Spellbinding: A Darker Shade of Magic

When I read the Night Circus 5 years ago, I was enchanted by the storytelling and the magic that was entwined into each page. With this in mind, I didn’t think a magical world could really be created in the same way, with the element of mystery that keeps the reader hooked throughout. However, I was pleased to find that A Darker Shade of Magic sat in this same category, providing a world that is very familiar, with a twist of the fantastical.

And before all you Harry Potter fans cry out about overlooking Hogwarts, this genre of magic sits in its own category away from the adventures of the Chosen One.

I found the narrative descriptive enough to immerse you in the ritualistic performance of magic, whilst not weighing the reader down with description. This meant that you had plenty of capacity to imagine new characters, new worlds, and new adventures.

Following a soul who was born with magic running through his veins, we are transported between Grey, Red and White London, each with its own characteristics and traits. As with most fictional stories, there is a fight between good and bad, with the all-consuming dark magic being cast as the villain of the tale. Although this is predictable, particularly with its character being cast in jet black, the childlike believe that good reigns supreme helps to justify your hope that the dark will be defeated.

Kell is not only the guide for the characters within the book, but for the reader, as he instructs how to use magic in these differing worlds. And as in most texts, he is a flawed protagonist, who can’t help but feed a dark trait to smuggle artifacts between the world, which only serves to land him in an unwanted situation; he’s a perfect example of how there’s good and bad in us all.

Sometimes, particularly in times of crisis in our very real world, it’s nice to enter a magical one within the pages of a great book and to see how in the end it is the good that wins the battle.

A Darker Shade of Magic: V. E. Schwab

Running in Circles; End of the World Running Club

Apocalyptic books often have your heart racing and adrenaline pumping as you scramble for logical conclusions of what you would do at the end of the world. And although End Of The World Running Club delivered this at times, the vast majority of the book left me feeling fairly indifferent.

I think this is largely down to the author making the characters fairly unlikable; rather than encouraging the reader to will for their survival. I found myself wondering whether I really cared what happened to the group.

Usually I am easily able to paint a picture of a character in my head and they quickly take shape as I turn from page to page. However right to the last sentence, I wouldn’t have been able to describe the protagonist, nor can I recall his name even now. I believe this was probably why I felt unconnected to the story and the direction it took.

Yes the story was interesting and came from a new angle in a very crowded category, but no it didn’t deliver an electrifying read. Although it was the end of the world, it certainly didn’t feel like it once I reached the book’s conclusion.

The End of the World Running Club: Adrian J Walker

Truth Be Told: Lie With Me

This is the second book of this nature that I’ve read this year, where the protagonist is fundamentally unlikable. I must have an ingrained Disney meter that prefers a book without devious characters reigning supreme, as I found myself disheartened by the character’s flaws and general shifty behaviour.

That being said, Lie With Me is an ideal holiday page-turner as the setting lends itself to being a beach book. Having managed to convince his girlfriend to invite him along on their family holiday to Greece, Paul attempts to turn each situation to his advantage as he tries to play the family. Little does he know that there are other forces at work and his deception is working in tandem with another.

Maybe I’m too much of a goody-two-shoes, but I prefer stories where the characters live happily ever after.

Lie With Me: Sabine Durant

Running Like Clockwork: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker at Filigree Street has been on my shelf for well over a year and I’ve been waiting for the opportune moment to read it. And finally, that time has come (no pun intended).

Set in Victorian London, an era I can soon become weary of, the narration painted a fantastic picture of this steampunk world. I found that rather than becoming tiresome of the intricate details that can often be associated with period drama pieces, these flourishes of character added to the atmosphere that was being created.

The magical nature of Mori pulls you into his world of intricate and mystical clockwork, whilst remaining an enigma and mysterious force. In addition, Katsu, a mechanical octopus, becomes a welcome friend as he appears sporadically throughout the tale.

With it being a mixture of both mystery and magic, love and suspense, this book would be enjoyed by a variety of different people; what more could you ask for?

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street: Natasha Pulley

Game On: Ready Player One

I don’t know how I missed the hype on this, but I thought I’d somehow uncovered a hidden gem once I started reading Ready Player One. Of course I had, but what I didn’t appreciate was the immense following the book had already built.

Working in marketing, I am constantly challenged to look at the new trends and fads that are taking hold, which at the moment of course is virtual reality – there’s no escaping it.

Therefore I was taken aback at how relevant this book is, even for the year 2017. With no distinction between reality and the virtual one, this book takes a glance to our future and makes a very justifiable stab at how we may be living.

This in itself is quite a terrifying thought. We are awestruck by the virtual worlds we can create in 2017, and it only takes a couple more leaps-and-bounds before Ready Player One is no longer a sci-fi novel but a factual text.

The fantastic entwining of the past in 1980 and the not-so-distant future of 2044 perfectly shapes the novel. We are able to look back in history and nod at these details, whilst dreaming about the paths we may take in 30 years time.

Having grown up in the 90s, although the references are firmly rooted in the disco decade, I see parts of my childhood creeping into the pages; the etch-a-sketch, Ferris Bueller’s Big Day Off, and a DeLorean with a Ghostbusters logo printed on its famous winged doors.

Ready Player One is an enticing sci-fi adventure, with (geeky) wit, a lot of pop-culture references, plenty of action, and a climatic finale. So it comes as no surprise that we’ll soon be seeing trailers for the Steven Spielberg adaptation, which will no doubt take the world by storm.

Ready Player One: Ernest Cline

No Harm Done: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Having read a number of quite dark crime thrillers recently centering around grizzly themes and twisting plots, it was a nice change to be immersed in a lighthearted yet puzzling mystery novel.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep for me draws parallels with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and To Kill a Mockingbird, with youthful protagonists being the most obvious link. Grace and Tilly are both endearing narrators and guide you through their world with an innocence reserved only for children. Equally Mr Bishop is the Boo Radley of the avenue; ostracized and made to feel blamed for the mysterious happenings.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I was left at the edge of my seat, or that I couldn’t bear to put the book down for fear of not reaching it’s conclusion quick enough, yet I would argue that sometimes you need to step away from the thriller shelf from time-to-time. I looked forward to reading the next chapter, without craving a dizzying high of adrenaline-fueled pages.

I had no trouble in enjoying this debut and look forward to reading the next of Joanna Cannon’s work.

The Trouble of Goats and Sheep: Joanna Cannon

Bookworm on the 7.01: Reader on the 6.27

For the past couple of months I have been plugging away at a book that has been a struggle to muster any sort of enthusiasm to read. So it was nice to change my reading fortunes by picking up a book in the morning, engaging with the characters, feeling that my heart had been warmed, and finishing it that same evening.

Sharing the same sweet, sentimental storytelling of The President’s Hat or the Little Prince, The Reader on the 6.27 is a lovely story of how we often stumble across people who share the same loves as we do, in the most unexpected places.

Guylain’s mission to find the woman that he instantly connects with through the writing of her diary, his conversations with his best friend Rouget de Lisle (the goldfish), and his public readings to the old women of a local care home, all provide a child like innocence to the protagonist. Therefore it’s easy to connect with his story and be compelled to keep reading.

Starting my day on the 7am flight to Geneva, I liked to think I was part of Guylain’s audience, as he read the pages of the books he’d saved from the pulping machine, alongside his other early morning listeners.

It was lovely to read a positive story of being passionate about something and sharing it with those around you.

Reader on the 6.27: Jean-Paul Didierlaurent