Showing posts from December, 2012

My favourite short stories (2)

The Shadow-Cage by Philippa Pearce Philippa Pearce was a children's writer from Cambridgeshire, and she is most famous for her children's novel Tom's Midnight Garden .   'The Shadow-Cage' is a supernatural story about witchcraft and I particularly like the rural setting for the story. It obviously has a Cambridgeshire setting, which is similar to the area where I myself grew up in South Lincolnshire. Ned Challis is a farmer, who finds an ancient glass bottle with a stopper when he is ploughing a field. He allows his daughter Lisa to keep the bottle, before remembering only later that he found it near the site of an old witch's house that burnt down. His daughter Lisa takes it to school, where her cousin Kevin wants the bottle and takes it from her. After a day at school, he forgets it and leaves it in the school playground. In the middle of the night Kevin remembers it, and decides to go and fetch it at the stroke of midnight...only to fall into th

Thoughts on reading (George R R Martin)

Like his hordes of fans, I'm absorbed in George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series of epic fantasy novels (many people may be more aware of the TV dramatisation Game of Thrones , the title of which is taken from the first book in the series) I have just finished reading Dance of Dragons and like many I will be waiting patiently for the final two novels in the series, Winds of Winter and Dream of Spring . There are a lot of people commenting on these books and publishing their thoughts; I thought I would share some of mine. The Song of Ice and Fire  is epic dark fantasy, with obvious inspiration from varied sources such as Shakespearean tragedy; the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's historical fiction, most notably The White Company ; J.R.R Tolkien's work and Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels; not to mention Martin's contemporaries such as Raymond E.Feist and Anne McCaffrey. The pseudo-medieval setting and culture i

Thoughts on reading (Bram Stoker)

Bram Stoker is most famous as the author of Dracula , the Victorian novel which took the vampire myth and centred it within the modern popular consciousness through the medium of literature and cinema. It's a classic obviously- I also own and have read The Jewel of Seven Stars , which is an excellent, spine-tingling supernatural tale by Stoker based around Egyptian mythology. I decided to download and read two lesser known works by Bram Stoker, The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm . I discovered that they were lesser known for a good reason. The Lady of the Shroud is written in the same epistolary form as Dracula , advancing the narrative from different point-of-view perspectives, but this structure doesn't quite work for this novel. The mystery of 'The Lady' herself is solved halfway through the novel, and what had begun as an eerie Gothic tale becomes a predictable and cliched 'Boys Own' Victorian adventure, dipping into piracy and