reads, Recent Reads

The Eternal Machine

Publisher’s Description

A woman with the strength to rebel. A shapeshifter who wears the souls of the dead. Together, they face a lethal enemy… Em helped create it. Now she must craft its defeat. In a city owned by industrialists, Em sells her magic to make ends meet. The extraction procedure is brutal and potentially deadly.

Desperate for change,she joins an underground resistance movement to weaponise her magic and stop the abuse of workers. Meanwhile, a mysterious voice wakes Ruk from a decades long slumber and compels him to become human. He wants to break free but is torn between his shapeshifter instincts and the needs of the soul that sustains him.

On streets haunted by outcasts and predatory automatons, a new danger emerges – an ever-growing corruption of magic and science. Em and Ruk must put aside their differences and pursue it – each for their own reasons. Their discovery will forever change their lives… Or end them.


*** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

I read The Eternal Machine by Australian author Carol Ryles, a debut novel combining steampunk, gaslamp fantasy and alternate history.

The Eternal Machine follows the protagonist Emma as she ekes out an existence in the lower classes of society, selling her magic alongside many others for the money to support themselves. Their magic is used to as energy for the powerhouses that support the industrialisation movement in this steampunk version of Victorian society. But as Emma begins to realise the extent of her true magical strength when left undrained by the powerhouses, she rivals the mages who run the powerhouses and society. Together with her partner Lucien, she begins to investigate the Groundists, a movement of radicalised lower classes determined to topple the powerhouses and the mages who rule them.

But Emma’s magic awakens an ancient shape-shifter, Ruk, who begins searching for her. The shape-shifters are few but powerful beings and Ruk kills Lucien, assuming his form and identity. But as Emma and Ruk enter the Groundist movement, Emma begins to learn more about her past as demons awaken and like the shape-shifters, are drawn to her power. In a company of other powerful Groundists, Ruk and his fellow shape-shifters, Emma and others battle the mages and the demons until the truth of Emma’s birth right is known and her entire world changes forever.

Final Thoughts

The Eternal Machine is a fascinating alternate history exploring the industrialisation era and social class suppression. I particularly enjoyed the combination of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, the use of magic and technology in an alternative history setting was very well done. Perhaps the only downside to the book was it felt unnecessarily long, and some character development was rushed when introducing motivations which the extra length of the book could have focused on better. Overall, the world-building was supreme and the concept unique and refreshing.

Conclusion

A new steampunk read from a debut author in the genre. Highly sophisticated world-building with combination of alternate history, steampunk and gaslamp fantasy makes this suitable for audiences of all three genres. A well-recommended read!

reads, Recent Reads

American Indian Trickster Tales

Publisher’s Description

Of all the characters in myths and legends told around the world, it’s the wily trickster who provides the real spark in the action, causing trouble wherever he goes. This figure shows up time and again in Native American folklore, where he takes many forms, from the irascible Coyote of the Southwest, to Iktomi, the amorphous spider man of the Lakota tribe. This dazzling collection of American Indian trickster tales, compiled by an eminent anthropologist and a master storyteller, serves as the perfect companion to their previous masterwork, American Indian Myths and Legends.American Indian Trickster Tales includes more than one hundred stories from sixty tribes–many recorded from living storytellers—which are illustrated with lively and evocative drawings. These entertaining tales can be read aloud and enjoyed by readers of any age, and will entrance folklorists, anthropologists, lovers of Native American literature, and fans of both Joseph Campbell and the Brothers Grimm.


Review

One of my recent reads was American Indian Trickster Tales by Richard Erdoes.

In a collection of tales that span a continent, one of my favourites is the northern tales of the trickster Raven, the creation of daylight and stealing the moon from the Haida and Tlingit cultures. Another of my favourites were the tales of Iktomi, the spider-man from the plains Sioux and Lakota cultures. Lastly, were the tales of Coyote stealing fire and the sun from the Klamath and Miwok cultures.

Final Thoughts

American Indian Trickster Tales is a skilfully told collection of legends and folklore from North America. The range of stories covered stretches from Tricksters including Coyote, Iktomi, Raven and Hare among others. A masterful storytelling that evokes the moral tales, the amusement accompanied by illustrations.

Conclusion

A wonderful collection of First Nations legends from around North America. Highly recommended for readers of folklore and legends and anyone seeking Trickster tales!

reads, Recent Reads

Melmoth


Publisher’s Description

Oh friend, take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!

One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin encounters her friend Karel, half-mad with fear.

He has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with testimonies that speak to Helen from 17th-century England, wartime Czechoslovakia, the sweat-soaked streets of Manila and 1920’s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing a terrible message.

Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.


Review

I recently read the supernatural dark fiction Melmoth by UK author Sarah Perry.

Melmoth introduces Helen, the protagonist, a translator working in Prague. Helen has a dark past, inflicting harsh self-punishment upon herself. It is the uncharacteristic behaviour of her friend Karel that begins Helen’s dark journey with the haunting spectre, Melmoth the Witness.

Helen’s closest companions in Prague are Thea and Karel, but Karel becomes obsessed with a document given to him about Melmoth. Karel spirals into madness, determined that Melmoth is following him and Helen takes the documents Karel has accumulated. The sudden disappearance of Karel coincides with Helen’s increased preoccupation with Melmoth. As Helen reads more of the history of Melmoth, a woman in black, unadmitted to heaven walks the earth alone with bloody feet finding those who would join her wandering. As Helen questions her sanity, Melmoth invades her life and Melmoth reaches a dark resolution.

Final Thoughts

Melmoth is a fascinating exploration of identity, redemption and guilt. While discovers more about the history of Melmoth, threads of self-doubt are woven throughout to the extent where Helen’s sanity is as questionable as Karel and others who have come into contact with Melmoth. The real and unreal become intricately tied, strengthening the dark psychological horror of Melmoth.

Conclusion

Melmoth is for readers who enjoy atmospheric dark fiction, supernatural and psychological horror. Strong folklore and traditions are well integrated into this dark, suspenseful tale. A highly recommended read!

Short Fiction, stories

Eerie Christmas 2 Release


Perfect timing for horror enthusiasts, Eerie Christmas 2 was released on 11th December 2021 and published by Black Hare Press.

Eerie Christmas 2 features my horror story “The Yule Trolls” inspired by the Icelandic Yuletide tradition of the 13 Yule Lads, mischievous trolls who lure children into misbehaving and the darker end that awaits them with the arrival of the troll witch Gryla. You can read more about the research behind my story here

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback or hardback copy of Eerie Christmas 2 benefitting the Black Dog Institute, more details are available here

research, Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Alice in Wonderland


I was invited to write a story for a dark speculative fiction anthology inspired by Alice in Wonderland and reimagined for an adult audience. One of the most influential characters for me was the Cheshire Cat and his luring of Alice through Wonderland, and not necessarily for the better. In writing a dark version of my own Alice story, I wanted to incorporate a Cheshire Cat-like character while delving into the social inequalities and injustices many women faced in Victorian times.

In reimagining a darker atmosphere for the Cheshire Cat, I became fascinated by Celtic folklore of the Cat Si, a fairy cat capable of shapeshifting between cat and human form. As a cat, they are described as being a back wild mountain cats with a white star-like pattern marked on the chest.

A gaslamp fantasy, where the Victorian era exists alongside magic, seemed the suitable to incorporate fey shapeshifting cats and Victorian social issues. The dark undercurrents of the story developed through the restrictions of freedoms for women where I focused on the ability to choose whether to marry and whom. In keeping with the nature of Alice’s curiosity in the original Alice in Wonderland, this took a dark path into a romantic relationship based on inequality and injustice. Here, it is the Cat Si who leads adult Alice astray through a darker wonderland than she could have imagined.

Short Fiction, stories

13 Lives of Alice Release


I’m thrilled to announce that 13 Lives of Alice, a dark anthology of Alice in Wonderland inspired tales for adults, was published by Black Hare Press on 7th December 2021.

13 Lives of Alice features my dark gaslamp fantasy “The House of the Cat Si” inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, folklore of the Cat Si, shapeshifting cat fey, and the historical inequalities and special expectations affecting women in Victorian society. “The House of the Cat Si” may contain themes and elements which may make some readers uncomfortable. If you’re interested in the research behind “The House of the Cat Si”, you can read more here.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy in ebook, paperback or hardback of 13 Lives of Alice, you can find more details here.

Short Fiction, stories

New Tales of Old V1 Release

I am excited to announce the re-release of New Tales of Old Volume 1, a reimagined fairytale anthology released on 27th November 2021. This anthology is inspired by fairytales, legends and mythology and published by Black Ink Fiction.

New Tales of Old Volume 1 includes my dark reimagining of Hansel and Gretel, “A Trail of Corpselights” set during World War Two Germany, and “The Dark Harpist” a dark fantasy inspired by the Pied Piper and the Singing Bone fairytales. You can read more about my research behind “The Dark Harpist” here and “A Trail of Corpselights” here.

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook or paperback copy of New Tales of Old V1, more details here.

reads, Recent Reads

Cold as Hell

Publisher’s Description:

The town of OpenFields is cold as hell…

Magic exists in OpenFields, and everyone but Adie plays their part. So what happens when murder and strangers visit the secret town?

Adie’s normal isn’t “normal.” Cameras watch her sleep, the eyes of the townsfolk narrow at her sight, and when she discovers her bosses’ office in disarray, and a stranger who makes her heart thunder, her world changes forever.

Author Neen Cohen’s Cold as Hell is an Urban Dark Fantasy like no other.

What secrets do OpenFields hold?

Adie’s journey will rock the town to its foundation.


Review:

I recently read Cold as Hell by Australian author Neen Cohen.

Cold as Hell focuses on the town of OpenFields, an isolated rural town where magic blossoms only within the town limits and none stray beyond the boundaries. But there is a dark undercurrent to OpenFields that is immediately apparent when a series of murders brings detective into the town. For protagonist, Adie the deaths in the town and the disappearance of her lover Lisa, and the stirring of her own supposedly dampened magic, has her on edge. The arrival of Tala, an alluring detective with connections to Adie’s own terrifying nightmares draws the two closer to the truth of OpenFields.

Soon, Adie and Tala confront the leader of OpenFields and expose the cult for what it is. But their plans go awry when they’re drawn deep underground to the source of the magic for OpenFields and the many deaths that have provided it. In the darkness beneath the town, Adie is forced to confront the truth about herself and the knowledge that Old Gods are imprisoned not just in OpenFields. She and Tala must chose a path to follow into the future.

Final Thoughts:

Cold as Hell was a murder mystery, urban fantasy and complex folklore woven together into its sinister cult-like town of OpenFields. Unfortunately, these threads often seemed to tangle leaving some questions unanswered and underdeveloped characters led to confusing decisions. Despite this, Cold as Hell was a unique novella exploring complex social issues of cult behaviour, pressures for those identifying as LGBTQI and all the while, exploring unusual folklore. A promising debut in urban fantasy.

Conclusion:

Recommended read for those who enjoy Australian urban fantasy, LGBTQI characters and an unusual folklore inspiration.

events

Appearances: Canberra Geek Markets

I’ll be appearing at my first ever Canberra Geek Markets on 11/12/2021 with other authors of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG).

CSFG authors on the day include multi-award winning horror author Karron Warren, award winning speculative fiction author Cat Sparks and multi-award winning speculative fiction author Gillian Polack. This is a great chance to meet the great authors from the Canberra speculative fiction Guild and buy some books and get some free goodies.