Monday, 2 February 2015

Celtic Blood by James John Loftus / Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord / Little Brutes by L N Nino

My final three reviews for Sophie and Suze's Review Challenge which ends today. It's been fun!

Celtic BloodCeltic Blood by James John Loftus
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Celtic Blood is my second book for the Read Scotland 2015 challenge. Through the challenge's Goodreads page I learned of a limited time opportunity to download the book from Amazon for free.

Celtic Blood is billed as a historical novel. It is set vaguely across Scotland and some parts of England although definite identifications of place are rare. The story initially concerns a Scandinavian teenage boy, Seward, who is washed up on Scottish shores following a shipwreck. The focus then shifts to a Scottish boy, Morgund, for whom Seward acts as a kind of Squire.

Primarily a coming of age adventure, the tale revolves around Morgund's attempts to become a true warrior and reclaim his family's noble heritage. There is a lot of posturing about the 'sacred brotherhood' of men who own swords and the need for such soldiers to discover their destinies through fighting each other. The main plotline of the story is entertaining enough though, other than a silly interlude with some Satanic witches. None of the novel's female characters are at all realistic, but the generic 'old crone' at the centre of those scenes is definitely the worst of the lot.

The overriding problem with Celtic Blood however is that it is a difficult book to read. The language switches from contemporary to Olde Englishe - thank goodness no actual Scots is attempted! - and the random use of commas throughout means that some sentences have no meaning. Odd word orders frequently give the impression of reading the wisdom of Yoda. Loftus' use of sentence fragments could be considered a style decision if they were more consistently and sparingly applied. However, the combined errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling on every single page simply gave me the impression of a first draft that has somehow been published by mistake. The poor writing quality is repeatedly mentioned in other reviews dating back years though so, sadly, it would seem Loftus has not undertaken corrections and is not interested in providing the best experience for his readers.

Redemption in IndigoRedemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've finished Redemption In Indigo at last and, despite the ages it has taken for me to listen to its fairly short length, I am feeling a little sad to be away from Pamaa and her world. Having started at an awkward time without access to long solo walks which is when I do most of my listening, it is a credit to Karen Lord's memorable writing that I always found it very easy to both pick up my place in the tale, and remember how we had all got there, even though I had been away for several days. Redemption In Indigo is a perfect book to be heard, rather than read, because its narrator often breaks away to address the listener directly. With Robin Miles' able narration, these moments feel perfectly natural, but I think they might be odd for if reading a paper book.

Apparently the beginning of this enchanting tale is based on a traditional Senegalese folk tale. I loved the early episodes as the gluttonous Ansige attempts to win back his wife, Pamaa. She is forced to invent ever increasingly bizarre excuses to explain his mad behaviour! The intervention of various supernatural creatures, such as the Djombi and the tricksters meant that I never knew where Lord would take us next. I was reminded of the Neil Gaiman story Anansi Boys which is set in a similar environment. I think anyone who liked that would enjoy this although the stories themselves are different in their approach.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

Little Brutes by L N Nino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free personalised copy of Little Brutes, a short story by L N Nino, as a thank you for signing up to his email newsletter. I first discovered his work through reading his novella The Brain Within Its Groove. I was pretty impressed then and so was delighted to be emailed a few days ago with this current offer.

Little Brutes is a very short story, but contains a haunting vision of callous lives within its few pages. A mother and her son are left in extreme poverty when her husband is killed. The arrival of a baby tips the mother over the edge with heartrending consequences. I can't say too much here without giving away the tale but I think this is a great, sad story. It both shocked and moved me with its sharp depictions of three desperate people. I would highly recommend anyone who likes dark writing to give Nino a try.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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