Jessewave's blog gives Bomber's Moon 5+ stars and a Desert Island Keeper badge.
I’m so relieved – that gap between first publication and first review is always so full of angst. Will anyone like it, or will I have to change my name and tattoo someone else’s face on top of mine just to show myself in public again?
But mega thanks to Leslie S for a review that made me squee repeatedly. (Yay, so delighted that Mr. Smith gets a shout out. He was a favourite of mine too.)
It’s too long and detailed a review to sum up here. I’ll just link you to it
and quote the conclusion:
“This is quite simply a perfect story—no slow moments, no ‘meh’ characters, gorgeous writing, a complex and coherent plot. I cannot wait to read the second part, Dogfighters, which is released in May and which I’ll be reviewing later this month. Fantasy fans absolutely must pick up this book—and if you’re not a fantasy fan, I urge you to get it anyway—you won’t be disappointed.”
Thank you so much, Leslie!
And to celebrate both the review and the heroism of Mr. Smith, here is that excerpt I promised you yesterday.
A bit of background – Ben knows the elves are trying to kidnap him. He’s been given an amulet to protect him, which is basically a teaspoon of holy water in a BPAL imp. With this on him, the elves do not seem to be able to touch him directly. However, they are clever creatures and are slowly figuring out ways to get around that.
At half past one, Ben went back to work after lunch, spent a good couple of hours doing filing in the haunted basement. He’s just come out to the bank proper again, and discovered that it is still half past one. And that’s only the start of the creepiness:
Outside the toughened glass, only the old man still sat in the same chair, his hands in the same position on his cup, the tea untouched. Something else was wrong. What? Ah, Ben couldn’t make his brain work. It was as though he’d been turned to stone.
My mind is darting around like a fly in a jam jar. The thought came with a snap of self-disgust as bracing as a face full of cold water. Phyllis wouldn’t panic like this. Grace wouldn’t. All right. So they were here. What did he do?
Get out and run for the nearest cover. That’s the pub.
He picked up one of Don’s golf clubs as he passed the cubbyhole where they stood, unlatched the door to the foyer, dived through, club raised to shoulder height, ready to smash down on the first silver-limbed shape he saw. Despite the air conditioning, it was hot as a greenhouse out here, smelled like one too. The thick, acrid smell of hot-house plants filled the air. As he burst through, the old man seemed to come back to life. His expression of bemusement was closer to panic now.
“They all went,” he said. “I’ve been sitting here for three quarters of an hour waiting for that lady to come back. And when I tried to get out, the door…”
The door! It revolved, as it always did a great, glass-and-chrome fan with four panels in a great glass-and-chrome cylinder. Outside the windows, he could see the movement and sunshine and the normal workday bustle of Bakewell on a summer afternoon. Through the glass of the door, only a glimpse of dark foliage and a smoke of pollen. The brushes on the bottom of each panel swept through moisture, and the glass was clouding over with steam.
“Bloody hell.” Ben grabbed a phone from the nearest desk, raised it to his ear. A humming vibration began along the surface of the desk. The tea slopped over the edge of the cup. Silence on the end of the phone.
He slammed it down just as the computer screen flickered into life. The sound of its hard drive whirring up to speed was echoed from all the other desks in the foyer.
“What’s happening?” The old man put down his plastic bag of documents, hauled himself upright. He was beige from head to toe, saggy as his cardigan, and Ben thought, Why couldn’t I have a damsel in distress at least, as one by one the computer boxes began to shudder beneath the desks. With a tinny little ping, the first light bulb shattered above his head and shards of glass came raining down.
White light through the monitors filled his head with jagged edges. The whine of the tortured machines scaled up until the veins burst in his nose and blood poured over the back of his hand. The old man began to hobble to the door, and Ben grabbed him, leaving a red handprint. “Sir! Don’t go out there. Please. I don’t think you can get out that way.”
“I fought in Singapore, you know.”
“Yeah, but you’ve never faced these things.”
The first computer monitor cracked with a shower of sparks. Wire and circuit boards came spewing out on to the desk. The thick glass of the screen lay like daggers on the floor, and a hot, thick wind skirled in under the door and lifted them into a whirlwind around his feet. “Please, sir. Just…um…” There wasn’t anywhere safe in the damn room!
He ran to the door back into the old building, punched in the combination. If he could shove the guy through there, back into the fortunate bubble of real time wherever the rest of the staff were, then—
But it didn’t budge. The same whining, gnat-wing vibration shivered through each tiny silver button, made his hand hurt with tingling, drove needles through the heel of his palm as he tried to force it open. Cracks had begun to form in the bulletproof glass of the windows.
Mr. Smith looked at him, hopefully.
“Don’t look at me! I don’t know what to do!”
From beneath the nearest desk came a bang and clatter as the metal sheets fell off the servers of each computer, rattled along the ground. Green jagged edges of exploded motherboard glinted with solder and chips as it burst into fragments and joined the whirlpool in the centre of the room.
Ben circled the thing, looking for something to hit.
“What is it?” Mr. Smith was fumbling with his glasses, peering at the frenetic shape. A wind tugged them out of his hand, and the thick lenses and wire frames were sucked into the pillar of metal and glass. “Those cost nearly one hundred pounds!”
“Just stay away from it!” Ben raised the golf club, took a swing at the whirlwind entity, and a sucking magnetic force wrenched his weapon out of his hand, sent it spinning. “Fuck! You just stay back, all right? I think…I don’t think it’s you it wants.”
“It wants something?” Mr. Smith took a firmer hold on his walking stick, propped himself carefully upright with the other hand on the back of a swivel chair. In a moment of terrified irrelevance, Ben thought, This is what Chris would have been like, if they hadn’t taken him. Shit. And he felt a strange wash of gratitude towards them, even as the spinning pillar of metal and glass began to speed, and to compact, shrinking inwards with pinging noises and giving off sparks and showers of debris.
There was a shape in there. The components scrunched together as though a great hand was assembling a man out of clay. Ben thought about cartoons, the grotesque violence of them, and shivered. He grabbed a chair, but it was padded, swivelling on castors, badly balanced and too heavy for a weapon. What else? Come on, there must be something in here I can use!
Beneath his cuff, he could feel the sweatband pull on the material of his shirt, feel the padded dimple that was a glass imp of holy water, tucked into the folded stretchy material. His whole defence and a weapon only of last resort. If he used it once, nothing would stand between him and their next attempt.
The thing had developed arms and legs now. The sound of metal crumpling added to the disturbing tick of the crack in the windows spreading. Darkness spread slowly out from the door. Ferns were nodding in a thick undergrowth a foot into the right-hand window. The dappled radiance of a green sun dazzled on the flagstones of Bakewell high street to the right.
With a thud, a thrown dictionary bounced off the coalescing creature. Ben looked beside him, found Mr. Smith holding his wrist and breathing hard, hurt and too proud to show it. The spirit was willing, but the body was weak. Taking courage from the example, Ben opened the nearest desk, threw files, Miss Cartwright’s spare shoes, the wad of unopened printer paper.
They bounced off. But the whirlwind in the centre of the room slowed, stopped, and there stood a creature seven feet tall, its face formed out of broken glass, its body armour-plated with computer systems. Its metal hands held an axe of glass. Around its head, the torn-off cover of an office chair was wrapped like a red scarf. The little book of fairies turned up unbidden in Ben’s mind at the sight. Red Cap, he thought, remembering tales of dread, not remembering that there’d been any advice at all on how to deal with them, other than “run away”.
A smile made out of copper wire, and the creature’s diode eyes fixed on him. It raised the axe and swung, turning. Ben had barely time to launch himself straight at Mr. Smith and push him out of the path of the blade. It whiffled down just beyond Ben’s snatched-back fingertips. He felt the faint breeze of it, and then a cold, tingling rush of adrenaline and fear, and he grabbed the handle of the axe as the creature raised it, trying to pull it out of its hand.
All the mad strength of fear and fury did was to let him hold on as the Red Cap lifted the axe again, took him with it. It drew back its hand. He flapped from its wrist like a medieval dagged sleeve. To the thing, he might have weighed as little as a length of cloth as it tried to shake him off, and—failing—struck at the old man, Ben tugged helplessly through the air behind it.
Mr. Smith threw himself to one side with a soldierlike movement, but hit the ground like an invalid, crying out in pain. The wrist he’d cradled before he now pressed into his stomach, bowed over it, hunched over something broken. Ben got his feet under himself and lurched up, smacking his shoulder into the gnarled elbow of green plastic and grey metal. The pain was excruciating, it was like having his arm hacked off at the shoulder. He heaved in air to breathe around the zinging white agony of it. Pain spread like infection from shoulder to spine and thence throughout his whole body.
And the creature’s arm didn’t move a centimetre. It was like punching a steel door. It picked him up again. He got his feet under the armpit, reached one foot up and over to smash into the glass face, astounded at himself. But that too was as effective as kicking bulletproof glass. All it did was drive the edges deep into the rubber of his sole, make him wince and cry out as a knife-sharp shard pierced his instep.
Mr. Smith was fumbling with a dropped file, his broken wrist cradled against his chest, his other hand too weak to pick up the heavy bundle of papers on its own. The axe swung back with a crackling sound of thin metal and thick green plastic. The old man managed to raise the papers in an inadequate shield in front of his face, his mouth tight with Dunkirk spirit. The swing forward began, accurate and deadly, and Ben unlocked one hand from around the creature’s arm, fumbled with his own wrist, and smashed the vial directly in the grinning glacial face.