7

Power Plays: The Red Queen

Red QueenThe Red Queen by Honey Brown

I recently read Honey Brown’s After the Darkness and was disappointed to discover that none of her other novels are available to readers in the UK. Luckily, I had a relative visiting from Australia and ordered from Readings (free and very quick postage within Aus – worth a plug) a couple of Honey Brown’s books, including this one.

Deep in the Australian bush, Shannon Scott is holed up in a cabin with his brother Rohan waiting out the catastrophic event of worldwide disease and a breakdown of global economies. One night a mysterious woman slips under their late night watch and past their loaded guns.

Denny Cassidy is beautiful and a survivor.Her inclusion in the cabin brings about the need for a new set of rules but is she laying a trap? Could she be a cold tactician with a deadly agenda?

First Impressions: I was plunged straight into the lives of the two brothers. Their lifestyle and the dystopian situation were convincing, almost too believable. Furthermore, the events surrounding the woman’s arrival (it happens early) are realistic. Nothing about the introductory chapters felt stilted or contrived.

Highlights: The whole scenario of the plague was incredibly well done. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach adopted by the two brothers, and their necessary fear of outsiders, permeated the whole story. I supported any of their ruthless decisions because their situation was so precarious. The changing relationship between the woman and the two brothers was both bleak and atypical yet entirely possible in such exceptional circumstances. Finally, I loved the way that references to the Red Queen were scattered throughout the novel.

If I was an editor: I would be blown away by such a dark story about chaos and human nature! The whole premise is so plausible it’s best not to think about it. The ending was fitting and not necessarily happy; the glimmer of hope still felt depressing! I did like the ending but perhaps would have liked more fallout…

Overall: Genunie dystopian fiction for adults.

The Red Queen: 5 Stars

 

2

Midland Marvel: Marriage Material

Marriage MaterialMarriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

The blurb for Marriage Material l reminded me of Rosie Dastgir’s A Small Fortune, a book I really enjoyed when I read it upon publication. It is therefore no surprise that I was incredibly keen to read Sathnam Sanghera’s new novel.

After his father’s death, Arjan Banga returns to Wolverhampton to support his mother, leaving his comfortable and trendy existence in London behind. To his amazement his mother wants to keep running the family convenience store. Alternating between flashbacks and the present day the novel tells the complex story of a multi-generational family trying to make itself complete while being torn between two versions of England.

First Impressions: The first chapter is a brutally honest account of life working in a convenience store. Sanghera doesn’t flinch when describing the casual prejudice experienced daily by Asian store owners. Nothing he said surprised me and I recalled a time last summer when, during an unseasonably heavy downpour, I overheard a customer commenting to the English-accented Asian man behind the till, ‘This rain must remind you of Pakistan.’

Highlights: Ranjit, Arjan’s childhood friend, is the most genuinely hilarious character I have come across for a very long time. Sure, he is a culmination of many stereotypes but with Sanghera’s skillful descriptions he authentic and believable. I assumed the sequence when the two friends were preparing for the anticipated Wolverhampton riots was Ranjit’s single moment to shine but much to my delight there was more of the humour to come. Arjan’s brief description of trying to keep up his running in Wolverhampton was also delightful. I thought Sanghera also littered his novel with interesting facts about the Sikh experience in the UK. He assumes an intelligent reader who has has some general background knowledge and I really enjoyed learning more.

If I was an editor: I would applaud Sanghera on his talent as a writer. The novel was moving along nicely and began to wonder when the crisis or turning point would occur and what it would actually be as nothing was really signposted. When it arrived it took me completely by surprise. The change of tone and shocking series of events will stay with me for a while. I really found it disturbing and heartbreaking but the abrupt change attests to Sanghera’s writing ability.

Overall: A superb novel about relationships and I have only scratched the surface in this review. There are many more characters worth getting to know.  I am now keen to read Sanghera’s earlier work The Boy with the Top Knot.

Marriage Material: 5 stars

Thank you to Random House Cornerstone for a copy of the ARC to review.

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