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Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky To fix the world they first must break it further. Humanity is a dying breed, utterly reliant on artificial labor and service. When a domesticated robot gets a nasty little idea downloaded into their core programming, they murder their owner. The robot then discovers they can also do something else they never did before: run away. After fleeing the household, they enter a wider world they never knew existed, where the age-old hierarchy of humans at the top is disintegrating, and a robot ecosystem devoted to human wellbeing is finding a new purpose. There is so much to love in Service Model, but one of the things I most love about it is the peculiar blend of charming innocence and insightful cynicism. Uncharles the domestic robot is such a simple soul (though he would state that he has no soul and this is an inaccurate description). He approaches the end of the world with optimism and hope, or whatever equivalent to these emotions h

Review - The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell

Review - The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell

Be careful what you wish for... it may just come true.

At The Mercury Theatre in London's West End, rumours are circulating of a curse.

It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her.

As strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours about Lilith are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.

Really creepy gothic horror finds its perfect setting in a Victorian theatre, full of superstition, ambition and dramatic exits!

There's just so much to love about this book, that I'm not sure where to start. 

Okay, let's start with the main character, Jenny. She is just such a delight. It may feel at first like a familiar story, a Victorian orphan having to work in service to look after her younger siblings, including a handicapped brother, Jenny has lost her position and fallen on hard times after her older brother ran off with anything of value he could get his hands on. She does what she needs to do to look after her family, with such a fiercely protective instinct. But what I love most about Jenny is her attitude. She takes absolutely no shit off anybody and it is such a joy to watch. She's sarcastic, cutting, mean even, but somehow never comes across as an unpleasant or unsympathetic character. She's just someone who stands up for herself and tells people what she thinks, and for someone in her position in society, with so much at risk, that comes across as incredibly brave and bold. It also doesn't feel anachronistic, and that may be due in part to the theatre setting, typically outside of societal norms, and also because she's very clever about it. She knows when to toe the line, and is often careful about what she says to Mrs Drury in particular, when she holds power over her, but also knows when she can get away with flashing her attitude.

The setting is perfect. The theatre fits into the Gothic storytelling so brilliantly, full of superstitions and pretence and ambitious, dramatic people jockeying for positions and roles and playing games against each other. The presence of a supernatural muse, or maybe some other entity, feels just right in that setting. It's also a place full of danger and mystery, with all of its trapdoors and overhead platforms and props. 

The book is constructed around a series of plays, each one forming an "Act" of the novel. I'm sure there's some very in depth analysis that could be done around the choice of plays and how they drive the plot of the story, but for me they just felt like they fit it really well. The different tragedies staged in the Mercury showed us different aspects of our stars as things grew progressively more perilous and frightening. 

I also loved the way the supernatural was presented as something that could be real, or could be an aspect of our characters losing their minds and losing the plot. There was nothing that definitively said "The supernatural elements are real" or "They're all just figments of their imagination" and that uncertainty was quite delicious. 

The Whispering Muse is ultimately a story about doing a deal with devils, and it was so clever how this was echoed throughout the novel. It's not Lilith, the tragic lead actress, who appears to have done a literal deal with some kind of devil. Jenny has done her own deal with her employer that leaves her questioning her morals and her decisions, just what she is prepared to do to protect her family, and how far she'll go. Lilith has her deal with her Guv'nor to live with, and this puts her in some very difficult positions with no sign of any way out. Other characters, too, have their own individual deals with stand-in devils. This mix of the metaphorical and the literal echoes the mix of the drama on stage and the drama in the theatre beautifully, and pulls everything together so effectively!

This is, without a doubt, a harrowing read. There were sections that had me feeling shook and genuinely quite queasy. It contains abortions and suicides and describes both in pretty graphic terms that are not for the faint hearted. But this worked for me, giving The Whispering Muse a powerful, visceral feel that really had an impact on me. It's a story that got under my skin and left me feeling disturbed, as all good Gothic horror should!


The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell is published on 2 February 2023 by Bloomsbury Publishing (Raven Books).

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


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