Witcher Boxed Set – a review

Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Most recently on this blog site, I posted a brief update in my 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits – my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges. The post was a link back to my 2018 delve into the Witcher origins:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/27/w-for-witcher/

The extent of my interest/obsession with all things Witcher extended to a game review:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/07/19/witcher-3-the-wild-hunt-a-review/

And a review of the first book in Geralt’s chronology – a collection of short stories which introducing Sapkowski’s character to a growing audience: The Last Wish:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/05/24/the-last-wish-a-review/

Then the second collection of shorts – Sword of Destiny:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/06/28/sword-of-destiny-a-review/

However, my journey didn’t end there as the Witcher world is growing – even before Netflix released the TV series over Christmas. In Witcher 3, there was an addictive card game called Gwent – well, addictive for some players like me. I even have a physical set of all the cards and a board.

Plus, the developers behind the video games, CD Projekt Red, have an ongoing online version of Gwent, which even includes international tournaments. I’m now addicted to online Gwent when I can find the time. I also completed CDPR’s Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, which also has Gwent at its heart.

But I digress as this post is ultimately a review of the next three books – part of Sapkowski’s awesome world-building. And my reading continues from here, so expect more.

The Witcher Boxed Set

(The Witcher #1-3)

by Andrzej Sapkowski


This special boxed set includes the first three novels in Andrzej Sapkowski’s New York Times bestselling epic fantasy saga — the books that introduced the world to THE WITCHER and inspired the hit Witcher video games.

“The universe of Sapkowski’s The Witcher is one of the most detailed and best-explored in modern fantasy.” —B&N

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

In Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, and Baptism of Fire, Sapkowski brings a fresh new voice to fantasy fiction, creating something wholly dark and exciting in this world of fairy tales and witchers.

Review 4.4 stars

I confess to being engrossed – probably obsessed – by Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher universe. It’s a fantasy world unlike the Norse/Anglo-Saxon/Celtic one I grew up absorbing. Trying to review the books out of their overall context is hard. They don’t read as standalone novels, although each one has a different style in how the tale is told and in emphasis, whether in who is the primary character or the overarching theme.

Each novel reads differently, sustaining the epic length of the saga. I admire Sapkowski’s ability to change styles – and applaud the translator. One crucial piece of advice: read the books in sequence and start not with Blood of Elves, but with The Last Wish https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40603587-the-last-wish  –– as past events are key to the unfolding saga.

Blood of Elves: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6043781-blood-of-elves

Geralt may be a Witcher, a hired monster slayer, but his challenge is now the Child of Destiny, the Princess Ciri who escaped the destruction of Cintra. There are monsters, but unlike the two earlier initial books of short stories, his concern is personal and more of the monsters are human. Politics and racial tensions are simmering. 

Ciri and those who care for her have become the focus, not just Geralt. Learning about the Witcher universe is a learning process – for us and Ciri – and the jigsaw shimmers into view…although not all at once.

Some readers expected more about Geralt, but the key to his destiny and others is now Ciri. So, other characters play crucial roles – like the sorceress Yennefer, Geralt’s on-off love.

A second war between the Empire of Nilfgaard and the Northern Realms is brewing – and it helps to know more of the background from the shorts. The reader is given some clues and hints, but explaining the intricacies, the twists, the deceptions of politics – and history – will take a few books. It’s complex as in real life.

Yes, there are ‘pages of dialogue’ and Sapkowski indulges in writing chunks of text, sometimes verging on the didactic. Yet, I was engrossed and never stopped read – and adding to my knowledge of a richly-painted and crafted world. Having met a few familiar characters from the shorts – and played Witcher games – I was keen to read more about the Child of Destiny, about whether this child of prophecy will save the world or herald its destruction. 

The Time of Contempt: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14781491-the-time-of-contempt

The story from Blood of Elves develops with increasing complexity as more players get involved – which means more POVs and threads. For those who want a Witcher slaying monsters, beware. Be prepared for political intrigue instead, when a coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild, war breaks out across the lands, and everyone knows what’s best for Ciri.

Including Geralt, but a serious injury leaves the Witcher fighting for his life, while Ciri, in whose hands the world’s fate rests, has vanished. The threads, twists, deceptions, double-crossings, intrigues, and intricacies are spreading – like a disease.

And yes, there are chunks of Sapkowski’s trademark sermonic yet instructive info-dumps. I welcomed them as I’m open to indulging in his world-building, but I recognise many aren’t. But then I’m an addict who even plays the Witcher games, so I dive down research rabbit holes with little prompting.

Anyway, this continuation builds on the previous book – in a more varied and engrossing style. There are distinct approaches to the storytelling, depending on the protagonist – and there are some more now. We get a chance to see events from various angles, depending on the character’s allegiances to one of the Northern Realms, the Nilfgaard Empire, the non-human Scoia’tael, or those caught up in the struggles. Some are poignant and tragic, like a King’s messenger called Aplegatt – one of my favourite chapters. Trying to remain neutral is hard, especially for Geralt.

“It’s incredible,’ the Witcher smiled hideously, ‘how much my neutrality outrages everybody.’”

The portrayal of the non-humans is not idealised either – be they dwarves, gnomes, elves, or dryads. They may wage a bloody struggle against humans, but I understand why they fight and for what since Sapkowski portrays their dilemma in detail.

The book has a cliff-hanger, but the author’s impudently clever explanation made me chuckle. And I had to read the next book.

Baptism of Fire: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18656031-baptism-of-fire

Onto Book 3 of this Witcher set and the weaving threads bring in new characters – ones I know from the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt game and the Gwent card-game. As I read more and more, engrossed, I was wishing I’d bought the next two books.

Anyway, the plot layers are growing. Now that dark times have fallen upon the world, Geralt is helpless until he has recovered from his injuries – in Brokilon, home of the dryads. While war rages across all the lands, the future of magic is under threat and those sorcerers who survive are determined to protect it. It’s an impossible situation in which to find one girl – Ciri, the heiress to the throne of Cintra. She has vanished – until a rumour places her in the Nilfgaard court, preparing to marry the Emperor.

However, the reader knows differently, although Ciri is struggling to survive and too far from those like Geralt, who want to help her. Her story takes disturbing turns as she stumbles from one challenge to another, discovering innate skills. Her ‘adventures’ are told in a contrasting style to the events of those searching/pursuing her.

More characters are introduced with varying agendas and idiosyncrasies – distinct too…with a few forgivable tropes. However, most are complex and deceptive. Never trust first appearances. Geralt adds to his traveling companions at various crossroads, and I welcomed meeting Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, having encountered Regis in the Witcher 3. Let’s just say Regis, the intellectual barber-surgeon of Dillingen is one of the best characters in all the books – comparable in a way to Borch Three Jackdaws alias Villentretenmerth from one of the earlier short stories.

There are the expected passages that some readers skip as didactic sermonising – or bad writing – and others like me relish as informative. There are other wonderful descriptive passages – as in the other books – but then I’m a sucker for purple prose if it captivates in its craft. Easily satisfied?

By the expected/foreshadowed climax/cliff-hanger, I was wondering where the Rats would end up and whether Geralt would find Ciri before chaos ensued. So, I spent my money and I’m now reading the final two books in the series – but those reviews must wait.

Having given up recently on another trilogy, as scenes felt repetitive – copy & pasted almost – this set of books was an engrossing read.

This isn’t my number one fantasy saga/series, but for all its faults, I rate it for what it adds to the genre. My favourite isn’t even any of the obvious ones. [See the When Women Were Warriors Series https://www.goodreads.com/series/46351-when-women-were-warriors]

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Diversity – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

Voyagers – a review

I’ve been celebrating since May 5th, 2020 when the IWSG Anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost: The Third Ghostwas released to the world. Yet, back when the 2019 competition was announced, I hesitated about entering a story as I’d never written any Middle Grade fiction.

Eventually, I was gently persuaded to write something. But I was surprised to be among the 10 chosen authors in this anthology. Voyagers was inspirational to be involved with, and it proved a chance to meet and work with nine talented writers – and a great editor.

So, I may be tempted to create a 2020 submission. Anyway, here is my review, now I’ve read and enjoyed every phrase of this wonderful collection.

Voyagers: The Third Ghost

by

Yvonne Ventresca (Goodreads Author),

Sherry Ellis (Goodreads Author)

Bish Denham (Goodreads Author)

Charles Kowalski (Goodreads Author)

Katharina Gerlach (Goodreads Author)

Roland Clarke (Goodreads Author)

Rebecca M. Douglass (Goodreads Author)

Beth Anderson Schuck (Goodreads Author)

Louise MacBeath Barbour

L.T. Ward

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Review 5 stars

Every one of these stories was different in style, historical period, use of plot elements, and varied appearances of the unexpected from folklore to time travel. Ten marvellous reads and not just for Middle Age readers as this finicky retiree can attest. This anthology kept me reading from cover to cover with minimal breaks.

1. The Third Ghost by Yvonne Ventresca

This poignant story set in 1981 kept me riveted through to the twist at the end, even though I sensed it coming – although, the foreshadowing was subtle and hidden. Yvonne Ventresca makes the costly tragedy of arson elicit our concerns for justice with powerful descriptions. The emotions pulled me through the journey, and her beautiful crafting of words had me in tears by the end of The Third Ghost.

2. The Ghosts of Pompeii by Sherry Ellis

The humour mixed with the historical morsels was entertaining. Bubba and Squirt are fun characters with wonderful banter – I loved the sticking-out tongues. The pizza thread is tasty too. The mix of elements from ghosts to time travel worked well and were neatly blended into this delicious treat.

3. The Blind Ship by Bish Denham

I related to this dark and emotional story as I grew up with abolitionist ancestors – so a conscience. Bish Denham has crafted a powerful and moving tale based on real historical events recorded by the twelve-year-old boy. Her youngster’s ability to see ‘Negros’ as humans and not slaves was rare but motivational. Tragically the terrors of slavery still exist. 

4. Dare, Double Dare by Louise MacBeath Barbour

Kids goading each other into an adventure provides a neat opening hook for this intriguing time travel tale. The story makes skilful use of 1600s Canada with its mix of French and Mi’kmaq culture, including language. These are neatly integrated, and a glimpse of history is included that few know about.

5. Return to Cahokia by L.T. Ward

In Return to Cahokia we are treated to heavenly magic with siblings creating weather – the Warm Weather Gods. L.T. Ward paints an atmospheric journey through her vibrant use of the sky, clouds, rain, wind, and sun. This story brings to life the rich Native American heritage of the Cahokia tribe blending mythology and archaeological fact.

6. Feathered Fire by Roland Clarke

Feathered Fire is my own creation so all I will add is it proved a worthwhile challenge merging history – heroic Soviet airwomen and tragic Ukrainian dilemmas during World War II – with the legends of the Zharptica (Firebird) a rich vein in Slavic folklore.

7. The Orchard by Beth Anderson Schuck

Beth Schuck has crafted an alluring story in The Orchard where nature flourishes in the face of disbelief. For me as a dedicated Green, I was captivated by Nels with her special connection to trees and other creatures. Dryads must be as real as portrayed here, even if most of us are blind to their blessings. A favourite among so many.


8. Simon Grey and the Yamamba by Charles Kowalski 

Although Japan with its extensive and deep culture are unfamiliar, Charles Kowalski brings his 1620s setting to life, balancing wonderful descriptions, living folklore – some scary – testing trials, and historical nuggets. Yet even this legendary monster echoes Western nightmares – the universality of folklore.

9. A World of Trouble by Rebecca Douglass

Back when aeroplanes were a once in a lifetime encounter, sneaking off to see one at a young age makes sense – sometimes. Throw in an impending disaster from floodwater, and you have Rebecca Douglass’s tension ramped A World of Trouble. The dilemma at its heart involves a realistic race against time.

10. Winter Days by Katharina Gerlach

Having seen the Iron Curtain between West and East Germany, I connected to this gripping tale of crossing that border and getting trapped on the wrong side. With her German roots, Katharina Gerlach has captured the family fears emanating from the greyness of the East and the father’s past. The use of ‘gray’ to colour everything is masterly as is the sense of cold becoming deep snow. However, humanity must shine through.

Title: Voyagers: The Third Ghost
Author(s):  Yvonne Ventresca, Sherry Ellis, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Rebecca M. Douglass, Beth Anderson Schuck, Louise MacBeath Barbour, and L.T. Ward
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
Pages: 168
Series: No
Goodreads
Website

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Reading Review Wreckage

Throughout the Winter break, my Inbox has been flooded with emails wishing me seasonal greetings, reflecting on the year/decade ending, or plotting the future.

Feeling inundated and overwhelmed, do I dare add to the navel gazing – oops, discussion?

I need to scratch one large itch, so apologies.

My year in books was frustrating, after I started 2019 with great determination. I committed to reading 35 books for the Goodreads Challenge – not as many as some years – and 16-25 mystery/suspense/thriller/crime for the Cloak & Dagger Challenge.

But I failed both Challenges.

For the 2019 Goodreads Challenge, I only read 28 out of my intended 35 books. Only 14 of these were ‘crime’- three more than 2018, but not enough to make me more than an ‘Amateur Sleuth’.

I had a mid-year reading/review crisis. I was unable to keep up with my reviews, so stopped reading. That didn’t resolve the review problem and instead created a reading backlog/logjam. At least seven books are screaming for reviews, not counting ones from previous years.

I have other excuses/alibis.

My Kindle Fire frustrates me. When I switch the power on, it takes ages to load – often re-organising its files – dissuading me from reading. Paperbacks win on that score – and others. Yes, I can store so many more with the Kindle. But that means more books unread. I wanted to delete some books – samples etc – but that’s near impossible on my model.

Audible: simpler as I don’t need to turn pages or struggle with my failing eyes, and I get swept into other worlds by great narrators. Is that why two of my five star reads were five stars – The Alice Network and The Pearl Thief? However, the downside is my tendency to fall asleep, not because of the book, but because of my fatigue.

MS fatigue is one of the side-effects of my chronic illness. I fear MS and old age are more than excuses.

Let’s put excuses aside and be positive. I’m setting my sights lower in 2020.

For the Goodreads Challenge, I’ve decided that 30 books in 2020 is a realistic target. I already seem to be ‘currently reading’ eight books: three with Audible, one on Kindle, three paperbacks and one hardback. Doesn’t that look like a good start for the year?

Deceptive fog, I fear. Two of those are research books that I dip in and out of. One is a factual grind which will never get finished. The Kindle read is proving disappointing so slow. And one of the Audible books is proving a hard listen.

Does another reading-review wreckage loom? Not if I persevere.

I’m veering back to old-fashioned paper books – there are plenty on my desk to read. I will persist with Audible as my eyes will welcome that – if I can evade the fatigue.

As for the Cloak & Dagger Challenge, I have eleven of my 2019 ‘crime’ reads remaining – plus, my TBR list has a few more from the genre. Another Amateur Sleuth?

My book of 2019? A five-star read that was magical. A story that resonated with me – wolves, Russia, revolution, adventure, and the wolves. Plus, prose that was masterful. An encounter with middle-grade reading with unexpected but amazing results.

The Wolf Wilder

by Katherine Rundell

The Wolf Wilder – a review

Once again, I’m catching up with my book reviews – by not reading but writing. And I’m still ahead in my 2019 Goodreads Challenge– 22 books read from my target of 35 with a few part-finished books in the read-line. Whether I can stay ahead depends on my ability to write. After this, I’ll only be three book reviews behind – if I ignore the backlog from 2018 and earlier.

Anyway, on to the Thursday Creation Review for today – a novel that was a change for me. It’s been a while since I read a Middle Grade book, but research for the IWSG Anthology competition led me here.

And I’m ecstatic.

The Wolf Wilder

by Katherine Rundell

Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.

When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.

Review 5 stars

This was magical. A story that resonated with me – wolves, Russia, revolution, adventure, and the wolves. Plus, prose that was masterful.

12-year-old Feo Petrovna and her mother, Marina, live in the snowbound Russian woods with a pack of wolves nearby. A pack of wolves that were once aristocrats’ tamed pets. But wolf wilder Marina, with Feo’s help, has helped the creatures discover how to be wolves. They all bear the scars – human and wolf –  but these make them stronger and more prepared to face what is coming.

“Wolves, like children, are not meant to lead calm lives.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

This is 1917 and revolution is coming. It arrives in their lives, and Marina is arrested by the local commanding officer Rakov. Dislikeable from the moment he appears and exerts his twisted authority, he becomes Feo’s foe as she attempts to save her mother – and the wolves.

In her attempt, she is aided by the pack, who are complex and formidable characters – and tragic. Each has distinctive appearances and traits. Katherine Rundell excels not only in portraying multi-dimensional people in clear language but also creatures that are mysterious and faithful – faithful to the pack and those like Feo they trust.

Feo’s escape with the wolves gains an unexpected ally – Ilya, a 13-year-old soldier boy. A reason to be wary, but Feo can sense his true nature – a skill she must have learnt as a wolf wilder-in-training. But are the wolves so trusting?

“Wolves are the witches of the animal world.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Will the children and wolves survive to save Marina before Rakov can execute her in the face of the revolution aimed at him?

I couldn’t stop reading the beautiful words of this unfolding story. I knew the history, but that was just a setting like the woods and weather, so lives were still at risk. The escape only set up more – more encounters, more conflict, more character, and a climax which ties everything together.

The opening and the ending are beautiful bookends – crafted to perfection. This is a true ‘once upon a time’ about ‘a dark and stormy girl’.

Wolf wilders may be a fiction, yet they are rooted in fact and in places might exist. Feo’s family feel real so that’s what matters.

Another enjoyable read – suitably illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico – and highly recommended for anyone who likes entertaining historical fiction with strong MG protagonists.

“Stories can start revolutions.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Night Witch – a review

I’m catching up with my book reviews – by not reading but writing. Anyway, I’m still ahead in my 2019 Goodreads Challenge– 22 books read from my target of 35 with a few part-finished books in the read-line. And after this, I’ll only be four book reviews behind – if I ignore the backlog from 2018 and earlier.

So, on to the Thursday Creation Review for today/tomorrow – a novel that continued my interest in Soviet airwomen in World War II. My research is ongoing and there are two more ‘Night Witches’ novels in my reading pile.

Night Witch

by S.J. McCormack

Farm girl to aviator in the heroic WWII Russian flying unit the Germans called the Night Witches… 

JUNE 1941 Nineteen-year old Raisa Tarasova’s peaceful life shatters when Hitler’s forces invade Russia. Her two brothers immediately enlist in the air corps. Despite Raisa’s desire to fly and her many hours of flying time, neither the air corps nor her father would allow such a thing. She is, after all, “just a girl.” 

In September Raisa returns to her engineering studies at the university in Moscow. Once there, she jumps at the opportunity to join a newly formed women’s aviation unit. Wearing men’s uniforms hurriedly cut down to fit, Raisa and 300 other female recruits are loaded into railcars and transported to a training base. 

After six hard months of schooling, Raisa is assigned as a navigator with the all-women Night Bomber Regiment. 
Their aircraft is the PO-2, a biplane made of wood and fabric. Months later, after a night of heavy losses, Raisa is given a field promotion and the new responsibility of pilot. She has no choice but to carry out her orders and face down a most significant enemy…her own fear. 

Courage, an impossible romance, and a daring rescue only a woman would devise become part of Raisa’s new life as a member of the 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, the NIGHT WITCHES.

Review 4.3 stars

This was the second novel I’ve read about a young woman who risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female Soviet night bomber regiment that wreaked havoc on the invading Germans in World War II.

Echoing the real friendships forged amid the harsh struggle to survive a gritty and vicious war – the terrible conflict known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War – this was a crafted story built around good research.

Nineteen-year old Raisa Tarasova’s peaceful life and engineering studies are shattered when Hitler’s forces invade Russia. But unlike her brothers, she cannot join the air corps despite her many hours of flying time – she’s a girl. However, when a women’s aviation unit is formed, she joins up with 300 other recruits.

After six hard months of schooling, Raisa is assigned as a navigator with the all-women 588th Night Bomber Regiment, which flies the PO-2, a biplane made of wood and fabric. Comrades die, leading to a field promotion to pilot – and a daring rescue at the expense of everything, including a burgeoning romance.

The build-up from peace to war pulls the reader in, giving the ideal amount of backstory. The author paints a clever contrast between everyday normality and the encroaching storm of war. The invasion triggers an increase of pace, although the female recruits are not rushed to the front – unlike men such as Raisa’s brothers.

From the training into the combat, the reader is enveloped in the realism of flying and the social interaction between the young women – and with the male aircrew. There is enough detail to ground the story, but not so much that the pace struggles. Events, especially at the front, are traumatic but some are humorous.

S.J. McCormack did her research, judging from my reading of a newly-published non-fiction book on Soviet airwomen I own. The author lists her sources, and these include ones I’ve heard of.

Only one thing concerned me. SPOILER ALERT

I knew Stalin imposed strict orders that if you surrendered or were captured by the enemy – or even just ended up behind enemy lines – you were a traitor. So, when Raisa is shot down on the German side of the front, I wondered how she could ever return to her regiment safely.

END ALERT.

The resolution the author devised for the climax was ingenious, strengthened the story – and had me diving down research rabbit holes and nodding, grin on my face.

The characters all felt rounded, especially Raisa with all her complexities and central fear. Plus, her pilot-friend who everyone admires, and who inspires Raisa throughout the story is a strong role. Even the secondary characters seemed real, from her love-interest to the girl with the cow.

The settings worked as background to the story and characters, even if nothing came alive either as distinctive or as a distraction. But the locations worked neatly into the whole structure. Although there were no WOW-twists, the inventive ending had me ‘heading home’ with Raisa, nodding in agreement.

An enjoyable read and recommended for anyone who likes entertaining WWII historical fiction.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – four stars

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film – a review

Life has thrown up more diversions – okay, my weak will did. I still intend posting a Thursday Creation Review every week – as originally planned. Well at least until my five outstanding reviews are written – three crime, one historical and one historical-fantasy. I’m hesitating over adding my review of the TV series Good Omens until I’ve read the book.

Anyway, today – a day late – it’s a non-fiction writing guide up for review:

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film

by Lucy V. Hay

We’re living in a time of unprecedented diversity in produced media content, with more LGBT characters. more characters of color, more disabled characters, and more characters from various religions or classes. These characters also appear in genre pieces, accessible to the mainstream, instead of being hidden away in so-called “worthier” pieces, as in the past. This book discusses issues of race, disability, sexuality and transgender people with specific reference to characterization in movies, TV, and novel writing. Using such examples as the film Mad Max: Fury Road and the novel Gone Girl, the book explores how character role function really works. It discusses such questions as the difference between stereotype and archetype, why “trope” does not mean what Twitter and Tumblr think it means, how the burden of casting affects both box office and audience perception, and why diversity is not about agendas, buzzwords or being “politically correct.” It also goes into what authenticity truly means, and why research is so important; why variety is key in ensuring true diversity in characterization; and what agents, publishers, producers, filmmakers and commissioners are looking for—and why.

 Review 5 stars

This timely and excellent book was everything I’ve needed especially since attempting to write a novel about a queer Welsh detective and her Tamil partner. (There are days when I feel totally out of my experience zone.)

This is essential reading for any serious writer – especially one aware of the value in addressing the ‘diverse issue’. It was full of invaluable advice and information for me – a WASP, albeit one with Latin blood and in a wheelchair.

Lucy Hay has researched the hot issue of ‘diversity’ for many years. She has become a prolific advocate of diverse characters in all areas of fiction as a writer, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her www.bang2write.com consultancy, which I follow. This book builds on her knowledge and suggests how writers can embrace the thorny topic – “as long as they do it justice” with “due diligence”

That ‘due diligence’ means recognising where the debate is going, the mistakes and progress, how to ensure diverse characters function effectively – and not as stereotypes – plus, the potential and the pitfalls. Hay provides a wealth of observations, suggestions and links with which writers can develop their own craft. Many assets are provided to inform those that are serious about ensuring they tread wisely.

These range from a definition of ‘diversity’, and the myths surrounding it, to examples from modern movies and novels to explain aspects of how to handle ‘diversity’ – and how not to. All Hay’s thoughts provide food for further discussion and research.

I’m still learning and researching the best approach to diversifying my plots. This book has great insights that will help me as a writer as I progress into this complex area. Many of my characters are not ‘diverse’ like my leads, but there are techniques that Hay provides which will help them stand out as unique as well.

This book is timely and important so a guide that will be a stalwart on my desk as I now have both Kindle and paperback versions.

Utility – five stars

Content – five stars

Topicality – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Readability – five stars

Structure – five stars

Editing – five stars