Tag Archive: Jennifer Williams


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.

 

 

 

 

copper promiseThere are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel. Some say the Mages left their most dangerous secrets buried there, some say the gods themselves have been imprisoned there. For Lord Frith the caverns hold the key to his vengeance, against all odds he has survived torture and the death of his family, and now someone has to pay. For Wydrin and Sebastian the quest into the Citadel is just another job, the promise of gold and adventure and the possibility of getting a good tale or two that will stand them drinks everywhere they go.

But sometimes there is truth in rumours. Sometimes it pays to listen, pays not to be a reckless adventurer. But Wydrin was never a good listener and soon this trio of adventurers will find themselves the last line of defence against a hungry, ruthless terror that wants to tear the world apart.

But worse than that, they’re not even getting paid.

This is a first for me, reviewing a book that is not even out yet. First a disclaimer, I’ve known Jen Williams via Twitter for a couple of years, I’ve followed her journey throughout the process that started with the novella The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel and culminated in the publication of this, her first novel.

There is a saying, “books are like the TARDIS, bigger on the inside”. Whilst this is true they are also like the Doctors ship in another way, they are capable of sending the reader back in time. I grew up in the 1970s reading about the adventures of Conan of Cimmeria, whilst my reading tastes may have moved on since, there has always been a special place in my heart for the style of writing Robert E Howard made all his own, his styling’s were my first taste of fantasy. In a way I can see something of Conan in the main character of this book, Wydrin, the Copper Cat of Crosshaven. They are both carefree in their attitudes to personal danger, both have a healthy interest in loot, both know how to use a blade. Wydrin may not be a tall brooding barbarian, but put her toe to toe with one and it would be a hard fight to call.

I not saying Wydrin is a carbon copy, Jen has created a strong and vibrant character, a character that has her own unique personality. Wydrin is the source of much of the humour throughout the story, she is a bottomless well of one-liners, put downs and endless enthusiastic mirth. But she also has an edge, as a daughter of Crosshaven she has piracy in her blood, and has no qualms about killing to defend herself. Wydrin is not your typical heroine, her interests lie firmly in creating havoc and getting blinding drunk.

Alongside Wydrin Jen has assembled a strong supporting cast. The steadfast Sebastian, a fallen Knight of Ynnsmouth, tall and strong, a stubborn mule of a man with principles that are at odds with the life he now leads. Sebastian is a conflicting character, a man who lives by a strict moral code whilst aiding an adventurer and thief. But despite being poles apart the bond between Sebastian and Wydrin is strong. Then there is Lord Aaron Frith, heir to the Blackwood throne who employs Wydrin and Sebastian to lead him into the Citadel of Creos in search of the ancient secrets said to be buried there. Frith initially is not someone you feel you can get close to. He’s a broken man, his family and home brutally taken from him, his life focused on vengeance and his pursuit of power he feels is his. But Frith – of all the characters – has the biggest character curve throughout the book, as piece by piece his shell is cracked away to reveal the man beneath.

The plot is a simple one. A theft leads to a hunt leads to a big battle. But it’s how these pieces are put together and moulded that makes this book such a thrill. At its core it is an adventure story, much like the early Conan stories. Within the pages of this book we get to see the world Jen has created through the eyes of her three characters. It is a big, breathtaking world full of wonders and horrors. It is a world that I hope is explored in greater detail in future books (this is the first in a trilogy). Along the way Jen also manages to expand on her characters, fleshes them out so rather than ciphers going through the motions, each and everyone of them has a purpose and a reason for being there. Amazingly as well she manages to incorporate a chase sequence, in a fantasy novel, a chase sequence unlike anything I’ve ever come across before.

As a fantasy novel this stands its own against any other book I’d care to put alongside it. As a debut fantasy novel it is a gem and breath of fresh air. Whilst the norm for fantasy now is grim, gritty and bloody – not a form of fantasy I’m knocking, I’m a massive GRRM, Abercrombie et al fan – this turns around and shines a light on how fantasy used to be written. It’s very retro in its prose and styling, a rollicking boys-own adventure with a feisty female lead who you definitely would not want to take home to meet your mother.

On my blog you will find my review for the original novella that grew into this novel, at the end of it I said that Jen Williams was a worthy successor to the pulp giants of the 1920s and 30s. I’d like to amend that comment and say that Jen Williams IS a worthy successor. With her fresh old/new style of fantasy storytelling she has hit on a winner, and I hope in some way will herald back into fashion this pulpy style that I so loved reading as a young teenager.

The Copper Promise is due for release February 14th 2014, but the first part – Ghosts of the Citadel – is currently available as an ebook. Jen can be found on Twitter @sennydreadful and on her blog http://sennydreadful.co.uk/

 

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.

Title: The Copper Promise: Ghost Of The Citadel

Author: Jennifer Williams

Format: Amazon Kindle (readily available)

RRP: £2.99

The Citadel of Creos: silent, forbidden, haunted. No person in their right mind would attempt to explore it, but then, as Wydrin was fond of saying, adventurers are rarely in their right mind, especially when large amounts of coin are involved.
For the young Lord Frith, the secrets within are his key to a bloody revenge; for Sebastian, exiled from his order for crimes he’d rather not talk about, thank you very much, it is a distraction from his recent disgrace. And Wydrin? For Wydrin it means fortune and fame, or at least the seeds of a good story she can embellish later.
But something ancient and hungry lies restless in the hidden depths of the Citadel, and the long years of its imprisonment are nearly at an end. The three adventurers are about to find out that ghosts are the least of their problems.

I cut my reading teeth on Robert E Howard’s Conan stories, you all know the way it goes, a young adventurer embarks on a mission to steal the fortune from a fabled – and possibly haunted – castle/keep/dead city. Along the way he battles demons, the un-dead and monsters beyond imagination. These type of stories were my bread and butter during the 1970s, my escape from drab TV and wide bottomed trousers made by my Mum.

Since then there there has been – for me – a lack of that style of writing, the Pulp style where the reader is thrown straight into the story without countless chapters of back-story, character and world building. In recent years I have discovered several authors that have re-invented that style for themselves – Joe Abercrombie, Chris Wooding, Scott Lynch – they tell a story and let the reader learn about the worlds they have created as you go along. After reading The Copper Promise I would like to add Jennifer Williams to that list.

The story begins with a brutal torture, a break-in, a grisly death and an introduction to what might be lurking in the bowls of the Citadel of Creos. Jennifer Williams fleshes her characters out with ease, reading about Lord Frith, Wydrin and Sebastion I feel I have known them for sometime – and that this is not the first story I’ve read involving them. They are easy characters to accept, easy to understand and relate to.

The world she has created is the same as her characters, it is very distinct in its feudal make up, numerous city-states, at least one ambitious Empire (masquerading as a People Republic) vying for control. But alongside are the possibly barbarian places of the world, Crosshaven for one sounds like a place I’d like to visit later in a story.

There is little fluff filling this story out, I think it was a good choice by Jennifer to keep this as a novella, the writing is tight, the action sequences well thought out and visualized. This is a return to the Conan stories of my youth, you get a good return for your money.

As a first time self-published author Jennifer Williams has produced a worthwhile successor to the Pulp authors of the 1920s & 30s. She has a bright talent and rosy future, and I for one can’t wait to see what she has in mind for the remaining books in this planed four series tale.

To learn more about Jennifer Williams – and order a copy of The Copper Promise – then visit her website http://sennydreadful.com/