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Perspective

Two years ago I went on a WW1 Battlefields tour trip. We visited a lot of sites in the Ypres area and across the Somme. Among the cemeteries we visited was Langemark. It’s a small place, just off the side of the road, and if you didn’t know it was there it would be difficult to spot. It is a rare sight on the WW1 landscape: a German cemetery.

Langemark_German_War_Graves_2011_06

Langemark

If you have driven through Belgium and northern France, you will probably have seen numerous war cemeteries. There are almost an uncountable number through Flanders and the Salient. Small clusters of bright, creamy headstones and crosses. Mini cenotaphs and mausoleums. Some mark where units fell during operations and missions. Some are planned and gather the dead from different local events. But they are everywhere. On sunny days the stones catch that light and beam it out. On overcast days they huddle like ghosts, still faintly glowing in the murk. They are VISIBLE. Rightly so. I am in no way saying they shouldn’t be. The War Graves Commission has done and continues to do an amazing job marking and recording all these sites; maintaining them and allowing visitors the chance to reflect, commemorate and connect with family they lost.

tyne cot

Tyne Cot

Langemark, though, is a different affair. Against the hundreds of ‘Allied’ war memorials and cemeteries in Belgium, there are thirteen German ones. That’s all. The guide who took us to Langemark was Belgian, and he was clear as to the reason why: the Belgians didn’t want them. I can understand that: here were the casualties of the enemy. Here were the reason so many of their own had died. Many fallen German soldiers were of course repatriated. But the ones that remain are spread between these thirteen cemeteries.

Where the bright, white headstones of the British, the Irish, the Canadian, South African, Australian, French, Belgian (and so many more) troops stand straight and tall on parade, the Langemark graves are flat. The grave markers are dark, not white. The cemetery is enclosed by a low, unassuming wall. The site is under a lot more tree cover. There under sufferance. ‘You can have your cemeteries,’ the Belgians said, ‘but only if we can almost pretend they’re not there.’

Tyne Cot was a sombre place, but with a heart of gratefulness. I cried when I saw a double headstone for a grave containing the remains of four people. I was doing fine until someone else on the trip asked me why the grave was arranged that way; why the inscription said “believed to be” above each name. ‘The clue is in the designation,’ I told him. It was an artillery crew. Gunners. These four men were possibly manning a gun when it was shelled, and so they knew which four soldiers were on the crew. They perhaps found their name and regiment badges. But they couldn’t tell which man was which… I am fighting the tears again now thinking about it.

Langemark was sombre alright, but with an undercurrent of shame. It was gloomy and cold due to the thick canopy of trees. We did not linger. The grave markers were written in German (unsurprisingly). There was no memorial with a cross on the top. There were just four bronze, faceless men, remembering their comrades as best they could.

Langemark-German-Cemetery

Why am I telling you all about this? You see, history is written by the victors. It’s the social version of evolution. The stories, legends, grudges of the past get passed down to the next generation and then the next. In another few years we will start to see the last survivors of WW2 finally passing away, as those from WW1 have already done. Their legacy, apart from the sadly unheeded plea for such a conflict to never happen again, is History, with a capital H. It’s what we are taught in schools, see on documentaries, get stung by in the pub quiz. It moulds our consciousness and we don’t even realise. We take these stories as fact. They refer to real events and people, but they are relayed by people with an emotional investment. The phrase “there are three sides to a story: my side, your side, and the truth” did not come from nothing.

I am in no way trying to belittle the actions of those in the Great War or any conflict since. I am not trying to say people lied about events or have deliberately distorted the past (though I am sure that has also happened). I am just trying to navigate storytelling.

Onto a slightly lighter version of the last seven hundred words: Draco Malfoy. He’s not the star of the Harry Potter series, though he is not the Big Bad either (and we cannot name who is!). There are a few of these memes around, but this is my favourite one:

draco

It is natural, I suppose, to tell a story from the hero’s point of view. That’s one hell of a tale. It may even be full of sound and fury! We get that spark of an idea: save the princess, diffuse the bomb, stop the Apocalypse. There is nothing wrong with those stories. But how would they look if they were told by the losers instead of the victors? Draco’s version of Harry Potter is a little different, no?

jafar

Dylan Saunders as Jafar in ‘Twisted’

What about Aladdin? I’m sure I’ve talked about this before. StarKid wrote and performed a musical called Twisted, which is a parody of Aladdin told from Jafar’s point of view. In the story, Aladdin is an arrogant, psychotic wastrel who is thirty-three and still tries to mack on the teenage princess. Jafar is an idealistic government official trying to end “the socio-economic inequality” of the kingdom, but is constantly foiled by the selfish and incompetent Sultan (and other Viziers). This in turn sprang from the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire. If you haven’t heard of those, it’s the Wizard of Oz from the POV of the Wicked Witch of the West.

wicked

How would the stories you tell be turned around if the vanquished were the narrators? Do villains see themselves as villainous? We are all in that chain of narrative somewhere after all. Arthur Dent is a monster to Agrajag. How would Lord of the Rings look if Sauron were the hero? There he is, just trying to rule his lands, when the races of Men et al decide to overthrow him. Even the trees get in on the action! I mean, Sauron has built a stable economy, there’s almost no unemployment, he’s got heavy industry going on… and then an invading army – including ghosts/the undead don’t forget! – storm the gates and some undergrown guerrilla fighters infiltrate the fortress.

good guy sauron

Although this type of story clearly lends itself to parodies of existing work, I for one am keen to explore my options on this. I want a story where the hero… isn’t. Or where the “good things” the heroes do have bad consequences for Joe Public (I’m thinking collateral damage of a huge wizard duel). Or even that someone thinks they’re being the hero and starts this huge chain of events in Righteous Indignation, but then it turns out they were totally wrong and they have done some major damage for no reason. Or hey, a story that isn’t so A vs B. Shades of grey, people. Count them! But not beyond forty-nine…

All I’m saying is, don’t forget the Langemarks when you’re thundering through the Tyne Cots. If a narrative is to have depth, it needs to consider more angles than “well they’re doing it because they’re evil”, or “they just do the right thing!” There are more than forty four thousand people at Langemark, including 24000 in a mass grave. Some will never be identified, but they are all important. Germany was not wiped off the map, after all. Their survivors have their own stories to tell. Their own History is quietly grieving in the shadows under the oak trees.

Who will remain after your fantasy battles? And how will your hero treat the dead?

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Roadblock

I’m hitting a bit of a wall with writing. This stupid fecking draft will not die. I vowed to get it done this past NaNo, but that didn’t turn out so well. I failed again. Did I even make it to 25k? I can’t remember. I’ve blocked it from my mind. It was another year for personal growth as I got swamped with work projects and refused to bury my head in writing to cope with it.

The trouble is, I still haven’t overall finished it because there are so many issues I don’t know how to fix. I don’t feel, currently, like enough big stuff happens to get to a satisfactory climax (wahey). It needs editing, and while I’m aboard the objective critique train, I am starting to worry that I’ve gone a few stops too far. I’m doubting myself.

There are those really gripping books you read where there are good but boring bits in between the good scenes where all the cool stuff happens. There are books you read where the author clearly didn’t understand that no one else cares about the tiniest minutiae of the characters’ world (Thomas Hardy I’m looking at you) and there are books that are basically one high-octane scene after another. I’m having trouble finding that balance.

I’m writing it, so of course I feel like all of it is good stuff and crucial information (apart from all the duff stuff I’ve already wiped and feel better about). But I’m trying to look at it from the perspective of a reader, at all the times I got bogged down in a story when I just wanted to get to the action. But then going back to read that background stuff when suddenly, oops, there’s something you can’ understand in a big scene if you don’t. That’s fine. That’s what I’m going for. I need to keep those subtle hooks as well as the big T-Rex claws. But how do I decide what’s filler, or just boring, and what isn’t?

I originally thought about making it two books, just because the titles “Once Bitten” and “Twice Shy” are begging for it, but maybe I don’t need to do that. I don’t feel like I’ve run out of steam necessarily, but I do need to actually decide how it ends and what happens. And the more stuff I go back over the more I want to change. Which is good. I’m not deleting things, really, just shifting them about to try to balance the pace of it. I spent a lot of time back in 2009 writing it for NaNoWriMo where the goal is just to write a lot of words. So the first bit has had a lot of pruning for completely pointless waffle. But the middle bit is now problematic. Shit, I don’t know.

I still don’t feel like I want other people to read it, but maybe I have to bite the bullet and just get some proper outside perspective. Rivka is currently in the middle of official editing for someone else, and I don’t know who else to subject to this teeny-bop nonsense. I’m not ashamed of it, much, but if it’s not your thing, it’s harder to get enthusiastic about constructive criticism. I’m trying to do this like a proper grown-up writer; with a bit of a scientific methodical thing. Take scenes out here, put them in there. Bridge those gaps. Build the tension, spin it out, ramp it up. There has to be a certain amount of deliberate construction. You can’t just write it all perfectly the first time.

I can write. I know I can. Usually. I can do the good words thing. Stringing together sentences and paragraphs and whole chapters that go somewhere… I have done that. It being a challenge to get it right isn’t a problem. It takes hard work and drive and time, and that’s fine. But I do really want it DONE. At least for the story to get to a conclusion.

That and I’m starting to feel like the main character is totally wrong. Is she acting realistically? I am afraid of entering Marysue Town. If I’m aiming for YA, the market has changed a bit since Twilight. An arbitrary cut-off, but that’s when I think it full on exploded. To some extent yes you need the readers to buy into the fantasy and wish to be that person on their thrill ride, but on the other hand, teens are smart. So are adults who read YA. And they don’t want to be talked down to, or to read yet another bland, drippy girl-silhouette who acts like a lovesick moron.

I have to get to the end. It deserves an ending. I feel like it could be, if not this generation’s War and Peace, at least a reasonable book. I won’t give up.

Right, boil the kettle. I’ve got some words to write.

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The Story of Rivka’s Christmas Present – September 2015

Here we are on 20th September. August got away from me before I knew it. I had a lovely holiday and then it was back to work, and so the quilt had a lot of things templated up but nothing really done. Then I realised it was something stupid like 120 days until Christmas and I thought I’d better pull my finger out.

So far, I have:IMG_0084

Cut and stitched the lettering at the bottom

Attached the bottom white panel to the green meadow section

Cut out lots of other pieces

Roughly constructed most of a lion

Dyed some cotton to make the sky

It’s not going too badly, but a lot of the lion I’m having to do by hand because of the fiddly seams and angles. It’s worth doing because I have more control over it, but it’s frustrating because it takes longer. It does feel like more of it is done than I think, and that it will come together pretty quickly.
Next jobs:

  • Find some pink/peach for the face and hands
  • Do some dragonscale smocking detail for the dressIMG_0101
  • Sew the bottom part of the skirt and the lion together

Then we’ll be crackalacking. As long as I don’t break the machine again. I was trucking along nicely, adding the bottom piece of skirt wreath with some killer zig-zag topstitch, when the foot level broke off! Just enough left to still vaguely work, so I locked off and got the fabric out, but… dayum. Luckily, Rivka had some glue so I’ve stuck it back on and am hoping it will hold. In the process I managed to get glue all over my hands and tip over a chair covered in clean clothes.

 

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Review – Eden Daire 1+2

The Garden of Good and Eden – Paulette Oakes

Getting Eden – Paulette Oakes

I read both available Eden Daire books one after the other, having found them through a random RT and thought the premise was interesting. I have to mention that there were a few typos in the books, though my review is on the content. There were only a few – maybe five or six over the two books – but I can’t not mention it, if I’m on the side of “as professional as you can get” for publishing.

Here’s the blurb for The Garden of Good and Eden:

Eden Daire has known her whole life that she was different than everyone else. Not just because she was adopted into a large Catholic family in rural Kentucky, but because she could do things that no one else could do. Things like make plants grow at will, communicate with animals, and even heal them when they were sick. No one seems to have any answers: not her family members, her mysterious best friend Amara, or even the hundreds of books she devours looking for clues. All that changes on the eve of her 25th birthday when her whole world comes crashing down around her to reveal secrets and creatures she had never known existed. And they all seem to think that she is the key to an ancient prophecy that will topple kingdoms. On top of all that, a different type of threat is looming over her beloved family and she’s the only one that can stop it in its tracks. How will she balance the love and commitment she feels to her adopted family and the new power and responsibility that comes with finally getting the answers to her past? Her world will never be the same again…

Right, then. On the whole I enjoyed these books, taken as they are. I didn’t really have to stretch my brain, but they were fun and the story was engaging. The pace was good and the over-arching story has so much potential that the two sub-stories that make up these books are given proper treatment and come to satisfactory conclusions. I wasn’t sure if these are YA or not, I don’t think so, and there is some (non-gratuitous) swearing.

The main premise is that there are three warring factions: Earth, Sky and Sea. Eden, the protagonist, is at the centre of this conflict. She lives in Kentucky, with a huge extended family (more on that later) and has always been different. She just didn’t know exactly how different until her 25th birthday. The author uses the Greek pantheon in the main part, with the addition of vampires (more on that later) fey/fairies and were-cougars. As the story progresses, the tension between the human world and the supernatural world builds nicely and Eden gets some good meaty decisions to make about her destiny.

There are some great characters in store if you pick up these books – Demetrius the satyr is cheesy and fun, but the joke of his stereotypical randiness doesn’t get old, and there’s some juicy backstory there that begs to be explored in future books. The brownies, Brother and Sister, also manage to avoid Jar Jar Binks territory and stay on the cute side of “creature sidekick”. Terra, Eden’s mother, comes across as a little cold, but it’s understandable given the situation she is in, and it’s good that Oakes doesn’t make her the traditional “Earth Mother”, soppy, tearful kind of woman.

The powers that Terra and Eden share are clearly defined and demonstrated, and are finite. This is a good decision on the part of the author, as too many of these sorts of books have a DESTINED ONE who is too ridiculously powerful. This also gives Eden’s powers room to grow as she matures and learns to control them. The relationship Eden has with Sheba, her dog, is very well done – part Lyra/Pan, part Dr Doolittle, and the traffic isn’t all one way; Sheba is pretty smart!

A lot of the style of these books reminds me of the Southern Vampire books by Charlaine Harris. Eden is very forthright, and doesn’t spend a lot of time agonising over how other people might react to what she says or does. She is a strong young woman, and acts decisively. She is one of the younger members of her sprawling family, and that’s where I struggled to keep up a little. Eden has so many relatives I just had to let it wash over me. The family is well-established with nicknames and all their spouses and children and businesses, but really apart from Aaron, Sue and Josey in the first book, and then Mac and Cheese and Pharaoh in the second, you don’t really need to be able to tell the others apart. By dint of being juuuust outside The South, the Daires avoid total hillbilly, huge redneck family status, but only just. Maybe that’s my cultural bias, as a Brit.

The main issue I had with her family is that they’re all just too easily accepting. Not even one cousin has a problem (and there are many cousins) with Eden’s powers and the danger they’re all put into because of it. I know they all grew up with her, and it’s all about acceptance, but really? There is some family conflict in Getting Eden with Starla and Pharaoh, which makes up for this a little. The other thing is that despite being twenty-four years old, successful or not, too many of the older family defer to her. Yes, she has magical greenfingers, but the Daire family have their own skills and ventures and intelligence. That Eden just assumes responsibility for sorting out the Tuckers and the protesting – and calling lawyers on the family’s behalf! – was a bit of a stretch, that again not even one older uncle or aunt had an issue with this girl wading in and saying she’s got it all under control.

The other big gripe I have with this series is the inclusion of vampires. There was already so much stuff to play with: all kinds of nymphs and dryads, satyrs, maenads, sirens, witches and the godheads themselves. I don’t think it needed vampires as well. Or fey and brownies either, if I’m being strict about it. Or dwarves and gnomes. But the vampires… I felt like the grandson in the Princess Bride, being tricked into reading a kissing book. Granted, the main vampire character, Patrick, is not a constant presence and the rest of the story chugs along nicely, but why not a dryad or a minotaur? Or an Amazon, since the author is happy to include homosexual relationships with side characters (hoorah for normalising non-hetero couples!). As Demetrius himself asks, in The Garden of Good and Eden, “always with the vampires! What is the big obsession with vampires and werewolves? Is it the fangs? The mystery and romanticism of the night?”

This comes up when Eden is learning about who and what she is, with Terra and Demetrius telling her that myths are partly true. So she’s sitting with a satyr and mother Earth, and she doesn’t ask about anything else from the Greek mythology, despite having that used as an example. By the satyr. Eden has read Greek myths. But she doesn’t ask about Hercules, or Mount Olympus, or the Percy Jackson books; she goes straight to vampires. It sort of jarred with the rest of the story. Like Oakes sort of wanted to write a vampire romance but tucked it away inside an already strong premise. As I said, though, Patrick is not around all the time and hopefully in the next book the vampires will be out of the picture.

I am interested to see where the story goes, and will be keeping an eye out for the next one. I want to see Amara develop, and more of the Storm Riders, and Boone getting more badass. There is such a lot to tease out with this world, and I think it will only go from strength to strength. The fight scenes are snappy, the main characters are established and the conflict is engaging and not too soapy.

You can follow Paulette Oakes on Twitter here.

The Garden of Good and Eden (Eden Daire 1) is available from Amazon UK here. For 99p! Worth a punt 🙂

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Twittering

Something awesome happened to me via Twitter the other day, and I realised I should probably write it down for posterity. Now, I know Twitter can be like a torrent of RTs and shite a lot of the time, but on the whole I think it, and other social media interfaces, can do a lot for networking between writers and readers. I follow a few authors – big house and self-pub – and I enjoy seeing their little soundbites and links and stuff. Sometimes (i.e. the indie and self-pub ones) they follow me back, and there is direct interaction.

Until this marvellous event the other day, the shining crown in my author-twitter collection was Joanne Harris favouriting a pun about baked goods when I replied to her request for such items. It’s almost like she knows I exist!

NB my best ever Twitter famous person thing which will never be topped unless Nathan Fillion is involved, was a brief joke with Stephen Mangan about Matt LeBlanc’s hair. There was a Moment. I cling to it forever, that Stephen Mangan thought I was worthy of a five-second reply. Yes, I screen-shotted it. No, I have no regrets.

Aaaanyway, while I always love talking to authors – and having them talk back, making me less of a weird stalker – my Joanne Harris trumping moment (and this is tough, but it’s deep-seated) was two (TWO) of my tweets to Kim Goodacre about death in children’s books being favourited by the illustrator I mentioned, Chris Riddell. In case you have no clue who that is (for shame!) then he was one half of Stewart & Riddell, who wrote and illustrated The Edge Chronicles. I loved those books as a tween, and they are still on my shelf like a reminder of excellent book choices past. When I reorganised my books recently, I found myself accidentally re-reading the first one – Beyond the Deepwoods – and falling under its spell once again.

Kim Goodacre was asking Twitter whether death is acceptable in children’s books, and if so, were there or should there be rules about it. And Beyond the Deepwoods immediately sprang to mind. The protagonist of the book is called Twig, and he’s on a quest. He’s a bit whiny and useless, but to be fair he’s just found out he’s adopted and in a sort-of Shyamalan The Village thing, has never been allowed out into the woods by himself. But now he is, and he’s lost and nearly died about ten times by this point, and then he meets and befriends a huge creature called a Banderbear. He fixes its toothache and the two become allies, with the bear helping Twig find food, and the Banderbear even manages to say Twig’s name and it’s all so lovely.

..aaaand then there are the wig-wigs. They’re like the piranhas of the woods. Orange fuzzballs of death that hunt in packs and bring you down by weight of numbers. And then eat you alive. Holy crap, and this is a kids’ book! So guess what happens. They get chased, and the Banderbear (and I’m actually tearing up while typing it, no joke) sacrifices himself for Twig and gets eaten by the wig-wigs. He pushes Twig into a tree, because they’re friends, and saving friends is what you do. So it serves a purpose, and is very good for Twig’s character development, and of course the woods are dangerous. The woods are full of other creatures and poisons and death traps that Twig must negotiate. It’s a pretty brutal book actually, considering. So I tweeted that to Kim, in 140 characters.

The point is, Stewart & Riddell are the duo who really stoked my burning desire to tell stories. My friend at school, Sara, she was a very talented artist, and so I thought we could do something similar. We’d write the story together and she would illustrate it. It never really came to anything, of course, we were twelve. But it opened up to me the idea that picture books aren’t just for five year olds. You can have a proper, pages of text book with beautiful illustrations, but the subject matter is solid and not just about losing a sock in the farmyard or something. The only other place I’d seen such a thing was Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. And I’d thought that was a special case. I mean, it’s Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. They’re a category on their own. That’s just how those books go.

The Edge books dealt with a lot of big topics – parental abandonment, death, fear, greed, identity and destiny – and didn’t talk down to the reader. Alright, the vocabulary is simpler so it’s accessible to independent child readers, but it’s not patronising. I was once in a lecture at Uni and my lecturer referenced the floating city of Sanctaphrax from the books, and of the hundred plus students there, I was the only one who got the reference. So they also get bonus points for making me cool in the eyes of academia.

That’s why Chris Riddell taking the time to favourite that conversation means so much. And that’s why it trumps Joanne Harris and her baked goods. Making me, aged twelve, cry hot little tears over the death of a big, friendly bear. Thanks for your part in that, Chris Riddell. You made a child cry. And it was awesome.

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Wittering

What’s to be doing, Friday people? It’s National Biscuit Day, not that I need an excuse for a biscuit. Or two. A packet? Cherries are also in season and they are the best of all summer fruit. So it’s a good time to be alive and eating, in my opinion.

My Friday afternoons have recently become a lot less stressful as a thorny problem has solved itself through the application of Time. This means that I’m feeling pretty positive about the next few days. I want to read! I want to write! I want to create things! I also want a decent night’s sleep. I woke up at 4:14am with a horrible calf cramp. I verily did wail aloud in discomfort.

But that’s done with, and now two days of STUFF lie ahead. I’m almost too excited to decide what I should do first. It seems a bit weird to start reading now, but I’m also not really in the mood for…

…ooh more Buffy on Netflix… excellent… Well, that’s my weekend gone.

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Ongoing series

Hi lads and ladies! Did you know, the downside of a four month long embroidery project, where you spend all your evenings sitting on your backside (except Thursdays – I do line-dancing now) is that when it’s done and you think “yay, I can go for a run!”… really what you can do is go for a wheezy speedwalk and a bit of a shuffle. I have never been the consistent gym-bunny type. So I have never been in top running form, that’s why I’m trying to work on it. There’s no way I can make myself get up and go before work (I’ve tried) so I usually go on Wednesdays and at the weekends. Twice a week probably isn’t doing much, but as I said I’m also line-dancing on Thursdays and my job involves a fair bit of walking about. Hey, this “average woman in her late twenties who has never given birth but who kinda cares about herself just not obsessively, y’know, with vegetables and not eating takeaway every night, but without a gym membership or a fitbit” bod isn’t going to Instagram itself!

In the meantime, I’m drinking my first morning coffee out of a lovely TARDIS mug, which was a surprise present from some of the leavers at work this week. They know me so well… I’m also going in to work soon. Yup. I was planning to stay last night and do some stuff ready for Monday, but it turns out no one had told me my section was being used for important meetings yesterday (to which I was not invited) so I had to go home. So yay for Saturday trips to work! The sun is going to be out all day, so where’s the best place to be on a day off? Walking? Town? Outdoor activity of any kind? No for me! I love that sweet sweet stuffiness of my workspace, with its tiny opening windows and the lack of internal airflow! Gimme some of that!

Not to over-exaggerate. The sun might be out but it’s still only about fifteen degrees and I’m still using the winter-weight quilt and an extra blanket on my bed. Winter never blooming left North of the Wall.

Also on the go, I’ve been taking photos of the projects I’m working on, so that when they can be revealed I can show you the journey. We’ll see if I can keep up with that…

Finally (I saved the best for last) I’m now on the ARC list for Katie Cross! Her third full Network novel is coming this autumn! Super-excited. The series is about witches and politics and old family mysteries. The first (Miss Mabel’s School for Girls) …don’t let the title put you off. This isn’t a girl Harry Potter. There’s a school in the middle of the magical woods and Bianca Monroe is a new arrival. No one ever sees the beautiful headmistress, Miss Mabel, but they’re all in awe of her. The pupils are working towards skill specialisms, called Marks, which appear as tattoos on their wrists when they’re passed. That way, you can see a witch’s skills immediately. There’s this political underbelly though, in that the country is split into five provinces (Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central) and there’s trouble brewing. Border raids, thefts, stockpiling resources… there’s a war (or at least a coup) coming.

It’s a bit like Howl’s Moving Castle in a way, in that the main characters are the focus and there’s stuff happening in the background that you don’t realise til later is actually driving the action. The characters make decisions and do things that are logical and seem normal, but then you realise that they’re because of something they don’t even know about. And as the reader you’re given the information they have, and the information they don’t know they have, because it doesn’t occur to them to think about it properly.

The second, Antebellum Awakening, carries on immediately where the first left off. It moves the action from the school to the centre of the government, and there’s a whole load of new and horrible turmoil to go through. The progression of the characters and the story works really well, you can tell it’s all planned, and not “well it was a school last time, now what do I do?”. There’s a lot of family drama, too, with Bianca and her father, and the problems they’ve always had. But it doesn’t feel contrived and like a moral lesson, it’s part of the plot and also shows the reader a lot about their society.

And there’s a strong, mainly female cast, if you care about that sort of thing.

So that’s all going on. Time to go and pretend to do my hair (can’t wait til it grows out! NEVER shave your head for charity. Get all your fingers broken instead) and think about all the stuff I need to do at work. It’s clear out day! And notice board change day! Wooo!!!!

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