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Reviews Written by
Kim Dyer "Arkham Reviews" (Norwich, UK)

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Moribund (Circuit Fae Book 1)
Moribund (Circuit Fae Book 1)
Price: £4.25

1.0 out of 5 stars Generic and Repetitive, 19 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Oh I wanted to like Moribund. I was attracted to it purely on the basis of it being both urban fantasy and LGBT. I like faerie stories and it's been so long since I last reviewed a novel with a lesbian protagonist. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear to me that Moribund and I weren't going to get along.

The world-building seems interesting a first but the author doesn't really do a lot with it. It's not explained exactly how the Moribund functions or even what happened to the fair fae. While the concept of a bio-mechanical faerie plague sounds pretty damn intriguing, I never really got a good idea of how the Moribund functioned, came to be, or even infected other people.

If you strip the concept of the Moribund from the tale, the story becomes quite generic. It leans a bit too heavily on the story, making frequent ironic references to how similar the characters' situation is to an episode of Buffy. Yet part of the problem for me was that it all read a bit too much like a Buffy episode. If you replaced the fae with vampires, that's pretty much what you'd get. Except the book was really lacking in some of the things that really made Buffy great.

The novel's biggest flaw is its repetition. If you removed this from the novel, you would probably half its length. Be prepared to hear Euphoria waxing lyrical about how she is a dark fae sluagh, that the hearthstone is dying and that Agravaine is hunting the last sleeper princes. Over. And over. Again. This is really something that gets on my nerves. Readers aren't stupid. They can remember something that happened at the start of a novel without the author having to hammer it home.

I also thought that the two narrators - Syl and Euphoria - were not distinct enough. Their voices sounded exactly the same, which was a problem as I constantly found myself forgetting who was speaking. Both even used the same odd dialect - including words like fiddlyfarting and woojy which I've certainly never heard a modern teenager use. This rapidly became frustrating as all Hell. While I could see the reason for the separate narrators, I really felt that more could have been done to make the two girls sound like different people.

In terms of character, the book was also pretty weak. There were no shades of grey in this story. Characters were either totally good or totally evil. Agravaine's plan had no subtly or true motivation behind it, beyond his desire for power. Similarly, Fiann was just a bitch. Head cheerleader, rich parents, bully - you can probably imagine the sort.

The two protagonists were also problematic. Both were absurdly overpowered and never truly looked like they could ever fail. Although Euphoria spends most of the novel training Syl, we never see any of it. Any scene of the two of them bonding is rushed over, with huge chunks of school year passing by in a few pages. Because of this, their relationship is purely insta-love. There is no build up and little tension. They just simply fall for each other at first sight.

So, all in all, this isn't one I'd recommend. It looked promising but it was just too repetitive and the characters were flat and generic. I might look at the sequel one day, but I'm in no hurry to.


Once Upon a Time in the North: His Dark Materials (His Dark Materials (Paperback))
Once Upon a Time in the North: His Dark Materials (His Dark Materials (Paperback))
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One for the fans, 13 Sept. 2017
As with the other short-stories, this one is a bit of mixed bag. The story itself is actually fairly underwhelming. It doesn't especially feel like the His Dark Materials Trilogy as it's more of a Western, with gunslinger Scoresby facing up with an incredibly nasty rival as he attempts to help reunite a captain with his stolen cargo. The story is short and a little simple, building to a rather tense gunfight but containing no real sense of comeuppance for the villainous Senator.

However, it is a story about Scoresby and he is completely on form. As fans of Northern Lights will agree, Lee Scorseby is a very likeable and memorable character. He's fast-talking, intelligent and calm in the face of danger. His ability to talk his way out of sticky situations is a joy to read, and I loved his relationship with his sardonic daemon, Hester.

The short also features the first meeting between Scoresby and Iorek, though this wasn't quite as integral to the plot as I had hoped. Iorek only really shows up towards the end of the story and there is no real moment that cements their friendship. While it's nice to see this first interaction, I do kind of wish there had been a little more too it.

Still, the short-story was fun and quick to read. Fans of His Dark Materials will certainly get a kick out of it.


Lyra's Oxford (His Dark Materials)
Lyra's Oxford (His Dark Materials)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented but a little too brief, 12 Sept. 2017
More than anything, Lyra's Oxford is a tease. It's a mini-adventure for Lyra, as she attempts to help a witch's daemon find the alchemist that he is looking for. Some of the things I loved most about Northern Lights are certainly here - the slightly fantastical Oxford of her world, the hints of magic and Lyra being her old, irresistible self - but as soon as it begins it is over again.

His Dark Materials is such a well-loved series that this in itself is a shame. The book is just a taste of this world, reminding the reader of why Northern Lights was so popular, but as a "sequel" to the series it is a lacking. There is only the smallest of mentions to Will and due to length of the story, it's certainly not as deep and meaningful as the main series. While the story did have an obvious message, it was delivered a bit heavy-handedly in its opening paragraph.

Yet this book is a lovely gift for a fan of the series as the hard-backed version does contain some beautiful maps and inserts, as well as the lovely cloth cover. It's been hinted that some parts of this story may be significant to The Books of Dust as well, so perhaps it does have some hidden importance that will become clear next month!


The Collectors: His Dark Materials Story (Kindle Single)
The Collectors: His Dark Materials Story (Kindle Single)
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but doesn't really tie in with Northern Lights, 11 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
While it's not a bad short story, and a very quick read, I did find The Collectors to be a bit of a disappointment. A bit of research has revealed that this book was not originally intended to be connect to His Dark Materials and it does show.

The short is competently written and very compelling supernatural story, it's ties to the series are pretty weak on the whole. There is a strong indication that the artwork in question has a tie to Mrs Coulter, yet based on the previous novels its difficult to see how. Had Mrs Coulter visited (presumably) Will's world before the events of Northern Lights? If so, I don't believe this was mentioned previously. Because of this lack of close ties, I do believe that this story may disappoint fans of the series who are expected to learn more about their favourite characters.

Yet, the story is still enjoyable and doesn't require you to know anything about His Dark Materials to fully appreciate. If you like a good ghost story, you might still get a kick out of it.


The Spectra United (The Spectra: Keita's Wings Book 2)
The Spectra United (The Spectra: Keita's Wings Book 2)
Price: £0.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Unfocused and a little underwhelming, 11 Sept. 2017
I can see that all other reviews of this novel have been overwhelmingly positive and so freely admit that perhaps there is something that I missed but, unfortunately it just didn't resonate with me. However, I will admit that it did show some improvements over its prequel. While I found The Spectra Unearthed to be rather long and unfocused on the whole, The Spectra United is a lot faster to find its feet and gives a much clearer goal to Keita, Sienna and Brian's quest.

However, the novel also seemed to ignore a lot of the things that had been previously set up. The tyranny of the Stygians isn't really felt in this novel, with main villain Donovan never actually appearing on page. The significance of creating a full spectrum of magic to face the Stygians also didn't really factor in at all, with magic use in general seeming to be far more sparing than it was in the first novel.

In terms of structure, the novel started well but I did quickly find myself losing interest as the characters just seemed to meander between locations in their hunt for the Lectran heir. While there was the occasional skirmish to help speed things along, there weren't really any big dramatic scenes to capture the reader's attention and problems seemed to be resolved very quickly. I also didn't really rate the twist. No spoilers here (and perhaps some other readers will be more forgiving than I) but I felt that this came a bit out of left-field and rendered a lot of previous exposition to be entirely pointless.

In terms of characters, there also isn't a lot of room for development here. In fact, a lot of the characters came across as being a bit unlikable. Carli and Zuri's inability to empathise with Brian's protectiveness of Griffin, for example, even though both of them have lost family to the Stygians. Even Keita, who came across as a bit of a saint last time, has a tendency to be a bit snappy and short tempered this time around, which made me feel a bit indifferent to the things that happened to her. In part, perhaps this is because of the author's tendency to exposit what characters are feeling rather than showing it. Sometimes, it made characters seem to act a little erratically.

However, I was pleased to see that the issue with Keita's magic was addressed this time around. Last time, Keita came across as being massively overpowered, and far more magically gifted than any of her friends. While this is still true this time around, at least some of the enemies that she faces are also Sprites. Due to the fact that they possess the same abilities, this makes Keita seem a little less unstoppable.

Anyhow, I think I've said enough. Perhaps there is simply something that I'm not getting here, but this just wasn't the novel for me. However, based on the other glowing reviews, if you are in any way curious about this series I would suggest giving it a try.


Minecraft: The Island: (The First Official Minecraft Novel)
Minecraft: The Island: (The First Official Minecraft Novel)
by Max Brooks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like reading a walkthrough, 1 Sept. 2017
I was recommended this book off the back of my reviews of the Five Nights at Freddy's novels, but it's really an animal of a different kind. While the FNAF novels are designed so that anyone can pick them up and enjoy, the Minecraft novel is clearly written with fans of the games in mind. If you've never played Minecraft before, this book will make no sense whatsoever and so I'd strongly advise that you don't waste your time.

However, it's difficult for me to understand the appeal of this novel for fans. The entire book painstakingly recreates the experience of playing Minecraft, down to the mechanics of moving objects around a grid to craft items. I'm personally a believer that in-game mechanics don't make for fun reading. They simply do not work in a fictional setting. At times, this book read more like a walkthrough than an actual story.

However, if you remove the book from its subject matter, it doesn't really function as a novel. There is no plot whatsoever. Unnamed Minecraft Protagonist just digs further into the island, learning how to fight, craft and survive as he goes. There is no structure to this book really, beyond his gradual creation of better weapons and tools.

The protagonist himself also has no real personality. Like the avatar in game, he's just a blank slate that the reader can project themself onto. He has no memories of his past life, and does not regain any as the story progresses. The one saving grace is that he can be moderately entertaining, especially in his rambling conversations with the cow and sheep that he finds on the Island.

So, in all, this novel really can be skipped. If you've never played Minecraft, it makes no sense. If you have, the best you will probably gain from it is a few crafting ideas. If you're curious, I'd suggest just buying the game instead.


Minecraft: The Island
Minecraft: The Island
by Max Brooks
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for the uninitiated, 31 Aug. 2017
This review is from: Minecraft: The Island (Hardcover)
I was recommended this book off the back of my reviews of the Five Nights at Freddy's novels, but it's really an animal of a different kind. While the FNAF novels are designed so that anyone can pick them up and enjoy, the Minecraft novel is clearly written with fans of the games in mind. If you've never played Minecraft before, this book will make no sense whatsoever and so I'd strongly advise that you don't waste your time.

However, it's difficult for me to understand the appeal of this novel for fans. The entire book painstakingly recreates the experience of playing Minecraft, down to the mechanics of moving objects around a grid to craft items. I'm personally a believer that in-game mechanics don't make for fun reading. They simply do not work in a fictional setting. At times, this book read more like a walkthrough than an actual story.

However, if you remove the book from its subject matter, it doesn't really function as a novel. There is no plot whatsoever. Unnamed Minecraft Protagonist just digs further into the island, learning how to fight, craft and survive as he goes. There is no structure to this book really, beyond his gradual creation of better weapons and tools.

The protagonist himself also has no real personality. Like the avatar in game, he's just a blank slate that the reader can project themself onto. He has no memories of his past life, and does not regain any as the story progresses. The one saving grace is that he can be moderately entertaining, especially in his rambling conversations with the cow and sheep that he finds on the Island.

So, in all, this novel really can be skipped. If you've never played Minecraft, it makes no sense. If you have, the best you will probably gain from it is a few crafting ideas. If you're curious, I'd suggest just buying the game instead.


The Unexpected (Animorphs)
The Unexpected (Animorphs)
by Katherine Applegate
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Filler, 28 Aug. 2017
For a filler story, this was certainly not one of the worst. It's basically a solo adventure for Cassie, in which a mission goes wrong and she finds herself trapped on plane on route to Australia. The first half of the story was probably the most exciting. Cassie does not actually reach her destination until over half way through, but her attempts to avoid Controllers in the confined space of the aeroplane in rather tense and exciting.

Yet the book did have some problems. Firstly, the natives portrayed in this story are a lot like the Inuits back in The Extreme and the Amazonian Tribe in The Forgotten - simple, spiritual people who are surprisingly open to morphing due to their belief in shape-shifters. I guess points for including people of other cultures, but I wish that these portrayals were based less on stereotypes. Secondly, this ghostwriter is not great at writing action scenes. The pacing of this novel is pretty poor on the whole and fights become confusing as they degenerate into sound effects.

The character development for Cassie, however, was interesting. You can see how she's slowly reaching breaking point. She is quieter about this than Jake, however the choices she has made are beginning to weigh on her as she fears the point where she will eventually make a fatal decision. I am really curious to see if the story will ever reach this point, as Cassie's sensitivity often makes her seem like the "weakest" link in the team, but I suppose only time will tell.


The Test (Animorphs)
The Test (Animorphs)
by Katherine Applegate
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, 26 Aug. 2017
This review is from: The Test (Animorphs) (Paperback)
This book is kind of a follow up to The Illusion, which you may remember as the novel which contained the 30 page graphic torture scene. You may think that a second encounter with Taylor would affect Tobias badly, but this is surprisingly brushed under the carpet relatively early in the tale. Instead, the book actually turns into a relatively dull Yeerk Pool infiltration. It shares some similarities with The Sickness in the uncertainty whether a Yeerk can be trusted, but lacks the drama and tension of this tale.

However, there were a couple of things I found interesting. Tobias's understanding of the Taxxon morph (given his experiences as a hawk) was kind of interesting and gave an insight into these creatures that we've never had before. Additionally, Cassie's contribution to the story was interesting. While she has questioned the Animorphs' brutality before, this marks the first time that she's outright refused to join a mission. I'm curious to see how this shift in her character will effect future volumes.

So, all in all, this book is a bit of mixed bag. I don't think we really needed a second Taylor story, but I did enjoy some of the moral issues posed by this mission. It's not one of the best, but does provide some interesting characterisation, particularly for Cassie.


The Journey (Animorphs, 42)
The Journey (Animorphs, 42)
by Katherine Applegate
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars Pure Filler, 25 Aug. 2017
Nope, sorry. I've suspended my belief a little too far for these stories in previous books but this one just went too far. I actually rather liked the previous Helmacron adventure. It was silly but still a little fun. This time, the fantastic voyage up Marco's nose was just a little too odd. While it made small attempts to be educational, this is still a story in which children morph into bats to navigate their friend's stomach, so the effects are minimal.

Fake science aside, the story is just a wash of gross moments (bodily fluids aplenty) and repetitive scenes of the Animorphs choosing the best morphs to navigate different body parts (using such logic as sharks can breathe in plasma because it's basically seawater). The Marco half of the story is also weak. This shares some similarities with the first David story, yet boils down to a simple adventure where Marco has to outwit a vicious pit bull to steal a camera from a little boy's bedroom. It's low-stakes and more than a little dull.

The danger posed by the Helmacrons seems pointless, given how easily it is ultimately resolved and the story culminates in a weird final message about the danger of being bitten by a strange dog, which feels even more tacked on than the environmental messages of previous stories. All in all, it felt this story feeling a bit like wasted space. It is pure filler, doing nothing to advance the over all story and barely featuring the Yeerks at all. Definitely one of the worst so far.


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