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? 


Foxy Friday : James Bennett

Our  Foxy recommendations this week are from James Bennett

Book: The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring

A fictionalised account of the notorious haunting of Borley Rectory. Seances, ghosts, old family secrets, an appearance by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a big spooky mansion. This would make a perfect Christmas read. Paranormal activity or clever hoax? The author keeps you guessing right until the end. What’s not to love?

Film: The Desolation of Smaug Extended

Yes, yes, these films are long, but have you seen the extended versions? Jackson shades in a little more of the background and as a result the pace works better. Beorn gets more than a walk on part, the Black River of Mirkwood makes an appearance and there’s a different cut of Gandalf in Dol Guldur. Like Unexpected Journey Extended, it all feels a little less *rushed*. Yes, I know I just wrote that.


Graphic novel: Locke & Key VI: Alpha & Omega

The concluding part of Joe Hill’s graphic novel series and perhaps his best work to date. In this one, the somewhat complex plot unravels into a gripping finale as the children of Keyhouse face down Dodge and his army of shadows. You’re missing out. Go read.

Comic: Sandman Overture

Confession: I haven’t read this yet. But just look at that cover. A stunning comeback for the Dream King.


Gadget: Huawei E5372 4G Mobile Wi-Fi

OK, so this isn’t strictly a genre thing. So what? This pocket-sized doohickey  is a portal to other worlds! Get superfast broadband wherever you get a mobile phone signal (including rural Wales) and never curse at second hand signals through dodgy wired access points again. Only £20 a month for 15GB from Three Mobile. How come no one told me about this 2 months ago?

European Monsters : Shadows Under Bridges

Shadows under Bridges

by James Bennett


What draws us to the darkness? To the shadows under bridges? The place beyond the circle of the streetlight? What makes us examine the doings of evil, to explain or justify with some cause of pain or just the inevitable, relentless urge of nature? Do we seek redemption where there is none? Some kind of hope in hatred? To accept a monster as a creature beyond help, incapable of conscience or remorse, is surely to speak to our deepest fears. All our compassion added up to naught. If we cannot reach, cannot reason with the darkness, then what good is our light?

To understand a monster is to understand the self. At least several noted philosophers say so. Perhaps that’s why humans shy away from the unknown and the unknowable – from that which we do not want to know. If we look at the source of the word monster – a combination of the 12th Century Middle English monstre and the Latin monstrum, meaning ‘portent, unnatural event’, we can easily see the red flags of language flying around the smouldering cavern mouth, flames warning us away. Are monsters simply a way for us humans to externalise the parts of ourselves that we don’t like to look at? The abyss inside? The grotesque, the villain, the killer…? If we can remove these elements and mould them in different clay, an other that we chase into the briars of our imagination, then in some way, we stand a chance of thinking ourselves safe.

But we are not safe. There is plenty to fear. The monsters are among us. We are the monsters.

This thinking certainly informed the series I’m working on and the idea has bled into my short stories, an increasing number of which serve as an extension of a theme, feeding into the whole. Spin offs, in a way, a chance to look at the subject through a host of eyes – the lexicon of fabulous beasts being, of course, longer than Finn MacCool’s arm, a theme larger than the boulders thrown to raise the Giant’s Causeway. But I don’t think the sentiment came as much to the fore as it did when I came to write Broken Bridges.


Here I was dealing with a troll, the notorious under bridge dweller and man-eater of countless frightening tales, a shaggy-haired, sharp-toothed, bull-shouldered stench of a thing with little to recommend it but dread. From Hans Christian Andersen to The Hobbit, storytellers have depicted the troll as a mean, hungry, stupid creature – not an outright evil one exactly, but a brute nonetheless, driven by appetite rather than ambition. Certainly in childhood memory, from the Norwegian tale Three Billy Goats Gruff to the offhand, lumbering cruelty of Tom, Bert and William in the woods of the Trollshaws, writers have primarily treated the big, dumb, hairy creatures with darkly comic disdain – the troll as the bully or dunce of the fairy tale world. On screen, depictions of the troll range from a ravenous threat, to the clod-footed and misunderstood (the excellent Troll Hunter) to the nimble, hunchbacked dwarf of the nursery rhyme and horror movie (Troll, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye). One has to dig back into Nordic myth to discover that this wasn’t always the case. No one ever claimed that the jötnar were particularly pleasant, you understand, but in their huddled tribes, dwelling in mountain ranges far away from humans, you get the distinct impression of nature beings, primal, solid, elemental creatures who might easily have found themselves adrift in a rapidly encroaching modern world…

Broken Bridges trudged out of its cave with this idea. The more I read about the creatures, the more I felt sorry for them. Can one truly escape one’s nature? From our earliest beginnings, our parents and teachers show us how to fight the monsters. To denounce, repress and exile the other inside. Perhaps until we learn to understand, to extend our compassion and light into the shadows under the bridge, we will always be trembling in the cold. Running away. Forever scared of the dark.

I sat down to write a monster story, what in all honesty was originally a tale of savage claws, of distant roars heard in the forest and blood left splattered on tree trunks. Instead, I wrote a kind of mirror. I hope that Broken Bridges makes you spare a thought for monsters and gives you pause to reflect. Failing that, I hope it scares the hell out of you.


James Bennett

West Wales November 2014