Tag Archive | The White Queen

The Black Prince:Part 1 & 2 by PJ Fox

It is only a few months ago since I read, and loved, The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen by PJ Fox but I feel like I have been waiting forever for the final two books in this amazing tetralogy, The Black Prince: Part One and The Black Prince: Part Two. I got a tantalising taster when I read the first seven chapters a month or so ago and it made me all the more desperate to see where Fox would take her two main protagonists, Isla and Tristan. Yet, I quickly realised that although Isla and Tristan are still the main protagonists, in these final two books, Fox gives equal, if not more narrative to other characters who are as worthy of the page space as Isla and Tristan.

The Black Prince Part One and Two follows on from Isla’s marriage, and sacrifice, to Tristan, as battles are ensuing across the lands to try and overthrow the King, led by Maeve, Asher’s mother. When Tristan acknowledges that he is Asher’s father, and Isla adopts Asher as her son, he becomes a pawn in a vicious battle between the warring sides. As Hart becomes an integral part of Tristan’s fighting force, he tries to battle his own demons as he finds love and great success in his own right. However, there are enemies hidden in all manner of places and some closer than they think, and there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns throughout the two books.

What I loved about this tetralogy is that Fox packs in so much information and so many characters, who could easily be main protagonists in their own right, yet I was never lost as to what was happening. Fox doesn’t skimp on the descriptive parts of the narrative, but neither does she overload you; the ratio for action and description is perfect. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews of Fox’s works, her talent for creating flawed, yet brilliant characters is amazing. She perfectly balances her main characters and surrounds them with a few extreme characters, such as Rowena and Rudolph to create a exquisite narrative that gives so much, yet doesn’t confuse the reader. The narrative is clever enough to keep the reader guessing as to who is friend or foe, but is clear enough to at least arouse suspicion in various parties.

As a reader, you can easily place yourself in the environment that Fox outlines. Her ability to paint a picture with words is truly a wonder to behold, whether it be the grandeur of Caer Addanc or the gross camping site of the warring troops. Fox uses her historical knowledge to give her descriptions authenticity and to give the reader a true indication of the medieval landscape.

However, it is her characters that make these books as fantastic as they are. Despite Tristan’s dark nature and demonic rituals, he is a very alluring character and, as a woman who loves the idea of a chivalrous man looking after the woman he loves fiercely, I absolutely fell for Tristan. His all-powerful persona allows him stand tall above and beyond the other characters in the book and a reader could forgive him anything. (The claws would be an issue though, as I’ve mentioned before! No man should have nails longer than mine!) I loved Isla too, and she is such a formidable character. She is a strong woman who has embraced her life with Tristan and as a mother to Asher and is not often afraid to speak her mind in defence of those that she loves. Her flaws are those that most people can relate to; she worries that she isn’t enough for Tristan, and that she is somehow to blame for her family’s nasty traits. However, the way Fox brings Tristan and Isla together and entwines them to become one entity leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that these two characters were made for each other. The reader can also see that her concerns about her family are completely unfounded and they are just nasty pieces of work. The fact that Isla feels these things, however, makes her a particularly agreeable character who the reader champions throughout the novels.

Hart comes into his own in these two books. Whilst I loved his character in the first two books, it is in the two The Black Prince books where Hart is given a leading role. He is another perfect example of a character that is quite gross in many ways, yet the reader is left more than willing to ignore his baser features to appreciate what a wonderful character he is. Partnering him with Callas initially, they are a formidable duo who work together with a fantastic synchronicity. We are then introduced to Arvid, a tribesman with a bluntness that insults and amuses in equal measure, who becomes Hart’s right hand man. He is a loyal friend and provides much amusement to those who he isn’t insulting. Hart’s relationship with Lissa is beautifully depicted by Fox as both characters have their own issues but ultimately are drawn together and like Isla and Tristan, they rely totally on what their respective partners can give them, despite being able to hold their own in whatever situation presents itself to them.

Asher is also more prominent in these books, in fact, plays a very important part in the plot of these two novels.  Again, he is wonderfully developed by Fox, in terms of his expectations, dreams and the fact that he is only still a young boy who idolises those close to him but still can’t help but wonder how he has found himself in the position he is in. He emulates Tristan to some extent but his youthful worries and uncertainties give Asher more depth as a character and I found myself mentally shouting at him to watch his back and hoping he didn’t get swayed by his insecurities.

I could quite easily discuss each character at length and tell you how well written they are but I fear I would give far too much away and I would like to strongly encourage people to read these books rather than feel they didn’t need to because I’ve divulged too much here. However, I must mention Rowena, Isla’s sister, who has gone from being a vain little princess character in book one to a downright evil, vindictive, witch in these two books. She has been so well developed over the course of the four books that she never ceases to surprise with some of her actions and responses. Ultimately she keeps testing Isla’s loyalty to her to the limit and while Isla never seems to quite sever ties with her, I often wished she would! Rowena’s character is multi-functional in these books and her purpose is ever changing, keeping the reader amused and appalled in equal measure.

I can honestly say that this has been one of the best series of books I have ever read. In a very short period of time, PJ Fox has become one of my favourite writers and I fully intend to read her back catalogue, as well as her regular updates to her Wattpad book, Book of Shadows. I have been telling everyone who listens that they should read this series and will continue to do so, as I think that this series captures the essence of the traditional classic novel, but bypasses the restrictions of what was deemed appropriate to give the novels a modernity that enhances the classic style. I have nothing at all bad to say about this series other than to say that I’m gutted that the experience is over. In the Afterword to The Black Prince:Part 2, Fox poses some questions about what happens next and she says she is leaving it for the reader to decide. That’s not to say that Fox doesn’t tie the story off well. She does, but there is definitely scope for more. I would be the first to read any follow up to Isla and Tristan’s story and given their predilections, I bet a whole host of stories could be written based on them. Also, to anyone in the film industry, these books would make an epic film. It would never be as good as the books, but then again, they never are!

The Prince’s Slave by PJ Fox

It wasn’t that long ago that I made PJ Fox’s The Demon of Darkling Reach my September Book of the Month. Since reading, and loving, this book, as well as it’s follow up, The White QueenThe Prince’s Slave trilogy has been on my reading list. The time had come for me to read it and I started it with a little trepidation. I wanted to be blown away by it, as I was with the first two books in The Black Prince trilogy. I’ve been in this position before. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a big Stephanie Plum fan (Janet Evanovich) so I was looking forward to reading Metro Girl when that came out and I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I expected to. In the shadow of a series I adored, Metro Girl didn’t come close. I was a little worried that after enjoying The Black Prince trilogy so much, I wouldn’t enjoy The Prince’s Slave.

The Prince’s Slave is a modern re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. The main protagonist is Belle, a confused college student, who attends a college in Dresden in the hope that she might find the answer there to what she wants to do with her future. She has been a keen ballet dancer until an injury dashes her hopes of a future career in dancing, but she suspects that this wasn’t her calling anyway. Determined to work hard and get a decent job so that she does not follow in the footsteps of her neglectful mother and her alcoholic father, we join Belle in a nightclub in Prague, having taken her homework with her on a night out that she didn’t want to attend, as she is neglected by her friends. She sees Ash, an intriguing, smart-looking but very intimidating man, staring at her, and when she is presented with an opportunity to speak to him, she uncharacteristically gets defensive towards him. She thinks that is the last she has seen of him until she is tricked into a dreadful situation that puts her in grave danger. Ash saves the day, or ruins her life, depending on how it is perceived, and we are shown how Belle reacts to Ash’s actions as her life changes beyond recognition.

I was overjoyed to find that I had nothing to worry about and was not about to have a Stephanie Plum crisis. I loved this trilogy from the first page to the last. As with The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen, The Prince’s Slave is a really intelligent narrative that challenges pre-conceived ideas at every turn, and it is all the more refreshing for it. While this trilogy is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, Fox continually challenges the ideology of fairy tales throughout, including the Disney versions, arguing against their perceived image of what true love should be. Not only does she challenge these accepted notions, she urges the reader to consider the possibility that perhaps the assumptions that are generally held about how a relationship might develop is not the only way. While Belle initially is abhorred by Ash, his acceptance and adoration of her just as she is makes her question whether she can overcome her anger and distress at the way in which they have been brought together; she is his slave as she understands the situation, and also this is how Ash understands it to an extent. However, both characters are experiencing new facets of their sense of self. Self-assured Ash realises that Belle is not, and never will be, a true submissive, and Belle is challenged and intrigued by the world that Ash is introducing her too.

In reality, Ash doesn’t want to change Belle beyond expanding her sexual horizons. He treats her differently to his “other girls” by allowing her to share his bed and by giving her all she desires. He introduces Belle to the sexual lifestyle of a dominant/submissive relationship and she is appalled, yet fascinated by her body’s reaction to Ash’s sexual approach. Belle is fighting against being told by everyone in her life that she should act to a rule book of conformity and Ash is introducing her to sexual experiences that confuse yet arouse, further encouraging her that conforming is not necessarily what makes a person happy. There are some highly erotic scenes throughout the trilogy but they are not gratuitous, and each serves a purpose of highlighting Belle’s transformation of no longer being the wallflower but being the centre of Ash’s attention. Ultimately, as Belle learns more about Ash and him about her, they are able to develop their sense of self so that they both get their own happy endings, together, putting to rest a few demons from their childhoods along the way.

One thing I have learned about PJ Fox is that she doesn’t take a beaten path with her writing, but more seeks the road less travelled. While there are undoubtedly minor comparisons to be made to that other BDSM-related trilogy, what Fox does with her trilogy is shows EL James how it’s done. Fox shows how to write characters that engulf the psyche of the reader so that they are able to leave their preconceptions to one side so that the main protagonists can get their happy ending with the reader’s blessing. She also shows how to write a narrative that entices the reader without resorting to formulaic, Mills and Boon style descriptions. Fox displays how to formulate a story without repeating the same coined phrases over and over and also how to educate the reader in more than different types of sexual devices. Fox doesn’t tell the reader what to think, more that she provides as much information as she can to allow the reader to reach their own conclusions, assuming that the reader keeps an open mind and considers that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways for people to be happy; that conforming to an image of what people think is right isn’t actually right for everyone. Everyone has their own predilections and as long as they are not breaking the law, who is anyone to tell them that it is wrong.

50 Shades of Grey has been my guilty pleasure; I’ve mentioned this on more than one occasion. In fact it was a discussion on PJ Fox’s website about 50 Shades… that made me read The Demon of Darkling Reach in the first place. Not any more. I couldn’t read it now without feeling completely irritated by its inadequacies (not that I hadn’t noticed them before). The Prince’s Slave is a much better trilogy in every possible way. It encapsulates all that 50 Shades of Grey could have been in the hands of more skilled writer and storyteller and is much more eloquently written, something I have come to expect from Fox’s narratives, whether it be in her novels, on her blog or indeed, her messages on Facebook! Aside from the 50 Shades comparison, it is just a fantastic story and a joy to read. Fox has previously mentioned that people have commented that her books leave them with the feeling that “they don’t know what to think”. I think that Fox tells a brilliant story in a wonderfully engaging style. No if, no buts. I will undoubtedly be reading Fox’s other novels and of course, the release of final parts of The Black Prince trilogy is just around the corner. However, I have no doubt that I will read The Prince’s Slave again, and again, and again… Christian who?

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Six Months of Reviewing Novels: An Education

It’s been a while since I did a train of thought post so I thought I’d put the reviews to one side for an evening and do one now.  My first few posts on Segnalibro were about my thoughts on things that interested me in the literary world. However, two conversations with the brilliant authors Rob Sinclair (Dance With the Enemy, Rise of the Enemy) and Matt Johnson (Wicked Game and Deadly Game) inspired me to review their début novels, as I found myself surprised that I was reading, and enjoying, books in a genre that would never have appealed to me before. It is pretty safe to say that I caught the bug and I have reviewed books in more or less every genre since then. Six months after that first semi-review of Rob and Matt’s books, I feel that I have learned a few things about this reviewing lark.

One thing I have found is that it is much easier to review books you have enjoyed immensely or hated with a passion. I’ve been very fortunate that I have read some lovely novels which have been engaging from start to finish and I have loved waxing lyrical about some of the books that I really felt stood out among the others I was reading at the time. There are three books that spring to mind as books that completely floored me with their amazing narratives and wonderful plots. The first one is The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross. I loved this book for its nostalgic reminders of my childhood in the 1980’s and the hilarious antics of main protagonist, Bobby Cassidy. Just when I thought that this book couldn’t get any better, by the end of the book, the flood gates were open. If a book can make me laugh and cry, it’s a winner for me, and The Last Days of Disco did just that. This was also the first book I reviewed from Orenda Books and it won’t be the last, that’s for sure!

The next book that had me stunned was One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book but after being contacted by Steven Suttie requesting that I tried his book, I thought I’d give it a try. Never have I had such an intense reaction to a novel. I broke my heart reading it. This gritty novel about a Manchester police department hunting down a paedophile killer left me reeling as Suttie, in true journalistic fashion, gives the reader an illustration of how a situation can escalate in a society that has 24 hour updates and constant social media feeds. Suttie merely gives the facts, leaving the reader to decide their own point of view, not to mention, his clever tactic of waiting until you are a several chapters into the novel before giving you the story of the man who is killing paedophiles and has become the hero of the nation for doing so. I implored everyone I know to read this book and if I’m ever asked to recommend a book, One Man Crusade is always one of the first I mention. A friend of mine read this recently on my recommendation and I was really happy that she liked it, so much so that she bought and read the sequel, Neighbours from Hell, which was released on Monday, which I haven’t even got round to reading yet!

The third book that has surprised me by its brilliance is a recent read, The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox. Again, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a book that I’d enjoy, again allowing myself to be put off by the genre. (I will never learn!) However, this is one of the most beautiful narratives I’ve read in a very long time. When I was studying towards my English degree, I read many classics, a number of them gothic novels, and I was reminded of the intricacy of these novels when I read Fox’s tale of Isla, a feisty, young daughter of an imprudent earl who has squandered his money away to the point where he has to offer the hand of his daughter in marriage to the enigmatic duke, Tristan Mountbatten, aka The Demon of Darkling Reach. The plot itself is magnificent but what I loved was that the narrative had all the beauty of a classic novel but with the features of modern literature that are only hinted at in their predecessors, such as swearing and direct sexual references. This book was also an education in the traditions and practices of mediaeval life, which I found absolutely fascinating. This is another book that I am plugging endlessly to anyone who will listen!

Of course, these all fall into the “Books I’ve Loved” category. There has only been one book that has left me so irritated that I felt the need to write an almost fully negative review, which was Gray Justice by Alan McDermott. I was completely frustrated by this book because it had all the makings of a really enjoyable novel, if only the writer could be bothered putting the time into his main protagonist. As a reader, it was expected that you would sympathise and champion Tom Gray, yet we know barely anything about him. McDermott focuses his attention on the wrong characters, has unfeasible plot twists and the final showdown has so many characters in so many locations that it is impossible to fathom who is where, at what stage and what the implications are of where the characters are located for the rest of the novel. I was frustrated because it could be such a better novel than it is with a bit more investment from the author into the main character’s emotions, perceptions and by building an affinity between the reader and Tom Gray.

What these four books had in common is that they were easy to write about. The paragraphs almost wrote themselves as I typed away, because, good or bad, the narratives were rich in elements to comment about. What I have found during this reviewing learning curve, is that it isn’t always that easy. I will always give my honest opinion and I will always try to focus more on the positive than the negative, but sometimes, when the narrative is distinctly average or it is a book that doesn’t particularly interest me although it may be enjoyable to others, it is difficult to find the words, which for someone who can normally talk/write until the cows come home (this post being a classic example), is a very strange situation to find myself in. There have been a few books which, to be honest, have just not excited me. They were okay and readable, but there is just not much to say about them. I probably just need more practice, but that would mean reading many more “okay” books and less time reading the “amazing” books as I have noted above.

However, I have found that I have really enjoyed reading and reviewing books from all genres and I have loved the conversations that it has led to with the various authors who I have reviewed books for. Special mention must go to my lovely guest reviewer, J.L.Clayton, who has become an amazing Twitter/Facebook Buddy and is, without a doubt, my biggest supporter as she retweets/shares everything I post, which is invaluable to me. She has also wrote two fantastic books with a third in progress (A Spark of Magic and A Blaze of Magic) and I really value her encouragement and her experience in writing and publishing her own books.

The fact that I have generated a review feedback page attests to my joy at the great feedback I have received over the last six months. The feedback has been so gratefully received by me while I have been finding my feet at book reviewing and I want to thank every author who has taken the time to thank me for my efforts. Of course, my feedback tweet from Rob Lowe, though short and sweet, will be forever etched in my memory (and in my phone photos, and on my website, Twitter feed, Facebook page…) although a “Thanks for making Stories I Only Tell My Friends Segnalibro’s July Book of the Month” would have been nice! (Just kidding – I love my tweet for Love Life and I will treasure it forever!) In all seriousness, another thing I have learned in this process is that the authors I have encountered are lovely and I have been very fortunate that I have had nothing but encouragement from the authors whose books I have reviewed. Long may this continue!

Finally, I have learned that book reviewing is an addictive hobby. If I’m not reviewing, I’m reading (although I did a lot of this anyway) and it is a lovely way to enjoy my spare time. I have got myself into a little routine now: day job, time with the children, reading/reviewing, with a few meals and chores in between. I never thought when I started my website that I would be enjoying writing posts as much as I do. I wish I had more time to spend on it but nonetheless, setting up www.segnalibro.co.uk is one of the best things I have done and I am immensely proud of it. Here is to many, many more book reviews, train of thought posts, Golden Book Ratings, Segnalibro Book’s of the Month and to making contact with some amazing people. I hope this indulgent, not-so-little post hasn’t put you to sleep, and if it has, I hope that was the intention when you started reading, in which case, the post is a success! Thanks for reading and thanks for your support over the last six months. Lisa xx

 

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The White Queen by PJ Fox

Following my recent review of The Demon of Darkling Reach, I’d been looking forward to when I’d get chance to read the second book in The Black Prince trilogy, The White Queen. I wasn’t remotely disappointed, although perhaps a little surprised at what I found when I began the first chapter.

The narrative doesn’t start where I would have expected it to, i.e with Isla and Tristan as their relationship develops. Indeed, it was several chapters later where we would rejoin the couple. Instead, the reader learns how the Tristan Mountbatten became The Demon of Darkling Reach in the first place. We are introduced to the original Tristan Mountbatten, Duke and necromancer, and the circumstances surrounding his reasons for summoning a demon in the first place. We are also given the demon’s point of view before, during and after he inhabits Tristan’s body, becoming the Tristan we know and love from book one. This tactic, ironically, humanises the demon and the reader cannot help but sympathise with the demon and his plight.

Fox illuminates how the demon made a split-second decision to inhabit the original Tristan’s body at that moment and had to figure things out for himself with no real guidance from anyone else. Juxtaposed with Isla’s own struggle to comprehend the enormity of the decision she has made to marry a demon and the changes she will be required to make, the reader feels a greater affinity with Tristan as he guides Isla as best he can and shows her how he does love her in the only way he can.

As with book one, the narrative is beautifully written, intricate in the descriptions of locations, emotions and educating the reader about historical traditions and processes. As with The Demon of Darkling Reach, the issues transcend not only the space in time from when the demon inhabits Tristan to the time he meets Isla, but also to the present day. Religion, war and prejudice play a massive part in current affairs, as does love and jealousy, and Fox has an amazing skill to make these historically based narratives resonate with the same issues from today’s society.

This book reads a little slower than book one but it is no less enjoyable for it. While book one puts the situation in front of the reader, this book explores those dynamics in greater detail. If The Demon of Darkling Reach raises many questions, The White Queen provides plenty of answers, them raises a few more! However, like The Demon of Darkling Reach, The White Queen reads like a modern gothic novel, much smarter than the gothic novels that pre-date it.

I was eager to get to the part where Tristan and Isla meet again at Caer Addanc, willing Isla’s journey to pick up speed whilst simultaneously taking in all the information provided by Fox that builds up the characters further. In fact, while frustrating a little at times, Fox cleverly builds up the tension by showing Tristan’s own struggles then expanding Isla’s journey to Darkling Reach, allowing Isla to expose her fears to the reader and  exacerbating the anticipation of their first meeting on Tristan’s territory.

I love Tristan. I’m not sure that I would be willing to make the sacrifices that Isla makes but there is something very attractive and appealing about the enigmatic demon. Whether it is his power, his self-control or the way he treats Isla with such respect and gentility, I don’t know, but I want them to have a happy ending together, in whatever way they can. Throughout the narrative of these first two books, Fox leaves the reader in no doubt that there are strong feelings between Isla and Tristan and that they connect in a way no other couple, certainly in these books, seem to be able to do.

I have no idea how Fox intends to end Tristan and Isla’s story and these novels often take a route that is completely unexpected, so I have no doubt that no-one could predict at this stage how Fox will close off these characters. However, this trilogy is one of the most interesting series I’ve read in a long while and I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Watch this space!

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