Hey! Watcha Readin’: Weekly Reading Update 20/05/2020


Welcome to Wednesday bookwyrms. I’m actually starting to get consistent with these weekly updates now; makes me feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this book blogging thing after…oh, eight months. Anyway, I have quite an eclectic collection this week. Everything I’m reading feels so different from the thing that preceded it. We’ve got a collection of short horror stories; a grand, epic, swashbuckling historical melodrama and a good rock solid epic fantasy. I also just finished AMBERLOUGH, a spy thriller set in an alternate early 20th-century secondary world, so I’m really doing the rounds of the genres at the moment.

Recently Finished: THE GRAND TOUR (A Jackson’s Unreal Circus & Mobile Marmalade Collection) by E. Catherine Tobler
This is an ARC I got from the fine folks at Apex Book Company and although I hadn’t read any of E. Catherine Tobler’s stuff before, I’ve been very impressed with the quality of fiction coming out of Apex, and the premise of this book piqued my interest enough to be very keen on getting an advance copy. I wasn’t disappointed. While somewhat difficult to categorise the collection as a whole, it’s definitely closer to horror than anything else, with a smattering of science fiction thrown in for flavour. As I’ve come to expect and love about the kind of fiction Apex publishes, it wasn’t standard fare; these stories are odd, bordering on the bizarre at times, but very well-written and deeply engaging.

Currently Reading: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet! I actually started reading it at the start of May with my pal El from Ink and Plasma, with the aim of reading a bit every day alongside whatever else we’re reading. Cos folks, this is a loooong book. I’m currently listening to it on audio, cos I often find it easier to digest long books that way, but I’m fairly certain it’s around 1300 pages long. A chonker if ever there was one. If you’re not familiar with this classic story though, I’d really encourage you to overcome the intimidating length and give it a go. It was written in 1844 but still reads incredibly well, and tells the tale of Edmond Dantes, a young ship captain betrayed and wrongfully imprisoned for treason, who seeks the ultimate revenge against those who wronged him.

Next Read: A KING’S BARGAIN by J. D. L. Rosell
I signed up to read this as part of the Storytellers On Tour blog tour for this book. It’s the second tour I’m taking part in alongside them and had a blast last time reading and reviewing the urban fantasy thriller UNDER ORDSHAW by Phil Williams. A KING’S BARGAIN is in the more classic fantasy vein, which I really haven’t read much of for quite some time, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the roots of the genre. A KING’S BARGAIN is the story of Tal Harrenfel, a legendary warrior who, after decades of hunting warlocks, monster and mythical beasts, just wants to settle down. But then he meets Garin, a village boy who wants to make a name for himself, and receives an unexpected visit from a mysterious stranger. Tal and Garin begin a journey across the kingdom, becoming embroiled in the plots of monarchs, on the frontlines of an ancient war, and at the mercy of a fabled sorcerer.

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Review: UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN by Jeannette Ng

Book Reviews

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Imagine if Charlotte Brontë had dropped a shit ton of acid and wrote Jane Eyre in the middle of a really bad trip and you’ve pretty much got the gist of Under the Pendulum Sun. One of the most unsettling, eerily atmospheric and DARKEST of dark fantasies I’ve ever read, this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

But I warn you, it is DARK.

It is twisted.

It’s an alluring and claustrophobic nightmare.

It’s the fucking best.

The book takes place in the 19th century and tells the story of Catherine Helstone, whose missionary brother Laon has gone missing in Arcadia, the mystical land of the fae, while trying to convert them to Christianity. Catherine makes the perilous journey to Arcadia only to find herself alone and isolated within the sinister house of Gethsemane while waiting for news of Laon’s whereabouts. We soon discover there’s more to the story however, and what follows is a deeply disturbing tale of guilt, absolution and a chilling take on the fae as cruel, spiteful and magically sinister beings.

The pace is deliberately slow for most of the book and Jeannette uses that to great effect to increasingly add layers to an ever more menacing atmosphere as the story progresses and the mysteries intensify. At every point during the book I was actively asking myself what the fuck was going on.

Where is Laon?

What is Miss Davenport hiding?

What the hell does Queen Mab want?

The questions, the atmospheric world building, the claustrophobia of Gethsemane all combine to make you feel (and I mean really feel) Catherine’s increasing sense of helplessness and spiral into despair.

Despite its obviously fantastical nature, Arcadia is a grounded and well-researched creation. The pendulum sun that gives the book its name doesn’t sit at the centre of a heliocentric solar system, it’s literally a pendulum that swings from side to side across the sky. Jeannette wrote a fascinating article about the science behind this and the lengths she went to to research it.

And a lot of research clearly went into this book. Every chapter begins with passages from real nineteenth century texts, including academic treatises and religious tracts. Some have been amended by the author to account for a world where the fae are real and Jeannette seriously demonstrates her skill as a writer and historian here, fully adopting the vernacular and writing style of the original authors to the point that I couldn’t tell which bits were real and which weren’t.

All told, Under the Pendulum Sun is an incredible dark fantasy and Jeannette Ng fully deserves every ounce of recognition she’s received. You know a book is off the scale good when you close it and just stare at the wall questioning everything you thought you knew about existence.

So yeah, go pick this up now and just send me a thank you note at 3:00am when the nightmares wake you up.

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