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The End of the Day by Claire North

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The End of the Day by Claire North The End of the Day by Claire North
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Published by Redhook on April 4, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fiction
Length: 12 hrs 22 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Charlie has a new job. He gets to travel, and he meets interesting people, some of whom are actually pleased to see him.

It's good to have a friendly face, you see. At the end.

But the end of all things is coming. Charlie's boss and his three associates are riding out, and it's Charlie's job to go before.

Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

Charlie is the Harbinger of Death. It’s his job. He’s a mortal, has no super powers except a support staff at an office somewhere who are great at making reservations, getting him across borders and out of jail, and paying ransoms. He meets good people and terrible people, and sometimes he’s sent for ideas or ways of life and not individuals. He celebrates Life and we travel with him.

That’s what we do, we see what he sees, hear what he hears, including random snippets of conversation, go where he goes. We’re with him when he meets people, gives them gifts, tells them he is the Harbinger and sometimes he comes as a warning and sometimes as a courtesy. We’re with him as he listens to people’s life stories and when he is beaten and held prisoner. After all, not everyone is happy when the Harbinger of Death shows up; some are though. Yes, sometimes we see slices of the lives of the other Harbingers – each Horseman has one, and sometimes we see what War or Pestilence, or Famine is up to, but mostly we’re with Charlie. This is a very character and idea driven novel. It touches on so many current issues, war, racism, immigration, environmental change, guns. People can be a dreadful lot at times, but they can also be kind, and loving, and hopeful. And who knew Death could be such a likeable guy?

I loved the story. I listened to the audio version. Her writing is beautiful and touching and descriptive and Kenny was the perfect narrator. His voices during the snippets of conversations set them apart nicely. His Charlie was spot on, humorous at times, but so scared at others and just British enough. In a book with so many characters who only show up for a scene or two, he does a great job giving each his/her own personality, own inflections.

The End of the Day doesn’t really have much of a plot, though, and it’s rather slow. It’s a series of events and they do connect, but it doesn’t follow a traditional structure. It’s more about the ideas and viewpoints than about what happens next. For me it worked. I don’t know if it will for everyone.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

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The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Narrator: Gillian Burke
Published by Orbit on May 17, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fiction
Length: 16 hrs 36 mins
Format: Audiobook
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My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before - a thousand times.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

I discovered Claire North earlier this year with her Gameshouse trilogy and loved her style, so I had to pick up The Sudden Appearance of Hope. I was not disappointed. I like how North writes, her ways of describing things, of conveying her characters’ thoughts. She takes an idea, bases her story around it, and makes them amazing.

Hope can’t be remembered – that’s the idea in this one, the bit that the rest of the story revolves around. You could meet her, have dinner with her, and once she’s left your sight, your hearing for a minute or two, you forget and your mind fills in that blank with whatever’s most reasonable – you dined alone. Hope is many things – chief among them a thief. An interesting point – since she can’t have relationships, she isn’t a lover, a friend, an employee, she is free (cursed?) to define herself. Her ethnic backyard, dark skin and hair, have helped form her worldview, but North doesn’t let her become a stereotype. Since she isn’t bound by other people’s expectations, she has her own code, her own disciplines that allow her to live a pretty comfortable life. She’s a thief, but when we meet her, she’s a high-end jewel thief. She works on her own, with a bit of help from people on the darknet – her digital footprint isn’t forgotten.

Her latest score brings her into contact with Perfection, an app designed to make people “perfect,” and the people who own/designed it. Perfection is fascinating and disturbing, a look at how marketing and self-image can be/have been affected by the technology that has become an intrinsic part of most of our lives. (Where’s your phone right now?) And, even worse, the potentials when things are taken a stop or two further. I feel like with Perfection and some of the consequences, we just barely cross over into the land of sci-fi, the kind of sci-fi that could easily enough happen in the very near future.

The book is a bit slow in the middle, but I enjoyed the side trips into literature and history and all the knowledge Hope has acquired over time. I like the words and the spaces and her reflections. She really only has herself to talk to – yes, she can have conversations with people, but unless it’s recorded, they’ll forget. The story is told in the first person and Burke does an excellent job with the narration. She gets across Hope’s fears and triumphs and anxieties. Burke did a great job with the pauses and phrasing, with varying the speed depending on the situation.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is like two stories that weave in and out of each other. In one we have hope and her daily life, her interactions, her musings, her near brushes with the law. The other is a suspenseful thriller involving Perfection and a woman who is bound and determined to destroy it with Hope’s help, whether given willingly or not.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

The Master by Claire North

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The Master by Claire North The Master by Claire North
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Series: The Gameshouse #3
Published by Hachette Audio on November 3, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
Length: 3 hrs 52 mins
Format: Audiobook
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The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of chess, backgammon - every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes - those of politics and empires, of economics and kings . . .

And now, the ultimate player is about to step forward.

Ah – the last of the trilogy. I’m sad to see it end. Honestly – read it. If you enjoy fantasy or games or just thrillers for that matter, this is a great set of novellas. In this last one, we even have a love story of sorts.

This time around the game is chess and our narrator has become one of the players, a player in the Great Game – the game for control of the Gameshouse. His name is Silver and he’s been working toward this moment for ages. He’s a King in the game, of course, and has gathered forces that he can deploy. His opponent has her own resources, possibly more powerful than his.

This one had even more action than the last two. Chess is a dangerous game, but it also has more meaning – for the world as a whole and for Silver personally.

My one complaint had to do with a part near the end. Silver became a little too melodramatic for me.

I don’t what else I can really say that I haven’t said in my reviews for The Serpent and The Thief. I love the use of language, of descriptions. Some of the characters are fully-developed, some are left a bit mysterious, which fits the mood of the novellas.

I am definitely glad I discovered Claire North. I’ve already started her newest novel.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

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