Monday 25 May 2015

The Gisburn Witch (Witches of Pendle Book 1) - Sarah L King

Title: The Gisburn Witch
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK

"The Gisburn Witch" is a historical fiction novel written by debut author Sarah L King. In the interest of upfront honesty, I want to start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. I am still trying to write a fair review but wanted to make sure everyone knows about the relationship I have with the book as I doubt I can keep it completely bias free.

Anyway, the novel itself is based around the events that led up to the infamous witch trials of Pendle in Lancashire, England during the early 17th Century. The specific story we follow in this book is that of Jennet Preston, a woman who was from the village of Gisburn which is in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire. Scandalised as a young woman after being accused of seducing Tom Lister, a gentleman’s son, her life is soon filled with shame and hardship. As an outcast in her own village she befriends the Device family in Blacko and is quickly embroiled in their world of folk magic, superstition, old family feuds and dangerous reputations. When fate intervenes to reunite her with Tom, Jennet risks everything for love and happiness, but when tragedy strikes Jennet finds that she is vulnerable to accusations for which she could pay the ultimate price.

So my first comment on the novel is in regards to the pacing, the novel does start off relatively slowly as King attempts to introduce the reader to Jennet herself and the society she lives within. However, as the story progresses the pace gradually increases until the final part of the novel more or less flies by as the tension builds and the drama unfolds. I pretty much read the final quarter of the novel in one sitting as I really wanted to know how this obvious tragedy was going to unfold. Other than that, the writing was very competent and it had a heavy descriptive element which really helped to bring out the obvious love felt by the author for the Lancashire countryside and climate.

In regards to the characters, I found myself quite split as there is basically nobody in this book who you could define as being a classical "good guy"; even Jennet herself acts and behaves in a manner which I didn't always like. I actually found myself moving from an initial feeling of pity for Jennet, to frustration with her, to mild anger and then back to feeling a sense of pity for her again. King has basically tried to create people with flaws and defects in an attempt at providing an element of realism within the novel which is commendable but at times it did lead to me wondering if I would end up caring about any of them by the end. Thankfully, as mentioned above, I did feel sorry again for Jennet by the end and I especially felt a sense of empathy for her husband, William who had suffered a lot throughout the novel.

Overall, I did really enjoy the book, it isn't a genre I read regularly but I think it was a well written, successful attempt at trying to bring to life a real historical tragedy with people full of their own hopes, weaknesses and flaws. As said, I am probably biased as my wife wrote it but during the editing process she altered parts of the story I had issues with so the final product was probably always going to please me. If you are interested in exploring a Historical Fiction novel that takes a look at some of the lives of the common people within English 16th/17th century society rather than royalty etc. then I think you should give this book a try.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Fear (Gone Book 5) - Michael Grant

Title: Fear (Gone Book 5)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Fear” by Michael Grant is the 5th and penultimate Book in the Gone series. I was looking forward to reading this book as the Gone series has been some of the best dark, dystopian novels I have encountered in recent years. The book follows on from the event of “Plague” with Sam now working with others to run a settlement out by the lake whilst Caine rules over his own settlement in Perdido Beach as a King. The tenuous peace that now endures is threatened when the dome around them begins to blacken cutting out all light which threatens to finally finish off everyone within the FAYZ.

As with the other novels in the series, the book is a wonderfully well written, adrenaline packed adventure that had me hooked from the first page to the last. The story structure is very similar to what we have seen before, with Sam being central to the plot and the teenagers having to face off against each other in addition to some form of enemy sent by the gaiaphage. However, the main driving force behind this novel to me was character development. Grant really begins to delve into the psyche of the surviving characters who all appear to be suffering from various forms of post-traumatic stress. As we move towards the final novel it appears that Grant is determined to ensure the reader really knows each character and understands who they are, even those without special powers.

A really interesting addition to this novel is that Grant decides to finally let the readers glimpse a view from outside the FAYZ. The reader gets to follow things from an adult’s viewpoint which is a nice counterpoint to that of the teenage centric story we have had so far. This adds an enjoyable and fresh feeling to the novel as we get to see how the various parents and the military have been responding to the situation as it has unfolded.

In summary, this is another enjoyable novel in this exciting series. With this novel I specifically appreciated that Grant has tried to give us something new with the view of outside in addition to the further development of the characters. There is not much more to say other that next up in the series is “Light” which is the finale and I really can’t wait!