Book Review – A Long Day in Lychford

  • Title: A Long Day in Lychford
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/22/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The third volume in Paul Cornell’s Lychford series starts out as a discussion of Brexit, and ends with our three female heroes renewing their friendship and purpose by going through adversity. So Brexit happens, and Autumn feels very alone and threatened. It turns out Autumn is a Person of Color, and as such, Brexit is a direct threat to her and her shop. Autumn is now subjected to open racism and is verbally assaulted one night at the pub. When she leaves to avoid more trouble, Rory Holt follows her and continues to yell obscenities at her because of the color of her skin. Autumn unconsciously uses her powers to push him back and stumbles home, only to be woken by PC Shaun who is asking her some very pointed questions, since Rory’s gone missing.

But that’s not the only bothersome occurrence in Autumn’s life – she and Judith are feuding, especially since the Vote. And Lizzie very busy with church business and not able to bring balance between Judith and Autumn.
But Rory isn’t the only one to go missing – a Polish truck driver has also disappeared. And mysterious rave music from the woods underlies everything.

But Autumn, Lizzie, and Judith manage to unite anyway, they look into Lychford’s borders – which are knotted up, and they walk the borders. The three are quickly separated, and each much in her own way, do what they can to solve the supernatural mystery and bring back the Status Quo.

Lizzie finds the Rave, trapped in a moment in time – she’s able to get the young people free. Autumn finds the Polish truck driver, trapped in his flipped over vehicle. She gets him out of the truck, and they manage to find Judith and Rory, and with Lizzie’s help – they all get free and do what they can to fix the borders so supernatural entities cannot enter the world.

I liked this story – the three women are all strong in their own ways, and they are stronger together than apart. A Long Day in Lychford, in particular, speaks to how the three must unite in order to protect their town as well as the other realms. The novelette also seems to suggest there will be a sequel, but I don’t think there is one. Recommended.

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Book Review – The Lost Child of Lychford

  • Title: The Lost Child of Lychford
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/14/2018

**Spoiler Alert** I first starting reading this book months ago – and literally misplaced it. I recently found the book, started from the beginning and started to read – that was three days ago. I absolutely loved the book and finished it quickly. The Lost Child of Lychford is a sequel to Witches of Lychford and the second book in a trilogy. Lizzie, the Reverand Elizabeth Blakemore is getting ready for her first Christmas as Vicar of St. Martin’s in Lychford. She is under considerable stress and not in the Christmas spirit at all – and when she sees a young child in her church, at first she isn’t quite sure the child is even there. She talks to Autumn and Judith about it and realizes that she has seen a ghost.

Meanwhile, Judith is working in Autumn’s shop – but she isn’t the best person to be working in customer service. Judith is also hiding a big secret from her friends.

Lizzie finds the real toddler whom her ghost resembles, a young boy named Jaime, who has two loving parents and a stable home. It’s unclear why the only message the ghost gives Lizzie is “no hurt”.

Meanwhile, Autumn receives an email from Finn of the fairies, she opens it and he appears in her rooms and warns her something is wrong with the magical boundary around Lychford.

Judith, Lizzie, and Autumn start to investigate these two mysteries. But nothing seems to go to plan. When they visit the old tree stump, Judith can tell something is wrong – but she can’t vocalize what it is. Lizzie is so busy with various dinners, carol services, children’s pageants, and a wedding she doesn’t have much time to investigate. Lizzie even leaves as soon as Judith finishes her reading at the tree.

Judith takes Autumn out to the local pub in Lychford, for a night of “divination in beer”. Autumn plays along but clearly doesn’t understand what Judith is trying to do. That night, Autumn meets a man in the pub and goes home with him. Judith goes home as well and has an interesting experience with the ghost of her husband. Within moments – Judith is pulled inside her husband and trapped. Autumn wakes up with a naked man in her bed but scares him off with her intensity.

Lizzie meets with the couple who want to marry on Christmas Eve, and can’t quite put her finger on what is so unusual about the couple’s odd requests. As Lizzie falls deeper into a trance – Autumn becomes obsessed with her one night stand, and Judith disappears.

Autumn goes to visit Lizzie and finds her trying to harm her hands. The ghost insists, “Don’t hurt”. And Autumn realizes her need for her one-night lover is way too intense. Autumn casts an anti-love potion on herself to break the spell (after she and Lizzie visit the young man, Luke, to safely obtain some of his blood for the spell). The spell works and Autumn comes to her senses. They walk to Judith’s house and figure out she’s missing – informing her son, a local police officer. Autumn falls into the same trap as Judith, but Lizzie rescues her.

Lizzie gets back to the church and starts the rehearsal for the wedding. She doesn’t seem to find it odd that the couple has brought strange statuary into her church, nor that the best man is a shadow and the bridesmaids have glowing eyes. She doesn’t even object when she is told to use a ceremonial knife to stab a plastic baby doll. All along, though the ghost tells her – don’t hurt. Lizzie invites the ghost into her rooms, but this doesn’t make the ghost more communicative.

Autumn meanwhile thinks Lizzie is just fine and creates a potion to transfer power to the ghost. Then the young toddler, Jaime goes missing.

Everything comes to a head at Lizzie’s church, where Autumn interrupts a very odd wedding. Lizzie finally breaks free of her conditioned responses. She and Autumn chase after the couple who have Jaime hostage. They inform the police and head to the boundary. The two women confront the spirits, who intend on breaking the boundary, turning it inside out – and stopping time in Lychford. Autumn takes some risks and is able to get help from Finn and Judith. But it is Lizzie who stops the decapitation of Emma by Fairy troops, even though she’s some sort of supernatural creature, who prevents the breakage of the boundary. Judith is freed and the boundary is as before. The three women rescue Jaime and return him to the police and his parents.

This book was a quick read. It develops the three female characters from the previous book and introduces more intrigue in Lychford. I enjoyed it very much and will look forward to reading the final volume.

Highly recommended.

Book Review – Witches of Lychford

  • Title: Witches of Lychford
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/15/2018

Witches of Lychford is a short book and first in a trilogy. Three women all return to their home town, a small English village, and become unlikely allies in a battle against Sovo – a supermarket chain that wants to build a store in the village. One of the women had actually never left. Judith lives in the village and always had, and has a slightly abusive husband she would never leave. Lizzie returns to the village as the new Anglican priest, but she is having doubts about her faith. Her former best friend, Autumn, has also returned and opened a “New Age” and witchcraft shop. Autumn and Lizzie had a falling out years ago, partially because Autumn was always logical and scientifically-minded. Lizzie is shocked, therefore at the type of shop that Autumn now owns and runs.

But the three all, gradually, deal with the traumas in their past, open up to each other, and work to stop Sovo, which is up to a great deal more than just “bringing progress, jobs and modernity” to the small village of Lychford. It seems the village is a lynchpin – holding a dark, supernatural world at bay. Autumn, who disappeared for two years, had actually literally fallen in to “fairy land” which was not a wonderful place but dark and scary. Lizzie had accidentally pushed her fiancé in front of a car. The accident changed her life. And Judith – Judith is also hiding a secret that is only revealed in the last few pages of the novel.

The story brings these three characters together, and they learn to trust each other. They also learn about the supernatural world from Judith – though each has an affinity for it in their own way. The developing friendship makes the story work. But this also feels, not so much as an “unfinished” book, but definitely the first part of something. I will need to read the next too volumes to see how interconnected the story is. But for now, I enjoyed Witches of Lychfordas a story of the unlikely friendship of three women who are “sisters-in-arms” in a battle against dark forces.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Revelation

  • Title: Timewyrm: Revelation
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/20/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Timewyrm: Revelation is the fourth and final volume in the opening “Timewyrm” series to Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who New Adventures. Unfortunately, the story spends most of it’s time in a strange dreamscape where both anything can happen and there are no consequences. So the story doesn’t really work – it’s unrelatable, and there’s no sense of jeopardy – if nothing is real in the characters world, it doesn’t matter. This is sad, as this is the final volume of the series, and it’s written by one of my more favorite Doctor Who authors.

The story opens in 1922, in the small village of Cheldon Bonniface, a village the Doctor has visited many times and in many of his regenerations. The local church is inhabited by Saul, a friendly spirit. And yes, Saul really is a friendly spirit. Older than the church itself, Saul’s presence means the area has been sacred to everyone, going back to the ancient Celts and beyond. The Doctor and Ace arrive, only for things to immediately get weird. It should be Christmas Eve, but the people in the village pub are constructs created by the Timewyrm. The local village church blasts off to the moon, and the explosion destroys the entire village and quite a lot of the surrounding area. Once arriving on the moon, a young couple, the vicar, and Saul are charged with protecting the barely alive, comatose bodies of Ace and the Doctor. At one point the Doctor arrives, thrusts a female baby into the young woman’s hands, then leaves with no explanation. Saul and in-universe magic keep a bubble of breathable air inside the church (not to mention normal gravity).

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ace have been drawn into a dreamscape similar to the Time Lords’ Matrix as seen in the aired episodes, “The Deadly Assassin” and “Trial of a Time Lord”. Also present is a bully from Ace’s past, who, in an alternate reality made possible by the Timewyrm, killed Ace with a brick, and the British Nazi soldier from the alternate future in Timewyrm: Exodus. The Doctor and Ace literally must confront their demons in the dream world.

Unfortunately, in a very similar manner to previous aired episodes featuring the Time Lord Matrix, the vast majority of the book is spent in the dreamspace. Some chapters or sections of chapters flash back to the church, which is on the moon – and those chapters are more interesting taking place in the “real” world. Though at the same time, there’s two issues – first, it doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense that a church would be successfully transplanted to the moon and the people inside survive, and second, everyone is literally stuck inside a relatively small building. There isn’t much they can do but talk. Saul and company, however, are, eventually instrumental in helping the Doctor and Ace to escape their dream prison.

In the dreamscape, the Doctor and Ace, separately, and together literally confront their demons. Ace shows just how much she has grown-up, especially by the end of the book. The Doctor doesn’t fair so well, especially when confronting his guilt over the deaths of his previous companions. But in the end, one of the people in the church, the young woman, has some latent psychic ability, between that and a medallion hidden by the Doctor in a previous incarnation, she and her mathematician husband, are able to enter the dreamscape to pull the Doctor and Ace out. At first, they seem successful in rescuing the Doctor at least – but without Ace, the Timewyrm, now possessing the Doctor, will win. The Doctor re-enters the dreamscape. Ace finds the Fifth Doctor, tied to the Doctor’s Knowledge Tree, where he has been since the Time War – when he objected to fighting at all. Freeing the Fifth Doctor allows the Seventh Doctor to confront and overcome the Timewyrm, who it turns out, is a natural part of the universe. The Timewyrm is more-or-less, as best as I could figure out, the goddess of cosmic karma, encircling the universe, eating her tail, and responsible for beginnings and endings. The Doctor takes her out of his head where she was hiding and moved her into the body of a clone baby (with no mind of it’s own) to be raised by the childless couple in the church who had desperately wanted a child in the first place.

The church is returned to where it came from. The destruction of the village is reversed. The Timewyrm’s time travel to urge the bully to kill Ace is also undone. The guy from the alternate future does not exist because Ace and the Doctor reversed it previously. In other words, pretty much everything is returned to status quo.

Overall, the first two books in the Timewyrm series were better than I remembered. Well, okay, technically, I think I only read one of them before when the series was published, not sure which one, but still – at the time I hated it. I disliked the third book, intensely. The last book seems to be obviously checking off items on an outline that “must be handled” as this is an on-going series of tie-in novels. So the author was probably constrained in what he could do (I’ve read a lot of other stuff by Cornell – he’s usually much better than this), but at the same time, having the vast majority of the book taking place in the Doctor’s head (literally) but in a dreamspace controlled by the Timewyrm, the enemy and “Big Bad” of the four books didn’t really work – I like having the Doctor in charge.

In terms of recommendations, if you’re going to read any of the Timewyrm series, read all four books, but overall, it’s a bit disappointing.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Genesys.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Exodus.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Apocalypse.

Book Review – Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

  • Title: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2016

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? is the third book in Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police series. Like it’s predecessors – it’s a very intense, but also somewhat violent and depressing read. Quill and his team are back – and everyone is dealing with some pretty heavy stuff from the previous two novels. Quill even suffers a breakdown from the knowledge he gained at the end of the previous book, The Severed Streets.

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes begins with a murder and (separately) an unusual bank robbery. The novel bit by bit ties together the various crimes that the Team investigates. The murders, even from the beginning, seem to be linked to the famous Sherlock Holmes stories – then the ghost of Holmes is murdered. But as the team investigate and try to prevent further murders – the situation becomes more and more complicated. Then Quill has his breakdown and begins to see Moriarty. However, considering Holmes himself was murdered – this novel doesn’t take the easy and predictable route to a conclusion.

The novel has many twists and turns – which I’m not going to spoil. It is much better to read this book and discover them for yourself.

The characterization in this book is awesome. Several of the characters – Ross, Rebecca Lofthouse, Costain, Sefton, and Quill, all go through major life-changing events. The characters have always made this series of unique crime novels for me – and this novel in particular adds and changes the characters’ experiences (and I cannot wait to read more!). We also, finally, find out more about the previous “Continuing Projects Team” and what happened to them.

I don’t want to spoil the story – but in general terms, the murders in the book are connected by the resemblance to murders in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories – and the fact that the victims had at one point in their lives played Sherlock Holmes. London is also experiencing “Holmes-mania” because three different Sherlock Holmes productions are filming in London at the same time. But that is the background, and the plot – what makes this novel really work is the characters and their own, individual, dramas. Highly recommended!

Book Review – The Severed Streets

  • Title: The Severed Streets
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/29/2014

The Severed Streets is Paul Cornell’s sequel to London Falling but whereas London Falling started slow because there was a lot of set-up, The Severed Streets jumps right in. It’s a brilliant novel that I highly recommend, but I also don’t want to spoil it. Simply read this novel.

The plot is three-fold: due to government cuts to salaries and personnel the London Metropolitan Police are threatening an illegal but justified strike. Fed-up with the Coalition government cuts to necessary services, “flash mobs” in Toff masks and costumes are showing up all over London, raising havoc and slowly becoming more and more violent. And, in the midst of all this, James Quill’s special unit is called to investigate supernatural murders in impossible places that superficially resemble the crimes of Jack-the-Ripper.

The novel draws you in to its world and moves fast. Reading the book kept me up late for several nights because I could not put it down. And it’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that was that engrossing.

This is a somewhat depressing book – but it’s a story with hope too. At it’s heart it’s more of a Supernatural mystery or crime story than fantasy – James Quill and his unit are cops – cops with special abilities, which they acquired in an accident in the first novel in the series, London Falling. And, yes, by the end of the novel, like in all crime stories, the crime is solved. But in no way is the story predictable, there was only one detail where I could have predicted something would happen that did – and it happened in an unpredictable way (and my reaction was more along the lines of how series fiction works than anything the author telescoped unnecessarily).

The book was awesome, and the last line is an “OMG!” moment that stuck in my head for days. I highly recommend this novel, and I dearly hope there will be another book in the series.

Book Review – London Falling

  • Title: London Falling
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/02/2014

“You with the tentacles, you’re nicked!” ~ Paul Cornell ~ London Falling

The first fifty pages or so of London Falling read like a gritty British police drama. Four cops are working their last night on a long complicated case to catch a gangster. One of the cops is dirty, and the others are just exhausted – knowing if this last desperate try doesn’t work, their funding will be pulled and they won’t be able to continue to pursue Toshack. It’s all or nothing. They catch him, but he dies in police custody in mysterious circumstances. Circumstances that have nothing to do with the usual suspects of bent coppers. The investigation quickly changes everything as the four cops (one’s an technical analyst) develop The Sight, and end up on a much stranger case.

Technically, I would give this book three and a half stars. It reads more like horror than fantasy. And, although I liked it – the story was SO dark, at times I just didn’t feel like picking up the book. However, the story does move at a good clip, once it gets going, and I loved the last few chapters.

The end of the book sets up a sequel, which is apparently coming next May. I’ll look forward to it. Much of this novel felt like set-up and introduction, and a full story set in this world with these characters could be really cool.

Oddly enough, when I was reading the book, I thought it would make a great television series. Paul Cornell is nothing if not a visual writer. In the afterword, the author mentions it was originally a television series pitch from “decades ago”.

PS: This movie has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent (2014-2016) apocalyptic disaster film with the same title.