Blog Tour: Bright Steel

Bright Steel blog tour graphic

I’m thrilled that today is my stop on the blog tour for Bright Steel, the last book in the Masters & Mages trilogy by Miles Cameron. I reviewed the first book in the series here, and hopefully my review of Dark Forge, the second book in the series, will have been posted by the time you’re reading this. I have, with a few caveats, really enjoyed reading this series, and I’m actually feeling quite sad to say goodbye to Aranthur and co!

bright steel

Every war come down to the flash of bright steel.

Even when the air is full of magic . . .

Aranthur and his friends have come together across different continents and realms with one purpose: to strike back against the forces which have torn a hole in the heavens and threaten to tear the world beneath them apart as well.

With time running short, and treason at home, there are battles to be fought on the field, in the magical arena, and in the ever-deadly realm of politics, and they cannot fail anywhere or everything will fall. Victory will require enemies to trust one another, old foes to fight together, spies to reveal the truth and steadfast allies to betray long-corrupt rulers.

Is Aranthur, a twenty-year-old student, really the master strategist to bring it all together?And can he and his friends build enough trust to overcome aeons of lies when their plans inevitably fall to pieces?

Do they even know, for sure, who the enemy is . . . ?

It is, I think, going to be very difficult to review Bright Steel without spoiling the first two books in the series. As is the nature of series, the stories follow on, and I can’t really explain this one if you don’t know what came before. I will, however, say that this is the best of the series. It’s exciting and breath-taking, and you know the characters well enough to properly care about what happens. Aranthur’s utter despair at what war is making of him is as heartbreaking as if Cameron had decided to kill the character. I’ve watched Aranthur grow from a naive farm boy to a hardened soldier and battlemage, and it hurts to see him hurting (and boy does Cameron put him through the mill in this book!). It’s not just Aranthur of course, but Dahlia, Sasan, Drako and Inoques, and Aranthur’s loyal band of soldiers under his command. Some of them we know more than others, but we know enough to worry about them.

I did find some of the book confusing, as I did with the previous two. I think it must be something about Cameron’s writing style that doesn’t quite mesh with my brain, because I sometimes feel like I’m being asked to make leaps of logic that there’s no evidence for. It’s also, purposely I think, choppy. While this can be a bit frustrating, I think it also emphasises how Aranthur is feeling and how his brain works. Those leaps of logic that I struggle with? They’re how Aranthur keeps going, and how he makes his plans, some of which are more successful than others, and so I’m more at peace with the style than I was when I read and reviewed Cold Iron.

The world-building is less obvious in Bright Steel than the previous two books. They’ve already done all the heavy lifting, and so Bright Steel is able to concentrate more purely on the story. However, the descriptions are as lush as ever, and Aranthur’s continued development of his magic as he gains knowledge from his travels and merges different styles of magic makes perfect sense. I loved the period we spend in the Emperor’s palace, especially all the polictical machinations, and I also really liked his realisation of exactly why the Empire has its rules for magic, and the consequences his work could have in the future. It felt like something the story had been building to and not something thrown in as an afterthought. The other thing I really liked was Aranthur’s sword. I can’t tell you why without spoiling both Dark Forge and Bright Steel, but I loved it.

I would have liked a bit more information at the end about what happened next, but I suspect Cameron is saving that for his next series. This might be the last book in a trilogy, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a new trilogy a bit further down the line with new characters and cameos from our favourites. If such a thing came to exist, I’d definitely be picking it up!

Bright Steel is a fantastic book, full of adventure (although with more than a smattering of gore). It ties up almost all of the loose ends of the trilogy, and has some great callbacks to events in the first book. It’s a fitting end to the Masters & Mages series and I’m very glad I got to know Aranthur and his friends.


Bright Steel is out on 22 August. Many thanks to Waseem and Stevie at Gollancz for the gifted copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review. 

YALC 2019

The UKYA Discord Bloggers group

So, YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) is over for another year. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I was finding it difficult to summon up any enthusiasm in the weeks leading up to the event. I’d found last year’s very frustrating and as the forecast temperature kept rising and rising, I was getting more and more anxious that the entire weekend was going to be a disaster. Fortunately, once I finished work for a two week break, I felt much more positive and in the end I really enjoyed myself.

Partly this was because I actually took my own advice this year. I stayed hydrated and fed, I only took eight books for signing, which were spread over the weekend, and I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do and see. It helped that I didn’t want to see most of the really high profile authors and that I purposely did most of my book buying/acquiring on Friday. I’m pretty certain that by the time I left Olympia on Saturday, I’d seen more panels this year than I did in the last two years combined, and I still had another day to go!

The other things that helped were the VQ (virtual queue) system and the publishers’ move to raffles for proofs. Neither of these things were across the board, and the VQ system in particular was flawed because it was announced so close to opening, but it was better. There are a couple of publishers who need to rethink their strategies however. I was lucky enough to be there early enough on the Friday to get the proofs I wanted of Girls of Storm and Shadow, The Beautiful *and* Infinity Son, but neither of the systems used for those proofs was fair and I’ve got to admit that I do feel a bit guilty for benefiting from them.

My bookmark!

So what did I actually do at YALC? Well, I bought a lot of books, obviously, but on Friday I went to Literary Galaxy‘s bookmark making workshop, which I loved, followed by the UKYA Blogger Award workshop on b/vlogging tips and the It’s a #life panel. I then got my books signed by Tom Pollock, Yasmin Rahman and Karen Gregory. I’ve met Tom and Karen a few times now and they are two of the loveliest people you could ever meet, and Yasmin was also delightful. I loved chatting to all of them about their books! I wish I’d gone to Akemi Dawn Bowman’s workshop, Self-care is a superpower, but alas I did not. I did make it to the UKYA Blogger Awards on Friday evening though, and was delighted to see friends win. Congratulations to everyone nominated, because you’re all brilliant!

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Friday’s book haul

Saturday was not the best day for me, as I ended up having to leave early, and I missed one of my most anticipated signings, and a panel I really wanted to attend as a result. But these things happen, and I still got to see two amazing panels – Mystical YA and Celebrate every body (if you ever get the chance to see Dhonielle Clayton speaking, do grab the opportunity with both hands, because she’s brilliant). I also got my copy of The Paper & Hearts Society signed by Lucy Powrie, but I was about to pass out at the time, so it wasn’t the best of circumstances, and definitely not the way I wanted to meet someone I’ve been chatting to online for a while now!

The Celebrate every body panel (L-R, Juno Dawson, Laura Bates, Dhonielle Clayton, Moira Fowley-Doyle and Bethany Rutter)

I also ventured down into LFCC on Saturday, which was something I utterly failed to do last year, and it was a nice break, even though the heat was much worse down there. I did find my favourite geeky jewellery makers, but I was good and I only bought one necklace. LFCC is too busy for me though, and I admire the people who spend their entire convention there, because I quickly got very frustrated and wanted to return to YALC!

The view into the LFCC merch hall

My original plan for Sunday was to have a nice, leisurely start to the day – until I remembered I needed a VQ ticket for Natasha Ngan and realised I needed to be as early as possible. Fortunately I was successful, and managed to get a really early number, which made my afternoon a lot easier. I also got to three panels – New voices in YA fantasyMaster your own journey and Monsters and their makers, which was one of my favourite panels. I also did something I’ve never done before at YALC, and went out for my lunch and it was great! Fresh air and a bit of a break did me the world of good, and I need to remember to try it next year too.

The Monsters and their makers panel

Sunday, of course, is the day that the publishers realise they don’t want to take all their stock away again, so sell it off. I took advantage of this and spent much more than I planned to. But it doesn’t count if it’s books, right?

The complete haul. There’s no such thing as too many books, right?

The best thing about YALC though, is getting to see all my friends and people I’ve only chatted to online. I met new people in the entrance queue, and others in the signing queues. It’s always so lovely to see everyone, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes here and there and it’s definitely the best part of the weekend! I had such a good time this year, even though I absolutely wasn’t expecting to. I only planned to meet eight authors and I was worried I wouldn’t be interested in the panels because I didn’t know the people on them. But it was actually nice to not feel pressured to see something because of the authors involved, and actually, even though I didn’t plan to meet them, there were still a lot of my faves there and it’s always lovely to see people like Melinda Salisbury and David Owen on panels.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to go next year. I’m leaning towards yes, but we’ll see how I feel nearer the time. YALC still needs to make improvements, and some of the attendees need to learn how to behave decently, but I’m always hopeful these things will change. We’ll see how it goes.

If you want to read about other experiences at this year’s YALC, check out the links below. All the posts are great, but I absolutely recommend Jenn’s post about the accessibility problems.

YALC 2019 – Let’s talk about accessibility (

The ups and downs of YALC 2019 (Finding The Plot of My Life)

My YALC 2019 experience (The Little Contemporary Corner)

My YALC experience – part 1 (The Tsundoku Chronicles) and part 2

YALC and LFCC 2019 Part One (Writing With Wolves)

YALC 2019, the event from the perspective of a book blogger (

Let me know if you’ve written your own post on YALC, and I’ll add it to the list!

And, because it has to be done, the obligatory (blurry) Jason Momoa photo:


Book Review: Dark Forge

So I was sent Dark Forge rather a long time ago (I think at least six months), but it’s a tall book and as so often happens with tall books, it ended up at the bottom of a book pile. The only reason I got around to reading it was because I joined the blog tour for the third book in the series, Bright Steel (keep an eye out for my post on the 20th August!), and thought I should probably get myself up to date! I’m actually quite glad I left it, because being able to go from Dark Forge straight into Bright Steel was definitely better than having to wait six months, but I apologise to Gollancz, who gifted me the copy, for the long delay!

dark forge

Only fools think war is simple.
Or glorious.

Some are warriors, some captains; others tend to the fallen or feed the living.

But on the magic-drenched battlefield, information is the lifeblood of victory, and Aranthur is about to discover that carrying messages, scouting the enemy, keeping his nerve, and passing on orders is more dangerous, and more essential, then an inexperienced soldier could imagine . . . especially when everything starts to go wrong.

Battle has been joined – on the field, in the magical sphere, and in the ever-shifting political arena . . .

Dark Forge is the sequel to Cold Iron (which I reviewed here), but for me it represents a  leap in quality from its predecessor. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Cold Iron, but I did have some problems with it, and although some of those issues are still present, I found that I was much more involved with the story, and it just pulled me along. If you’re not a fan of written battles (and I’m not), Dark Forge is a little slow to start – there’s a lot of military speak that meant very little to me – but I got used to it, and it wasn’t long before Aranthur, our main character, and his friends were getting themselves into trouble trying to fix magical booby-traps. Once we moved past the battle scenes, I found it a much quicker read, and I raced through it in the equivalent of a few hours.

We meet some new characters in Dark Forge, and I loved them all, but especially Inoques, the captain of the ship Aranthur is granted as part of a mission. She’s hiding some big secrets, but I found myself very definitely of the same opinion as Aranthur – the secrets didn’t really matter. And although this isn’t a review of Bright Steel, I did love seeing her develop over the two books, as her relationship with Aranthur changes her.

I’m still not a huge fan of the jumpy writing style, but the more I read, the more I decided it was representative of Aranthur himself and I was therefore more inclined to let it go. It’s still a little bit confusing, but again, it was something I got used to, and in the end it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.

I also have to say that Dark Forge jumps right into the plot from the start, and if it’s been a while since you read Cold Iron, you’re probably not going to remember who everyone is. Miles Cameron doesn’t really make any allowance for this in his writing, and although it slowly came back to me, it did take a while! There’s still good character development of all the secondary principles, so it wasn’t a huge problem and I just enjoyed getting to know everyone again.

I liked Dark Forge a lot, and I would definitely recommend picking it up, even if you weren’t a huge fan of Cold Iron. It takes the threads laid in the first book and runs with them, weaving them into a great story with very high stakes. You do need to read Cold Iron first though, because Dark Forge won’t make sense without it.


Dark Forge is out now in paperback. Thanks to Stevie at Gollancz for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review!


Blog Tour: Sanctuary


Today is my stop on the Sanctuary blog tour. Sanctuary is the first adult novel by V V James (who has written YA as Vic James), and I jumped at the chance to be sent a gifted copy so I could read it early. Described as Big Little Lies meets The CraftSanctuary is a story of prejudice and secrets in an America where witchcraft is known and (mostly) openly practised.

Content warning for the book: rape, sexual assault of minors

sanctuary cover

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching.

I really, really enjoyed Sanctuary. I wasn’t sure if I would or not, given that its focus isn’t really on the fantasy elements, but I raced through all 450 pages in a few hours and found myself unable to put it down. It’s a very timely book, inspired to some extent by the Me Too movement, but also using the town’s prejudice against witchcraft to examine other forms of prejudice, the consequences of blind faith and scapegoating.

Sanctuary starts with four women toasting their children’s graduation from high school. Sarah is the town’s witch and she’s tolerated more than loved, but that doesn’t stop everyone from coming to her when they need help with, say, a pesky gambling addiction, or when they’ve drunk too much the night before and need a hangover cure. Everyone has their secrets in Sanctuary, and Sarah knows most of them. The other three women are her coven and her closest friends, bound together by something that happened six years earlier. They’re not witches themselves, but they can lend their energies to Sarah to make her magic more effective. Their children are all around the same age, and have grown up together, but they no longer get on, although three of them are at the graduation party in a house across town. James manages to get a lot of information across in a very short time at the beginning of Sanctuary, without it ever feeling like an info dump. The gaps are filled in throughout the book, but the first two chapters set the scene very effectively, and made me want to know more about this small American town.

It must be said that none of the town characters are particularly likeable, even Sarah, who’s probably the best of them, and who we’re clearly meant to empathise with, but I like that in a book. Nobody’s perfect, and it’s good to see the flaws alongside the good because it makes the characters more relatable. Having three main point of view characters worked well for this too – Sarah, Abigail (the mother of the dead boy) and Maggie, the detective sent to Sanctuary to investigate the case. Hearing and seeing Abigail’s grief directly from her makes her actions understandable, at least at first. She’s utterly broken by what’s happened, and it’s natural that she’s looking for someone to blame. Would I go as far as she does in her quest for answers and revenge? I’d like to think not, but who knows how I might react when placed in that situation and handed the perfect scapegoat. I’d also like to mention how despicable her husband is, in oh so many ways. I won’t go into details so as not to spoil you all, but my god, he might be the second most loathsome character in the book.

My favourite character, though, was Maggie. The outsider brought in because Daniel’s death has to be investigated at a state level, Maggie is our way into the town. Seeing it from an outsider’s point of view is so different to the way its residents see it, and she quickly realises there’s more going on here than an accidental death, whatever everyone else might think. She’s also very much treated like an outsider, despite having previously been posted in Sanctuary. The police chief doesn’t like her much right from the get-go, but he likes her even less when she refuses to tie up the case quickly, and his officers actively hinder her investigation. No-one else in the town wants to talk to her either. It’s clear that Sanctuary is a town that looks after their own – if they fit in of course.

Possibly the thing I loved most about Sanctuary was the way James tied in witchcraft and its acceptance (or not) in a plausible way. The persecutions of the 17th century still happened, the Salem witch trials still took place, but in this reality, witches used their magic to help America gain independence and began a (very heavily legislated) journey to rehabilitation and acceptance. The fear’s still there though, underlying most people’s surface tolerance of witches, and this becomes really obvious, really quickly in Sanctuary. Daniel Whitman was not a good person. He was a rapist and sexual abuser. But nobody in the town of Sanctuary wants to believe that of their star football player, even if there’s video evidence. So they blame the witch’s daughter, because everyone knows witches are slutty. And because his death doesn’t make sense, well, that’s probably her fault too. And if it’s not her fault, it must be her mother, because everyone knows what witches can do. And if she can do that, well, maybe she’s responsible for those kids getting ill and on it goes, fueled by the media and people in power who should know better. It was all so familiar too, highlighting the fact that while it might not be witches who suffer in our reality, this happens all day every day. The speed with which the town turns on Sarah and Harper, two women who have lived all their lives in Sanctuary, who are friends with the other townsfolk, whose parents and grandparents also lived all their lives there, is, frankly, terrifying.

Sanctuary is a really interesting read. The town and its residents are vividly evoked, and nothing that happened felt out of place or unrealistic within the story. It really felt like I was there, watching events unfold and not sat in my living room merely reading about them!. The use of transcripts and newspaper reports really added to this and I felt a real sense of trepidation about what was to come. As I said at the top, I found myself unable to put the book down, and if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!


Sanctuary is out now. Many thanks to Gollancz for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review!


Ode To A Book Blogger

Apologies in advance for this – just something silly I came up with earlier and couldn’t resist posting!

Dear self


Don’t request any more books

Or buy them


You know you don’t have any room for them

Or time to read them

And you’re months behind on your reviews.

I know you love them

And you just got approved for that new book

By your favourite author

But how about

You just


And then maybe

You can catch up

On all the books you own

But haven’t read yet.


Let me know what you think!