Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

The Blue Salt Road – Spoiler Free Review

40200607The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris
Illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 15th by Gollancz

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. When I heard Joanne had written another book in the same vein as her 2017 release A Pocketful of Crows (which I reread and reviewed Tuesday) I was hugely excited! I fell in love with the wonderful prose contained inside the tale of a nameless wild girl of the travelling folk and we are met with a slightly different style, that is no less captivating for it, about a nameless, young selkie man entrapped by a young woman and it does not disappoint.

I read The Blue Salt Road in a few small sittings over a couple of days and it has been an absolute joy to read. Joanne has an innate talent to bring hope and compassion into even the darkest of tales and this book is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of twists and turns throughout, one problem that I think stories that read like old tales can often suffer from is predictability but with this book while feeling familiar is also refreshingly new and strangely relevant to the world we live in today despite being set in a different time.

The prose is in a different style to A Pocketful of Crows but like it’s predecessor it evokes it’s subject perfectly and you can almost feel the wind and the sea spray against your face as you read about the waves, the different types of whales and other sea life, Joanne has a remarkable and magical way of describing nature and it really works well in The Blue Salt Road. We are also once again we are treated to some absolutely gorgeous art throughout by illustrator Bonnie Hawkins helping, even more, to bring the story to life. It is also hard to really pin down a true villain despite many of the characters doing despicable things but this just helps to bring it in line with reality, this is a perfect example of a new, yet old tale and I would happily read more like this.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Pocketful of Crows – Spoiler Free Review

34913762A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne Harris
Illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Audiobook read by Joanne Harris

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 19th 2017 by Gollancz

“If only I had patience. If only I could sleep till spring. If only I were the hawthorn tree, too old to love, too wise to hate.”

I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)

So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

In the run-up to the release of the beautiful “The Blue Salt Road” (Out this Thursday, November 15th) which although not a direct sequel to A Pocketful of Crows is also based around a Child Ballad poem and is full of the same beautiful illustrations and wonderful, whimsical writing. Not to mention this book this book is a perfect Autumn read and we are well into the season of crunchy leaves, knitted cardigans, scarves and magic by now.

Although I read this last year I’m rereading this now in the form of the captivating audiobook read by Joanne Harris herself. I love good audiobooks and this one is so exception, the joy of listening to a book narrated by the author themselves is you can hear how it was meant to be read, obviously everything is open to interpretation but there’s just something exceedingly special and magical listening to the words in the way they sound to the author themselves creating a whole other level of storytelling harking back to the roots of stories themselves.

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A Pocketful of Crows has a magical quality to it, in the story itself and in the telling of it and feels different from almost any other book I’ve read before, it feels old and mysterious and reads like something between a poem, a ballad and a spell. The writing and the language are absolutely beautiful and the story itself would be interesting no matter how it was told but Joanne’s hand has given it an extra flourish that makes it wonderous and allows you to feel the damp earth underfoot, smell the changing of the seasons and hear the sounds of the animals in the forest, it is truly an experience.

Although I primarily listened to the audiobook this read through I did take time to look through the physical book itself once again because the illustrations by Hawkins are simply gorgeous and something about the style and the black and white colouring just really brings them in line with and evokes the style of this new but ancient book.

A short read, the audiobook clocks in at just over four hours and it is a book that can fairly easily be read in one sitting and one I recommend to anyone feeling witchy or like they want to swept up in a magical and mysterious story about a wild girl who refuses to be tamed.

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book reviews, Older books, spoiler free

The Gospel of Loki

18665033The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

Published: February 20th 2014 by Gollancz

Rating: XXXX

“The urge to destroy was all I had left. They tell you revenge isn’t worth it. I say there’s nothing finer.”

The first adult epic fantasy novel from multi-million copy bestselling author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris.

The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods – retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

I was a bit late to the party with The Gospel of Loki and it wasn’t until I had heard about its sequel “The Testament of Loki” that I realised it existed. I had seen Runemarks about and have been interested but mention Loki and I’m in so here we are. I have an advanced copy of the sequel as well which is out in less than a week now so figured it would be a good time to get this one read.

This is a strange book in a way that the ending is really no surprise and there weren’t any shock twists or turns really and that makes sense when you’re retelling Norse Mythology because it’s been told over and over before. The difference with The Gospel of Loki however is that not only is it told from Loki’s point of view and thus subject to some differences of opinion from the  more well-known version but it also has an injection of humour and a kind of nostalgia that was both a good,different way of telling the story but also at times made it feel like a prequel (which technically it is!) It’s still interesting and funny and it probably helped that I don’t know a great deal about Norse mythology as some of the differences seem to have annoyed other readers but I’ve also always been good at separating fictional worlds. I can enjoy (mostly) book to film adaptations even if they aren’t perfect because I can easily separate them in my mind. I think once you distance yourself from a rigid comparison between the “lore” and this fantasy retelling this book can be enjoyed a lot more.

Loki is such a fun narrator and perhaps one of my favourite unreliable narrators. I always enjoy reminding myself that this is Loki’s telling of the lore and may not in fact be entirely honest because he would absolutely make himself the centre of drama and play the victim whenever he could conceivably manage it. I still totally fall for it and end up feeling sorry for him anyway. The other characters do all feel a bit shallow and 2D in comparison a fair bit of the time but I think that’s all a part of having an unreliable narrator such as The Trickster himself and lends to the theory that he isn’t being entirely truthful in his retelling.

Overall I really enjoyed The Gospel of Loki, at just over 300 pages it’s not an incredible long read and the length suits the type of story and the way it’s told, I think anything more would have possibly been too much. Although I don’t find anything essentially wrong with it (and like I said it is a great book) I’ve given Gospel a XXXX rating just because it didn’t make me feel too majorly invested other than feeling sorry for Loki occasionally. I still highly recommend checking it out if you can.

This book has made me want to try out the other Runemarks books for sure ,you don’t need to have read any of the others to understand this book either and it works well as a standalone. That being said, Loki himself in this book says “My story needed a sequel. Preferably a sequel in which I rose from the dead, regained my glam, saved the worlds, rebuilt Asgard and was generally welcomed by all as a hero and a conqueror” and a years later he finally has his wish. The Testament of Loki is out May 17th and let me tell you it was worth the wait and my review for it will be up soon!

Jemma.

jemma setterington