The Ghost Tree by Sara Bain

The Ghost Tree by Sara Bain

Those of you who have followed my reviews for some time may remember me going on about how much I loved The Sleeping Warrior last year. It was without doubt one of my top reads of 2014. Well, Sara Bain has done it again with The Ghost Tree – her second novel, and one of my top reads of 2015. I’m now chomping at the bit for the finale of the trilogy.

So what’s it about?

Five years after the death of his wife, MacAoidh Armstrong moves into a smallholding in southern Scotland with the intention of living a self-sufficient existence. In the nearby town solicitor Libby Butler is trying to find peace after her recent deadly brush with the unknown.

On a hill by the steading stands The Ghost Tree: all that remains of the former Ringcroft of Stocking. Local legend says that when the last Ghost Tree dies, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return.

Just days after MacAoidh moves in, he is forced to contend with a number of strange events that distance him from the local community. Turning to Libby for help, they find themselves challenged by a series of bizarre and terrifying occurrences which defy all logical and scientific explanation.

As the phenomena become increasingly violent and lives are threatened, Libby must delve into closely guarded secrets to discover the reason for the present terror… and come to terms with her growing feelings for MacAoidh. Can she save the pragmatic Highlander from an ancient evil, and in doing so will she lose her heart?

This is no ‘ordinary’ story. In fact Sara Bain just doesn’t do ‘ordinary’ – thank goodness. What she does do, she does brilliantly. This novel isn’t easily classified and certainly can’t be pigeon-holed into a nice, neat category. In fact I’m not even going to try because to do so would do it a disservice. For those that have read the first book, this is less ‘gentle’ than The Sleeping Warrior and really does pack a punch in places but on the other hand, it’s also more romantic – whatever it ‘is’, it just works. Again.

Firstly, the setting is perfect. What could be a better place for what is ultimately a rather frightening tale than an isolated smallholding in Southern Scotland? ‘I grew up with tales of haunted ruins by Loch Assynt, Lochan Dubh and Achmore; strange beasts in the water in Lochan Feith an Leothaid; dead sailors walking and mermaids at Sandwood Bay’.

One of the many other things that Sara Bain does brilliantly are her heroes. I honestly didn’t think anyone could top Gabriel from the first novel who I’m not ashamed to admit I fell in love with. But actually, MacAoidh is anything but disappointing: ‘He’s a wonderful, gentle human being. What’s not to love about him?’ I don’t know how she does it, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Don’t believe in ghosts? Don’t worry, MacAoidh Armstrong doesn’t either. Not even when one of the barns on his land completely disappears: ‘it’s space filled with empty, dark, countryside’. And others are similarly disbelieving: ‘So you’re saying all this can be put down to a physical expression of psychological trauma?’ Is it or isn’t it?

Don’t let the paranormal aspect put you off. This is no sentimental ghost story. As in the first book, Libby’s completely down-to-earth character and Bain’s exceptional writing style ensure the book remains firmly grounded. Libby is still as wonderfully flawed and straight-talking as ever: ‘I’ve got an attitude problem. I’m excellent at making enemies but not so good at keeping friends… I don’t deserve someone to share my life with. I was a really horrible person two years ago and I’m still a bit of a bitch’. Some of her conversations with MacAoidh’s mother are laugh out loud funny. She’s just brilliant. I’d love to take her to the pub and buy her a beer.

Do you ever finish a novel and wish you could read it again for the first time? I feel that way about both of Sara’s books. They are unlike anything else I’ve read in the last two years and I can’t wait for the third part in the trilogy. Thank you so much to Sara for sending me a copy.

‘It’s only through the conservative rules of science and Christianisation that we, as a modern race, have stopped believing in anything that can’t be plausibly predicted by mathematical formulas or the Bible. What if we’re wrong?’

Get The Ghost Tree on kindle for only £2.63 at the moment – a complete bargain: The Ghost Tree

And if you want to read them in order (not a requirement but they’re both excellent reads), The Sleeping Warrior is only £1.99: The Sleeping Warrior

The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain

Sleeping Warrior

This book came highly recommended by a fellow bookworm. I couldn’t wait to read it so a huge thank you to Sara Bain for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

As any of you that know me will be aware, my TBR list sits at about 4 years long so it takes a pretty interesting-sounding read to push its way to the front of the queue. This is what happened here…

What the blurb says:

LONDON solicitor Libby Butler’s life is in a self-inflicted mess. Her affair with her boss is going nowhere as is her position in the prestigious city law firm where she works. A narrow escape from the knife of south London’s elusive serial murderer, The Vampire Killer, has challenged her outward bravado and left her nerves and personal life in tatters.

When duty calls Libby to a metropolitan police station in the middle of the night, she meets the enigmatic Gabriel Radley. Dressed like an ancient warrior in studded leather armour, Gabriel has a habit of disappearing from police custody and danger appears to dog him.

Gabriel is searching for a ‘stone’ he has lost, its value ‘beyond human imagination’, that will help bring a ‘monster’ to justice. When Libby agrees to help him, she unwittingly plunges her life into a series of disasters and neither she nor any of her friends are safe.

A cult who call themselves The Awakened, a gangland thug and his henchman, a female assassin, a detective chief inspector from Scotland Yard, and even the serial killer, all become inadvertently embroiled in the chase for the stone and the pivotal force of Gabriel.

As the death toll rises, Libby is forced to face herself, learn the true value of life and the potent significance of the Sleeping Warrior within.

Can you see why now? A murder mystery with a dashing hero and a paranormal element, this absolutely rang all of my bells! Oh but it is so much more.

Sara Bain’s writing style is simply brilliant. The dialogue she creates and her humour are absolutely addictive. Each character in this novel has an entirely unique voice and the way she combines the mundane (in terms of language) with the fantastic (in terms of events) had me rattling through this novel at a rate of knots: ‘Don’t be a bloody fool! Of course not. If he was the Vampire Killer, I would certainly know about it. He’s never even read the Twilight Saga’.

Libby is entirely likeable. She isn’t beautiful, or perfect, or above blame and she sure as hell makes mistakes and behaves badly at times. Hooray! A human female protagonist! And that’s not all. We also meet Rose Red in this novel – a complete kick-ass female Russian assassin but one who is as far removed from a caricature as you can get. There is much more to her than meets the eye. So, what? Two strong female characters? Damn right!

Gabriel is a ‘Vascaran’ (so there!) and is just amazing; I challenge any woman to read this and not fall a tiny bit in love with him. So what if he’s from another dimension? ‘Despite his outward beauty, an inner magnificence shone from within Gabriel… He was ruthless yet forgiving; terrible yet gentle: it was this perfect balance of conflicting qualities that made him so captivating to his friends and bewildering to his enemies’. To some extent he acts as Libby’s conscience and softens some of her harsher edges: ‘A good man whose love you do not deserve sits in a cold cell awaiting injustice…’

There are plenty of characters to get to know – from those that come from the ‘real’ world to those that don’t. Each is drawn brilliantly. Sat here at my computer I can absolutely picture Nicole, the interfering psychiatrist, as well as Carl the hot-shot lawyer and Libby’s philandering boss. But equally, I can also picture Shinar: ‘the most malevolent creature Rose Red had ever encountered and she would forever feel tainted and filthy’.

The novel is an action-packed exploration of good versus evil and its blend of realism and fantasy absolutely works. What a debut! One of my favourite reads of the year so far.

Get a copy on kindle NOW! It’s only £1.84 at the moment – an absolute bargain: The Sleeping Warrior

If yo’d rather have the book: The Sleeping Warrior