Wolf in the Fold, by Simon Green

I’ve not been doing well with reading, recently. Mired in a Soviet monolith of an epic, I’ve been trying to sneak in a few nostalgic comfort-reads and the like, but even that hasn’t been entirely successful (the penultimate Discworld novel, in particular, is easy to read, yet also disheartening). So I turned once more to Simon Green’s Hawk and Fisher novels – I haven’t read this particular one before, but they’re the kind of thing you know is going to be unchallenging and mildly entertaining. I had a little while before I needed to sleep, this being a weekend, and so I thought I’d make a start on Wolf in the Fold.

Later, at an ungodly hour of the morning, I realised I’d accidentally read the entire novel in one sitting. True, it’s under 200 pages so it barely counts as a novel, but still – I haven’t done that in a while. Turns out, Wolf in the Fold is actually… well, kind of good.

Continue reading

Raising Steam

This review is one of (presumably) the final parts of my complete Discworld re-read project.

And so, it has come to this.

When I first started this re-read project, people warned me: Raising Steam (one of a handful of Discworld books I had not yet read) is not very good. Throughout the project, I’ve been wondering: what does that mean? How bad is not good? Can it really be so much worse than, say, Unseen Academicals?

Yes. It can be, and it is.

I have always said: there’s no such thing as a bad Discworld novel. There are brilliant ones, good ones, and merely adequate ones. But none are ever outright bad.

I was wrong.

Continue reading

Island of Adventure, by Enid Blyton

I was distracted from writing this review at the time I actually read the book, so this will be brief…

When I was young, some of my favourite books were by Enid Blyton. Oh sure, my favourite book was The Lord of the Rings. But aside from that, Enid Blyton was high on the list. I never read Noddy; I think I only ever read one Secret Seven. And most shockingly, I never read any Famous Five at all (though I did once have a very complicated sort of choose-your-own-adventure Famous Five kit with dice and special apparatus).

What I read, and what I adored, were her eight Adventure novels, starting with this, The Island of Adventure.

Continue reading

The Universal Spider: the Life of Louis XI of France, by Philippe de Commynes (ed. Paul Murray Kendall)

At the end of my boyhood and at the age of being able to manage a horse, I was brought to Lille before Duke Charles of Burgundy, then called the Count of Charolais, who took me into his service. This was the year 1464.

  Continue reading

Legends: Eleven New Works by the Masters of Modern Fantasy; by Robert Silverberg (ed.) et al.

When Legends was published, in 1998, it seemed not only welcome, but necessary. The empire of literature, it goes without saying, has for at least a century been too broad for any one reader to know it all first-hand in one lifetime. Even in a single field, a single subgenre, it can be hard for a reader to really have a firm grasp of the state of the art (let alone the canon of classics). We all hear names, from time to time, of this writer or that, and make a mental note to catch-up… but how often do most of us follow through? It’s a perennial problem… but it may never have been a more pressing problem than in the epic fantasy genre of the late 1990s.

Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I had, until recently, never read Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t really know, therefore, what to expect: the witty, piercing Austen acclaimed by critics, or the comfortable fantasyland of bonnets and bridal attire trumpeted by many of its general readers.

It’s neither, really.

Continue reading

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4; by Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ is a peculiar sort of a novel. Its interest does not lie where the reader might expect.

In theory, Diary is, as the name suggests, a (comedic) epistolary novel, formed from the diary entries of a young boy navigating adolescence in England in the early 1980s. Taken as that, the reader will very soon develop an objection: Adrian Mole is not a teenage boy; Adrian Mole is a wholly unbelievable character written by an author who was evidently never a boy, and had not been a teenager for some time, and had largely forgotten what it was like.

Continue reading