I really enjoy reading with the Pigeonhole community – I guess that might sound rather strange, but it’s nothing to do with pigeons. It’s a book reading club. I read on my app, but you can use your desktop computer. So, in a nutshell, it’s like a digital book group, sharing a book and chatting in the margins with other readers. Another great aspect of this, is the author often joins in, adding images and documents. Check it out at http://www.thepigeonhole.com
Two recent reads are the above two books: ‘The Foundling’ and ‘The End of Magic’. Both of them very different, but incredibly good fun to read.
‘The End of Magic’
Sander Bree is a royal mage. Steeped in privilege, he lives a cushy life advising the king on matters of court and politics, yet still complains that he’s stuck in a rut.
Rosheen Katell is a freelance mage and, with Anzu her griffin, she’s worked hard to build a reputation as a trustworthy truth seer. She never lies, never kills.
The source of their power is the Lapis Moon in orbit above. Very soon, that magic will be gone, changing their lives and their world forever. Sander must keep a promise that would have been difficult enough with magic, but is a suicide mission without it. Rosheen is forced to side with a murderous warlord, and her once-solid principles are tested and found wanting. Both will be set against one another in a war unlike anything the world has seen before, in this sweeping fantasy of magic’s ending.
Mark Stay’s ‘The End of Magic’ is a hugely enjoyable magical romp with conflicted characters; mythical and magical creatures; a truly villainous villain and the battle to save magic in a rich and creative fantasy world. What makes this book a joy is the wit and humour which laces the story together; it’s also a twisty interpretation of the genre. Our ‘heroes’ are certainly flawed but we find ourselves connecting with them despite this. At the heart of this story, is how a catastrophic natural event changes everyone’s fates and offers each character choices and ultimately redemptive paths, if they so choose. Blood thirsty, battle fuelled and with an epic disaster to face, this is a great read!
If you like a darkly witty spin to your fantasy reading then I’d highly recommend ‘The End of Magic’.
‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Halls
London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.
Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.
I really enjoyed Stacey Halls first novel, ‘The Familiars’, so I was very excited to read ‘The Foundling’, particularly so when it appeared on the Pigeonhole Book Club.
I was captivated from the opening pages. I’ve been interested in the Foundling Hospital since I visited the museum in London quite a few years ago now. If you’re not aware of it, the Hospital was founded by Thomas Coram in 1739 to help care for babies at risk of being abandoned. At that time, it was estimated that a thousand babies a year were being abandoned – Halls novel begins with a young mother taking her baby to the hospital to be cared for until she could reclaim her. Sadly, many babies were never reclaimed, but our protagonist never forgets her baby and works tirelessly to raise the funds to collect her child. However, a twist in the tale causes more suffering and builds the story of Bess Bright, born to poverty but with a good heart and determination to do right by her child in a harsh and cruel world.
Part historical drama, part mystery, this is a very moving and dramatic story inspired by a mother, who is forced to abandon their child, in an attempt to give their child a future. This novel also addresses the flawed way the mothers would leave tokens behind for their babies, so they could be identified and matched upon re-claiming. In the London Foundlings Museum you can see some of the tokens on display; it’s truly heartbreaking. These tokens were often pieces of material cut from the babies clothes, half being kept in the hospital records and the other given to the mother. In the novel, Bess Bright leaves half of an engraved heart with her baby and this becomes the novels central mystery. This is also the story of another woman, the widow Alexandra, trapped by circumstance and trauma; when her world collides with Bess’s, the story begins in earnest.
I would highly recommend ‘The Foundling’, it’s a beautifully written story that tugs at your heartstrings throughout. It’s a story of two women, born into different worlds, of different tragedies but both connected by their journeys. The story is told via alternating first-person points of view, so you are able to piece together the story and also understand both the women and their different perspectives. Hall balances the darkness and the light enough to provide the right balance for the reader.
Beautifully written, compelling and heart-wrenching. Highly recommended read.
So, if you fancy an online reading group, then do take a look at The Pigeonhole.