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Alyxandra Harvey

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1-4088-1131-3

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Haunting Violet is a standalone novel by the author of the Drake Chronicles (to date, My Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Feud, and Out for Blood). At least, I assume this is a standalone novel; it reads that way, although there is the potential for some major characters to reappear if this turns out to be a series.

When Violet Willoughby was nine years old, her mother told her that she was old enough and pretty enough to help with the family business. To put it bluntly, they con the grieving; Violet’s mother pretends to be a medium who can put the rich and gullible in touch with their lost ones. Violet is sickened by the pretense and by taking advantage of people so obviously grief-stricken. Her mother has no qualms, feeling that the world owes her a living and this is the easiest way for her to get it. And in fact, she’s quite good at her faking. They live a life short of luxury, but certainly of greater security than they could otherwise achieve. Why, it even looks like Violet, now 16, could make a good marriage to a rich man.

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Mary Robinette Kowal

Pan Macmillan (2010)

ISBN: 9780765325563

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

When I first saw this book described by the author as being the book Jane Austen might have written had she lived in a world with magic, I did think that was a bit much. Obviously I wanted to read such a book, but really, comparing yourself to Austen? Isn’t that reaching a tad high, especially for a debut novelist? Also, let’s face it, a lot of authors have jumped on the Austen bandwagon. I’ve been burned by a lot of bad sequels to Pride and Prejudice, and while I never actually got around to trying that novel with added zombies, I did read a page of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I’m never getting that thirty seconds of my life back!

But then I read this book, and I realised what was going on here.

Shades of Milk and Honey
is a novel so immersed in Austen and what for the purposes of this review I shall call Austenalia, that it seems impossible to read it any other way. It verges on parody, though the clever use of language and extreme authenticity of characters keeps it on the right side of that line. Which is not to say that there is not a hint of mockery about Austenian conventions in this book – but it’s the gentle kind of mockery that comes from someone who genuinely loves that author’s work, as opposed to, for example, the clumsy and appallingly offensive Red Dwarf episode written by Robert Llewellyn who had obviously never even watched a costume drama all the way through to the end…

Where was I?

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Gail Carriger

Books 1, 2 and 3, The Parasol Protectorate

Soulless

Orbit (2009)

Changeless

Orbit (2010)

Blameless

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-316-07415-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I was first exposed to what’s become known as The Parasol Protectorate series (the books are subtitled as being “Alexia Tarabotti novels”) a number of months ago, via a great video showing the creation of the cover of Blameless. This did the rounds on the ‘net showing how cover design comes together in a very cool way. I watched it a few times, thinking how clever it was, but that the book itself didn’t look like my sort of thing. HOW WRONG I WAS! When Tansy and Alex started raving about the books, I knew I had to try them. Then I received a review copy of Blameless and that decided it – Soulless and Changeless became my only Aussiecon 4 prescribed purchases, and when I finally got the chance to read them, it was to the exclusion of all else.

I’m not really sure what I thought these books were about, when I first saw them appearing in bookstores and via the cover design video (which I now recognise as some very smart marketing!). I guarantee I did not realise they were funny, smart, paranormal fantasy set in an almost real historical world, populated by suave and sinister vampires, tough and militant werewolves and a society that has built itself around its supernatural inhabitants. Did I mention funny?

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Gail Carriger

Orbit (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-316-05663-2

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

I have never been caught up in the paranormal romance obsession. Unless they’re being hunted by Hugh Jackman or Wesley Snipes, vampires have rarely done it for me, and werewolves even less so. I have never opened a Twilight book, never seriously watched Buffy, and never come close to Sookie Sackhouse (all of which a number of my friends can ruefully confirm). Which makes it all the stranger that I read, and enjoyed, Soulless.

I was initially interested in the book because of a friend’s description of it as ‘mannerpunk’. I’d read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I thought vampires and werewolves in Victorian London may well be worth a go (despite not being a fan of the period). And once I picked it up, and discovered that the main character’s name is Alexia – well, I’m no more immune to vanity than the next person.

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Gail Carriger

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-0316056632

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, syndicated July 2010

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a book that has been calling out to me for some time. It’s Victorian urban fantasy! (or urbane fantasy, according to the author’s website, which is all kinds of awesome) The main character wields a parasol against vampires and werewolves! Mannerpunk! Oh yes. Completely my cup of tea. (did I mention the near-constant tea drinking?)

After resisting the purchase of this tempting morsel for so long, I snatched it up pretty instantly upon finally acquiring it, and read it over a couple of days. Considering how little book reading time I usually have, this is saying something. The story runs along at great pace, and with great humour. It really is like a cross between Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse, with added vampires, werewolves and steampunk.

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Conn Iggulden

HarperCollins (2007-08)

Wolf of the Plains – Vol 1, ISBN: 978-0007201747

Lords of the Bow – Vol 2, ISBN: 978-0007201778

Bones of the Hills – Vol 3, ISBN: 978-0007201792

Reviewed by David Buchbinder, June 2010

I began reading this series with the second volume, Lords of the Bow, because this was the first book I received and was asked to review.  I find it awkward, of course, to enter a narrative series in the middle—I feel as though I have arrived very belatedly at a party, long after friendships have been made, bonds affirmed, confidences and knowledges exchanged.  I hang about uncomfortably at the edges of the narrative, trying to look as though I were part of the conversation, but feeling a little mystified and often quite shut out of the sharing of memories, ideas and, above all, stories.  Often my engagement in the conversation is based on guesswork about what happened at the party while I wasn’t there.

In a sense, however, it was entirely appropriate that I begin with the middle volume: the series is described on the front covers of each book as “The Epic Story of the Great Conqueror,” and one of the rules of epic narrative, as these came to be formulated in antiquity and codified later, was that such narratives should begin in medias res, that is, literally, “in the middle of things.”  The Conqueror series lives up to its description as an epic narrative, though its author, Conn Iggulden, has chosen to begin his story at the beginning, rather than in the middle.

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