Book Review

Book Review: Sleepless Knights by Mark H Williams

SleeplessKnightsIt’s not easy being the man behind the myth.

Sir Lucas is butler to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – the person who managed every quest from behind the scenes. He’s a man whose average working day involved defeating witches and banishing werewolves, while ensuring the Royal pot of tea never crossed the thin line separating ‘brewed’ from ‘stewed.’ What’s more, 1,500 years after that golden age, he’s still doing it – here in the modern world, right under our noses.

When King Arthur and six of his knights are exposed as living among us, Merlin is unleashed and a grim apocalypse unfolds, uncovering secrets from the past that King Arthur would rather stay buried. When Lucas is forced to confront his own peculiar destiny, will he choose to sacrifice his true love and lay down his life in the service of his master?

Sleepless Knights is a tale of high adventure and warm humour, with a spring in its step, a twinkle in its eye and, at its heart, the ultimate butler.

I’ve known Mark for a couple of years now, and when I heard about his book I absolutely loved the sound of it. I was really pleased to be given the opportunity for an early look at it, and even more pleased to find that it really lived up to my expectations!

The knights of the book are indeed the knights of legend, King Arthur plus his faithful group still continuing the quest they’ve been on for hundreds of years… though it’s evolved a little with time. They’ve had to adapt as the world around them has evolved, naturally some have taken to this better than others. In addition they’ve had to deal with the pesky problem of everyone around them aging whilst the knights have not.

The two words that jump to mind when I think about this book are funny and clever. The book is laced throughout with humour, there are so many moments that made me laugh including a couple of set pieces that still set me off giggling when I think about them now, a few weeks after reading the book. The cleverness of the book is hard to describe without spoiling parts of it, what I will say is that I loved some of the reveals within the book – I think cheeky may also be a good word to use as other legends become woven into the story in a truly delightful way.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the inclusion of flashbacks which give the reader a glimpse of how the knights have faired through the ages. If there is ever another book featuring these characters this is what I want more of – the more I learnt about the characters the more I time I wanted to spend with them.

The book blends the ancient with the modern really well, this is especially good in the battle scenes. The book feels like a great, traditional quest story, but has all these great extra layers on top. As debut novels go this is a really, really good one. Why not give it a go?

Sleepless Knights will be published by Atomic Fez in paperback and eBook. Whilst I was provided with a copy of the book for review all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Dirk Danger Loves Life by Chris Rothe.

Dirk Danger Loves Life, the début novel by Chris Rothe, is a comedic tale of a sad little man who cannot function in any self-​​sufficient capacity. As his life swirls down the drain, serendipity provides a phone number that launches him into the world of Dirk Danger.

What follows is a not‑so-​​typical coming of age story involving scuba gear, terrible poetry, a fish eulogy, a walrus, pop music, terrible puns, marijuana, a fake attorney, homelessness, death, and far, far too much pornography. The road to recovery is a twisted and ridiculous one indeed.

The plot of Dirk Danger Love Lifes is pretty straight forward, our protagonist is a young man who’s finding that he’s a bit rubbish at pretty much everything he turns his hand to. He’s lost countless jobs, is about to be evicted and can’t even keep his pet fish alive. So he responds to an advert that leads him to talk to Dirk Danger and agrees to meet with him and tell him just how much he sucks at life, and Dirk in turn decides he’s going to take on the he responsibility for fixing our nameless protagonist’s life.

The book then follows this plan of action through, and that’s when things really take a turn for the strange. Dirk Danger’s plan involves a series of lessons that seem utterly random, but as the story progresses slowly start to fall into place. There are bits of the story however that I still haven’t quite been able to make my mind up about, the fox and the walrus for instance, but after trying really hard to work them out I realised that it didn’t really matter.

Along with the two main characters in the book there are a number of more minor characters who appear throughout the book. I liked the way that even a character who only appeared briefly once of twice was created in such a way that I had a clear idea of them.

Whilst this book is in places rather bizarre, it is ultimately a rather positive, almost nurturing read. The final chapter in particular leaves you feeling really glad that you’ve read the book. I certainly felt entirely satisfied as I read the final page.

Dirk Danger Loves Life is published in paperback and eBook by Atomic Fez. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Ponthe Oldenguine by Andrew Hook.

Ponthe Oldenguine is one part fictional biography of a former television impresario who claims he’s been hounded out of media history, and one part biography of the journalist commissioned to write his story. Where the tales merge, there is madness.

Madness? This book has it in spades. It is narrated by a journalist who decides to go undercover and sleep rough as that will surely allow him to find the story that will elevate his career to the lofty heights he dreams of. On the very first night he is approached by Ponthe, a man who has a life story or two to tell and wants the journalist to do so. Over the course of the book we get to discover these stories, and the effect hearing them and sleeping rough has on the journalist.

It’s hard to describe much of what happens in the book without spoiling the reading experience, this really is a book that needs to be discovered page by page. As I was reading it my feelings veered between feeling that it was downright outrageous and then all too believable, a somewhat unsettling read but one that’s near enough impossible to put down.

The characters in the book are vivid creations, I never felt like I truly got a handle on them but that actually added to the reading experience. Both Ponthe and the journalist come across as being somewhat unreliable in their narration meaning you find yourself questioning everything and trying to second guess where the plot may be going. I soon gave up trying to work things out and just enjoyed the ride.

I’m not sure that I’ve done a great job of reviewing this book, but that’s because I really want people to experience it for themselves. It’s a fairly quick read but it’s one that’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished.

Ponthe Oldenguine is published in paperback and eBook by Atomic Fez. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Blog News · Book News

Introducing… Atomic Fez.

For the rest of this week I’m going to be featuring indie Canadian publisher Atomic Fez.

Atomic Fez publishes “good books”. It’s probably easiest to use their own words to explain:

Books, let’s face it, have been in the same situation as music for some time now: rarely are they of one specific genre or variety of content. Even if there is a dominant type, it’s likely either a mis-understood one like “horror” (which can be anything from Edgar Allan Poe, to Albert Camus, to any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s non-Holmes stories), or it’s a category saddled with an imprecise, all-encompassing term such as “mystery”, which basically states that there’s something which needs to be discovered by the end of the story, and any tale that doesn’t have that at its core may not have a lot going for it already.

No one listens to one variety of music exclusively, nor does anyone read any one style of book to the avoidance of others. Likewise, Atomic Fez was created to make available the books which are ‘good’, which are worth spending whatever time and money you have to read them, and which free you to dive-in without any pre-conceived notions of what they’ll be like before doing so.

The books available from Atomic Fez are not selected because they don’t fit specific markets, but are chosen despite the fact that other publishers have declared them ‘tough to market’. This is, at its roots, a business after all; no one’s actively trying to make their job tougher that it already is selling books. That said, the best recommendation a book can get is probably “you gotta read this, it’s awesome! I’m not going to tell you anything more; just read it, okay?”

The books Atomic Fez publishes will, hopefully, engender just such a reaction in you and others.

I love this ethos, and have been excited to get to read a couple of their books. So far Atomic Fex have published seven books with one of these, Ponthe Oldenguine, being shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novella Award 2010.

You can find Atomic Fez’s website here, and you can find them on Twitter and Facebook.

I shall be reviewing Andrew Hook’s Ponth Oldenguine tomorrow, and Chris Roth’s Dirk Danger Loves Life so make sure you come back to see what I thought of these books.