Thursday, 27 July 2017

Blackwing: The Blog Tour

Hello hello, today we hop on the Blackwing Blog Tour! This is a book I have been looking forward to since I first heard about it way back in January, and now here we are in July and I have this thing of beauty in my hands! Then we gave Ed a microphone at work during the fantasy Panel we I regret giving it to him, yes, (ABSOLUTELY NOT), and from that I am even more excited to present you with today's post...Ladies and Gentlemen over to Ed

Blackwing: A feminist novel

When I write, I have a target audience in my mind. She’s my sister. My sister is in her thirties, very intelligent, a playwright, has a moderate interest in fantasy only, and tends to enjoy fast paced, heart pounding mysteries like The Da Vinci Code. I choose her as my target audience because (a) she’s more mainstream than diehard fantasy readers and I want to appeal to a broad audience, not just genre fans, (b) I respect her opinions, and (c) we’ve been writing together since we were kids.

Oh, and she’s a fervent feminist.

But then, so am I. And as Camilla said on Love Island very recently – “Shouldn’t everyone be?”

(Note: Yes, I adore Love Island. I watched 5 hours on Catchup last weekend)

Blackwing is a feminist book. It’s not a book about feminism, not in the slightest. There are no themes of equality, no lessons taught by moralising mouth-piece characters. And yet, it’s a book that will be enjoyed by feminists like me, and also by those who don’t yet realise that they’re feminists.
Feminism is a term that really confuses people, so let’s just define the other term that people get confused about:
An Equalitarian is someone who believes that all people should be treated equally.

A Feminist is an equalitarian who understands that the world does not currently allow this in terms of its legislative, social, cultural and sexual expectations, norms and behaviours, and that in order to achieve equality, positive action is needed to alter perceptions and redress balance.
Blackwing’s female cast are diverse. We have Nenn, the hard bitten, foul mouthed swordswoman, but I like to think that she’s also human in her vulnerability and her loyalties. Then there’s Ezabeth: determined, possibly mad, and far more powerful than most of the major cast. Lastly there’s Prince Herono. ‘Princess’ has all the wrong connotations, so in Blackwing, women are princes. Elizabeth I of England was referred to as a prince, so it’s not without real-world historical precedent.

What all of these women have in common, and what makes them feminist characters, is not that they stroll around shouting “Women are equal to men!” It’s that their gender is not limiting, and they are not treated in a limiting way by the other characters. This was a very conscious decision that I made when I started to write Blackwing. It’s a fantasy world; if I’m writing about magical doomsday weapons, I don’t have to adhere to Victorian attitudes towards sex and gender. My experience as a historical fencer adds to this. If anyone ever tells you that women can’t fight with swords, go tell them to fight with Kristine Konsmo, who beat all comers in the 2012 Swordfish competition (regarded as the toughest swordsmanship competition in the world) with sword and buckler. I had the pleasure to attend a seminar that she taught recently and man, that woman can fight. My experiences in swordsmanship are that gender has no impact on a person’s ability, as physical strength is at best a minor factor. Our earliest historical fencing treatise (dating around 1290-1320) features a female fighter. We don’t need to apply our misplaced cultural prejudices to older societies.

(Top: Kristine Konsmo. Bottom: A folio from the I.33 fighting treatise)

On the other hand, I don’t think that gender neutral societies should mean that we pretend that men and women are identical. It would be wrong if I’d had Ezabeth – 5’0 tall and built like a twig – arm wrestle and beat Galharrow, who’s 6’6 and weighs over 20 stone. Biologies are different. It’s fine to accept that, provided that we don’t then type cast every character into a gender/biologically defined role, as individual character traits are more defining than the base building blocks of our DNA. Not all women want children, but lots do, and the early mother/child bond tends to be – not always, but often – different to the early father/child bond.

Nenn plays to a traditionally more masculine roll – she’s all leathers and blades – whilst Ezabeth is far more feminine, veiled and wears dresses. But then, whilst Galharrow is a man’s man, Ezabeth’s brother Dantry could be seen as effeminate. But masculine or feminine, all of the characters bring it when it’s called on, because that’s who they are. They aren’t just a set of genitals and cultural expectations. Some characters switched gender during the writing, and all it took was a change of pronouns. It didn’t change the story at all, because unless you’re specifically tackling gender issues, why would it?
Whilst I was writing Blackwing, an interesting thing then occurred. The characters began to talk in ways that I’d not intended. My imagined society took on different values. Sexuality became a non-issue. The way that characters talk about sex changed, their expectation of what people should aspire to changed. It has, for me, become an exploration of a gender neutral society.

I know that publicly declaring this has the possibility of upsetting some people (the kind that got upset about Jodie Whittaker becoming Dr. Who). The rest of this blog is devoted to how much I care about those people’s opinions: 

And there you have it! Check out the rest of the stops on the Blog tour, which you can see below, and you can get your hands on Blackwing because it is OUT NOW! 

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book Review: Wintersong

Title: WintersongAuthor: S Jae-JonesPublisher: Titan BooksRelease Date:  7th February 2017 
Synopsis: Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Review:  I know it says it about but I just need to reiterate: 

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King

ALL THE FEELS! This was all I needed to sell me this book. This is a classic example of never judge a book by its cover. I more than likely probably wouldn't have picked this up if I saw it in passing unless curiosity got the better of me. But mention the Goblin King and I'm sold. I LOVE Labrynth as a film and in case you live under a rock and don't know what i'm talking about let me refresh your memory:

This book draws all the feels from the film, and every time I read the worlds Goblin King i got a little shiver. The book and film also share a lot of similarities. A weird and wonder twisted world. The ideas of isolation and solidarity. Of bravery and fight and the lengths you're prepared to go to.

The Goblin King was this enigmatic character, full of layers. He has light and dark moments where his cunning and mischievous side comes out. He has a deep rich history and is such a reserved character. You see him in different forms and faces but within all of these he still had (or at least i projected onto him) this air of authority that he carried with him. He felt like a trapped soul and so there was a lot of feeling for him wrapped up in the situation. 

I feel there is a little of Liesl in all of you, she is a vulnerable character that looks for adventure, that questions but that wants to love. She like the Goblin king had a guard and had a purpose and she has to be broken to grow and there were times when you wanted to sake her, to reach into the pages and say it's going to be ok, or to spur her on. 

The world below was in my mind this beautiful twisted creature, very earthy and of the ground,a whole underground world that broke all the rules, coated this this magic rose tinted gloss that hid its true nature. It was like a del toro scene unfolding the truth shattered and the world came to true focus. 

Some of the most beautiful moments here were the music. these rich scenes of them playing both individually and together and you just imagined the music playing and growing getting enveloped in its sound and being carried to another place altogether. Music holds magic and you could really feel this in the pages. Not only for the reader but for the characters and you could feel how it gripped them both.  

I thought this was a standalone but have just seen that Shadowsong is coming and I am here for that. I'm ready to go back into this world, to see how much further the characters are pushed and really get under the skin of the Goblin King. 

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Friday, 14 July 2017

Book review: If We Were Liars

Title: If We Were VillainsAuthor: M. L. RioPublisher: Titan BooksRelease date: June 13th 2017
Synopsis: Oliver Marks has just served ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, and he wants to know what really happened a decade before.
As a young actor at an elite conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same characters onstage and off – villain, hero, temptress – though he was always a supporting role. But when the teachers change the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into real life.
When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless

Review: I came in to this book on the wrong mind set. I don;t mind admitting that. I was sold on Shakespeare and Thriller and that took me back to a book i'd read years ago called The Shakespeare Secret and so i felt that's what I wanted and didn't get. But that's not what this book was or should be. 

If I was giving you my bookseller pitch I would say to you "This book does for Shakespeare what Black swan did for Ballet". It was an intense mind bender that just shows what happen's when you go too far down the rabbit hole. 

 What this book screams is Shakespeare, you can tell Mel studied Shakespeare and hard and this bled into the characters. They live and breath it ( as you hope you would if it's your in depth field of study), possibly for me a little too much. Only in that I at times felt overwhelmed, I like Shakespeare but its so rich and there is so much in his works, a lot of which I haven't seen, so that references and quotes were lost on me. Shakespeare for me is very much about the interpretation and inference of what is said and how its said and if you have to keep doing that when you;re trying to keep up with the pace of the book that I lost it's meaning. But that's more me than the book.

With anything Dramatic character is important and as in Shakespeare there was a range here and they all played their parts. This is where my love for this book comes into play. You can play a part and you can be given a part and often a book has to describe your part for you, to compliment how we read you as a reader. This book blended the character and their Shakespeare personas sooo well. right down to the flaws and the cracks. Then wrapped the whole thing up in a murder mystery. But this was just like in Shakespeare...lets go with Hamlet, a plot devise to unravel the characters and push them to the limit. This book was all about the character and personality, how it grew and got uglier, you picked sides, whilst wanting to know every perspective. Emotions got very raw and then that was projected onto the stage to play out in apt dramatic fashion.
I really gravitated to Oliver as a character he was a great pivotal point for me and i enjoyed his perspective throughout.  Each character held their own and for better want of an analogy played their part well. 

I saw this book on a crime table last week, and I don't agree with that because it sits in a lot of places and at it's core I don;t think its crime. I only mention this because I feel that this book has a wide appeal that a lot of different interests can enjoy. and because i like a bad cliche/joke i'll go out on one:

To read or not to read that is the question. I did and now you have to decide. Let me know what you thought! 

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