Synopsis: In a kingdom where sickness stalks the streets and only the richest can afford a cure, King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick are forced to rule with an iron fist. Tessa Cade is a masked outlaw marked for death, but she likes it that way. Together with the mysterious, handsome Weston, she robs from the rich to help the poor, distributing medicine to those who need it most. As it becomes clear that the only way to save her people is to assassinate the King, Tessa faces a deadly mission that will take her to the dark heart of the kingdom… and force her to work with the very people she intended to destroy.
Defy The Night is a young adult novel that’s an absolute triumph.
Sometimes with a fantasy novel it can take me while to get into, as we learn about the worlds and the characters, but with this book I found myself instantly engaged and engrossed. Seriously, I couldn’t put the book down. And I was excited to see where this book was going.
I mean, I was into it. I loved the characters, I loved the world, I loved where the story was going and then the twist happened. The twist happened that I didn’t see coming (don’t worry no spoilers). And it just elevated the book. I haven’t been that shocked by a book in a long time. My jaw actually fell open.
I loved the characters in this. I loved Tessa, Wes, Corrick and Harriston. I liked that they were all complex. And I liked the personal issues each had to go through (I know I’m being vague but I really don’t want to spoil anything). But I really liked that Brigid put some social issues in the book, it gave it real depth and therefore the characters became stronger too.
There was a romance that I totally believed and and I want more of and I want more of it now. But you’ll have discover that when you read it.
The last quarter of Defy The Night is a real page turner. I was up till gone midnight reading this book, I never do that. But I couldn’t put it down. Every chapter finished on a cliffhanger and I kept saying to myself I’ll just read one more and the next thing I knew I’d finished the book.
I really like how it ended. It ends in such a strong position for the next book to explore (which I am already highly anticipating). How long do I have to wait? I’m excited to see where the second book goes and to continue to get to know these characters. And that’s the sign of a great start to a new series right?
Thank you so much to Mattea at Bloomsbury YA Uk for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out September 14th.
Now, I’ve never done a post like this before mainly because I never, ever know what’s coming out. But I’ve done my research as to what’s coming out later in the year and I’ve found some I’m excited about.
1) The Magician by Colm Tóibín
I crave Queer historical fiction and this one sounds like it could be it. I absolutely loved Brooklyn and I’m excited to see what this author does. Set in the period of WWII and featuring a queer main character. Yes please. I’m also very lucky to have a proof of it, so I will be reading it soon.
2) Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin
This is the conclusion to this epic trilogy. I fell in love with the first book Serpent & Dove, I am so excited to see where this book ends. I’m excited (and a little scared) to see what happens to my beloved characters. This is really the only series I’m a Stan for. I own two copies of the first to books and I’ve already got two copies of this ordered. So yes, I’m very excited. It’s out in August.
3) Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko
I loved Raybearer. Absolutely loved it. It was my favourite fantasy of last year. I could to be more excited for this book. So excited. I can’t wait to see where this book goes and how this brilliant duology wraps up. Please don’t disappoint me. It’s out in August.
3) Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr.
I love All The Light We Cannot See, is a brilliant book and I’ve been looking forward to Anthony Doerrs book for so long and I’m excited. I don’t even really want to know what it’s about. I just want to be taken away in this story. My expectations are very high. It’s out in September.
4) The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. I am very excited for this one. Elif is a beautiful writer and I’m excited to read more of her lyrical prose. I don’t know much of what this one is about and I’m keeping it that way on purpose. I just want to be swept away. It’s out on August 5th.
5) Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I need this book. I need it so bad. I’m so looking forward to going back to this world. These characters. It’s out October 12th.
That’s it, these are the novels I’m looking forward to in the second half of 2021. I’m sure there’s going to be more added to this list. My poor bank account.
Synopsis: Briseis has a gift. She can grow an apple tree from seed in a heartbeat, and flowers bloom at her touch. But she and her adoptive mothers have spent her whole life trying to hide her extraordinary powers. And then Briseis inherits an old house from her birth mother and suddenly has the privacy to test herself for the first time. But as Bri starts to magic the house’s rambling grounds back to life she finds she has also inherited generations of secrets. In a hidden garden overgrown with the most deadly poisonous plants on earth a dark legacy lies waiting for her. And Bri’s long-departed ancestors won’t let her rest until she finds it.
Let’s first just mention how unbelievably beautiful this cover is. We all agree? Good.
I didn’t know too much about this book going in, as I wanted to be surprised and I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. It was brilliant.
There is just so much to love about The Poison Heart. It was full of fantastic characters, an engaging story and brilliant magic system.
We follow the character of Briseis, who is left a house by her birth mothers family and with her mums they decide to spend the summer there. I loved the beginning of this book and getting to know Briseis. She really is a wonderful character to follow. She’s funny, kind and I just instantly warmed to her. I also really loved her parents. So much. So, so much.
I also just have to say how much I loved the family Kalynn has written. It’s so wonderful to see a queer family written so beautifully. The dynamics, the love and the joy between Briseis and her parents was one of my favourite things about this book and I think it should be celebrated. I really loved reading it.
I really loved the magic in this book, it was I unlike anything I’ve read before. And it’s great to see something new in YA. I loved that Briseis was still learning about her powers as the reader did, it really helped to form that connection with her. I love how it ties in with her family. It’s just so expansive, but I’ll let you discover all that when you read the book.
Let’s talk about the ending shall we? I knew something was about to go down and I couldn’t figure it out. But let me tell you, I never would’ve figured it out. It was brilliant. It was suspenseful, shocking and heartbreaking. It’s the kind of ending you message your friends about because you need to talk about it. But that’s all I’ll say. No spoilers!!!
So basically I really loved this book and now I desperately want to read book two. This is a fantastic fantasy novel that will have you turning the pages and it’ll only leave you wanting more.
Thank you so much to Bloomsbury YA kids for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out Tomorrow (June29th)
Didn’t April fly by? I can’t believe its over already. It was a strange month for me in many ways and it affected my reading. I read nine books this month and I either absolutely loved them or didn’t like them at all. There was no in between.
It took me a while to read some of the books this month, especially the ones I’ve loved because I didn’t want them to end. And if I haven’t enjoyed them I’ve read them super fast. Does anyone else do this?
So lets talk about the books shall we?
First up was Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer. No. Nope. Just no for me. I didn’t like this one at all. To felt pointless and depressing. It’s supposed to be a thriller but I didn’t find it engaging at all. It was dull. I had no desire to learn about Hummingbirds that much. Also, if I ever read the Silvina again I will cry. Literally cry. Thanks to the publishers for gifting me with a copy of this book. It’s out now.
Up next I read Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joys Goffney and it was absolutely brilliant. It deals with such important themes to wonderfully. I really need all young adult books to be this good. Seriously. This one is out now. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. You can check out my full review here
Thirdly I read Of Women And Salt by Gabriela Garcia. What a book! It’s the kind of book that is so intriguing. The writing is lyrical and brilliant. I was totally enraptured by this book. I just loved it. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now.
(We’re just taking a break here because I had two five star reads in a row and that deserves to be celebrated.)
Then I read Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein. Well the five star reads didn’t last for long. I just didn’t enjoy this one at all. It also didn’t have much depth, and it was just about a love story. If a book is going to be just about a love story, it needs to be good. And this one just wasn’t. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now.
Up next was Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli. Now this is how all YA books should be. It was fun, charming, inclusive, funny and romantic. Becky is one of the best young adult authors around. I loved it. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now. You can check out my full review here
Then I read Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. Well much to my surprise I absolutely loved this book. Full of strong female characters, beautiful story telling and Greek Mythology. It’s really beautifully done. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now. You can check out my full review here
Seventh this month I read Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard. Have I found my favourite new fantasy series? Yes I think I might have. I loved everything about this book. Everything. I need book two now. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out May 4th. You can check out my full review here
Then I read Still Life by Sarah Winman which was absolutely fantastic. It will definitely be one of my favourite books of the year. I loved it. I’ll remember these characters for a long time. Just absolutely brilliant! Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out June 10th.
(Another two five star reads in a row. When does that ever happen?)
Lastly I read Male Tears by Benjamin Myers and I didn’t enjoy this at all. A few of the stories were okay, the rest I didn’t see the point in. Was a big disappointed for me. Maybe the title lead me to believe this was going to be something else, but for me it missed the mark. My favourites were definitely the shorter stories. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now.
So that’s if for me this month. Not as many as March but some fantastic books. Quality over quantity.
Synopsis: A strange darkness is growing in the Ward. Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea. Fate knocks on her door, in the form of a mythical immortal and a lethal assassin, who tell Corayne that she is the last of an ancient lineage – with the power to save the world from destruction. Because a man who would burn kingdoms to the ground is raising an army unlike any seen before, bent on uprooting the foundations of the world. With poison in his heart and a stolen sword in his hand, he’ll break the realm itself to claim it. And only Corayne can stop him.
Ok, I’m starting this review literally minutes after I’ve just finished the book and all I have to say is AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!I’ve really struggled getting into fantasy over the last couple of years, with a few exceptions, but with Realm Breaker I think I may have found a new all time favourite series. Just a quick warning there will be spoilers in this review.I loved everything about this book. Literally everything. I can’t think of one single thing I didn’t enjoy. I mean what’s not to love? It got great characters, epic action, brilliant world building and some page-turning plot twists. Ok lets start with the characters, I love them all. They all own my heart, yes even Erida. Read the book and you’ll know why I’m saying that! The story is told through five perspectives and each one was just as enjoyable as the other. Victoria has written such strong characters, each one so different, that I slowly grew to love them all. Seriously. Even the supporting characters that didn’t get a perspective, I still really loved. They were just all full of personality and they had such great character development. I really mean it, the seven (even Erida) have a place in my heart.I also loved how the characters relationship developed. The pacing of it was really well done. You can feel them slowly becoming a team whilst still being unsure of each other at times and it’s fantastic to read, Victoria strikes the balance really well. And I lived for the banter, especially between Dom and Sorasa. I’m also really excited to see how the friendship will deepen in book two. Ugh, I just love them. Now, this is a SUPER SPOILER, but I kinda ship Erida and Taristan. I know I shouldn’t because they want to hurt my loves, but I do. I know they’re only married to help each other but I can sort of feel a connection building or maybe its Victoria tricking me, either way I’m excited for more. I feel likes there could be more relationships between some of the seven, and I’ve got my ideas of who but I’ll keep them to myself and just be taken along for the ride. And yes, I need Charlon and Garion to reunite and I need that queer love story. That’s all I have to say.I loved the world Victoria has created. It feels expansive but not overwhelming. It’s called ‘Allward’ and it feels like a fresh universe. I really liked how the characters had connections to the some of places and it just made it feel real to me. The characters went to many different places and each place was different and I never got confused. The world is written beautifully. I loved looking at the map to see where the characters were (sad I know but true). It feels cohesive and I’m looking forward to it being explored more in book two. There’s some magic to this book that I really love. The love the whole idea of Spindles and other realms, it’s so exciting (and scary) to see how this will expand in book two. It’s a unique magical world with wizards, elders, spindleblood and I think Victoria has crafted it really well. Expertly well. It’s my favourite fantasy setting for a long time. I think this is a really well paced book in every sense. It’s Like I before with the character development and relationships, its also applies to the world building and magic. There’s so much more it explore. It just felt exciting to read, even when the characters were just travelling I was excited. It full of action, really well written action. It was so cinematic, I could see it so clearly in my head I loved it. It was full of twists and turns, some of them making my jaw hit the floor. I didn’t see them coming and I’m still shocked now. And don’t talk to me about that last page!! How could you end it like that Victoria!! I’m not sure if you could tell but I loved this book. LOVED IT! It’s one of those books that I took my time reading (even though I wanted to devour it) because I was just loving every page and I didn’t want it to end and I know I was going to miss this world and these characters when I was done! So I’m going to need fan art, special editions, merchandise and a tv series (you know its a good idea). I can’t wait to collect it all. I need book two. I need it now. But I guess I’ll just have to wait…Thank you so much to Orion for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out May 4th.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these blog posts, so I figured it’s about time. This is just a fun way to show what I’m reading in real time, as I’m always bit slow in uploading my reviews.
What is WWW Wednesday? WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme where all you have to do is answer three simple questions. Look at me using the word meme! I feel so young!
What are you currently reading?
What have you finished reading recently?
What are you planning to read next?
So let’s start shall we?
What are you currently reading?
I’ve been lucky enough to receive a proof the new Sarah Winman novel Still Life that’s our in June and I couldn’t resist picking it up an longer. I’ve only got 150 pages left and I simply don’t want it to end (although I am going to pick it up as soon as I finish writing this blog post, so I will probably finish it tonight). I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a beautiful story, it’s got beautiful characters. It’s brilliant. It’s out June 10th.
What have you finished reading recently?
I recently finished Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard which is a fantasy book I absolutely loved. I think it’s a brilliant start to a new series that has potential to become my favourite. I loved the characters, the magic, the world. And I love where this story can go. I’m so excited to see more of this world Victoria has created. And yes, I’ve ordered two copies of this book. It’s out May 4th.
What are you reading next?
This is always such a difficult question for me as I never know what to read next. It’s usually dictated by which proof I have to read before it’s release date, but there’s so many fantastic books that I want to read. But I do have a couple of choices.
Male Tears by Benjamin Myers, which is out tomorrow, is kind of tempting me but kind of not. But I might give it a go.
Or I might choose We Run The Tides by Vendela Vida, which is out May 14th. I received this in the post the other day and it’s just tempting me.
So, that’s my reading update. Let me know what you’re reading or if you’re going to read any of these!
Synopsis: As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the terrible bellows of the Minotaur baying for blood from the Labryinth beneath the palace. When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as an offering to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus defeat the monster means betraying her family. Ariadne has heard too many tales of women being punished for the acts of men – she is determined to set her own fate. But will her decision to help Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
There is so much to love about Ariadne from the characters, the story and the beautiful writing. If you’re a fan of Greek Mythology retelling or you know just fantastic books, you’ll love Ariadne.
It usually takes me a while to get into books but as soon as I started reading Ariadne I was totally into the story within the first few pages. It’s immediately captivating as you learn about the characters and this beautiful world. This really is a testament to Jennifer’s writing.
Ariadne is such a wonderful character, who I immediately warmed to and connected with. Also, just sot clarify that I knew nothing of Ariadne’s story before so you don’t need to know, you’ll still enjoy this book. She just feels a very real character. Phaedra is also a wonderful character. And what I really loved about this book is that it really celebrates womanhood and sisterhood. The sisters are surrounded by powerful men and Gods, but its the sisters that power the story, it the sister that the readers will love.
One of my favourite things about this book is Jennifers beautiful writing. It’s so lyrical and stunning. The writing totally captures you and transports you to Ancient Greece. Jennifer weaves a compelling story of love, betrayal (which had me jaw hitting the floor) and taking your destiny into your own hands. As I’m sure you can tell I loved the book and the writing.
Something I really enjoyed while reading this book is that when Ariadne meets different characters in this book, they tell her a story and as the reader you get a story within the story and I just absolutely loved it.
Ariadne is a beautiful read that I couldn’t put down but didn’t want to end. Definitely don’t miss this beautiful book. I’ll look forward to reading whatever Jennifer writes next.
Thanks to Caitlin at Headline for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out April 29th.
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and goal only: stay alive. Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives prison on death’s door, and disrupts all of Kiva’s carefully laid plans. The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal; a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to the only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom. But no one has ever survived.
I’m super excited to be taking part in the social media blast for this book. Make sure you check out all these other posts to see what they have to say.
Let me just state the facts: this is book is brilliant. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book, but that is the whole point of a review so I’m gonna try.
You are so immersed in the story right from the very first page. The setting of the story being set in a prison is so enjoyable and unique. I haven’t read a young adult book like this. And considering you don’t leave the prison for the majority of the book, it never becomes boring or stale. I think thats a sign of a great book.
There’s so many fantastic characters in The Prison Healer and I especially enjoyed Kiva. She’s the main protagonist and she’s really likeable. She carries the story, and has great depth and complexity. There’s also brilliant side characters like Jarden and Tipp, you feel them become a team and its so enjoyable to read. There was also a romance that I was a total sucker for. It was really believable and I wanted more.
There is a lot going on this book but it never becomes messy. Lynette manages to tie it all together brilliantly and the plot never got lost. There’s a trail, theres a rebel queen outside the prison gates stirring trouble in the prison. It just felt like a really layered story. A story that I couldn’t put down and one I didn’t want to end.
Now can we talk about that ending?! Can we? Because you know I need to. It is going to be hard to talk about without giving away any spoilers, but I’m going to try. Let me just say it was epic. EPIC! There was a twist that I did see coming, but I didn’t find that disappointed it was still really interesting. But then. THEN. Those last few pages, that second twist. I didn’t see it coming, my jaw was on the floor y’all.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I think this is a brilliant start to a new young adult series. It’s imaginative, exciting, gripping and epic. I loved it. It was also so much fun to actually crack the code at the end.
All I have left to say is I need book two. I need it now. I better not have to wait long.
Thank you so much to Kate at Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. This one is out now.
March has come and gone. It once again flew by, and it was my last full month being furloughed as restaurants can open again in April if they have outdoor space, so I’m going back to work. Which will mean less reading time, but I’m excited to go back. Who knew I’d miss baking cakes and scones!
I did manage to read eleven books this month. Which I believe is a record for me. I would’ve read more but I got a stomach bug just after my birthday and it slowed me down. But I’m still proud of eleven. Let’s see if I can achieve the same in April!
So lets talk about the books shall we?
First up was Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro. You know, this book just wasn’t for me. I found it dull, and I never wanted to pick it up. Also, the whole point if this book is the friendship between the main characters and I didn’t believe. I felt absolutely no connection between them, so for me the book ultimately failed. But who knows, you might love this one. It’s out now. Thanks to the publishers for my copy.
Then I read Sistersong by Lucy Holland. I absolutely loved this one, much more than I expected to. It was a brilliant historical fiction novel, with great magic and fantastic characters. I flew through it and I’ll kook forward to whatever Lucy writes next. Thank to the publishers for my copy if this book. It’s out now.
Next up I read A Lonely Man by Chris Power. This was a subtly intense thriller that I really enjoyed. It’s detailed, it keeps you guessing as to whether the character is telling the truth. And I loved the ending. The book was so good you wanted it to carry on, but the ending was taught and open. It was fantastic. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now.
Fourth up I read The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne by Jonathan Stroud. This is the beginning of a brilliant new teen series that I think everyone can enjoy. It was action packed, the world was interning and epic and the characters were fantastic to follow. I am looking forward to reading this series. It’s out now. Thanks to the publishers for my copy.
Up next was Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. I absolutely loved this book. From beginning to end. It was intriguing, I loved the main character and I thought the ending was epic. Thanks to the publisher for my copy. It’s out now.
Then I read An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon. There were definitely parts that I liked, and I loved the epilogue but for some reasons, I just couldn’t totally emotionally invest in the book. I really don’t know why. It’s usually kind of book I adore. I found the writing slightly jarring at times, it didn’t quite flow. I wonder if I reread this book if I’d love it. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out now.
Seventh up this month I read In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. What an incredible book. It’s exquisite. This queer nonfiction memoir is a work of art. Carmen writes from her soul. I’m so glad I picked this one up. It blew me away. A new favourite. It’s out now.
Next I read The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni. You know when you’re into a book from the first page. That was this book for me. I loved the concept. I loved the story. Loved the characters and all the twists and turns. And that ending? It can’t leave me waiting like that. This was just how I like my young adult books. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. Out in April.
Then I read Lean, Fall, Stand by Jon McGregor. This one started off so strong. Incredibly strong. It’s intense, it’s exciting, its dangerous and I was loving it. Then there was a shift in the plot, and I was still really enjoying it and I was thinking it was going to be a five star book, but towards the end it just lost it for me. I found myself skimming the pages. It just lost my interest, I could see what the author was trying to do but it didn’t work for me. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out April 13th.
For my ninth book I read Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon. This book just unfortunately wasn’t for me. There was to much going on in the plot, with not enough of it being dealt with in detail. It didn’t care for any of the characters at all. And the writing felt off to me, it felt clunky. Nope, this book wasn’t it for me. Thanks to the publisher for my gifted copy. It’s out April 8th.
Lastly I read Witches Steeped In Gold by Ciannon Smart. This was my third time trying to read this book, I’d put it down twice as I couldn’t get into it, but this time I managed to finish it. For me, it wasn’t worth it. It was long and dense. The first 150 pages were just explaining the complex magic system. I did start to get into it more once we’d passed this but I never felt engaged or attached to the characters. I’m not saying this is a terrible book by any means, and I know many people love it. For me, there’s better fantasy books out there. Thanks to the publishers for my copy. It’s out April 20th.
That was it! That was my reading month. I can’t tell you how much I adored In The Dream House.
Have you read any of these, or do you plan to? Let me know.
I’m very excited to be a part of the Blog Tour The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne by Jonathan Stroud. And I’m very lucky that Jonathan has written a blog post about his experience writing this book.
Jonathan talks about the writing process, drafting, editing and much more and it’s incredibly interesting to read. There’s some great advice here for writers so this is a great read. So, lets go.
Jonathan Stroud Writing The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne
Hello. I’ve recently finished writing my novel, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne. When I get to the end of a big project like this, my office is always festooned with papery debris that’s built up over weeks and months as I wrestled the book into shape. Sooner or later, I’ll summon the energy to roll up my sleeves, fortify myself with a stiff drink, and get rid of a lot of it, before filing the key bits away in the loft. But I haven’t done this for Outlaws yet, which gives me the chance to look here at some of the stages the book went through over the last three years…
1. First Notes
I began thinking about the new project at the start of 2018, a few months after my last Lockwood & Co. book had been published. I knew straight away that I wanted it to be set in a post-apocalyptic future Britain, where events had made the country much more dangerous and strange. I also knew that it would feature a river journey along the Thames, probably with a raft involved, and that there would be bit of a Western vibe. These elements survived to the final book, but other things were very different – for example, at the outset the main character was a middle-aged man, who met a couple of children on a wrecked bus in the wilderness. These pages of early notes show a diagram of one of the fortified ‘Surviving Towns’ and also a sketch of the crashed bus – both these ideas are still in the finished book, three years later.
2. Early Structure
After a couple of months making notes and writing fragmentary scenes, I tried figuring out the book’s structure – you can see the attempt here. It’s always good to do this, because it helps throw up problems, of which, in this case, there were many. My main issue was that the main character (here known as Bob Choi) didn’t work, but I didn’t realise this yet. He rescues a couple of children from a bus (chapter 3), takes them across the wilds, discovers they are being pursued by bad guys (ch 5), and escapes with them along the Thames (ch 7). All these elements make it (in a different form) into the eventual book, as does the climax in some half-submerged ruins in the London Lagoon (ch 17). But Bob Choi would have to go.
3. Still Struggling
Incredibly, though, he was still there eight months later, at the end of 2018, when these particular notes were done. I was having real problems making the book work, and you can see me here still trying to figure out the structure and rhythm of the book – how the plot would string together in a kind of necklace of ‘crises’ and ‘phases’. I was missing the point: the dynamic between my characters wasn’t working, and that’s the engine that ultimately powers a successful book. It took till early 2019, a full year after starting, that Bob Choi was booted out, and Scarlett McCain took over his role as the dangerous but reluctantly compassionate hero. At least in these notes here, I was having fun sketching toothed birds and giant mud-rats, and was profitably employed thinking about the accelerated evolution of the fauna of my future England.
4. Map Sketch
One thing that never altered, through the whole two and a half years of writing, was the idea of the river journey, from source to outflow, down the Thames. Towards the end of the project, when I knew pretty well how the story worked, I drew up this sketch map of the river and the London Lagoon (our London has vanished within it). It mostly follows the real course of the Thames, with a few tweaks and changes, such as the kingdoms (Mercia, Wessex, Anglia) that it passes through, the absence of most towns, and the promotion of a few real towns and villages to a more important status. I always like drawing maps: it has the same effect for me as it does for the reader, and helps anchor my characters’ travels securely in the mind.
5. Note Files
By the time a book like this is finished, I usually have a couple of ring-binders like these, filled with all the notes I made at every stage of the composition. I file them chronologically, so I can look back and check stuff, and also roll my eyes at all the false starts and appalling cul-de-sacs I explored along the way.
I’ve lost track of how many drafts The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne went through, but you can see from this pile that it’s quite a lot. Early on there were two or three ‘unfinished’ drafts, where I got to a certain point, realised that it wasn’t working, and stopped to recalibrate, before starting again. Certain scenes that worked, however, were transposed almost word-for-word between them. There were probably at least four complete drafts after that, inching ever closer to the desired result. At each point I thought I’d cracked it, only for a re-read to show me that I needed to try again. Phew, just looking at this pile makes me feel a bit tired! Forget raft trips down the Thames – writing a novel is an epic journey in itself, but it’s all worth it in the end.
How amazing was that? Thank you so much Jonathan for doing this and for all the great information.
I was also lucky enough to read an early copy of this book, and it’s fantastic. It’s a brilliant start to a new teen series, its action packed, its got great world building and was full of intrigue. My favourite thing were the characters. They were brilliant. I enjoyed Scarlett & Browne so much. They made me laugh out loud, and I loved the connection Jonathan creates between them. I really believed their friendship. Now I’ve got to wait for book two, that I am definitely looking forward to.
Thanks again to Jonathan and make sure you check out all the other bloggers taking part. You can even read the first two chapters of this book. The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne is out April 1st.