Thursday 28 February 2013

An Evening With Peter V. Brett…

Wednesday night and Waterstones New Street again, as you can tell from the awesome chalk artwork, this time an evening with Peter V. Brett as part of his UK tour. Writing West Midlands hosted the event, and they and the Waterstones staff made this a really memorable one. There was a brief welcome which discussed the location of the event and the drive towards more fantasy events in the Midlands – yes, I inwardly shouted, bring fantasy home! – and then Peter V. Brett took the floor.

A Q&A session began and the questions were fantastic. We got such an insight into Peat’s world, his writing practice, his characters, his journey to publication, his wards and so much more, including his warded ring, aka the precious. What stood out most was Peat’s clear passion for his work and his dedication to putting out the very best writing he can. And you could tell the fans were definitely glad of it.

After the Q&A came the signing, and Peat spent time with every single fan, signing books, personalising messages, answering more questions, humbly responding to compliments and issuing us all with superb bookplates – don’t fear the dark! It was so good to see an author interacting with their fans and Peat obliged every photo request and made everyone’s trip special.

But really this blog post should be dedicated to the fans as much as to Peat. It was fantastic to see such enthusiasm and appreciation of creative effort as they showed. And of course some deserve a special mention: 

There was a guy who named his baby Arlen and brought in the onesie that Peat had had made and sent to him when he found out.

Luke Fielding, twitterer, brought Peat a gift in the form of his rock demon painting, which Harper will post over to Peat’s home.

There were ‘keep calm and draw wards’ bags to be envied, not to mention a few cool t-shirts and hoodies in the crowd too.

There was Emma, whose dog ate her copy of The Daylight War (mostly literally as it turned out) somewhat redeemed by the great story of Harper Strikes Again, having shipped a replacement out as soon as they found out.

And there was lots of laughter, perhaps more so during the group hug bromance – I couldn’t decide if Peat or the huggers felt more awkward in that one – but it was all in good spirits and an excellent time was had by all.

All in all a great atmosphere and another successful event in a venue that I love, and despite Peat having a terrible day transport-and-other-wise he performed, entertained and impressed the crowd, reminding us just how hard fantasy authors work to bring us amazing stories and how appreciative they are of their readers. Now all that remains is to wait for his next book. 18 months may be just long enough for me to forgive him for my ‘gasp’ moment in this one!

An inspirational man and a night to remember.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Book Review: Between Two Thorns...

By Emma Newman.
Angry Robot Books.

On a night out after work Sam’s had one too many beers and all he wants is to get home. Unfortunately his bladder is interfering and a detour into the grounds of a museum leads Sam into the middle of something his alcohol-addled brain can’t quite understand. Two strange beings and one faerie later, Sam is under a Fool’s Curse with his memories bound in chains and one hell of a hangover.

Cathy is in hiding from her family and the Shadow Charm has been keeping her well concealed in the mundane world. After all this time she has become used to living among humans, but the knowledge that her family would not have given up the search stays with her. Now, a visit from a Lord of the Fae Court can only signal danger, and Cathy finds herself unceremoniously forced into making three wishes with the express purpose of impressing the Fae Lord.

Max, Arbiter and dislocated soul, is investigating missing women in London – technically not his patch but he’s choosing to temporarily ignore that little detail – when he stumbles across a much larger problem. Something is wrong, and Max will soon be fighting for his life, dealing with sorcerers and forced into an entirely new mission. The Master of Ceremonies has gone missing and Max has to make sense of the clues. 

Newman paints a beautiful, magical world in this, the first of a trilogy about The Split Worlds and the colourful cast of characters that inhabit them. The characters are a great strength, all likeable and suitably interesting, each with their own foibles and desperate desires. They are well drawn, with depth enough to endear them to the reader.

Between Two Thorns follows the stories of each character as they deal with their individual missions and challenges, and the eventual intertwining of the various sub plots adds great depth to the writing and works flawlessly to deliver a well-rounded story. That said, this is definitely the beginning of a trilogy so many plot elements are left unexplained in this volume.

Nonetheless this book has a fantastic ending and marks a solid start to a great new fantasy trilogy that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, stories about the Fae and detective stories. There are also some underlying themes in here, such as Cathy’s growing up in an old fashioned world where women are oppressed, that provide a good contrast to the modern day problems she and Sam encounter in the mundane world.
Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 17 February 2013

I Was A Rat…

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a special performance of Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat at the Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company are 100 years old and have a history of pushing the boundaries of what is expected from the theatre. Progressive on stage and off, the REP is a huge part of Birmingham’s culture and has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

While the Repertory Theatre itself is undergoing refurbishment, in tandem with construction of the new Birmingham Library at the same site, last night’s show was proof that the old roots are still strong and the prolonged closure of the theatre has had no affect on the quality of performances still ongoing in the city. Before the show members of The Destroyers played live music to welcome the audience and set the tone of the evening.

The adaptation of I Was A Rat was truly a theatrical extravaganza, employing physical and musical theatre techniques to produce a colourful, energetic show. During the play, puppetry, live music, dance, masks, streamers, lighting and acrobatics were all put to best use in a production that blew me away and left me grinning and whooping at the end.

The show far exceeded my expectations, and indeed not having read the book I was not sure what to expect. A kids’ show, I thought. A play, a fairytale. It was so much more than that. It was dark and mysterious, intriguing, clever, creepy and surreal at times, and overall utterly dramatic in every sense. This was by far the strongest stage performance I have seen in years, and I do go to the theatre fairly often.

What made the evening even more special was the fact that it was the REP’s birthday celebration. The curtain call itself was immense, deservedly so, but when the cast called the director up on stage I knew something bigger was afoot.

Representatives of the theatre company thanked the audience and gave a little background into the celebrations, then after a short introduction from the REP’s new artistic director, Birmingham born Steve Camden aka Polarbear gave a live performance in the form of a poem all about the Birmingham REP.

You can see why he is such a well-respected spoken word artist. The topic had clearly been well researched and transported the audience back to various moments in time from the REP’s history. From George Bernard Shaw to Laurence Olivier, from regular audience members to first time watchers, from controversy to awe, from Shakespeare to The Snowman, we were there, standing on Broad Street on a winter night, looking at this icon of a theatre alongside his memories.

With streamers still hanging in my hair and caught on my scarf, with a REP 100 goodie bag clenched between my fingers, I left the theatre truly elated and awed by the magic the REP continues to create time and time again. The world is changing and modernising around us, but theatre has existed for centuries and will continue to do so. Nothing will ever replace that buzz, the applause, the live and immediate atmosphere, nor that happy stroll from the theatre to home, discussing the play we have just seen and re-living each acrobat’s tumble, each hero’s lines, and each song, for hours and days and years.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Crayola Colour Mood…

Today my mood is changeable and the only colour that seemed apt to match with that is Wild Blue Yonder.

It is one of those colours that looks different depending on where you see it and how you feel when you look at it. Which is exactly how I’m feeling towards life at the moment. Changeable, or perhaps a little unsure.

For the first time in six years, I don’t have a uni deadline or an academic qualification to work towards. Yes, I have personal goals, but the very fact that they are self-enforced makes them different.

So I feel changeable. One day I am motivated, upbeat, eager to get on with what I’m doing, the next day I feel pensive, detached, daydreamy, lost in the wild blue yonder. It is flat and uninspiring, vast and full of possibility. It is my current Crayola Colour Mood, my current feeling, my current adventure.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 2 February 2013


I know lots of people who love audiobooks. They listen to them when travelling, at the gym, at home while doing chores and all sorts. I love the idea of audiobooks and have tried various times to listen to them. I even have some of my favourite novels in audio version, but even familiar stories I struggle with.

The trouble is, unlike books where I get completely absorbed for hours at a time, with audiobooks I can’t seem to focus my mind on them and will periodically realise that I have switched off from them completely and missed a significant chunk of the story. Then I have to backtrack. The story becomes disjointed and clunky and the whole experience is lost on me.

I don’t know if this is a common problem or whether I just have either a really poor attention span or an overactive imagination. Both probably, but as yet I have found no way around this. Why is it I can totally tune into a book on paper, or indeed on an ereader, and not have any issues concentrating, but when it is spoken to me I lose the thread?

Elloise Hopkins.