Review | The Catalyst – Helena Coggan


  • Hardcover (Hodder & Stoughton, 448 pages)
  • Published February 2015
  • Rating on Goodreads: 2 stars
  • Review copy courtesy of Bookbridgr

“Rose Elmsworth has a secret. For eighteen years, the world has been divided into the magically Gifted and the non-magical Ashkind, but Rose’s identity is far more dangerous. At fifteen, she has earned herself a place alongside her father in the Department, a brutal law-enforcement organisation run by the Gifted to control the Ashkind. But now an old enemy is threatening to start a catastrophic war, and Rose faces a challenging test of her loyalties. How much does she really know about her father’s past? How far is the Department willing to go to keep the peace? And, if the time comes, will Rose choose to protect her secret, or the people she loves?”

Disorganised mess. Nope. Just. No. It really shows that the author was only thirteen when she first conceived the idea – the writing is disjointed, and jumps between styles. The descriptions are cliche, and the characters don’t jump out of the page. Nobody is really fleshed out; Rose is your stereotypical protagonist – not too pretty, not that attractive – oh but she has a GIFT. SHE’S UNUSUAL. IMPORTANT. WILL SAVE THE WORLD or some other plan like that.

I really admire Coggan for being published at 15 – after all, isn’t that every writer’s dream? – but I don’t think she has enough life experience to be able to give different characters different, cohesive voices. The adults don’t sound like adults. The younger characters sound like they’re trying to be adults. I just… I really wanted to like this. I really did. But it turned out to be every dystopian cliche in the book. I don’t recommend this. I really don’t. It’s a shame. It could have been fantastic – there are flashes of promises within – and yet, it isn’t. It really isn’t.

Review | The Leopards of Normandy: Devil – David Churchill


  • Hardcover (Headline, 480 pages)
  • To be published February 2015
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars
  • (Review copy courtesy of the lovely people at Bookbridgr.)

The fate of England hangs in the balance of a fight between brothers 

The noble families of Europe are tearing themselves apart in their lust for power and wealth.

Emma, Queen of England, is in agony over the succession to her husband Canute’s throne … while the sons of her brother, the Duke of Normandy, battle in the wake of his death.

Robert, the younger son, has been cheated of Normandy’s mightiest castle and sets out to take it by force. He emerges from a bloody siege victorious and in love with a beautiful – and pregnant – peasant girl.

Robert’s child will be mocked as William the bastard. But we have another name for him

… Conqueror .”

Oh wow. Oh wow.

This is an earthy, gritty, brutal piece of historical fiction – and I love it.

Characters – realistic. They are so brilliant in their grey morality, and Churchill shows that you can write women well without them having to be strong. The struggles these characters faced broke my heart – I was hoping that certain conflicts would be resolved and happiness gained but I knew it was unlikely to happen. Churchill managed to more than tug on the heartstrings; the first time that happened, I knew I’d started something good. These characters are more than just engaging – they are so very human, and the novel is all the more wonderful for it.

I should point out that this novel is not for the faint hearted. Devil is set in a bloody period of history, and so of course there was going to be violence. And we get it in spades. I have to admit, I quite like gritty violence in literature, so this discovery was excellent. Churchill brings a fairly obscure tale behind William the Conqueror to the table, and manages to make it into something compulsively readable – and easy to read, at that. I flew through this; I will definitely be looking out for the sequel (this is a planned trilogy).

Despite being a medieval history student, I know very little about William the Conqueror and his familial history; Devil has made me more inclined to research more about this, and if you’re a lover of historical fiction, pick this up. It’s great. You’ll love it. Now go read it. It comes out two days (26th February) after I post this review. Plenty of time for you to get excited.

Review | Smiler’s Fair – Rebecca Levene


Paperback (Hodder & Stoughton, 404 pages)

First published 2014; this edition published 2015)

Rating on Goodreads: 2 stars

Review copy courtesy of Bookbridgr

“Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.

He’ll change everything.

Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.

In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goatherd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.”

I wanted to like this. I really, really did. But for all its promise, it ended up feeling to me like a rip-off of A Song of Ice and Fire. There are several viewpoints, but unlike George R. R. Martin, Levene can’t pull it off. It’s too distracting, and the characters aren’t fleshed-out well enough, to the point where I wondered what the hell I was actually reading. I feel like Smiler’s Fair should have been a longer book in order to effectively create the world vividly enough for the readers – I certainly wouldn’t have minded that.

There were parts I did enjoy, I won’t deny that. Certain descriptive pieces and turns of phrase were beautiful. But overall, Levene’s world-building and exposition just seemed to me to be a mess. It didn’t feel coherent or cohesive, and I really wish it had. It’s a shame, because the premise sounded brilliant. But I just couldn’t lose myself in this. It was too disjointed.

Book Haul | Academic Books

I’m back! University is murdering me, but I filmed a quick academic book haul for you! Enjoy!

Books mentioned:

  • The Domesday Book – Unknown
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine & The Four Kings – Amy Kelly
  • The Feudal Kingdom of England – Frank Barlow
  • The Feudal Monarchy In France & England – Charles Petit-Dutaillis
  • Feudal Society Vols. 1 & 2 – Marc Bloch
  • Henry VII – S. B. Chimes
  • Henry VIII – J. J. Scarisbrick
  • A History of Medieval Europe – R. H. C. Davis
  • The Kings & Queens of England – W. M. Ormrod
  • Letters of Medieval Women – (ed.) Anne Crawford
  • Magna Carta – (ed.) David Carpenter
  • The War of The Roses – Michael Hicks
  • William Rufus – Frank Barlow

Musing | The Struggle Between Staying At & Leaving University

I thought this apathy regarding university was down to depression. I thought once I got out of my funk that I’d feel so much better about learning and writing.

Now I’m not so sure.

The thing is, I really want to go into publishing. I have a bookish blog, a bookish youtube channel where I write reviews. I’m active on social media. But I’m very aware that in order to get into publishing you need at the very least a degree. And I’m not enjoying writing these essays. I want to learn – I love learning – but I have no enthusiasm nor motivation to write the essays that would get me a good degree mark.

Do I sound petty, childish? Maybe. After all, I know that in order to get the things we want we have to do things we don’t. But trying to write essays when I don’t care about them… it’s difficult. I suppose what’s really lingering in my mind is the question, what’s the point? 

And of course I know what the point is. Of course I do. It’s just motivating myself to get to that point that’s the problem. And I can’t help but wonder, what if I left university and worked on my channel and blog and getting a publishing internship? What then?

Sort of suicide, I know. Leaving my degree would probably be the most idiotic decision ever.

Still, I wonder. I just hope I can get to the end of this year without breaking down.