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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 - Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot

Review - Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot

Someone is stripping Europe’s most haunted city of its spirits. When self-destructive, 16-year-old seer, Charlie Frith, realises that one of his own ghostly friends has gone missing, he must put aside his own safety – and reclusive existence – if he is to find them.

Charlie reluctantly teams up with Sam Harrow – the new seer in town – and a rag-tag group of ghosts, to save their friends from a fate literally worse than death.

But there is a dark purpose behind these disappearances – more sinister than Charlie could ever have imagined. And, as he slowly comes to terms with his romantic feelings for Sam, the stakes become even higher as time quickly runs out!

An exciting and harrowing ghost story, just right for a Halloween read!

There's a lot going on in Sixteen Souls and most of it is really good. 

It's fast paced and exciting, with the danger level increasingly significantly as the story progresses, and characters I'd grown to really care for feeling very at risk. 

It has some really interesting concepts. I really liked the blending of ghosts and magic with something more mechanical, industrial even. And mathemagics is just a really cool term summing a lot of that up. The core idea of seers who can interact with the dead works really well, and I loved the conflicts there, with Charlie seeing some of the ghosts around him as his closest (maybe only?) friends, others as nuisances best avoided and some as very genuine threats. His uneasiness with his abilities comes across really strongly and adds a really interesting tone to his actions. 

It's very strong when it comes to relationships. The burgeoning relationship between Charlie and Sam is absolutely gorgeous. You can just feel Charlie's unspoken yearning in every thought and brushing contact between them, that all-consuming need for someone when you're afraid of opening up to them is achingly beautiful. It also makes so much sense when you add in his relationship with Mitch and Leonie. Trying to recover and move on from someone you were such close friends with, loved and opened up to only to be left feeling betrayed, hurt and abandoned is so bloody hard and it's so easy to see why Charlie finds it so hard to express his true feelings with Sam, however much you just want them to finally get together!

It's also really strong when it comes to positive representation. There's disabled rep front and centre, as Charlie uses a mix of prosthetic legs and a wheelchair. I can't think where I've ever seen this before in YA literature, and I felt like it was presented really well. It never holds Charlie back, or stops him from achieving anything, but it does often show how it makes some tasks much more challenging for him, and there's a lot in there about the minor annoyances it can cause, from minor damage to the prosthetics to the relief of removing them at the end of the day. There's also a lot of queer rep, all of it very positive. Charlie is gay, but not out, and I thought the way that was handled with his parents was sensitive and caring. There's a character who is probably bisexual, and who addresses it in a really humorous way that I really appreciated, a very quick reference to a female character having a female partner, and a major character who is a trans man. Like Charlie being gay, this one is addressed fairly openly, again with an honesty and a sensitivity that's lovely to see.

The setting is very well chosen. York and Edinburgh are two cities with really strong reputations for hauntings, and as I've seen quite a few ghost stories recently set in Edinburgh (and some brilliant ones, I must say), it's nice to see York getting a turn. I felt the book did a good job capturing the feel of York, with its winding streets, old pubs and, of course, the Minster. Though I'm afraid some of the Yorkshire dialect felt like it was lacking authenticity. The "ye olde English" used by some of the ghosts also felt rather clunky, and there was a particularly odd bit where it said Heather (a thoroughly modern ghost) had to talk like that when addressing the oldest and most powerful ghosts, when she was actually saying nothing of the kind. 

The plot was generally good. Charlie, however, is a blinking idiot, who keeps leaping to conclusions that he is absolutely certain are correct, only to be proven wrong. Everyone treating his assumptions as facts had me close to yelling at the characters to stop being so stupid! Then he suddenly realises towards the end of the book that he's actually had the answers within his head the whole time and is able to lay out large sections of exposition. A couple of the major revelations felt a bit obvious from about halfway through, but there were still plenty of surprises and revelations to keep me entertained. Some of the revelations did feel like they came out of nowhere right at the end though, with characters and organisations dropped in to the text at the eleventh hour in a slightly jarring way.

These minor frustrations are all forgivable though, for Sixteen Souls is a gripping and fun thriller. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I spotted a reference to The Monk by Mathew Lewis, my favourite gothic horror novel and one of the first classics of the genre.

Tik Tok didn't make me buy it, (I'm not going to tell you what did!), but I'm very glad I did!


Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot is out now, published by Scholastic.


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