Monday 29 November 2021

The Infernal Devices #2 - Clockwork Prince


After devouring the first in the Infernal Devices trilogy, Clockwork Angel, I set straight into the second:

Love and lies can corrupt even the purest heart… Second in the bestselling prequel series to The Mortal Instruments, set in Victorian London. Tessa Gray finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, while her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. 

For me, this one didn't go down quite so well as the first. There was still some nice, atmospheric writing, and it starts out with a ghostly encounter down a back alley, which was engrossing. I'm a sucker for a bit of Victorian urban descriptive.

Old Mol, like many ghosts, was always looking for that talisman, the lost piece of her past that would finally allow her to die, the anchor that kept her trapped in the world. In her case, it was her wedding ring. It was common belief, Magnus had told Will, that the ring was long gone, buried under the silty bed of the Thames, but in the meantime she’d take any bag of found rings in the hope one would turn out to be hers. So far it hadn’t happened.


It was nearly midnight when Will returned to the Institute. It had begun raining on him when he'd been halfway down Threadneedle Street. He had ducked under the awning of Dean and Son Publishers to button his jacket and pull his scarf tight, but the rain had already gotten into his mouth - great, icy drops that tasted of charcoal and silt.


I wonder if you think of me and imagine my life here in the Institute in London? I doubt you could imagine it. It is so very different from our house surrounded by mountains, and the great clear blue sky and the endless green. Here, everything is black and gray and brown, and the sunsets are painted in smoke and blood.

But it's always asking a huge amount of the second book in a series to follow as brilliantly in the footsteps of the first. Clockwork Angel was a really nice mix of light romance and action, but I felt this one really slid all the way to romance at the expense of action, and it started to feel a tad sappy. Originally, I felt Tessa was nicely Wynne Jones-esque in her ability to fall in love whilst continuing to kick arse and retain her independent nature, but she seemed to lose a bit of that grounding here, and there's only so many times you can talk about how blue someone's eyes are, how black their hair is, and how brightly they burn before you need to move things along a bit. It was still engaging though, and the romantic dilemma at the end was well executed and suitably uncomfortable. 

My main gripe was the narration of the audiobook. The first book was very well read by Jennifer Ehle (former Elizabeth Bennet), who I thought did a really great job. This time around, despite the book apparently being written entirely from Tessa's perspective again, the publisher decided to mix it up by interchanging a male and female narrator. For me, this really didn't work. The change in narrator didn't seem to match with clear changes in perspective, and the voice artists clearly hadn't agreed on certain character traits. In the first book, one of the characters has a pronounced lisp, which seems to have disappeared entirely in the second book. I've also just started the next one in the series, where the male narrator gives one of the characters a pronounced Welsh accent that he didn't have before, and doesn't have when the female narrator kicks in. It just feels a bit messy and hard to follow. Either narrator, by themselves, would be fine, but this chopping and changing detracts from the overall story. The EQ on the male narrator also seems a little off. I listen on my phone a lot, so not the best speakers, and although his characterisation is great, he comes out a little mumbley in places. 

This Audible edition also appears to have been copied wholesale from an earlier audiobook format, as halfway through you get: End of disk one. The Clockwork Prince, disk two.

So, this is one of those series that I'd suggest reading in paper format rather than audiobook.

On the up side, I did learn a new word: aesthete, a person who is appreciative of and sensitive to art and beauty. And there were some poignant moments. I'm usually pretty immune to the immortality-means-outliving-those-you-love trope, just because I've gorged myself on it so many times, but these lines made it feel fresh again:

If I am immortal, then I have only this, this one life. I will not turn and change as you do, James. I will not see you in Heaven, or on the banks of the great river, or in whatever life lies beyond this one.

When Clare chooses to, she can drop some really heartfelt prose, which is perhaps why the sappy stuff started to feel a little laboured. When she goes for depth, she can really pull you under. 

I've already started the final one, Clockwork Princess, and it's picked up the pace again, so we'll see what happens. The characters are wonderfully distinctive, both in the way they look and the way they behave. It does keep you reading.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Red Phone Box Book Swap


Someone's turned our local phone box into a book swap! Reminds me of this little title by Ghostwoods Books. I'm going to have to get a copy to put in there. You can find the book swap by the bus stop in the Northamptonshire village of Guilsborough.

Saturday 20 November 2021

Vamp it Up

Turns out I'm not the only one who's been into Vampires this week - and Carmilla. One of my favourite author/YouTubers,  Caitlin Doughty, just covered it above. I also found a couple of interesting TED animations. One covers How Dracula Became the World's Most Famous Vampire and the other looks at the folklore of vampires and other, less sexy, interpretations.

Friday 19 November 2021


I love Gothic classics. How did I never know about this? 

One of the very first vampire thrillers, this audio adaptation follows 18-year-old Laura as she recounts the story of her mysterious, intriguing and beautiful house guest Carmilla, who is stranded in the forest after a carriage accident and taken in by Laura’s widowed father. The girls develop a friendship which turns into a passionate meeting of souls. A relationship of vampire and prey, the story is told through Laura’s eyes as she is drawn further into Carmilla’s terrifying world of pleasure and pain.

A masterpiece of erotic Gothic horror, Carmilla encompasses mystery, suspense, forbidden lust, violence...and lots of blood....

Dear gods, it was lesbi-licious. I'm just left a little dazed. I am such a huge Castlevania fan, and Carmilla was a central character in that, played by Jaime Murray, who was fabulous in Hustle. Then I was reading The Infernal Devices trilogy, and there was Carmilla, the vampire, again. Instead of thinking, 'oh, that's strange, perhaps she's a recurring literary figure from history,' I just thought 'oh, that's a weird coincidence.'

I'm not that bright.

But now my eyes are open. 

I'm fascinated by this. It predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by almost three decades! But the Grande Dames of Gothic, Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe, still got the guys beat by quite a way in terms of original spooky. I just wish the Wiki page said more about how this was received, because it was racy. Carmilla is a sapphic icon, and I just wonder how it went down back in the day. I mean, I know there was a lot of intimacy between female characters back then, but this wasn't playing. It's absolutely delicious. 

And, although I would have loved to hear Jaime Murray in the role of Carmilla, kudos for casting David Tennant, who played Peter Vincent in the 2011 remake of Fright Night. I still don't forgive them for doing that, but he made it tolerable. 

Anyway, it was a really fun, short, sexy dose of Gothic goodness.

Love it.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

I Wussed Out - YouTube Shenanigans


I panicked. I've closed the new author channel I started about six months ago and I've gone back to my old YouTube channel. I started the old one back in 2013 and did absolutely nothing with it. I uploaded a few unlisted videos for friends and family and the occasional random clip about Rwandan dancing or weird insects. 

I started a new channel to post more consistently and talk about writing. 

Turns out, that was totally the wrong thing to do. A brief survey of Twitter confirmed this. 

My old channel had about 230 subscribers - again, from posting nothing, ever - whereas my new YouTube channel had only 50 subscribers after about six months. Also, despite putting up a video telling everyone I'd moved, and changing all the endscreens and sub buttons to the new channel, people kept on subscribing to the old one! It was bizarre. The harder I worked on the new channel, the more people subscribed to the old one...

New Channel

Old Channel

+26 subscribers in the past month for doing... again, nothing. 

Go figure. 

So, you can see the incentive really isn't there to try to build up subscribers from scratch on a new channel. Fifty wasn't bad, and those who subscribed to the new channel seemed more engaged in liking and commenting, but I felt I really needed to call it before things went too far. Sadly, you can't merge channels. If you take down old videos and upload them to another channel, there's no way to backdate them so they appear in date order, new uploads will always display as top of your recent releases list. 

It was a tough call to make. One video I made about the Nyarigongo volcanic eruption back in May got over 2,000 views and 49 likes, but the two most-viewed videos on the old channel include one about traditional Rwandan dance, at over 34,000 views and 178 likes, and one rather shaky video of a Congolese music group, 9,000+ views and 133 likes, so as uncomfortable as it feels, time is better spent on the old channel.

I've also just invested in an Insta360 One x2 camera and an Acer Nitro 5 laptop, which is the quickest thing I've ever seen. You press a button and it's instantly booted up and ready to rock. I've never had a nice laptop before and the difference is startling. It walks through DaVinci Resolve like a strole in the park. I can't wait to get back to Rwanda and start shooting some beautiful footage. Well, I can wait a little bit, I'm rather enjoying all the food and bubble baths in the UK at the moment...

But, yes. It's something to look forward to.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Resolutions Anthology

Woke up this morning to a lovely surprise - author copies!

I entered the Bridge House Publishing competitions earlier in the year and was selected for their anthology Resolutions.

This is a collection of challenging and thought-provoking stories. All stories need a resolution and these provide ones that will astound and delight you. We looked for: story, good writing, interpretation of theme and professionalism.  All of the stories submitted had those elements. Here  we offer a variation to cater to our readers’ eclectic tastes. Sit back and surrender to the Bridge House magic.

Grab Your Copy Here