31 Oct 2016

Halloween, and the Necromancer in 2016

Happy halloween, dear readers!

Previously, I promised you that the Necromancer—the book I wrote at fourteen and published two years ago—would be getting a make-over. And guess what? Today is the day!

Okay, I must say that the new version is not on sale just yet; you’ll have to wait a few more days for that. But, you do get to see three pertinent elements of the new work: a newly revised blurb, prologue, and of course a brand new cover. While you ooh and aah over the new content (or at least I’ll hope you’ll be ooing and aaing) I will be busy getting a new series of reviews; expect to see them in the coming weeks.

Without further ado, here is the new cover and corresponding blurb:

In the frozen heartlands of the north, a dark force is reborn; his power is great, and his army swells with every monstrous recruit. In the Arachadian capital, Dresh, a string of mysterious kidnappings leaves the Great Mage puzzled. And in the mage academy of small town Renas, an unwitting apprentice is plunged into a quest: it will prove a fight for her life, a fight for the man she loves, and – ultimately – a fight for the future of the land.

Delve into this dark world of mystery and magic, of beings that walk the great forests and haunt the alcoves of the night; the necromancer awaits you...

And of course, I have also included the newly re-written prologue. If you wish to know more of the changes I have made to the Necromancer, well; you’ll just have to wait. Consider this a sweet taste of what’s to come...


The mage ran through the forest, and the necromancer followed.

Eiliara was her name. She was a fool. She told herself as much: You fool, Eiliara; you arrogant, stupid fool. Determined to uphold justice, you doomed yourself. You can’t fight him—you’ll die here, on this forsaken mountain. What the mage told herself was true, but still she carried on running. Perhaps she thought she could evade him—though that was folly, as any halfway competent mage would have told her. In reality, she ran because she was a Silver Mage, and Silver Mages never give up.

The forest around her is shrouded by darkness; the moon, a graceful queen in her empyrean abode, shines a pale blue light. The necromancer’s laughter follows her laboured breathing and tired footsteps. His is a dark laugh, a mixture of both arrogance and madness.

“Trying to escape me, mage?” The mage pays him no heed; she continues running.

Then Eiliara feels it—a terrible emptiness, a howling being of death, given birth through unholy magic.

The Wraith, for it can be no other, soon outruns her. It moves with an impossible grace; it moves unhindered by physical imperfections or moral bounds. It tries to grasp her in its lethal embrace—to consume her with darkness.

Eiliara’s spell is but a whispered word, and yet its power is undeniable. There is a searing flash of white. There is a bitter tang of ozone, not such as might be caused by a storm, but the taste of powerful magic. The Wraith screams, and then it implodes.

The necromancer is no fool, Eiliara; he sent the Wraith only to toy with you. Her words prove correct. There is a powerful gust of wind; the necromancer then appears before her, darkness pooling at his edges.

He was, Eiliara had to admit, rather beautiful. His jaw was masculine—a faint hint of stubble graced it, perfectly trimmed and subtly seductive. His hair was obsidian black, and gleamed in that pale moonlit night. His countenance was that of an aristocrat; his bearing arrogant and forceful.

“My darling mage!’ he begins. “To think you could destroy my faithful undead, and hope to avoid my notice. Your arrogance is remarkable. But I must admit,’ he says mockingly, “that I do find it intriguing. Are you brave, or merely stupid?”

“Spare me your insults, necromancer, and do not pretend that you yourself are not privy to the allure of arrogance.”

The necromancer laughs. “Ah, but you see, my arrogance is justified; for I am the most powerful wielder of magic in this forsaken realm. You, Silver Mage, are no match for me.”

“Let us see if your words mean anything,” the mage taunts. Her attack is powerful and without warning. The world turns white; her power slams into the necromancer. She attacks with spells—spells of fire, of thunder, and of magics beyond the ken of ordinary battle mages.

The light fades, and the efforts of her assault are revealed. The necromancer stands tall, his expression amused—perhaps even bored. His eyes glow an ethereal blue; they are alit by the unholy power of his dark magic, and the madness of his disturbed mind.

“Is that really all the mage academies could teach you? I fear I shall not be terribly entertained.” His words are not in jest; the power he unleashes cannot be underestimated.

At first he attacks with ice—a coldness so profound, Eiliara feels as if all the stars of Arachadia had been extinguished. Then he attacks with fire: a fire unearthly and blue. Then with blackness. It is a darkness absolute, an abyss into the dead lands, a precipice where life hangs dearly for its continued existence.

Eiliara’s wards shudder, and her power is exhausted. She had been trained to fight dark magics, of course: indeed she had been trained to fight anything. But none of her skills—her mastery of spellcraft, her cunning ploys, her subtle tactics—are a match for him. The necromancer was no ordinary meddler of the dark arts; his was a power perfected by many years, great skill, and staggering ability.

“So this is it,” she says.

“Indeed; but consider yourself fortunate. You, at least, shall not see the institution you so cherish be destroyed by my power.”

“Do you truly believe you can destroy the mage academies?” She intends the words to mock, but they only show her fear. Eiliara knew the necromancer’s power—and nothing seemed beyond him.

“I do, and you know full well I can. My undead shall rise and smite down the living. They shall destroy your corrupt administration and the injustices you perpetrate. Death will bring a new beginning: Arachadia shall see the dawn of my rule, and a new dynasty of necromancers will be born.”

“You’re insane.”

“Perhaps. You would not be the first to say as much, and I doubt you will be the last. Indeed I find your accusation quite entertaining. After all: it is you who live in gilded halls while the poor suffer in their slums. It is you who gaze imperiously at their downtrodden faces, secure in the knowledge that your power renders you immune to whatever revolt the peasants may devise.”

“But surely you know that the queen is responsible for this! She sets the taxes, not we.”

“Oh, I know, and rest assured the nobility shall perish with you. But you are complicit. Your powers are used to demand loyalty from the army, and ensure the continued rule of the Sovereign. I know; I was part of it, once.”

“Who are you?” Eiliara whispers.

“Don’t you know? I’m the necromancer. I’m the being forgotten; the love destroyed by the ambitions of a fool.”

“Are you...” Eiliara searches her memory. She had lived for many years—sixty in total—and recalled much. The necromancer’s identity was a suspicion; if only it could be confirmed...

“Are you—”

“Enough talk. Prepare to die.”

Eiliara focused all of her power on the strength of her wards, but she kept a tiny reserve—the very edge of her power—towards a different purpose. As the necromancer attacked, she sent out a message.

Eiliara died on that cold night. Her screams found no solace in the inclement face of the mountain, nor in the necromancer’s forgotten conscience. But her message found its way.

A darkness rises; a necromancer haunts the mountains of the north. Years ago, he was betrayed. His vengeance cannot be quenched. He must be stopped—and his progeny kept safe. I am Eiliara, and I will be no more. Let my sacrifice not go in vain.

21 Oct 2016

The New Face of the Necromancer (and Other Goings On)

Hello readers!

It has been awhile since I last wrote a new post here on the Magical Realm. The reason, as you know, is that I have been busy working to republish the Necromancer on its second anniversary. Nonetheless—you are by now, I am sure, bored of rereading old essays on liberalism and the Soviets. Today you are in luck; I have found a window of opportunity in my seemingly infinite pile of work, and I shall use it to brief you on all that has been going on in these past few weeks.

To begin with, the most pressing and interesting aspect of my work so far: the new face of the Necromancer.

The Necromancer, 2016

I have been a busy boy: I have written approximately 8000 words. Most of these have found themselves in the epilogue; the Necromancer has a new ending! I shall, of course, be secretive as to how exactly things have changed. What I can say? I have tied up several loose ends, and given Linaera an altogether new purpose in her life.

Aside from that, I have also rewritten the prologue. The prose is more fluid, and more cogent—one of my favourite beta readers has already commented favourably upon it. I hope that a more convincing prologue will, indeed, convince more readers to give the Necromancer a chance.

Aside from that, I have made notable edits to a number of chapters; and in the following days, I hope to have completed all of the edits I intend to make with the new edition. I shall not reveal too many details as yet; that will be for a later post.

The new edition also has various other miscellaneous changes. The Deathbringer, a sequel I considered writing, is not to be; therefore that excerpt has been removed and replaced from one in the Ark. I have also changed the preface and made a host of other minor changes.

But perhaps what will you notice most of all—particularly on publication day—is the new cover. Once more, this is hush hush. Rest assured that there will be a cover reveal day, however; and there you will see the new face of the Necromancer...


I have also written (and subsequently revised) two articles for Scriptus, the university’s student-run journal. Sadly, my second article—regarding my experience writing the Necromancer—will be published in then next issue on November. Thankfully, my article on Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is out today!

As you may know, I intend to furnish my journalism credentials over the coming months and years; I one day hope to write pieces for the likes of the Guardian, the FT, the New York Times, and other respectable publications.

Life in the Netherlands

The final part of this update will concern some observations I have made about the university here, and life more generally in the Netherlands.

I have already mentioned that university does not function like lower school: I have an irregular schedule, with no lessons on Wednesday and variable hours depending on whether a guest lecture is scheduled, whether I have a particularly challenging assignment due in, and so on.

I have also mentioned that I am not convinced of this system, and that impression has only been re-enforced. There is something to be said for regularity—for starting school at 9 (or preferably 10), having something to do for a set number of hours, and then going home. Such a system allows a lot of work to be done in a co-ordinated manner.

The university system, I have found, is flexible—but difficult to work with. I often find myself working well into the evening, and alternately having plentiful time on my hands. My sleep has suffered somewhat: I tend to sleep erratically from day to day. On a morning lecture, I will have slept about eight hours the previous night; on other days I will have slept ten. I am functional—the ten hour nights prevent sleep deprivation—but I am tired on some mornings, and oversleep on others.

Sleep is a common problem for young adults, alas. The best I can do is attempt a schedule and practise some good habits. I will, for one, open the curtains before I go to bed—for in the darkness I can sleep eternally.

As for the grading system, assignments, and tests, I have found them... reasonable. I am still getting to grips it with—an inevitable consequence of changing systems—but so far I have found it reasonable. I have scored the maximum grade, A, on most of my tests and assignments.

One strange aspect is that scoring above 82.5% will give you the maximum grade—regardless of whether you got 83%, 90%, or 100%. While such a grading system does not finely distinguish between very high performers, it has the more beneficial effect of giving me a certain margin of error. Trying to always score 90% would be exhausting; the lower boundary supports better mental health.

I must also admit that the marking schemes are somewhat foreign to me—although considering my strong performance, I hope I will not need to memorise mark schemes, as I was forced to do lower down in school.

As for the courses themselves, I have them highly interesting. Energy, Climate and Sustainability perhaps more so than any other: I find the boundaries between economics, physics and chemistry to be intellectually febrile ground. But this is not to say that my other courses are not interesting.

In Economic Thought, we have learned a great deal about the classical economists. In Academic Writing, I have the benefit of discussing the finer points of literature with the teacher. And in logic I was given a very interesting lecture on group aggregation logic—a topic with applications ranging from distributed computing to voting systems.

The Land of Milk and Bicycles

As for Holland itself, it is in many ways as I remember it. Dark and rainy, though beautiful when the sun shines. Amsterdam itself is not the most interesting European city architecturally (sorry Dutchies!), but it makes up for that with numerous beautiful parks, events, and plenty of shopping.

Although, I do detest its street signs. They are written in small font, kept hidden behind corners, and often have obscure and difficult names. (For example: Carolina MacGillavrylaan.) This makes it challenging to find one’s way, even with GPS.

The city is relatively compact—I can get from one side to the other by bike, although it can take up to an hour once traffic and faulty GPS directions are factored in.

I have also found Amsterdam unusually difficult—by Dutch standards—for bikers. This probably down to the large number of intersections, traffic lights, and the wretched motorcyclists. (Which really ought to use the road. And be properly regulated: they are tremendously noisy and polluting.)

Finishing Thoughts

I hope you have found my update illuminating. I am, as you can see, very busy. Assignments, lectures, bureaucracy, and the toils of moving all fall on top of my writing commitments. Nonetheless I am making progress; and soon, with luck, you will be able to see the new version of the Necromancer up for sale.

Until then, do keep following.

19 Oct 2016

The Brexit Landscape

This article on the Brexit negotiations is out of date, but still relevant. It has been republished as part of my October series.

Here I shall present a two-part analysis. The first is about Labour; being a member I am inevitably deeply interested in party politics, and there is no doubt that Brexit has provoked significant upheaval in the party. The most dramatic of these was the fact that 2/3 of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned—and the no-confidence motion, passed by 80% of Labour MPs, is almost as important.

Inevitably, the question is: what next for Labour?

The second part of this analysis will concern the fate of the country. I will of course refer to today’s summit of the EU-27, as well Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to woo Brussels.

Anyway, to business.

What Next for Corbyn?

The most difficult and pressing question we face right now is of course Jeremy Corbyn. Loved by most of the members; loathed by most of the PLP. This contradiction is at the heart of the problem, and has been since Jeremy has been elected Leader.

But there is another element to this: the referendum. If you recall, most of the party prior to the referendum result was willing to work with Jeremy, and many were accepted into his shadow cabinet. And yet, we are now seeing a mass walkout of the shadow cabinet—not to mention the no-confidence motion. What changed? Could the Brexit really be the reason that Corbyn is facing a coup? Or is it just a handy excuse?

No doubt many Corbyn backers prefer the latter explanation. In all truth, however, they are almost certainly wrong. It is not true that the Parliamentary Labour Party is full of careerists and Blairites. Sure, there are the Simon Danczuks and Liz Kendalls; but these are a minority faction of die-hards. They can mouth off in the rightwing press all they like, but they alone are not enough to account for the revolt Corbyn is facing.

Because let us be clear: this is a revolt on an epic scale. It wasn’t a minority of the PLP that voted for the no-confidence motion; it was 80%. That basically encompasses not only the Blairites, but also what is commonly called the ‘soft-left’ or—more accurately—the mainstream.

The sad fact of the matter is, the only people who have any faith left in Corbyn are his closest friends and backers—McDonnell, Diane Abbott, etc. The others (let’s be honest) only voted against the motion in order to try and preserve the idea of order, however faint it may be.

So what is to be done? It is believed Angela Eagle—the Shadow First Secretary—will mount a leadership challenge. (EDIT: Owen Smith is also receiving support from the PLP.) If they do, will Corbyn make the ballot? The latter is likely; for Corbyn to not be on the ballot would not only be constitutionally problematic, but would deeply undermine the membership.

This is the crux of the problem Labour is facing. The membership are the ones who canvass and campaign; they are the boots on the ground. They give the party backing, money, and energy.

But the PLP is the body with the real power. They sit in Parliament and vote on legislation; they go on TV and defend the party’s policy. Without the membership the party is wearied and weakened. But without parliamentary presence it is not a party in any meaningful sense of the word—and certainly not a party that can lay claim to government.

At the end of the day, it is as simple as that. If Corbyn cannot keep the PLP under control (let alone on his side) then he is not fit to be leader. In its present state of conflict, the Labour party is unlikely to win a majority; and even if it did, it would not be a functional government.

We can rage against the PLP till the cows come home. It doesn’t really matter. The game is up.

We can, naturally, wonder why the PLP has turned outright hostile to Corbyn. Is it because he was not overly enthusiastic in the referendum campaign; because had he been a little firmer with his message, a little more ready to remind our voters of what the EU has done for Europe (promote peace, forge trade links, fight global warming and tax evasion)—then he might have swung the vote to Remain?

Our MPs seem to believe so. Are they justified? Ultimately, I think they are. While many voters wouldn’t have cared for what the Labour Leader had to say either way, there is no doubt that with a 2% margin, Leave’s victory was extremely narrow. If Corbyn had been more determined, he may well have stopped Brexit.

Even if you don’t agree with this, it doesn’t matter. Corbyn has proven himself terminally unfit to lead. He may have the right message; but he is not the man to sell it. He has the charisma of a retired university professor (a rather charitable analogy). He has too much baggage from decades as a CND chair and perpetual rebel. He has no front-bench experience.

Believe me, this is not easy to admit. I gave him my second preference in the leadership election. At the time, I gave him the benefit of the doubt—maybe he would prove a competent leader. Maybe he really would deliver. He had, after all, already confounded the political class when he became frontrunner and then leader.

Alas, it is not meant to be. This is not to be defeatist: the Corbyn effect has always been about his ideas, not about Corbyn himself. The members will continue to believe in those ideas; Momentum will continue to fight for them.

They might not, of course. But if they don’t, then this only makes my point. Corbyn is just a man—and not even such a great politician at that. If nothing remains after he leaves, then there was never a movement. It was always a personality cult.

So my message to Corbyn supporters is this: let Corbyn go. He can’t lead the party and his continued presence as Leader can only lead to heartbreak. Rather, Corbyn supporters should focus their attentions on changing the structure of the Labour party. They should do their best to influence the selection of parliamentary candidates. They should bring policy suggestions through the mechanism in place for that.

And perhaps most of all, they should stay on the lookout for an MP that can make the socialist case. For an MP that fights against poverty, inequality, tax avoidance, and privatisation—but who does this with charisma and pragmatism, not just with passionate principle.

Keir Hardie, after all, was never a successful Commons leader. The man who really got the Labour party somewhere—who turned words into deeds—was Clement Attlee. Corbyn supporters would do well to heed the lessons of history.

Labour and Brexit

Moving onto the second point of order, Labour must address the challenge posed by Brexit. For Brexit puts us into a tricky situation. Two thirds of our voters may have to Remain; but this still means a third voted to Leave. And what of the voters we wish to convince? More than half would have voted Leave.

To add further cause for concern, the Liberal Democrats may have awoken from their slumber. Tim Farron has pledged to undo the referendum result if his party is elected. Do not underestimate this: the petition to undo the referendum result has received 4 million signatures. This is unprecedented for a petition. And as the many memes on social media and the rally held at Trafalgar Square shows, there is actually a substantial number of people in this country who really don’t want Brexit.

Anti-Brexit Rally

Above: there are others like them. Do you think a party that pledges to undo the referendum using parliamentary sovereignty won’t get their support?

This puts Labour in a very awkward situation. If we take a conciliatory approach with regards to the European Union, we will lose the votes of the young and the metropolitan middle class to the Lib Dems. Allow me to be frank: without those votes we don’t stand a chance of getting into government.

If we take a firmly pro-EU stance, we may alienate the voters we wish to gain support from.

My take on this is that we should have a pro-EU policy framed by a conciliatory rhetoric. We will as a party attempt to keep Britain’s access to the common market (regardless of the immigration it will inevitably involve). Why? Because it would be disastrous for Britain’s working people if what remains of our industrial base moves to Europe. Recession would likewise be disastrous—for everyone.

We must however do our utmost to re-assure people when it comes to immigration. I would suggest we take the following line: the immigration we’ve seen in the past couple of years has indeed been high. But it won’t last much longer. Eastern Europe’s economy is growing; and many of the people who would have emigrated have already done so.

To counter the threat of those Liberals, my instinct would be to attack Farron. ‘We’re all sinners, Mr Farron’ sounds catchy. The people who want to remain in the EU most fervently are, after all, the young and the cosmopolitan. They will not approve of Farron’s rather dubious, religiously-motivated stance on gay rights. (I sure as hell don’t: his kind of thinking has caused immense suffering for other gay people like me, and indeed still does.)

‘But Alex!’ you ask: ‘Do you not want to undo the referendum? Surely you of all people would like that!’ Well, yes; I would like it. But I am no idealistic fool. Farron and his band of liars can promise whatever they want. But undoing the referendum can only be done with another referendum; to undo it through Parliament would provoke a constitutional crisis without precedence. It could literally mean riots on the streets.

And a second referendum, well; that’s plausible, but seems unlikely. Firstly, because can we really put it in our manifesto without alienating potential voters? But moreso, because I’m not sure it would matter even if the result came out for Remain. The EU has made clear that it wants the UK to invoke Article 50. Once we do that, the process is irreversible.

It’s strange, I will admit; to be so staunchly pragmatic at my age. But protest doesn’t change anything. Power does.

The Brexit Negotiations

The news regarding the UK’s negotiation with the EU at today’s summit is very boring. This is because it is completely unsurprising. Merkel says the UK will not get access to the common market without granting the four freedoms; Renzi, the Italian President, says being in a family requires taking the bad with the good; François Hollande says the same thing. Donald Tusk says no á la carte single market. In others words: as Remain said all along.

In more interesting news, Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to woo the EU is a mixed success. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian PM responsible for the Brexit negotiations, thinks it is quite plausible for the EU to cook up a deal with Scotland. Martin Schulz is open to the possibility. But Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish incumbent head of state, is opposed. (Unsurprisingly, what with Catalonia and all.) Tusk also declined to meet Sturgeon—claiming that it would be bad precedent for him to meet Sturgeon, and would provoke an avalanche of visits from other states. He seems to think Scotland’s position will be negotiated along with the UK’s.

So: what do I make of all this?

I think it’s too early to tell. But I do think Sturgeon stands a strong chance of keeping Scotland in the EU—either through some sort of deal with Brussels, or by becoming independent and rejoining (which would take about 5 years or so). This is because the EU leaders are for the most part sympathetic to Scotland; after all, Scotland is not leaving out of its own free will.

As for Rajoy, it’s not even certain he will be Spain’s head of state. (After all, coalition negotiations are still ongoing; Rajoy doesn’t have a majority in parliament.) Even if he’s still around, I think he will capitulate, because a) Scotland’s situation is not that of Catalonia; the latter is not being forced out of the EU and b) because vetoing Scotland would be unpopular in Europe, unpopular in the world stage, and unpopular in Catalonia.

He can also spin it off. Scotland is a unique situation; it can remain in the EU because of the exceptional circumstances regarding its departure.

Anyway, a lot of this is conjecture at this point.

Closing Thoughts

These are uncertain times ahead. The political situation requires further news and further analysis—which I shall be doing over the coming months. At present, Labour has to contend both with a bitter internal divide and a potentially dangerous electoral landscape: the Lib Dems on one side, UKIP and the Leavers on the other.

Anyway, one thing is for certain: I will be writing. I have already begun revising the Ark, with chapter two being mostly re-written. Wish me luck. I shall be releasing numerous progress updates on the Ark. The Magical Realm, after all, is chiefly a writing blog.

16 Oct 2016

On Chomsky, Socialism, and the Soviets

Once more, as part of my October series, I am republishing old essays from the archives of the Magical Realm. This essay on Noam Chomsky is one that was previously found popular.

Though I have promised more on the Ark—with excerpts, as in the case of my previous post, as well as beta reader feedback, analysis, etc.—I nevertheless felt compelled to address a peculiarly intriguing piece by Noam Chomsky.

Firstly, take a look. In the piece Chomsky makes numerous points; but the main, overarching thrust is that the Soviet Union was not a Socialist state, but a regime run by the intelligentsia under the pretence of Socialism.

This, along with other questions, I shall address herewith.

Was the Soviet Union Socialist?

As Chomsky himself admits, political terminology is often vague and subject to semantics. Because of this, we must actually define what ‘Socialism’ means.

Chomsky’s definition is simple: Socialism’s goal is to empower the workers and free them from the institutions of capitalism and the vagaries of the bourgeois class.

Which is great. But Chomsky’s has made a critical error: he failed to define how this lofty goal is actually to be achieved! For if you ask Marx, Lenin, or a Social Democrat (as best characterised by the 20th century movements in Sweden, Germany, Denmark etc.) you will get three rather different answers.

For Marx, the goal may really only be achieved once the workers have seized control of the means of production; a workers’ state, in other words. For Lenin, this seizure of power must be performed by the intelligentsia—they must then dictate the economy so as to be run in the interests of the workers, or else gradually give workers that power.

But ask a Social Democrat in 20th century Sweden (which would be around the same time as Lenin and co. seized power) and they would tell you something rather different. There can be no workers’ state; pure command economies don’t work. Granted—the kind of ‘socialism’ advocated by Chomsky is distinct from the command and control style Communism where production is dictated by state bureaus.

But a pure and genuine workers’ state is almost as dysfunctional as that kind of command and control economy. For the workers’ state seems to involve a curious contradiction: workers must be able to control production, but they must also have free choice in what they can buy and own. This is simply not possible. Either demand dictates supply, or supply dictates demand

Allow me to illustrate via example. Suppose you, as an empowered worker, labour in a factory producing cars. Now: you and workers throughout the rest of the Utopian Workers’ State have agreed to produce 10,000 cars, 10,000 tonnes of grain, 20,000 apartments and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, you and other workers find that you possess a fancy for vodka; and so you decide to spent your allocated money on vodka. Thus you cannot buy apartments and cars and so on.

What happens now is that lots of apartments and cars are produced—and are not wanted. At the same time, there is a dire shortage of vodka!

The naive economist may now say: ‘Ah! But why not just switch production over to vodka from grain?’

This sounds lovely in theory, but becomes rather difficult to implement in practice when you have to dynamically allocate an economy that produces everything from robots and cars; to grain and alcohol; and domestic services, teaching, and art.

Moreover, even if such a state were able to adapt reasonably well to the demands placed upon it, there would still result some of the same maladies found in capitalist economies. Case in point: frictional unemployment. You may want to start producing lots of vodka now, but maybe you’ll then find that the workers have had enough vodka (perhaps they tired of being drunk) and instead decided to buy computers.

The question presented to you now is: how does one turn farm labourers into computer scientists?

(In fairness, there is one difference between this and capitalism. The state will keep the workers making stuff until they can be re-trained. The goods they produce won’t be very useful, but it’s still better than having the workers unemployed and not making anything—as would be the case under capitalism.)

So it seems that we have to make some sort of compromise:

  1. A perpetually dysfunctional economy where worker possess both free choice in goods and control over production;
  2. An economy where workers have very little choice in goods, but control production; or
  3. An economy as run by the Social Democratic movements of the 20th century. Both markets and worker-run production act together in a hybrid model; the virtues of both are inherited, along with some of the vices.

So it seems that, either way you cut it, command economies are suboptimal: either they severely limit individual choice, or they fail to be allocatively efficient.

But Chomsky seems to be getting at something different here: political power. Regardless of the economic system, he argues, workers are disempowered by the political system—which is firmly under the control of Lenin.

And it seems a fair enough criticism. But it merits more consideration.

So was the Soviet Union Let Down by Politics?

Before I answer this, I must clarify a point that may elude those of you less familiar with Russian history. Stalin, as I’ve covered previously, was not a Socialist in any form. He was a murderous paranoid despot with a ruthless desire for control and less interest in the wellbeing of his people than even the Tsars. He ran a command economy to satiate his hunger for power, not to emancipate the workers.

With that out of the way, let’s consider Chomsky’s central point: Lenin brought a poor excuse for socialism because he was, like Stalin, ultimately more interested in power than emancipation for the working classes.

This sounds superficially credible, but is really deeply ignorant of history.

This is because, in Russia at the time, the workers themselves simply had neither the desire nor the means to organise a revolution. Sure—there had been isolated protests. Well before 1917 peasants had seized estates belonging to local nobles; and there had been a number of protests in the cities, which ended badly—see the Bloody Sunday.

But really, until 1917, the workers did not possess a collective, Russia-wide notion of worker emancipation. Yes, they had unions which quarrelled with factory owners—and sometimes succeeded in improving conditions for the workers. But these protests were concerned with the wellbeing of workers in a particular factory, or region, or industry.

Some thinkers (of Marxist persuasions) believed Lenin acted too soon: he should have waited for these incipient movements to spread through a process of osmosis. The revolution should have been bottom-up, not top-down.

But this strikes me as naïve. Russia was a huge empire stretching all the way across Asia, into North-Eastern Europe (Finland was a close ally of Russia well into the 19th century), Eastern Europe (where Russia variously held power over Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic States), and even the Middle-East. It had native Russians of various religions (see: Old Believers), it had Muslims subjected by conquering Tsars (indeed, as Geoffrey Hosking notes, some Russian serfs were under the domain of local Muslim lords), and it had a significant divide between peasants and urban workers.

The Tsars, for their part, had been autocrats for centuries and were now beginning to panic (of which Bloody Sunday was an unfortunate manifestation).

The disparate peoples of Russia only came close to unity in the first World War, largely owing to the military—soldiers were effectively adopted into a military family, where they called men from the other side of Russia their brothers—and the collective impact of the war on the Russian psyche.

But such an event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If Lenin had waited, the underlying factors making revolution feasible would have faded. The Tsars could have re-asserted themselves.

In short: it was top-down or nothing.

Top-down then Bottom-up?

If we accept that change was necessary, then the question really becomes: did the Soviet movement lose sight of its objectives? Did it, in other words, become corrupt? Or was it ever well-intentioned to begin with?

There can be little doubt that the purges, pogroms and paranoia of Stalin were a parody of what the early Bolsheviks desired. Yes, the Bolsheviks figured political power was necessary to bring about improvement for the working classes. But no, they certainly didn’t desire a regime worse than the Tsars they were trying to replace!

And call me naive, but I think it common sense that the Soviets were well-intentioned. Remember: the Soviets were the intelligentsia. They were middle-class and well-off (sometimes even very well-off) and they could have gained power in the political structure that was already present. They didn’t need to start a revolution; in fact, you’d think a revolution would be more likely to wrong their desire for power.

It seems that the mistake of the Soviets—besides attempting an overly command-driven and dysfunctional economic system that should’ve been closer to what was going on in Europe—was in becoming that which they sought to overthrow. They became too self-righteous, too autocratic. The pigs started running the farm, and the pigs became men. (There’s a bit of Orwell for you lot.)

Chomsky and Propaganda

Chomsky also makes the point that Western scholars produced propaganda when they attempted to a) claim the Soviet Union was socialist and b) claim whatever they were doing was bound to fail. Western scholars were not interested in debate; they wanted to keep the rich, rich, and the poor in their place.

The Soviet Union they saw as the embodiment of all their fears—there was a nation where the workers seized power! It was a nightmare situation for their masters.

Or at least this is what Chomsky would have you think. I myself am sympathetic to this view (and certainly some of what was published was propaganda guided by vested interests) but I think Chomsky is giving too little credit to Western scholars here.

There were, as Stalin proved, reasons to be skeptical of how the Soviet movement would turn out. There was indeed autocracy and violence being committed by the Soviets.

And, to be fair, there were valid economic problems as well.


As you can see, life is complicated. I agree with the thrust of Chomsky’s article: the Soviet Union, in its later years, was not Socialist; and Western scholars, or at least some of them, were the acolytes of propaganda.

But Chomsky is wrong to think that the Soviets were badly intentioned, or even wrong to wage their revolution the way they did. Their historical circumstances gave them little choice.

Ultimately, the Soviets went wrong because they attempted the wrong kind of Socialism (which ought really have been something closer to 20th century social democratic movements) combined with an overly authoritarian and dangerously power hungry approach.

It is also fair to say that Western scholars did write genuine criticisms of what the Soviets were trying to do, and what they came to do.

Anyway: I’ve written enough. I hope my essay has been illuminating. Now, I must address my attentions towards the Ark. Books don’t write themselves, after all.

15 Oct 2016

On a Chill October Day...

In case you missed it, here is what Alex is doing this October. Some of the information is out of date, but the details regarding the Necromancer remain correct.

It is a chill October day today, but in a way that is fitting. It was on a chill October day that I first began writing the Necromancer—it is now, very nearly, the fourth anniversary. I shall use this post to make a few announcements, some overdue, some minor, others important.

To begin with, a more minor, but overdue announcement: here is the link to my Google Photos album containing photos of my time here in Amsterdam. It is not finished, but that’s okay; you can sign up to receive notifications when more photos are added.

Now, onto business. As I already mentioned, it is almost the 4th anniversary of the Necromancer. This is a good time to announce that I have decided to do a new marketing push for that fantasy book of mine. This will not be a huge undertaking, but it is an undertaking nonetheless: I will be uploading a new version of the Necromancer, with details about all of the writing I have undertaken since its publication, and maybe even with bonus content. It will be republished exclusively to KDP. And I will be marketing it differently—different categories, different keywords, and a push to get more reviews.

When will this republication happen, you wonder? I have not yet set a deadline, but consider Halloween likely. That will signify, to the day, two years since it was published. (Yes, I am an old nostalgic.)

And why, you may wonder, have I decided to undertake this? A few responses spring to mind. Firstly, I have received some excellent marketing advice courtesy to Reedsy (thanks, Reedsy!) Secondly, I feel... somehow up for it. Writing the Necromancer exhausted me. Marketing it exhausted it me. Now I’m feeling up for the challenge again.

The third and final reason is that it could bring me some money, which would be most helpful in my efforts to market the Ark.

Speaking of which, I have a few more announcements to make. I have previously mentioned that I was commissioned to write a piece (a review of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century) for the student journal, Scriptus. I have finished the piece, sent it, and will be working with an editor in order to meet the October publication.

I have also used this opportunity to spring me onto bigger fish. I have offered to write a contribution for the Guardian. I do not know whether they will be interested, but it would prove quite an opportunity if they are.

I will use my journalism to promote my writing; it will be an excellent way to drive traffic to the Necromancer, and interest in the Ark.

In between all of this, I am still busy writing the Ark. I have begun work on Part Three, after finally completing the edits suggested to me by my Reedsy editor. Progress is relatively steady, but fairly slow; in between blogging, university, journalism and my new plans for the Necromancer, writing the Ark has to fit somewhere.

This leads me onto my final announcement. For the course of this month, I have decided to work less on the Magical Realm in order to focus my efforts into the Ark and the Necromancer. This is not to say that the Magical Realm will stay static, and certainly not to say that normal activities won’t resume in November.

Rather, it is that for the course of this month, I won’t be writing any new long read essays on politics, art, or other favourites of the Magical Realm—although I will be releasing updates on my progress.

And do not despair; there are 160 posts published on the Magical Realm, many of which are intriguing long reads. I shall be reposting these old essays, saving me time and allowing you to discover more of my output. I have, after all, been writing the Magical Realm for over two years.

Very well; onto work. Keep following, do keep an eye out on the Guardian, and if you haven’t already—sign up to the mailing list for the Ark.

12 Oct 2016

Mr Stargazer, the Writer Plagued

Hello readers!

It is now approaching the half-way point of October. At the start of this month, I spoke of two things: firstly there were my plans to republish the Necromancer; and secondly, there was the news that the Magical Realm would only see old posts being bumped up. Both things have so far held true.

I have bumped up two posts that I thought merited your attention: my review of the Lady Midnight, and my popular post entitled On Editing. I hope that you found them to your interest, if you did not read them; if you already read them, apologies, but I have been extremely busy.

You see, I have done a substantial amount of work on the new edition of the Necromancer. There is a new ending! And—a rewritten prologue. Various other changes have been made; and more remain to be made. I hope to make some changes to certain elements of the story; to remove certain chapters that shouldn’t have been included, and to rework others that are in need of rethinking. I hope to have completed the work by the end of this month—and to republish the Necromancer by Halloween.

That said, however, this is no easy task. One reason for this is my move—due to various causes I am moving to a single room. This has uprooted me greatly; and I have spent much time and effort carrying furniture, clothing, and other victuals of civilised life.

I also needed to buy many things. A fridge, for of course the housing association had not bothered to include such a necessity. Nor did they bother to include chairs, or tables. I even have to buy a light fitting for the bathroom. It will suffice to say that my opinion of the housing association is poor—I will avoid the temptation to break into profanity.

On top of that, there has been university work, and working with the Scriptus editors to finalise my pieces before the deadline.

I have also submitted two collections of my poetry to two journals; I hope to hear from them soon.

So, as you can see, I am all too busy. You will forgive me—I think—for saying that I will be bumping up more old posts over the course of this month. After all, I still have a wardrobe and a bed to make, plus more pieces of furniture to procure.

But look at the bright side—you will get to discover many interesting posts buried deep in the archives, and at the end of this month, you will have the opportunity to read a new version of the Necromancer.

Until then, may the stars be with you. (And dare I say—may they be with me!)

6 Oct 2016

On Editing

As part of my October series, I am reposting posts from the archives of the Magical Realm. This particular post was published in August, and is out of date with regards to my current activities; however, the information it presents is still important, and many of you have found it interesting.

My Experience with my Editor

If you haven’t been following this blog for long, here’s the situation: a couple of weeks ago I hired an editor through the Reedsy platform. (Incidentally, I am getting quite enamoured with it: I have already benefitted from free advice on the cover design of the Necromancer, and have gotten the interest of a company called Publishizer through them.)

My editor firstly began work with me on the query letter. I already wrote on the process a while ago. Suffice to say that I found her very helpful in getting the query right.

But of course, the main reason I hired her was to help me with the Ark. I can confirm that she has both given me a substantial (20-page) assessment, along with inline comments in the document proper. Both have been useful; the former especially. She has, in particular, suggested three things:

  1. That Casey’s personality, and especially his voice, is not sufficiently distinct from Conall’s;
  2. She has suggested I give more backstory to Kaylin, and clarify her motives more;
  3. She has suggested I ease up on the language and poetic elements.

She has also given me feedback on other minutiae: she has suggested I change names, work on pacing and timing, and put more focus on explaining the 22nd century in discussions (rather than talking about the last century!)

Of course I do not agree with all of her feedback. She has for example suggested that I make the world more futuristic; I deemed this unrealistic and beyond the remit of the story.

But on the whole, her feedback has been very useful. She has identified flaws I subconsciously suspected but needed expert advice on—as well as finding flaws and areas of improvement that I did not envisage. For that, she was worth the $600 plus 10% Reedsy fee. Or at least it was for me; your milage may of course vary.

One thing to note is that an editorial assessment is NOT beta-reader feedback—and nor is it a replacement. Beta-reader feedback is more personal, more subjective, and treats the novel as a holistic whole. A good beta-reader will tell you what they like—perhaps in the general direction of the plot and their opinion of the main characters.

An editorial assessment isn’t about that. An editor, like mine, will say very little in the way of her personal feelings on the book (except in some instances where it is directly relevant: she highlighted chapter seven as an example). Instead, an editor will focus on specific, practical, and skills-dependent elements. She will tell you whether a character lacks backstory, whether there is too much exposition, and so on; and she will go all the way down to the lower levels of a story’s structure, treating the issue of grammar and syntax (even individual paragraphs and sentences) along with specific recommendations on removing scenes, changing points of view, and all the varied minutiae that make up a book.

From here on in, I will discuss some of her specific advice, and the specific revisions I will be making as a consequence. But first: a question you may have.

Why Reedsy?

I could have looked for (and indeed already found) editors without the help of Reedsy. By hiring them directly I would have removed 10% off the cost—which can be especially significant for larger projects.

So why didn’t I? Well, the simple answer is that Reedsy is an excellent resource. It makes everything that much more convenient; it provides a substantial list of editors from which to choose, and let’s you search by the genre that the editors specialise in (which is important in my case). This saves me a fair bit of time and allows me to find competitive offers.

It is also very useful for making contacts. One way in which they do this is through their recently begun live videos. They take an expert—last week it was cover designer, this week an editor—and have them discuss a particular topic. Last week I received feedback on the cover for the Necromancer, as well as being privy to what other book covers did right and wrong among the cohort. This week I listened to an interesting talk about the ins and outs of worldbuilding.

Reedsy has also put me in contact with Publishizer—a company that specialises in crowdfunding books. I will say no more on this (it’s a secret) but what I will say is that I am very curious to see what happens.

The Workings of the Ark

I have compiled an extensive revision plan on the basis of my editors’ feedback. Below is an abridged version.

  1. I have decided to significantly alter Casey’s narrative voice and dialogue—particularly in the earlier scenes. I have already edited and/or rewritten a number so far. The basic idea of my edits is this: his expressions and thoughts are a little too complex and too poetic for him. I am rewriting him with a focus on being more direct, less verbose, and tending towards language is that is less flowery. I believe this will contrast sharply with Conall’s voice (which if anything I making a little more poetic) and make the characters more distinct.
  2. I am writing additional backstory for Kaylin.
  3. I have introduced an extra plot device; this I will use to heighten the conflict of the two protagonists, introduce additional tension in the book as a whole, and I will specifically apply to some of the weaker chapters. (Naturally, I’m not telling you what this plot device is; you’ll have to see for yourself!)
  4. I am changing some names, because too many of them start with C; they have become confusing to the reader.
  5. I am changing some of the discussion.
  6. And various other minor changes.

So, that’s the gist of my revision so far. I will be implementing these changes over the course of my stay here, particularly when I will be away in the countryside and will have no Internet. Let me tell you: it is not an insignificant amount of work.

The Art of Editing

Finally, I shall discuss some of the more abstract principles of editing at the end of this post.

The following is not a comprehensive insight into all that goes on in editing, but it does cover some of what has struck me most strongly while working on the Ark—and before that, the Necromancer.

If there is one maxim that applies more truly than any other, it’s that writing is in the re-writing. Rewriting is where you discover hidden potential in your prose; like a diamond covered by dust, your job when editing is to brush away the dust, find what is beautiful, and get rid of what is less than shiny.

The catch, of course, is that there must be potential locked underneath the original prose. If there isn’t, re-writing potentially allows you to start from scratch. But the key caveat is that it might allow you; often, however, if the original prose has no redeeming features, then it isn’t worth the effort to re-write it. Just get rid of it. (Indeed, for some writers, this may mean getting rid of an entire book. That’s one of the downsides of writing, and art in general.)

Then there’s the difference between re-writing vs editing. The former is ultimately a destructive process; you can certainly re-write prose to bring out its potential—to bring it closer to your creative vision—but the prose is of a different character afterwards. Editing, if done right, preserves the overall character of the prose. But editing is also limited in scope.

Editing can be about changing a particular word choice, or to replace a misused semicolon, but sometimes a full re-write is necessary. Being able to tell when a piece of prose requires rethinking some words, or a full re-write, is a skill I am still learning to master. I suspect it will improve with experience.

The last maxim I shall leave you with (for today, at least) is that a character’s voice is dependent not only on what he says, but also how he says it. One may say ‘he saw the boy, attired in the manner of a king, and was filled with a terrible yearning; what wealth, he thought—and what artistry! He could never hope to emulate him. He was too anodyne for that, too uncultured.’ Or you can say: ‘Damn, that boy knew how to dress. I could never hope to copy him; he was like a goddamn king. Next to him, I looked homeless.’

These two pieces of prose say much the same thing; yet the style in which they are written leads to stark differences in their character and feel. The former prose sounds like it was written by an aristocrat, or a famous 18th century writer; the latter is typical of modern teenagers. (Well, perhaps a relatively intelligent modern teenager.)

Anyway! That’s it for now. I will be publishing more posts in the near future: one will likely be about editing (once more) and the other on the current state of British politics, particularly in the Tory party. Until then, keep following. I am performing a great deal of work on the Ark—some of which you will even get to see before publication—and I will be releasing a number of photos of Romania in the not too distant future.

4 Oct 2016

A Review of the Lady Midnight

Hello readers! As previously stated, October will see old posts from the Magical Realm reposted. This review I published some seven months ago; I have no doubt some of you have not read it, so consider this a chance to get up to speed with more of my blog writing.

Ah, another day, another Cassandra Clare novel. Or should I say, another year, another Cassandra Clare? Sadly, the author’s writing speed is less than fantastic; which is a pity, but one ought remember the old adage here. Quality not quantity. And if we have to wait close to a year for the sequel, so be it; it makes the Lady Midnight that much sweeter.

Speaking of which, the Lady Midnight is indeed an excellent story. I don’t give out 5* star reviews for nothing, you know. If you want to know why, read on…

Some Background

I feel that before I really begin, I feel it is necessary to share some background into what exactly Lady Midnight is. Those of you familiar with the Mortal Instruments series will certainly know some of the characters—Jace and Clary, Magnus, and others all feature. But the Lady Midnight is concerned with other, hitherto more minor characters: Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns.

Essentially, the story concerns the mystery of how Emma’s parents died, and if and how they may be related to the string of murders that have just occurred. That is the ostensible side of the story, anyway. But a great deal of the tale is devoted to Emma, and her parabatai, Julian.

The parabatai is basically a kind of bonding magic, held in the form of the parabatai rune, that allows the two parabatai to feel what the other feels; to draw stronger runes on their partners; and, in the case that they happen to fall in love—a thing very much verboten by the Clave—then they are able to wield a power more akin to warlocks.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.


The Lady Midnight excels in many areas, but here it shines most of all. The characters are—masterful. Simply masterful.

Emma, the chief protagonist, is portrayed down to perfection: she is a strong, intelligent, and perceptive woman. Not only is she fierce and rather likable, but Clare manages to capture her personality in her words, actions and thoughts down to a T.

Julian, her parabatai and lover, is more interesting still. He’s remarkably complex, conflicted, and compelling. At twelve years old, he effectively took responsibility for his brothers and sisters; he became, for all intents and purposes, their father.

The person who was meant to be taking care of them was, unfortunately, a lunatic. So not only did Julian have to take care of his siblings—but he also effectively ran the Institute.

To top it all off, his older brother was taken by the Hunt (which I can best describe as kind of like faerie Cossacks) and his older sister was exiled.

These experiences render Julian remarkably old for his age; he wields a maturity and foresight that would shame some adults, never mind a teenager.

What really strikes out from Julian, though—even beyond his maturity—is his love. Firstly, he loves his siblings; he loves them with an intensity that is poignant to experience, and gives the Lady Midnight a powerful family dynamic. But he also loves Emma; loves her as a parabatai, and doubly so as a romantic partner.

The combined effect of this can leave one rather breathtaken.

Beyond Emma and Julian, though, there are a number of immaculately drawn and compelling characters. Malcom Fade—a Warlock, and friends with the Blackthorns—has a curiously eccentric personality intermixed with a stranger, darker nature.

Mark Blackthorn, the exiled brother, is half-faerie and half-Shadowhunter. Both of his natures are captured expertly. He is at once the Shadowhunter: not only fierce, but caring, vulnerable and powerfully attached to his family. But he also the faerie; mysterious, wild, and strangely compelling.

I’ve already mentioned the family dynamic between Julian, Emma and the numerous other siblings within the Blackthorn family. But it’s worth making this point explicity: their family is a wonderful creation of sibling love, rivalry, and loyalty.

Aside from all this, there are a number of more miscellaneous elements I’ve picked up on.

Firstly, there are several gay and bisexual characters. There’s Mark; his lover; there’s Helen; and there’s even Kit, a character whom we meet in the beginning and the end. All of them have romantic feelings that are poignant and heartbreakingly romantic—Mark most of all.

I must, however, take issue with the number of gay and bisexual characters. Yes, I know some people will cry mutiny when I say this, but it’s true: gay people—of which I am one—are not common. Bisexual men are very rare indeed, but there are appear to be two of them in Lady Midnight, possibly more.

I love the fact that gay characters feature: but I’m worried that Cassandra Clare (or perhaps more likely Simon & Schuster) are using them as a marketing gimmick. Gay characters are at that strange border line between too controversial to be mainstream and too normal to be taken as particularly noteworthy. They’re controversial; they interest people. Which is great, but it’s not something I’d want taken advantage of.

Anyway, overall, the characters are a work of art.


The Lady Midnight is not a disappointing novel. The plot, while not quite perfect, is still worthy of my 5*.

The main reason why is to do with its varied and unexpected turns. You can never quite see where it’ll go; it’s as unpredictable as a snake, and just as dangerous. Every piece of action is fast and energetic—and slower scenes are suffused with expectation.

The plot is also paced well. There are no moments when the action begins to overwhelm, and nor does the tale ever drag to a juddering halt. Things progress smoothly.

If there’s anything that falls a little short, it’s really to do with the scope of the book. The Lady Midnight has a fascinating tale to tell, but I can’t help that it both lacks the scope and power of the Mortal Instruments series—and that this is because the real story is yet to come.

The Lady Midnight is to do with more than just the death of Emma’s parents. It’s to do with an ancient Shadowhunter Law; it’s really, at its heart, about Emma and Julian.

Still: considering that this is the first book, I think I can let Clare off the hook.


The Mortal Instruments was a fascinating, imaginative and compelling world; the Lady Midnight is no different.

The Shadowhunters are as interesting as ever. There’s something about their fierce, warrior-like culture intermixed with their harsh laws and religious adherence to virtues that inevitably draws the interest. And of course, their magic is fascinating—Clare’s magic-system of runes is both coherent and clearly defined, and yet still manages to surprise you.

But I find the Warlocks especially interesting. Maybe I’m just sucker for magic; for power that amazes and inspires awe.

There are also the usuals. Vampires feature, though only modestly, and so do werewolves.

The faeries are the last piece of the puzzle. The Mortal Instruments, in truth, didn’t really pay that much attention to them; they were more a detail rather than a key feature of the world. But the Lady Midnight brings out a world of faerie detail.

Their personalities are what I find especially grabbing. The faeries, as in the tales of old, are fickle and wild and dangerous; but they are also capable of love, and regret, and have a sense of what is good. If any of you reading have ever read Julie Kagawa, well; you’ll be right at home.


Cassandra Clare writes with eloquence and skill; there’s a great deal of imagery in the Lady Midnight, and it is… inspiring.

I was particularly fond of the descriptions of the desert—I had a powerful sense that Clare knew what deserts were like. More than that: I understood deserts, and I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing one.

This, however, would make Clare’s writing merely good. What makes it very good is the fact that it can bring a whole new dimensions to that which you thought you knew. The sea, for example, is a wild thing here: a place of magic, of the wild abandon of the elements, and of death.

It’s not quite brilliant. I’ve seen better. But, hey: I only require that 5* books be fantastic, not perfect. There is a difference.


I’ve decided it’s not worth boring you all with a long conclusion when, frankly, the message is simple. The Lady Midnight is a great book written by an obviously talented and experienced story teller. You’d be silly not to read it.

Still, it may be worth waiting. S&S have priced the ebook at £7, which seems a little high for my liking. Then again: if a bad book isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and a good book is worth every penny, then a great book is worth its weight in gold.