Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shadowplay Blog Tour: Laura Lam’s Top 5 Favourite Ya Fantasy Novels

As part of the Shadowplay blog tour, I’m excited to, once again welcome Laura Lam to my blog today. For those who don’t know, or haven’t heard about Laura Lam’s books before, Shadowplay is the sequel to her debut YA fantasy novel, Pantomime.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of her blog tour for the first book (you can check out my review here), and am super thrilled to be part of the tour for Shadowplay.

During the Pantomime blog tour, Laura stopped by an introduced us to the world within her book, complete with complete picture tour. If you’ve checked out her books on Goodreads, you’ll see that not only has she’s posted a visual representation of what the world within Pantomime is like (a similar post was featured on my blog), but she’s also done one for Shadowplay.

I’d suggest you visit Goodreads and check out them out and add it to your TBR pile:
Pantomime
Shadowplay


In the meantime, before I hand over to Laura, here’s some info on Shadowplay:

(Note: If you haven’t read Pantomime yet, you may want to skip the summery) 


About Shadowplay:

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske.

When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus—the runaway daughter of a noble family.

And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey

Over to Laura – welcome and thanks again for visiting my blog!

Top 5 YA fantasy novels

I’ve tried to come up with a spread of both recent reads I loved and ones I fell in love with as a teen. I’ve listed them from most recently read. 


1. Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott.

I read this last year and absolutely loved it. It’s a retelling of Cinderella in a pseudo-Medieval Japan-type world. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and evocative, I definitely recommend it.

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


2. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman.

This is another book I read last year and absolutely adored. It started out a bit slow for me, and I almost even put it down about 50 pages in.

I’m so glad I stuck with it, though, because I ended up staying up until 3.30 in the morning to read it, and I NEVER do that. I love my sleep.

I can’t wait for the sequel!

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.

Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers.

As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion.

Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs.

While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 

3. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.

I’m counting all three as one book. I remember reading this series when

I was just thinking about writing YA and thinking “Yes! I want to write something clever and beautiful, with a fully-realised world.” Also, I want a daemon. And that ending :’(

In "The Golden Compass," readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world.

In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal daemon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.


"The Subtle Knife" is the second part of the trilogy that began with "The Golden Compass." That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world.

In "The Subtle Knife," readers are introduced to Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England. Will is only twelve years old, but he bears the responsibilities of an adult.


Following the disappearance of his explorer-father, John Parry, during an expedition in the North, Will became parent, provider and protector to his frail, confused mother.

And it's in protecting her that he becomes a murderer, too: he accidentally kills a man who breaks into their home to steal valuable letters written by John Parry. After placing his mother in the care of a kind friend, Will takes those letters and sets off to discover the truth about his father.

"The Amber Spyglass" brings the intrigue of "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife "to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 


4. Immortals Quartet – Tamora Pierce.
 

I went through a period where I basically only read Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, and Mercedes Lackey.

I remember spending Christmas gift vouchers on them, or huddling in the corner of the store to read them, or getting them from the library.

I liked that many of them had strong female characters, and I remember in particular loving this story which featured a girl with a kinship with animals.

Cover copy of Wild Magic, the first book in the series:

Young Daine's knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall.

Soon it becomes clear that Daine's talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical.

Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


5. The Lost Years of Merlin – T.A. Barron.

This was another series I loved. I got the first one as a Christmas present and read all of them.

I loved the idea of learning about young Merlin.

I haven’t read these in about 12 years, so wondering how it’d hold up on a re-read (sometimes I’m afraid to do that and discover I don’t like them as much as an adult, nostalgia non-withstanding)

This American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults is a brilliant epic adventure dealing with the literary wizard.

A young boy who has no identity nor memory of his past washes ashore on the coast of Wales and finds his true name after a series of fantastic adventures.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Thanks for sharing your top 5 with us Laura!


About Laura:Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies.

Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home.

This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Pantomime was released February 2013 through Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. The sequel, Shadowplay, will follow in January 2014.

Where you can find Laura online:

Goodreads
Website

Pantomime page (including ordering links)
Shadowplay page (including ordering links)
Twitter: @LR_Lam

Facebook
Pinterest
Tumblr

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

A genre-defying novel that combines elements of science fiction and gas lamp fantasy to create a world filled with auras, dreamscapes, humans with supernatural abilities and a whole realm of otherworldly creatures. 

Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon  (Bloomsbury)

I’ve been reading and reviewing books for a good number of years now.

In this time, I’ve come across books that have had me a) shaking my fists (for wasting my time), b) being stricken with grief (at the sheer beauty and tragedy of it all) and c), marvelling in wonder (while losing myself in a world filled with sheer phantasmagorical splendour).

I’ve found the words to express how deeply I loved the book, and I’ve been able to give constructive views on why certain books just didn’t work for me.

What I’ve never found, until now, is a book that is so good, it practically renders my vocabulary null and void.

The Bone Season is a highly impressive debut novel that features a feisty, strong and take-no-crap-from-anyone kind of heroine that will have you cheering her on all the way, not least because of her ability to jump between dreamscapes, but because of her fighting spirit and her will to survive even in the most inhospitable conditions possible.

And to think that the author’s only 22 years old.

Now, generally speaking, the age of the author is of very little consequence, but when you read and consider the concept and elaborately crafted world within this book, you’ll be left feeling as if you’ve achieved nothing in comparison to what Samantha Shannon’s managed to put down on paper.

Her novel is that incredible.

The publishers no doubt feel the same way, as The Bone Season is touted as the first book in a seven book series.

When it comes to this novel, let me start off by giving you some advice: if you’re the kind of reader who likes to read more than one book at a time (which I am by the way), I would highly suggest that you make an exception for this book.

It's not just because I think the book is worth getting special attention, but also because the concept makes for a pretty convoluted read.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

The multidimensional world-building, the heterogeneous characters, the caste systems, the various types of clairvoyants described and how the hierarchy of how the political structure within this dystopian society works, require a good portion of your attention. 

Not to mention the lingo that takes some time getting use to.

Oh, and speaking of jargon, If you do find yourself getting confused by some of the terminology being used, check out the glossary of terms at the back. While I could certainly follow the story and loved it for what I experienced from it, the explanations at the back is something that I definitely think will only enhance your reading experience.

So, just what exactly is The Bone Season about?

Combining paranormal and science fiction components, the book is a miasma of wondrous and unsettling imagery, beautiful prose and atmospheric settings. In fact, this book has somewhat of a gas lamp fantasy feel to it, reminding me of a world that’s both futuristic and gothic.

The year is 2059 and the place is Scion London.

19-year old Paige Mahoney is one of the talented unnaturals working in the criminal underworld of SciLo. Employed by a man named Jaxon Hall, Paige earns her keep by scouting the ether, and breaking into other people’s minds to gather any form of information.

Basically what she’s able to do is walk jump from one dreamscape (her own) into another’s.

Scion London’s underground is filled with people like her – unnaturals all gifted with various types and levels of clairvoyancy - with Paige being a dreamwalker, one of the rarest types of voyants and amongst those considered in the highest orders.

Because the Scion government controls all of London, they consider people like Paige dangerous to society. Her existence alone means that a warrant is out for her capture.

What Paige doesn't realise yet is that the repressive society she and her fellow team mates try to survive in, may be part of something far bigger than she could have imagined.

When she's abducted and taken to a city shrouded in secrecy, Paige encounters the Rephaite, an otherworldly race that force and employ clairvoyants into servitude for their own purposes.

Assigned to Warden, one of the highest ranking Rephaites, Paige is forced under his tutelage, and subjected to rigorous training in order to serve the Rephaite's blood-sovereign, Nashira.

What she doesn't know, is that the man whom she considers to be her enemy, has his own motives and that things on the surface, are once again, not all that they seem.

The Bone Season is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year. 

With its intricate and ornate setup, the book is a unique foray into a world that's filled with wondering (and not always benevolent) ghosts and diverse forms of extrasensory perception skills.

What is particularly impressive is how strongly developed the cast of characters are.

Paige is the kind of heroine that could give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money. Bold, fierce and strong, her will of iron and stubbornness has ensured that she has both the wits and the street smarts to survive in whatever circumstances she finds herself in.

Her ability to access and walk through various dreamscapes, also ensures that she has an additional advantage in her fight for her freedom. It's interesting to note that even though she's part of a rat pack, so to speak, she's as bound to a system in SciLo's underground as she is to the Rephaite she's forced to serve.

Ironically enough, it's the latter that brings about the epiphany. What I also loved about her is that despite being imprisoned by another race, her compassionate nature still shines through for her fellow people - be they clairvoyants or amaurotic (non-clairvoyants).

Her interactions with the supporting cast of characters gives this novel an additional packing punch and will serve to heighten your curiosity about the different types of clairvoyants in the novel.

I was certainly intrigued by the different types found and have to confess that up until now, I had no idea that there were so many levels and kinds of voyants found. 

I'd go into some detail, but that would ruin the discovery for you. Suffice to say that the way Paige uses her dreamwalking ability, is definitely one of the best parts of this novel.

You'll be pretty amazed by some of the detail that Samantha goes into;  the beautiful descriptions of the dreamscapes, ether and ghostly activity being an absolute favourite of mine. 

On top of this, I was also kept on my toes by the interaction between Warden and Paige.

Understandably Paige feels an enormous amount of antipathy and enmity towards Warden (a secretive and not always easy to decipher character) , but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that although Warden's actions still remain a mystery for the most part, she starts seeing that there's something there, in terms of his motives, that might be worth looking at a second time.

Believe it or not, despite the hostility (mainly from Paige's side), there's an underlying chemistry between them that I couldn't help but pick up on. The end of the book certainly hints at something more, but where it will all lead, is something only the forthcoming books will be able to reveal.

Vastly imaginative, The Bone Season is a book filled with a strong cast of characters, a supernatural world that defies convention and a race of intelligent beings that make formidable allies or enemies - depending on which side you choose. The female villain in this story will especially send chills down your spine.

All in all, it's an impressive debut novel by a brilliant new voice that will leave you wanting even more. I can't wait for the next book to come out.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book spotlight & International giveaway: Forsaken by Sophia Sharp

On the blog today, I’m fortunate enough to be featuring a spotlight on Forsaken, a just-released YA paranormal novel by Sophia Sharp.

About the book:
Nora Colburn was perfectly content in life. A junior in high school, she had good friends, a great family, and did well in school. 

Nothing particularly exciting ever happened where she lived, and everything was stable.

But that all drastically changes when a new student arrives at Nora’s school. Wild rumors swirl about his past, and Nora becomes determined to find out the truth.

As she gets to know the mysterious student, he shares with her an ancient secret... one that may yet put both of them in grave danger.

And for the first time in her life, Nora is exposed to a completely unfamiliar world.

She is swept away on an exhilarating journey that takes her to a place where romance and great destiny may yet await... and where supernatural powers run wild.

Add it on Goodreads.

Read an extract below:

Hunter cut off with a strangled sound, and in an instant, he was at the door. “They’re coming,” he hissed over his shoulder.

“What? Already? You said we’d have until nightfall!”

“I was wrong.” He shut the door quickly and rushed to the opposite wall. “You need to hide.” He pulled back a board to reveal a small cubby in the wall. “Quickly!”

Nora ran without arguing.

“Get in,” he told her, “and don’t make a sound.” Nora nodded. Her pulse raced, and a jolt of adrenaline kicked through her. A mixture of fear and dread came over her as she pushed herself into the wall.

There wasn’t much space, and splinters and rough pieces of wood pierced her skin and got caught on her clothing. She wedged herself farther in.  Hunter replaced the board.

Light scattered in from cracks along the wall.  Nora pressed an eye to one of them. She could see the entire space between her and the entrance door. Hunter stood facing the door with his back to her. His feet were wide in a predatory stance.

Anxious minutes passed. Only Nora’s ragged breaths broke the silence, and they sounded as loud as hammers to her ears.

Slowly, the door started to move. Hunter tensed.

It creaked all the way open, and a tall figure stepped into the entrance. Nora’s breath caught. It was the same man from the dream, the same one she saw at the school.

“Where’s your friend?” the man asked Hunter crudely. He spoke with a harsh accent.

If it were possible, Hunter tensed even more. The man took a step forward. He wore the same long coat from before, the same dark hat. He and Hunter were approximately the same height. Leisurely, he started to take off his coat. Hunter still hadn’t moved.

The man dropped his coat in a pile at his side, and Nora saw that he was much thicker than Hunter. Bigger, more developed.

Stronger.

“Don’t try to hide her. I can smell her stench from here. I know she is with you.”

“You will not have her.” Hunter’s voice held a steely edge.

The man laughed. “Oh? Is that so?  And you think you’re going to stop me?” He laughed again. “You have broken the ancient creed by bringing her into our world. You will answer for your crime.  As will she.”

“You will not have her,” Hunter repeated, his voice filled with a deathly calm.

The man waved dismissively and took a step toward Hunter. “You cannot stop me,” he said. “And I don’t intend to take only her. You’ll be coming along, as well.”

“No,” Hunter growled.

“Oh, yes, I will take you both.” The man stood only a pace away from Hunter, now. “You cannot imagine what they will do to you.

You will be bound in chains, locked away to never again see the dark of night or feel the cool rays of the moon. You will grow weak and feeble, forever barred from taking blood. You will never feed again.

“Your body will go first. Your muscles will wither to nothingness.  Your bones will crumble. You will become a shadow of what you once were. A shadow of what you could have been.
“But they will keep your mind sharp.

Make no mistake, you will know you are suffering. An antidote will be administered, and it will stave off the madness that accompanies your deprivation. You will languish in misery, forever conscious of your mistake. That will be your sentence.  To suffer, until the end of time.”

The man took one last step, until he was nose-to-nose with Hunter. And he spoke just loudly enough for Nora to hear.  “But that pales in comparison to what they will do to her.”

Hunter snarled.

“Yes, her. Your precious human.” He spat the word. Then he raised his voice. “I know you are here, little one. Listen well to what I have to say.”

He returned his attention to Hunter. “She will suffer for your sin. A human mind and body is much weaker than that of our kind, and for that reason…she will be converted. And sentenced to suffer eternally alongside you.

“You know of the savage bloodlust that overtakes a new member of our race, do you not? Oh, but I think you do. You were once one of them, were you not? You were born a human.” Again, he spat the word. “A despicable thing. A despicable creature to risk so much for, wouldn’t you say?”

Hunter didn’t say a word, and the man continued. “I will give you one chance. One chance now, to repent. Give her up freely, and the punishment for your treason will be less severe. You will be bound for one century, before your freedom is returned.”

He put a hand on Hunter’s shoulder. “You know you cannot win. Is she worth an eternity in hell?”

Nora caught a furtive movement at the door. The other hunter. “No!” she screamed. It was a trap.

On Nora’s cry, both newcomers looked in her direction. Hunter curled back from the man’s hand and smashed an elbow into his face. The thick man stumbled back.

Then he laughed cruelly and flung himself at Hunter.


Buy copies of her books here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


About Sophia:

I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Actually, that's a bit of a lie.

I've been writing since the third grade, when a wonderful teacher asked everyone in class to write a fairy tale, and ended up picking mine as his favorite.

He didn't tell the other kids, of course - but confided it in my parents.

He said I have a natural knack for writing (his exact words! and I remember them to this day), and should never stop. So, I've kept going…

Where you can find her:
Goodreads
Blog


And now - time for an epic giveaway! Best of all, it's open internationally.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 13, 2013

Author guest post: Why science fiction isn’t just a guy thing by Jennifer Ridyard

Today I’ve got a kick-ass post from debut YA author Jennifer Ridyard.

Now Jennifer, who has co-written the novel Conquest with partner John Connolly - best-selling author of The Book of Lost Things and even more known for his phenomenal crime thrillers - chats about a topic that’s quite close to my heart today – that of science fiction.

When I first received her post, I was decidedly amused because I could relate so well to it. 

Back when I first heard the term science fiction – my immediate thought was, alien thingies, extra appendages and lots and lots of green gunk and slimy goo. My next immediate thought was, “ew”.

Yes, yes. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait until you all pick yourselves up from the floor, shall I?

I was about 12 years old then.

As you can tell, my view of the genre used to be incredibly skewed and limited. But then, along came books like The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, Divergent and Wither. 

Without going into too much explanation here, because Jennifer does cover a bit of this, I didn’t consider then, that within the genre (like many other genres), there are so many sub-branches that were waiting to be explored.

I’ve always thought this sci-fi was something purely technical. Not only that, but for most of my life, I was taught that sci-fi books are boy books and that girls should just stick to all the fluffy reads that were *especially written for them.*

Thankfully I know better now (regarding genre sub cats)  - and the things I used to consider gross? Well, it pretty much rocks my book world.

But, enough waffling from my side.  Before we get into the post, here’s some info about the book.

Oh and if you’re based in SA, you’ll be happy to know that both Jennifer and John will be here in January. I’ll post more details about dates in the forthcoming weeks. 

About Conquest
The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race. Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders.

The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who are best equipped to battle the Illyri.

Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach sixteen years of age.

Her father rules the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.

But all is not as it seems. The Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood.

When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.

Now the hunter has become the hunted, the predator becomes prey.

And as Syl is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun...

Click here to add it to your TBR pile on Goodreads.

NB: Stay tuned for a giveaway coming up on my blog this coming Tuesday.

On to Jennifer’s post: 

Why sci-fi isn’t just a guy thing

So you think you don’t like science fiction?

It’s for weirdoes.

It’s for boys.

It’s boring.

It’s got bad hairstyles, worse make-up and too much Lycra.

Frankly, you might be right. Yes, there are wastelands of that stuff out there on both page and screen, with exploding spaceships and imploding planets and stupid ray guns – not to mention the occasional three-boobed female with bad hair, all trussed up in Lycra.

The only attention any of that deserves is a raised eyebrow.

So may I suggest you instead stick to the sort of books that you love: books about gorgeous otherworldly boys, about fantasy creatures, about great acts of bravery, crazy challenges, parallel universes, wild ideas, riveting plots, paranormal abilities, love, death, and, best of all, strong, inspirational women (with the requisite two boobs, obviously)?

Books that sound rather a lot like science fiction actually…

The problem is no one seems able to really define science fiction.

In theory, it is science in story form, or at least the possibilities offered by science written as fiction.

But that doesn’t mean it’s set in the future.

Even the rather wonderful Margaret Attwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, made the mistake of declaring her book was most certainly NOT science fiction when it was published, because science fiction “has monsters and spaceships” and her book didn’t.

But she did her research and later went on to proudly own the term, declaring that science fiction explores “the nature and limits of what it means to be human in graphic ways, by pushing the envelope as far as it will go,” in an article for The Guardian.

And what makes science fiction particularly thrilling is, as Margaret says: “Increasingly, if we can imagine it, we’ll be able to do it.”

Yup, we really can boldly go where no one has gone before…

If you want even more girl-power then you’ll be delighted to know that the classic book Frankenstein – published in 1818, and widely acknowledged as the first true work of science fiction – was written by a WOMAN, Mary Shelley, when she was just 18.

But it has no aliens, no ray guns, no spaceships, and no boobs. The thing is, science fiction simply doesn’t have to.

Nor does it need to happen on a different planet. You loved The Hunger Games trilogy, right? That’s most definitely science fiction, set on an alternate, futuristic version of our own world.

I guess sometimes they just call the science fiction that girls love “Fantasy”, because girls tend to shy away from the tacky sci-fi label (all that Lycra makes us sweat).

Charlie Higson, author of the Young Bond books, has also written a gripping science fiction serial, known as The Enemy Series, which is torch-under-the-blankets reading, especially if you want to escape that girl-gets-jock schlock!

So science fiction can be set in a reimagined past, in a different version of today, on an alternate version of earth, in a parallel universe or even (as is the case with the film Men in Black II) in a baggage locker at Grand Central terminal in New York.

There’s historical sci-fi, dystopian sci-fi, superhuman sci-fi, and even fabulous-sounding branches like cyberpunk and, lately, the almost-painfully hip steampunk movement. Basically, science fiction just has to ask: “What if…?”

After that, anything goes – including, unfortunately, the occasional tri-boobed floozy.

And yes, I didn’t know I liked science fiction when I first discovered it. I was still in junior school in 1983 and there was much chatter about the next year because long-dead novelist George Orwell had written a futuristic book way back in the forties, and called it Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Of course I got my mitts on a copy and it was… dark, odd, disturbing, and I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I was glad I read it.

I spent hours mulling over its idea of a government controlled by Big Brother, where everyone is under constant camera surveillance (for their own good, naturally) and where the Ministry of Peace deals with war.

As I read it I felt my mind being prised open, expanding, and suddenly the future seemed ripe with possibilities and alternatives – not all of them happy ones, it must be said, but all of them utterly fascinating.

My next foray into science fiction was when an English teacher handed me The Chrysalids, a book by John Wyndham published in 1955, but still it felt so fresh.

It too was set on earth, but after a nuclear war, where hunted teenagers were forced to hide their supernatural powers. Now I was hooked: clearly there was a world of books to be discovered, and worlds beyond those too.

And then, in 2001, a certain JK Rowlings’ little book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won the prestigious Hugo Award, which is presented every year by the World Science Fiction Convention. So is the world’s favourite series actually sci-fi too?

Well, it may be stretching it a little because there’s not a lot of actual science in the fantastical Harry Potter series – even with all of Hermione’s best efforts, even with Severus Snape’s endless potions classes – but still…

Perhaps Harry won because science fiction has a magic all its own. And if you don’t believe me, then go pick that fight with Katniss Everdeen. I dare you.

About Jennifer and John
Jennifer Ridyard was born in England and grew up in Johannesburg, where she worked as a journalist for many years.

Conquest is her first novel.

John Connolly is the bestselling author of eighteen books, including the Charlie Parker series and The Book of Lost Things , and an editor of the prizewinning non-fiction anthology Books to Die For.

Conquest is his twentieth published book.  John and Jennifer live in Dublin.

Follow John and Jennifer on Twitter.

On a final note - I'll be reading this shortly and should have a review up before the end of January.