The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

GENRE: Fantasy | PAGES: 246

My rating: ★★★★

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is intensely captivating. It reads like a dark fairy tale of sorts, packed with heavy themes such as truth and death and sacrifice.

The narrator is a nameless boy. We meet him first as a man returning to his childhood home of fragmented memories but the story is told in the distinct and engaging voice of his younger self. He recounts the events following his seventh birthday, which begins as a run-down of semi-normal every-day happenings before escalating to something disturbing then entirely other-worldly.

This child endures certain horrors no child should witness; it is dark and disturbing. Yet, the way everything is described is such that you cannot turn away. From the death of that kitten to the suicide scene, from the abuse at the hands of his own father to the battles with faceless horrors borne of the shadows, the story pulls you helplessly along, conjuring up a world that is equal parts stark horror and sheer beauty, constantly alternating between magic and harsh reality.

The three magical women the boy encounters, possess elements of both the Fates and the Maiden, Mother, and Crone ensemble. Their sense of timelessness and all-knowing power and truth came through and although their identity or purpose is never fully explained, the mystery of them is beguiling rather than frustrating.

The writing is beautiful—sheer perfection. Neil Gaiman makes poetry out of everything—even the mundane, and this tale is anything but mundane. It is fantastical and wonderfully weird yet somehow, the heart of the story keeps its feet firmly on the ground—the themes are as relatable as they are thought-provoking.

I thought: I’m going to die.
And thinking that, I was determined to live.

I loved this book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of those rare oxymoronic gems, capable of both disturbing and fascinating the reader. It is uniquely imaginative and original while establishing and maintaining a keen sense of familiarity. Needless to say, Mr. Gaiman has yet another new fan and my to-read pile just got a little higher.

 

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the ocean at the end of the lane

 

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

GENRE: Fantasy | PAGES: 400

My rating: ★★★

A Darker Shade of Magic has such a promising and intriguing premise. Parallel magical versions of the city of London? A mysterious magician of sorts who can walk between these worlds? Sign me up!

I went into this book expecting nothing but the highest form of original storytelling and while, to an extent, that is what I got, I couldn’t help feeling just a little disappointed.

A Darker Shade of Magic is, without a doubt, creative and original, but there was something about the story itself that, for me, lagged in more than a few places. While the concept of it is compelling, I found myself trudging through passages, waiting for everything to begin. Don’t misunderstand me—it is a very well-written book, but a lot of what we learn, particularly in the first half of the novel, feels like backstory. So much of it felt like a history lesson rather than a direct link to the characters in that present time and because of this, it lacked tension and suspense.

That said, once these stones of history have been laid, the magic of the story finally filters through. We finally get to see real connections between the characters—and those characters are well-drawn. I love Kell’s sense of family-oriented duty along with that undercurrent of curiosity and longing for who and what he really is. I love Lila’s strength and the subtle but defining change she undergoes as she aids him. But Holland is by far the most intriguing character for me. His complexity and grey morality make him the most interesting character in the book and I hope (can almost predict) that there’s more of him to come in future books.

The many mysterious details of the world are beguiling, rivalling the likes of the Harry Potter world, albeit on a smaller scale. And the distinctive feeling conjured up within each separate London is brilliantly executed, as is the description of magic.

Still, I just couldn’t fully connect with the book. While I enjoyed it and can appreciate certain elements, there was something about it that kept me removed from the story despite wanting the opposite. Perhaps book two and three will resonate with me a little better, having already set up the worlds in which Kell lives in book one.

Here’s hoping.

 

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a darker shade of magic

 

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

best fantasy books shona kaye

Surprise! It’s NOT an ode to Queen. It’s another flaming list. 

I’ve said it a couple hundred times before and I’ll say it a couple thousand times more: I love a good list. But you know what I love even more than lists? Books. I can’t get enough of them. I could build a throne of all the books I own. I could crawl up into a fort made of books and lose myself in fiction for days. Have I made my book fetish clear yet? You get it, right? I love books and lists. I can stop banging on about it now.

So, this month, I’ve brought the two together again because I clearly have too much time on my hands—and voila: another book list. Specifically, the BEST books, and not just any books but the best fantasy books.

 

Ode to Fantasy

Now, I could no sooner choose a favourite genre or book than I could choose between Ian Somerhalder, Johnny Depp, and [insert your favourite eye candy here]. I want them all—all the men; all the books. That being said, there’s something special about Fantasy. To sum up what would otherwise be a very long and (for you) laborious declaration of love, I think Brandon Sanderson said it best: fantasy is all of that good stuff (romance, action, drama, etc, etc,) only WITH DRAGONS!

I am OBVIOUSLY paraphrasing here. Mr Sanderson is a damn sight more eloquent than this. But that’s the gist of it. Fantasy hits all the spots, checks all the boxes… I can’t think of a third… So…

 

On to the List!

Here are ten of the best fantasy books (probably OF ALL TIME), and because everyone and their pet crocodile have heard of the best fantasy books a bazillion times already, I won’t summarise any of these but I AM adding five of my personal favourites. (See my additions at the bottom.)

 

1. The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings) by J R Tolkien

2. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) George R R Martin

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter) by J K Rowling

4. The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan

5. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle) by Patrick Rothfuss

6. A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle) by Ursula K. Le Guin

7. Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy) by Robin Hobb

8. Northern Lights (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman

9. The Final Empire (Mistborn) by Brandon Sanderson

10. The Colour of Magic (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett

 

Five of my Personal Favourites

uprooted

1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with intriguing mythology and a beautifully vivid nature-based magic system. It follows a girl who is yet to learn who and what she is until she meets the Dragon.

See full review:
Uprooted

discovery of witches

2. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness

A witch who doesn’t want her magic and a vampire older than the hills, time-travel through history to uncover the mystery behind a mysterious tome. This is rich with history and intrigue and is one of my favourite witchy books.

See full review:
A Discovery of Witches

shadow and bone

3. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Original storytelling with Russian elements, the Grisha Trilogy is rich with detail and depth. The fleshed-out world is refreshingly unique in both setting and story and is centred on an orphan girl who is thrust into power and magic.

See full reviews:
Book One: Shadow and Bone
Book Two: Siege and Storm
Book Three: Ruin and Rising

Witch Child

4. Witch Child by Celia Rees

A wonderful weaving of fiction and fact, set around the Salem Witch Trials and centred on a girl called Mary as she discovers who she really is and how to survive in her threatening world. Immersive and bewitching and unputdownable.

See full review:
Book One: Witch Child 

once burned

5. Once Burned (Night Prince) by Jeaniene Frost

Technically an action-packed paranormal series with witty, kick-ass vampires but with enough magic (particularly in the fourth book) to pass as fantasy. Easily my favourite vampire from one of my favourite authors, this crackling (punny!) series will have you binge-reading for days.

See full reviews:
Book One: Once Burned
Book Two: Twice Tempted
Book Three: Bound by Flames
Book Four: Into the Fire

Bonus

Lastly, if you haven’t yet checked out (or heard of) the fantasy romance series by yours truly, I’m adding it to this list, not because it comes anywhere close to the classics of the genre but because it does tick the boxes for magic and adventure in a faraway fictional land. (I visit this land on a basis far too frequently to be considered healthy or sane.)

I’ve added the synopsis below. Have a nosey. Check it out.

If you want to, that is. I’m not the queen or anything. Not today, anyway.

 

Immisceo: Taken (The Immisceo Series)

In the land of Nosiras, the Duciti’s word is law and their reign is absolute.

Luciana is a powerful witch: independent and wilful as she is strong. But when she is chosen by the Duciti to conceive an Immisceo witch to use as a weapon against Amara and her Outcasts, she has but two choices: obey with her freedom or without. When her Immisceo son is kidnapped, she will stop at nothing to get him back.

Nathaniel was born to the streets, then raised in an environment one rung down from captivity. Guarded by his older brother, he seeks freedom and adventure from his restrained life. Meeting Luciana will grant him one of these and will set him on a path which will test his ties of blood and love.

Caught between two enemies, Luciana and her unwitting companion are against the odds in their quest to save her son from a war that shouldn’t have been his to fight. In the hands of his kidnapper, Eli is as much a weapon as he would be in the Duciti’s—a weapon Luciana created. His life has been predetermined by those who would harm him, and Luciana must now right the wrongs she has dealt her son and save him from his fate—but at what cost?

Read the first three chapters here.

 

More about Immisceo

immisceo shona kaye

 

 

What are your all-time favourite fantasy books?

How many of the ‘fantasy classics’ have you read?

Let me know in the comments.

shona kaye immisceo release and giveaway

Immisceo Release

The first book in the Immisceo series is finally out! I absolutely loved bringing Luciana and Nate to life and I’m so excited to be able to share this story with you. The World of Immisceo has been a joy to create and I hope you’ll enjoy living in it for a while. You can also explore the map of Nosiras or meet the characters before you dive into their story.

 

Since my opinion is understandably biased, here’s what one of my early readers have said about Immisceo: Taken:

 

‘If you like stories that involve a heroine’s quest for a just cause, a heroine with magical powers, and a lot of mild toned suspense, this book is definitely for you. The writing in Immisceo Taken is crisp and lean. It flows from one episode to another like in a good movie.’

 

immisceo taken shona kaye

In the land of Nosiras, the Duciti’s word is law and their reign is absolute.

Luciana is a powerful witch: independent and wilful as she is strong. But when she is chosen by the Duciti to conceive an Immisceo witch to use as a weapon against Amara and her Outcasts, she has but two choices: obey with her freedom or without. When her Immisceo son is kidnapped, she will stop at nothing to get him back.

Nathaniel was born to the streets, then raised in an environment one rung down from captivity. Guarded by his older brother, he seeks freedom and adventure from his restrained life. Meeting Luciana will grant him one of these and will set him on a path which will test his ties of blood and love.

Caught between two enemies, Luciana and her unwitting companion are against the odds in their quest to save her son from a war that shouldn’t have been his to fight. In the hands of his kidnapper, Eli is as much a weapon as he would be in the Duciti’s—a weapon Luciana created. His life has been predetermined by those who would harm him, and Luciana must now right the wrongs she has dealt her son and save him from his fate—but at what cost?

Available on Amazon

Or read the first three chapters here before you buy.

The second book in this fantasy series is underway. Stay tuned for upcoming snippets. 

Happy reading!

Giveaway

There’s still time to enter to win a free copy of Immisceo: Taken. If you’re on Goodreads, enter the giveaway before it ends on May 30th. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Immisceo Taken by Shona Kaye

Immisceo Taken

by Shona Kaye

Giveaway ends May 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

books about witches shona kaye

The spooktacular holiday of All Hallows’ Eve is almost upon us and besides donning my slutty nurse costume (JK), I can’t think of a better way to get a headstart on the spooks than by curling up with a good book… in particular, books about witches. In fact, Halloween or otherwise, I’m always up for a witchy read in any shape or form—fantastical, historical, those who embrace their magic and those who want nothing more than to be ‘normal’ (Witches, please… normal is overrated).

Here are my seven favourite books about witches to get you in the mood for trick or treating.

  books about witches - a discovery of witches

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness

Loved this. The perfect blend of history and fantasy in both a modern and historical time setting with memorable characters, including a protagonist who struggles to accept her powers, and a charismatic vampire (in case it isn’t exciting enough already). Shadow of Night (the follow-up) is chock full of all the elements of the first book, throwing time travel into the mix alongside encounters with some of history’s greats. Brilliant series!

  books about witches - witch child

Witch Child

Celia Rees

One of my absolute favourites. This is yet another beautifully written story weaving together the fictional story of Mary of Salem with just enough historical elements to immerse you in the past. Written in journal entries, Mary’s story is captivating and is a must-read for fans of Salem witch stories.

  books about witches - macbeth

Macbeth

William Shakespeare

Now, I love me some Shakespeare (especially the Sonnets <3) but I’ll admit that I only read Macbeth in school… so, needless to say, I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time. Whether that’s my excuse or not, I’ll admit: as deep and tragic as the actual play is, for me, it’s those three witches who are truly unforgettable—and that classic cauldron chanting is unrivalled.

 books about witches - uprooted

Uprooted

Naomi Novik

My most recently discovered gem, Uprooted has become a fast favourite for me. A standalone adult fantasy with Beauty and the Beast elements, the storytelling is steeped in nature and the magic is breathtaking. Despite the fairytale elements, it is quite unlike any other magical story I’ve ever come across. Read my full and unashamedly gushing review here.

 books about witches - tim and the hidden people

Tim and the Hidden People

Sheila K McCullagh

I read this series as a child. Try to buy this online, I dare you, and the price will make your eyes pop. I can’t condone the staggering cost, but the stories, if you can get your hands on them are lovely. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe not, but these stories were undoubtedly my gateway for all things magical.

 books about witches - the witches

The Witches

Roald Dahl

Classic Roald Dahl. (The Twits is still my favourite.) As an adult, I love The Witches, both the book and the film adaptation, but it definitely scared me as a child. These witches are mean bitches. As always, though, his books are full of humour—unique and insightful; funny, twisted stories about (some) funny, twisted characters with brilliant morals at the heart of it all. The Witches is no exception and if you didn’t read it as a child, do it now. Your inner child will thank you.

 books about witches - wicked

Wicked

Gregory Maguire

A retelling of the Wizard of Oz, this is one of those stories that flips the switch and gives you an alternate point of view: the villain’s, with the Wicked Witch of the West as the protagonist, I’m currently reading this one and enjoying the storytelling immensely so far. I’m also a sucker for the morally grey, slightly misunderstood characters, and it doesn’t get any better than the Wicked Witch. (Exceptions may include Damon Salvatore.)

  books about witches - harry potter

Honourable mention: Harry Potter

J K Rowling

What witch list would be complete without mentioning the world of Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m still waiting for my bloody letter. Stupid owl has clearly gotten lost. The witches and wizards of Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter are regulars on most book lists. The series is a phenomenal modern classic, and quite frankly, if you haven’t heard of this one yet, where the hell have you been? Get reading.

 

There you have seven—well, eight—witch tales to get you all fired up for October 31st festivities.

What are your favourite magic books? Who is your favourite witch? How many times have you hollered ‘Accio!’ in the last ten years?

Let me know in the comments.

Immisceo: Taken - book one in the fantasy series, Immisceo shona kaye

He had just laid the maps out in front of him when a chorus of high-pitched screams erupted outside. He turned toward the window where the velvet blue of dusk had been set alight in flashes of fire. Nate leapt up and peered down into the courtyard.

Five lifeless bodies lay sprawled on the ground, three slashed through with fresh gaping wounds and two of them charred beyond recognition, thick smoke still rising from the corpses. At the head table, Amara gripped Eli’s arm, his tiny hand outstretched and crackling with energy. A white flash of lightning sliced through the air and a sixth body fell; Amara smiled as the last of Eli’s special guests dropped limply to the floor, their gifts—bundles of clothing, caged hens, crates of fruit—scattered among the dead. The rest of the party trampled one another to reach the exit, screaming all the while as Garrett tugged Amara’s waist to draw attention to the boy wizard. Eli was bent forward, his body wracked with tremors.

Amara released her hold on him and the spark left her skin, curling back on itself into Eli’s small hand and devouring him, threading through him piece by piece, until his whole body was lit through with a bright white network of sparks.

Amara and Garrett took a step backwards, and all of the witches in the courtyard took a few forward. Nate craned his neck at the window.

Eli curled further forward as the spasms seemed to take hold. His eyes were wide, his face contorted.

Immisceo: Taken is the first book in a new fantasy series. 

Find out more Read the first three chapters