Sunday, 30 July 2017

Review: Linescapes: Fragmentation and Connection in the Natural World

Linescapes: Fragmentation and Connection in the Natural World Linescapes: Fragmentation and Connection in the Natural World by Hugh Warwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since the last Ice Age mankind has shaped and changed our landscape in a multitude of ways. Some of these layers of history have vanished and can only be detected by the latest in archaeological techniques. However, there are other changes that we have made that are still visible even thousands of years after they have been created. It is these lines of roads, hedges, walls, canals and railways that criss-cross our landscapes and have sliced and diced them into ever smaller fragments that Warwick is interested in. Modern agriculture has decimated the wildlife across our land, a theme picked up by John Lewis-Stempel in the Running Hare and Stephen Moss in the Wild Kingdom, thankfully it is these linescapes that can offer a sanctuary to our much-beleaguered wildlife.

To discover how our wildlife is faring Warwick takes to the highways and byways, climbs the high grounds by the walls, peers into the hedges, wades through the ditches, floats lazily along a canal, treads carefully along our railway lines and walks warily under the pylons. Some of these lines, the roads in particular, is utter carnage for mammals and birds in particular, in other places wildlife is just about clinging onto existence too. There are some success stories, the industrial might of the canals faded long ago, and rather than being grubby dirty places as Warwick is expecting, they are now havens for all sorts of aquatic creatures and even the exotic blue darts that are kingfishers have made their home there. Simple changes can have a massive effect, just by not cutting a verge can improve life for invertebrates and the birds that feed off them immeasurably. The power lines that stretch across our landscapes claim a fair number of causalities but the space below them is being used to create something called the Natural Grid. Inspired by the report Making Space for Nature by Sir John Lawton this concluded that SSI’s were too dislocated and were accelerating the decline of wildlife generally; where the Natural Grid comes in is to ensure that the land beneath the power lines is managed effectively with wild flowers and plants to act as feeding stations.

Linescapes is a timely book, Warwick pulls together a lot of disparate elements of the landscape and tries to make us think about them in a cohesive way. There are examples of where good practice can make such a difference and he even visits the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey to see what a properly planned change can be like. The time is now to make properly considered changes, and they need not be big changes to make a real difference to our beautiful countryside and natural world.

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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Review: This Census-Taker

This Census-Taker This Census-Taker by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A boy lives with his mother and father high in the hills in an unfinished house. His father is a key maker, who often has to quickly produce keys for strangers who knock at the door. They rarely descend to the village to see the others so he has a lonely life. Until one day he appears in the village alone, traumatised and very scared, claiming that he has just witnessed a murder. Left alone with a parent who is become more deranged he feels more and more isolated. That is until another stranger knocks on the door; this time he isn’t here to request a key, but to elicit information and determine facts. Is he friend, or foe, or something that will challenge everything.

This is strange, in the way that only a Miéville book can be, things that are clear become muddied and aspects that were crystal clear become opaque. There is a lot of subtle terror and creepy moments in this story as well as elements of mystery. It feels to like there is a underlying vein of magic to the world he has created. I like books with messy endings, but this didn’t feel that it was resolved though. It is good but not at the same level as his great books like The City and the City, Railsea and Perdido Street Station which seriously mess with your head.

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Book Post and Library Reservation arrived

With thanks to Chatto & Windus for I Found My Tribe and New Books magazine for Scribbles in the Margin. Found a Pratchett that I had read but not got


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review: The Village News

The Village News The Village News by Tom Fort
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The English countryside has many quintessential images, the patchwork of fields, lanes with high hedges and sleepy villages nestled in between hills and dales. The village or hamlet has been a place of habitation for many hundreds of years in this country, a place that was deeply rooted in the locality, made from the materials that surrounded it and with a strong connection to the landscape. Some outgrew their original layout into towns and a few into cities, but the vast majority have remained as villages.

The role of the village has changed dramatically in the 20th and into the 21st Century; what once was a place where people rarely ventured from and generally lived all their lives, had a busy and purposeful existence, has now become a quaint place for commuters to live and second home owners to visit occasionally. Tom Fort wonders if there is still a life and soul to village life, and decides that the best way to find it is to climb on his faithful bicycle and go and find out for himself. Visiting villages from Foxton in Cambridgeshire to Pitton in Wiltshire, he considers at how village life has evolved and changed over the past 6000 years in our country. He visits the villages where there is still an active community and others where people hardly talk at all.

Fort writes in an amiable way that makes him quite endearing as he travels to all the village that add to the story of rural life. He mixes historical detail with encounters and personal anecdotes of his own village life when he was growing up and now in the village of Sonning Common. Rightly, he has a rant over the way that the homes that they build in villages now days completely lacking in any design and originality and any nod to the local area they are being built in and are just homogenised layouts repackaged by a marketing department to suit. There are no dramatic revelations in here, just a warm nostalgia for the past days with an acknowledgement of the positive and negative progress of life today in the English village. Really enjoyable read.

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Review: Signal Failure

Signal Failure Signal Failure by Tom Jeffreys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One November morning Tom Jeffreys’ lifts his overloaded rucksack onto his back and starts walking the 119 miles to Birmingham from Euston Station with the intention of seeing for himself the effects the proposed new HS2 railway route will have on our country and landscape. High Speed 2 (HS2) is the new railway that will link London to Birmingham with further extensions planned to Leeds and Manchester. Even though the construction has been approved by parliament, the exact details of the route have not been finalised and are still open to modification and a fair amount of objection from residents. Supposedly work will begin this year…

He will pass out of the dynamic cityscape of London, onto what feels like the endless sprawl of suburbia and into the patchwork of fields and copses that make up our green and pleasant land. On the way he will meet locals who think it is a good idea, some who are so despondent with the plans that it has driven them to contemplate suicide, conservationists who are horrified with the impact on the wildlife and ancient woodland, which someone with a spreadsheet thinks can be just replanted with no ill effects… On the walk he hurts his knee, gets lost several times even really close to his home, consumes several pints in a variety of pubs, camps in fields and back gardens and gets spooked by a horse.

Jeffreys’ has blended the narrative of his walk, along with the history of the route with a contemporary view of the natural world that will be affected. He has been inspired by some fine authors, including Macfarlane and Jamie and it is written with wit and self-depreciating humour all the way through. More importantly this book is a polemic against the project that has really become a white elephant. It has reached such a momentum now that we are at the point where no one wants to stop and say – do we actually need this? Part of that is because of the vested interests of those that stand to make a lot of money from it and partly from those in charge who have a lot of political capital invested in it, was not surprised to read that some MP’s that have supported the project have managed to ensure that the route does not pass through their constituency. A sizable proportion of those he meets on the walk are not convinced that it is needed, many who are upset are those have moved out from the city to the relative peace of the countryside and are not looking forward to the construction nor the high speed trains running. However, there are some who think it is a good idea and will bring benefits. Definitely worth reading if you are concerned about the impact of the route.

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Review: The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway

The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway by Ben Mezrich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chuck Zukowski has been fascinated by UFO’s for years. A computer programmer and geek, he has managed to persuade his family to accompany him on the trips out to Colorado visiting the locations of sightings and reports. However, things are about to take a disturbing turn as he begins to read about reports of horses and cattle that have been mutilated in very strange and inexplicable circumstances. Seeing the deceased animals on a ranch with a terrified owner adds a dramatic edge to the macabre scene.

What starts out as a weekend hobby though rapidly becomes an obsession that takes up all his free time and ever increasing amounts of his bank balance as he heads to locations across Utah, Colorado and Kansas seeking details and meeting the folks that have seen these strange lights and experienced strange things. The more he finds out the stranger things become. He starts working with the Mutual UFO Network, an organisation that his sister, Debbie, also is associated with and discovers that all suspicious sightings are reported to the Bigelow Aerospace Company, a mysterious organisation founded by Robert Bigelow to begin the private exploration of space, but who seem to have feelers into other pies now. His journey into the unknown takes us to sacred Indian sites, into forests seeking the source of strange lights in the sky, the infamous Roswell and to the very edge of Area 51.

There are moments of genuine bafflement as to what is going on; is it just government programmes or something of greater significance. He is trailed by SUVs with tinted windows and federal plates with the sinister ‘men in black’ guys who do their best to put him off continuing investigating the unexplained… I do like to read the odd conspiracy theory book, sometimes just for the entertainment factor. Mezrich thankfully lifts what could be a dull story about something that you really cannot get a handle on, to something quite readable and quite dramatic at times. Fairly sure there isn’t visitors from elsewhere, but there is definitely something happening with government heavies all over these reports and sightings.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Review: Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sixty-six million years ago another day dawned over a Cretaceous earth. Life was carrying on as normal, but everything was about to change because heading towards the planet at an astounding speed was a ten-mile wide object. The impact of this object left a crater, traces of which can still be detected and managed to obliterate the dinosaurs and 75% of all the other species on the planet. The few that survived evolved into the huge variety that we have today and provided an opportunity for the mammal to thrive. It is now thought that this was not one of those, one in several million chance events, rather an effect of our solar system interacting with the wider universe and the gravitational influence of dark matter.

Randell has some interesting theories about dark matter, the pervasiveness of it in the universe and how the gravitational influence of dark matter causes disturbances in our galaxy and solar system. It is a substance that we know is there, but at present, we have no idea where it is, what it is or how to detect it. Quite elusive stuff, especially given how much of it there is out there. Randell writes with clarity on a difficult subject, although it is occasionally incomprehensible; but that is as much because I am fairly rusty at physics, rather than her explanations. She is well qualified to talk about this being Professor of theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard, but this is one book that might be beyond the general science reader, even though they should probably give it a go.

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Review: A Moment of War

A Moment of War A Moment of War by Laurie Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Lee had made his way to Spain. After travelling around the country before being evacuated home by the navy after the Spanish Civil War erupted. Back home in Gloucestershire Lee felt drawn to those fighting the Republican cause, and makes the decision to head back to Spain. Arriving in Perpignan in Southern France he is unable to find anyone to help him get across the border so decides to take a risk and cross the Pyrenees in a snowstorm.

After somehow making it safely across the mountains, he is arrested and imprisoned for being a spy. On the day that his execution was scheduled for, a chance encounter meant that he was released. Lee quickly joins the International Brigade, along with a motley rabble of men from all over the UK and other parts of Europe who felt drawn to the anti-fascist cause too. He was then given limited training, but was arrested again as a brief trip to Morocco when he was in Spain previously had made him a marked man.

He saw very little service, but did travel around to a few locations in the back of an army truck. After the first bombing of a town where he was staying, the realities of the harshness of war, stripped away any romantic notions that he may have still harboured about the fight that he had volunteered for. He has some very near misses, and the impression that you get from the Spanish is that they were not particularly enamoured about having soldiers of other nationalities there, as this was an internal fight that they had to go through. The book is written in Lee’s distinct eloquent style again, making this a pleasure to read even though the subject is not particularly savoury and a fitting end to the series.

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Friday, 14 July 2017

Review: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year is 1934 and the 19 year old Laurie Lee is about to leave his Gloucestershire home, to walk to London. His mother feeds him his last breakfast, standing just behind him with a hand on his shoulder. Few words are spoken, but it is an emotionally charged goodbye. As he walks up the hill out of the village he glances back and waves, before walking away from the only place he has ever known. First though, he wants to see the sea, so heads towards Southampton through the English countryside just as summer is beginning. He scratched a living out by busking with his violin, before heading east along the coast and then North to London where he was to reunite with daughter of an American anarchist, Cleo. He gets a job as a labourer on a building site which enables him to stay in London and rent a room. As the building work reaches completion, he starts to consider where to go next, Europe beckons and he chooses Spain purely because he knows a single phrase in the language. A ticket is bought and the next stage of his journey begins.

Around a year after he left the village of Slad, he sets foot on Spanish soil for the first time and he sets off to explore the country. Wandering from place to place, he joins some German musicians in Vigo before moving onto Toledo where he stays with a poet from South Africa called Roy Campbell. Following a loose plan of walking around the coast of Spain takes him to Andalusia, Málaga and a brief sojourn into the British territory of Gibraltar. He finds work in a hotel over the winter and in the evenings joins the locals in a bar talking with them about the current political turmoil. Early in 1936 the Socialists win the election and the simmering tensions boil over into acts of revolt and then into open warfare. A British destroyer arrives to collect British subjects from coastal towns and villages and Lee says goodbye to Spain.

I felt it was for this I had come: to wake at dawn on a hillside and look out on a world for which I had no words, to start at the beginning, speechless and without plan, in a place that still had no memories for me.

Lee is a happy, go lucky, young man who is prepared to venture into a world that is utterly strange to everything that he has ever known. His naivety means that he sees everything with a fresh pair of eyes and by travelling light, it means that he can move on whenever it suits. Lee writes with an innocence and eloquence that brings alive the pre-civil war Spain. For me though the book had echoes of the great travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor another young man who forged his way all across Europe in the 1930’s too. Was well worth reading.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Review: Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands

Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ben Coates hadn’t meant to go to the Netherlands, a flight was diverted and he ended up in Schiphol Airport with no hope of a flight out for a few days. Somewhere at the back of his mind he recalled having a contact in the country, so he gave her a ring to see if she could put him up for a couple of nights.

He’s never left.

When people think of the Netherlands, several national stereotypes would spring to mind; windmills, bicycles, tulips and Edam and that it was called Holland. These quintessential Dutch icons are all still there, but Holland is a district of the Netherlands. This small country is only twice the area of Wales (the default geographical unit of country size), but in all manner of ways its influence and success has always had a larger global presence than belies its size. One of the lowest nations on the planet has somehow managed to produce the tallest people, they are liberally minded and gregarious, up for parties and having a lot of fun whilst on the flip side taking a stern view on minor transgressions such as putting your bin out on the wrong day.

In this fascinating book about a fellow European country, Coates sets aside his English reserve and takes us beyond the classic tourist routes to see the other side to his adopted country. He is prepared to celebrate and share with us, the reader, what makes this a great country to live in, whilst also not being afraid to examine the darker sides of the Dutch history. We learn about the way that the Jewish population suffered greatly during the Second World War, with vast numbers of them sent to the camps in central Europe, why they seem to have a desire to eradicate the natural world, how they became so good at land reclamation, why they are so passionate about their football team and why they are so obsessed with the colour orange. Just how much Coates has gone native is evident when he returns to the UK to collect a new passport where he considers the common ground and the stark differences between the two countries. I have been to the Netherlands twice once to Delft and a second time to Amstelveen way back in the 1980’s, and I remember it being a special country, reading this book though makes me want to re-visit it again.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Review: Book Smugglers of Timbuktu

Book Smugglers of Timbuktu Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The city of Timbuktu with its ancient history has long captivated people. Just the very name conjures up images of an oasis in the desert, a city full of exotic people and a place where the mysteries of the East meet the gateway to the dark continent of Africa. It is a place that drew travellers in the Eighteenth century seeking the legendary place where even the slaves wore gold, but the desire to reach there was not always met with success, history shows us that the roads there were littered with failed expeditions as they succumbed to the hostile landscape, disease and attack.

There is another side to Timbuktu, it has always been a world centre in the Islamic world for learning from as far back as the 13th Century. As they became a centre where knowledge was pooled. This has left a lasting legacy of thousands and thousands of documents, books and manuscripts in public and personal libraries throughout the city on subjects as diverse as astronomy, religion, law and history as well as cultural subjects like poetry. These vast libraries came under threat from destruction in 2012 as al-Qaeda–linked jihadists poured across Mali wreaking havoc and destruction as they went. After destroying several mausoleums the librarians and archivists of the city were forced to consider the fate of their precious papers. So began the race to either hide the manuscripts or in the case of large collections, to move them to another city where they would be safe.

At times this reads like a thriller, as he tells the stories of how the manuscripts were moved from Timbuktu to a place of safety in Bamako using secure networks of couriers. Much of it was carried out in secret as the least amount of people that knew about it, the safer the operation. Charlie English recounts the stories he’d been told, before travelling to the city to see for himself the lockers and their precious cargoes. Whilst I think that it was important to set the context, for me it felt like there was too much emphasis on the past events. I didn’t like the switching around of the old and the new, I would have preferred the current day and historical events to be in separate sections. With its history, contemporary world issues and focus on ancient books, it is a difficult book to pigeonhole. It is a fascinating and very readable account of a small but significant part of world history.

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Monthly Muse – June


Managed to read 16 books in June, which were a pretty varied selection as you can see below:



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was a close call on the best but just nudging ahead was the classic Peregrine by J.A. Baker closely followed Walking the Nile by the adventurer Levison Wood. Others of note were the terrifying dystopian The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Long Way Back about Charlie Boorman’s road to recovery after a very serious accident and Summer: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, another wonderful collection edited by Melissa Harrison. I managed to read two of Little Tollers books this month, they are becoming one of my favourite publishers with their focus on the natural world and the landscape. First was On the Marshes, where Carol Donaldson tells the history of the North Kent marshes, interwoven with her own personal story after a relationship disintegrated. The second was Orison for a Curlew where Horatio Clare tracks the last sightings of the Slender Billed Curlew, a bird that is thought to be, but not categorically proved to be extinct.

I managed to read three more for my World from My Armchair Challenge, Why the Dutch are Different, the story of how Ben Coates ended up in the Netherlands by accident and never left. Glass Half Full is the third in the series of Caro Feely’s trials and tribulations of running a biodynamic vineyard in South Western France and the third was the first book by Levison Wood, Walking the Nile about his tough journey walking from the centre of Africa to the Mediterranean.

Possibly the strangest book in June was To Be a Machine. In this Mark O’Connell talks to those that are looking at using technology to enhance or improve or extend their lives. Equally odd, but in a very different was Jules Evans seeks the ecstatic experience in The Art of Losing Control, which made for interesting and occasionally disturbing reading.

Also of note was Dadland, the story of Keggie Carew’s father’s secret wartime actions and his slow descent into dementia. Also learnt about Ben Fogle’s passion for the Land Rover and Gary Fildes’ obsession with the night sky. Finished the month of with a brief fantasy interlude into a Britain of the last millennium with the story of revenge. A good month of reading, looking forward to July, but as we are having the kitchen done then might not get as much read!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to British Birds

Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to British Birds Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to British Birds by Bill Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most people know Bill Bailey for his amazing performances where he expertly mixes comedy and music with a large dollop of zaniness, or his appearances on various panel games. What most people don’t know is that he loves all things about the natural world and is a massive fan of birds in particular. For this book, he has taken 51 of his favourite birds, from the generally unloved pigeons and herring gulls to the tiny wrens, deadly peregrines and the cheeky corvid family. Each of the mini-chapters on birds has facts and details of where to find them or in the case of the bittern, where you can go and look and generally fail to see them.

There is not a vast amount of prose in the book, but what there is, is written with Bailey’s impish humour, amusing anecdotes and razor sharp wit. The design of the book makes it feel that you are reading a notebook full of jottings and his own charming sketches. Not necessarily a book for experts, but perfect for someone who is teetering on the edge of discovering the delights of the natural world.

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Review: The Road Headed West: America Coast to Coast: A Cycling Odyssey

The Road Headed West: America Coast to Coast: A Cycling Odyssey The Road Headed West: America Coast to Coast: A Cycling Odyssey by Leon McCarron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For some people, the offer of a job with a regular salary is just what they are looking for. For Leon McCarron though the thought of being stuck behind a desk with no chance of adventure or seeing the world, filled him with dread. As he was in New York, he came up with the idea of cycling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, not for any reason, just for the hell of doing it. Loading up his bike and trailer with much, much more than he needed, he embarks on his 6000 mile journey. A week or so later he was still cycling in New York state, as he hadn’t realised just how vast it was.

Slowly but surely he was building his fitness up but getting around 80 miles a day under his belt. He meets other cyclists as he wends his way across the States, sharing the journey and beginning what were to become lasting friendships. A brief detour into Canada to see Niagara Fall was soured when he returned into America and was detained by a very officious immigration official. They did allow him back after a chastisement about documentation. As he drops into the Midwest he passes mile after mile of cornfields on the almost dead straight roads, the highlight of the day being the zigzags when they correct the roads for the curvature of the earth. All across America so far, he had been given a warm welcome and helped by strangers in all manner of ways. This was to change when he accepted hospitality from a guy in a bar and headed back to his ranch. His mate was there and wasn’t best pleased to see Leon, and after one heart stopping moment he has to escape really quickly. Of all the places to die in the world, he didn’t want it to be Iowa!

Hoping to eek out his journey on a budget of $5 a day, he is fuelled by peanut butter and an absence of common sense. It is an easy and relative unchallenging read, with a certain charm to it. What is does show is that you do not need loads of planning or training to achieve a goal, sometimes you just need to climb on the bike and pedal. This one is a worthy addition to the fold of cycling adventure books.

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Review: Beyond the Fell Wall

Beyond the Fell Wall Beyond the Fell Wall by Richard Skelton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The musician, Richard Skelton has lived high in the hills of Cumbria for a number of years. A lot of his time is spent composing music, but when he isn’t, he heads out on foot to explore the fields, walk the footpaths and immerse himself in the landscape of the high fell. From those explorations comes this book. It takes in the vastness of geological time, the detail he studies the living plants that a wall gives life to, the apparitions of the past glimpsed in the present and the reassurance that a dry stone wall brings as an edge to a wilder place..

The wall sings, not just the songs of the living, but the unheard melodies of the dead

Skelton is deeply connected with the land around him, and this is what makes this quite a special book. He draws on poetry, prose and quotes to paint a vivid picture of the place that he loves. He is not afraid to use the space of the page to create artwork from words using the names of fields or the delights that you can find in the language of the land. This is the first of his that I have read, though I have a copy of Landings by him after being recommended it by another reader, which is going to be bumped up the to read list.

Enter into the landscape. Repeatedly. And in so doing it enters into you

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

Blog Tour - A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

It is my turn on the blog tour to talk about Scott Oden's new book, A Gathering of Ravens. 

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent.

He calls himself Grimnir 




























My review:

Grimnir is the last of his species. His kind has tormented the human race since time immemorial. Their reputation has meant that people have given them the chilling names of Corpse-makers and Life-quenchers. His great age had forced him to stay deep in the shadows, but now he has emerged for one thing only; vengeance. The world has changed since he last saw the sun, the Old Ways have retreated and a new religion has gained traction and support in the world, but Grimnir will not be swayed from his destiny. He kidnaps a follower of the Nailed God to use as a guide on his journey from Denmark through war-torn southern England and across the sea to the city of Dubhlinn where his enemy and foe awaits.

Scott Oden has deftly woven a story set in the Dark Ages with elements of mythology and fantasy permeating the plot, without feeling like that one has been bolted onto the other. The plot pace varies throughout, with the battle scenes feeling suitably realistic whilst managing not to glorify the gore. The pace did twist and turn reasonably well as well as Grimnir turbulent relationship with Étaín, his captive, adding much-needed depth to the plot, however, I felt that there were the odd time when it dragged unnecessarily. There is excellent detail on the landscape that they travel through in the time set, with only the odd minor discrepancy as far as I could see. What was refreshing for a fantasy book is this is a standalone volume with no sequels; there will be others set in the same world with the Grimnir character supposedly, which I will defiantly be reading. 3.5 Stars

One that I would definitely recommend for those that want to read something different in the fantasy genre.  

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