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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 Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham

Review - The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham

When Delores Mackenzie is chased home by a restless spirit, she is sent to the mysterious Uncles in Edinburgh Old Town to learn how to control her unusual 'gifts'. 

Scared and alone, she finds her new home at the Tolbooth Book Store is full of curious surprises: some welcome, others less so. But when a sinister apparition threatens the lives of her strange new housemates, Delores must gather all her strength to save them.

This stunning cover is by Nathan Collins. I love it, just so much going on there!

The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie is just so creepy you can feel it running its fingers down your spine as you read it. It takes a cold grip on you and just doesn't let go.

From the very first page we're thrust into an unsettling world. Crossing a causeway through a rising tide Delores is attacked by some kind of ghost creature, pulled back hard enough to bleed, but while this is concerning, what is possibly more concerning is how unsurprised she is by it. A conversation with her sister later and we have hints and suggestions of a wider paranormal world, strange Uncles she's being sent to, and a wider organisation. This is a world where there's a shadow government monitoring and managing those with paranormal activities. Throughout the book, this larger organisation is little more than hinted at, leaving us with the tantalising prospect of their world being explored further in subsequent volumes.

From that opening sequence to the climax, a terrifying descent into the vaults beneath Edinburgh's streets, the sense of threat and peril is so very real. It's gripping, heart-in-mouth stuff as Delores does her best to hold off forces of darkness trying to find a way back into life. Delores is sent to Edinburgh, to the Tollbooth Bookshop where she's expected to study and learn how to control her powers. There are two other students there, Gabriel and Prudence, and each of them have their own, distinct powers. Delores is a necromancer, able to see the dead, though most of them are merely passing spirits brushing past her some are much, much more malevolent. Gabriel is a diviner, with the ability to read other people. Prudence is an illusionist, able to plant suggestions and visions in people's minds, and the way she uses her powers to give Delores a hard time is just amazing! I absolutely love Prudence and the way she openly embraces the fact that she's a horrible person. She knows herself, accepts herself and screw anyone who stands in her way! Gabriel is sweet and caring, and a nice conduit between the two girls. 

There are mysteries aplenty in the Tollbooth Bookshop, including the two Uncles there to teach and instruct Delores, a missing girl, dolls that move around in the night, a demon doorstop and Cook. Cook is awesome. Bartleby is awesome. It's all so awesome that after reading it I am still filled with awe.

The book's setting of Edinburgh is used really, really well! This isn't the first ghost story I've read set there (check out Victoria Schwab's City of Ghosts for more) and there's something about the city that lends itself so perfectly to this kind of story.  The city really feels like an integral part of the story, from its graveyards to its galleries, with all of its ghosts and tourists.

But we don't get to dwell on the mysteries of the bookshop, because there's a very terrifying villain in this novel and wow, is she scary!? The sense of fear she gives off is palpable and every confrontation with her felt fraught and dangerous.

One of the tricky things in books of this nature is the inevitable question "Why doesn't our young heroine ask for help from people more capable and experienced than she is?" and The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie answers that question with ease. Delores feels insecure, not just in her own powers but with her place in her world and the bookshop. The mysteries of that place don't encourage trust or openness so as much as the reader might be willing her to just tell the Uncles what's going on, it's very understandable how reluctant she is to do so.

There's a line early on in the book where Gabriel tells Delores that she should pay more attention to names. On one level it is a clue to a relationship in the book, one I picked up on. But I was wondering if there was more to it than that, so I paid more attention to the names.

  • Delores means sorrow. An appropriate name for a girl who's lost her parents and is constantly surrounded by the dead.
  • Gabriel, God is my strength. Again, appropriate for a diviner, or one with divine powers.
  • Prudence. This is so perfect for her, so much so that she comments on it herself at one point. It means caution or discretion and describes a girl who is always so careful, so guarded, so pristine with everything about her.
  • Angel Barguest is a name openly discussed in the book, so I'll leave that one.
  • Solas is an interesting one. It's Old Irish, meaning light. An odd choice for such a dark, shadowy figure that it leaves me intrigued as to what we've still got to discover about Uncle Solas.
  • Oddvar is Norse, and derives from the elements oddr, point of a sword, and varr, vigilant or cautious. I think that's a very good fit for this uncle, who has a quiet danger about him, and a feeling that he's much more aware of what is going on in his bookshop tower than he maybe lets on. 
  • Maud means powerful battler. A suitable name for this brave little girl who holds out against the darkness for so long.
  • Ernaline, a late arrival in the book, is also Norwegian or Celtic and means capable or serious. I'm hoping we'll see more of this character.
  • Cook. Cook is such a mysterious figure that it's hard to say anything definite about Cook other than that I love Cook. But if I had to make a guess I'd say Cook's name is derived from all of the cooking Cook does.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this? But it feels like there's definitely something there. 

Oh, and Prudence's book selling technique had me absolutely dying of laughter. I know so many booksellers who would love to be able to do that! A gorgeous little touch that made perfect use of her setting, her powers and her personality.

A dark and dangerous gift of a novel!


The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham is published on 6th April 2023 by Firefly Press.

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


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