Book Review: The Crow Journal by Finn Cullen

The Crow Journal by Finn Cullen is a wonderfully evocative, meticulously researched, intricately woven tale that slots in impeccable references to mid Victorian London and joins them seamlessly to a chilling tale of faerie, enchantment, adventure and treachery.

The story is told in a style that would have been familiar to Dickens or Conan Doyle. Here’s an excerpt to give some flavour:

The carriage ride was not a long one, and my companion was not inclined to conversation. I was thoughtful myself after my encounter in the court of Green Jack. I had not gained the answers I sought, but I had taken a first step into the realm of Faerie. More importantly I hadn’t lost my life in the taking of that step. There in the safety of the cab’s compartment it began to dawn on me how perilous that encounter had been. Thorn’s ruthlessness had been clear, the memory of those cold killer’s eyes would not soon leave me, and the sense of power that came when I recalled the vast landscape face of Green Jack himself was daunting.

Barnaby Silver, having finished the first part of his magical training with his kindly mentor, Doctor Moran, journeys from a remote village in Yorkshire to London. He is searching for news of his father, who he never knew. His mother, a magus or magician, had fled London when he was a baby. Now he needed to find out about his father.

His quest takes him through the darkest streets of mid Victorian London and the dangerous lands of faerie. Interlaced with the search for his father is the intrigue and scheming of the magi, the magicians that are now based in London after moving from Glastonbury.

The story has plenty of great action scenes and lots of plot twists, although only a hint of romance. As a story, it stands alone but there are a few strands left that suggest further great stories may come.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And Another Book

books on brown wooden shelf
Image from Unsplash, taken by Alfred

I was exhausted. I’d spent all day unpacking in my new flat and I was just about done. I had hefted the last wedge of packing paper down to the recycling and now there was just one thing left to put away – my moving in gifts.

Dad had grinned as he had handed over the box, his gift of a small tool kit on the top. “I tried to tell them, but they didn’t listen.” The tools were neatly stowed in the bottom kitchen drawer, but now I had to find a place for the rest.

I sighed. I had thanked everyone and smiled and looked grateful. I didn’t feel grateful. Even though I had been cooking for my parents for years, they seemed to think I needed a little help. I started slotting the books on the shelf.

This cookbook was from Mum; she was worried about healthy eating. This cookbook was from Auntie Joan; she loved Spanish food and thought I should try it more. This cookbook was from my sister, Clare; she could burn a pan of water and had given me a beginner’s book. This cookbook was from Marge next door; she had always loved handing out her homemade cakes, so she gave book about baking. This cookbook was from Uncle Steve; he didn’t approve of all this ‘modern rubbish’ and had given me a reprint of a Victorian cooking manual. Even my boss had given me a cookbook for meals in minutes.

I smiled. The recipes may never be used, but they are a wonderful reminder of their donors. A set of mugs or some tea towels may have been more practical but would never make me smile and think of the giver. I slotted the last book into the shelf and rang for a pizza.

Closing the White Hart

Don’t forget to read the IMPORTANT BIT below.

I have a few blogs which are spread across the internet. I have my personal blog, Sybil Witters On, my writing blog, this one, Always Another Chapter, and a series of stories on a blog set in a former pub in York called At the Sign of the White Hart.

I started the blog ‘At the Sign of the White Hart’ as an experiment to see if it would be possible to write a story on a blog, with each chapter being a separate blog post. Over time it grew and sprawled over a host of stories and characters. There are 71 separate posts and I don’t know how many people of various shapes and flavours. I became incredibly fond of all of them.

I came to the conclusion, in the end, that the blog format doesn’t really work unless you are reading it from the start. It’s always tricky to go back and read through in order. It was also distracting me from other projects. I hate to mention money, but I was writing the White Hart stories and making them freely available but those stories were taking time and attention away from writing which could pay. I had to say goodbye.

And speaking of money again, it’s a site that costs me some money to use and I can’t work out how to get adverts on it, and now that I’m no longer posting on there, it isn’t getting any traffic. It isn’t a huge amount of money, but I could do with not spending it. It’s coming up for renewal and I have decided to close the blog.

IMPORTANT BIT I have been supported and encouraged by some amazing people – seriously awesome, lovely people – and it’s important to me that those people who have been so wonderfully kind should still have free access to the stories that they helped me write. I am therefore going to be spending the next few days cutting, pasting, swearing, editing and trying to work out Canva and creating free books on Amazon. I’m using Amazon because I’ve finally worked out how to make a book free on there and you can download an app for PC, laptop and phone (and probably mac) for free to read things on there.

I’ve done some preliminary cut and paste work and we are looking at a tome that is four times the size of Out of the London Mist and that is before I add all the additional stories that have cropped up as flash fiction. It will be mighty and may be tricky to download on a phone. I will therefore probably (I’m still working this out) do one mighty collection and then a few different ones that are the collection but split for ease of reading, all free if I can manage it.

It may take a few days (or more) as I am also armpit deep in the sequel to Out of the London Mist and the editor has a cattle prod, but I am not going to let down those who have been so generous with their kind support.

I will keep you all informed. Thank you all again.

Writing about Writing

I got my first review for Out of the London Mist, and it was a good one. I felt so hugged, and so giddy and proud.

I feel I ought to print it out and frame it.

Writing Out of the London Mist was really the easy part. I then went through editing and the Three Furies, especially Rebekah, Julia and Emily, were so kind and supportive, even when I had made a complete mess of things. Once that was done, it’s time to work on publicity.

I’ve been steadily trying to contact book bloggers to ask for honest reviews over the last couple of weeks, along with working on the sequel. I’ve only asked for honest opinions and gone with people who are straightforward. I haven’t paid for any reviews. Anyone who has been contacted are willing to write bad reviews or not review and not just give good reports (which makes the good review above so sweet).

As I’ve gone through, I’ve found some lovely blogs with some lovely people. I’m starting to think less about the whole publicity stuff and more about the community. I feel like I need to raise my game after seeing all the awesome blogs out there.

I wrote Out of the London Mist as my first full steampunk novel and I grew as I learned about steampunk. I learned so much about English grammar and structure – and a lot about punctuation (thank you so much Julia and Emily) during editing. Now I’m learning a new appreciation about books and approaching them as I look around book blogs. Writing this book has been an absolute blessing.

I will certainly be following Lizanne Lost in a Good Book.