Storm Seed is the penultimate Sacred Band novel and it’s all you’d expect from Janet and Chris Morris – dark in places, complex and multi-layered, exciting and full of action, sad and yet joyous. As with all of these novels it’s not for the faint-hearted, those who like an ‘easy read’ or those who don’t understand the nuances and lyricism of these two writers. This novel ties up many of the plotlines from previous books; the complex relationships between the Sacred Band members, estranged though they are; the re-emergence of old enemies and old bonds; the reaffirming of loyalty and friendship and, of course, a great big fight😊
What I love most are the characters in these novels. Nikodemos, especially, is such a wonderful creation. He’s the most human, the most troubled and the most courageous. Of all the characters Niko loses the most, but is, perhaps, the only one who can truly understand what it means to retain one’s humanity and sense of self. Surrounded by immortals Niko understands mortality and death more than the others, yet faces it head on and doesn’t quaver. Surrounded by the immortal Commander Tempus, Jihan the Froth Daughter, and a host of more than humans Niko, Strat and Crit fight and work as only those commanded by an immortal can – doing more than they thought possible, for the love for Tempus and each other.
Past decisions and mistakes come a-knocking and when a half-god and Death’s Queen seek revenge a world or two are ravaged. Prepare for blood, for sacrifice and for loss in this book. But be heartened by the unbreakable friendships, the courage and the glory of the Sacred Band. Cleverly woven in is the land of Sandia – a place where the inhabitants plundered their land and seas until their world was mostly barren, their children born in a laboratory and a people dying the slow death of a world ravaged at their hands. Sandia is not so far from home for us. A warning and a lesson, perhaps. Tempus himself finds it hard to understand how a people could destroy their own world in such a way.
It’s a great adventure, a great saga and a great read.
Life to you and everlasting glory.
This is not your run of the mill true crime book, it’s a good deal more – with scientific analysis of the poisonous elements and interesting chapters on other uses. Each element only has one or two murder cases discussed in detail, and the rest comprises of more scientific information, such as a particular element’s place in the natural world, whether we need it to survive and medical or industrial uses. There are cases discussed dealing with accidental imbibing, including historical hypotheses (such as Napeoleon’s arsenic-laced wallpaper, Roman emperors and lead poisoning, and unsolved cases where poisons may have been involved. Some of these deaths turned the course of history (such as the mental illness and infertility of many of the Roman leaders, the madness of King George III, and the death of Bonaparte.
It’s interesting to trace the history of such elements, some of which were (or are) used in a medical capacity. One such example is Fowlers Solution – a medicinal tonic and treat-all which was arsenic-based; overdoses were a reality and adding a little extra to the mix was not unheard of. This concoction was responsible for more than one end – a helping hand was given or self-inflicted. James Maybrick (who was at one point considered a candidate for Jack the Ripper), was poisoned with arsenic. He was, by many accounts a self-dosing hypochondriac and was using Fowlers Solution, amongst other ‘medicenes’. His wife, Florence, was tried for his murder (after distilling arsenic from flypapers – also a Victorian practice to produce a face wash). Florence had an affair (or a couple) and was mostly tried on this behaviour, proving the hypocrisy of the time as James had a mistress and five illegitimate kids. Did she do it? The jury thought so but many advocates of her cause say she was innocent and the poison was taken by James himself, or planted by family members who didn’t like her. My point is – there were legitimate uses for poisons in the right quantities.
The rising technology and scientific method in the 19th century led to arsenic, antimony and other poisons being more easily traceable. Many of the symptoms of the poisoning would resemble other illness, particularly gastrointestinal disorders, dysentery etc. at a time when food hygiene and personal hygiene were rather lacking.
See links for Marsh Test
Mercury based medicine came to be used in the treatment of syphilis, but mercury and mercury vapour are toxic. In many cases the mercury would kill the patient if the syphilis didn’t. Mercury was often seen as a wonder element; it was even thought to prolong life in China and Tibet, and the ancient Egyptians used balms and tonics made from mercury compounds, and the Romans used mercury cosmetics.
This unusual element was at one time thought to be First Matter, from which all other metals derived, and alchemists used it (and were poisoned by it) in the search for transmutation.
Its unusual properties gave an almost mythic status but this dangerous metal caused all sorts of unpleasantness. Mercury usages in industry include use in batteries, dentistry, paper and paint manufacturing, and gold and silver mining. Artists used vermillion paint, which is made from cinnabar (a mercury compound) and it’s thought many of Van Gogh’s mental health illnesses could be linked to mercury poisoning from his paints.
The wiki page for mercury poisoning states: ‘ Common symptoms of mercury poisoning include peripheral neuropathy, presenting as paresthesia or itching, burning, pain, or even a sensation that resembles small insects crawling on or under the skin (formication); skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingertips and toes); swelling; and desquamation (shedding or peeling of skin).
Mercury irreversibly inhibits selenium-dependent enzymes (see below) and may also inactivate S-adenosyl-methionine, which is necessary for catecholamine catabolism by catechol-O-methyl transferase. Due to the body’s inability to degrade catecholamines (e.g. epinephrine), a person suffering from mercury poisoning may experience profuse sweating, tachycardia (persistently faster-than-normal heart beat), increased salivation, and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Affected children may show red cheeks, nose and lips, loss of hair, teeth, and nails, transient rashes, hypotonia (muscle weakness), and increased sensitivity to light. Other symptoms may include kidney dysfunction (e.g. Fanconi syndrome) or neuropsychiatric symptoms such as emotional lability, memory impairment, or insomnia.
Thallium was used in medicine as a ringworm treatment – one of the effects is hair loss so a patient would be given thallium so any ringworm or other parasites could be treated. It was the standard use for hair removal for 50 years. Thallium is used to make lenses, in smelting, and insecticides. There have been ancient and modern cases of it being used for evil. For me the most interesting case example was the Graham Young case, as the man in question came from a town not far from where I grew up (Bovingdon). I’m familiar with the case from previous books but this account was detailed and complimented the scientific accounts of this metallic poison.
The great Agatha Christie used thallium as the murder element in her story The Pale Horse – where she describes the effects of this poison, which was little known at the time. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-poison-prescribed-by-agatha-christie-thanks-to-the-mystery-writer-the-deadly-properties-of-1534450.html
Overall as a book on poisons and murder this is certainly one of the better offerings. The author clearly has done a good deal of research, and chosen suitable but not always common cases to review. The scientific side of the poisons is rarely put forward in such books. Perhaps not a book for the casual reader, as some knowledge of chemistry would be a help.
Recommended for true-crime buffs, historians, and those who enjoy the science of crime.
OK let’s start with the good.
The author is obviously interested and passionate about her subject; it’s quite a specialised topic and research has been done. It is not a book which would appeal to everyone but it is a worthy read for people who like make-up and women’s history. Each chapter covers an era and the changing attitudes and tastes. I found the social aspects the most interesting – attitudes changed from women being branded as prostitutes if they wore cosmetics to it being considered odd if they didn’t in the space of a few decades. The history of the foundation (get the pun?) of some of the fashion houses and brands. particularly the older ones created by and for women was also pretty good.
The author covers everything – a brief mention of ancient cosmetics, to Victorian values, to rouge, compacts, eye make up, hair, punks, yuppies and hippies. It’s interesting to see how looks change, even within our own lifetimes, but also how some of the ‘fringe’ looks and lifestyles cling on (goth, punk, hippy). The chapter on wartime cosmetics was particularly good – how did women improvise, and harken back to older times with home-made and more natural products.
There is also a good discussion about the downsides of some of the cosmetics – lead in face whitener, hair products that eventually made you bald, and the increasing regulation on cosmetics as it became a really big industry.
Now the bad. This would work much better as a print book. The Kindle version has lots of formatting errors, typos and the pictures are small and hard to see. The errors eventually got really quite annoying (maybe it’s the writer in me). I don’t usually mark down books for this but there were so many!
I’d recommend this – but only the print version.
It’s been a while since I read 1984 – one of the masterpiece dystopian books of all time and I’d forgotten what an excellent, and terrifying book this is.
1984 is dark, it is not a happy-go-lucky read and the audio edition does not make easy listening. That said Andrew Wincott was the perfect narrator for this timeless story. It’s a deep, thought-provoking boo laced with a terrifying dystopian truth, and the narrator really nailed that in his reading. From the contemplative, yet naive Winston Smith to the intelligent and brutal O’Brian he roused emotion in the listener. I found myself transported to the frightening world of Winston Smith and thinking how familiar it seemed in so many ways.
Although set in a futurist 1980s (it was written in 1948), the book has a timeless air. History as the reader know is it very different. In Winston’s world Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength. Many terms people use regularly stem from this book – Thoughtpolice, Big Brother, Doublethink and many people argue that the surveillance in our own societies is reminiscent of Orwell’s world.
His view of crowd mentality is awfully prescient when one looks at recent events across the world. (When individuals may be harmless people, but as a group they become ‘A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.’)
1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Describing the “Two Minutes Hate”, Part 1, Chapter 1.
Orwell’s dark story brings us politics gone insane, the nature of freedom and slavery, thoughts about what we believe history to be, the human spirit to survive, and the human will to power. Winston Smith is, to a great extent, an Everyman; a man of middling, but not great intelligence, in a rather mundane job, unsettled in his life and questioning what is around him, but not really able to understand why things are as they are.
I’d also forgotten the ending – which I won’t spoil but it did make me want to shout ‘No!!!!’ rather loudly.
I Can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s a superb story – which everyone should experience – and a brilliant rendition.
5 Stars to the narrator.
5 stars to the author.
Read 1984 or listen to this awesome retelling – it’s worth the time and it might just broaden your outlook. Read it!
#review #fantasy #sacredband
Politics, deadly magic, legend, love and the machinations of gods abound in this fantasy tale of immortals, pawns and power. This is the fifth Sacred Band novel and steps aside from the usual locations to a mythic city lost in time. When Nikodemos literally falls from the sky in a god-born storm he must not only save himself from the strange and hostile customs of the place but save the city from the wrath of gods and mages. This book, more than the other Sacred Band tales, is Niko’s adventure and of all the characters he is the one who the reader takes to heart. Whereas most of the others are more than human, demigod, or wizard Niko is the fighter whose courage and honour shine brightly but he is a mortal man, with all the flaws entailed. This is Niko’s tale – can he deal with these strange people, the woman who loves him, and away from his bond with the band.
As usual, the pace is fast and the writing melodious and intelligent. The Sacred Band books are not for the faint of heart, or those shocked by violence and bloodshed. This is a tale of friendship, but also mistrust, a tale of immortality but also death, and a tale of love and hatred, thus it is many-layered, supremely crafted tale which thrills the reader.
It does help to be familiar with the characters – but it can be read as a stand-alone. You’ll soon love Tempus, Niko and their world. Don’t expect this to be Sanctuary, the city here is strange, ancient and apart from the world – an immortal wanderer – like Tempus himself. And the challenges are very different.
In many ways, this is a story about being stuck in the past, the old ways and the terror of ‘what is out there’ and the new. It’s a tale of having strayed from the correct path, of corruption and the will to power.
Grab this book and lose yourself in the world Morris weaves. Nothing will ever seem quite the same again with such magic.
5 stars #fantasy #fairytales
This delightful collection of short stories twists and turns with Celtic magic from Scotland, to Ireland, to Fairyland. Fairytales retold, and with a heart and passion that is apparent in every word. None of the stories is particularly long or heavy; there is a lightness of phrase from the author which is refreshing and fits the ambience of the collection.
I found myself laughing, smiling and recalling tales from old – particularly with the Irish tale of Banoffee Pie and Black Pudding. This is a fine tale of fairy gifts and being careful what one wishes for.
The last tale –They Stole My Love Last Night was poignantly told, sad and moving with a bittersweet ending. It was a good finale to the collection.
I’d like to learn more about these characters, especially the half-wyndling Skye, and read more of her adventures. Definitely recommend this to readers of fantasy, fairy tales and mythical stories.
Set in Scotland, Ireland, and the Pacific Northwest, these five stories share three things: a little rain, a little fantasy, and a lot of heart.
In “Sidewynd,” Sky Patel balances life between Edinburgh and its mirror in the faerie realm. Until the balance breaks.
In “The Flat Above the Wynd,” Sky’s inherited responsibilities double when past mistakes come back to haunt her.
In “Banoffee Pie and Black Pudding,” Alyssa Granville’s troubles begin with a strange gift from a stranger Irish man.
In “(Not a) Fairy Tale,” a bullied teenage girl learns a startling truth. But fairies don’t go to high school…do they?
In “They Stole My Love Last Night,” Celtic music, fairies, and ghosts collide, turning a bitter story sweet.
Review for Tempus Unbound
This particular Tempus/Sacred Band book is a little different – for a start, it’s all from Tempus’ point of view, and we have only Tempus himself, Cime and Askelon from the former books. Don’t let this put you off, there’s a host of worthies – not least Mano the mercenary from the future and bad guys to rival anyone in Sanctuary.
Called to Lemuria, a strange citadel between the worlds, and times it’s a chance to right wrongs if only you can work out WHICH wrongs. Tempus is lonely, alone save for his petulant and truculent god. Who is who, and who needs whom? That’s one of the questions asked as Tempus fights an old enemy in a new and unfamiliar world. The future is dark, and war will out. Strife is all and king of all. And so it was in his own time, and in this possible future. We see our hero struggle with technology he can barely imagine and his friends see power and courage they can barely comprehend. Gods, magic and tech fight as Tempus tries to save his sister, and save the world from his deadly sister. Choices are made, and regrets are put aside in the names of love and courage. Ideals are questioned, and truth is harsh.
As usual, the characters are supremely crafted, with a richness that brings emotion and a real sense of reality. In Morris’s world, anything is possible, and the reader believes it. These aren’t easy reads, they have a high level of violence, sex and themes that require the reader to engage their brain. But this, and the other Sacred Band/Tempus books are worth the time, and the brainpower. Rarely does a reader find a world so rich, or characters so enchanting, or writing so lyrical. The tempo of the book is a call to war, a call to stand for what is good, and a call to give all.
Heartily recommend this – even if you’re unfamiliar with the characters, and setting Tempus Unbound takes the reader on a journey from ancient times, to a future and it’s a thrilling journey and is a great intro to Tempus and his worlds.
This is the 1001st post on this blog. Hurrah! OK, so I know some folks post way more than that, and I don’t post every day but when I began the blog I wasn’t even sure it would last ten posts. New content is welcome, and followers don’t want the same old articles, or hear moaning every day – that is what Facebook is for…
I try and keep a mix, and hence the gaps. Also some days there is simply not enough useful content. I am sure most of you don’t give a damn I wrote 200 words, or saw a squirrel in the garden, or had a cold. I don’t know – do you?
So what’s happened over the last thousand posts:
Author interviews – many, many author interviews from a whole range of folks in a whole range of countries, writing a whole range of genres – fantasy, historical, science fiction, biography, books for kids, LGBTQ fiction, paranormal, romance, poets, black fiction, erotica, literary fiction and multi-genre.
Character interviews – I must say these are my favourite interviews. We’ve met gods, demons, vampires, demi-gods, an undead horse, heroes, villains, animals, men, women, gay folks, straight folks, folks who aren’t sure/bothered about that sort of thing, aliens, royalty, slaves and more.
Cover artists, narrators, editors and, of course, readers.
I’ve posted guides to Self-Pubbing on KDP and audio books; reviews; text speech and the evolution of language; the challenges facing authors and readers who have lost, or are losing, their sight; course reviews (historical fantasy, magic in medieval Europe, writing, social media marketing, Roman history); articles about how useful reviews are (or not); Hell Week promoting the Perseid Press Heroes in Hell series (look out for Hell Week 2017; Monsters and Myth; Greek Mythology; the influence of Fantasy in our society; Guest posts about research; important military anniversaries; Thunderclap. And information and news about my own books.
Blogging has brought me friends, useful contacts, a wider pool of resources (very useful – it’s amazing what you learn whilst looking for other things), and led me to look at articles I wouldn’t else have found. Blogging has taught me the uses of social media. Not to mention the wide and supportive network of indie authors out there, the challenges we face and the joys and successes of writing and publishing. It can be daunting and lonely, especially when new to the arena, but the world of social media, is large indeed. And blogging can bring promotion, laughs, support, information, advice and a field as wide as the world if used correctly. It’s also a good diary, a good way of processing thoughts and organising things (unless you’re me) and a good sounding board.
Yippee for blogs! May there be many more posts to come.
Pirates! Fantasy and the great storytelling from a plethora of talented authors all set in a supremely crafted shared world, what more could one want. I love the Heroes in Hell series and the latest volume does not disappoint.
From plagiarists to buccaneers, to the Devil’s own Reaper, to a search for the way out, to the hunt for the Unholy Grail there are tales aplenty in this volume; Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, pharaohs, poets; murderers, heroes of war and water try and salvage what they may from the rising water (and I use that term loosely), the ever-shifting lands and realms of a Hell patrolled by something worse than even the Dark Lord himself. The Devil is trying to keep house in this chaos and the damned are… well….damned and trying to make the best of it, the worst of it and everything in between.
The stories flow well enough, and the dark humour is apparent. Wellington and Napoleon as neighbours makes me chuckle and the clever punishments meted out never cease to raise a smile.
This is Hell, of course, but it’s a hell with class.