Title: The Challenge Author: Kim Iveson Headlee ISBN13: 978-1518615481 ASIN: B00ZGROCUQ Published: October 2015 Pages: 38 Genre: Historical Fantasy/Fantasy
The gauntlet is thrown. One must die. Refusal is not an option.
Arthur the high king of Breatein has fallen captive of a longtime enemy, the Saxon warrior-princess, Camilla, who lusts to avenge the death of her betrothed at Gyan’s hands and will stop at nothing, even the black arts, to achieve her goal. Because Gyan and Arthur have grown estranged, she fears that Arthur may side with Camilla and make her his new queen.
Now Gyan must face all her demons – public as well as private.
Body of review:
The Challenge is part of Kim Headlee’s The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles and although it is the first story of the series I’ve read, that does not impede its enjoyment. It is a short story set in the world of the Arthurian legends and although it mixes fantasy elements (not that there are no fantasy elements in the story we’re all familiar with) it does refer back to older stories and traditions. Considering its length, the story packs an incredible amount of detail, not only of the action and fight itself (with vivid descriptions of weapons and gear), but also of the relationships of the queen, Gyan, with her men, of her feelings about her people and her kingdom, and also of her mental state at the time. She confronts a rival with supernatural strength, but more important than that she also has to fight her doubts about her relationship with the King. And although I’m not going to give you any spoilers, I can tell you that the ending won’t disappoint.
If you fancy a short read, full of action, with a good mix of historical detail and fantasy, and a superb strong female lead, I strongly recommend it.
What the book is about: A challenge and the fight of the queen against her rival, now a witch, to keep her kingdom and the man she loves, King Arthur.
Book Highlights: Good descriptions of both fights and also of the motivations of the characters, particularly considering the length of the story.
Challenges of the book: Some of the expressions and words that are adapted from old languages in the British Isles.
What do you get from it: A good short break and a read that can be savoured no matter how short a time you have. Also a good introduction to the series.
What I would have changed if anything: I’ve noticed some readers complained about the names of objects (like the sword) and characters although I think they are part of the authentic touches of the story. Perhaps a short guide identifying characters and objects with the corresponding names we’re already used to in Arthurian legend would make it easier for readers. As I haven’t read the longer books it’s possible that it’s already available elsewhere.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: People with only a short time to read but kin on getting into the action quickly and having an introduction to the series.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 3.5/5 Overall enjoyment: 5/5 Readability: 4.5/5 Recommended: 4.5/5 Overall Rating: 5/5
Title: Normal Author: Graeme Cameron ASIN: B00OY2769S Published: Kindle version due on 6th April. Hardback available from 31st March and paperback due in September 29th ) Pages: 301 pages Genre: Thriller (serial killer)/romance
Thanks to Net Galley and to Harlequin Mira for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Normal takes another look at the ever popular figure of the serial killer. This one is not only British, but also fairly “normal”. The author choses to use first person narration as a way of keeping the main character anonymous (no description, no personal details other than his own narration of his actions and his environment, not even a name) and of offering the readers and insight into the mind of the murderer. And this was where the problem resided for me. Of course a serial killer deserving of that name would have to appear “normal” to society at large, otherwise he would be easily spotted and stopped. But there are certain psychological characteristics that would be expected, like superficial charm, callousness, lack of empathy… All of these are present to a certain level, and even give rise to pretty humorous (in a dark humour kind of way) situations, but unravel when he seems to fall in love and becomes… an utter disaster.
From being a man who had managed to kill an undetermined number of young women, never getting caught and who had a pretty organised system, he becomes one who starts making mistakes, forgetting to bury bodies, and getting himself caught in all kinds of dangerous situations. At some point, cruelty and all, the novel becomes somewhat slapstick in its situations, and it seems that if he doesn’t get caught sooner is only down to his good luck and to the utter lack of skills of the local police (who pay dearly for their mistakes).
I wasn’t sure if the lack of psychological consistency in the character was meant to indicate a crisis (of conscience, a moral crisis) or to point out at the redeeming powers of love. The characters comments towards the end (that I won’t reveal, although the actual end is not completely closed) indicate the second option, and that stretches somewhat the limits of credibility, but maybe I’m just too cynical. As the book is a Harlequin Edition, this makes some sense, and it’s an interesting move within their line of publications.
Some reviewers have queried the lack of explanation of the motivations for the character’s actions that are only vaguely hinted at. Although that is true, the main character never seems to entertain deep reflections about himself other than in relation to his immediate plans, actions and the likely consequences of these and there doesn’t seem to be much space for biographical reflection in the way his brain works.
The character that I found intriguing is Erica who is totally unexplained and unexplainable, and in some ways I wonder how the novel would have been if she was the narrator of the story (or this had been a third person narration to allows us some insight into her).
This is a good read (if you tolerate violence, although is by far not as violent as other books on the subject), the language flows easily, and it has enough intrigue, and dark humoured moments to keep most readers of the genre happy. Being a psychiatrist (and a forensic psychiatrist at that) I wasn’t totally convinced by the psychological portrayal of the character and his behaviour in the last third of the book but I don’t think I’m the intended reader of this novel. In my opinion most readers of thrillers looking for something a bit different will enjoy it, but maybe not the hard core of the genre.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 4.5/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Buy it at: Amazon Format & Pricing: Paperback: $ 13.04 (Available from 29th September) Hardback: $ 18.71 (Available from 31st March) Kindle:$7.25 (Available from 6th April. Currently on pre-order)
Thank you all for reading, and you know what I say, like, share, comment, and if you’re really interested, get pre-CLICKING!