The Saxon Wolves by Penny Ingham #BookReview #BlogTour

Britain 455AD. The Roman Empire has fallen. As the daughter of a king and a priestess of the sacred grove, Anya's life in Germania is one of wealth and privilege - until she dares to speak out against the high priest's barbaric human sacrifices. Her punishment is exile. Forced to leave her homeland, she sails to Britannia, to an island that is sliding into chaos and war, as rival kingdoms vie for power. Alone and far from home, Anya must learn to survive amidst the bloodshed, treachery and intrigue of fifth century Britain. Can she find a place to belong - a home, a hearth, a welcome?

I'm delighted to be one of the hosts for the first leg of the blog tour for The Saxon Wolves today, alongside two fabulous bloggers -  Cathy at What Cathy Read Next and Zoe at Zooloo's Book Diary. Many thanks to Penny Ingham and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the book.

The prologue of The Saxon Wolves places Anya, Saxon princess and…

Dark Pines by Will Dean @willrdean #BookReview


SEE NO EVIL

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.

HEAR NO EVIL

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.

Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She'd like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

I actually bought Dark Pines months ago after reading several glowing reviews from my fellow bloggers (yes, bloggers do buy books and blog tours help sell them!) and it's one of those books that could have been written for me so why it's taken me so long to read it is anyone's guess!
Tuva Moodyson has moved back to Sweden to be closer to her terminally ill mother but it has meant leaving London and taking a job on a local newspaper in the small town of Gavrik. She now writes local interest stories but when a body is found in the forest, she realises it could be the career-making story she desperately needs when the time comes for her to leave the place she dismissively calls Toytown. Twenty years ago, a series of unsolved murders left the people of Gavrik in fear and now it looks as though the killer nicknamed Medusa is back to finish the job. Tuva is determined to uncover the truth but with a town full of eccentric characters who resent her reporting lest the negative attention affects their own already economically vulnerable businesses, her complicated relationship with her mother and her own fears to face, she has more to deal with that just a murderer on the loose.
Although the mystery is intriguing and during the course of the story has some surprising twists and turns before the eventual reveal, what really made Dark Pines stand out for me is its main character. Tuva is a beautifully rendered protagonist who feels absolutely - and very messily - real. That she is deaf adds a fascinating slant to the novel and it is clear that Will Dean has carefully researched the realities of what it is like to live as a deaf person. Tuva understandably bristles at the well-meaning but patronising observations that she speaks well 'for a deaf person' and uses her deafness to her advantage by turning off her aids to allow her to work in uninterrupted silence. Her lip-reading prowess is put to frequent good use although there are practicalities she must consider with regards to changing the batteries in her aids and keeping them dry in the inclement autumnal weather. Refreshingly, however, her deafness is only a very small part of who she is and she struggles more with her deep-rooted dislike of the natural world than she does with her lack of hearing.
Tuva is the type of person who is much happier in urban surroundings and her fear of the forest is almost palpable. Dark Pines is aptly named with the vast Utgard forest casting an atmospheric and oppressive shadow over the book. The vivid descriptions meant I could almost smell the damp and rotting wood and I definitely felt an itchy empathy with Tuva when she suffered the attention of the large, blood-thirsty mosquitos!
It's not just the creatures of Utgard forest who present problems to Tuva however, the human residents are equally as disturbing. There is always something rather chilling about small towns in the middle of nowhere where everybody knows everyone else and most people are related in some way. The characters in Dark Pines are fabulously weird and it makes for nail-biting reading, wondering which ones are harmlessly eccentric and which have something more sinister to hide. With a reclusive ghost-writer who cooks whole calf heads, a creepy taxi driver whose young son is terrified of a room in their house and two sisters who make disturbing little wooden trolls using human hair and animal parts, there is a wonderfully off-kilter feel to the book which meant I couldn't tear my eyes from the page as I suspected first one character then another before the shocking conclusion proved I had been completely wrong.
Dark Pines is an assured, tense debut which features a compelling mystery and a truly memorable protagonist through whom Will Dean explores what it means to feel an outsider. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was delighted to be able to immediately continue my Tuvanuary fest (sorry!) with his next novel, Red Snow. Join me tomorrow as I share my thoughts on that book but in the meantime, I highly recommend Dark Pines.

Dark Pines is published Point Blank and can be purchased here;
Amazon UK
Hive
Waterstones
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iTunes
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About the Author



Will Dean grew up in the Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying at the LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it's from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.
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