A friend was involved in editing and producing this and so I had great confidence in it being excellent. It was.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – see previous Pinborough. Also one of the main characters is called Adele, how could I resist?
The Red Queen by Christina Henry – Sequel to Alice which I loved.
The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – again it’s been on the shelf a while, but I have read a number of Gaiman’s books over the years and had no doubt I would enjoy it. 
The Stars and Legion by Kameron Hurley – Read God’s War as a BFS judge, loved it, read the next one, love Kameron’s fiction and will just keep buying and reading them.

 

Books I am dipping into

They do the Same things Differently Here by Rob Shearman – Shearman is an incredible short story writer and possibly the loveliest man alive.
Nasty Women by various – Saw a lot about this and with the world as it is it felt like a must read.
Frazzled by Ruby Wax – Because I am basically.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla – Part of my efforts to challenge my reading habits. Enjoying this greatly.

So you will start to see a pattern.

I like to support writers I know, especially ones I have worked with or who I enjoy chatting with on online of F2F, which is helped by the fact that I am confident I will enjoy their work.

I buy from small presses and indie authors a lot at events, it’s not well represented here but I have a stack of books I have read or want to read from the likes of Grimbold, Kristell ink, Newcon and others both past and present. Things I look for in small presses tend to be that people running them I know share some of my tastes or values, or writers in common as that is a good sign I will enjoy the stuff they put out. Some of the presses I love, like Boo and Jurassic sadly closed, which I talk about at length in the Sisyphus post, so I won’t go back over it here. Not all indie presses are so small of course, Angry Robot and Titan, along with Abaddon and Solaris often make their way onto my shelves, I recently discovered Quirk and will be going back there again. Then there are specialists, like 404Ink and Dhalia who offer something more specific but from time to time overlap with my genre preferences or just hit my needs in the moment and who are doing high quality work. There are lots I haven’t mentioned but browse the dealer room at any genre con and you are surrounded by people I would buy from. 

At bookstores I have a system. Check for new books by people I know/like already either F2F or from reading their work. Then browse for writers that expand my reading, so at the moment looking for books by non white writers is a big part of my store search technique for or openly LGBTQIA writers, writers of colour or non fiction books. Finally, anything that just looks interesting or a bit different (harder than it sounds tbh). I have been known to purchase books for their covers, or indeed because of the cover artist.

Heading into a new year with books!

As we reach the end of 2016 and stumble blinking into a new year, I thought instead of the usual
‘what did we do, what are we planning’ round up, I would simply gather some recommendations of
books to take you into 2017. These came in response to a shout out on twitter for people to tell me
what books they want people to take with them into the new year.

We meander through many excellent genre titles, occasionally stepping out of speculative fiction
and even into non fiction as people share titles that have excited them and that you might want to
consider. There is a good mix of getting away from it all and getting ready for whatever 2017 brings. 

I have added amazon uk links where possible, in case you want to know more about any of the books or add them to
your reading for the new year.

Names and quotes included with permission.

My choice is ‘How to Be Dull: Standing out next to genius‘ by Basil Morley Esq (K.A. Laity).  The only self help book you will need in 2017 tells you how to be taupe in a world full of primary colours. 

Kev McVeigh (@kevmcveigh) recommends ‘Will Do Magic for Small Change’ by Andrea Hairston as a great fantasy read to start the year with. Loving the title so will be checking this one out myself.

Infomocracy’ by Malka Older is suggested by Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) as a cyberpunk novel to help us through the challenges of 2017.

Will Ellwood (@fragmad) recommends ‘2312’ a sci fi by Kim Stanley Robinson ‘because society can be better’ which seems a good starting point to me. Also the collected short stories of J.G. Ballard.

Zero World’ by Jason Hough is recommended by Steve Taylor Bryant (@STBwrites), SFF with super spies. 

The Sorcerer to the Crown’ by Zen Cho, a sword and sorcery fantasy about English magic, wizards and breaking down barriers. Recommended by the wonderful Juliet E McKenna (@JulietEMcKenna).

Children of Time’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky which will have you siding with the spiders gets a shout out from Juliet E McKenna and Tade Thompson (@tadethompson)

On the Edge of Gone’ by Corinne Duyvis, young adult fiction, was recommended by Lynn O’Connacht (@lynnoconnacht) 

All the Birds in the Sky’ by Charlie Jane Anders recommended by Rob Haines (@Rob_Haines) it includes a witch who talks to animals and time travel. 

Image courtesy of Adrian Tchaikovsky

Shona Kinsella (@shona_kinsella) recommends ‘Blindside’ by Jennie Ensor, ‘The House of Shattered Wings’ by Aliette De Bodard and ‘The Good Immigrant’ by Nikesh Shukla

Alasdair Stuart (@AlasdairStuart) draws your attention to ‘Six Wakes’ by Mur Lafferty which is describes as a ‘note perfect locked room clone murder mystery in space’. (Sold!)

The Memoirs of Lady Trent’ by Marie Brennan is recommended by Margret Helgadottir (@MaHelgad) It has Dragons!

The Briefcase’ by Hiromi Kawakami while not spec fic also gets a big recommendation from Margret as does ‘Earth Abides‘ by George R Stewart.

Terrible George (@monster_soup) recommends the grim, violent reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry. (I loved this one too!)

Alec McQuay (@Vampiricchicken) ‘Absolute Pandemonium‘ – Brian Blessed’s autobiography. ‘It’s the absolute nadgers’.

Mongrels’ by Stephen Graham Jones is recommended by Paul Michaels (@paulmichaels) as dark and wry.

The seasonal Jingling Nerdish (@whirlingnerdish) recommends ‘Geek Feminist Revolution’ by Kameron Hurley and ‘The New Jim Crow‘ by Michelle Alexander.

Das Kapital‘ by Karl Marx gets a recommendation from Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) for those leaning toward something a bit more serious for new year’s reading.

Lynda E Rucker’s ‘You’ll Know when you Get There’ a collection of stories, comes from James Everington (@JHEverington)

Shana DuBois (@booksabound) suggests ‘Desert Songs of the Night: 1500 Years of Arabic Literature’ edited by Suheil Bushrui and James M. Malarkey with the comment ‘Exploring the roots and beauty of other cultures is paramount today’. (Couldn’t agree more).

Mr Fox (@TJEverley) recommends ‘The Minotaur takes a Cigarette Break‘ by Steven Sherrill, a novel that sees the Minotaur working as a chef and living in a trailer. Also ‘All you Need is Kill‘ by Hiroshi Sakurazaka which sees the lead caught in a timeloop, reliving his death. 

V for Vendetta‘ by Alan Moore & David Lloyd makes it into the facing 2017 category with a call from Steve Birt (@EvilStevieB)

The seasonal Santa Runny (@runalongwomble) suggests ‘The Fifth Season‘ by NK Jemisin.

Beckett’s ‘Eden trilogy‘ or Walton’s ‘Thessaly trilogy‘. ‘I think we’ll need in 2017 the reflections they bring’. from C. (@solinthesky)

Chris Nguyen (@ChrisGNguyen) suggests Animal Farm by George Orwell and ‘All the Light We Cannot See‘ by Anthony Doerr

The Complete Worse Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Piven & Borgenicht because according to Chloe Yates (@shloobee) ‘we might fking need it’.

Recommended by Joyce Chng  Starhawk’s ‘Dreaming The Dark‘, a book on magic and spirituality.

From Dylan Fox (@foxie299) ‘Watership Down‘ by Richard Adams. ‘Teaches us to listen to our instincts, to believe, to fight, to keep fighting… and to accept death’.

So there you are, a few ideas to get you going as we head towards 2017, swords raised and flag flying and books stockpiled!

Aunty Reads : The Girl with all the Gifts

Since starting Fox Spirit my reading has dropped off dramatically, but I am going to do better in 2016. I will also be sharing anything outstanding on here. I posted about The Night Circus last year and over Christmas I read The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey and I thought it was wonderful. I will try to articulate why without spoilering.

Carey kicks off from the perspective of a little girl Melanie,  living a very odd life, and allows the reader to unravel the mystery of what is going on, with a sense of slowly growing horror. The reader knows something is not right with the situation, the restraint of the children, the way they are showered and fed, and by the time the reason is revealed the reader is already suspicious. It takes longer for  Melanie to understand and accept the reality of what is going on.

girl

 

The novel is beautifully paced and continues to draw out elements of mystery and discovery all the way through. The characters, at first two dimensional from the perspective of the Melanie, are pleasingly complex and human as the book unravels. Once the early mystery of Melanie’s nature and situation are revealed the tropes of it’s particular sub genre are largely obeyed,  but with a flair and originality that kept me reading and wanting to know how it would all resolve.

The resolution itself left me satisfied. It was a neat conclusion that pulled no punches.  Heartily recommend this novel.

Aunty Reads : The Night Circus

For the longest time I’ve struggled to finish books, to read something unrelated to Fox Spirit for my own pleasure. I am starting to reclaim that pleasure. Since I started out reviewing, I thought I might share my thoughts on those books I manage to complete here, with you.

I picked up The Night Circus after a number of friends recommended it to me. They were right!

night ciurcus

The Night Circus is beautiful, complex and enchanting. A story of multiple layers, based around a magical contest whose contestant are committed without their consent and not told the rules. The game must be played and they are tied to it until it is complete. Everyone who works for the Circus or falls for its enchantments is also, more subtlety but just as irrevocably bound to it.

The combatants actually show a frustrating lack of curiosity about the game itself, while as a reader I was initially impatient to understand it better. It isn’t long though before the book casts its spell in full and I was lulled into the nightly life of the circus, less concerned with how or when it will end but rather wandering endlessly down the ouroboros like paths, gawping and gasping as each new marvel is revealed, but never quite shaking the unease fully, knowing that something is not quite ok here.

Two magical prodigies battle, using the Circus as their stage and while Marcus and Celia work and spar their respective mentors manipulate and protect the secrets of their ego driven with little regard for who is harmed or at least forever altered by the process.

The writing is beautiful, the story gently compelling, the characters never fully revealed in their complexity, everything is done so beautifully. The Night Circus is a masterclass for aspiring writers in how to create an atmosphere with every aspect of the book that reflects the tale you are telling.

I fell fully under the illusions of this book, absorbing it, watching it unfold slowly like the living statues that adorn its paths. Holding my breath as the illusions unfold ever more intricate and dangerous. What will become of Marcus and Celia as the game inevitably concludes and can the circus survive? Why is Poppet no longer able to read the stars and what is the role of young Bailey in all of this. With workings more delicate than the complications of the Circus’ amazing clock this is a book that draws you in and binds you to it gently, from which you cannot simply walk away before the game is done.