The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith

With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves… 

Ginger Smith’s debut novel The Rush’s Edge is an intriguing, oftimes explosive, adrenaline fuelled shot of science fiction. We follow Halvor Cullen, a genetically engineered supersoldier (or “vat”) as the novel’s heart-of-gold protagonist as he and his crew become slowly embroiled in a fight against the government that created him.

At first, I must admit I wasn’t particularly sold on Hal as the protagonist. Picking up this novel that touted the main character as “genetically engineered supersoldier” put me in mind of the type of action novels I tend to avoid. One could all too easily read him as your stereotypical gun-toting cliched action man – a person written to have obvious style and charisma, but minimal substance behind them.

Yet, further on into the novel I read, Smith surprised me. As much as I am a fan of sci-fi that’s a touch more weird, her exploration of each of the characters, their relationships, and the dilemmas they faced did much to draw me into this book.

“For a vat seeking the rush, the Spiral’s Edge had plenty of temptations to offer. […] Trouble tended to follow Hal wherever he went.”

I’m hugely fond of the found family trope, and this novel serves that up in spades. Each of the crew members aboard the Loshad are compelling in their own way (I really liked the dynamic between Tyce, the ship’s captain, and Hal as bound brothers-in-arms) and there’s even a bit of romance in there (for those who like such things as I do!).

The Rush’s Edge is a book with heart, an adrenaline fuelled character driven story that takes a poignant look at human relationships and the ethics of human rights. The “vats” are shown and treated by wider society and their makers as disposable freaks. They are bred for fighting, and their physiology means they live incredibly short lives compared to “nats” (natural born folk) – a tragic reminder of their existence.

This focus on vats as this “othered” group was a conflict that really intrigued me, one which I was delighted to see explored more as the novel pressed on. What happens when you push science too far? When you sideline the living, breathing soldiers once they’ve served a purpose rather than see them as people? There is a poignant, heartbreaking undercurrent to this action-packed novel that Smith makes sure to remind us of at every turn, which does much to deter you from thinking this is your stereotypical “man turns up and shoots things but in space” book.

“They talked a lot about that in the training[…]-of how loyalty and obedience to the ACAS came first, so much so that Hal had always linked the two in his mind. But now […] obedience meant you did what they told you because they made you, but loyalty couldn’t be demanded. It was given.”

Smith’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the genre clearly radiates off the page. Exposition and rich details about the world are crammed in with abandon, with this world giving off hardened sci-fi, cyberpunk vibes with seedy underbellies, “teckers” (also known as hackers), assassins, and A.I. Whilst many of the tropes used are well-worn ones, that is perhaps to its credit. Fans of sci-fi books that are simpler to follow will like this, and it is a solid entry into the ranks for readers looking to get started in this genre.

Whilst the pacing was sometimes too erratic for my liking, slow in some places and faster in others bouncing from scene to scene, some readers might prefer that as a way to explore more angles in the story. In fact, there is much to be said about the hints dropped and explanation of other-worldly beings and its history (A.I named the Mudar who fought humanity until they’d lost) that it made me want to find out more.

Final verdict:
A solid debut sci-fi novel, and a great book to introduce readers to the genre, The Rush’s Edge is a thought-provoking, fast paced, heart-wrenching story. I’m excited to see more written by her, and thank you Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC!

The Rush’s Edge is due to be released on 10th November, and can be ordered here.

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

“No plan survives contact with the enemy – Helmuth von Molkte” 

As a long-time fan of Joe Abercrombie’s work, I was excited to sink my teeth into this latest installment in his Age of Madness trilogy. Immediately following the cliffhanger of events in A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace is an intricately woven, stunning sequel and worthy successor to the first that has no issue matching the first book for pace or plot twists.

The shadow of characters that once dominated The First Law trilogy and appear in A Little Hatred are neatly dealt with in a way that feels natural. The world is moving on and changing, and the people with it. Where A Little Hatred and the newer characters within it wrestled with the large shadows cast by well-loved (or hated) and familiar older faces (King Jezal, Sand dan Glokta, Bayaz), The Trouble with Peace is truly where the new characters are allowed to spread their wings. The novel very firmly puts to rest the idea of the fact that, in a world where revolution and the Great Change is baring its teeth, names and who you are will soon mean very little.

In fact if anything, the higher you are to the top means the further you have to fall – a point that this book makes no small point to emphasise time and again. Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by a scene, Abercrombie managed to shock me all over again a few chapters later. In a way, I should have expected it. The world is a grisly, brutal one with little space for idealism or dashing heroics, a point put across often with wry and often dirty humour.

“Sometimes, to change the world, we must first burn it down.”

Each point of view character chapter is just as compelling, each with their own distinct character arc and setting. Whilst there were some characters which I had a harder time caring for (a personal preference rather than anything to do with the writing), to Abercrombie’s credit, the sprawling myriad of POV characters are tightly crafted and well written as ever. From the far reaches of the North to the Union, each one has their own path that makes you wonder how these pieces are all going to connect in the final book.

My favourite chapters lay somewhere between Vick, Rikke, and Savine’s POV. Since the events of A Little Hatred I was intrigued to see where each of these characters went, and this book didn’t disappoint. Whilst each person is so different from the other, each with their own unique trials, Savine’s arc in this book is particularly savage. The glamorous and shrewd woman’s journey taking some intriguing and heart-wrenching turns that still made sense for the character. I was also pleasantly surprised and shocked by Leo dan Brock and Orso’s arc for very different reasons. Orso as he stumbled to try and do the “right” thing as King, whilst jostling with the idea that maybe there just…isn’t one. Leo for – well – I’ll say that being the shiny poster boy for Angland isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

“Winning teaches you nothing,” said Tunny. “You see what a man really is when he loses.”

Something that I adore about Abercrombie’s work, and was particularly impressed with in this book, is how he writes action scenes. Every swing of the blade or lighting of a fuse had me on tenterhooks, masterfully done where writing about fighting might otherwise come across as dull. Not for Abercrombie, however. The latter quarter of the book is dedicated to a particularly brutally stretched out scene (one of my favourite moments), flitting from one character to another as they connect with each other as though a camera might pan in a film. It’s a gorgeously written set-piece, adrenaline fueled, bloody, emotional, and doesn’t hold back.

Once the dust and smoke and blood has settled, the aftermath of what this book leaves behind is devastating in more ways than one. The landscape and the characters in it have changed, some more dramatically and irrevocably than others, and with one final twist that had me mouthing “no WAY!” at the page, the stage for revolution that Abercrombie’s been building for two entire books is now firmly set.

And I for one cannot wait to see what happens next.

Final verdict:

A stunning successor to A Little Hatred, this new book is packed full of plot twists and witty, gripping prose. Just make sure you’re sitting down when you read it; you’ll need it for when Abercrombie sweeps the rug from under your feet.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E.Harrow

“There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.”

*Thank you to Orbit for sending me this book, in exchange for an honest review!

Alix E.Harrow’s latest novel, The Once and Future Witches, is – to put it simply – utterly spellbinding. Following the stories of three sisters, Bella, Agnes, and James Juniper Eastwood, Harrow ties in witching and the sister’s attempts to reclaim their magic, almost seamlessly with the US women’s suffrage movement of the late 1800s.

It is a book of magic and feminism. The struggles of witches are tangled up with the struggles of women; each aspiring to gain agency and power but conflicted and oftimes separated as to how (as noted in a poignantly powerful scene near the novel’s start). I adored how Harrow mingled the idea of witches – typically identified as “other” and outside the realms of ‘civilised’ society – and aligned it with the women’s rights movement.

Through the eyes of her three main protagonists, Harrow gives her readers a highly nuanced, enthralling exploration of what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society, and the distinctions between the women themselves (there’s POC representation in this discussion on women’s suffrage  – an often missed but sorely needed inclusion in more books). There are the usual obstacles for them to overcome: classism, sexism, ignorance, fear, but Harrow cleverly adds another, more supernatural and darker, twist which becomes horrifyingly evident in a gut-wrenching twist the further you read.

“If a woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box”

Each of the three women are so starkly different to the other, filling the ‘maiden, mother, crone’ archetype, each with their own worries and doubts brought up to the surface in a way that makes them wonderfully real. Bella is the academic, hungry for lost knowledge, Agnes is the core, beating heart with strength and sense, whilst Juniper is the wild-child, the feral hothead ready to change the world with nothing but a few spells and determination.

The book is bursting with gorgeous prose, and wonderful character development. As someone with two sisters, I really enjoyed seeing this kind of platonic relationship as the main core of this novel. You watch as Bella, Agnes, and Juniper’s relationship – fractious at the start – merges closer as their quest to find the Lost Ways of Avalon (the source of long-forgotten witching power) gets increasingly more perilous against those who would try to stop them.

As a final note, I really enjoy books that interlink lore with the narrative, and this is a book that hits the nail on the head. There are spells, and fairy stories, and rhymes that make up the backbone of the “magic”, littered throughout the story, which really adds to the magic that drips off the page.

Final verdict:
With October ‘spooky season’ fully at our doorsteps, this new novel is one you won’t want to miss when it’s released on 13th October. A bewitching book, The Once and Future Witches is poignant and gripping in equal measure, with a powerful exploration of feminism rooted firmly at its core. I can’t wait to share this with as many people as possible.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

“We do bones, motherf*cker”

Sometimes, you stumble across a book that has such an intriguing, batsh*t concept, you can’t help but want to delve immediately into the book. That is what Tasmyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is – her debut novel and the first one as part of the Locked Tomb trilogy.

With a tagline that really speaks for itself – “lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” – this book tries to pack a lot in. And when I say a lot I mean that I had to make quite a few notes along the way, especially over the more technical terms re: necromancy and how it works. But it is also immersive and rich in its worldbuilding, with witty character dialogue, and heartbreaking narrative that made me cry a few times and laugh raucously at others. It also, much to my delight, subtly (and at times, not so subtly) makes references to memes and fanfic (if you too, like me, have spent way too much time on the internet and know your fanfiction tropes, you’ll spot them).


In a world where there exist eight other Houses, each bound to serve the omnipotent Emperor Undying, the Necrolord Prime of the First House, we are introduced to our protagonist and POV character Gideon Nav. Gideon is an indentured servant of the Ninth House, likewise bound to serve her childhood nemesis Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Princess-Necromancer of the Ninth House – a goth house where skull face paint is applied liberally, and they summon skeletons as a primary source of their power. You’ve got to love a House that goes all out for the aesthetic.

The plot unfolds as the long-suffering duo embark to the planet of the First House along with the representatives of seven other Houses – the heirs and their cavaliers – with the goal to become a Lyctor (immortal servants who serve the Necrolord Prime). But as is quickly made apparent, all is not as it seems in this First House, and the goal of becoming a Lyctor far more muddied and complex than initially thought. The dynamic and banter between Gideon and Harrowhark which sits at the front of this novel, is particularly enjoyable to read: the former a foul-mouthed, brash jock, the latter a long-suffering, cerebral, sharp-tongued necromancer.


“But Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion: being sick of everyone’s shit”

It’s sci-fi, with a smattering of gothic suspense, action, and murder mystery all wrapped into one intriguing, exciting, and heady cocktail. You follow Gideon as each of the characters in this crumbling, old palace try to figure out the long-lost secrets of Lyctorhood, whilst trying not to fall foul of any…further, darker secrets hidden away in this place. They are each pitted against each other whilst working together, and as the tension and suspicion grows, Muir drips feeds information about what-the-hell-is-going-on to you at the right points, in a way that kept me continually guessing (and yes, make notes as you read. It’s worth it, I promise).

The array of supporting characters with their different types of cultures and death magics are brilliant too (I would die for the Sixth House, not to be too dramatic about it), and soon you find yourself trying to navigate this haunted house trying to root for as many of them as possible (whilst outright despising others).

One flesh, one end. Bitch.”

This is a book which doesn’t pull its punches, whether that’s in the intricately detailed lore it drops, in the vicious, downright scary fight scenes that are nail-bitingly tense, or in the emotional dialogue it clocks you around the face with.

One thing I particularly loved about this novel is its depictions of relationships; specifically the connection between the Necromancers and Cavaliers. If there’s a trope I love seeing it’s the “ride or die” connection that Muir explores so wonderfully, and with such nuance, between each House. One cannot exist without the other – a heartbreaking point that sits at the centre of the entire book and ends on a traumatic cliffhanger. 

Final verdict : 

Gideon the Ninth takes an extremely intriguing premise and delivers up a wonderful, heart wrenching, and rich story. There is so much here, it deserves to be read and then re-read, with new points picked up upon each time. This is a must read for sci-fi fans at the very least.

How I Made You by Javier Goode

“Explore science, nature, hopes and dreams with your little one in this sweet tale of becoming.”

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review! #Ad

The first thing that struck me about this book, aimed at inquisitive young children about the facts of life and where they come from, was how it seamlessly combined science and nature in such a tender, soft way. Whilst there are no storks or pumpkin patches, fantastical images which children might better imagine, there is something magical about how science is softened and shaped in this story.

The cutesy layout with its soft pastel colours and sketched drawings of buttons – standing in for human beings – is particularly wonderful and easy to grasp. It sets out an important topic for children to learn about – how people are made – in an accessible, fun and unique way, combining the topic of science and nature with rhyme and story.

As I read, I was particularly impressed with the inclusivity shown in this book. It shows children that families can be “knit in different patterns, colours and styles”, an important learning point and one I was thrilled to see (the images of the buttons lent itself particularly well to this). The smooth prose skips between and around the illustrations, and whilst whimsical, it also very clearly aims to educate. 

“20,000 chromosomes, 46 chromosomes, 23 pairs, in our genome.”

This is certainly a children’s book that stirs up more questions – “what’s a chromosome? what’s DNA?”. My initial impression was “isn’t that too detailed for such a young audience?” as I remember learning this sort of information in secondary school. But then, teaching children at such a young age about scientific fact in such an easy to read format is a rarity amongst children’s books, and one that it can only be good to see more of. 

I suppose the question should have been “why shouldn’t they know?”. It is “nature in measure with just a bit extra” – the ‘bit extra’ being the a bonding experience between parent and child that comes from this whimsical read.

How to buy this book:

To be released on 28th August 2020, How I Made You by Javier Goode is soon to hit the shelves. You can preorder from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Rose’s Gold: A Comfort Food Cookbook by R.Shepherd

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me an advanced copy to review! #Ad 

There’s something historically poignant and rich about this book. As stated in the preface, this is a book that aims to share the “magic” of food, written to honour the life of Elma Rose Francis whose memory and inspiration lives on through this compilation of vibrant recipes. However, it is not just that. This book is a unique piece of history. After all, food is something very much tied to our culture and these dishes perfectly encapsulate the relationship the UK has with Jamaica through its cuisine (a topic woefully underrepresented and one I am thrilled to see explored).

A blend of Jamaican-British fusion recipes, this book offers a truly wonderful series of dishes to salivate over, whilst still being in the bracket of comfort food. I have no doubt that these dishes will be ones to be enjoyed by all, however adventurous your palate. 

The book itself is one that is split up into the three main meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a hint of sweetness in desserts (unashamedly, my favourite section to flip through!). The recipes are simple to follow, and easy enough to adapt depending on your tastebuds, giving general guidelines rather than strict instructions. The pictures too, are attractive and well thought out, the minimalist style really adding a sophisticated pop to the litany of home-cooked meals.

Food recipes are, after all, better when you can adapt and experiment, and the hallmark of a good cookbook is recognising this. I particularly loved the addition of a plantain recipe, and the Jamaican ginger cake – two recipes I could easily follow and really get stuck into. I look forward to reading and making more from this book, and perhaps getting brave enough to really add those scotch bonnet chillies in certain meals!

Final verdict:

Rose’s Gold is a book that exudes passion and warmth, with every recipe selected with care and insight. It is a wonderful way to honour the memory of a woman who clearly put heart and soul into dishes like these, with each one easy enough to experiment with or follow to the letter. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook by Grace Millard

*Thank you to Ghost & Ribbon for sending me this book, in exchange for an honest review! #ad

As we find ourselves in increasingly strange circumstances, largely advised to stay indoors with little human contact, more and more of us have turned to the comforts of cooking to see us through the long stretches of lockdown. Whether it’s experimenting with a sourdough loaf, mashing together another banana for your 5th attempt at a cake, or trying to learn how to poach the perfect egg, there is nothing quite like cooking.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook could not have come at a better time. Its pages promise to sweep us away into a furor of wonderful sights, tastes, and smells – the kind that only home cooking and the satisfaction of a job well done can bring. It is a book that prides itself on “symbolising the ease of cooking at home” and is perfect for even the most simply stocked of kitchens.

It is this sense of comfort and familiarity behind every recipe that makes A Rainy Day Cookbook a joy to read. It has also had its foreword updated with the pandemic in mind, as a note in its introduction nods towards this “common understanding of isolation and loneliness” and the “fond appreciation of family, friends, and home” – something I particularly appreciated.

Another point I immensely liked about this book is its simplicity. Cooking does not have to be complex to be good. If you are new to cooking, the way in which the recipes are very easy to follow and – for the few recipes I tried – produce good results! Far too often, I find myself annoyed at cooking books which are filled with more words than are needed, when all I really want to do is turn to the practical element of making the meal. Grace’s book deftly fills that need.

It is not only that the recipes given are comforting, quintessentially English dishes, borne from the soul and heart of a Gloucester local, but it is also delightfully versatile. Every dish can be adapted to suit the dietary requirements and tastes of a person, a rare find in cooking books that now wedge themselves firmly in particular sections. In an age where the importance of buying locally and seasonally is important, or where the art of cooking simple dishes is slowly being lost, this cooking book tells us what choice is available, and I really enjoyed the little details that are mentioned, like how best to use individual ingredients in certain dishes.

My favourite recipes in this book to read – and try – were, understandably, the desserts. I have fond memories of my mum’s summer fruit pavlova, so seeing such a simple recipe written that I could easily follow was wonderful. It not only helped to bring that joy back, but also impressed my family in the process!

Final verdict:
Grace’s Rainy Day Cookbook is a charming gem, capturing and distilling an array of tasty dishes between its pages. If you wish to experience the magical joy of home cooking, and the satisfaction of eating a meal you made yourself – whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner in the kitchen! – you need look no further than this book. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but when Orbit sent me this in the post and I opened it to see tiny cats in space suits, I already knew that this was going to be a space opera that I would enjoy. 

“Kidnappers. Alien emperors. Psychic cats. And she’s out of coffee.” 

Valdes’ debut novel is one that teems with depth, colour and (extra-terrestrial) life. But despite the sprawling universe she depicts, the heart and core of the book is very much grounded in human (well, humanoid) emotion, centred around its protagonist Captain Eva Innocente and her crew onboard La Sirena Negra. When word is received that Eva’s sister is kidnapped by an intergalactic mob boss named The Fridge (yes, you read that right), she must go on a series of dangerous missions to get her back. But, as you might imagine in such a complex galaxy such as this, all is not as it seems and the Captain slowly uncovers more than she was blackmailed for.

Much like the novel’s protagonist finds, once you get into the thick of Chilling Effect there are so many twists and turns to follow, it is sometimes hard to keep up, but no less entertaining. From psychic cats, aliens who hunt anything without a bracelet marking it not to, to brainwashing monks, early on in the novel, Valdes introduces us to a particularly grotesque example of this “twist”in the form of an amorous space Emperor (aptly named the Glorious Apotheosis). A fish-man who won’t take no for an answer, he meets Eva and tries to get her to join his harem, only to set a bounty on her head when she says no and hunts her across the galaxy (and throughout the entire novel) popping up at inopportune moments to wreck her ship, rather like a bull in a china shop.

“Between psychic cats, and kidnapped sisters, and her own booze addled temper, she was ready to unload on someone. […] “My name is Captain Eva Innocente” she slurred. “You can call me Captain, which is safe, or you can shut up, which is safer.” 

Eva Innocente is vivacious and gusty, a protagonist whose escapades and personality make for an engaging read. This book is one that effortlessly slides between hilarity and seriousness as the plot demands (and for all the humour, there are some well-realised serious, if heart-warming moments). There is much to be said for the diversity of the crew too alongside its Cuban-descended, foul-mouthed Captain, and how well Valdes makes you engage with each of Eva’s found family as well as the biological one she seeks (reminding me rather fondly of Mass Effect).

The budding, and at times incredibly awkward, alien romance between Vakar, the ship’s engineer, and Eva is adorable, and whose interactions are some of my favourite moments in the book. (It’s also beset with some hilarious scenes that had me hiding my face in my hands. I hope you like liquorice because it gets mentioned a lot…). 

However, whilst there is much to enjoy about this offbeat space opera, I felt that at times, the overarching storyline (Eva’s quest to locate her sister) and the ensuing twists that happen afterwards with The Fridge and “Proarkhe technology” – which is only loosely explained – were rushed. For a book that really puts its all into its vibrant world-building, and a heart-warming and funny main character, the pacing of the book especially towards the end was the main hindrance to me enjoying it as much as I could have.

Scenes that I felt should have had more emotional impact – like the ending with what it reveals and the (slight spoilers!) time-skip explanation – were rushed, whilst other parts which seemingly had little relevance to the overarching plot dragged on. Like a rollercoaster that speeds up and ends too quickly, I only wish that Valdes had made this novel longer or at least elaborated a bit more on some of the intriguing plot points and lore that she drops into conversation between characters or details in any exposition.

Overall view:
Chilling Effect is a quirky, fun-fuelled, space opera that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you like sci-fi wacky and offbeat, with alien romances, a human heart pumping away at its centre, and a protagonist with more charismatic gravitational pull than a black hole, you should definitely give this a try.

Chilling Effect can be bought all good book shops + online. 

*Thank you Orbit Books for posting me this copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Paladin’s Grace by T.Kingfisher

“Stephen’s god died a little after noon on the longest day of the year. […] It had never occurred to Stephen or any of the others that a god could die. Such things happened in mythology, not in real life”

Paladin’s Grace was a book I stumbled across – much like how Grace encounters Stephen early on in the novel – entirely by chance. I’d been riding on a high of playing a lot of fantasy ttrpg (tabletop rpgs), and wanted the chance to sink my teeth into a new fantasy book to pass the time.

And then, I found this. 


The premise of the book had me intrigued immediately before I even opened the first page, and then the first chapter hooked me entirely. Even for someone as agnostic as I am, I have a deep, abiding love of seeing how faith and pantheons of gods are depicted in fantasy worlds. I’ve seen gods disappearing in fantasy books, their magic ebbing from a broken world (R.S Ford’s A Demon in Silver is a good example of this), or fantasy books with no religion at all. But a god – the “Saint of Steel”, a god of barbarian-like, scarily precise, and holy killing machines – dying? Their followers left to pick up the pieces? This I had to read.

The book is engagingly written, a heady blend of romance, fantasy, intrigue, and mystery, such that I raced through it in less than 48hrs, my eyes practically glued to the page.

It follows Stephen – a paladin without a god, a towering man in chainmail who likes knitting in his spare time – and Grace – a talented perfumer with a wish to disappear from a distasteful past life – as they meet and, slowly, kindle a romance that is very much the heart of the story. Their bashful flirting and burgeoning sexual frustration for one another was an absolute joy to read, although perhaps clouded the ongoing plot (and trust me, there are a lot of subplots flying about) to uncover a potential murder the two find themselves embroiled in.

“Stephen had no idea how you complimented a woman on her ability to imitate someone in the throes of passion without sounding like an unrepentant lecher.”

That being said, whilst I love romance, and whilst this was maturely written with a lot of realistic bumps along the way (the protagonists are in their 30s) it was a little much for my taste, as I was also keenly interested in the other aspects of the book that Kingfisher merely touches on.

And boy, was there so much about this book that I wanted Kingfisher to explore further.

Whilst it plays off recognisable fantasy tropes and archetypes (paladins, priests, a pseudo-medieval town) that is not to say that the world-building is dull. My intrigue away from the main love story, I suppose, is testament to the rich world Kingfisher had created, and something I found myself fascinated with. What were these different sects worshipping different gods, each with different sorts of followers? Who were these other gods? So much history and lore seemed to burst from the page, and I am only sad that they didn’t have time to focus on it for longer. (If another book detailing these things ever were to appear, I would totally read it, just saying).

“Have you seen any of the severed heads that have turned up around the city?”
“Saw one.”
“And?”
“I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the cause of death was decapitation.”

Notably, Kingfisher isn’t afraid to shy away from the deeper, darker aspects of human emotion. Suicide is mentioned, and both Stephen and Grace are individuals who are very much dealing with and recovering from their own emotional baggage and traumatic pasts – which are examined and explored with both tact and empathy. But there is a lightheartedness and humour to this book that adds to this, and the supporting characters help to add to the feeling of creating this real and vivid world. The author does a brilliant job at exploring the city through smells in particular, which effectively conjures and gives an interesting perspective to the world.


As one example, given that Grace is a master perfumer, albeit far less sinister than Patrick Suskind’s Jean-Baptiste in Perfume, there is an amusing segment when she contemplates the possibilities of bottling up human scent to capture the essence of Stephen (such are the depths of her immediate sexual longing over him). It is sections such as this, that add another element of humour and depth to the novel.

The character’s aren’t perfect, but clumsy, flawed, and real – although if you’re prone to intense bouts of second-hand embarrassment from watching characters stumble through social situations, perhaps find yourselves duly warned.

So, if you’re looking for another fantasy book fix during your time inside, filled with romance, and a dash of mystery and intrigue, I would heartily recommend this book.

Manuscripts of the Mind by Jessie J’ng

*Thank you Ghost and Ribbon for this gifted copy of Jessie J’ng’s poetry collection. #Ad

Poetry is a genre of literature which has the unique quality of needing so few words to affect us profoundly. Or as Edgar Allen Poe puts it, “poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words”. That idea is precisely what Jessie J’ng’s poetry collection Manuscripts of the Mind aims to do, writing with ‘innate rhythm’, to explore bi-polar disorder, and the meaning of life more broadly, in a different light.

As she states in her foreword, her words are carefully chosen, each syllable and word placed like steps to a dance, poised and written down with such precise forethought and meaning, you cannot help but be impressed.

It has been a while since I read poetry, and so the opportunity to read a flourishing new poet and her collection was a joy. J’ng’s poems are largely freeform, and short, although that is not to say they are simplistic by any means.

Her attempts to explore bi-polar through the written word in such a unique context is an interesting one, and whilst I thought certain poems didn’t quite offer up any particular meaning, the rhyming couplets were too forced, or there was no apparent connecting thread that I could follow between certain lines, perhaps that is the point. As she states in her poem ‘Mind of Mine’ halfway through this collection ‘Yet mine / a mind / uncategorised’ putting her poems in a box to understand them better is precisely what we shouldn’t be doing.

My favourite poems were the ones which contained vivid metaphors or description, such as ‘Sinking Voyager’ or ‘Paralysis’ – the latter poem one which I felt really struck to the core of this collection’s exploration of bi-polar.

However, it should be said that poetry is a very polarising genre, and so the poems might not be to everyone’s taste, depending on what your opinion of what “good” poetry looks like. People who prefer a more modern twist – J’ng is not unlike Rupi Kaur in that sense – will undoubtedly like this. Indeed, the poetry evident in this collection, is as much about the highly aesthetic structure as it is about the words.

Her poem, ‘Consequence’, is one such example of a concrete poem (a poem that takes a shape, where the shape itself has meaning). Here, the words at the start symbolise raindrops, which form into block sentences towards the end. Just as the raindrops form a shape, so do smaller actions build up to larger consequences. It is this precise attention to detail in her work that I especially liked about this collection.

J’ng ends with a poem named (I think aptly so) ‘The Sound of Metamorphosis’. Metamorphosis, she says, ‘sounds like / Movement in silence / a moving stillness / a juxtaposition’ – and through this process and her work, the author herself has grown, distilling her unique sound and mind in one final symphonic note that lingers on the page.

About Manuscripts of the Mind:
This poetry collection can be bought in the Ghost and Ribbon online shop.