Thursday, 24 March 2011

Death's Shadow, Darren Shan: More Rancid, Bubbling Flesh than a Kebab Shop

I don't fancy yours much.
Death's Shadow is the 7th book in Darren Shan's Demonata series. I didn't know this when I ordered it, I just thought, "People keep talking about how gory these kid's books are, I'd better check one out." so when I got it and noticed that it was the 7th, I thought I wouldn't understand what the hell was going on. But I read it anyway as I wanted to see if anyone gets peeled by a demon in it. There should be more demons peeling people in books.

Fortunately it seems that the series isn't weighed down by an over complicated back story. In fact it's basically a bunch of magical people fight demons, hoping to stop them destroying the world. In particular it is told from the viewpoint of a druidess, Bec,  who died in a cave yonks ago and has just recently (probably the last book if I'm any judge) inhabited the body of a boy who more recently died in the cave. She starts hanging around with the cool magical people and then stuff happens.

But Dazzler's (as his Essex mates call him, if he has any)  simple formula is effective when married with the skips of gore and violence he throws at the reader. Just 50 pages of back-story and exposition, then the werewolves turn up. From then on it's demons, zombies, werewolves...etc trying to eat as many eyes and thighs as they can. They really like going for the eyes.

The gore aside I found it a bit (woolly liberal mode on) worrying that the good guys spend a lot of time torturing demons trying to find out about their new and mysterious enemy. Fair enough you've been saving the world for the last few millennia this way but maybe if you changed tactics and tried to get the weaker, bullied demons on your side you could gain the final victory. Or maybe that is tried in one of the earlier books and didn't go well.

Anyway, ignoring my conscience, Death's Shadow is an enjoyable gory romp through a horde of demons and is so bloody you'll need to wrap yourself in plastic before opening it. You might want to read the first six first though.

You can get Death's Shadow for about £4. The Other books in the series are:

  1. Lord Loss
  2. Demon Thief
  3. Slawter
  4. Bec
  5. Blood Beast
  6. Demon Apocalypse
And  some others that come after Death's Shadow I guess. All can probably be found here.



Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney: Oops, Forgot the Funny Title

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is about a kid trying to cope with being at school. Easy to read, funny and punctuated with cartoons this is a great light read for kids. There are lots of little sub-plots from hallow'en to chasing kids with worms, all woven around the relationship of the protagonist and his odd, odd best mate.

The rest of the review will be a cartoon in it's honour:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is everything my cartoon is not. You can get it for about £4.



Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason: Not The Rejects

The Lost Books of The Odyssey is a series of 'missing' sections from the original, brilliant, story. They are a mix of extra little adventures that Odysseus goes on, different tellings of parts of the story and revelations into how the Odyssey actually came about.

The stories range from introspective suffering of Odysseus, to funny twists as he outwits someone, to how the Odyssey is a complete invention by someone featured in it. These are the ones I really love, particularly one called Fragment which doesn't fill a page but is a intriguing idea and Blindness which made me consider the story in a completely different way.

The author has a knack of coming up with interesting twists to stories and it is quite amazing how many variations he comes up from just one base story.

If you like the Odyssey you'll love this book.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey is out now for about £11



Tuesday, 8 March 2011

P-p-p-p-p-p-pancake Day: A History and Demonstration

Pancake Day is celebrated across the UK at the beginning of March. It always falls on a Tuesday but the exact day is decided by the High Lord Viking of York, which, sadly, is just a ceremonial title these days.

Vikings duel for the right to flip the first pancake.
Pancake Day dates back to the 'Time of Vikings'. The vikings, once they had pillaged a monastery for its sugar and lemons, would celebrate with crazy amounts of mead and pancakes. Eventually the vikings stopped pillaging and settled in parts of the British Isles. They showed the locals the method of making their pancakes and since then the day has been celebrated every year.

Some people believe pancakes were the secret to the vikings formidable fighting prowess. There are several accounts, including one by the Venerable Bede, have viking warriors going berserk and slaying dozens of enemies just to recover their pancake batter.

Today I made pancakes for the first time since I was a boy. Back then I used bread instead of flour and they were disgusting. since that time I have felt the shame of all vikings looking down on me from Valhalla and laughing.

But today I tried again!

Welcome to Valhalla!
They were OK but the batter was a bit thick so they were closer to American pancakes (the history of which can be traced to the first Vikings to Land in North America). But never-the-less I think I have pleased the viking gods.

Now I can no longer move and am desperately trying not to fall asleep. Just like a true viking.

I didn't follow this pancake recipe closely enough. A full photographic record of my pancakes can be found here.

Enjoy your pancakes.