Book Review: A Throne of Swans by Katherine & Elizabeth Corr

Publishers Hot Keys

Pages 352

Book birthday 9.1.2020

Came to me direct from the publishers for an honest review

About When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

Written in rich detail and evocative language, this is the start of an irresistible, soaring duology about courage, broken loyalties and fighting for your place in the world.


Characters

  • There isn’t a single character I don’t love in this book. There’s other feelings, obviously, but each one feels so necessary to the plot that you will love them as ensemble. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. I’ve either forgotten characters, or felt they were there simply to fulfil a need in the plot.
  • There is of course two I love beyond anything else and those are Aderyn, our protagonist, and Lucien, her clerk. Aderyn is someone I identify with and I feel many will do the same. Her relationship with her parents and the society she’s been protect from might be grander than we may experience, but the emotions are certainly something a reader will empathise with. She’s everything you want in a protagonist. What I love most is how flawed she is and how much she grows throughout the book.
  • Lucien! Oh, beautiful Lucien. I really did love how the Corr sisters managed to get across his feelings while Aderyn seems to not acknowledge them.

Plot

  • It’s a retelling of the classic Swan Lake. Something I had known but completely forgotten by the time I came to read this beautiful book. I am unable to comment upon its comparative narrative, however I will say that as someone with no knowledge of the original source I found this to be a compelling story of fear, trust and politics. I was hooked from the first page and never lost me the way some reworking do. If anything, I feel this book will bring a new generation of fans to the classic story and the ballet that is its most famous platform to explore.
  • There are many plot threads at work and it almost has that episodic charm that I’ve come to associate with Harry Potter. Only here, the threads are a little more interwoven and by no means contained to one chapter; ensuring any reader will be whispering ‘just one more chapter’ until they reach the back cover.
  • Please have your book grieving routine at the read, this is the first in what I believe is a duology and believe me, you’re going to be left on tenterhooks until that second instalment comes out. It’s a perfect way to end as it will prompt conversation between readers and will have those inclined, heading to fan fiction for predictions in the months we’ll all be waiting.

Writing

  • I love reading in first person for this sort of book. The atmosphere is built on the distrust and fear and you most definitely feel it here as it restricts your view of the social standing within the castle Aderyn spends much of the book.
  • I sometimes struggle with fantasy books. Not to do with the content, but the language and perspective used almost slows my reading down and I lose the flow. It’s simply not the case here. The Corr sisters have built not only a world but a complex politically charged society that a reader will fall into and fall in love with.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book, I’m grateful for the book arriving when it did and charming me like a feisty fairytale I have always wanted.

Collision by Victor Dixen

Published: 18th April 2019
Publisher: Hot Keys Books
Pages: 736
About: The third book in a heartstopping, high-octane new space series.
The Genesis Programme reality TV show has brought twelve young astronauts to Mars, to face unprecedented hostility. An even greater danger is now threatening Earth, but the viewers are too glued to their screens and the rescue mission to see what is really happening.
Leonor is ready to risk everything to bring out the truth and warn the world. She can never admit defeat – but can she fight her last fight alone?

Review

This is quite possibly the best conclusion to any trilogy I’ve ever read. It retains it’s blockbuster feel throughout and you won’t want to come up for breath.
I did find myself reading this much more slowly than the others as I was conflicted; part of me wanted, needed, to know what happened but there was a part of me that wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this world, or Leo.

There are two new frames of reference for me with this final installment. Since reading Distortion, I’ve watched Capricorn One, which is this amazing American Consiparcy Thriller from 1978. Wow, the tone from the movie was pitch perfect for this final book and it has me itching to see this trilogy on the silver screen even more.
The other was Brexit. I know it’s been around in the UK since 2016, but it’s Collision that holds a lot of the political vibe and characterisations of those in power at the moment.

There is amazing resolves for all of our favourite characters and while I’m left feeling satisfied by the plot resolutions, Victor doesn’t hide away from adding new elements in during this final act, which allows it to feel even more like the world will continue beyond the final page.
The establishment of rules and laws on the planet is a particular highlight and does raise a number of ethical questions about creating an isolated society. It gives us some of the best interactions between the characters.

The writing, as always, is perfect and flawlessly translated. I’m hoping the end of this trilogy will mark the start of more translated work of Victor Dixen as his imagination is daring, challenging and wonderful.

Book Review: The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly

https://amzn.to/2UXKXbg

Wow! I was hooked in the first page and it took me on a heart-in-mouth adventure with an amazing ‘Stranger Things’ quality. Which is exactly what I need to keep me going while I inch towards 4th July’s 3rd series.


I missed my lunch because I couldn’t stop reading; I was as obsessed as the well developed and mysterious characters I met and this is the first book of 2019 that I read in one sitting. I zoned out the tv completely and fell into this world completely.


Red and Blue are the perfect twin characters to take us along on the journey. Blue’s narrative is epic; she’s speaking from a point of hindsight and that makes for an interesting read and adds a chilling tension. From the very start we know something is going to go wrong, but we’re never sure what it is. Until it’s too late of course.


I can imagine this becoming a film and being well received by anyone who is missing Pretty Little Liars being on their screens. This book screams beautiful, unhinged people. Some of whom you will love to hate.
The descriptions are detailed and perfect for anyone who hasn’t visited New York before, but for those that have, there’s a hidden layer to keep you engaged too.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Love Han x

Q and A with Victor Dixen

If you were part of the crew, waiting to meet your future partner, what would your approach to the speed dating be?

 

Well, I think I would adopt the same position as Léonor: enjoy the trip to space and try to stay authentic, escaping the show business madness.

I would probably use a “logical” rule as she did, inviting each contestant the exact same number of times to attend the speed-dating sessions with me.

But is it really possible, to be both part of the game and out of the game?

This is one of the questions raised in Phobos 

 

 

The Phobos series feels very epic. Would you be happy to see your work turned into a film or tv series?

Actually, I wrote Phobos a bit like script or a storyboard. Instead of “chapters”, I chose to organize the text around “sequences”, each of them corresponding to a different camera angle. Since Phobos is primarily a novel about images and screens, I thought it would be logical and impactful to have this kind of partitioning.

 

I really visualized this story in my head while writing it, and I would love to see it again on a real screen – re-imagined by a director!

 

 

If the series was turned into a TV show or film, do you have any cast in mind?

Not really…

But I’m always interested to see the proposed casting posted by readers on social networks and blogs. I gathered a few of them here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/victor.dixen.books/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1046079018771786

There is one actress though who I could totally see playing the role of Serena, though: the great Tilda Swinton!

 

 

Were you ever tempted to make fundamental changes to the series before translation?

It always feels great when I learn that one of my books will be published in another language, because it means that the story will be shared with new readers.

For the English translation, a very talented translator has been appointed by my British publisher Bonnier: Daniel Hahn. He actually pointed out a few things we should change for the English edition, for the sake of cultural background or consistency. Apart from that, I didn’t feel the need to make significant changes.  

 

 

 

If you could give your readers an insight into the third book with three words: what would they be?

NEVER . ADMIT . DEFEAT

 

What was your initial inspiration for the series?

There are two ideas at the origin of Phobos.

The first idea is linked to space conquest, a theme that has always interested me since I was a child. Today, we have the technology allowing us to go to Mars, but not to come back. The possibility of a one-way ticket stimulated my imagination.

The second idea is linked to the way our world seems to be fascinated by images. We are surrounded by screens, for better and for worse. On the one hand, screens give us the possibility to establish dialogues and relationships throughout the world, and they are also an unlimited territory for creativity. But on the other hand, it is difficult to escape from the flux of images: screens prompt us to react emotionally and instantly to every stimulus, without thinking first. 

That is the reason why images are so important in Phobos :image of the self, image of the others, false appearances. 

 

 

Which other French authors, other than yourself, would you recommend for young adults taking their GCSEs in order to develop their language skills?

Christelle Dabos has built a great fantasy world in her series “La Passe-Miroir”, that has just been translated to English this year under the title “The Mirror Visitor Quartet”. It’s great that this story is available in the 2 languages, for readers who want to develop their French while still keeping an eye on the English text. You will find here the same sense of wonder in the magical “His Dark Material” series, by Philip Pulman.

For those of you who would like to win the first two books, comment on this post telling me who you would most like to head to Mars with.

Distortion by @VictorDixen @HotKeyBooks

About:

After a speed-dating show that is literally out of this world, twelve young astronauts are set to become the first humans to colonise Mars. They are also the victims of the cruellest of plots.

Léonor thought she was a pioneer on an extraordinary mission. She thought she had left all regrets behind her on Earth. But when memories are this painful, there can be no forgetting . . .

Characters

Leonor is as wonderful as ever. Her relationship with the rest of the crew is a little more open. It gives the story scope and allows her to become the leader, whether she wants it or not. She is the consistent within a world of chaos and you’ll want to stay by her side from start to finish.

Returning characters Harmony and Andrew are thrown further into the fray in Distortion and they are a welcome addition to the narrative. Now Andrew is not trying to put pieces together on his own, the tension has changed somewhat. Allowing him to spend time with Harmony gives the reader more scope into his character and he’s someone I want to spend even more time with.

Plot

Not going to lie, I wasn’t sure where the sequel was going. By the mid way point I was convinced there wasn’t a sequel. I assumed that perhaps the trilogy was condensed, and it was leaving me a little sad. It’s on of the reasons why the final act pulled the rug from under me and yet again had me begging for the sequel. 

Collision cannot come quick enough for me. The writing is engaging and the story is compulsive. You can’t put it down and it certainly would make the perfect TV show for all ages.

 Pick up Distortion and Ascension now. Collision is due April 2019

https://amzn.to/2AmrhVq

Book Review The Island by M A Bennet

The book is an epic rollercoaster from the first page. There are layers and twists within the plot and narration that will ensure you’ll want to read it again. I garentee you’ll discover something new every time as well.
Such a refreshing change having a male main character within a first person narrative. You’ll feel a little like a helpless, frustrated, Jiminy Cricket as Link’s story develops and he faces challenges on the Island. I found myself shouting as the pages one or twice. Okay, it was at least five.

Taking the concept of a private school with a skewed idea of success looks like, Link is your underdog and a book like this would normally be about the problems he faces and how he overcomes the challenges without sacrificing himself. But, you are not entering into that sort of narrative and you quickly find out Wonderland rules apply; up becomes down, the strong are weak and the geek will rule all.

While the twists are shocking, it’s the character responses to them that are the bit that will make sure you don’t put this book down.

Ascension by Victor Dixen @VictorDixen

Release date: 28.6.2018
About:
Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world’s craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones.
She has signed up for glory.
She has signed up for love.
She has signed up for a one-way ticket.
Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets.
Pre-order here


Characters

I love Leonor. She’s a good voice to have when you’re stuck in space; she grounds you, so to speak. When you have a character like her; passionate, flawed and insightful. The way she works through the speed dating is interesting and something I easily identify with. Not only that, it adds a level of internal conflict that some narratives miss.

We learn bits about the other crew, but it’s those left on earth that are the most interesting. We have Serena, who communicates directly with the participants and becomes the ‘host’ of the broadcast. She’s a piece of work, you’ll quickly learn, but I want you to find that out for yourself.

Plot

It reads like a brilliant Sci-fi blockbuster. There are many threads in play and they change your perspective like a rubrics cube, waiting to be solved. Being the first in a trilogy, you go in knowing that you will have a resolve of some sorts, but there will be questions left unanswered to ensure you want more. It’s expertly done so that it doesn’t feel like it’s the first in a sequence, but a story in its own right.

Writing

Being a translated story, there’s always a worry that the writing loses something. This story, I’m delighted to say, doesn’t. It’s language is clean, its engaging and powerful. It makes for such a consumable, compulsive read.
I just wish I knew enough French to read the other two books in the series. Yes, they’re already published guys but you need to have progressed further than a GCSE in French to be able to access them.

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton

Release Date: 8.2.2018
About:
Lily has died in a car accident. The trouble is, Lily’s really not at all sure she wants to ‘move on’ . . . This funny, heartbreaking novel is perfect if you loved John Green or The Lovely Bones.
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road.
She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.
But what is she supposed do now?
Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .
Buy from Here


Character/s

Lily is one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen on page. She’s dead from the moment we meet her, so we never really get a true sense of who she was. Being in the first person means we get a reflective character full of regret. It’s just as untrustworthy as other characters you meet and establish as untrustworthy.

Plus, a good chunk of the time, she’s not being herself. She’s being her brother. Now that is interesting and is truly good at showing how little we can sometimes know people.

Plot

The supernatural Freaky Friday plot really works here. It toes a perfect line of light-hearted scenarios and a deep emotional look at grief and loss. It’s not for everyone, but for those people who have lost someone close and have found it difficult to process those emotions, this might actually be the story for you.

Writing

The sign of good writing here is how the movements of Lily. Regardless of her form; ghost or host, there’s no confusion as to where she is or who she is. The writing also keeps emotion in play while allowing the reader to remove themselves from the grief.

The Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland #bookreview #hanreview @HotKeyBooks

The Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland #bookreview #hanreview @HotKeyBooks
Release date: 5.9.17

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From Goodreads: A funny, moving love story about facing fears hand in hand – one snake/spider/potentially unstable fourth-floor balcony at a time. From acclaimed author of OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS, Krystal Sutherland.

Esther Solar’s family is . . . unusual. Her father hasn’t left the basement in six years. Her brother is terrified of darkness.

Esther isn’t afraid of anything – because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators are off limits, as are open spaces, crowds, family pets, birds, needles, haircuts, dolls and mirrors.

But when Esther is pickpocketed by her cocky old classmate Jonah Walker, Esther and Jonah become surprising friends. Jonah sets a challenge: every week they must work their way through the world’s fifty most common phobias. Skydiving, horse riding, beekeeping, public speaking, reptile houses – they plan to do it all.

Soon their weekly foray into fear becomes the only thing that keeps them tethered to reality, and to each other. But each is keeping a secret from the other, a secret that threatens to rip them apart.

Buy it here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Semi-Definitive-List-Worst-Nightmares/dp/147140661X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513773899&sr=8-1&keywords=Krystal+Sutherland
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36222995-a-semi-definitive-list-of-worst-nightmares

My first thoughts

I loved this book. It struck such a chord with me it ways I never expected it to. I hated that I started it while I was still working, which meant it became my commuter read, instead of devouring read that it should have been.

The Characters

Esther Solar is a unique and beautiful character who belongs in the wonderful world of Tim Burton. She is charming and delight to have on this journey. As a reader, I feel her pain and her triumphs.

Jonah is a mysterious addition to the narrative. He brings Esther out of her shell and helps her to come to terms with her life. He has his own personal challenge to face too. While it appears to be journeyed without the reader, the bulk of it is felt regardless.

The Plot

Its story is simple in terms of its outset, but is complex in its completion. Esther must complete each one of her fears in order to get her notebook back off Jonah. Having 50 items to be checked off could have become a little tiresome had Krystal chosen to depict every single conquest. Happily, we skip through them in order to progress to the deeper meaning of fears.

By the time the reader gets to the final act, we’re giving some heart wrenching twists that will tear up even the driest of eyes.

The Writing

The book is written in a fresh quirky style that pulls you in from the first sentence and doesn’t let you go, long after you finish reading.