“Genghis Khan bathed in sherbet ice cream”: New science fiction and fantasy

It extols death with the luminescent brilliance of a dying star. It is Genghis Khan bathed in sherbet ice cream. The mantis shrimp is the harbinger of blood-soaked rainbows.

The Oatmeal

Welcome to our latest selection of newly acquired fantasy and science fiction titles. Every month we endeavour to highlight new books that aren’t necessarily the highest profile releases or even a reflection of the bestseller lists (although we do sometimes include titles that are on both); instead, we like to select books that have some unusual aspect that catches our attention, that maybe fall off the beaten track, but that we think you might enjoy. From that selection, we then like to go even further and turn the spotlight on one particular title.

For this month’s spotlight book, the book that literally caught our eye (pun intended) was Red side story by Jasper Fforde — a book in which people’s standing in society depends on their ability to perceive colour.

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Owls in folklore and fantasy: New science fiction and fantasy

Three book covers on a starry nighttime background

“Murder owls are extreme,” Jude said. “What’s more extreme than murder owls?”

Aimee Pokwatka, The parliament

Welcome to our latest selection of newly acquired fantasy and science fiction titles. There is a rich abundance of scintillating and gripping titles on offer this month, but the title that really caught our eye was The parliament by Aimee Pokwatka, a newly released fantasy novel about the deep original force of nature as especially expressed by owls. Indeed, the book has been described as The Birds meets The Princess Bride.

Owls have played an important part in myths, traditions and folklore across many cultures around the world, and continue to do so to this day. Owls feature in Mayan, Celtic and Zulu myths and stories to name just a few, and of course, closer to home, the ruru is a powerful figure in Māori myths and traditions. Mythic owls seem to come in many guises but are often linked to the mysterious spiritual realms and vary between being either good or bad omens and either benevolent creatures or more malevolent in nature.

It is perhaps their prominent role in many of the World’s mythologies that has led them to be such popular inclusions in many fictional works. Just a few of the most notable fictional Owls include Archimedes in The sword in the stone, Hedwig in the Harry Potter Series, and of course Owl in the Winnie the Pooh books. To this rich and noble fictional tradition, Aimee Pokwatka adds her own voice and story — have a read below and reserve your copy today!

Our other top picks in this month’s selection can be viewed below:

The parliament / Pokwatka, Aimee
“When tens of thousands of owls descend on her hometown library, rending and tearing at anyone foolish enough to step outside, Madigan Purdy, tasked with keeping her students safe, seeks inspiration from her favorite childhood book, The Silent Queen, to find a solution to their dilemma.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Faebound / El-Arifi, Saara
“Yeeran was born on the battlefield, has lived on the battlefield, and one day, she knows, she’ll die on the battlefield. As a warrior in the elven army, Yeeran has known nothing but violence her whole life. Her sister, Lettle, is trying to make a living as a diviner, seeking prophecies of a better future. When a fatal mistake leads to Yeeran’s exile from the Elven Lands, both sisters are forced into the terrifying wilderness beyond their borders. There they encounter the impossible: the fae court. The fae haven’t been seen for a millennium. But now Yeeran and Lettle are thrust into their seductive world, torn among their loyalties to each other, their elven homeland, and their hearts.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Also available as an eBook – Faebound, by Saara El-Arifi.

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“Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master!” – new science fiction & fantasy

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again!

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

The science fiction and fantasy title that immediately leapt to our attention this month is A stroke of the pen: the lost stories by Terry Pratchett. This newly rediscovered collection of stories by one of the most popular fantasy writers of all time has caused great excitement amongst his legions of fans. The late great Terry Pratchett has to date sold over 100 million books and been translated into over forty languages, his most famous creation being the wonderful Discworld series (though his many other works are just as entertaining).

All of the stories in A stroke of the pen have been published before in the Western Daily Press regional newspaper in the 1970’s and 80’s under the pen name Patrick Kearns. However, these stories have been out of print since their initial publication and were, until recently, largely unknown. The reissue of these long-forgotten works will delight fans, as the chances of any posthumous publications by the author is zero. Although Terry Pratchett left a lot of unfinished writing at the time of his death, he left instructions that his computer’s hard drive, which contained these works, be destroyed by crushing under a steam roller to avoid any future publication of any works he regarded as unfinished.

This last wish was fulfilled in 2017, when Lord Jericho “a six-and-a-half tonne steamroller” destroyed the drive at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. It took several attempts, and a concrete crusher was used to finish off the job.

A stroke of the pen : the lost stories / Pratchett, Terry
“A truly unmissable collection of twenty rediscovered stories, written under a pseudonym in the 1970s and 80s by the award-winning and bestselling author of the phenomenal Discworld series. These early tales hint at the worlds Terry would go on to create, containing all his trademark wit, satirical wisdom and fantastic imagination. Meet Og the inventor, the first caveman to cultivate fire, as he discovers the highs and lows of progress; haunt the Ministry of Nuisances with the defiant evicted ghosts of Pilgarlic Towers; visit Blackbury, a small market town with weird weather and an otherworldly visitor; and go on a dangerous quest through time and space with hero Kron, which begins in the ancient city of Morpork…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mammoths at the gates / Vo, Nghi
“The wandering Cleric Chih returns home to the Singing Hills Abbey for the first time in almost three years, to be met with both joy and sorrow. Their mentor, Cleric Thien, has died, and rests among the archivists and storytellers of the storied abbey. But not everyone is prepared to leave them to their rest. Because Cleric Thien was once the patriarch of Coh clan of Northern Bell Pass–and now their granddaughters have arrived on the backs of royal mammoths, demanding their grandfather’s body for burial. Chih must somehow balance honoring their mentor’s chosen life while keeping the sisters from the north from storming the gates and destroying the history the clerics have worked so hard to preserve. . .” (Adapted from Catalogue) Als.o available as an eBook

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“At night, here in the library, the ghosts have voices”: New SF and fantasy


At night, here in the library, the ghosts have voices.

Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

Welcome to another of our monthly round ups of our recently acquired science fiction and fantasy titles. It’s another month of rich variety, well demonstrated by the most recent title that caught our particular attention — a new horror anthology called Ghosts from the library : lost tales of terror and the supernatural.

Haunted libraries are a bit of thing, so we have taken this golden opportunity to look at some supposedly real-life haunted libraries!

First up is St. John’s College Library in Cambridge in the UK — this ancient library dates back to 1624. St John’s is said to be haunted by the headless ghost of Archbishop William Laud who supposedly terrifies readers by kicking his ghostly head along the floor — he was beheaded in 1645. It has been a very long time since anyone has reported seeing him doing this, though the sounds of unaccompanied footsteps have been reported in more recent times.  As the Deputy Librarian said of the hauntings  “we do know that Laud cared passionately about his library, and we like to think he has a friendly presence here.”

Felbrigg Hall library in Norfolk is haunted by its former owner who is said to return periodically to finish off reading books he didn’t have a chance to read when he was alive (we know that feeling well!). People report seeing his ghost seated at a library table or in a reading chair, and there is even one report that he can be summoned when a certain selection of his favourite books are put out.

One of the most haunted libraries in the world  is Senate House Library in London, which holds The famous Harry Price Collection of Magical Literature. This huge collection was amassed by paranormalist Harry Price 1881-1948 and focusses on work about witchcraft, occult, magic and the paranormal, as well as prophecies and spiritual phenomena. Many of the books in the collection are ultra-rare. Reported ghostly activity includes whispering when no one is around, floating books, loud laughter and even a mysterious spectral ‘Blue Lady.’

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne dates back to 1854 and is said to be haunted by numerous ghosts, including a former librarian called Grace — said to be a benevolent elderly spirit. The library’s music room is also supposedly haunted by a snazzily dressed moustachioed ghost. In fact, there have been so many reports of hauntings in The State Library that several clairvoyants have been brought in to investigate.

Here in New Zealand, we can also lay claim to a library ghost — The Parliament Library built in 1883 and continued in 1899 is rumoured to be haunted, amongst others, by the ghost of former Dunedin MP William Larnach. William Larnach tried his hand at gold-digging, farming and then  worked as a banker before  eventually entering  Parliament as an MP in 1875. Records of the time report that he was known in parliament for his practical jokes as well as his ‘robustious egotism’ and ‘rough and blundering modes of speech’. Sadly he took his own life after financial and relationship troubles, however his ghost is alleged to cause disturbances in the library to this day.

Ghosts from the library : lost tales of terror and the supernatural
“It is said that books are written to bring sunshine into our dull, grey lives – to show us places we want to escape to, lives we want to live, people we want to love. But there are also stories that can only be found in the deepest, darkest corners of the library. Stories about the unexplained, of lost souls, of things that go bump before the silence. Before the screaming. And some stories just disappear. Stories printed in old newspapers, broadcast live on the wireless, sometimes not even published at all – these are the stories you cannot find on even the dustiest of library shelves. Ghosts from the Library resurrects forgotten tales of the supernatural by some of the most acclaimed mystery authors of all time.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The curator : a novel / King, Owen
“Dora, a former domestic servant at the university has a secret desire — to find where her brother went after he died, believing that the answer lies within The Museum of Psykical Research, where he worked when Dora was a child. With the city amidst a revolutionary upheaval, where citizens like Robert Barnes, her lover and a student radical, are now in positions of authority, Dora contrives to gain the curatorship of the half-forgotten museum only to find it all but burnt to the ground, with the neighboring museums oddly untouched. Robert offers her one of these, The National Museum of the Worker. However, neither this museum, nor the street it is hidden away on, nor Dora herself, are what they at first appear to be.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fairy bargains of Prospect Hill / Miller, Rowenna
“On Prospect Hill, you can get nearly anything you want from the Fae — if you know how to ask and if you can pay the price. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier — Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find her lost shoe and ensure dry weather on her sister Delphine’s wedding day. But when Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape his abuse… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The lies of the Ajungo / Utomi, Moses Ose
“The Lies of the Ajungo, follows one boy’s epic quest to bring water back to his city and save his mother’s life. They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies? In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Flux : a novel / Chong, Jinwoo
“A blazingly original and stylish debut novel about a young man whose reality unravels when he suspects his mysterious new employers have inadvertently discovered time travel — and are using it to cover up a string of violent crimes…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available, Flux eBook

Assassin of reality : a novel / Di︠a︡chenko, Marina
“In Vita Nostra, Sasha Samokhina, a third-year student at the Institute of Special Technologies, was in the middle of taking the final exam that would transform her into a part of the Great Speech. After defying her teachers’ expectations, Sasha emerges from the exam as Password, a unique and powerful part of speech. Accomplished and ready to embrace her new role, she soon learns her powers threaten the old world, and despite her hard work, Sasha is set to fail. However,  dark mentor, finds a way to bring her out of the oblivion and back to the Institute for his own selfish purposes…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ten percent thief / Lakshminarayan, Lavanya
“A bold, bitingly satirical near-future mosaic novel about a city run along ‘meritocratic’ lines, the injustice it creates, and the revolution that will destroy it” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Feed them silence / Mandelo, Lee
“What does it mean to “be-in-kind” with a nonhuman animal? Or in Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon’s case, to be in-kind with one of the last remaining wild wolves? Using a neurological interface to translate her animal subject’s perception through her own mind, Sean intends to chase both her scientific curiosity and her secret, lifelong desire to experience the intimacy and freedom of wolfishness. To see the world through animal eyes; smell the forest, thick with olfactory messages; even taste the blood and viscera of a fresh kill. And, above all, to feel the belonging of the pack.  Her research methods threaten her mind and body. And the attention of her VC funders could destroy her subject, the beautiful wild wolf whose mental world she’s invading.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available, Feed them Silence eBook

NZ author & theatre director Philip Mann has passed

We are saddened to hear of the passing of author and leading theatre director Philip Mann.

Philip Mann was a leading light of the New Zealand theatre scene; in the 1970’s he was one of the original founding teachers of the drama department  at Victoria University. He was himself a hugely influential director who premiered works by many leading New Zealand playwrights such as Greg McGee, Renée, and Vincent O’Sullivan.

Philip Mann, as well as writing extensively for theatre and radio, was also the author of eleven science fiction novels  enjoying a successful career as a writer.  Amongst the many accolades to his work his novel The Disestablishment of Paradise was shortlisted for the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award  and in 2017 he was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature and drama. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction described his work as having “a strong visual and structural sense”.

His relatively low public profile as a science fiction writer once led to him being described as “the bestselling New Zealand author you’ve never heard off”. His final novel  Chevalier & Gawayn: The Ballad of the Dreamer was only recently released to coincide with his 80th birthday celebrations.

We have a wide selection of Mann’s works available to borrow for further details look below.

Pioneers / Mann, Phillip
“Human Pioneers, genetically modified to evlove rapidly and adapt to alien enviroments, have been sent to populate the universe. Then a cataclysmic event on Earth causes widespread sterility and the human race is threatened with extinction. A bold Fertility Programme is developed to retrieve the early Pioneers and their rich genetic heritage to replenish the human gene pool.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Chevalier & Gawayn : The Ballad of the Dreamer / Mann, Phillip
“Once upon a time in the future, things are looking grim. Plague stalks the land, people live behind city walls, or underground, or huddle in remote ham-lets. No more animals, no more birdlife, no more freedom… never has the divide between rich and poor been so evident, never has the Earth been so despoiled, and never has the need for a hero been stronger. Enter Chevalier, an unassuming and mild-man-nered tax inspector by day but a secret law-breaker and risk-taker by night who decides to experiment with a new virtual reality headset…” ( Adapted from cover )

Master of Paxwax / Mann, Phillip
“The galaxy is dominated by humankind – but not by humanity. Any power once held by other intelligent life forms has been crushed; the Eleven Great Families rule empires across the stars. But the second son of the Fifth Family may be the catalyst to change all that.” (Adapted from Catalogue)



The disestablishment of paradise : a novel in five parts plus documents / Mann, Phillip
“Something has gone wrong on the planet of Paradise. The human settlers, farmers and scientists, are finding that their crops won’t grow and their lives are becoming more and more dangerous. The indigenous plant life, never entirely safe, is changing in unpredictable ways, and the imported plantings wither and die. And so the order is given, Paradise will be abandoned. All personnel will be removed and reassigned. And all human presence on the planet will be disestablished. Not all agree with the decision…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Stand alone Stan / Mann, Phillip
“Britannia, 1993.In a world where the Roman legionaries never left Britain a man can walk from the walls of York – or Eburacum – to the southern seas without leaving the shade of the greenwood, inhabited by wildcats, wolves and bears, as well as the descendants of the folk who built Stonehenge. Solar-powered air cars journey along straight roads that connect them to the Roman settlements – and link them to the cities of a global empire .When a jealous feud forced three young people into the forest, they discovered an older Britain, where the rules of rational Rome no longer applied…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The eye of the queen / Mann, Phillip
“Marius Thorndyke, the legendary contact linguist, willingly came out of retirement to meet with the Pe-Ellians when they asked for him. And he willingly returned to Pe-Ellia at their request. He was a veteran of contacts with alien species, but they had always been technologically inferior to Earth. The Pe-Ellians were different. Humanoid but twice the height of humans and sexless, they clearly came from a very advanced civilization: a civilization that understood the power of thought.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Wulfsyarn : a mosaic / Mann, Phillip
“The Nightingale was the most advanced craft in the entire fleet of Mercy ships belonging to the Gentle Order of St Francis Dionysos. On its maiden voyage, its life bays packed with refugees, the Nightingale disappeared. Despite strenuous efforts no trace of it could be found. Then, a year later, a distress signal was heard and the Nightingale reappeared. It was damaged in ways that meant its survival in space was a miracle. But of its previous cargo of life-forms there was no sign. Only one creature remained alive within the ship, and that was its captain, Jon Wilberfoss …” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fall of the families / Mann, Phillip
“Pawl Paxwax is happy and in love. The war has ended, new wife Laurel is pregnant and his old friend Odin has returned to Pawl’s side. But deep in Elliott’s Pocket, the Emerald Lake is stirring… After the rise comes the fall, as the universe is plunged into darkness once more, in the stunning conclusion to the Gardener series.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The fall of the families : book two, of the story of Paul Paxwax, the gardener / Mann, Phillip
“Vengeance of the oppressed… Pawl Paxwax was now Master of the eleven human families who rule the galaxy, and free to marry his loved one, the remarkable Laurel Beltane. But Pawl’s happiness was to be short-lived. The many oppressed alien species who paid dearly for humanity’s triumph were about to rise up in bloody retribution – with Pawl as their unwitting instrument. The Fall Families is the epic sequel to Master of Paxwax, an extraordinary interstellar revenge tragedy played out against an immense and powerfully imagined canvas of the far future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Escape to the wild wood / Mann, Phillip
” In this world Rome never fell to the Barbarians, the legions never left Britain and now, in the late twentieth century, Rome is the capital of a vast global civilisation. Outside Eboracum, (or York as we know it), and dominating the city, is the Battle Dome, a vast hemisphere enclosing the artificial landscapes where the Games – as brutal, deadly and colourful as ever – are held. Here the destinies of three young people come together when a jealous feud forces them to flee the Dome and take refuge in the forest…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The dragon wakes / Mann, Phillip
“The third in the Land Fit for Heroes series, set in an alternative modern Britain still ruled by the Roman Empire. Coll, Angus and Miranda must overcome the madness brought about by the Emperor, who intends to burn down the forests where the ancient Britons survive.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

What if? A selection of alternative history books

It is like the point where the rainbow touches the forest. We think that we can see it—but if we go to look for it, it isn’t there.”
― Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time

What if the Nazis had won World War Two, or what if you could travel back in time to save J F Kennedy from assassination? Alternative history novels offer authors the unique opportunity to do just that, take real life events and characters and then explore what would have happened if history had taken a different route. Many great writers have delved into the field such as Philip K Dick, Stephen King and Susanna Clarke to name but a few. Below is a very small selection of novels which depict a different reality from the one we exist in.

The man in the high castle / Dick, Philip K
“It is 1962 and the Second World War has been over for seventeen years: people have now had a chance to adjust to the new order. But it’s not been easy. The Mediterranean has been drained to make farmland, the population of Africa has virtually been wiped out and America has been divided between the Nazis and the Japanese. In the neutral buffer zone that divides the two superpowers lives the man in the high castle, the author of an underground bestseller, a work of fiction that offers an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers didn’t win the war.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The plot against America / Roth, Philip
“Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic aviator and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. Shortly thereafter, Lindbergh negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism. For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America-and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Rodham : a novel / Sittenfeld, Curtis
“In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage to Bill Clinton, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail–one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life. ” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Fatherland / Harris, Robert
“Berlin, 1964. The Greater German Reich stretches from the Rhine to the Urals, and keeps an uneasy peace with its nuclear rival, the United States. As the Fatherland prepares for a grand celebration honoring Adolf Hitler’s seventy-fifth birthday and anticipates a conciliatory visit from U.S. president Joseph Kennedy and ambassador Charles Lindbergh, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin’s most prestigious suburb.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union / Chabon, Michael
“For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal Distric of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

11/22/63 / King, Stephen
“On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession–to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The difference engine / Gibson, William
“1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine, and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time. Three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with the future: Sybil Gerard—fallen woman, politician’s tart, daughter of a Luddite agitator Edward “Leviathan” Mallory—explorer and palaeontologist; Laurence Oliphant—diplomat, mystic, and spy. Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for.”  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell / Clarke, Susanna
The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains- the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician- the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Eyre affair / Fforde, Jasper
“Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. There are riots between the Surrealists and Impressionists. Amidst all this, Acheron Hades,  steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! his next target is the beloved Jane Eyre, and it’s not long before he plucks her from the pages of Bronte’s novel. Enter Thursday Next. She’s the Special Operative’s renowned literary detective, and she drives a Porsche.” (Catalogue)