Tag Archive: Emma Newman


According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!

So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.

I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.

So to kick things off…

No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The  mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.

No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.

No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham,  as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.

No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.

No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.

No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.

No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.

 

No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.

No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.

No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.

 

Bubbling under and worthy a mention…

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.

The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.

Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.

 

 

 

 

all-is-fair-by-emma-newmanTitle: All Is Fair

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

The Duke of Londinium is dead, long live the Duke. The dust has barely settled, and Will enthroned as head of the court before events threaten to overtake everyone. Cathy is gravely wounded and recovering, Will begins to realise he’s been duped and perhaps an innocent man has paid for it with his life.

 Sam, an innocent to the ways of the Fae and the Split Worlds, is made an unexpected offer by one of the Elemental Courts most powerful Lords, an offer he has little choice to refuse, an offer that he realises he can put to some good.

 Max, the last surviving Arbiter of the Bath Chapter, draws ever closer to finding out the truth behind the destruction of his order. But can he stay true to his oath without being destroyed by his master, who’s insanity threatens the stability of all the wolrds.                         

There is a definite feeling, with this third book in the Split Worlds series, of things coming to an end. Threads, that started with Sam veering from the walk home to take a drunken piss, and finding himself embroiled in the schemes of the Fae and their puppets, have reached a sort of conclusion. But things are not that clear cut with this story, whilst everyone – Cathy, Will, Sam, Max and the Gargoyle – all come to the fore and have their moment to shine. The ending we get to this opening trilogy in what looks to be an epic tale is more of a beginning. Due to the events in the closing half of the book the balance of power across the Split Worlds shifts, old institutions fall and the treaty that holds everything together seems to be paper thin, leading me to think that open war is not that far away.

It’s been a slow build up, Emma has taken her time to establish her world, and the characters that inhabit it. Whilst some authors might have been tempted to have had certain major events take place earlier in the series, Emma has held back and let the story unfold naturally, let circumstances evolve so the characters find themselves in the right place – physically and mentally – to force the major events to happen, and to live through them. I’d been hoping for a while that Max and his soul-locked Gargoyle would have more to do, here finally they do, and in some ways are instrumental in events enfolding as they do.

There has been little to fault along the way, Emma has a gift at creating a colourful world out of the drab, monochrome world of the Nether. She has also chosen characters that can be moulded into something more than your run-of-the-mill heroes and heroines. Like the previous book she also covers some dark themes within the narrative, slavery, persecution, rape and murder. Not what anyone would have expected after events in the first book, where Society and the puppets seemed twee and time-locked in a gentler way of life. It was a great piece of misdirection, whilst Lord Poppy was obviously not someone to be messed with, he was by far the lesser of the evils that would follow. The hierarchy of the Fae is still unclear, but the schemes and games they play through their puppets are equally as dangerous to them as everyone else.

In this third book we also get a better insight into the Sorcerers, as Erkstrand continues his investigations to what happened at the Moot. And we get to meet another of his kind (or two), whose way of doing things differs so much from Erkstrand’s that they are chalk and cheese. The subplot surrounding these two characters highlights the problems in policing the Split Worlds, and making sure the treaty is enforced. It also helps to highlight what a disjointed group the Sorcerers are, and also how their power is subverted so easily.

All the characters have grown from our initial introduction to them, but one more than others. Will started out as every inch the product of his culture, and after his marriage to Cathy, and dalliance with Amelia, seemed to be heading towards becoming the sort of man that Cathy had been trying to run away from all her life. But Will’s eyes are opened in this third book, I’m not saying he changes his colours totally but there are glimmers that perhaps the union between him and Cathy may be the most important – and pivotal – in the history of the Split Worlds. For whilst this third book has many endings, to threads that begun in book one, it also has many beginnings. Two new characters introduced – I’m sure – will prove to be important as the series continues. Their very nature makes them important as, in a way, they are the last of their kind. And in order for the Split Worlds to survive, and for Mundanus not to be overrun, they will have to come forwards and make their stand.

On top of all this there is Sam, who has come across as the comic relief for much of the story so far. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Sam may well be the only person that can link all the worlds together, he inherits a position and power that seems to be able to trump everything else, he becomes something the Fae cannot deal with, but something they will have to because Sam has set himself a mission, and he intends to see it through no-matter who tries to get in his way. After having been the stooge for Lord Poppy’s schemes and games it was good to see Sam make him cringe and get some form of payback for all the suffering he has endured.    

As a debut fantasy the Split Worlds nails it, and Emma pins her colours to the mast as someone who can weave a great story, that can grow and evolve as events within the story dictate.   

any other name

Title: Any Other Name

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print – £8.99 / Kindle – £5.49

 

Lady Rose has fallen, all those associated to her were taken by the Agency, and the lucky ones have escaped into hiding. Londinium is in turmoil, the Duke – a Rosa – is gone along with his Patroon, leaving a power vacuum. William Reticulata-Iris is told upon his wedding that he has been chosen to take residence in Londinium and take the throne. But William has doubt his new wife – Catherine – is up for the task. Catherine knows she isn’t, she has been forced into an arranged marriage, sent to a city she does not know, and finds herself part of a family that expects its members to follow orders unfalteringly, no matter what.

The Arbiter Max, along with the gargoyle that houses his soul, continues his investigations into the murder of everyone in his Chapter House. Those investigations take him north and the secret base of the Agency, where he uncovers deeper mysteries surrounding fallen houses, and those that do not conform to what is seen to be acceptable in Society.

Sam, the unwitting Mundane who seems to have the protection of the mysterious Lord Iron, sees his life implode, his marriage fail and his job gone. Becoming embroiled in the events surrounding the Master of Ceremonies of Aquae Sulis kidnapping have left him a man unsure what is real and what is not. And also leads him to once again become involved in the plots and games the Fae and their Puppets enjoy.

With this second story set in the Split Worlds Emma has upped the stakes considerably, she has also altered the tone, highlighting the plight of women in the patriarchal society of the Fae touched. Arranged marriages, suppression of expression, hints at honour crimes and the disturbing subject of marital rape. This is a much darker tale, gone are the whimsical fairies who took such joy at making the Fae touched puppets dance, now we are presented with a society where women have no rights, except the right to perform properly for their husbands, and uphold the standing of the family in Society.

As much as I’d like to think of William, on some levels, as a sort of good guy, overall I can’t get away from the fact he’s every inch the product of his society as Catherine’s abusive father. He may not have physically hurt her, but he still expects the devotion to Society, and family, her father expected. Also his reaction to the possibility she may love another – despite him having a mistress – showed how he views Catherine, and his mistress come to that.  Despite this he is still the only one of all the Fae touched male characters who shows any indication that he could change, his experiences on his Grand Tour seem to have opened his eyes to the larger world, beyond the Nether. But there is a long way to go for the William now to become anywhere near the hero of the piece he could be.

As for Catherine, she is a different character from the one first encountered in Between Two Thorns, she is less confident, in fact for the first part of the book this change in her did become testing, but I can see why it was done. Emma had to get Cathy into a place where she realised something had to be done for all the women of the Nether, and not be selfish and only think of her own needs. Her arc in this book is the most striking, we see her grow into her role, realising that in order for there to be change, change has to come from within.

But events are working against everyone – mainly William and Cathy – and no matter what they both feel and want forces outside of their control are moving pieces into position for a conflict that may have been in the planning for a long time. This time round we see that maybe the Sorcerer’s are not as all-powerful as first suggested, in fact Erkstrand seems even more distant, out of touch, than he did last time. There are some serious turns of events for the Sorcerer of Wessex, and Max and the gargoyle. In fact the gargoyle is fast becoming my favourite character, his childlike enthusiasm to believe the best in people is infectious. But I do feel he is wasted, there are several times when I wished he would bash heads, but perhaps Emma is saving that for the coming conflict?

This time out Emma has opened up the world of the Fae touched, there are glimpses of the power struggles, the schemes and hints at the dark deeds driving this story along. As with her first book don’t expect a tidy package, this is so evidently part of a wider story, a story we have yet to pass the opening section of. She is sparing in the information she shares, but gives you enough to keep going, and when you turn that last page enough to make you think “damn, that’s it!” For cliff-hangers to work – whether on TV, or in comics and books – they need to give enough to grab the reader, but hold back enough to make you come back. You get that in spades in the closing chapters.

between two thornsTitle: Between Two Thorns

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £8.99 – Kindle £5.49

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

 The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned the task of finding him, with no-one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer. There is a witness, but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the Arbiter’s enemies can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.

 But can she be trusted, she a daughter of one of the Great Families of Aquae Sulis, a family allied to one of the most powerful Fae Lords. And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

This is a beautifully crafted story, the characters fit, the settings fit; everything fits. Reading it you’d expect it to be the author’s 4th or 5th book, but this is Emma Newman’s debut novel; and it doesn’t show. Emma’s been very ambitious leading up to the release of this book, she embarked on a project of releasing a short story a week for a year, all set somewhere within the Split Worlds. I signed up and received an email every week and really enjoyed them all. It was a taste of what was to come, but upon starting this book I realised she’d saved the best for these pages.

Long ago there was a war between the Fae and sorcerers, the sorcerers won and the Split Worlds were created. The normal world (our world called Mundanus and humans are referred to as Mundanes) is devoid of magic and is off limits to the Fae. The Fae are trapped in Exilium, a prison from which there is no escape. Between the two, the Nether – neither here nor there – a world locked in time, its people living a strict caste system, a world where the puppets of the Fae live and plot and scheme. Great Families; all allied to one Fae Lord or another, all vying for power. But much like the Fae they too are trapped in their own prison. Making sure the Fae and Great Families behave – and do not interfere in Mundane life – are the Arbiters, soulless guardians immune to Fae magic, led by a sorcerer who has the power to force the Fae and their puppets to do as they are bid.

This is the Split Worlds, each world unlike the other. It’s a nice twist that Exilium – the Fae prison – is seen as a beautiful world, full of colour, dance, music. Whereas the Nether is dull monochrome, a silver sky, no stars, no sun, no day, no night; its people ageless and trapped. Emma manages to bring each of these worlds vividly to life, no detail is left unclear, the worlds themselves characters as well.

Emma’s work over the previous year with her weekly short stories means she is freed up here to get straight into the story. That being said you can read this without having prior knowledge of what came before; there is ample world building so you know what is what, and who is who. Several strands are started in the opening chapters that run the length of the book, and interestingly not all the strands are tied off in the closing chapters. There are a couple of late reveals that leave the book on a sort of cliff hanger. This bodes well for the future of the Split Worlds.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book; I’ve recently got into stories about Fae and Fae magic. This adds a nice twist to that mythology and it’s obvious from the off that Emma knows and loves what she is writing about.

I joined Twitter late last year – October/November time. At that time in my life I was going through a rough patch in my marriage, me and my wife had separated and I was renting a single room. I endured long evenings with little to do except read and write, I had no interaction with anyone else and was in danger of becoming a recluse.

I’d always avoided social networking, I’m a bit of an anti-social sod and have always had trouble interacting socially. But I craved some sort of interaction else I’d go made. On a whim I opened a Twitter account, I had no real idea what I would find, what would happen or what I was supposed to do in order to “meet” people.

I knew a lot of people from the SFX Magazine forum who had accounts, there was a thread there dedicated to it where people posted their account names. I went through the list and added people as friends. Within a few days I found I was following nearly 100 people and had at least that many people following me. It was an eye opener, I expected it to be nothing but trivia and gossip, instead I found like minded people – some in similar situations to me – other writers, and fans of the weird and wonderful.

Fast forward to now  and I’ve found my Twitter legs, I know my way around, I know what its safe to say and not say (damned spambots), and on top of it all I’ve been introduced to a lot of people, mainly authors, I’d probably never have come across without Twitter.

To name a few, Jennifer Williams (author of The Copper Promise: Tales Of The Citadel), Jeremy C. Shipp (horror writer and champion of the Attic Clown), Emma Newman (author of Split Words, From Dark Places, 20 Years LaterTorchwood tie-in), Sarah Pinborough (author of The Dog Faced Gods trilogy), Chuck Wendig (author of Double Dead, Blackbirds & forthcoming  Mockingbird), Adam Christopher (author of Empire State & forthcoming Seven Wonders), Kevin Hearne (author of The Iron Druid series), Colin F. Barnes (author of Vex: A Modern Viking Tale & editor of Demon Day), Tina Smith (aspiring author and history buff), Robin Bell (author, scriptwriter and part of the Twisted Showcase team) and the Fantasy Faction team.

I know a lot of people frown on Twitter, say its full of useless chatter, but for me – at a time I needed contact with the outside world – it was a lifeline. I have found it is full talented people with great ideas and inspiring advice.