Tag Archive: Gollancz

beauty sarah pinboroughBeauty is the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, all the elements are here, the impenetrable forest, the cursed princess, the handsome prince. This final story in Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of fairy tale retellings closes the circle started in Poison, but whilst being the last book released, chronologically it is the first story in the sequence. I’d long suspected – after events and comments made by two characters in Poison – that this trilogy would follow along the same non-linear lines as the film Sin City. This disjointed way of telling the story has built over the previous two books making this first story a brilliant ending.

From the title it’s easy to assume what this book is all about. Already we’ve had Snow White in Poison and Cinderella in Charm, so going into this I was expecting the trademark slantways take that Sarah has given us many time before, but this time focused on the Sleeping Beauty story. Whilst this is mainly what we get – in a roundabout way – we also get a lot more. I did think everything and the kitchen sink once I’d finished, counting at least three separate fairy tales blended into the mix, and possible nod’s to more. It’s a nice piece of plotting pulling all these threads into one story and not making it looked crowded. But as well as telling this story Sarah had to also tie off loose ends carried over from the previous two. I’ve read some full novels where too many threads have made the story bloated and incoherent, but Sarah has managed this with some sparkling prose and a cracking pace.

Sometimes novellas can be a little like a Chinese takeaway, a quick meal and soon after you are feeling hungry again. But here Sarah has managed to make a novella that feels like a full novel, you get given a full blown world full of character’s all of which are fully formed and three dimensional, and whilst they may feel familiar, they all have uniqueness to them that sets them apart from what may be the accepted image of the characters. Here you also get very much the view that the separate kingdoms already visited in the previous two books are very tightly linked together. Whilst the cast comes from different parts, they have a common past, one that brings them together whether they wanted to or not.

As with the previous two stories this is very much a Sarah Pinborough book, full of devious twists on character traits and healthy dollops of sexual tension. Whilst not as blazingly sexy as the previous two – though there is a pretty wild party – this time there is more underlying tension, a hint that at any moment bodices will be ripped and breaches dropped to the floor. As a standalone this would work on many levels, added to the whole it makes a perfect episode in the overall story arc.


PoisonTitle: Poison

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: Out Now

Snow White lives the idyllic life of a fairytale Princess, she has the love of her father and of the people, she has the loyalty of the dwarves who toil all daylong under the mountains. But her stepmother – the Queen – is not happy with the way Snow White lives her life and feels it is time she accepted her role and found a husband. With the King away at war the Queen weaves her magical web around the castle and the country beyond, making every-one’s life a misery and threatening horrible punishments on any who defy her. She also sets about pressing Snow White to accept a husband, so the Queen can be rid of her, leaving her no rivals. But Snow White defies her step-mother and she does it with seeming impunity, the protection her absent father offers her a greater threat than any the Queen can make.

The Queen does not take this situation lying down and when her guards capture a Huntsman in the forest, in return for his life she tasks him to kill Snow White, the Huntsman accepts and sets out in search of the Princess, of course he fails, and in order to save his own life tries to trick the Queen, but in this he also fails and the Queen punishes him for trying to trick her. But the Queen’s grandmother is on hand and says she will deal with the problem of Snow White her own way and sets off into the forest with a poisoned apple. With Snow cursed the dwarves entomb her in a glass coffin where eventually the Prince finds her and falls in love, the curse is lifted by true loves first kiss and the couple married to live happily ever after.

Everyone knows the story of Snow White, it is said to be the most famous fairy tale in the world. But the version everyone is most familiar with is the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; a twee musical animation, with a stunningly beautiful Snow White  running away from her wicked step-mother, and hiding in the woods with the cuddly dwarves in harmony with the forest animals. Now how do you take that image, that icon of purity and goodness, and make it sexy. Why you give it to Sarah Pinborough. Poison is Snow White with all the Disney taken out and a lot of Pinborough put in, anyone familiar with Sarah’s work will know what I’m talking about. Sarah has a knack of weaving a tale that’ll twist around you making you addicted in no short time.

You know you’re in for something different when the evil Queen performs a sex act on the King in the first chapter. Here you’ll find no gentle tale of good versus evil, what you will find is a head strong young woman fighting against the bonds of her birth and trying to stake a place for herself in a man’s world. Of course it’s not as simple as that, all the elements everyone has come to expect from the story are there. An evil Queen, a Huntsman, seven dwarves and, of course, Snow White. But here those elements are turned on their head so the traditional roles are seen through different eyes. The Huntsman for one is exactly that, but I feel reading between the lines he is more a hunter of men – a mercenary perhaps – than the forest living hunter gatherer more traditionally depicted. Hot from a previous adventure he is in the forest on the run when captured by the Queen’s guards. Likewise the handsome Prince, he is every inch Prince Charming from all the fairy tales, but he has an edge that makes him more of a danger than the simpering dandy more usually seen.

In fact out of all the characters I feel that it is the Prince and the Huntsman that are the most interesting, and the two that readers need to pay great attention to in what they say and their inner monologues. Both characters have a history, and I feel they have a shared history. As to what that may be is up in the air, but I’m convinced they are the two characters that link the three stories Poison, Charm and Beauty together. Whilst this is the first in the trilogy of fairy tale retellings, I don’t think it is the first chronologically.

All in all this is a fairy tale with edge, a sharp edge that cuts both ways and leaves you with more questions than answers. It also has a nice twist in the tail, a twist that I didn’t see coming and makes you sit back and go “whoa!”.

rivers of londonTitle: Rivers Of London

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £7.99 – Kindle £1.99

My name is Peter Grant, and until January I was just a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police Service (or the Filth). My only concerns were not getting assigned to the Case Progression Unit and how to get into WPC Leslie May’s pants. Then one night I tried to take a witness statement from someone who’d been dead for over a century, that brought me to the attention of DI Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

 Now I’m a DC and trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become a whole lot more complicated. Nests of vampires in Purley, digging up graves in Covent Garden, brokering a peace between the warring gods and goddesses that rule over the Thames and its tributaries. But there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary people and turns them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

 The spirit of riot and rebellions has awakened in the city, and its fallen to me to bring order to the chaos; or die trying.

 I’ve been hearing about the PC Grant books for a while, I’d always steered away because I was worried that it would just be a Harry Potteresque story, about an apprentice who is better than everyone else and shows the experts how to do it. I’m glad to say that when I finally did get round to picking a copy up that I was so wrong.

There are elements of Harry Potter in there – the story has magic – but its how Harry Potter would have been if he’d been ten years older, a lot more cynical and was born a raised in London. Peter Grant is not your ordinary wizard; he’s not your ordinary copper. He over-thinks things too much, but in over-thinking them he manages to see what is there better than some others. Deemed to be too cerebral to be an ordinary copper Peter is sidelined into the Case Progression Unit, his role, in-putting all the data “ordinary” coppers collate. It’s a dead-end assignment and not what he’d signed up for; lucky for him the guy he took a witness statement from one cold January morning happened to be a ghost.

One dead body, one ghost witness and Peter’s life is turned upside down. Within days he is thrust into a world of magic, gods, demons and other creatures that shouldn’t be allowed into polite society. To his credit Peter handles the transition fairly well, he guided through the rules and pitfalls that come with him being an apprentice. He is introduced to age old agreements between the supernatural world and the Metropolitan Police Service. But something is hell bent on tearing that fragile peace to shreds.

The plot slowly builds, each set piece introducing Peter – and the reader – to the hidden world that coexists alongside ours. There is a lot of interesting history thrown in for good measure, showing the author has gone out of his way to set his story in a grounded reality. I liked the fact that London itself is a character in the story, its streets, buildings and the rivers that flow through it, all have a part to play and add something to the tale as a whole.

If I had any niggles it’s that I’d liked to have seen more of DI Nightingale, but I suppose this isn’t his story, and seeing there are already three more books in the series out, I’m guessing more of his story will come out as Peter’s training progresses.