I’m back with another blog tour with The Storytellers on Tour for Small Places by Matthew Samuels. Thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the bloggers on tour!
Goodreads: Small Places
Publication Date: 03 August 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Small Places is a no-nonsense urban fantasy fairy story. Jamie, a shy, lonely boy, runs an errand for a witch as a child, helping them ease a family friend’s experience of cancer. Thirteen years later, Jamie’s own mother is suffering from terminal cancer as well, and he’s come back to his childhood village to spend more time with her before the end. He receives a card from the witch, Melusine, asking for his help – and casting his mind back to his childhood experience – goes to see her, hoping she can help his mother. Amidst freak earthquakes and storms, he’s drawn into working with the bad-tempered Mel in an effort to find out what’s wrong with Gaia, the earth spirit, as they visit the Seelie and Unseelie courts, finding the former racist and the latter paranoid, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls along the way.
It’ll appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series, Charles de Lint’s work or Clive Barker’s Abarat series.
CW: Strong language and violence throughout, with some graphic injury detail, scenes of involuntary restraint, giant spiders, dead animals, implied cruelty to animals, and some fantastical creatures of a horrifying nature
TW: Cancer, mention of previous self-harm and an instance of a drink being tampered with
BUY A COPY NOW!
Matthew Samuels is a science fiction and fantasy writer based in London, UK. His first novel was the Sci-Fi Solarpunk / Hopepunk adventure story Parasites, the first book in the Navigator Series. He enjoys reading, gaming, running, walking, EDM and perversely, quiet.
TL;DR: Small Places was such a delightfully unexpected read! Samuels creates a charming story that mixes the magical and the mundane in a funny, captivating and entertaining way. With characters that you can root for and who will really grow on you, it was so easy to sink into this story and let the magical and the weird wash over me. Although not so much a fast paced read, it was easy to absorb and the combination of scary witches, stoned faun, beer-brewing trolls, eccentric inventors, gun-toting elves, orcs and banshees, and a fragile earth spirit, just really worked for me!
The adventure kicks off when an adult Jamie returns to his small village and is summoned by the witch, Melusine. Prior to this, we only get glimpses of magic when, as a child, Jamie first steps through the doorway to get to the small place that leads him to the witch’s door. Only when Jamie returns do we get to fully experience the wonderfully weird, hilarious and often scary faery world and magic. Who knew that stoned faun, beer-brewing trolls, an eccentric (and adorable) inventor of deadly machines, and gun-toting elves, orcs and banshees would be the combination of characters I’d need right now? It just works! 😍
I thought this was a well-written story and despite a somewhat slow start and a slightly rushed ending, it was overall quite well-paced. Samuels managed to create an interesting combination of the real and magical worlds that juxtaposed nicely. I feel like this is one of those fantasy stories that you just have to let wash over you without questioning too many of the smaller details, and if you can manage to do that you’ll have a really enjoyable ride! The settings were also well described, which made it easy to picture both the English countryside and the faery courts as I was reading.
Melusine and Jamie make such an unlikely team but despite their differences (especially in personality), they are a fantastic duo! Melusine is a witch that’s frightening in appearance and is rather crotchety—though I guess living for hundreds of years in a small village would make anyone that way. She was sarcastic, slightly bitter and jaded, and I wasn’t sure if I would like her character at first, but the more she interacted with Jamie, the more she grew on me! I loved her wittiness and she often had me laughing out loud. In total contrast, Jamie is probably the epitome of a good guy. He hasn’t had the smoothest childhood and returning to his small-town home to care for his dying mother has left him feeling even more adrift and uncertain about where he belongs or what he’s doing with his life. He was such an empathetic character and it made it so easy to feel connected to him. I don’t know how I would react if I were in Jamie’s shoes but he accepted the existence of the magical world so casually and it was often quite funny to watch him process the madness! 😂
Aside from these two, there is a rather large cast of characters that we mostly only meet in passing but I did hope for just a little bit more character development at times. The ‘culprit’ was also a little bit of a surprise twist because I didn’t see it coming at all, and I might not have been entirely convinced by Jamie’s deduction when it was first revealed. At the same time, I found the wrap up to be a little too rushed and I had hoped for more of a conclusion for certain characters, but it didn’t really detract much from my enjoyment of the story overall. I would most definitely read more books with Jamie, Melusine, and V (and Dakyid and Balthamel)!
Have you read Small Places or is it on your TBR?