Having no idea what to do next left her traitorous mind free to ruminate

All Good Things
by Emma Newman

Book 5 of Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series came out in June and I bought it pretty promptly, keen to learn the fates of Catherine, Max, Sam and all the other great characters that populate these stories. I’ve been following the series since the start (I went to the Bristol launch of book 1, Between Two Thorns) and thoroughly enjoyed every instalment.

As the title suggests, this is the final part of the series (but is it an end rather than the end?). There are the same great characters and sense of humour, plus some seriously ramped-up action.

At the end of book 4 (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD) Cathy has escaped the Nether and is under the protection of Sam, who as Lord Iron is the one person who can keep her safe from the Fae and their magic. But Cathy doesn’t want to rely on anyone else, even the loveable, well-meaning Sam, so she finds a way to make herself stronger. It involves facing a huge decision, one that puts a lot of lives in her hands. Has Cathy bitten off more than she can chew?

Continue reading “Having no idea what to do next left her traitorous mind free to ruminate”

The delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box

A Little Knowledge
by Emma Newman

This is the fourth book in the Split Worlds, a fantasy series that Newman started in 2013 with Between Two Thorns. This review may contain spoilers for the previous three books.

The story still centres on Cathy – one of the “fae-touched” humans, whose life is controlled by the Fae – and Max, whose job is to protect innocent humans from magical misdeeds, such as being disappeared. Cathy must now live in the Nether, a magical reflection of the human world, known as Mundanus. Though she theoretically inhabits a powerful position in fae-touched society, she is frustrated by the confines of an extremely patriarchal system. Her experience in Mundanus exposed her to feminism and women’s rights – thoroughly foreign concepts in the Nether. But the resistance to her proposed changes is so extreme that she wonders if something else is going on.

“It didn’t help that at social events she just wanted to sneak off and read a book, like she had as a child. Although Cathy understood that wasn’t possible anymore, it was too much of a leap to suddenly acquire all the social delicacy and insight now required of her. Cathy had the delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box moving backwards to try and escape it, and she knew it.”

Continue reading “The delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box”

Life had once been normal but it was so hard to recall

I thoroughly enjoyed the Split Worlds trilogy by Emma Newman and heartily recommend it to absolutely everyone, but I feel there’s a limited amount I can say about books 2 and 3 without spoiling the plot of the first in the series, so here are my very brief reviews.

Any Other Name

Any Other Name
The Split Worlds book 2
by Emma Newman

The series continues with another excellent adventure featuring Cathy, the reluctant member of fae-touched society, and Max, the investigator whose soul is trapped in a gargoyle. I worried this would be the toughest of the trilogy – to set up the final part the characters most likely have to both start and end in a bad place. But of course I needn’t have worried. There were just enough new twists and reveals while continuing and building on the set-up of book 1 (Between Two Thorns). I still love both the lead characters and I really appreciate the wonderful plot contrivance that allows Cathy (and others) to be aware of the essentially historical setting they live in and the inequalities of their society. It’s tough to say much about the plot without giving away what happened in book 1, so suffice to say that both Max and Cathy find themselves embroiled in much bigger problems than they thought they were getting into. So much fun, and thoroughly absorbing.

“I would like it if once, just once, a man would not decide what’s best for me without seeing how I feel about it first.”

Published 2013 by Angry Robot.

Source: Forbidden Planet Bristol.

All is Fair
The Split Worlds book 3
by Emma Newman

Ooh, it’s all kicking off now! That was pretty much my feeling throughout this final(?) instalment. It had become clear in book 2 that the problems in the Split Worlds ran deep and involved all sorts of deep corruptions that it seemed impossible would be fully cleared up by the end of this book. In fact I worried a few times that too much was happening at once and it would be too neat to resolve it all so quickly. I hope it’s not giving too much away to say that, while some threads were wrapped up, others are left loose so there is certainly potential for the story of the Split Worlds to continue, though whether future books would centre on Cathy and Max I am not sure of. I’ll admit there were moments where the story went in a direction I didn’t want it to, but I always ended up persuaded that that was the right decision. Because no-one’s perfect, and no solution is neat and tidy for everyone. I loved the new character Rupert, the Sorcerer of Mercia; he was brilliantly eccentric in a completely different way from Ekstrand, the Sorcerer of Wessex (who you may remember is completely useless on certain days of the week). Also, big thumbs up for the appearance of the excellent Bath bookshop Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (which I realise now may have had some influence on the naming of the magic shop that plays a major role in the trilogy, The Emporium of Things in Between and Besides). I really did love this book and hope that Newman does have some more Split Worlds tales up her sleeves!

“He knew, intellectually, that his life had once been normal but it was so hard to recall. The bereavement was like the camphor in his grandmother’s clothes; it perfused everything and the smell just lingered on and on after the mothballs were gone.”

Published 2013 by Angry Robot Books.

Source: Forbidden Planet Bristol.

The sky was the colour of a day-old bruise

Between Two Thorns

Between Two Thorns
Book 1 of the Split Worlds
by Emma Newman

I went to the launch of this book a few months back (which for some reason I blogged about beforehand but not afterward – very strange) and the only reason I have taken so long to get round to reading it is that it is linked to a series of online short stories that I wanted to finish reading before I started this novel. Then I got impatient with myself and just read this anyway! I will go back to those short stories now.

Disclaimer: Emma Newman is a local author to me and we have met a couple of times, as well as having a few conversations over the internet. I think she is very lovely and this may or may not have coloured my opinion of her book. Which I really liked. I think it’s probably very good whether or not you ever so slightly know the author.

Newman has come up with something special in the Split Worlds. She has created a fantasy world with a multitude of characters and things going on that feed into not only 50+ short stories and three novels (at least??) but also interactive games. But you could absolutely read this novel on its own, or any one of the short stories on their own, and enjoy it for itself, without the extra knowledge of all the other stuff.

What’s great is that although Newman has clearly put a lot of thought into world-building, there’s no noticeable chunks of exposition in this novel. You get dropped straight into a funny but sinister incident involving a drunk man desperate for a wee on his way home from the pub and all the details you need to understand what is going on and how that links to the other characters are added gradually and skilfully.

“‘Tea, sir?’ Axon picked up the teapot. Ekstrand peered at it suspiciously.
‘It is Assam, isn’t it, Axon?’
‘Indeed, sir.’
‘All right,’ he muttered and started to pace. ‘It’s all happening at the same time. I never did trust Sundays and this only adds weight to my theory.'”

There are quite a few characters but arguably the main one is Cathy, one of the “fae-touched” who is trying to break free from her family and live in the normal world known as Mundanus by – shock, horror – going to university. However, those who inhabit the magical mirror world she is hiding from, the Nether, will not leave her in peace. In the meantime, Max, a sort of policeman of the Split Worlds who is separated from his own soul, has stumbled on a breach of the Split Worlds Treaty so huge that there’s no knowing how high up in society the trouble goes or who he can trust.

I like the idea of the magical world and the normal world co-existing, and Newman paints both equally well. Characters in both worlds drink a lot of tea. But the worlds themselves are very different, or at least their people and societies are. The Nether seems to be stuck in a facsimile of 18th-century Britain, all very patriarchal and anti-technology and formal, with rigid rules governing everything and everyone, especially women. Mundanus is the world as it is now, in the 21st century, which makes for a huge contrast in some ways. Really, it’s a wonder Cathy is the only one looking to escape the Nether! But the Nether also sounds quite wonderful, with its silver sky and all the possibility of magic.

“‘Bloody weather,’ she muttered and then silently took it back. The sky was the colour of a day-old bruise and the wind was bitter but she still loved it just for being there. She never wanted to see a silver sky again.”

While you could read this as a standalone book, I was left wanting more, eager to buy part two and read it soon despite my enormous TBR. Thankfully my procrastination on getting round to reading this one means that book two, Any Other Name, has already been published (and indeed I bought it last weekend) and book three, All is Fair is coming soon, in October.

Published 2013 by Angry Robot.

Source: I bought this at the book’s launch at Forbidden Planet in Bristol.

Split Worlds: the book launch

Between Two Thorns

Back in November 2011 I posted something a bit unusual on this blog: a short story called “The price of art”. It formed part of a project whereby author Emma Newman releases a story online every week set in a fantasy universe called Split Worlds. Very excitingly she was snapped up by Angry Robot Books to write three novels set in the same universe and the first of those is about to be released.

Here is the official announcement from Emma…

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I’m delighted (and slightly terrified) to say that Between Two Thorns is released in the US on the 26th of February and the 7th of March in the UK.

There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing:

7th March 6–7pm Forbidden Planet, Bristol
8th March 6–7pm Forbidden Planet, London

One lucky attendee of these launches will win a copy of Any Other Name – the second novel in the Split Worlds series – as soon as it comes out. All the details are here.

Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!

Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in All Is Fair – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.

How to enter

Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).

If you order from Forbidden Planet or the Robot Trading Company (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to e-mail a copy of your order confirmation to thorns@angryrobotbooks.com and they’ll assign a number to you.

Here are links to all the places you can pre-order.

Forbidden Planet (signed paperback)

Robot Trading Company (DRM-free ebook)

Amazon UK (paperback)

Amazon US

The Book Depository UK edition

The Book Depository US edition (bigger)

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Once again, huge congratulations to Emma. If you’re interested in reading the Split Worlds short stories, here is a list of links to them all. I highly recommend a visit.

The price of art

The Split Worlds
Today we have something a little bit different. I am handing you over to talented local author Emma Newman, who will explain all.

This is the fourth in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in the Split Worlds. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.

The price of art

 

“Not one?”

 

“No.”

 

Clive sat heavily on the crate, feeling the cold air of his workshop for the first time that morning.

 

“I did warn you,” the sneer leaked into her voice. “There’s just no demand for big installations by unknown artists. It’s the recession.”

 

“Yeah,” Clive croaked. “The recession.”

 

“So you’ll have them picked up by the end of today?”

 

“Yeah,” Clive tried to sound convincing. He didn’t have the money to hire the specialist removal firm to get the pieces back to the workshop. He’d banked on at least one being sold to cover some of his costs. “See you later.”

 

He chucked the mobile onto the table, its landing cushioned by piles of unpaid bills. He’d pulled in every favour to make the exhibition happen, put every last pound into getting people through the door and it had come to less than nothing.

 

He tried to remind himself that he still had his health, and that he hadn’t been caught for stealing the lead off the local park’s bandstand roof when he couldn’t afford to buy new materials. A lack of illness and a non-existent criminal record were poor comfort faced with losing his workshop and tools. Was it time to get a boring job in a boring office with boring people?

 

A loud knock echoed through the workshop. He froze, wondering if it was the first bailiff. At the second knock, he stood slowly, keeping silent.

 

“Mr Pascoe?” It was a man. “Are you in there? I need to discuss your work.”

 

A ruse to make him come to the door?

 

“I saw the exhibition, I want to buy your installations.”

 

Clive tripped over a pizza box as he hurried to unlock the door. “Sorry,” he said, tucking his shirt in. “I was out the back. Come in, come in.”

 

The man was in his fifties, wearing a pinstripe suit and the air of authority. His eyes were the same colour of the copper sulphate crystals Clive had used in his first installation, his hair a greying blonde.

 

“Mr Pascoe?” At Clive’s nod he extended a hand. “I’m Mr Neugent.”

 

“Would you like a drink?”

 

The brilliant blue eyes scanned the lone crate, the instant coffee jar and pile of cups in the grimy sink. “No thank you, I don’t have a great deal of time. You’re a very talented artist Mr Pascoe.”

 

“Call me Clive, please. You went to the exhibition?”

 

“Yes. Twice. I wanted to be sure.”

 

“The gallery owner said there wasn’t any interest.”

 

Neugent smiled. “I have no interest in dealing with middle men. I know that gallery takes a steep commission. I would rather all of the money go to you. Do you have a problem with that?”

 

“Not at all,” Clive grinned. The snooty cow had only agreed to exhibit with a hefty commission rate after a lot of hassle. “Which one are you interested in?”

 

“All of them,” Neugent replied. “Here’s a cheque, I can have them picked up from the gallery, discreetly, if that’s convenient?”

 

Clive nodded, feeling the flush burning in his cheeks.

 

“I also have a proposition,” Neugent opened the briefcase. “I work for a company with offices and public buildings all over the world. Your work is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I want to commission you for ten more pieces, with a view to a long term contract should my employer like your work as much as I do. I took the liberty of preparing a contract.”

 

Clive took the stapled pages with a shaking hand. “Can I read this over?”

 

“Of course, take your time. Perhaps you’d prefer to have your solicitor look over it.”

 

“Thanks,” Clive reined in the urge to dance a jig.

 

“It’s a standard contract and we’ll provide access to any raw materials you require. One of our subsidiary companies deals in metal, we can get you whatever you need at a fraction of the cost you’ve been used to.”

 

“Great,” Clive tried not to grin too much.

 

“Here’s my card,” Neugent handed it over. “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

 

Clive waited a few moments after he left, then whooped so loud it echoed around the workshop. When there was another knock on the door he thought it was Neugent again and opened it straight away. A woman smiled, dressed in an emerald green coat and looking like she’d stepped off a film set.

 

“Mr Pascoe?”

 

He took in the same green of her eyes, the rich brown of her hair and the perfection of her skin. She was almost too beautiful.

 

“My name is Amelia Rose. I wanted to talk to you about your art, may I come in?” He nodded dumbly again.

 

“Did you go to the exhibition?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you like my work?”

 

“Can I be frank?”

 

“Of course,” he said, with the cockiness of a man who’d already sold it.

 

“You’re extraordinarily gifted,” she began, glancing around the workshop as she pulled off her gloves. “But you’re working with the wrong materials. Metal just isn’t right for you.”

 

His cheek twitched. “Someone’s just bought all of those pieces, and commissioned me for more.”

 

She glanced at the card and contract still held in his hands. “Oh, Mr Neugent has been here already I see. Promised you a long term contract and lucrative deal I suppose?” At his nod she smiled sadly. “He always makes an offer one can’t refuse. I hoped I’d be able to speak to you before he got his claws in, but I suppose it’s too late.”

 

She headed back towards the door, he stopped her. “What do you mean?”

 

“He’s only interested in money, not art. He has a gift for finding hungry artists and sucking them dry. By all means, take the money Mr Pascoe. In a few years you may be comfortably well off but you’ll be burned out and unable to create anything original ever again.”

 

“Really?”

 

“I’ve seen it happen before,” she said sadly. “But I know you need the money. Good luck.”

 

“Wait,” he stopped her with a gentle touch on her shoulder. “Which materials do you think I should work with?”

 

She looked up at him, straight into his eyes. “Wood, Mr Pascoe. Oak, willow, ash, your hands would craft them into something magnificent.”

 

“I don’t know anything about working with wood.”

 

“I had a teacher lined up for you, and a patronage agreement all worked out,” Amelia sighed, stroking the palm of her hand with the gloves. “But I should imagine that cheque is worth more to you. Unless…” she reached towards his face, touching his cheek lightly. Anyone else and he would have flinched away, but he found himself just staring back at her. “Unless, I can convince you to value your art more.”

 

“But I have debts.”

 

“I’ll pay them off. I’ll give you somewhere better to live and a comfortable salary. Nothing as ostentatious as Neugent offers, but I will ensure you reach your full artistic potential. Which is more important to you Mr Pascoe? Wealth, or art?”

 

He felt calm, blissful. He didn’t take his eyes off her as he tore the cheque and the contract in two.

 

“I’m so glad you made the right decision,” Amelia purred. “I promise you won’t regret it.”

 

 

 

Thanks for hosting Kate! I hope you enjoyed the story. If you would like to find out more about the Split Worlds project, it’s all here: www.splitworlds.com. If you would like to host a story over the coming year, either let me know in the comments or contact me through the Split Worlds site. Em x