Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullin:

This is a rare book. One that breathes like a flickering flame, before exploding like an inferno, gathering you in its clutches and refusing to let go.

There are three things I learned from Ashfall:

1) Super Volcanoes are SUPER scary.

2) People are capable of anything.

3) Never trust men with target signs on the back of their skull

Although, if I’m honest, that last one I already had figured out.

Now to the good stuff: The book itself.

This is everything you want from a disaster novel, and everything I hoped The Road would be. The thing is, in a market saturated by post-apocalyptic fiction, this is unique. Because this book deals with the immediate aftermath of disaster, and not as a reference to the past.

Alex, an ordinary fifteen year old on an ordinary day is thrust into extraordinary circumstances when the Super Volcano at Yellowstone National Park erupts. After a series of unexpected and terrifying events, he sets off to find his family in Warren and discovers that disasters bring out the worst in some people.

Particularly when you have this going off in your ears:


The action starts from the get go, and Mullin’s prose is pitch perfect, as he describes everything to great detail, but not to the point where you’re mind is as muddled as a post-volcanic boom. You can see every inch of what he is describing, and this is both a good and bad thing if you have a nervous disposition, because this book is DISGUSTING!

And I love it for that.

I’ll admit it; I love reading thrillers, and horror, so it takes a lot to get a reaction from me. I have read entire scenes featuring decapitation and did not even blink an eye (this probably says something about the desensitisation of my generation, but I say it’s because I’m odd) but when reading this book, the following happened:

I gasped.

I screamed.

I gagged. And gagged some more.

I gagged so much that I was asked if I was okay and offered a glass of water.

And all with a giant, face-splitting grin on my face.

Because gagging while reading a book is not something I have done in a very, very long time. It was a refreshing change.

But don’t let that deter you, this book is phenomenal. It is highly original, artfully written and the characters are just as interesting as the plot.

Ashfall shows that in the face of adversity, when times are tough, people are capable of anything. People will do anything to survive. Because survival is part of our programming. It is part of the human condition.

This is book I want on hand if there is ever an earth-shattering disaster. Firstly, because it’s fantastic, but secondly—and maybe this is more important—it actually tells you HOW to survive a disaster zone. From skinning rabbits, to surviving attacks by psychopathic cannibals.

That’s right: CANNIBALS!

This book has everything!

I can’t wait for the next instalment: Ashen Winter, and to see what becomes of Alex, Darla and the whole gang, as well as seeing more from Mike Mullin.

This is an author to watch folks.

Highly recommend it.


*I received this ARC courtesy of NetGalley in return for an honest review. I thank them for it*

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the Moonlight: a short story for funzies, and for a contest

So, Merry Sisters of fate are having a contest based on a prompt

So i thought I'd throw my two cents in and get to writing. So here we go:


Only the moonlight, the twittering birds and the guards were outside on the cold winter’s night. The foot soldiers watch the castle, protecting the preciousness that’s hidden inside. The royal family: King Jensen. Queen Annabelle.

And me.

Quinlan stalks outside the horse stables while I hide behind the hay. His sword is poised at his side and a bored expression is etched into every nook and cranny of his face. I am help captive in my castle, and I want out.

The hem of my dress grows filthier and the pungent smell makes me regret my decision to sneak out. But I need to breathe. I need my freedom. I am not a canary to be caged. I only have one life.

I intend to live it.

Once again, Quinlan paces back and forth, his shoe catching the tip of his sword, kicking it as he walks, like a disturbed dance. I almost laugh, but stifle the sound with the trail of my sleeve. I have known Quinlan all my life. His father is the leader of the guards, so he spent many an afternoon keeping me company in the castle, each of us itching to discover secret passage ways hidden in the depths of the stone castle, and only finding secrets hidden behind its doors.

One of which is the bounty on my head, haunting me since my youth.

But two months ago the first serious attempt was taken by the lake, and I only just escaped capture.

Hence the increase in protection detail, and the fraying of my nerves.

Quinlan seems to be alone, bathed in the eerily bright moonlight reflecting off the courtyard.

I wonder...

Hunched behind the hay, I caw like a crow and hopes he remembers our signal from when we were children.

He doesn’t.

I don’t know what disappoints me more: that he didn’t remember, or that I thought he would. Quinlan and I haven’t spoken for three years, ever since he joined the guards and I was sought out for official duties. When my life became too complicated.

When my life was no longer mine to live.

Quinlan pauses for a moment, but shakes his head, thinking he has imagined the noise that incited the shiver up his spine, as it had mine. But unlike him I chose not to ignore the sound. The sound of boot soles crunching against leaves, trying—and failing—to be silent.

Then he attacked.

Quinlan’s cat-like reflexes kicked in, thankfully, as his assailant darted at him with slash after slash. Quinlan parried and defended, metal crashing against metal, ringing out into the night. But no help could be found.

I pause, enthralled and anxious, watching as Quinlan’s movements became more frantic and less skilled. He was getting tired. This could be dangerous. This could kill him.

My stomach drops at the thought. Searching high and low across the stable walls, a scythe cries out to me like seraphim. I slip towards it, careful not to make too much noise. The handle is heavier than I imagined, the long blade coated in a thin film of rust and history.

I heave it from the wall and it crashes into the floor. I cannot lift it, and Quinlan’s grunts become more pronounced and his attacker draws closer. Beside the scythe lies a pitchfork, used to bundle hay together for turning in the heart of summer. I grasp it, feeling its weight reassure me as I hold it steadily at my waist and draw the scythe along the ground behind me, its blade ringing in protest.

The assailant is ten feet away.

He turns at the noise.

This is my chance, and I take it.

The pitchfork is airborne and falls in a downward arc through the muscles of his right leg. He cries out. Quinlan scrambles for his sword, which he lost in the struggle. But despite the blood loss and the pain, the attacker knows his target. He knows I am the one he will get the reward for capturing. Feasts and riches will reign down on him when he serves my head on a silver platter for the neighbouring king.

I can’t let that happen.

I won’t.

His grin grows wide, he tears the pitchfork from his leg and comes toward me, sword drawn and eye menacing. He is the hawk. I am the mouse.

I am about to die.

That is something I cannot fathom. Cannot accept.

Something washes over me, a sudden encompassing calm. I do not cry. I do not whimper. I merely say “Goodnight.”

And once he is close enough, I life the scythe and swing.

There is an arc of blood, a crumpling body, and a rolling head, before the scythe returns to my side and rips my sleeve apart, slicing through the soft skin of my forearm. I grunt and drop the weapon. Nausea roils through me.

I stand, unmoving, and look upon the mess I have made.

“Lina?” Quinlan stares at me in shock. It is enough to propel me across the courtyard, through the back kitchen and toward my room, tears threatening to spill from my eyes.

I climb. And climb. And climb some more.

Finally, the familiar limestone brickwork and flickering candlelight greets me, my bedroom beckoning me for sleep so I can pretend this is all a dream. A terrible nightmare.

Hearing the footsteps clamber up the stairs, reverberating off the secretive stones and turrets, does nothing to settle my nerves.

“Lina,” his voice calls, growing uncertain as he grasps the final footstep separating us, but feeling like a cavern in between. “Princess Lina,” I incline my head toward him, feeling the rush of emotion waving like flags in my veins, and look away once more.

Fear. Nausea. Shock. Uncertainty.

That is all I feel.

All I know.

All I am.

“May I ask why you followed me, Quinlan?” My voice is sharp and bitter as gooseberries, clipped to emulate my position, my god-given right.

What I have put on the line this very night.

Quinlan hangs his head, trying to shake away the shock. “Lina, look at me,”

I say nothing.

I do nothing.

I still.

“Quinlan, leave me.”

“You saved my life, Lina.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I push on the wooden panels, wishing them to fall away beneath my hand, but I can’t seem to enter the room. My breath freezes in my chest, my muscles ice.

“I would be dead if you hadn’t helped. He had his sword poised for the kill. saved me. How can I repay you?”

“You want to help me? Pretend it never happened.” I say, looking at him briefly. His dark hair, his darker eyes. The shadow of the boy I used to know hidden behind the safety of the red guards uniform.

Quinlan grasps my sleeve, fingering the torn fabric and spattered blood. “You’re hurt.” I do not look at him, or speak, but feel his fingers trail like butterfly wings across the wound, holding my arm in his grasp.

“I’ll live.” I whisper.

“As will I.” He says.

“Goodnight Quinlan.” I say, pushing on the doorframe, but am stilled by the fleeting feeling of his lips against my skin, pressing softly against my wound, lingering against my blood stained skin.

The night is still. The castle quiet. Tendrils of my flame-red hair hang free from my braid.

“Thank you, Lina.”

“I miss you Quinlan.” I draw myself from him and enter the room, lean against the dark wood door, and promise that tomorrow is just another day. That living in the moment means yesterday does not exist.

How I wish for this moment not to exist.

Because Princesses are meant to sit pretty and be poised. They are not meant to be armed and dangerous.

The funny thing is, at that moment of death, I had never felt more alive.

Hope you like :)