Aveyard, Victoria (2017) King’s Cage. Harper. In the third instalment of Aveyard’s Red Queen series we find our heroine Mare Barrow a prisoner, without her lightening, living at the mercy of a king she once loved. As Mare bears the weight of the Silent Stone the rebellion continues, blood vs blood, ability vs ability, allegiances tested on every side, leading to a lethal high-stakes war. An electrifying action-packed teen thriller. Epic blend of fantasy and dystopia. Rating: 8/10.
Arden, Katherine (2017) The Bear and the Nightingale. Del Rey. Vasilisa Petrovna is the youngest child of a wealthy boyar in the north of Russia, and heir to old magic. Vasya’s mother died while giving birth to her and her father later marries fiercely devout Anna. In a battle between animism and religion Anna and her priest challenge the populace’s devotion to spirits of the hearth, yard and woods, while Vasya is their champion. Meanwhile something terrible is waking in the woods. Arden in her debut novel shapes a deep-winter story of feudal Russia, woven with ancient mythology and folklore. Darkly magical. Rating: 8/10.
Kent, Hannah (2016) The Good People. Picador. In 1825 in a remote valley in south-west Ireland Nóra Leahy’s husband dies suddenly. Nóra is now burdened with the care of her young severely disabled grandson Micheál. Unable to care for the child alone she hires a fourteenth year old servant girl, Mary. The rumours are already swirling around the valley that the child is changeling, taken by the fairies. Nóra and Mary seek help from Nance Roche, the local wise woman with the knowledge. Fairy lore was an integral part of rural life in nineteenth-century Ireland, clashing strongly with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. This powerful and scholarly novel about superstition, infanticide and vilified women is inspired by a true event. Compelling. Rating: 9/10.
Harari, Yuval Noah (2016) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harvill Secker. This sequel to Sapiens is an epic inquiry that raises the big questions of history whilst investigating humanity’s apocalyptic and tech-driven future. Harari suggests that “dataism” and non-conscious, but highly intelligent, algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves, and the masters of the universe will be the techno super-rich. He leaves us with the question – “what’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?” – and concludes that Google will be no help in providing the answer. Compulsive yet chilling. Rating: 8.5/10.
Rutherford, Adam (2016) A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001 it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims and myths. Rutherford’s premise is that modern genetics has far less to say about us as individuals than we have been led to believe, but it does say a lot about us as a species. This history of Homo sapiens and our DNA demonstrates divergent concepts in an accessible manner. Popular science writing at its best. Rating: 9.5/10
Fforde, Katie (2017) A Secret Garden. Century. Every year I swear off Katie Fforde as being too formulaic, but each new year I am awaiting her latest title. Fforde’s sweet rural romances are gentle and comfortable. In her latest novel middle-aged Lorna and young Philly are rejuvenating the gardens of a lovely manor house in the Cotswold, when they discover an old and secret garden. Their lives are complicated by friends, troublesome family and new loves, but happy endings are just around the corner. Warm escapism. Rating: 8/10.