Thursday, 28 February 2013

House of Cards

Who would have thought a company would go from renting out DVDs to producing their own TV shows? What's even more remarkable is how Netflix decided to release all 13 episodes at once. Someone has finally caught on to the fact viewers love to binge, none of that one episode a week nonsense. The thirteen episodes of House of Cards disappeared quicker than a box of chocolate.

House of Cards is a political drama starring Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, the shrewd party whip for the Democrats. He played an instrumental role in the last election, and now expects certain promises to be fulfilled. Alas, pacts are broken and instead of being appointed to secretary of state Francis Underwood is banished to the fringes of politics. Time to play the longer game.

We are never told what the plan is, only that there is indeed a plan, which I thought added a touch of intrigue and mystery. Without giving too much away of the plot it's safe to say House of Cards is similar to other political dramas, there is a lot of wheeling and dealing, and when it looks the worst Frank Underwood plays his hidden card to save the day. It's fun to watch him obliterate those who goes up against him, although it makes me wonder why anyone would, how can they have missed him being so ruthless and efficient?

Frank Underwood's relationship, or should we call it a pact, with his wife makes me want to compare House of Cards with another popular political drama, Boss. Two shows about two powerful men married to two beautiful women who are at least as crafty as their men, and also have their own agendas. When their wills align both couples are formidable, but when they don't things get really interesting. It's a constant battle between their lust for power and their low for each other. The fact Francis Underwood actually loves his wife is the biggest difference between House of Cards and Boss, it is also not quite as brutal as Boss. Francis Underwood might have a hand soaked in blood, but in comparison Tom Kane would be sitting in a tub of it.

It's strangely satisfying watching a political drama. I'm just a sucker for the moment when the protagonist reveal their great plan, the one which no one thought was possible, leaving their opponent dumbstruck and often reduced to a quivering fool. No one does this better than Kevin Spacey.

The first couple of episodes gently eases us in to the political life in Washington as it introduces each major player in the show. Francis Underwood is not troubled by those opposing him, and they are swiftly disposed off, but the threat against him increases as the show goes on, and the plot turns more and more intricate.

A weekend of binging has left me with a taste for more.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Steelhaven Announced

Welcome to Steelhaven…watch your back.

Steelhaven takes epic fantasy and dials the action up to eleven, telling the tale of a doomed city through the eyes of several disparate characters, all with real emotions and motivations.

Under the reign of King Cael the Uniter, this vast cityport on the southern coast has for years been a symbol of strength, maintaining an uneasy peace throughout the Free States.

But now a long shadow hangs over the city, in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha.

When his herald infiltrates the city, looking to exploit its dangerous criminal underworld, and a terrible dark magick that has long been buried once again begins to rise, it could be the beginning of the end.

A Note from the author:

‘With Steelhaven I wanted to see what would happen if you took popular fantasy tropes and attacked them with modern concepts from TV and film. What if Gemmel’s Legend was mixed with HBO’s The Wire? What if you took the characters from a Tarantino movie and stuck them in a fantasy metropolis on the brink of destruction?

Recently a new generation of writers has come to the fore, pushing the boundaries of the genre and dragging it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. Steelhaven is the latest in this new breed, a fantasy novel with not a hobbit or dwarf in sight – just character driven action and ambiguous protagonists in a world rife with danger.’

Richard Ford originally hails from Leeds in the heartland of Yorkshire, but now resides in the Wiltshire countryside, where he can be found frolicking in the Thames, drinking cider and singing songs about combine harvesters. His first novel Kultus, was published in 2011. Herald of the Storm is his epic fantasy debut.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The City's Son - Tom Pollock

Good news everyone! It's time for another young adult novel here at I Will Read Books. The City's Son, a urban fantasy set in London, is the debut novel by Tom Pollock. Now why did I read another YA novel when I made it so clear it is not my genre. Curiosity mainly, I have met Tom Pollock on several occasions, and I even joined him on one of his writing sessions. Many thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with a review copy of The City's Son.

The City's Son, or part one of the Skyscraper Throne trilogy, is a story about a young girl who discovers a secret most of us chooses to ignore. Magic is real, and London is full of mythical beasts and beings just under our noses. Tom Pollock's world building reminds me a lot of Kate Griffin's version of London, which is a good thing. It has the same romantic, but yet deadly, feel to it. Both beautiful and sinister.

The young girl who makes this discovery, Beth Bradley, is a troubled teenager who roams the street at night making her own mark on the city with her graffiti. She lost her mother, and at the same time her father, who is lost in his own grief. His grief has driven a wedge between them, and when her best friend betrays her it is no surprise she seeks refuge in the new London she discovered. Even less of a surprise since there is a prince involved, Filius Viae, the ragged crown prince of London. He is quite handsome after all.

There is obviously quite a lot of squabbling between the two youngsters, and they both wear their hearts on their sleeves. I do find them a bit annoying and trying to read about, they often overreact and throw tantrums. Tom Pollock is simply good at writing teenagers.

Anyway, an ancient enemy is back to take over London and make it into a heartless concrete and steel city. Canary wharf is already considered lost territory. Surprise surprise. It's up to Fil and Beth to stop this evil, they just have to stop bickering first.

It's the usual UF trope where the protagonists, who are strangely powerless compared to their opposition, have to strong arm others into following them. Fil's subjects are not the most loyal bunch.

The only time I have seen Tom Pollock sit still is when he was writing, the man is otherwise positively brimming with energy, which is also evident from his writing. The City's Son is a fast paced book, with a lot of stuff going on, and new things to take in all the time. The writing is bold, and straight to the point, which really suits the story. It's also way more brutal than I expected for the genre, and even scary at times.

I was able to enjoy The City's Son without belonging to the target audience, and Tom Pollock's London is a place I felt I could lose myself in. I would have to avoid any teenagers though :)

The City's Son weighs in at 422 pages and is published by Jo Fletcher Books.