I attended the Grim Gathering once again last month, this time in the picturesque Bath! Some of us went and had lunch with Mark Lawrence in Bistrot Pierre on George Street prior to the event, which was really lovely and visited The Roman Baths afterwards. The event itself was organised by Fantasy-Faction and was held at Waterstones. The panel featured Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Anna Stephens, Mark Lawrence and Peter Newman. I supply a few photos here, but you might find this Facebook life streaming I did in the evening more interesting. It starts off a little shaky, but steadies afterwards. Hope, you’ll enjoy it! 🙂 (You can watch it even if you’re not on Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/mitriel/videos/10155730808927156/


Following up on Michael Miller’s recommendation I went to check out the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club tonight in Central London. It was hosted by Hachette (their headquarters impressed me greatly – see photos).

For the first half an hour I felt like a complete outsider, seemingly unable to join in any of the conversations around me and was depressed by the thought of how much of an introvert I must be if I can’t even socialise in a “SUPER RELAXED Fantasy Club”! As the evening progressed however I did manage to talk to a few people who were very nice. One of them as it turned out writes a comic called Red Thorn! (Because who else would Mark Lawrence’s beta-reader talk to if not someone writing Red Thorn!)

The first guest (“reader”!) of the evening was Francesca Haig, who was absolutely lovely and very witty. She read for us from her upcoming book, The Forever Ship, and to avoid spoilers she renamed the character being buried in the scene using a name of someone she said she wouldn’t mind being buried in the character’s place. She called him “Boris”.

The second guest was Mike Carey, who I was lucky to have met on a few occasions previously (a great guy & true gentleman!). He also read for us from his most recent title, “The Boy on the Bridge”, and just like Francesca answered questions from the audience. He was there with his wife, Linda, who co-authored several novels with him and with their daughter, Louise.

Unfortunately I had to dash off early and couldn’t stay for the pub session afterwards, but I think I’ll come along next month again. There’s a possibility that it will be held on the roof terrace and since it’s only five minutes walk from work I feel like I really should give it another try.


I blogged about meeting Robin Hobb, Peter Newman, Sebastien de Castell, John Gwynne, and many others at recent events over on That Thorn Guy:

“A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend two bookish events in London, both amazing and unique in their own rights. Knowing that, despite many invitations, Mark can almost never make it to such gatherings, I usually try my best to report back to him after each occasion, telling him all about who was there, what happened and I even pick up a book for him when I can.  I always work on the assumption that my reflections on such things would be of little interest to anyone else, but for once I decided to share some of it here and see if there’s any demand for such a thing.

Despite my original plan I’m running somewhat late writing this post, that is all down to being incredibly busy these last few weeks, trying to cough my lungs out following a chest infection, but I will try to describe the events the best I remember.

On 29th April I met up with several members of the Fantasy-Faction Book Discussion Group, hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards… um I mean, (*turns down LOTR soundtrack*) readers, bloggers, booksellers, authors at Waterstone’s Gower Street branch. It is a formidable bookstore, also known for being Europe’s largest academic/specialist range bookshop, but it’s also cosy and full of character, occupying five floors in an old Georgian building at the heart of London’s university quarter. Fantasy-Faction, apart from its fantastic website and forum, also has a very friendly, 5000 members strong public Facebook group, which I can absolutely recommend to anyone who loves SFF.”

To read the full article click HERE.

Last Saturday I re-read, finished challenging and gave my First Reader consent to the first four chapters of a new trilogy, which in hindsight I realised I’ll be most likely busy with for the next eighteen months or so. And when I say busy, I don’t necessarily mean the careful reading, considering, arguing, notes writing, re-reading and re-reading again part. I mean, and this is based on experience, how part of my heart will be borrowed by a bunch of fictional characters, written to a level of depth where they start feeling real to you, making you care about them a little more each day (hell, I’m already worried about one of them!), how my head will always stay a little under the surface of the story, wondering, reflecting, contemplating as the tale slowly unfolds chapter by chapter.

And I suppose this is part of the reason why I only read a handful of books during the year. Between beta-reading and writing my own story it’s not just the amount of time I have left that is not sufficient for taking much more in. It’s also what I have left of me. Temporarily a little less space and capacity, both in my brain and in my heart. That precious few that do make it to my reading list are hence always truly special.

Just a quick post to note that in a recent Mark Lawrence interview on Fantasy-Faction Mark was asked about me and beta-reading for him and this is what he said:


FF: It’s funny what readers pick up on, isn’t it? Oh, and while we’re on the subject: most of your fans, or at least the ones that you are connected with via all internet platforms, know that Agnes is your only beta-reader (or is it that there are others as well, and Agnes is the ‘chief’? That just came to me). Agnes started beta-reading for you since and after the Wheel of Osheim, if I recall correctly. Why did you choose her (as opposed to someone else), why do you think that you need her (or a beta-reader in the first place), and would you ever pick a new one?


Mark: Well, first off “chief” here is not meant in the “in charge” or “organising” way. For Red Sister, because it was very new for me and I wasn’t hugely confident, I asked a few people to read it once it was finished. They were kind enough to give me some lines or paragraphs of feedback. Agnes’s beta reading is a whole different beast. She reads the books as I write them, often chapter by chapter. She picks up on typos, detailed inconsistencies, wording choices, and the general flow of the story, often making very useful suggestions that can impact future chapters.

I can’t really remember the details of how it came about. I think I asked if I could run a short story by her for feedback, and that proved so helpful I did it again, and later moved to getting her feedback on book chapters.

Some writers have many beta readers, and some, none at all. One suits me. A large element is having immediate reaction. It can be a long lonely wait before a story hits the shelves and you see what people think of it. Having someone enthusiastic and involved react the very next day, or even that evening, and tell you what they thought of the last chapter, is a great motivation to write the next one.


To read the full interview click here: http://fantasy-faction.com/2017/interview-with-mark-lawrence


We are born and born again,
On rough seas, under bleak skies,
In a storm of hard choices as we brace,
In the small moments when defeat shuts our eyes,
As time carves another line on our face,
And sorrow bears tears in sacrifice,
Under sighs of dreams reaching for our heart,
On dark nights, when dawn is a world apart,
For what we believe in we pay the price
And we are born again and again
Into a million lives.



I very much enjoyed this book and found both the setting and the characters greatly compelling. Yet it’s so much more than just an exciting steampunk adventure done well.

Josiah Bancroft depicts characters helplessly struggling amidst mysterious, invisible forces, their fight and efforts drawing us into the cold, muddy waters of alienation, isolation, uncertainty and despair, the author repeatedly making us question moral values through their actions and contemplations. Due to the carefully detailed worldbuilding and visualisation despite the unrealistic setting the world feels very real, its bizarre location and occurrences often offering a clear reflection on our own world and society.

Apart from wanting to know the answers to my plot-related questions, what also kept me going and what makes me look forward to reading the upcoming books in the series, is seeing how the characters build relationships under these harsh circumstances, how these relationships change and how the characters themselves change as they fight their ways through the dangers, trying to get back into their old lives which might just never be found again.


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