The Dance of the Serpents

The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel

5/5 stars!

Ah, another incredible addition to the Frey & McGray Series. The Dance of the Serpents is a delayed follow-up of the events from the second book in the series, A Fever of the Blood. If you’re new around here you can check out my reviews of the previous books here, however I will give a brief overview of how this book relates back to the second.

A Fever of the Blood deals with the Lancashire witches and ends with McGray killing two of those witches who just so happen to be Queen Victoria’s go-to-guys for contacting her late husband. The Dance of the Serpents commences with the prime minister informing the detective duo of this and the Queen’s desire to see them both dead. The calculating prime minister comes up with an ultimatum for them though. He offers them full resources and a few of his chaperoning goons to accompany them in hopes that they can find some of the scattered members of the witch coven; who could potentially fulfil the Queen’s desires in the occult. This quest is no doubt Frey & McGray’s most dangerous yet, with both various witches trying to kill them along the way as well as the Prime minister’s goons sabotaging them at every turn.

Note: spoilers from here on out, proceed with caution.

Overall this book is a wonderful addition to the series. It has everything you would want to a Frey & McGray tale; clever and tense plot twists, complex characters and an intriguing storyline to suck you in. I will say that given how it relates back to the second book, I doubt very much that it could standalone and wouldn’t recommend it to someone without them having experienced A Fever of the Blood.

The storyline was impeccable. I must admit reading Oscar de Muriel’s previous works have trained my eye to scrutinise every twist and turn of his tales, scanning for any clues as to whose responsible but this book just completely side-swipped me. It was intricate and beautifully curated – Muriel truly left nothing to chance.

How could you do this? This book is a relic! It was already ancient when Henry VIII chose his first trollop!

Frey

Frey & McGray make for a hilarious duo. Ever witty, sarcastic and just all-round perfectly contrasted to one another and yet completely in-sync at the same time. The balance between the two characters is just spot on. Every book I feel like I notice shifts in their dynamic and how they’ve become more in tune with one another. Not just them but also their households have this terrific dynamic which is just amazing to behold.

Caroline Aldglass makes a stunning return. She is a key part of the story but also a great addition to the duo. She has such knowledge and wit, challenging the detective duo whilst also assisting them and just all round kicking things up a notch by being a total badass b!tch. There were moments of tension between her and Frey, like a mild, victorian version of Rachel and Ross from the Friends. Ultimately, I loved her in this book and would love to see her become a permanent character in future books.

Other characters I really appreciated were the return of some familiar witches such as Nettle and Oakley. I found it really interesting having the followup with them and seeing how their lives turned out after the chaos at the end of A Fever of the Blood. The prime minister, Lord Salisbury and his goons were the epitome of high-up, elite tw@ts that you really want to opportunity to smack in the gob. I mean, Boss was so irritating to me. I yearned to see him get killed in the most violent of ways. The depiction of Queen Victoria was so humorous to me. Just the whole bratty vibe was spot on for me.

Overall this book was just brilliant. Almost everything was spot on for me… BUT, yes there’s a but. I have a slight issue with the ending. Usually Frey mentions the reports and papers they’ll have to file following the events, and the various inquests, etc but this had none of that. Instead the book comes to a close as Frey has retreated to his Gloucestershire estate to recover from the hectic events. McGray visits him saying he guessed Frey wouldn’t be returning, to which Frey replies no ***GASP/HORROR/SHOCK/BETRAYAL… never ending plethora of mixed emotions***. McGray, touchingly, seemed dejected and I joined him in the mutual feeling. The prospect of no more additions and therefore, no more adventures for the duo is quite a bleak one for me although I am hoping it’s Muriel’s cunning plan to make Frey return with gusto to a sarcastic McGray saying “thought we got rid of ye, dandy”. In my mind that’s how I want things to unravel but if not, I’ll be quite happy with just the promise of more to come. (…as I’m about to schedule this post, Oscar de Muriel has actually made an announcement about the next addition to the series. I won’t go into it but I’ll just leave a lil link here for you).

Now I’ve never actually published my fave of the series in order, despite having discussed it at great length with my unwilling boyfriend; but I think I want to do that here (favourite-least favourite).

  1. Loch of the Dead
  2. The Dance of the Serpents
  3. The Strings of Murder
  4. The Darker Arts
  5. A Fever of the Blood
  6. A Mask of Shadows

I, as you can probably tell, love this series of books. Let me know what you think of them, I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

The Mistresses of Cliveden & Other Great Historic Reads

I have always felt drawn to those strong women in history deemed scandalous but merely trailblazing the way for others to follow. I don’t know what that says about me or my upbringing but I have just always been fascinated by them. Maybe it’s the feminist within me that finds reading about these women empowering for the rest of us or maybe their stories are just interesting in of themselves. Either way, I thought I’d share with you a few thoughts on some of my recents reads about a few books and the awe-inspiring women they revolve around.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Often dubbed the ‘it’ girl of the eighteenth century, this beautiful book revolves around Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer (yes, she is an ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer), she married the fifth Duke of Devonshire in 1774. Not only was she considered the queen of the fashionable elite and aristocratic society, but she constantly exuded an aura of glamour which drew the press and public to her. She was also best buds with the Prince of Wales, closely acquainted with Marie Antoinette and an important supporter of the Whig party. For all the adoration she received in her public life, it didn’t mirror that of her life behind closed doors. The book takes you through the hardship experienced in her marriage as well as her obsession with gambling leading her into an overwhelming amount of debt and disgrace. It also details her quest for love along with the difficulties and exile that came with that.

‘Mesmirising’, as Antonia Frazer describes this gorgeous book, it takes you through Georgiana’s opulent and glamorous public life as well as her private life full of suffering. It follows the Duchesses life while also touching on society at the time such as civil unrest and royalty of the time. I have the illustrated edition which is full of beautiful pictures of the people she knew and socialised with, the places she lived or visited and objects such as the remnants of her fashionable outfits, accessories, etc. Quite apart from this, the wiring itself is informative and incredibly detailed whilst remaining readable and easy to understand. All too often I pick up historical reads that lose me within the first few pages due to their confusing lingo and stern, scholarly tone. Foreman’s writing couldn’t be further than this. It is appealing with a warm tone, illustrating her intrigue and passion to display Georgiana’s life with the attention that it deserves.

What would Boudicca do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates

As the back cover states, this book ‘will make you fired-up and ready for anything’. Showcasing fifty women from all eras and areas in the world, this book shows some fiercely, trailblazing women and the incredibly inspiring things they achieved. It includes women such as Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo, Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Marie Stopes, Josephine Baker and Catherine the Great. Accompanied by illustrations by Bijou Karman, it provides bitesize chunks about each woman. I wouldn’t say its the read for you if you want an in-depth, detailed account of each woman, as they only give a short, stream-lined account for each woman. Having said that, it is still a great and easy read.

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue , Natalie Livingstone

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time but never actually took the plunge until now. As a total bookworm, the majority of my Christmas and birthday presents are books -this being one of them. After reading Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman and Marie Antionette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I have been intrigued by all the historical scandal that rooted from such ladies. The Mistresses of Cliveden was the perfect read to cater to my curiosity on the subject.

The book is sectioned into five parts -a part dedicated to each of the mistresses at the forefront of Cliveden’s history. Those women are Anna Maria Brudnell, Elizabeth Villiers, Augusta Princess of Wales, Harriet Duchess of Sutherland, and Nancy Astor. While all of the sections are fascinating, I personally found the first two women to be the most interesting, intriguing, and scandalous. I think what is most interesting is how simple gatherings and parties held at Cliveden played such a role in British politics and society at the time. Throughout it’s history, each mistress of the stately home held such an influence in her society: whether it be through her beauty and charm, personality or politics, each woman contributed to the English society in one way or another. It adds praise to the age old saying of its not what you know but who you know.

I love the fact that the narrative revolves around the women of a place. It gives the illusion that we are privy to information and events that Cliveden’s walls would have been too. The idea that those walls have stood the test of time and witnessed all these events and people in English history.

While it is a chunky book, I think the structure of it being sectioned into five parts (which also have their own smaller chapters within) make it easier to digest. I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in history. It is also one hell of a read if you’re a feminist -these women really paved a way for us. Even if you’re not into history, I’d say it’s an easy entry into the more heavier historical non-fiction.

If you love historic reads or even want to try something new then I’d definitely recommend all three of these reads. I have so many more I want to recommend too but I think I’ll hold off and keep this post at those three for now.

Stay safe – Cheerio for now!

Book Review: Rapture (Bioshock)

Rapture (Bioshock), John Shirley

Where to begin.

So, this book is a prequel to the first two Bioshock games. It gives you a wealth of knowledge about the characters and what led them to Rapture which, once you have read these things, gives you a whole new depth of backstory and layer to enrich the games.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who has played the games however, I think even people who haven’t or have no knowledge of the games plot would also really enjoy this book.

Would you kindly?

In a post-war world, everyone seeks to rebuild a life they once had – one man has a vision, Andrew Ryan. He manifests an underwater utopian society free from government, censorship and moral restrictions on science; for both men and women to build a better life away from the corruption above the surface. Using his wealth, he creates this shinning city beneath the sea; a world of autonomy and liberty . But of course, as all worlds and civilisations have, there are rules and a manner of conduct that Andrew expects to be followed – what could go wrong?

The plot slowly turns sour with an idyllic world slowly transforming into a living nightmare. With autonomy and liberty, as well as the lack of government and restrictions on science, people begin to do as they like. Hidden dreams and fantasies start to take shape and with the natural greed of mankind, everyone wants it for themselves.

The structure of flits from dates and places, following numerous characters and showing their opinions of, and paths to, Rapture. The story ends just as the Bioshock game begins, making sure not to overlap and become boring or repetitive.

I found that the text posed a lot more philosophical questions for me than the game, specifically the idea of ‘one bad apple’ and the corruption of mankind being inevitable wherever peace tries to prevail.

Although I say that anyone would enjoy this book, even those who haven’t played the games, I will say that while it is true to the games, I do also think it flushes out a lot of the world and story that isn’t explored in the games. I also wonder how I would have felt reading it without knowledge, or experience, of the games. Would I be able to picture the splicers? Would I be able to keep up with the multiple characters or envisage Rapture in all its’ glory? I’m not so sure.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it.

Cheerio for now.