Mortal Engines rule!

CoverIf you haven’t read Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, you’d better get on to it. Or you won’t be able to compare it with the movie – our very own Peter Jackson will begin shooting on this film in March 2017!

Written for young adults, Carnegie Medal winning Mortal Engines is a fast-paced tale of good and evil. The first of four stories, Mortal Engines is set in a dystopian, steampunk future where cities and townships have become portable, driven by machines; and predatory.

The Traction City of London has chased down and eaten a small town. Eaten!!? As celebrations begin, fifteen year old Tom Natsworthy, a third-class apprentice in the Historian’s Guild, discovers corruption in the heart of the city.

The man he respects most, Thaddeus Valentine, is not what he appears to be. Tainted with this knowledge, Tom is ejected from London: pushed down a waste tube and out into the Hunting Grounds of Europe. Aided by a scar-faced girl intent on murdering his mentor, Tom must find his way back to his city, to fight for its future.

Philip Reeve creates great characters and scenes. The book is so visual that it reads like a movie. I’m excited to see how Phillip Reeve’s Steampunk ideas of huge metal and cog cities, driven by steam, will translate to the big screen.

Read more in the Making the Mortal Engines Movie website

The carnival of November fantasy

It’s fantasy newsletter time again and this time as well as the new titles there is a focus on carnivals and circuses.

Cover of Shifting Shadows Cover of The Beautiful Ashes Cover of The Hawley Book of the Dead Cover of Hang Wire Cover of The Shifting Price of Prey Cover of Carnival of Souls

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Quite Graphically Fantas(y)tic

If anyone had told me that I would become a huge fan of fantasy graphic novels with an anthropomorphic badger and more, I would have suggested they change their prescription.

Cover of Grandville Bete NoirDon’t get me wrong – I like graphic novels, well, some anyway.  I give a wide berth to superheroes and the like, but Grandville and the nicely put together Detective Inspector LeBrock and his terribly English, monocle-wearing sidekick Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi have me hooked.

The Grandville books are set in a steampunk world with murder, greed and political conspiracy as the themes. When I reserved the first book in the series I had no idea they were fantasy, or that my would-be heroes were animals. While most of the characters are anthropomorphic animals, there are a few “doughfaces” representing humans.

England has recently won independence from superpower France (Napoleon won!). The far right have bombed Robida Tower, with the English being accused. Having created the fear, the scheming politicians/moguls plan to unite their citizens in a war against terrorism, thus overcoming any further socialist republic tendencies. They are working on the explosive finale, but not if our heroes have anything to do with it.

Cover of Grandville Mon AmourArchie LeBrock is no gentleman when it comes to dishing out justice and the body count is high in Grandville, the first book in the series. Think working-class Le Carré, Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming and pure fantasy. The steampunk theme is a perfect match for the characters and the stories, and adds an extra quality to the whole series. I found myself studying the background instead of just reading the words and moving onto the next frame.

The English resistance movement have struggled against France and have won independence, but at what cost? LeBrock and Ratzi find power does indeed corrupt and they have to face the unthinkable in the second title in the series, Grandville Mon Amour. Once again they burrow their way through the political system to find the rotten apples at its core. As a wee sideline, we get a small hope that Archie might find love again.

I love the sly digs, the twisted, quite fictional history and the visual and verbal puns which are a large part of the pleasure of reading these books. Despite my initial wariness (I mean, fantasy!?) I will read these books again and wait for the next two that will finish the series. I’m yet to read book number 3, Grandville Bete Noir, having saved it for a treat.

Cover of The Tale of One Bad RatI first came upon the terrific penmanship and fertile mind of the author of the Grandville series, Bryan Talbot, with The Tale of One Bad Rat set in the Lake District of England.

It would be hard to find a graphic novel less like standard comic books than this. I loved the almost Beatrix Potter-like watercolour drawings and the moving story of teenage runaway Helen and her pet Rat. Her story evolves, her past and her reasons for running away slowly becoming obvious as Helen tries to deal with her fear and self-loathing and  find her place in the world. An excellent combination of a sadly familiar story with a satisfactory ending, enhanced by beautiful drawings.

Have you ever had your reading tastes altered by a book, as firmly as I have? Ever tried reading graphic novels? Put a book back on the shelf after spotting the word “fantasy” and thought, not for me? I have enjoyed having my head turned by all of these books and will be more open-minded (I hope) in future.

Fantasy newsletter

Here are some book covers from the May 2013 Fantasy newsletter:

Cover of Shattered Pillars Cover of Dreams and Shadows Cover of Queen Victoria's Book of Spells Cover of The Demonologist Cover of the Magician's Guild  Cover of Dampir

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March fantasy

A selection of covers from our March fantasy newsletter. This newsletter comes out every month – subscribe online.

My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon A natural history of dragons by Marie Brennan The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino Firebrand by Gillian Philip The Girl In The Steel Corset by Kady Cross The mammoth book of Steampunk

Fantasy picks from our newsletter

Some picks from our February Fantasy newsletter.
Red country by Joe Abercrombie  Malice by John Gwynne The Red Knight by Miles Cameron The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest The Drowning City by Amanda Downum Darkborn by Alison Sinclair

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback.

Fantasy: latest picks

Some picks from our January Fantasy newsletter:

Hunter and Fox cover Vengence by Ian Irvine cover The Red Knight cover The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest, cover Brink of Chaos by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall, cover Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel, cover

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!

The past, the future or just plain crazy? Our selectors share cool new stuff

The where the why and the how: 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science by Jenny Volcocski

The inspiration for this book came from the many theoretical scientific questions that have often not quite been fully answered.  A group of scientists have written the theory behind these questions and artists were encouraged to illustrate as they wished.  This has produced a gorgeous, interesting and quirky book

Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle

Although this is a children’s book it struck me as one that may be even more appreciated by adults. Angels (or are they) watch, wait and comfort. This gentle story has beautiful illustrations and if you watch the Youtube video, it will give you an idea of the treat that lies in wait for you.

Hello my name is Pabst: Baby names for nonconformist, Indie, Geeky, DIY, Hipster, and Alterna-parents of every kind by Meik Bruno.

Good for a laugh, or perhaps you are looking for that ultimate one-off original name? I wonder as we enrol children in the library from now on we will start to see more “Vegan and Gluten-Free Names” (Miso, Quinoa), or “Names to CTRL+C and CTRL+V” (Adobe, Helvetica) or heaven help us “Names You Can Drink at the Bar” (Jager, Hennessey).

Jack the Ripper: The hand of a woman by John Morris

There have been many theories as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, but never before has it been suggested the murderer was a female. In a well-argued case, Morris names the key suspect as Lizzie Williams, wife of Royal gynaecologist Sir John Williams, later a suspect himself. Well researched this book brings a new twist to our fascination with the Ripper murders. Has this 124 year old cold case now been solved?

Vintage tomorrows : What steampunk can teach us about the future  by James Carrott.

Oamaru is the self declared Steampunk capital of the world and now that Christchurch can boast its own Steampunk group this book could well be of interest. It shows how the Steampunk genre has captivated makers, hackers, artists, designers, writers and others throughout the  world. Vintage Tomorrows offers insights into what Steampunk’s alternative history says about our world – and its technological future.

Fantasy picks

Here’s a selection of covers from our Fantasy newsletter for October. You can subscribe to this monthly email newsletter to get it direct to your inbox.

Book cover: Death warmed over : Dan Shamble, zombie P.I. Book cover: 7 wonders Book cover: The map of the sky Book cover: The Troupe Book cover:The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age Book cover: Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer

A book of genius!

If you’ve been inspired by the recent Shakespeare in the ParkAll Men of Genius book cover, or you’re a big fan of Oscar Wilde, try this wee gem of a book. All Men of Genius, by Lev AC Rosen, is a gorgeous mash-up of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (my favourite!), and Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with a big dollop of steampunky Victorian goodness thrown in.

Don’t be misled by the slightly age-inappropriate cover, this is a great read for grown-ups (although older teens would enjoy it too), with its blend of romance, adventure, and steampunky science.  Plus, there’s automatons, cross-dressing and a selection of quite risque inventions …  All Men of Genius is one of those books that I read with a great big goofy grin on my face, and I am now eagerly waiting to see if first-time novelist Rosen has anything else on the way.