I went to get Ben Aaronovitch's new Peter Grant book, False Value, today and was tempted by the sale shelf, so I also ended up getting The Five by Hallie Rubenhold and Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare's Fantasy World. And now I think I should start reviewing some of the books I've already read!
Help the Witch by Tom Cox
3.5/5 - I really liked it.
This book was completely different to what I expected. I imagined it would be a bit like Zoe Gilbert's Folk, but perhaps a bit darker (not that Folk isn't already pretty dark...) and less magical. I feel like varied isn't a strong enough word for the sheer range of subjects and styles it actually covers, but the only other word I can think of is mad, so lets stick with varied... There are haunted houses and giant, vengeful hares (those were more along the lines I expected), but there are also robots you can step inside and talking tomatoes. Cox clearly has a quirky and vivid imagination, and it was fun going on this 'varied' journey through generally unconnected stories. There was one story I didn't particularly like, which is mainly why I didn't give the book 4 stars. 'Speed Awareness' came after a part of the book I thought was really good, where you get to piece together a story through various listings in a newspaper, so maybe that made it seem more disappointing, but it really just felt didactic and predictable to me, to the point of being quite cheesy. It sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the book, which is genuinely original and clever. I can only imagine that maybe the author feels strongly about traffic accidents caused by speeding, which is fair, but it just seemed odd in the context of the book.
An overall good and very interesting collection though, which I'd be happy to recommend.
Soot by Andrew Martin
2/5 - It was ok
The idea behind Soot sounds great. We basically begin in 1799 with a man who's in debtor's prison. A mysterious benefactor pays half his debt and buys him a month of freedom, on the condition that in that time he must find the killer of a murdered artist. The start is promising. We get introduced to some interesting and shady characters, learn a bit more about the murder and how our protagonist is going to trace potential suspects. I was quite hooked at this point, gathering clues as each suspect comes to light, but then it all went a bit downhill... I think part of the problem was that nobody really seems to care about the murder. There's really no urgency or emotion associated with it. The ending was poorly tied together and seems like the author intended there to be a second book, although I don't think there is one.
I had fun reading this for maybe 80% of the book, but it fell flat by the end, so for that reason I would not recommend it.