Sunday 20 March 2022

Kingdom of the Wicked


Oh hell, yes.

I mean, you only have to look at the cover to know I'm gonna love this.

Two sisters.

One brutal murder. 

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself... 

And an intoxicating romance. 

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe - witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family's renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin...desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister's killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that's been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia's side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women's murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems...

I'm kicking myself, though. I usually remember who recommended something to me, but I've forgotten with this. I think it went past on a Twitter thread. One of those, 'name dark fantasy that you love' or something. Someone I know mentioned it and I liked the title. Only, no amount of searching can recover that original thread, so I can't thank them. 

My only problem now is, if I can't have a Prince of Hell, I don't want anybody. 

That's my expectations up in flames.

This was just so much fun, and Marisa Calin read the backside off it. What a wonderful range of accents she's got. Malvagi is such a satisfying word to say.

I didn't take too many notes as I was busy enjoying it, but some memorable moments:

Whatever you do, you must never speak to the Wicked. If you see them, hide. Once you’ve caught a demon prince’s attention, he’ll stop at nothing to claim you. They are midnight creatures, born of darkness and moonlight. And they seek only to destroy. Guard your hearts; if given the chance they’ll rip them from your chests and guzzle your blood as it steams in the night.


Lust kept talking. My mind tried to focus on his words, not the shape of his lips.


The world and its inhabitants are constantly changing, therefore we Princes of Hell continue to sharpen our minds and our skills. It is the absence of arrogance that allows us to remain the most feared. We do not believe we know all, we believe in adaptation. Adopt those same principles or you'll end up extinct.


People carved words into weapons often, but they only had power if I listened to them instead of trusting in my self. 

It's classed as YA, but what I really like is how unapologetically sexual Emilia is. There's none of this coy, demure crap that young ladies are supposed to display. She's a great role model in that respect. It contrasts starkly with The Infernal Devices, which takes place in Victorian England, so everyone is horny as hell but has to pretend they're not. Tess is just as turned on at times but constantly feels guilty and apologetic for it, whereas Emilia knows what she wants and doesn't apologise one bit. Of the two, Emilia is what I needed to read at that age, and still feels more wholesome now I'm in my forties. It also feels like it marks a shift in how female protagonists approach sex in YA. Well done to the publisher who ran with it. 

I was rationing this towards the end, and felt a little depressed when I realised it would all be over soon. But then I discovered it's part of a series - yay! I just love the titles: Kingdom of the WickedKingdom of the Cursed and Kingdom of the Feared. Each with a fabulous cover. You want to eat them all up. Delightfully dark.

Go forth and read... then spawn the armies of hell, or whatever. 

Saturday 19 March 2022

Friday 18 March 2022

Musical Interlude: Lauren Paley

Oh, yep. New obsession. Lauren Paley is just fantastic. She sits in stairwells and sings haunting lullabies to try and creep her neighbours out. She even does sea shanties. Just wonderful. Phenomenal voice.

Monday 14 March 2022

SoA Open Letter to Ukrainian Authors

The UK Society of Authors have issued an open letter to the writers, illustrators and translators of Ukraine.

To the writers, illustrators and translators of Ukraine,

The members, directors and staff of the UK Society of Authors stand with you.

As the illegal invasion of your country continues, we cannot imagine what you and your families are experiencing.

Beyond the horrors of the humanitarian crisis endured by your people, this war is an assault on the rights that underpin your lives and livelihoods: the right to think, speak, write and create freely. It is an assault on a people’s right to self-determination.

Yet Ukraine is more than its borders and land. Ukraine is its people, its rich culture – its history, its present and its future. You, as the country’s thinkers and creators and makers are at the heart of that – whether you report what is happening today, write what must happen tomorrow, or create moments of reprieve to inspire those around you through impossible times.

Create freely. Write fiercely. Share your story. The authoritarian mind is right to fear you. You have the power to counter it.

We look forward to meeting you and your work in better times. Until then, if we can help or if you want us to share your thoughts and writing, email

Wherever the weeks and months ahead take you, you are in our hearts.

In solidarity.

You can sign it here

Friday 11 March 2022

Trans Like Me


In Trans Like Me, CN Lester takes readers on a measured, thoughtful, intelligent yet approachable tour through the most important and high-profile narratives around the trans community, turning them inside out and examining where we really are in terms of progress. From the impact of the media's wording in covering trans people and issues, to the way parenting gender variant children is portrayed, Lester brings their charged personal narrative to every topic and expertly lays out the work left to be done.

Trans Like Me explores the ways that we are all defined by ideas of gender -- whether we live as he, she, or they -- and how we can strive for authenticity in a world that forces limiting labels.

Love, love, love this book. Perfectly written and beautifully narrated. 

I especially liked the point about language:

As a teacher, I’m constantly introducing words that are new to my students: rubato, cantabile, légèrement. When new words can bring us closer to something we want to say then we are all too happy to learn them. And this is why I’m suspicious of the claim that trans-related words are too much, too hard and of no use.

Even when a word has been in usage for a long time, those who are suspicious of what that means in terms of gender are quick to claim that the change is too fast. ‘They’ has been used as a singular pronoun in English for hundreds of years; we find examples of the singular they in the works of Shakespeare, Austen and Swift. But trans people like me, who use the pronoun ‘they’ as a gender-neutral alternative to ‘he’ or ‘she’, are often mislabelled in the media by editors who struggle with its usage. By implying that trans people are faddish and difficult about words, writers can cast aspersions on the validity of our language – and of our selves. By claiming that our words are too hard to understand, the media perpetuates the idea that we are too hard to understand, and suggests that there’s no point in trying.

Language is fascinating in every context, and especially here. The point is so well made above, and highlights how language reinforces societal constructs, dragging people back when they try to escape. 

As a cis-gender bi woman, I struggle with language even today. A few years ago I wondered if I should call myself 'pan' because I've been attracted to, and out with, trans people in the past. It's always been the person, not what's between their legs, that I've been attracted to because, let's face it, you're going to have fun either way. Did that mean that I wasn't 'just' bi - and why do I say bi? I use it because that's the word I had growing up to describe attraction to both sexes. But there wasn't anyone visibly trans or non-binary at my school, so I wouldn't have known if I was attracted to people of other genders, and in the early 90s people had a hard enough time with 'gay' and 'lesbian,' yet alone 'bi.' I don't think I ever heard the words 'trans,' 'pan,' 'a-sexual,' or 'non-binary' back then, not in my little village. So, you use the language you've got. And because that's the language I had, it's the word I've always used. And, whereas I guess by definition I am pansexual, I think I'm probably always going to refer to myself as bi. 'Pansexual' just sounds odd as a descriptive for myself, but would I come to feel comfortable with it if I used it? Other people also seem to find 'bi' a simple one to grasp in comparison. So, do I use it because it's easy? I guess a little of everything. I'm cis gender she/her, but I like the GNP 'they' and when talking to new people, I often refer to previous partners as 'they,' which is a common bi sidestep when not wanting to present as straight or gay to new people. 

So, yes, language is a mind bender. And a little exhausting sometimes.

There are so many wonderfully quotable lines in this book. 

I would be scattered away into pieces if I let other people decide me in their own words.


To get access to treatment as an adult, you have to have known you were trans since early childhood, but if you say that you're trans in early childhood, you're told that you're too young to know.


We assume that anything that is new to us is new to human society as a whole and that if we don't see it reflected in history books and recent memory then it can't have existed for long.


A strict gender binary has never been able to hold the totality of humanity. Not in the past, not in the present, not in the future.


It is heartbreaking that bodily integrity, the sanctity of selfhood and the right to live free from pain could mean so little compared with the pressure to fit into a false dichotomy. Trans or cis, intersex or not, we need to wake up to the fact that treating sex as a fixed and oppositional binary is not only a distortion of reality but is doing active extreme harm to a significant percentage of our population. Rather than forcibly applying a fantasy to our very real detriment, we could decide to accept the reality and learn and grow from there. 


Like many people, I hang more than a few of my hopes on the open mindedness of my generation, of the generation that follows. It would be dangerous though to think trans liberation a done deal because of that. In bleaker moments I have heard fellow activists suggest that the best we can hope for is a future in which the most hateful have died of old age, where this young generation have made good on their promise. In my bleakest moments I worry that they're right. But that would be a denial not only of the other changes happening around us but of our responsibility to agitate for those changes, encourage their developments and guard against pushback.

I just really enjoyed how smart yet easy to follow this book was. It shot down a lot of really nasty arguments that are bandied at trans people with extreme logic, solid statistics and a lot of heart. I think, even if you think you know a bit about the trans experience and you have trans friends or partners, maybe you've read a little around the subject in the past, it's just really nice to have access to somebody else's world, told through their eyes and with their words. And if you've never read anything about the trans experience, this is an excellent starting point. This book is just really open and straight-talking (pardon the pun). I feel like I learned a lot and got a healthy dose of humanism along the way. 

Go and get it. It's a great book.