Category Archives: Reviews

Mystic Beach – reviews

I picked up these three books from the Mystic Beach series to review, because I thought they looked like fun. The series itself is much bigger, but these three books are closely related and need reading in the right order! Happily the author has a website with substantial notes about how the books relate to each other, content warnings and other useful stuff.

I don’t normally read books from the same author back to back, but I did with these three, flat out during a very rough few days, punctuated by a lot of sobbing. If you’re in a bad place and need some catharsis, these certainly do the trick. There’s also comfort – I find – in watching fictional characters making awful choices and messing up their lives yet somehow pulling through it all in the end. There’s hope to be found in the idea that you can mess up badly and still come through ok.

The plot involves a rock band who become super famous, some reincarnation romance, people making terrible choices and a litany of dire relationship mistakes over 15 years. It’s unusual to see a romance played out over such a long time frame and I liked watching characters evolve over time in that way. There’s a surprising amount of Paganism in here once the first book gets going, and I really liked that aspect of it and the relationship between love and sacredness in the story.

The sex is (by my kinkster standards at least) mostly vanilla, with a teensy bit of kink. The romances are straight. I think if you’re picking up a romance series about rockstars in a setting with magical and paranormal elements you probably aren’t looking for realism, but at the same time, there’s enough that’s grounded here to keep the fantasy feeling plausible, which is good. And Gods know, we could all do with some cheery fantasy content here and there. There’s an interesting tension between the joyfulness of everyone’s career highs and the gutting relationship disasters.

There are some difficult themes in these books – abusive fathers, dead mothers, suicide, bullying, fat shaming, slut shaming… there was more of the substantial content than I’d been expecting. This is handled deftly, with a light touch that doesn’t diminish the importance of these topics, but also probably won’t shred you unless you’re already feeling raw to begin with. The emotional angst will probably shred you though and that’s clearly very much the intention. 

I thought I was going to be reading a lightweight distraction. What happened instead is that these books turned out to be very timely for me, and I found comfort and wisdom in them, and far more psychological insight and relationship insights than I anticipated.

More on the author’s website

Church of Birds – a review

Church of Birds by Ben H Gagnon is a remarkable book, and if you are into prehistory at all, I heartily recommend it.

I’m an enthusiastic reader of non-fiction books about prehistory. I’m also a sporadic, disorganised reader and no sort of expert. However, I know enough to say that this is an interesting and plausible set of ideas about prehistory, presented well. 

Church of Birds examines the role of birds in folklore, ancient sources and imagery around the world. There are a lot of recurring themes. The author speculates that much of this can be explained by the impact on humans of bird migrations. It’s a fascinating idea, and one I found really engaging. There’s a lot of speculation, but the author is clear about his sources, what he can evidence and what is just an interesting idea. 

Along the way, the book goes off at a number of tangents, including considering the relationship between humans and the landscape. There’s a substantial look at world trees from around the world – which I found fascinating as it went beyond the Euro-centric content I’m used to seeing. 

In places the writing is very dense with information, but on the whole the book is very readable. I found it intriguing. If you have the sort of brain that can absorb a lot of facts when those come in very quick succession, then the sheer quantity of information won’t overwhelm you. Or, like me, you have to read it accepting that a lot of it is unlikely to stick in your head.

I think the ways in which we speculate about prehistory are really important. When we see the past primarily as nasty, opportunistic and violent, that influences where we are in the present. Ben Gagnon’s view of prehistory has a magical quality to it rooted in realism and in recognising that ancient humans were not somehow separate from the landscape or from non-human beings. I found his speculations convincing, but the value of them goes far beyond whether they are ‘correct’ or not. In taking us down lines of thought that are about human responses to the rest of the world, and placing humans firmly in ecosystems, he’s done something really powerful. We need to reimagine our place in the world, and this kind of writing will help us do that. 

There’s also huge value in being able to re-imagine the past so as to have the resources to imagine the future differently. Speculation about prehistory that does not primarily reinforce the trajectory we’re on at the moment helps us remember that what’s going on wasn’t inevitable and can be changed. 

More on the publishers website, including purchasing options –

Alan Shaw – Grave Purpose

This is the third Alan Shaw book and you do ideally need to read the other two first. I’ve already reviewed book 1 and book 2.

Grave Purpose is the third book in Craig Hallam’s steampunk trilogy. Craig has really grown as an author as the series has progressed, getting ever more thoughtful and impressive as he goes along.

The main character – Alan Shaw – started out as one of those have a go hero types, the kind of dashing, quipping, risk taking young man who dominates the action genre. From the beginning, Craig has brought other elements into his work – class especially in the first book, and colonialism in the second as he slowly unpicks the trope he’s working with.

In book three, we take a hard look at the implications of the action hero lifestyle. Alan is getting older. His various injuries have taken a toll and he isn’t magically free from the consequences of his actions. This is very much a novel about consequences and pain. If you like being hurt by authors (you know who you are) then get in there, this book is for you. I found it a very powerful read, although I did call Craig a whole selection of less than perfectly polite things while I was reading it. I know Craig well enough to be able to picture the evil smile this comment will elicit.

There’s a big issue here around disability representation. In real life, most disabled people don’t start out that way. Many people who suffer do so as a consequence of accidents or illnesses. It’s not something we see anything like enough of in stories. Mostly what we get in the action genre are impossible people doing outrageous things with no real consequences. Or we get unrealistic fantasies about recovery. I really appreciated getting to see the consequences. As a person who lives with pain, it was meaningful to me to see a fictional character living with pain. I felt Craig handled this aspect of the book superbly, and I think this is a depiction people who struggle will find resonant. 

The story itself is full of action, mysteries to solve and consequences. I did mention the consequences?

You can find out more and buy the book from the publisher’s website, and all the other places that sell books.

The reviewing of books

As book reviewing is a sem-regular thing for me, I thought it might make sense if I talk about how that works.

I read far more than I review. When it comes to reviews, I focus on small publishers and self-published authors because these are the books that most need support around getting attention. Usually I already know either the publisher or the author, but not always. Sometimes I jump in for things I’ve seen online.

If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. I probably won’t read all of it, either. I’m quite fussy about how I spend my time. Also, I don’t think anyone benefits much from me reviewing something I didn’t get on with. I don’t enjoy it, the author won’t enjoy it, better all round not to go there. Also there’s the thing that I’m often reviewing people I know and it’s often the case that I know them *because* I like their work.

On very rare occasions I have done shout outs for music and other things that were not books. I’m most confident when reviewing books. It’s what I’ve done most of.

I’ll cheerfully read most genres, fiction and nonfiction. The single most important consideration for me is how I get on with the author’s voice – which is really subjective. In nonfic I require books to show their workings out to a reasonable degree, especially around anything historical. I’m totally open to nonfic based on personal experience and experiment. With fiction, I like to be surprised without having my ability to suspend disbelief stretched to breaking point. I need engaging characters I can care about so I don’t get on with things that are excessively cynical.

If you’ve got something coming out that you’d like me to review, you’re very welcome to drop me a line – brynnethnimue at gmail dot com.

Tazmand – a review

As is usually the way of it for me, I can’t claim any significant objectivity in writing this review – I know and like the author. This is also a book with a Tom Brown cover.

Tazmand is a YA fantasy novel, and book one of a series. I have every intention of reading the whole thing. YA isn’t an area of fiction I’m widely read in, although fantasy certainly is. To my delight, I found the world of the novel entirely unfamiliar, with more technology than you tend to find in fantasy, and no tedious explanations of history, or how magic works or anything of that ilk. We’re thrown into a number of related situations and left as readers to figure things out as we go along. 

This is predominantly a story about some young humans figuring out that they need to make some radical changes in their lives and then working together to make that happen. There is magic, conflict, drama, and considerable peril. The young humans face what felt to me like mild peril (it’s a series, it seemed unlikely that any main character would die in the first book). However, what’s going on in the background is violent and hideous – it’s told in a way that I think would be fine for most teens but I’d be careful with anyone under twelve, I think. It’s not detailed, but there are people in the habit of burning other people to death, in cages, for public edification. 

What I liked most about this book is how it handles the issue of empire. The plot of this book is very much driven by the actions of an aggressive empire. We see that from the perspective of their victims and it is clear in the story that violence, conquest and colonialism are horrible, and inexcusable. The way in which empire-makers lie as they go, to justify what they do is dealt with really explicitly. 

At the same time, the empire itself is ludicrous and dysfunctional. I wouldn’t be the first person to compare the set-up to Gormenghast, with the vast, preposterous palace at the centre of the story. The library featured on the book cover carries this part of the world and story. It’s a vast, mouldering, gothic library where the books stolen from colonised peoples are kept. Most of the activity involves shelving and unshelving, with books being hefted about by illiterate children who are at constant risk of being injured by falling bits of the library building. It stands as a powerful metaphor for all stolen wealth and culture, and is a neat way of expressing what empires do to themselves and those around them. 

I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Magic of Butterflies and Moths – a review

Magic of Butterflies and Moths, The

If you were anticipating a book about doing spells with butterflies and moths, that isn’t what happens here. This isn’t a book about how we might use other beings for our own purposes, I’m glad to say. Instead, it is an invitation to explore the wonders of these creatures.

Some years ago, when I started looking for books about otters, it became apparent to me that books about any aspect of nature are few and far between. Identification books dominate the field, and if you want to know about something in a broader or deeper way, there’s far less to read. This book is a deeper dive into the nature of butterflies and moths, and it was very much the kind of book I’ve been in need of. 

This is an ideal read for anyone interested in nature for its own sake and who wants to deepen their relationship with the wild world. It’s also entirely readable, in a way that the identification books generally aren’t. Steve Andrews is an experienced writer, who assumes his reader is astute, but not familiar with the subject matter, so it’s written very much for the intelligent learner. 

When it comes to moths and butterflies, Steve has considerable expertise. I’ve followed him on social media for years and he shares a lot from his own insect work. There’s an invitation in this book to get involved, as Steve shares his own insights into taking care of butterflies and moths. There is a lot that we as individuals can do to help the wildlife around us, and this book has some easily undertaken suggestions.

If you’re curious but only know a little about butterflies and moths, this book is well worth checking out.

More on the publisher’s website –

Honouring The Wild – review

Earth Spirit: Honoring the Wild

Honouring The Wild explores the relationship between the Reclaiming witchcraft tradition, and activism. In this small book we hear from a range of voices and perspectives from around the world.

My guess is that if you’re on the Reclaiming path, this is going to be a valuable book for connecting with the wider movement and seeing how you might develop your own approaches.

As someone outside of that tradition, I found it first and foremost to be an interesting read. I like getting an insight into what other people are doing. I wasn’t previously aware of the role of activism within Reclaiming – it’s not a path or a community I know very much about.

There were things I learned about the ways in which people struggle, and ways of approaching that. These are relevant to me on my Druid path, and I’ll be taking those insights onboard and seeing how best to work with them. I think anyone interested in activism is similarly likely to find things here that will enrich what they do.

Most importantly this is a book in which people tell stories about what they’ve done. Reading other people’s stories, it’s easier to imagine how we might act, and to see that as possible. The actions of others show the many ways forward. It’s easy to feel too small, too insignificant, too powerless for it to matter what you do, and this book offers many antidotes to those feelings. These are good stories, likely to inspire and encourage. It’s also not all about high risk front line activism, because not everyone can do that. It’s an inclusive book, with room for people whose resources are limited, whose bodies are not able to withstand police aggression, and people whose souls are not shaped for the front lines. There are many ways to be an activist, and all of those ways are valid.

I think this book is particularly suited for people who do not see themselves as activists and who feel uncomfortable about that, and want to do more. 

More on the publisher’s website –

Rem Wigmore book reviews

These two books follow straight on from each other, and it does work to read them back to back. Foxhunt has been out for a while Wolfpack is coming out this January. I figured it made sense to review the two in one go.

This story is set in a future that has come back from the brink and where humanity is trying to make better choices. That makes for very hopeful reading. There a mix of people going back to older ways of doing things, alongside imaginative future tech and lots of solar power. There’s also a lot to think about around how people organise themselves – this mostly goes on in the background but it’s a source of richness within the books. The world building is deftly done and engaging and I would cheerfully spend a lot more time reading stories set in this future. The main character is trans, there are a lot of trans and nonbinary characters and everyone introduces themselves with their pronouns, which is wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever previously read anything that was so entirely queer and it made me very happy.

There are definite threads for Pagans in these novels. The author clearly knows their mythology, and draws on it in all sorts of interesting ways. There is also reverence for the earth and for the Green threading through it all, which I found really resonant.

If it sounds like your sort of thing, get in there!


For me the heart of this story is how the main character – Orfeus – grows as a person and learns about herself. At the start of the book, Orfeus presents as cocky and sassy and seems fairly self-assured. However, as the story progresses, it becomes obvious that Orfeus isn’t close to many people and really has no idea who to trust or how to relate to most people. There’s a huge learning curve for the character around understanding other people and forming more substantial relationships. It’s really interesting watching a main character who has very little idea what they’ve got into and who makes terrible choices about how to react. I found that refreshing, and opens the story up in ways that a more competent character could not have done.

Overall this is a charming romp of a book right up until it takes a very uneasy turn towards the end. The story plays out well.


The second novel introduces more perspectives and we see this future reality through more eyes – which I really liked. Wolfpack builds on the ideas from the first book, expands the cast and develops the characters we’re already familiar with. It’s a stronger novel, and much more emotionally intense than Foxhunt. I came very close to crying over this story on multiple occasions. There are themes of community, relationship, trust, and hope. The way all of that plays out gave me a lot of feelings and the emotional journeys of the characters are really powerful. It’s a story about how we move on together, how we heal together, how we look after each other and this is such good and needful stuff to be talking about. And it’s good to encounter those themes with characters who wear cool masks and have nifty flying bikes and surprise owls.

Find out more on the author’s website –

Crimson Craft – a review

This is a really lovely book. If you’re approaching it as someone new to sex magic, and you have feelings of confidence and delight, then this is a great place to start and get in there!

For a lot of people, sex is a difficult and uncomfortable topic. It doesn’t help that there’s so much negative cultural framing – especially for anyone female, queer or otherwise complicated. There’s far more shame than celebration, far more stigma than joy. And yet, our sexual identities can be huge, defining aspects of who we are, and are all too often parts of ourselves that we can’t safely express.

If you grew up with Christianity in your environment – even if it wasn’t your family religion – you’ve probably been exposed to the idea that sex is sinful, not sacred. It can be hard pushing past all of this to even consider the idea that sex could be sacred and magical.

In writing this book, Halo has created a safe space for anyone who wants to explore their own nature as a sexual being. This is an invitation to be open to healing, sacredness, wonder, spirituality and magic. It’s a deeply affirming and inclusive book full of things to explore and the affirmation that exploring is something you are entitled to do.

As this is written for the solitary practitioner, there are no assumptions about your orientation, partnership status, whether you fall in the ace spectrum, or how you want to go about having erotic experiences. This is wonderful of itself and entirely liberating. The person who wants to try these ideas with other people can explore that should they so wish, but this book is primarily about your relationship with your own body and with your sexual self.

If this is an area of challenge for you, I can recommend this book as a comforting, supportive and uplifting sort of read. I admit that I didn’t get in to read and endorse this book earlier in the process – much as I love Halo’s work – because I was in a really bad way and did not feel at all equal to it. With hindsight, while I’m certain I’d have cried a lot going through it at that earlier point, I also think it would have done me a lot of good if I’d felt able to try. So if this is an area of life and self that you’re struggling with, there’s a decent chance this book will be helpful, especially if you’re trying to change things and need ideas to work with.

Get it right, and sex can be magic, and mystery, wonder and sacredness. We have in ourselves, and between us, a capacity to make beauty and joy. That should be honoured and celebrated.

More on the publisher’s website –

Lore of the Saelvatici

This is a tricky book to review because it’s not like anything else I’ve ever read – and I have read a lot of books, and I read broadly. After some reflection I think you’re most likely to go for this as a reader if you’re into folk horror as a genre. It isn’t exactly folk horror, it’s more like the backstory that a contemporary folk horror narrative would allude to before leaving a contemporary character to die trapped inside a hollow oak.

For Pagan readers there may well be some amusement in the set-up – the ancient manuscript transcribed only to disintegrate leaving no real evidence. Steven C Davis clearly knows his stuff, and this is all very knowing. The lost but recreated manuscript tells of old gods, terrifying forests, human violence and horror. The book is an assemblage of fragments, in many ways more like poetry than a novel. I’m fairly convinced it’s a spell designed to enchant the reader and make space in their head for those old forest gods to enter in. I can honestly say I experienced it that way.

Quite some years ago, I read Wake by Paul Kingsnorth – a book set in much the same timeframe and also dealing with Norman conquest, religious upheaval and violence. I found Wake disappointing, and did not try to review it. At the same time, I felt it misleadingly offered things I wanted and failed to deliver on them. That book is on my mind now because Lore of the Saelvatici is in many ways an answer to how Wake left me feeling. This is the imagined history I needed.

That the writing is lyrical makes the violence a lot easier to bear. This is a bloody book, and many of the scenes in it do not go well for those involved. There’s a lot of death, murder, sacrifice… there’s also a lot of sexual violence. I’m generally not good at coping with sexual violence in books, but I managed to deal with the content here, and I think if you’re braced for it you’ve got a reasonable chance. It’s easier, in many ways, when violence is presented as horror and not as something titillating.

This is not a book for everyone, but if this is the kind of writing that attracts you, then you are going to love this. Strange, wild, uneasy and powerful material, it may well do things to you. The world would be a more interesting place of more of us had forest gods inside our heads.

You can find it on Amazon –