The Old Ways by R K Summers

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The night Thomas Rhymer’s young sister is stolen away by shadows and smoke, he discovers there’s more to life than the fields and forests he knows so well. If he has any hope of rescuing Alissa, he must first cross into a realm where magic is lifeblood, and where shadows dance with dragonfire.

With the help of the seelie faery Thistledown, Thomas embarks on a treacherous quest, deep into the heart of war-raved Albion. But getting his sister back means pledging aid to Mab, the usurped Queen of the Old Ways, against the tyranny of the Dark Prince.

Yet danger and deceit lie around every corner, and some secrets are better left untold.

RK Summers has woven her own particular magic into this adventurous retelling of Thomas Rhymer.  As a self-proclaimed enthusiastic as all things mythological, I am heartily dismayed at myself for reacting to the following sentence with revelatory surprise: “The Old Ways by RK Summers is a wonderful retelling-with-a-twist of the tale of Thomas Rhymer”. (inspired-quill.com)

The revelations were thus; first that Thomas Rhymer had a tale to retell and second that he was a real life person of some sorts from the old days (see what I did there?) of Bonnie Scotland. My self-disgust was soon assuaged with a huge wave of gratefulness to RK Summers and Inspired Quill for educating me and providing a new story bow for my folklore quiver. I think you should read it too, and here’s for why.

Thomas Rhymer is someone I think we can all relate to. He’s minding his own business, living his average life, trundling to market of a Wednesday, until he is enlightened about his family’s past. This swiftly plunges him into darkness before he begins to fight his way back to normality with the help of his loyal friends (and a sprinkling of magic).

I’m still undecided on Mab. She is the embodiment of magic, the loyal queen of her realm and leader of her magical folk. Yet, despite all of these strong accolades, she is weakened by the Dark Prince. She is in a constant downward spiral, resisting the magnetic pull of the prince while protecting her subjects.

Like Mab, I’m sure I shouldn’t, but I quite enjoyed the character of the Dark Prince. Severe mood swings and abusive behaviours aside, he did show a flash of occasional humility and a sharp, if a little warped, sense of humour. Maybe ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word, but the tension created from his unpredictability was certainly intriguing.

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Like any fantasy worth its salt, The Old Ways submerges us into a whole other world, which means a whole world full of characters to get to know. You have your handful of main characters, of course and the hoards of extras (think warring armies a la LOTR/ GOT). Then there are the middling characters; those who are bequeathed a name but are forgotten pretty rapidly as the next slice of action begins. There was a little too much time given to these middling characters (or too little depending on how you feel about grizzly old men in guest houses, invincible monsters or murderous siblings). The Dark Prince has far too many offspring, which are difficult to keep track of as a reader, never mind at family gatherings. No wonder they went the way they did. Speaking of, I’m not sure that I believed said offspring’s reactions to what was happening considering who their father was. But I am treading very close to spoilersville and so I will shut up.

I was always going to love this one. It has faeries and talking horses and magical realms and everything. The Old Ways would make a lovely Christmas gift for fantasy fans and/or a selfish treat! You can buy The Old Ways here. Enjoy!

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Piano From a 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts

Right, everybody. Cease what you are doing immediately. Buy this book. Read it. This is a direct order. ‘Piano from a 4th Storey Window’ is stupendously brilliant. You need it in your life. And here’s for why.

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Lawrence Fyre and Marin Strang aren’t like other people.

He is the eccentric owner of failing Sargosso Books in the Brighton Lanes. She is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and isolated Spanish teacher. If they live together in his illegal, beautiful, rope laddered lock-up, can their love overcome their losses?

Original, sexy, very funny and deeply moving. An author in complete control of a number of unforgettable characters and emotional highs and lows. Jenny Morton Potts leaves the reader breathless, and wanting more

The central characters, theme and plot are centred on relationships. Specifically, the relationship between Marin and Lawrence. We see the cross section of the whole thing from beginning to end and beyond. Marin is immediately intriguing in the opening pages. It is clear she has a past that even she is unsure what to make of. Throughout the book, Marin grows as she discovers the answers to some necessary questions. Meanwhile Lawrence is a relentlessly optimistic constant despite some rough patches along the way.  Together, they are perfection. Until they are not.

Much of the story deals with what it means to conform in today’s society. Jenny asks questions that I think we must all wonder about from time to time; is it ok to abandon one’s family religion if it means getting them in trouble? Is it ok to be friends with an ex? Is it ok to be friends with your partner’s ex? Is it ok to live in a lock up on an industrial estate without heating? (I think this is a standard no. By law). Is it ok to go for a very long jog on Christmas Day while the turkey goes cold (ABSOLUTELY NEVER).

Ms Morton Potts has such a beautiful way of neatly placing her characters into the world. The story is based mostly in Brighton and a little bit in the Orkney Islands. Then something happens about halfway through and the paradigm shifts so that while most of the story is still in Brighton, a large part of your consciousness is still floating around in upper Scotland. The two places couldn’t be more different and so perfectly complimentary of each other. So it is with Marin and Lawrence. If only they would realise this sooner!

What makes this book stand out for me is the obvious amount of research that has gone into it. There are quotes galore from all sorts of people and books. If you are a Jean Rhys and/ or Diana Athill fan, I guarantee that you will adore this book.

I really don’t want to say too much more. So much of the magic of this book comes from the little surprises that spring up from page to page.

I love reading and reviewing books by new authors. There are no expectations. To paraphrase Mrs Gump, reviewing new books is like a box of chocolates; you never know whatcha gunna get. I love it even more when a new author approaches me with a book she knows I’ll love. Jenny Morton Potts is one such author. I now bequeath her book to you dear readers, because I know you’ll love it too. I’m going to use a chocolate analogy now (mmm). Like the much coveted hazelnut whirl off of a Cadbury’s Roses box, ‘Piano From a 4th Storey Window’ will melt you inside and make you see that there is so much joy in the world. But! Out of the blue, you will bite down on a crunchy bit that you knew was there but had forgotten about, which will cause a little pain and make you want to cry. Anybody else experience these extreme emotions when rummaging around a box of chocolates? No? Just me?

You can (and should) purchase Jenny Morton Potts brilliant book here and here.

Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

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P.s. It is generally safe to read this book in public but I would recommend avoiding people in all quantities circa page 231. You will be a mess and you shouldn’t inflict yourself on anyone in this state. You. Are. Welcome.

P.p.s Thank you Jenny for sending me a paperback copy of your beautiful book for to read and review. Love it. More like this please!