Recent Reads

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

From the Blurb:

“ The year is 1806. centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell, whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very antithesis of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms that between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.”

My Review:

I recently read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by UK author Susanna Clarke. Despite my initial hesitation at the daunting and considerable detail and length of the novel, I found like those before me, these misgivings paled in comparison to the wonder of the book itself.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell follows two main protagonists in the early 1800s in their efforts to reinstate English magic. Both are talented magicians and while Mr Norrell asserts himself as England’s magician and hoards all books ever published of magic, he soon takes on an enterprising student in the gentleman Jonathan Strange. While Norrell is fearful of new things and sudden changes, Strange is his opposite. The two magicians serve the English parliament through their combined efforts to defend England and defeat Napoleon Bonaparte. However, Norrell can never shake his fear that Strange will better him and deliberate actions to undermine their trust and future partnership are laid down from the first. But the darkest secret of Norrell’s early magic that causes the greatest danger. In very early attempts to gain favour in London society, Norrell performed magic beyond his own talents by seeking the aid of a Faerie which he bound to himself as a servant. Norrell keeps this secret from Strange and much of English society even after the two magicians quarrel and the friendship is broken.

The following years of bitter rivalry between Strange and Norrell see the exploitation of both magicians’ greatest weaknesses. Norrell has his fear and paranoia played against himself and Strange has his arrogance and rashness turned against himself. Throughout it all, the beings of Faerie manoeuvre and plot to overthrow both magicians and so retain hold on the dominion of a Faerie kingdom. The final battle between Norrell and Strange becomes a partnership to save innocent mortals stolen into Faerie including Jonathan Strange’s wife.

Final Thoughts:

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a delightful and often dark tale, and a skilful alternate history of the Georgian era. The prose feels realistic as though truly compiled from Georgian authors. Despite the seemingly slower pace of the book’s action, the tone does not feel overburdened by it. High praise for the philosophical accounts, a detailed history and characters, and the introspection of morality led to a lingering sense of satisfaction, of closure, for the ending of the stand-alone novel.

My Conclusion?

Highly recommended for fans of alternate history, Gaslamp fantasies and gothic fantasies. Despite the daunting size of the book, it is a beautiful story, masterfully written and compelling. Well worth the read!

Recent Reads

The Crossing Places

From the Blurb:

“Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child’s bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier – or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth’s expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest. But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…”

My Review:

The Crossing Places (Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries, #1) by UK author Elly Griffiths is a crime thriller with a considerable difference. The protagonist is slightly awkward, overweight, nearing middle-aged female forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway who’s primary role is teaching and researching in Archaeology in the new university of North Norfolk, United Kingdom. The discovery of a body ritually displayed on the remote salt marshes near where Ruth lives soon brings local police detective Harry Nelson into Ruth’s sphere of work and life and his desperate search for the body of a child missing ten years, the case he cannot forget nor forgive himself for not solving.

The following events involve a series of archaeological investigations into the ritualised burial and likely sacrifice of the young girl whose remains Ruth discovers are not recent but from an Iron Age civilisation that built hedge sites and other ritual structures in the North Norfolk area during the Iron Age. For detective Harry Nelson, Ruth’s academic excitement in the Iron Age burial only saddens and frustrates him in the callousness of human nature, that centuries before, young girls were being ritually killed on the salt marshes. It seems Ruth and Harry have little in common except an interest to discover the fate of the respective young girls, one more recent, another from the Iron Age. But events quickly escalate with the new discovery of the Iron Age burial linking to a series of antagonistic letters detective Nelson has received over the ten years from the suspected killer, which now begin again in earnest along with another child abduction. When another child burial is found, Harry Nelson recruits Ruth to excavate and to provide her expertise on ritual sacrifices and Iron Age culture near the salt marshes. It is the beginning of a partnership and a case that focuses on the importance of the ‘crossing places’ to Iron Age belief systems, the role of landscapes which are neither shore nor sea, sky nor land.

Final Thoughts:

The Crossing Places was an enjoyable crime mystery, the combination of unlikely but personable characters, the depth of research into archaeological techniques and academic institutions gave the plot a sense of reality. The detailed research into Iron Age belief systems of ‘crossing places’, the importance of these liminal landscapes within our natural landscapes of land and sea contributed to a fascinating read.

My Conclusion?

A highly-recommended read for anyone who enjoys ancient history, crime or mystery, quirky and complex characters and archaeology.

Recent Reads

Ivory’s Story

From the Blurb:

“Long ago, a good man transgressed and was brutally punished, his physical form killed and his soul split asunder. Now, one half of his ancient soul seeks to reunite with its lost twin, a search that leaves murder in its wake…
In the streets of modern day Sydney a killer stalks the night, slaughtering innocents, leaving bodies mutilated. The victims seem unconnected, yet Investigating Officer Ivory Tembo is convinced the killings are anything but random. The case soon leads Ivory into places she never imagined. In order to stop the killings and save the life of the man she loves, she must reach deep into her past, uncover secrets of her heritage, break a demon’s curse, and somehow unify two worlds.”

My Review:

I recently read Ivory’s Story by African-Australian author Eugen Bacon after readings several reviews and the description roused my interest in this unique speculative fiction novella set in Australia.

The protagonist of Ivory’s Story is female detective Ivory Tembo who has the unhappy task leading the failing investigation into a series of grisly murders of high-profile men in sexually explicit ways in Sydney, Australia. Raised as an orphan and without knolwedge of her family, Ivory has only the unusual opal amulet from her mother to link her to true heritage. Determined to solve the killings and discover her identity, Ivory is directed to a seer at Orange Crater in the northern-central Australia.

The long travel to Orange Crater, Ivory finds her mother also visited but finds no trace of any other family ties only a strong affiliation with a cranky medicine woman. Under the guidance of this medicine woman, Ivory learns how to defeat and stop the murders and the reasons behind the gruesome killings. The medicine woman explains a past tragedy involved an exiled son of a medicine man. This son harboured a rare gift of twin-souls but when accused of stealing a Chieftain’s daughter, his execution does not kill him but does separate his souls, causing one to remain forever within his body, the other to always seek to return. For Ivory, she must re-unite the twin souls after centuries and dimensional planes apart if she is to save the man she loves and stop the killings.

Final Thoughts:

A combination of beautifully written prose and vivid descriptions of the Australian and inter-dimensional landscapes, Ivory’s Story also features a cast of well-defined characters and refreshingly strong female characters. Although, there are sections of the novella that seem to drift from the central focus of the story and can detract from its purpose, leaving me wanting more about Ivory’s detective work and development as a seer, the strong weird fiction themes do not make this feel like a true flaw, more like a necessary element of the weird fiction style.

My Conclusion?

Ivory’s Story is recommended for its beautiful prose and strong female characters. Readers will be certain to enjoy a cultural odyssey for those familiar and new to both the weird and speculative fiction genres.

events, Writing

Unnatural Order Anthology Release


I’m delighted to announce the release on 31st December, 2020 of speculative fiction anthology Unnatural Order by CSFG. This is a fascinating collection of stories inspired by the monstrous, unnatural and the fantastic.

Featuring my own story “The Bargain”, a tale of Fae guardians and the bargains struck to assure the equilibrium between the nature, Fae and humanity. You can read more about my research for “The Bargain” here.

Are you interested in these tales of the fantastic and monstrous? More details purchasing ebook or paperback copies of Unnatural Order here.

events, Writing

Phantom 3 Anthology Release


December 2020 is proving a busy month. Excited to announce, the release of Paranormal anthology Phantom 3 (Lockdown Fiction Series, #14) published by Black Hare Press on 23rd December, 2020.

This paranormal anthology features my short story “Hunting Shadows”, in an eternal battle between good and evil, a poltergeist makes an unlikely union with the demon-hunting hound seeking to banish a demon from Melbourne. You can read about my research for this story here.


Interested in Phantom 3 (Lockdown Fiction Series, #14)? Free ebooks are available to download (except Amazon Kindle) and all paperback copies. More details on where to get your copy here

events, Writing

Greed Anthology Release


I’m excited to announce the release on December 27th, 2020 of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5) published by Black Hare Press featuring my story “A Handful of Dead Leaves.”

This dark speculative fiction anthology on the theme of greed, a desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. Featuring my short story “A Handful of Dead Leaves”, the darker truth of leprechaun lore and dealings with the Fae. You can also learn about my research into leprechaun folklore here.


Keen to purchase an ebook or paperback copy of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5)? More details here

research

Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive, one one each of the 13 days before Christmas then depart in the order they arrived, on the subsequent days following Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla, leaves the mountains to enter the city, seeking any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents. These she would take back to her mountain dwelling, cook them into a stew for her lazy troll husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are names for the acts they are most famously known for, often tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here.

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb

Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule lads became less scary, depicted as mischievous, trickster characters illustrated as jolly ‘Santa Claus-like figures’ who left gifts for the well-behaved children in their shoes and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. In earlier times, the Yule lads were emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule lads to their more traditional vagabond nature, the desperate orphans who accompanied Gryla.

Short Stories

Forthcoming: Horror Anthology

Pleased to announce my next psychological horror short story “The Monster” will feature in Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All short fiction in the anthology is inspired by the theme of gluttony “an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.”

Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6)

My horror story “The Monster”, inspired by wendigo folklore of the northern Algonquin First Nations of North America and Canada combines elements of the culturally specific ‘wendigo psychosis’ during an alpine hiking expedition. A case of a violent mind unravelling or monstrous possession? You can learn more about my research writing “The Monster” here.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) will be updated when available. Keep an eye out for the release of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5)  and Wrath (Seven Deadly Sins, #7) anthologies.

Short Stories

The Wendigo & Psychological Horror

Another of my recent work-in-progress short fiction pieces, has been a psychological horror story inspired by wendigo psychosis an unusual form of ‘cultural psychosis’ specific to First Nations peoples of Canadian-North American Great Lakes regions where belief in a supernatural being, the wendigo, provides a unique cultural framework for a psychosis. This psychosis has specific disease symptoms which like the cultural belief – is unique – and found nowhere else in the world.

What is a wendigo then? It is a legendary being originating from northern Algonquian First Nations oral folktales and legends (recently popularised in supernatural fiction and movies), described in varying ways but, almost always, as a ravenous cannibalistic monster with an insatiable hunger. Historically, the First Nations peoples including the Algonquian, Cree and Ojibwa attributed wendigo possession to those driven mad in the harsh winter months of isolation and deprivation who resorted to cannibalism, often without a famine present.

In this short story, I was interested to take wendigo folklore and wendigo psychosis deliberately outside its necessary cultural context to explore the shadowy boundary between reality and insanity, and the inherent horror of uncertainty: a human monster or monstrous possession? This story was written through a single character’s point of view, exploring the darker, unintentional psychological motivations of a declining mental state and attempts to rationalise violent, aberrant behaviour.

Short Stories

Magicians, Curses and Egyptology

I’ve become fascinated by the Gaslamp fantasy subgenre lately and decided to explore it a little further in another short fiction piece, this time set in an alternate Victorian-era Dublin. The Victorian era saw the expansion of the British Empire into more countries and with it, an expansion of the arts and sciences. Coinciding with the expanding interest and enlightenment of the literature and sciences, the pre-Raphaelites, the social movement of collected artists, poets and some writers inspired by a more utopian ideal that was a counterbalance to the more confining and conservative values of the Victorian era. The development of the Industrialisation and the increasing commercialism of many once-family or artisan craftsmanship was another opposing point to the pre-Raphaelite movement and desire to escape social oppression of the increasing Industrialised era. For the Sciences, the Victorian era saw an expansion of the natural and mathematical sciences which blossomed under the Enlightenment period, the challenging evolutionary theories of Darwin and the engineering developments famous under Industrialisation being just some of the social and intellectual expansions during the Victorian age. An interest in other cultures and histories also followed with the expanding British Empire bringing the cultures of the colonies into close contact with those of Britain. Archaeology became a strong interest with Ancient Egypt a particular fascination for the Victorians.

In the recent story, I have explored some of those pre-Raphaelite social movements and the Victorian conservative social values through an alternate Dublin, the social inequalities experienced by several LGBTQI characters. The Victorian interest in Ancient Egyptian archaeology and history (Egyptology) also coincided with the development of a considerable fraudulent artefact trade alongside a trade in the more genuine artefacts. Inspired by the popular ‘urban myth’ of 1922 and the curse of pharaoh Tutankhamen tomb, I incorporate the Ancient Egyptian goddess Serket, symbolised by a scorpion, her prominence in death rituals and favoured by poisoners and assassins. The Gaslamp fantasy elements in this story include a secretive Dublin magician and a death curse. It has been a delight to write and I hope to explore some more Gaslamp fantasy stories next year.