Reviews

REVIEW!!! To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

Winter 1885.

Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester accepts the mission of a lifetime, to navigate Alaska’s Wolverine River. It is a journey that promises to open up a land shrouded in mystery, but there’s no telling what awaits Allen and his small band of men.

Allen leaves behind his young wife, Sophie, newly pregnant with the child he had never expected to have. Sophie would have loved nothing more than to carve a path through the wilderness alongside Allen – what she does not anticipate is that their year apart will demand every ounce of courage of her that it does of her husband.

Having adored Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel The Snow Child, I eagerly purchased her second novel, To The Bright Edge of the World on its release in 2016. I was even lucky enough to hear Eowyn herself talk about the novel at a wonderful Booka Bookshop event – and came away eager to read it straight away. So, why then, am I writing this review in 2021?

If there is such a thing as ‘book-fear’, I think I might have had it over this book! Every time I picked it up, the worry that I might not enjoy it quite as much as The Snow Child meant that I rarely got past the first couple of chapters. Having now read the whole novel, I think this might be because To The Bright Edge of the World has a much more measured opening. Indeed, by being told almost entirely through letters and diary entries, it is arguably a much more measured novel and lacks the instant immediacy of its predecessor.

But having finally plucked up my courage (much like Allen and Sophie both do), I can attest that not only is Bright Edge as breathtakingly magical as Ivey’s popular debut, I think the richness and depth of the story may mean it has supplanted The Snow Child to become my favourite of her books so far.

To The Bright Edge of the World follows two strands. The first is that of Colonel Allen Forrester who, at the start of the novel, is about to set off from Perkins Island on an expedition to map the treacherous Wolverine River. The journey that will take him and his men into the unexplored heartlands of Alaska – a place where the local indigenous populations say that the world of men and the world of the spirits collide. The second strand follows Allen’s pregnant young wife Sophie, awaiting her husband’s return at Vancouver Barracks. Finding herself ill-suited to endless rounds of afternoon tea, Sophie finds herself drawn to the developing science of photography and eventually finds herself combining this with her long-held fascination with the flora and fauna that surrounds her.

As the novel progresses, these two seemingly disparate narratives combine to form a tender story of endurance, love, loss and discovery. Although I don’t want to give any spoilers, I would caution that there is some gruesomeness amidst the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness so trigger warnings for minor character death, period-appropriate attitudes towards the role of women and towards indigenous populations, and depictions/discussion of birth and miscarriage. There’s nothing especially gory – and no attitudes that would not have been all too common for the period – but it is clear that Ivey has done her research and, although the novel wears this lightly, it does lead to some uncomfortable and emotive moments.

It is difficult to talk about the pull of this book because, as I indicated at the start of this review, it is in many ways a very meditative and quiet book. Told almost entirely through documents, the reader is often one step removed from the characters, particularly at the start of the novel. But as Allen and Sophie’s stories progress – and they begin relying more and more upon their respective diaries to recount their feelings about what they are undergoing – I found myself pulled in to their worlds as surely as Allen finds himself drawn onwards down the Wolverine River’s swift but uncertain course.

By the end of the novel, I was utterly spellbound. Ivey writes so captivatingly about the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, and manages so deftly to make Allen, Sophie and their companions come alive on the page. From the impish and flirtatious Miss Evelyn to the young native chief Ceeth Hwya and the sinister, possibly supernatural, Man Who Flies , I could picture every single character in my mind and longed to be beside them, exploring the natural beauty of Alaska’s canyons or experiencing the pleasure of watching a hummingbird care for a clutch of eggs.

To The Bright Edge of the World will not, I expect, be a novel for everyone. There is a still meditativeness to it that forces you to read it slowly – to savour each description and incident, and to contemplate each tantalisingly drawn out connection or inference. It is an enthralling yet touching novel that ruminates deeply upon love and the nature of love, as well as the connections we make with those around us and the impact we have upon the lives of those we come into contact with.

But if your measure of a good novel is that it should be an extension of the human spirit – that it should endeavour to encapsulate both the intense pleasures and raw pains of our experiences – then To The Bright Edge of the World should be very high up on your ‘To Read’ list indeed.

To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey is published by Tinder Press and is available from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1849.

Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a whispering campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Way of All Flesh, the first of Ambrose Parry’s historical mysteries to feature Will Raven and Sarah Fisher, I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for the paperback release of the follow-up, intriguingly entitled The Art of Dying.

Set two years after the conclusion of The Way of all Flesh, The Art of Dying sees Will Raven, now a fully qualified doctor, returning to 52 Queen Street and to the employ of the brilliant yet eccentric Dr James Simpson. He finds a household that is both the same yet different in small but crucial ways. One of Dr Simpson’s previous employees has levelled a dreadful accusation of medical negligence against him. There is a new assistant whose skulking and watchful eyes seem to keep the whole household under surveillance. And former housemaid Sarah Fisher is now not only elevated into the role of doctor’s assistant but, more importantly for Raven, now Mrs Sarah Banks.

As new relationships are forged and old acquaintances – both welcome and unwelcome – are renewed, Raven and Sarah once again join forces in an effort to clear the name of their friend and mentor. But in doing so, they inadvertently stumble upon a dangerous murderer. One who may have hidden undetected for years. And who, upon discovery, is more than prepared to kill again.

As with The Way of All Flesh, The Art of Dying does a fantastic job of conjuring the world of nineteenth-century Edinburgh in all it’s messy glory. From the refined elegance of the New Town townhouses to the darkened alleyways of the historic Old Town closes, the city and its people leap off the page.

For newcomers to the series, The Art of Dying does an excellent job of reintroducing the characters and their relative situations without spoiling the conclusion of the first novel. Whilst I would certainly recommend starting with The Way of all Flesh (a cracking mystery in its own right), there is certainly nothing to stop readers diving in to Will and Sarah’s world with The Art of Dying.

Indeed, the two years between the two novels have given time for the characters to grow and develop. The subtle but noticeable changes in the characters of Sarah and Will are fascinating to see and I really enjoyed the way in which their relationship changes and develops over the course of the novel. There are also some pleasing reintroductions to some familiar characters, including the eccentric yet brilliant James Simpson (a real life Professor of Midwifery, and a pioneer of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic) and Raven’s wonderfully menacing ‘friends in low places’.

As with the previous book in the series, I really enjoyed the ways in which the plot is used to examine wider societal issues, such as female education. Intelligent and open-minded, Sarah is desperate to use her newly gained medical knowledge to qualify as a doctor but – in Edinburgh at least – her gender precludes her from ever realising her dreams. Raven, meanwhile, is struggling to come to terms with the psychology of his own inner nature, as well as with decisions made two years previously on the basis of class and societal pressures.

The series also gives a fascinating insight into the early days of obstetric medicine, including arguments for and against the use of anaesthetic and the difficulties in performing caesarean sections. This does, of course, mean that the book reflects the medical practices and attitudes of the time – trigger warnings for some slightly gruesome depictions of early medical procedures, as well as for mentions of drug-taking, cancer, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Despite the occasionally grim atmosphere, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Art of Dying. The central mystery is brilliantly woven into the historical reality that grounds the novel. The various plot strands, at first seemingly disparate, are masterfully woven together and, whilst it wears its learning lightly, it is clear that the novel is a well-researched and immersive examination of the attitudes and realities of the era.

I also really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with Raven and Sarah. For all his faults (and he has quite a few), Raven is an endearing young man and it is easy to empathise with his quest to better himself both educationally and psychologically. Sarah, meanwhile, has lost none of the spark, vivacity, or compassion that made her such an engaging character in The Way of All Flesh, and it was wonderful – if occasionally heart-breaking – to see the developments in her character and confidence over the course of the novel.

The Art of Dying is both a worthy successor to The Way of All Flesh and, for those new to the series, a brilliant jumping off point for entry into the murky, complicated world of nineteenth-century Edinburgh that Ambrose Parry has conjured with their pen. I’m already awaiting Raven and Sarah’s next outing with great anticipation.

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry is published by Blackthorn and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 19 January 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!! The River Within by Karen Powell

It is the summer of 1955. Alexander, Tom and his sister Lennie, discover the body of their childhood friend Danny Masters in the river that runs through Starome, a village on the Richmond estate in North Yorkshire. His death is a mystery. Did he jump, or was it just an accident?

Lady Venetia Richmond has no time to dwell on the death. Newly widowed, she is busy trying to keep the estate together, while struggling with death duties and crippling taxation. Alexander, her son and sole heir to Richmond Hall, is of little help. Just when she most needs him, he grows elusive, his behavior becoming increasingly erratic.

Lennie Fairweather, ‘child of nature’ and daughter of the late Sir Angus’s private secretary, has other things on her mind too. In love with Alexander, she longs to escape life with her over-protective father and domineering brother. Alexander is unpredictable though, hard to pin down. Can she be sure of his true feelings towards her?

In the weeks that follow the tragic drowning, the river begins to give up its secrets. As the truth about Danny’s death emerges, other stories come to the surface that threaten to destroy everyone’s plans for future and, ultimately, their very way of life.

As someone who primarily reads novels for character and motivation, it is very rare for me to get drawn into a book where the main lure is the quality of the prose. It happens on occasion – Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet is one example, Ray Robinson’s The Mating Habits of Stags another.

This isn’t to say that I don’t like or appreciate well-written or lyrical fiction. Just that there usually there has to be a compelling plot, motivation or character to go alongside it. And it also isn’t to say that The River Within doesn’t have an interesting plot, motivation or characters. Just that, for me, it was – unusually – the gorgeous prose that pulled me into the book and dragged me under, much like the rushing waters of the Stride does to the unfortunate Danny Masters. Take this, for example, from the opening paragraph:

Danny Masters came home one afternoon at the beginning of August. Something stirred beneath the surface of the water, at a point where the river at last quietened and opened out into a wide pool, bottle-green beneath the canopy of trees. His movement was slow at first, so that a passer-by might look twice, thinking it the shadow of a bird or a swaying branch above. A billowing next, deep, growing, blurred at the edges, and then up he bobbed as jauntily as a buoy, his one remaining eye widened at the shock of release.”

Similar passages can be found throughout the novel – sentences and paragraphs that you just want to dive into thanks to all their lushly evocative detail. One of the pull quotes for the novel – by the author Preti Taneja – said that the prose “was as alive as Millais’ painting of Ophelia, singing as the river and reeds claim her” and, for once, I don’t feel that’s an exaggeration. There really is something of a painting in this book – fine precise brushstrokes that come together to make a compelling portrait of a family and a community on the precipice of change.

The Ophelia comparison is well-founded because The River Within loosely takes Hamlet as its source material. If you know the play, you’ll quickly realise the roles into which Venetia Richmond, her son Alexander, and the dreamy Lennie Fairweather have been cast. Follow on from that, and it won’t take much to work out that The River Within is, at its heart, a five-act tragedy.

What makes The River Within so evocative, however, is the way in which Karen Powell has put meat onto the structural bones of Shakespeare’s original. Whilst characters and events can be loosely mapped onto Hamlet, the novel explores the added complications of class and societal hierarchies with its careful examination of a country house estate struggling to weather the changed world that has emerged after the Second World War. There are also tender and compassionate examinations of mental health, grief, love, longing, and desire, as Powell turns her piercing gaze upon the inhabitants of Starome to expose the inner workings of their souls.

To say any more about The River Within would, I feel, be superfluous – and would also risk spoiling the reading of this beautifully evocative book. Needless to say, if you’re looking for a moving and meditative read to see in 2021, The River Within should definitely be on your radar.

The River Within by Karen Powell is published by Europa Editions and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to Daniela Petracco at Europa Editions for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!! The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night. And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

Having read and ADORED Stuart Turton’s debut novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I added The Devil and the Dark Water to my Most Anticipated Reads list as soon as it was announced. Owing to the joys of Pandemic PhD life, it has taken me a few more months than I expected to set aside the time to really sink in and devour this one (Seven Deaths was definitely a book you just wanted to sit and gobble up over the course of a long weekend) but, thanks again to the lovely book club crew at The Write Reads, I was finally got chance to cosy with this 548 page chunkster and can confirm that it did not disappoint!

As with Seven Deaths, The Devil and the Dark Water is a novel that defies genre expectations. It’s set in 1634 so technically it’s a historical novel. As Stuart Turton points out in his afterward though, the history cedes to the story so those coming to the novel expecting a wholly accurate depiction of historical life a la Hilary Mantel or Patrick O’Brien will be disappointed.

There is more than one murder (plus at least one theft) and there’s a detective so is it a crime novel then?

Again…sort of? But the detective is locked up on charges unknown for most of the book, and the murders might be the work of a demonic supernatural entity.

So…horror novel?

Not quite. Whilst there are horrific acts a plenty, this isn’t simply a tale of things that go bump in the night . The devil might be on board the Saardam but it takes human agency to commit the acts of violence being inflicted upon the increasingly terrified passengers and crew.

The best I can come up with is that The Devil and the Dark Water is a cross between Assassins Creed: Black Flag (age of sail shipboard shenanigans), Murder on the Orient Express (enclosed murder mystery with limited suspects and a brilliant, eccentric detective) and Jaws (terrifying horror stalks everyone on board and you are DEFINITELY going to need a bigger boat). See what I mean about genre-defying?

The end result is, however, utterly brilliant. Turton once again weaves seemingly disparate plot strands and characters into an intricate and tightly bound web to create an elaborate and mind-bending puzzle that kept me guessing right up until the final pages.

In the characters of Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel, Turton has created two fantastic and likeable protagonists who, by the time the novel was over, felt like old friends and comrades. Sara is strong, compassionate, determined, inquisitive, and intelligent – everything a nobleman’s wife shouldn’t be. She quickly became one of my favourite characters – as did Arent, whose imposing frame and bloody history belies a fiercely loyal and gentle heart. The supporting cast are equally well-realised – from the cocksure genius Samuel Pipps to lively, flirtatious Creesjie Jens and silent, watchful Cornelius Vos, I could envisage them all in my head and frequently felt as if I had been picked up and placed next to them when reading.

The vivid characterisation really helps during the (infrequent) moments when the plot starts to lag a little, and also allowed me to forgive the (in my opinion) slightly rushed ending. Saying to much about either of those points would be to spoil the novel but, for me, the chapters following a major late-book dramatic incident aboard the Saardam felt didn’t have quite the same energy, and I felt as if some of the decisions taken at the end of the novel didn’t fit with the established morality of the characters involved. This certainly didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the book however and many other readers may feel very differently about the ending!

Although there were the occasional moments where the pace dropped, The Devil and the Dark Water was – for me at least – a page-turning read. There were definitely times when I had to use all my willpower to stay in-line with our Write Reads book club schedule – it was so tempting to read ahead! Because of the contained setting and the number of characters, this is a novel that you have to settle in to a bit – I’d definitely urge anyone struggling with the pace at the beginning to stick with the book for about 70-100 pages, when the action really begins to surge ahead at speed!

I also really loved the way that the supernatural was used in this novel. Again, I don’t want to say too much because of the risk of spoilers but the novel does a great job at examining the way in which fear and superstition can be utilised to justify prejudice, greed and other uniquely human follies. The Saardam is a ship full of sinners – everyone has a secret, everyone is out to get something, and nearly everyone will betray the man, woman, or child next to them to do it – and Turton has done a fabulous job of making this largely dishonest, cutthroat, and untrustworthy collection of characters both intriguing and, in many cases, relatable. As such, The Devil and the Dark Water works well as both a damning morality tale and an observant commentary on societal hierarchies – in addition to being a highly entertaining novel, of course!

Superbly written and with an intricate yet tightly controlled plot, The Devil and the Dark Water is a worthy successor to Seven Deaths and marks Stuart Turton out as a writer unafraid to blur the lines between genres and defy the expectations of what a particular type of novel should be. Packed full of relatable and vivid characters – in all their messy and selfish glory – and with a richly imagined setting, this is sure to delight fans of Turton’s previous novel – and will hopefully entice many new readers to discover his work.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton is published by Bloomsbury Raven and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?

Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.

Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Having really enjoyed my recent foray into middle grade fiction with the deliciously devilish The Beast and the Bethany, it didn’t take much for @The_WriteReads to persuade me to get involved with the blog tour for B. B. Alston’s Amari and the Night Brothers, a magical middle grade debut set in a world where the supernatural lives alongside – yet hidden – from the everyday.

The novel centres on Amari Peters, a black girl living in a deprived neighbourhood who is whisked into the magical world of the Bureau for Supernatural Affairs following her beloved older brother Quinton’s sudden disappearance. Determined to investigate Quinton’s disappearance, Amari sets her sights on passing the Bureau’s strenuous and challenging series of tryouts in order to become a Junior Agent within the Department of Supernatural Investigations. But not everyone wants Amari to succeed. With illegal magical blood running through her veins, there are those within the Bureau who think Amari might be a threat to their safety – and those who will do nothing to stop her from finding out what happened to her brother…

Amari really is the beating heart of this novel. Whilst the world that B. B. Alston has created is a fascinating one, replete with scores of supernatural creatures and magical abilities, is was the strength of Amari’s character that really shined through for me. Forced to confront prejudice because of her skin colour and background in the everyday world, Amari is confronted with the same prejudices in the supernatural world because of her natural magical ability. As a black girl from a deprived background, she’s never fitted in at her elite school. As a magician in the Bureau, she’s the victim of sneering attitudes and cruel jibes. Despite this, Amari never lets herself be defeated. Whilst she harbours the same private doubts that we all get, her determination, selflessness and love for her brother are admirable – as is her decision to keep going in spite of the setbacks, and to change people’s minds without hurting others.

This attitude brings Amari into conflict both with those within the Bureau who would like to see her fail in her mission, and with the dangerous illegal magicians know as The Night Brothers. Hellbent on ensuring domination of the supernatural world at any cost, Raoul Moreau and his brother Vladimir brought fear and destruction wherever they went. But with Vladimir long dead and Raoul locked away in the Bureau’s prison, who is it that is releasing dangerous magical hybrids and threatening to being back their reign of terror?

Without giving away any spoilers, the ‘villains’ of the novel are a surprising bunch. There are some who are classically ‘evil’ – all dark robes and villainous schemes – but the ones that intrigued me the most were those who let their own prejudices and hatred twist the way they viewed the world around them. From the Bureau Director who can’t see beyond the legacy of his family history, to the kids in Amari’s class who won’t accept her because of her magical abilities, this is a novel that keeps prejudice – and the effects of prejudice upon both individuals and society as a whole – firmly at the heart of its story whilst also sparking that sense of wonder and transportation that a good fantasy novel gives you.

Because this really is a fantasy setting that has it all – unique personalities and technologies, a variety of supernatural beings, and a well-realised magic system. Despite the richness of the world building in Amari and the Night Brothers, there was definitely more I wanted to know about so I’m glad to hear there will be a sequel that will allow Amari’s world to expand and develop even further – I can’t wait to see more of the supernatural world beyond the Bureau, and to spend time with some of the characters who only get a brief introduction here (Agents Magnus and Fiona were particular favourites of mine, as was Amari’s weredragon best friend Elsie).

With its non-stop plot, Amari and the Night Brothers is a fast-paced and exhilarating read packed to the brim with likeable and engaging characters and magical shenanigans. Whilst there were one or two elements that I would have loved to see developed a little further, this is only the first of Amari’s adventures – so here’s hoping we get to step outside of the Bureau’s doors and delve a little more into the lives of some of the side characters as the series progresses.

For the first in a series however, Amari and the Night Brothers has everything a fantasy fan could want. An engagingly smart protagonist, a rich and unique fantasy setting, a rip-roaring romp of a plot, and some tantalising glimpses of more adventures to come! If you’ve been looking to fill the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson shaped whole in your life with a fun, diverse, and intelligent middle grade fantasy series, then Amari Peters may well be the protagonist you’re looking for!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston is published by Egmont Books on 21 January 2021 and is available to pre-order from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Dave from @The_WriteReads for organising and inviting me on to this tour. Use #UltimateBlogTour and #AmariPeters to check out more reviews and contents!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Books of the Year · Reviews

My Books of the Year 2020

Yes, it is that time of year again. As I prepare to kick 2020 firmly out of the door (and good riddance to it indeed), the time has come to look back on my reading year and think about the books that really stood out as highlights for me.

And, on the reading front at least, 2020 really has been an excellent year! Being stuck at home has at least given me more time to read. And, for me anyway, books have provided a solace and support in this otherwise trying and difficult year – you are, after all, never alone with a good book. In a year that has required staying local (and often staying indoors), books have also allowed me to travel vicariously through their pages.

As a result, I’ve had my best reading year for a while – a total of 104 books read! I’ve also found myself much less slumpy this year – possibly as a result of giving myself more freedom to read by whim and allowing more time to savour and enjoy my reading, and almost certainly because of all the lovely book chats that I’ve got involved with on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook! Lockdown might be rubbish but it’s been so nice to be part of the book community during it and to get involved in online book clubs and reading challenges with fellow book lovers.

Continuing in this spirit of freedom – and in an effort to continue spreading the book love far and wide – I’ve therefore decided not to limit my Books of the Year to an arbitrary number. So instead of my usual ’round up’ post of my top 5/6 books, I wanted to share with you ALL of my favourite and recommended reads of 2020, along with a few words about why they’re brilliant and a link to my full review.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, let’s go!!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

A magical historical romp featuring a child returned from the dead, a photographer, a pub, and – of course – a river. With the story beginning at New Year, this was one of my first books of 2020 – and definitely one of the highlights of the year for me! Full review available here.

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore

A devastating novel of forbidden love and social hierarchy, the world of the eighteenth-century is bought vividly to life in this sexy, dangerous romp of a novel. With one of the most memorable ending paragraphs I think I’ve ever read, there was no way that Mr Lavelle wasn’t making it onto this list! Full review available here.

Dead Famous by Greg Jenner

A book that combines fascinating figures and scholarly rigour with Greg Jenner’s trademark humour, this is the perfect read for anyone interested in celebrity, fandom, and the eighteenth-century. Shelf of Unread catnip essentially! Full review available here.

A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister

Another fascinating non-fiction read, this time looking at the history of sex and sexuality. Kate Lister brings scholarly rigour and deft social commentary to bear on her topic, whilst retaining the wry humour that has made her @WhoresOfYore Twitter account such a joy.

The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward

Crime writer Sarah Ward’s first foray into historical fiction provided a page-tuning country house mystery with a pinch of the gothic and supernatural. More Shelf of Unread catnip and a joy to read from first page to last. Full review available here.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

A historical detective novel with a difference, Things in Jars features a mysterious – and possibly magical – child, a pipe-smoking female detective, and the ghost of a dead boxer. Defying genre expectations and revelling in the playfulness of its prose, this was an absolute treat of a novel and perfect for devouring over a long weekend. Full review available here.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A powerfully imagined exploration of family, love, motherhood and grief, Hamnet is one of the few novels to have made me both laugh and cry in 2020. Just as magnificent as everyone says it is. Full review available here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Honestly the only reason I haven’t reviewed this yet is because I am still trying to find the words for it. A magnificent intergenerational story told from twelve perspectives. Fully deserving of every one of the accolades given to it.

A Tomb with a View by Peter Ross

A surprise hit on audio, this book about graves and graveyards manages to talk about very sad things without ever feeling sad. Instead the book is poignant, touching, and deeply hopeful. Perfect 2020 reading.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

A slice of everyday life encapsulated within pitch-perfect and elegant prose, Sarah Moss’s masterful novella – set in a series of isolated cabins on the edge of a Scottish loch – provided the perfect allegory for lockdown life whilst exploring the tensions and fractures that lie underneath society’s surface. Full review available here.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Smart, witty, and immensely pleasurable, Richard Osman’s first foray into fiction provided the perfect mix of mystery, comedy, poignancy, and compassion. Full review available here.

The Booksellers Tale by Martin Latham

Written by a bookseller, Martin Latham’s exploration of our love affair with books covers an eclectic list of topics. From marginalia to comfort reading, street bookstalls to fantastical collectors, if you love books and bookshops then you’re sure to find this a fascinating and comforting read.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Another genre-bending romp from the author of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Mixing history, mystery, supernatural horror, and suspense, Stuart Turton once again keeps the pages turning as a mysterious voyage goes badly wrong. Full review appearing on The Shelf shortly!

Deity by Matt Wesolowski

The latest in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series isn’t out in paperback until 2021 (although it’s out now as an ebook) but I managed to get hold of a copy in preparation for the blog tour and let me tell you that it does not disappoint! I devoured this one in about 24 hours – a page-turning mixture of top-notch plotting, compelling mystery, and chilling events. Full review appearing on The Shelf soon!

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink

By turns poignant and passionate, joyful and comforting, Dear Reader is an ode to books and book lovers. Combining memoir with reading recommendations, this was the perfect book about books for 2020. Full review available here.

Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A pair of riveting mysteries with twists to rival Agatha Christie and a unique ‘novel in a novel’ structure, both of these were diverting and engaging reads. Full reviews available here and here.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The book that got me back into YA! With a gripping plot, a clever mystery, a little light romance, and some fabulous characters, this was a page-turning and entertaining read. I can’t wait for the sequel in 2021! Full review available here.

The Cousins by Karen M McManus

More YA, this time involving a hideously wealthy family, a small airport’s worth of emotional baggage, and an exclusive island home hiding a multitude of dark secrets. Fun, entertaining, and suspenseful, this has made me want to read more of McManus’ work. Full review available here.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

There’s nothing like a good sensation novel to curl up with as the nights draw in and Lady Audley’s Secret has it all – secrets, danger, illicit romance, possible murder, madness, arson! An absolute romp of a book, this classic is perfect for fans of Wilkie Collins.

On The Red Hill by Mike Parker

A beautiful combination of social history and personal memoir, Mike Parker’s On The Red Hill tells the tale of Rhiw Goch (‘the Red Hill’) and its inhabitants: Mike and his partner Preds and, before them, George and Reg. It’s also the tale of a remarkable rural community, and the lush prose and vivid descriptions took me straight back to the Welsh mountains and reminded me of the importance of home.

And we’re done!! Do let me know if you’ve read any of these – or if you have them on your TBR! Here’s to having another excellent reading year in 2021 – and to leaving some of the less pleasant aspects of 2020 far behind us. Thank you for sticking with me and with The Shelf through 2020. Wishing all of you a safe, peaceful and happy new year – see you on the other side!

If you’re tempted to treat yourself after reading this post, please consider supporting a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Random Bookish Things

Bookswap: A Book Swapping Site for Book Lovers!

My post today is something a little different as I wanted to share a new book swapping site with you.

Full disclosure – the good folks at Bookswap contacted me to tell me about the site and give me a couple of free points so that I could order some books and try out the system.

The site is really easy to navigate with a clean, stylish layout. Once you’ve created an account, you can begin to add books to your wishlist. If those books are not currently available, you can ask to be notified should they get listed. You can also use the search function to search for titles that you’re interested in, or you can have a browse through recently listed titles. Once you find an available book that you want, you can use one of your points to order it.

If you have points on your account, each book you order will cost you one point, plus a swapping fee (£1.19 at the time of writing this post) and the postage cost (currently £2.39 via MyHermes) for each swap. So, at present, each swap costs £3.58 if you’re using one of your points.

If you don’t have any points on your Bookswap account, you can still order books however you’ll also need to pay to add a point to your cart. At the time of writing, a point costs £3.00 plus you still pay the swapping fee and postage, making a swap without points £6.58.

To acquire Bookswap points, you list your own books for swap onto Bookswap. When someone orders a book from you and you send it to them, you receive a point to your account. As with ordering a book, listing a book for swapping is pretty simple. If the book is already on Bookswap’s database, you just find it and click the listing button to show you have a copy of that title available. If the book isn’t already on the database, you can add it by completing a simple form and (optionally) uploading a jpg image of the book/cover, and adding notes to advise potential swappers about the book’s condition.

When a book you list is ordered, you can choose between printing the postage label yourself or using the QR code to print out the label in your local parcel shop. You then just take your packaged book to your nearest Hermes ParcelShop.

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple system – and from what I can tell so far, it works really well. I’ve ordered two books via Bookswap so far – a hardback copy of Louise Doughty’s thriller Platform Seven and a paperback of Roger Clarke’s non-fiction book A Natural History of Ghosts. Both books arrived within the about a week of ordering and both were in the condition described by the swapper. I received updates via email when the seller dispatched the book via the courier.

I was also relieved to find that there are procedures in place for when things go wrong. For example, if you feel that you have been waiting for your order too long and the person sending it to you is not replying to your messages then you can always cancel your order – all costs are automatically refunded after cancellation, and your ordering point is returned to your account. Similarly, as a ‘swapper’ you can take a holiday and put your account into vacation mode to ensure that you won’t have to dispatch books whilst you’re away/busy – you just need to set the start and end dates of your ‘vacation’ on your account and book offers will be inactive for that period.

The catalogue and functionality of Bookswap is a tad limited at the moment – unsurprising for a website that is relatively new and still growing its userbase. At present, the site is only operating within the UK – so no international swapping – and the majority of the books being listed seem to be contemporary fiction titles. From my explorations of the site, it’s also much easier to find recent releases than backlisted books – although that’s not to say it isn’t worth searching for an older title on the off-chance that someone has it available. And, as you’d expect with a site reliant on users to list titles, available titles do tend to be skewed towards more popular choices from the bigger names.

I would also liked a slightly better search function – at the time of writing this post, there are over 6,000 titles listed on Bookswap but, unless you know the title you want or it’s a recent listing, finding what’s out there involves scrolling through the listings – a time consuming exercise and one that I imagine many people won’t have the patience for. I’d have like a way of searching by genre or age group as a means of narrowing this down.

Overall though, I was pretty impressed with Bookswap. It’s certainly not the cheapest way of sourcing used books – you could undoubtedly pay less by using secondhand sellers on a more established online retailer (who shall remain nameless) in many cases – but it’s a chance to swap books you no longer want whilst gaining credit to obtain books you’re interested in reading.

So if you’re looking for a way to turn your old books into new books – especially during a time when many traditional secondhand bookshops and charity shops are being forced to temporarily close their doors – you might want to give Bookswap a try.

You can visit Bookswap at https://bookswap.co.uk. My thanks go to Katherine at Busby & Bear for getting in touch to invite me to test out Bookswap and providing two points in return for an honest and unbiased feature on the site.

Back from the Backlist · Reviews

Back from the Backlist!! Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Working as a paid companion to a bitter elderly lady, the timid heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life is bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise.

Whisked from Monte Carlo to Manderley, Maxim’s isolated Cornish estate, the friendless young bride begins to realise she barely knows her husband at all. And in every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca.

Rebecca has been on my TBR for a VERY long time. It’s one of those books that I’ve attempted to read on several occasions but just never quite gelled with, despite being told by many of my fellow readers that it’s their favourite of Du Maurier’s novels. I struggled to get past the opening section and got annoyed by the insipid main character. Friends assured me that it got better once I got to Manderley – and that the shock of the ending along made the book worth reading – but I just couldn’t give myself the push to continue.

So when the chance came to take part in a readalong of Rebecca with some members of the lovely gang over at The Write Reads, I joined in without hesitation. Reading with others is a fantastic way to tackle a book that you might otherwise struggle with. I recently read James Joyce’s doorstop modernist novel Ulysses with some friends at university this way and, whilst I can’t claim to have loved (or even fully understood) the novel, our discussions of it certainly allowed me to appreciate it – plus we had a great deal of fun!

And my verdict having now finished Rebecca. It’s…okay?

Surprisingly, I found myself quite enjoying the opening sections in Monte Carlo this time around. I got a real sense of the era but, more importantly, these early chapters gave me an insight into the unnamed narrator. Barely out of school and wholly lacking in confidence, she is utterly unsuited to life in a glamourous resort – or as mistress of a large country house. There is almost no pretence about her about all and, in her honest naivety, she came across as a schoolgirl acting a part – an impression that lingers even after she has married the brooding Maxim de Winter and found herself mistress of his imposing estate, Manderley, and learned of the tragic death of his first wife, the titular Rebecca.

As the famous opening line suggests, Manderley is a character as much as a place within this novel. It lies at the heart of everything that happens in the novel, lingering in the background to each conversation and casting its shadow over the choices of the characters. Whilst is is, in one sense, a beautiful place – described in lush prose and quite clearly based on Du Maurier’s own much-loved Cornish home Menabilly – there is something quite forbidding about Manderley and it is this mixture of the seemingly ordinary with the sinister that I found particularly impressive about the novel.

Du Maurier is a master of suspense and foreboding and this atmosphere casts a pall over the whole novel. I found it particularly impressive that the most vivid character in the book was Rebecca, a woman who is dead before the first page. Rebecca haunts the novel – and the reader – as she haunts Maxim and his second wife. Rebecca is a ghost story, even though the ghost never actually appears.

Whilst all this makes Rebecca an intensely atmospheric novel there was, for me anyway, just something missing. Whilst I love the way in which Rebecca herself is evoked, I felt this came at the expense of characterisation elsewhere. The narrator, for example, never really seems to escape the dreamy world of the schoolgirl, diving off into fantasies and gloomy premonitions and second-guessing everything that anyone ever does. Even after the revelation in the closing chapters (my friends were right – it IS a great twist), she still felt like a character wholly disconnected from the events going on around her and, at times, from reality itself.

The infamous Mrs Danvers is, of course, an utter delight to read. Deliciously malevolent, her presence at Manderley was always going to be a catalyst for sinister happenings. Maxim de Winter, on the other hand, came across as a frightful bore – brooding and quick to anger, he had few redeeming features and I genuinely couldn’t see the appeal, even after you learn about his true history. Other characters felt fleeting – sketches more than fully rounded people – and, often, I felt they were there to serve the plot or provide a convenient deus ex machina. This was particularly true of the ending which, though shocking, did feel somewhat contrived.

This probably makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy Rebecca and that isn’t true. There is a lot that I liked about the novel and I certainly had an excellent time reading it and then debating it with my The Write Reads friends! But, alas, I didn’t love it. I can see why others adore it – and it really does have a killer twist – but it for me, it’s not up there with my favourites. I am very glad to have finally read it though so thank you to The Write Reads gang for keeping me going and providing some fun conversation along the way!

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is published by Virago and is available from all good bookshops and online retailers. If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews · Upcoming Books

BLOG TOUR!!! The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’

My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.

The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.

They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.

If you’ve been following The Shelf for a while, you’ll know that I do love a good slice of historical fiction. Some of my favourite reads of recent years have been historical novels and, as my PhD concentrates on the period, I’m particularly fond of novels set during the political turbulence and social upheaval of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The Smallest Man, the debut novel from journalist and copywriter Frances Quinn, hits the spot perfectly as it follows the story of Nat Davy, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Nat’s ‘job’ places him at the centre of court life during the onset and aftermath of the English Civil War and, as events progress, he finds himself having to overcome more than prejudice at his diminutive stature in order to protect his friends, reunite with his family, and find his way back to the woman he loves.

Frances Quinn does a fantastic job of immediately drawing you into Nat’s world. My heart ached for the 10-year-old Nat, beloved by his mother and siblings but cast out from the family home and sold as an eccentricity by his drunkard father. Initially treated as a curiosity at court, Nat soon wins friends – and makes enemies – thanks to both his good natured disposition and his determination to overcome the challenges and expectations created by his small stature. His unlikely friendship with the lonely Queen Henrietta Maria – a woman both rejected by her husband and lost amidst the political intrigues of the English court – is particularly poignant and bought real character to a woman who is so often forgotten by history in comparison with her more famous (or, depending on how you look at it, infamous) husband.

I was fascinated to learn that, although Nat is a fictional character, his tale is inspired the life of Queen Henrietta Maria’s actual court dwarf – a man called Jeffrey Hudson. Whilst Frances Quinn advises that Nat’s life is fiction, you can tell that her account rests on lightly worn but comprehensive research into the period. Nat’s world is brilliantly realised, from the bustle of the country fair in the opening pages to the gilded world of the Stuart court. The prejudices and politics of the era are conveyed in a prose style that, whilst capturing the cadences of the period, never feels twee or contrived. The structures of society are also examined in intricate detail as Nat, with his humble origins, is forced to rapidly learn to negotiate a court that is being torn apart by the political machinations of the King’s most trusted advisor.

Nat’s ability to straddle the two worlds of the court nobility and their servants gives the novel a real flavour of the period and allows you to see the precarity that lay behind the fortunes and situations of so many people. His unique perspective extends to life itself, with Nat having to rely on his irrepressible energy and determination to overcome various challenges during the course of the novel.

For such a richly realised novel, The Smallest Man speeds along at quite the pace – although the first two sections, with their focus upon the historical events, held my attention a little more than the conclusion, probably due to the increasing focus upon the romance subplot in the final section of the book. Whilst this is well-realised – and makes for a charming conclusion to Nat’s swashbuckling tale – I wasn’t quite as drawn in as I had been during earlier sections, although that is largely due to personal preferences rather than anything in the book itself.

The Smallest Man is an enjoyable and accomplished debut that is sure to appeal to fans of historical novels such as The Doll Factory or The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. With its unlikely hero, it has a wit and a charm that stands in sharp contrast to the political and religious turbulence of the period – and it carries a message about perception, judgement and tolerance that still resonates today.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn is published by Simon & Schuster on 07 January 2021 and is available from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Random Bookish Things

BLOG TOUR!!! Foul Play: A Murder Mystery Card Game by After Dark

Murder if on the cards!

The Lord of the Manor is dead!

The servants are our lead suspects and it’s up to you as detectives to prove which one committed the dastardly deed.

So what’s it gonna be, good cop or bad cop?

Picking from these two game versions will determine the type of investigators you’ll be whilst you try to solve the crime, but which detective will crack the case first?

When I’m not reading books or working on the PhD, I can often be found enjoying games of one variety or another. Console gaming tends to be my preferred go-to but, during lockdown, I’ve rediscovered my love of board games, card games, and tabletop games so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try out Foul Play: The Manor House Murder, the new card game from After Dark Murder Mystery Events.

Although I enjoy the strategy and depth of intricate board games such as Pandemic and Elder Sign, it is rare that my husband and I get the time to sit down to play such lengthy campaigns and scenarios so we’re big fans of quick-play games such as Exploding Kittens, Sushi Go, and Fungi. Foul Play fits perfectly into this latter category – it’s quick to set up, easy to learn, and takes about 30 – 40 minutes to play.

There are two game modes on offer – Good Cop and Bad Cop. Good Cops need to find three pieces of evidence to uncover the killer AND they need to hold the suspect card in their hand before they can solve the case. Bad Cops simply need three pieces of evidence that can frame a suspect – if they can then make a case to implicate a suspect whose card they hold in their hand, they can solve the case! In both scenarios other players can attempt to block you from presenting your solution. They can also peek at your evidence (cards), steal or swap evidence, or re-visit the crime scene to acquire more information. And all players need to be on the lookout for those pesky red herrings!

There are 8 suspects to choose from and, owing to the design of the game, the solution will change each time you play. Between this and the different game modes, there is a ton of replay value in Foul Play and, with each round being nice and quick, it would make a fantastic game to introduce at parties or family gatherings (once we are allowed to have them again!). The game can be played with up to 5 players although, with two packs of cards, you can easily extend this to 8 for larger groups. It also works really well played as a couple. You really don’t feel as if you’re losing out by having fewer players and, if anything, it makes each round that bit quicker and more competitive – especially if you are playing as Bad Cop!

In terms of production value, the cards are nicely produced and feel fairly sturdy, with some fun character art and design on the suspect cards and nice clear images on evidence cards. Instructions for setting up and playing both game types are included in the box (although there are more detailed instructions and a picture of the setup online if you need them) and, as the box is the size of the average pack of playing cards, it isn’t a big game to have to store in the house. This makes Foul Play the perfect game for taking away on your travels – or entertaining yourself during a long journey. I can definitely see me taking it away to play with friends or on holiday.

Although Foul Play comes with a suggested age limit of 14+ owing to the murderous theme, younger children should be fine to play alongside adults – the card art isn’t gory and the game isn’t really any more sinister than Cluedo (although the mechanics are maybe a tad more complex given that it’s a card game).

As a card game take on the Murder Mystery party, Foul Play fulfils its brief perfectly. Quick to pick up and play, great for both couples and larger groups, and nicely portable, its made for a fun addition to our household’s growing game collection. At £8.95 a pack it also makes for a relatively inexpensive addition to your Christmas entertainments – or the perfect stocking filler for a game-loving friend or relative!

Foul Play is produced by After Dark Murder Mystery and is available to purchase on their website. My thanks go to After Dark for providing a copy of the game in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Emma at Damppebbles Blog Tours for organising and inviting me on to this tour. The tour continues until 11 December 2020 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!