Tag Archives: fantasy

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, paperback novel, 228 pages, published by Chicken House in 2016.

The coastal town where Isabella lives is governed ruthlessly by a man that arrived from over the seas several decades earlier. He has banned travel away from the island, as well as through the forest to the interior of the island. Isabella longs to explore and map her island as her father had previously mapped foreign lands as a cartographer. When her best friend goes missing, presumed to have passed into the unknown territories beyond the forest, Isabella might just get her wish.

This was an easy and quick read with adventure, monsters, myths and a harsh dictator looking out only for himself. It didn’t take me long to get into the story, and I was intrigued by what or who could be beyond the town. It took longer to build up the characters and setting than I expected before getting to the adventuring, but I enjoyed getting to know everyone. The adventure was great, with conflict and action at a reasonable pace. I would have liked a little more explanation for why “The Banished” were banished in the first place, and how they had survived for so long. I also wondered how the Governor had come to be so powerful with such complete control over the town and its inhabitants. Still, the story was fun and entertaining.

Isabella was a plucky lead character; she was brave, determined and intelligent. I didn’t like Lupe nearly as much, but she did show moments of incredible courage under pressure. She was a good friend to Isabella, despite her usual self-involvement, and her relationship to the Governor. Pablo was rather surly, yet he had a soft spot for his old friend Isa, and was always looking out for her.

The pages of this novel were bordered with cartographical and nautical line drawings and symbols. It didn’t interfere with the text at all, though my eyes were often drawn to them as I read.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is suitable for upper primary and lower high school students.

 

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth, e-book, 178 pages, published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2014.

After her parents are killed in the terror attacks of 9/11, Honoria moves to the rural town, Arnn, with her brother, aunt and uncle. The town is bordered by a forest, known as Witchwood Hollow. Over the years many people have wandered into the woods never to return. The legend of the witch is well known about town. Soon after arrival, Honoria is introduced to the woods by a couple of kids from her new school, but instead of being afraid, she finds a kind of peace among the trees. Could the witch help her reunite with her parents or will she become trapped forever?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an easy and fast read which I really enjoyed. The story was appealing and intriguing, while the characters were interesting and well-written. There was an undertone of sadness throughout the story, with many of the characters experiencing the loss of a loved one, or being lost themselves.

This book is not about witchcraft per se, it is more about historical occurrences becoming an urban myth, and the way that such a myth is regarded by locals and newcomers to the area. The story centres on Honoria, and her experiences in Arnn and the woods in 2001. However, it is also about Lady Clifford, an immigrant new to the Arnn area during the 1600s, and another English immigrant, Albertine, who arrives in Arnn in 1850. Both of whom entered the woods never to return. I liked the way the story spanned across and entwined the stories and times of the three young women.

I felt sorry for Honoria, given the tragic loss of her parents. Her behaviour felt realistic for the situation. Something good for Honoria from the move to Arnn was her burgeoning friendship with her neighbour, Leon. Proximity brought them together, but a shared interest in local history and the legend of Witchwood Hollow strengthened their bond. I really liked everything about Leon, he was my favourite character.

Something I found a little odd in the story was the obsession with clothing brands. It was weird, and completely redundant to the story, so why emphasise their fashion choices?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is suitable for upper primary and high school students and is perfect for fantasy lovers.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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goldbreatherGuardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens, e-book, 176 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

After Liam’s father dies, his life begins to change, culminating in his mother remarrying and them leaving Dublin behind for a house in the country with his new step-father, Dr Parker. Liam is unhappy about these changes, but at least he meets some interesting people at the new house; the housekeeper Hannah and the gardener Michael. Liam is led to a dragon egg, and Michael instructs him on how to hatch it. Then Liam is set on a path to prove who he is and to help a distant fairytale kingdom right the wrongs of the past.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is a lovely, though sometimes sad, fantasy novel. Fairies, goblins, and even a troll are brought to life as Liam learns about the real fairy stories.

The story felt a little familiar; lonely boy discovers he is something more, passes trials to prove himself, fulfils destiny. Still, it was well written and entertaining, and I enjoyed it. I liked the old tale of the Guardian and the Prince, and the idea that somewhere dragons and men once lived happily side by side.

Michael was an especially intriguing character, surrounded by much mystery. He was my favourite, though I also liked Liam and Hannah. Liam had a lot going on in his life, and I think he would have really suffered had he not met Hannah and Michael when he did. I mostly felt sorry for his mum, marrying Dr Parker because he could provide for them. Dr Parker I disliked quite a lot. His scientific work using live dogs was awful, but I also hated the way he treated Liam. He was insensitive to the boy’s feelings whilst being derisive of Liam’s love for reading and map making. Dr Parker didn’t even try to listen or understand Liam.

As Guardian of the Gold Breathers is under 200 pages, it would be suitable for slower readers interested in fantasy, who might otherwise be daunted by a longer book. It’s also great for kids who like fairy tales and dragons.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle

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wondrousWondrous by Travis M. Riddle, e-book, 388 pages, expected publication on January 17th, 2017.

In an attempt to block out his parents’ arguing, nine year old Miles hops into bed and tries to go to sleep. When he opens his eyes, instead of being in his room, he is in a strange, damp forest, in a land that is being torn apart by civil war. Rompu is also being ravaged by an evil dragonish creature conjured from another world. Could Miles be the only one strong enough to defeat it?

There was virtually no introduction to this story. I would have preferred a little more background, and setting of the scene before diving into the fantasy world of Rompu. My impressions of the story  improved as I continued to read, and I came to really like it.

The characters were detailed and interesting. Each main character was meticulously described, and I felt like I got to know them all. Miles was a confused and complex child with some issues mostly stemming from his parents’ divorce and his grandmother’s death. His discomfort in Rompu is apparent, but he endeavours to be brave and to move forward into what must seem a terrifying experience for him. Mortimer and Jaselle were kindly characters with a bit of attitude, but it was Kriket that made me laugh the most!

There was a lot of action, some of it quite violent. At times, one action scene bled into another, moving so fast I felt like I wasn’t catching it all. Within the first two chapters alone, Miles had already been in several altercations, including two where some of the creatures were burnt. A few of these sequences contained confronting and graphic violence.

During the story, there would be scenes from Miles’ home life, before he ended up in Rompu. These scenes just flowed straight on from the rest of the story, and sometimes it took a moment for me to realise I was reading about a memory of Miles’, as there was nothing to separate the text between the scenes. I did get used to the way the scenes from Austin and from Rompu integrated, but I feel like a younger reader could become easily confused by the lack of distinction between the present and the past. I had a strong sense that Miles was simply having a rather vivid dream whilst trying to avoid the reality of his fighting parents.

I think a little polishing would transform Wondrous from great to awesome. Wondrous is suitable for upper primary through to high school students.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Nobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor

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1stkingdomcoverNobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor, paperback novel, 248 pages, published by This Story is Mine Publishing in 2016.

The First Kingdom is the second book in the Nobody’s Story series. This book follows on from The Golden Locket, which saw Stephanie, and her cat, Angel, arrive in the land of Metilia after opening her locket for the first time. Now the Familian Princes have arrived in Metilia purporting to want peace between the nations. Whilst Princess Stephanie and her friends are showing the Princes around Yorkyin Land, Stephanie suddenly disappears seemingly into thin air. She finds herself alone in a strange and unknown land. Her journey home is full of danger, excitement and new friends.

I was super excited when The First Kingdom arrived! It had been a long wait, and I was looking forward to a trip into Metilia. It seems first I had to visit with those awful Familian princes, Kirk, Joel and Nathaniel. They are such a scheming lot. Then back to Metilia and beyond, a beautiful country full of talking animals, Princes and adventures. Within this book, you will find clans of big cats and wolves, mysterious strangers, kidnapping witches, giants, exciting new lands to explore and even a dragon!

This fantasy novel is beautifully written with witty characters and an exciting plot. I really enjoyed learning the history of Artinear and Metilia through Zanir’s teachings. Mayor has created a fantasy world rich in culture and history, with many layers still yet to be unravelled. The landscapes are stunning, and the inhabitants intricately described. It was quite eye-opening to visit Camtra and Famila, two countries that are very different from Metilia!

I really loved the new characters, Zanir and Icha. The sly fox, Icha, was particularly funny, while his two little kits were very cute. Zanir was more serious, but still had her moments of humour, and I enjoyed the conversations she had with Stephanie while they travelled. The skirmishes between Angel and Chitchat also made me laugh a lot. Deep down, the feisty cat, Angel really adores Chitchat, despite his squirrelyness, I’m sure of it! Angel generally makes me smile with her sassy attitude and her dislike of all things princely, her fierce loyalty and love for Stephanie and her ability to sleep at the drop of a hat. She was rivalled by the newcomer, Zanir, who also becomes dedicated to protecting Stephanie. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship Zanir and Angel will develop in the future.

The chapter titles gave me a kick. There were some great puns there, which made me snort-laugh more than once!

The First Kingdom is suitable for middle and upper primary through to high school students, and will appeal to anyone interested in fantasy and adventure. I was ripping along through this book, but I forced myself to put it down, as I just didn’t want it to end yet. Oh, the wait for the next book will be too long…. but it will be oh so exciting when it’s here!

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Megan’s Brood by Roy Burdine

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megansbroodcoverMegan’s Brood by Roy Burdine and illustrated by Shawn McManus, paperback, 105 pages, published in 2016.

At the start of summer, Megan and her parents moved into a new house, leaving their old home, her school and friends. Megan is not at all happy about the move, but things look up when she discovers a clutch of strange eggs residing in a crack in the wall of her attic bedroom. After watching and waiting for weeks, the eggs hatch revealing a motley crew of small imp-like creatures, each with it’s own distinct look. Megan treats them like her babies, but as they grow some disturbing and unique abilities appear among them.

Megan’s Brood is a quick fantasy read that I knocked over in one session. The pace was good, and the plot interesting. I think I would have freaked out if I located a pulsating, luminescent cocoon in my room, but Megan takes it pretty well. She really cares for the strange little creatures that hatch, attaching to her like chicks to a mother hen. They reminded me of a cross between gremlins and imps, though some were cuter than others. I liked that they were different, and developed various abilities, such as fire-breathing or colour changing. However, I would try very hard not to upset the little fella that uses sulfur as a defense mechanism, euwww!

Each chapter began with a lovely black and white full page illustration. Other pictures were distributed throughout the story, all of which are very nice. I like how Megan is portrayed, just how she is described. The last picture was a bit scary though!

The format and length suggests chapter book, yet I found this incongruous with the characters and storyline. Megan is about to enter year seven, along with her new friends Cutter and Casper, which makes them older by several years than the characters I normally encounter in chapter books. Megan is a teen (or close to) and does things that teens do, suck as thinking about Cutter being her boyfriend, going to a party, and reading horror novels. I don’t think these are things that kids reading chapter books are up to yet. Some elements of the story are also more suitable for an older or more mature audience, such as the deaths of some of the little creatures and the disturbing nature of a few of them. So, I think Megan’s Brood is more of a short novel for kids from upper primary school to lower high school. It may be well suited to older reluctant readers as well, as it has short chapters, broken by the occasional black and white illustration.

I did enjoy this fast fantasy read, and I will be giving it to my fourth grader to read now. Megan’s Brood is the first book in a great new series, with the second book, Megan’s Brood and the Old One coming soon.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Ruined by Amy Tintera

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ruinedcoverRuined by Amy Tintera, paperback novel, 355 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

Em is a Ruined without magic, considered useless by her people, and inadequate to rule Ruina after her parents. However, she has other talents which come to fore when her parents are murdered, her sister kidnapped and her home burnt to the ground. With the help of a few faithful friends, Em seeks her revenge by infiltrating the enemy’s castle to bring about their destruction. She doesn’t count on feeling anything but hatred for the Prince of Lera, but sometimes things just don’t go to plan.

I read a sneak peek of Ruined at Epic Reads, and then went straight out and bought myself a copy. I was completely intrigued and simply had to read the rest of Em’s story. I was not disappointed. It has magic, royals, action, fantasy, deception and romance. Sure, it had some similar elements to books such as Red Queen, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Selection, but I never get sick of reading this sort of young adult fiction, especially those with a strong female lead. I also really enjoyed the battle and fight scenes. It was good to find a book that didn’t skimp on epic sword battles and bloodshed.

The world in which Em and Cas live seems to be split into four kingdoms, though I was a little confused as to the physical locations of them in relation to eachother. There was a brief description of where they lay, but I could have done with a little map for reference. I like a visual of new worlds, but overall it didn’t matter that much. It was much more important to know that Lera was attempting to conquer everyone else. It also wasn’t clear exactly why the Lera King was so hellbent on destroying all the Ruined. There didn’t seem to be a precipitating cause, just that of fear of what they might do, which is a ridiculous reason for extermination, but one that is not unprecedented in our own history, minus the magical ability of course. These were my only real complaints about the book, but perhaps more will be revealed in the next book.

The story was fast-paced and I appreciated all the action. It kept me flipping pages quickly right to the end. The romance was nice too, slowing building, both of them being unsure, but love can conquer anything, right? Nothing too racy either, so still good for younger readers. I liked learning about some of the politics too, and about how the kingdoms viewed one another.

I actually really liked both Em and Cas. Em was so determined to get her revenge and find her sister when she started out, but she developed some doubts as she got to know Cas. She softened and matured as the story progressed. Casimir also matured greatly through the story. He just didn’t take enough interest in what was going on between the kingdoms before Em came into his life. He trusted his parents, and what they were doing to protect the kingdom. Most children believe completely in their parents, and it can be difficult to accept that they may not be everything the child thinks they are. He was beginning to question some of his parents’ methods when dealing with the Ruined, but without Em, perhaps he would never have been brave enough to speak up and oppose them. His parents were quite cruel in many ways, and I didn’t like them. I also never liked Jovita, Cas’ cousin, she just seemed so sly all the time.

Ruined is suitable for high school students, and is the first book in a trilogy. I can’t wait for book two!

Deathcat Sally by P.S. Brooks

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Layout 1Deathcat Sally by P.S. Brooks, 387 pages, published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie in 2015.

After hitting a cat in the road, Sally is also struck down and seriously injured. Still recovering from her injuries several weeks later, her life takes a bizarre turn when the cat she hit appears as an ethereal presence sprouting from her left shoulder. And he talks, a lot. Now Sally can hear other animals too, maybe it’s the effects of the accident and the medication, but it seems terribly real. Things get even worse when she keeps falling asleep straight into a desolate and ruined land where beasts lurk trying to kill her.

This fantasy horror tale was intriguing and difficult to put down. I’ve never read a book where an animal spirit was spliced to a human before, so I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but this was more than I could have hoped for. Interesting, engaging, and it discussed issues such as cruelty to animals and humanity’s misuse of the environment. It was quite dark overall. Tortured animals, trapped souls, anger and hate. It gave me a lot to think about. I’m quite fond of animals, and I would never intentionally hurt one, but this book made me wonder what more I can do to help the animals. All animals are important to the earth, we should remember that more often and make sure to look after the ones we have left.

The pace of the story was quite quick, and I liked the writing style. I also liked the action scenes, especially the one on the platform over the fire pit and in the coliseum. The latter was rather gruesome, definitely fodder for nightmares!  The author used good descriptive language to really pull the reader into No Man’s Land. Picturing such desolation and destruction, and the pain and anger of its inhabitants was terribly depressing. Yet I had to read on because I was so sure Sally and Zachary would find a way to help all of those souls trapped there.

There were so many animal characters I found myself a little confused as to which was which. I had to re-read bits with the animals to try and get them straight, but still didn’t quite manage it. The main characters were very well written and developed. I got to know Sally and Zachary quite well. Zachary was by far my favourite character. He was not impressed to find himself attached to Sally, and he makes sure she knows it. He was loud, rude, and often lewd, yet he had tender moments too. He made me laugh a lot. His total obsession with Malibu the leopard, despite her rebuffs, highlighted his persistence and self-confidence. Such a wonderful character; I will remember him for a long time.

There are a some black and white illustrations scattered through the book, all of which were very good. The images were done by the author, who is very talented. I love his style of illustration.

Due to some of the grisly scenes and themes, Deathcat Sally is more suited to mature readers in high school. It is a great book for adults too.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The One by Kiera Cass

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theonecoverThe One by Kiera Cass, hardback novel, 323 pages, published by HarperTeen in 2014.

There’s only four girls left vying for Maxon’s heart. It seems obvious that he prefers America, but his father is not impressed with this choice. And so The Selection continues. There are more tasks for the girls to complete, and more uncertainty as to where Maxon’s affections truly lie. As the rebel activity increases, so too does security, with the whole of the palace restricted to staying indoors, placing even more pressure on the girls. America isn’t really one to conform, but will her

The One is the third novel in The Selection series. It is a light entertaining read that I knocked over quite quickly. It is dystopian romance crossed with reality TV dating. This series is much heavier on the romance than I often read, but I found it to be engaging. There was more action in this book than the previous ones, which was great. While the plot was easy enough to follow, it was solidly written, and there were some good twists.

As the series has progressed, Maxon and America have developed significantly as characters, and for the better. They are more complex now and I have come to like them a lot. America is loyal and passionate, though a little indecisive when it comes to Maxon and Aspen. Mind you, so much of her indecision was fueled by Maxon continuing to spend time with and even to kiss the other girls. They both spent time hedging their bets, which was a little frustrating! Maxon has grown on me immensely. He seems much more real now than at the beginning of the series.

This was my favourite of The Selection books so far, as it explored the rebels situation more thoroughly. We learnt more about the two factions, the Northern and the Southern rebels, and their differing goals. I had been wondering why these groups were attacking the palace, and what their ultimate aims were, especially the Northern rebels. They were attacking, but not killing, so what were they after? After learning more about Gregory Illea in the second book, I wondered how much of the real story did Maxon know and what might he do with such information. Finally some of these questions were answered.

The One is suitable for high school students. I recommend you read the first two novels in the series (The Selection and The Elite) before this one.  There are more books in the series that I am looking forward to reading soon.