Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book review: Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer

brood of the witch queen sax rohmer

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Brood of the Witch Queen is one of the creepiest and scariest books of Sax Rohmer — the creator of the fiendish Fu Manchu and Sumuru. Originally serialized in a British Magazine, this intriguing Egyptian tale of ancient curse and black magic takes you from London to Cairo involving a great adventure.

The Story

Set in London in the early 1900s, this is a tale of ancient sorcery with vampires and crawly bugs. Dr. Richard and Robert Cairn fights against diabolical powers and a dark figure called Anthony Ferarra. And the odds turn terrible when Ferarra’s ancient ancestor — a Polish/Jewish witch that placed a curse on her husband’s family — casts her evil shadow.

The Style

Rohmer’s novel reflects his passion for dramatic prose and abrupt ending. Also, the characterization seems a bit wooden. Nonetheless, Brood of the Witch Queen holds a lot of value in terms of pulp entertainment. This fast moving novel is full of adventure and creepy scenes. The plot, though predictable, will not disappoint you. Though the book is about a century old, it does not seem much dated.

Not a perfect story, pretty much over the top, but Brood of the Witch Queen is pure escapist fun.

Similar Books:

Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

Rating ***

Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer ebook Download


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Book Review: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock is a self-professed Tolkien separatist. In his essay Epic Pooh, he accuses The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works of glorifying war, preaching “cowardly self-protection,” avoiding the subject of death, and forcing a happy ending upon the reader (as summed up by Wikipedia).

“I met Tolkien on his home ground in Oxford. I really don’t have much to say, except I was a little embarrassed, having written to Tolkien to tell him I was collecting all his books and then discovering I didn’t like them very much.”

Also, he proudly confessed “I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas”

In this light, it became a desperate necessity for me to read Elric of Melnibone (the first book in Moorcock’s epic fantasy series) and check out what exactly was he trying to prove.

In my humble opinion, Moorcock has been true to his word. He is indeed “… a bad writer with big ideas…”

The story

Elric is an albino emperor of a race of dragon lords. Even with his sorceries, he seems a weakling and his cousin Yyrkoon attempts to usurp power from him. The attempt fails and the villain is imprisoned, but he escapes from prison and flees to a distant land and abducts Elric’s beloved — Cymoril. To reach him and rescue his love, Elric needs to seek help from the manipulative chaos lords, use sorceries, travel to the netherworld and most importantly, requires a ship that can travel over land and sea. What happens next?

What’s good

The underdeveloped yet innovative concepts: A mirror that can steal memories, a ship that can travel over land and sea, and swords that can exert their own will deserve mention. The gods, including the chaos lord, are intriguing.

The story is descent enough and it is certainly not a LoTR clone. It could have reached epic proportions in more mature hands. Elric of Melnibone is a fairly fast and action packed tale. The author has enough sense to wrap up the story in 200 pages.

What’s not so good

The writing is juvenile at best. The dialogues are a joke. The characters are one dimensional and underdeveloped. The world building is highly flawed. The plot lacks depth.

The protagonist is weak (that was deliberate though) and unlikable. The villain seems weaker and not up to the job. The female lead is rather boring.

Too simplistic to be iconic

Perhaps it is. Compared to GRR Matrin and Tolkien, Elric seems to be kindergarten stuff. However, the first book isn’t the entire series. I am going to read the next books in the series and also The History of the Runestaff. It is widely regarded that Moorcock’s later writings have more subtlety, better prose and improved insights. It is undeniable that he influenced a generation of writers and that must be for a reason.

To sum up, Elric, unlike The Hobbit or LoTR, is not a work of art. Tolkiens’s philological scholarship, his deep knowledge of mythology, and his world-building skills are virtually non-existent in Moorcock’s saga and it doesn’t look like the later books would match up to Tolkien’s high standards. However, a reader of the genre cannot afford to miss the Elric series simply because of its cult status and atypical approach. It least Moorcock dared to step out of Tolkien’s long shadow and that in itself is an achievement.

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

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Book Review: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry potter book review

Belated happy new year to my blogger friends! Finally managed to sneak out again from the miserable real world to the blogosphere. It had been a great year and hope you had a great one too. For me, the year moved at a break neck speed and The Book Haven was left stranded while its captain was a stranger in a strange land.

The major bookish achievement this year was to finish the Harry Potter Series (yeah, the movies too). Alright, it’s not retro and doesn’t belong to this blog. Also, I admit I was hopelessly prejudiced against the Potter boy and Rowling before taking up Philosopher’s Stone reluctantly. It was one of my friends who argued that it was a rubbish attitude to make fun of something without reading it. I couldn’t answer and decided to make a point by reading the book.

So I finished reading the first book. And had to eat my own words.

Blimey! Why on earth I kept pushing it away for so long? The Philosopher’s Stone was as original as Tolkien’s LoTR. Of course, it lacked the depth of a classic and was not a work of art created by a professor of Anglo-Saxon, but there’s no denying that it was way ahead of most books in the genre.

Movie: 3.5 / 5 (pretty descent stuff)

Chamber of Secrets is possibly the best book in the series in terms of plot. Basilisk and Tom Riddle’s diary were freaking awesome. And who could forget the flying car over Muggle London? God, the series was getting better and better.

Movie: 4/ 5 (Quite quite good)

The Prisoner of Azkaban felt like a letdown though. Sirius Black and Lupin were great characters; the dementors were creepy, but overall the plot seemed weak.

Movie: 2.5/ 5 (Meh! Cool special effects though)

With The Goblet of Fire, Rowling was back in form. The Triwizard tournament was outright genius. I believe, it was from this novel that the series started to take a dark turn. The book had a really eerie beginning and introduced Nagini, Voldemort’s infernal pet.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Not bad)

The Order of the Phoenix had some outstanding moments. Battle of the Ministry is perhaps the best thing about it. Bellatrix murdered Sirius Black – dang, that was a shock (thought he and James were both better than Bellatrix).

I believe it is virtually impossible to invent a character more annoying that Dolores Umbridge. Cool job by Rowling! However, the plot seemed loose and without purpose. Rowling seemed to describe the daily life at Hogwarts without any intention of going further and things fell in line again only towards the end.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Nothing very special here)

Sectumsempra! Aren’t you bleeding yet from the curse invented by the Half-blood price? Fantastic plot, great speed, dark magic, perilous missions, shocking betrayals, and tragic end. Wow!  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince deserves to be one of your favourite novels in the series. If not for anything else, you can remember it simply because of the ghastly concept of Horcrux.

Movie: 3.5/ 5 (Lives up to the expectations)

The epic conclusion. The Deathly Hollows is my favourite book in the series. This one is truly tragic in tone from the beginning till the end. Incredible action, unforeseen twists, meticulously crafted characters and dialogues make the concluding episode an unforgettable journey. The battle of Hogwarts is nothing short of epic. What a finish. Avada Kedavra!

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part I: 4/ 5 (Great job)

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part 2: 4.5/ 5 (Best in the series)

I would rate Harry Potter series at par with Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It’s not The Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones but then it doesn’t need to be. Harry Potter is best the way it is.

The movies could have been better. They were cartoonish to begin with and gradually improved but none of them were like The Two Towers. What a pity!

What do you think of the Harry Potter series?
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Book Review: The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni Helene Wecker

This review is a bit out of place since The Book Haven covers vintage books only. However, Helene Wecker’s debut novel is an extraordinary piece of fantasy/historical work that deserves a place in every book hub.

The story

A rabbi (kind of spiritual teacher), who is an expert in Kabbalistic black magic, brings a golem (Chava) to life. When the golem’s master dies, she becomes a free creature.

A djinni called Ahmad was trapped inside a copper flask for centuries. He gets released accidentally in a Lower Manhattan shop.

The mythical beings meet by sheer chance and together they face a threat that challenges their existence. Set in late 19th century New York, this is a remarkable story that blends history with fantasy and offers the readers an amazing voyage.

What’s so good?

On a superficial level, The Golem and the Djinni seems to be an enjoyable magical tale with some truly inventive touches. However, it is also a piece of serious literary work that takes a closer look at immigrant experience and raises philosophical questions about “feeling lost” in a new, strange world.

Helene Wecker’s storytelling skills are impressive. The Golem and the Djinni succeeds in being an intellectual read without being boring. The story flows with a natural ease; the romantic moments come without being melodramatic. You can easily visualize the immigrant Arab and Jewish folks at the turn of the century through the golem and the djinni.

The author exhibits use of parallel storylines with surprising effectiveness. All in all, it doesn’t feel like a debut novel.

P.S. The idea of a golem pairing up with a jinni is at once ridiculous and fantastic. A creature trained to bow becomes friends with a fiery spirit infuriated by chains. Jewish folklore shakes hands with Arabian mythology — Mrs. Wecker should ask for a patent on the subject.

A few hiccups

The plot looks forcefully engineered in a few places. Also, Ahmad‘s (the djinni) character seems less convincing than the perfectly crafted golem. The Golem and the Djinni is perhaps too long (almost 500 pages) for an adult fairy tale, but the author manages to keep the readers interested with an engaging writing style. Mrs. Wecker succeeds in evoking an exotic feel that falls upon the readers like a spell.

About the author

Helene Wecker
Helene Wecker is an American writer with a Master’s degree in fiction. The Golem and the Djinni is her debut novel. It was published in April 2013 by HarperCollins. Mrs. Wecker was nominated for the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: Fantasy and Goodreads Debut Author. She lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter.

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The Best Weird Tales Anthologies

weird tales

The legendary Weird Tales Magazine had a tough but reasonably long run, and it eventually achieved a cult status among the followers of fantasy/horror/SF genre. Several anthologies based on Weird Tales stories have been published by acclaimed editors like Peter Haining and Marvin Kaye. Here are two of my favourites:

Weird Tales: A Selection in Facsimile, of the Best from the World’s Most Famous Fantasy Magazine
Edited by Peter Haining

An anthology that is true to the spirit of the magazine. As the title says, this 250 page book is a facsimile reproduction of the actual pages of Weird Tales. Like the celebrated magazine’s original format, it has a two column layout and includes letters from readers, nostalgic illustrations, and priceless old advertisements that appeared in the late 1930s. If you never had the opportunity to grab an old copy of Weird Tales, this book will heal your wound. And Mr. Haining’s introduction is absolutely priceless.


Introduction – Peter Haining

Edmond Hamilton – The Man Who Returned
Robert E. Howard – Black Hound of Death
August Derleth – The Shuttered House
Seabury Quinn – Frozen Beauty
H. P. Lovecraft – Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Clark Ashton Smith – The Garden of Adompha
Henry Kuttner – Beyond the Phoenix
G. G. Pendarves – The Black Monk
Henry S. Whitehead – The Passing Of A God
Manly Wade Wellman – The Valley Was Still
Nictzin Dyalhis – The Heart of Atlantan
Fritz Leiber – The Phantom Slayer
Robert Bloch – The Beasts of Barsac
Ray Bradbury – Bang! You’re Dead!
Theodore Sturgeon – Cellmate
Algernon Blackwood – Roman Remains
Eric Frank Russell – Displaced Person
H. Russell Wakefield – From the Vasty Deep
Mary Elizabeth Counselman – The Shot-Tower Ghost
Allison V. Harding – Take the Z-Train
Margaret St. Clair – The Little Red Owl
Anthony M. Rud – Ooze

weird tales

Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors
Edited by Stefan R. Dziemainowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin H. Greenberg

655 pages of some of the finest writing from the magazine’s finest years.  This is probably the biggest Weird Tales collection ever to hit the stands. It comes with introductions and illustrations for each story. Tentacled gods, haunted houses, laboratories illuminated with faint blue lights will scare you shitless.

If you ever get marooned on a desert island, this is one book you would want to have with you.

Foreword – Stefan R. Dziemainowicz
Introduction – Robert Bloch

Anthony M. Rud – A Square Of Canvas
C. M. Eddy – The Loved Dead
Nictzin Dyalhis – When The Green Star Waned
R. Anthony – The Parasitic Hand
Edmond Hamilton – Evolution Island
H. Warner Munn – The Chain
Robert E. Howard – The Shadow Kingdom
Henry S. Whitehead – The Shut Room
Seabury Quinn – Satan’s Stepson
Jack Williamson – The Wand Of Doom
Clark Ashton Smith – The Isle Of The Torturers
C. L. Moore – Dust Of Gods
Laurence J. Cahill – Charon
Arthur J. Burks – The Room Of Shadows
Mary E. Counselman – The Black Stone Statue
Gans T. Field (Manly Wade Wellman) – The Hairy Ones Shall Dance
Robert Barbour Johnson – Far Below
Fritz Leiber – The Automatic Pistol
H. P. Lovecraft – The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward
Henry Kuttner – Masquerade
Robert Bloch – Black Barter
Frank Belknap Long – The Peeper
Carl Jacobi – Barnaby’s Fish
Ray Bradbury – Let’s Play Poison
C. Hall Thompson – The Will Of Claude Ashur
Theodore Sturgeon – The Professor’s Teddy Bear
Frederic Brown – Come And Go Mad
Isaac Asimov & James MacCreigh – Legal Rites
August Derleth – Something From Out There
Joseph Payne Brennan – The Green Parrot
Richard Matheson – Slaughter House
Everil Worrell – Call Not Their Names

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