Tag Archives: Fantasy

Malamander – Thomas Taylor


Walker Books Australia


ISBN: 9781406386288

May 2019
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99


Ok, so I’m a bit slow getting to this one (cue: moving house etc) but it is one not to be missed. Two orphans are brought together in the Grand Nautilus Hotel in a slightly odd town known as Eerie-on-Sea. Herbert Lemon is the Lost-and-Founder at said hotel but when a strange girl arrives in his Lost-and-Foundry closely pursued by a scary individual with a boat hook hand he is completely perplexed and at a loss.  But Herbie is adept and not one to be easily daunted – well, actually perhaps he is – but he can rise to the occasion. And rise he does, with gusto as he connects with Violet Parma who is the pursuant of the frightening Boat Hook Man. No one knows what happened to Violet’s parents who mysteriously disappeared from the hotel twelve years previously but it seems that their absence has something to do with the legendary myth of the Malamander – a fearsome sea monster with a hidden secret.

Herbie and Violet are not entirely sure of each other but as the narrative continues they become a formidable team facing strange and powerful opposition but also bolstered by surprising allies.

With regular notes of humour the pair manages to baffle their way through and against their unpleasant (to say the least) opponents in their mission to not only rescue the Malamander’s fabled egg but to uncover the truth about Violet’s parents.

This is essentially a fun read despite the odious villains and young readers from around 10 years upwards will thoroughly enjoy their expedition to Eerie-on-Sea. This is loaded with underlying themes of trust and self-belief and both Herbie and Violet are just thoroughly likeable characters, even as they act in not quite so likeable ways.


The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander [Usborne Modern Classics]



Harper Collins

October 2018

ISBN: 9781474943444

ISBN 10: 1474943446

Imprint: Usborne – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

Lloyd Alexander was one of America’s most loved and respected children’s authors winning the Newbery Medal in 1969 and U.S. National Book Awards in 1971 and 1982. His most famous work The Chronicles of Prydain series entranced readers of all ages. The Book of Three (1969) is the first in the series and well deserving of Usborne’s release in its modern classics series.

Taran is a young orphan who dreams of being a hero, while he labours on an isolated farm cared for by his guardians, Dallben the enchanter, and Coll, farmer and ex-soldier. While Taran is mostly charged with looking after Hen Wen, the oracular pig, he longs to be as mighty and famous as Gwydion, the High Prince of Prydain, of whom legends are still told.

When danger seems to be creeping closer in mysterious ways, Taran is instructed not to leave the farm but when Hen Wen escapes in terror he ignores his orders and follows her into the wilds of the forest. Thereafter he becomes embroiled in an escalating battle between good and evil encountering a very nasty sorceress, her young ward Eilonwy and a very odd minstrel called Fflewddur Fflam. Alexander drew upon Welsh legends to create his alternate history and much richness is to be found in this narrative of high adventure with its themes of trust, loyalty and self-sacrifice. Along the way as he repeatedly tests and proves himself, Taran reaches a point of realisation of just what is the most important aspect of his relatively ‘small’ life.

This is a fabulous read and holds up with all the freshness and inventive imagination of its original publication. For astute readers of around twelve years upwards this is just terrific and I will be certainly promoting it to my lovers of classic ‘great’ books.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow– Jessica Townsend




October 2017

9780734418074 | RRP $16.99

When you receive a proof copy of an upcoming debut novel about which the publisher says stuff like ‘sold by eight-way auction’ and ‘film rights pre-empted’ you can assume it’s going to be a cracker.

And it is that indeed. Written by Jessica Townsend (Sunshine Coast! Yay!) this is going to be a phenomenon and garner readers from young to old.

Morrigan is a cursed child. These children have been born on the Eventide of a new age and their curse is to die on the next Eventide of a new age.  For all her almost-eleven years Morrigan has lived with the cruel rejection of everyone around her including her family. But things are about to change for her in the most spectacular way. Finding herself at Bid Day where children who have completed prep school are sought after by education bidders, to be trained up in whatever calling, Morrigan is startled to receive bids of her own. Who on earth would bid on a cursed child?

Before this puzzle can progress further, Eventide is upon her and so is one of the bidders.  The flamboyant and charismatic Jupiter North appears at her home and after much debate with her family, whisks her away in the nick of time as they are chased by the Hunt of Dark and Shadow pursuing Morrigan, in expectation of her death.  Jupiter’s rescue takes Morrigan to Nevermoor where she is, for the first time in her life, made to feel welcome by many (but not all) and that she could have a purpose.

She is set to work to pass the trials required to become a member of the Wunder Society and this is a fraught experience for her in many ways, but always with the support of new friends.  Not all is well though. The mysterious Mr Jones (another of her initial bidders) keeps appearing at random, other trial contenders are contemptuous of her lack of skill and a nasty law enforcement agent is determined to oust her on grounds of being an illegal immigrant.

This is filled with humour, charm, love, despair, spookiness and good fun. Although it took me a week to get through it that was only because I was so tired each night I only managed a few chapters at a time. In holiday time it would have been consumed in one go.

 I have already been promoting it to my readers from around ten years up and even my big girls in Book Club are keen to get their hands on it.

Be warned – this is going to be a ‘must have’ and you would do well to make sure it’s on your shopping list.

Highly recommended for all readers from middle primary upwards!

Bring Me the Head of Ivy Pocket – Caleb Krisp



Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781408858721

Publisher: Bloomsbury UK

Imprint: Bloomsbury Child

May 2017

RRP $14.99

After two totally madcap and thrilling Ivy Pocket adventures, Caleb Krisp completes the trilogy with an equally exciting conclusion.

For those who have followed Ivy’s incredible and unbelievable exploits so far you may find this final instalment quite a lot darker than the first two. The many disparate threads of Ivy’s story begin to warp and weave into a flamboyant and sometimes frightening climax.

Watch the red herrings of Dumbleby, lunatic asylums, missing mothers, Locks, Miss Frost, Rebecca and Prospa all suddenly become fish in one net and combine to form the answer to Ivy’s lifelong question and her world of mental fantasies.

With a suitably vile villain – who is in fact Ivy’s grandmother (spoiler alert) – Ivy once more triumphs; this time for the final time.  Though one of the most irritating heroes of any tale, Ivy does have her endearing moments and her loyalty to those who show her kindness and love is undeniable.

With an ending that will satisfy any reader who wants justice done in their novels this can’t be missed.

In case you’ve missed out on these wild stories check them out here at Caleb Krisp’s website. The Q&A with the irrepressible Ivy is well worth the visit!

Highly recommended for Upper Primary readers of both genders.



Geis: A Matter of Life & Death – Alexis Deacon



Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781910620038
Imprint: NB NOBROW

Release Date: September 1, 2016

Australian RRP: $29.99
New Zealand RRP: $32.99

geis f ‎(genitive singular geisenominative plural geasa)

  1. a solemninjunction, especially of a magical kind, the infringement of which led to misfortune or even death
  2. atabuspell or prohibition


This is going to tick a lot of boxes for quite a number of your readers. Firstly, it is yet another sumptuous graphic novel I have had the pleasure of receiving recently. Secondly, it is supernatural AND historical AND fantasy.  Finally, it is the first in trilogy so readers who love the continuation of a saga will really go for it.

The matriarch chief/ruler of an island lies dying and has no natural heir.  She summons her strongest magic ever.

“One of you I will spare. For the rest I claim you all! Your hearts will beat to feed my magic, your bodies will be shells for my puppets and my slaves, your minds will be shattered and broken.”

Fifty souls are called in the night for a contest that will determine the one worthy of taking her place.  This is a trial like no other and begins the first task.

This is another first novel and I predict the start of an amazing career for Alexis who graduated in 2001 from the University of Brighton with a first class Honours in Illustration.

Definitely a name to watch – this is highly recommended for readers from Upper Primary onwards.



Archie Green and the Alchemist’s Curse – D. D. Everest



Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780571307418

Publisher: Faber

Imprint: Faber Children Pb

Pub Date: August 2016



Move over Harry, you have a rival for my affections! Somehow or other I missed the first book in this fabulous series (that will need to be redressed ASAP) but no matter, I was able to pick up the threads from the first well enough to thoroughly enjoy this volume.

And how could I possibly resist any magical story in which books and librarians feature so strongly? Well, that just wouldn’t happen at all!

Archie Greene found out he was from a magical family on his 12th birthday and since then he has been living with his aunt and uncle plus cousins in Oxford so that he can pursue his inherent apprenticeship working with magical books. Not only does he have a natural talent for the work which he is undertaking to learn but he has a rare gift. He is a book whisperer. He can hear and speak to books who often reveal secrets that others can have no hope of discovering.

When Archie’s younger cousin also embarks on his apprenticeship and steps up to receive his ‘fire mark’ from the mysterious Flame of Pharos which will denote his apprenticeship path, he and Archie as well as Bramble the older cousin surprisingly receive another mark. Two other apprentices also are branded in the same way. The five now carry the Golden Circle – the mark that has not been seen for 350 years and means that the children are the new ‘crop’ of original magic writers.  The whys and wherefores are the thread of the story and the plot untangles like a strange spell itself revealing hidden histories and uncovering truths.

D. D.Everest has provided readers with an alternate world which in every sense not only echoes the satisfaction we all had with HP books but at times eclipses this with highly original plot twists and characters.

I will be promoting this with vigour in my library just as soon as I can get hold of the first in the series. I predict that we may well need multiples as word spreads of the delights of this series.

Amazingly these are the author’s first forays into writing for children – check him out here.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards. Make sure you stock up!

Nightbird – Alice Hoffman



  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 208 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471124211 |
  • March 2015

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 18.99


Yes this one had remained incognito on the shelf for a long time and really I am sorry I did not read it sooner. If you have girls aged around 12 years and up this is the modern fairytale full of romance and magic to recommend to those who want a gentle and lyrical story about families, true love and ancient curses.

Teresa Jane Fowler known as ‘Twig’ because of her tree-climbing tendency lives in small-town Massachusetts with her mother, reputedly the most beautiful woman in the state, on their Pink apple orchard. She hasn’t always lived there although her mother grew up there. They used to live in New York City but when she was younger Twig and her mother moved back to the family home – arriving in the middle of the night with their secret.

Since their arrival her mother has turned the Pink apple orchard into a thriving business, Twig goes to school and hangs out in trees and both completely avoid social contact with other townsfolk in order to keep their secret safe.

But things are changing in their town of Sidwell. There are rumours of a monster lurking at nights, the local owls are under threat from a new development and some new neighbours move into the old witch’s cottage next door.

Despite her enforced isolation, Twig is drawn to the new girls next door, Julia and Agate, and they become her first real friends. But will this friendship to expose the long-hidden secret?  And there are other secrets arising from the past and the time of Agnes Early, the witch who first lived in Mourning Dove cottage.

Twig’s friendship with Julia encounters many obstacles not the least of which is Agate’s discovery of Twig’s family secret and its consequences.

As you can tell, I don’t want to give away too much but suffice to say this was a ‘one sitting’ read which kept me thoroughly engaged from start to finish.


The Dream Snatcher – Abi Elphinstone



  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 288 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471122682 |
  • February 2015


AU$ 14.99

NZ$ 16.99


So yesterday whilst doing some spring-cleaning in preparation for a new year, I picked up this wonderful first novel – and first in a planned series – which will entrance readers who are fans of the likes of J.K. Rowling or similar stories full of magic and wonderful characters.


I read this in one sitting, as it was engaging and fast paced. Elphinstone names Northern Lights (Pullman) as her own favourite novel and there are overtones of his work in this fabulous story.


Ten year old Moll Pecksniff has been raised by the gypsies believing she is a foundling and ‘outsider’. Her foster parents Oak (head of the clan) and his wife Mooshie have cared for her as their own and with her best friend Siddy, she has enjoyed an untrammelled freedom growing up in the Ancientwood.

Her only worry has been the recurring nightmare which has plagued her and led her to sleepwalk.


When her cob Jinx is stolen by the evil Skull and his gang, enemies who have long wanted to drive the gypsies from the Ancientwood Moll determines to retrieve her pony.   Brave but perhaps foolhardy, Moll’s brush with Skull’s dark clan heralds the unravelling of the meaning of her nightmare, the revelation of her past and the challenge of her quest.


With memorable characters, believable actions and a combination of old magic and dark sorcery, this is very like Rowan of Rin but with the tension taken up several notches.


I look forward to the second instalment due out this year. Do check out Abi Elphinstone’s website for a trailer and other information.


Highly recommended for readers 11 years and up.

PS – Some delightful ‘tweets’ with Abi have resulted in her link for teaching ideas (she is a teacher as well!) plus the promise of a forthcoming Q&A – watch this space!

How to Train Your Dragon #12: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Cressida Cowell



Hachette Australia

Imprint: Hodder Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781444916584

Publication date: Sep 2015

RRP: $19.95

Without doubt the How to Train Your Dragon series has been a runaway success with avid readers from all over the world eagerly anticipating each subsequent instalment. The Dreamworks franchise which produced the movies has only built on the huge popularity of the books.

When I speak of the reader fans, I’m not just talking about children here. For those of us who love dragons, nonsense, crazy characters and absurd humour these books are pure delight.

The latest in the series is How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury and once again Cressida Cowell  has provided us with a saga worthy of the Viking tradition as our intrepid hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third continues his quest to protect his people and their dragons in the face of the revolting and conniving Alvin the Treacherous.

You will no doubt remember the cliffhanger ending of the last episode when we were all left wondering if Hiccup truly was dead. But we all know that would be impossible – I mean to say, he’s the HERO! Yet his father Stoick the Vast and all his tribe saw him fall from the sky and believe that he is lost to them. Luckily that tenacious little Bog-Burglar Camicazi refuses to accept what would seem to be evidence and knows in her heart that Hiccup is alive and must be found. Not only must he be found he needs to get to the island of Tomorrow and be crowned the King of the Wilderwest. How can this happen when Alvin the Treacherous now holds all King’s Things.

As usual the adventure is full of twists and turns, danger and despair, surprises and secrets and above all, laugh-out-loud humour as we follow the exploits of all the characters we’ve come to know and love – or loathe!

Far be it from me to give away too much of the plot but suffice to say devotees will adore this book and Cressida’s quirky illustrations as much as ever.

Definitely a must for your shelves for adventurous readers from around ten years and up – read an excerpt here


A Week Without Tuesday (A Tuesday McGillyCuddy Adventure #2) – Angelica Banks




Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Series:A Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventure

Pub Date:May 2015

Page Extent:400

Format:Paperback –

RRP $15.99

Perhaps it’s because Tasmania is smallish, perhaps it’s because it’s coldish, perhaps it’s because it’s so beautiful, perhaps it’s because there is so much variety – whatever it is we seem to have some extremely talented creators come from our tiny island state.

This novel is my introduction to Angelica Banks aka Heather Rose and Danielle Woods as co-authors.  I had not seen the first in the series ‘Finding Serendipity’ but will be sure to seek it out now. Although I missed the first instalment I did not have much trouble picking up with characters and events from the past in this new adventure.

I found the plot refreshingly original and thoroughly engrossing. There are many descriptive passages which define the much used expression of ‘lyrical’.

Writers are going missing and then reappearing in weird places, sometimes injured or otherwise damaged. The public thinks it must be a mad kidnapping ploy by some crazy criminal/s but Tuesday, her author mother Serendipity and her dad Denis all surmise it is more likely to be that these authors are disappearing to ‘there’ that is, the place where authors’ stories are born and grow and flourish. And further, instead of returning home as usual when their story is completed, somehow they are ending up in the settings and plots of other stories.  Yes, it does sound a little confusing in the way I’ve just told it but when you read the book, it makes perfect sense :-).

Forbidden by Denis to write anything for fear they will also be caught up, Serendipity and Tuesday restrain themselves with much difficulty from putting pen to paper.  But stories have a way of catching up with those who must tell them and when Tuesday takes her delightful dog Baxterr to the park for a little walk and sees a special ‘story’ thread floating towards her; she knows she just has to take hold of it.

Tuesday is swept up into an adventure of huge proportions and must help The Librarian and The Gardener to take charge of the colliding story worlds. This she is able to do  but only after many complications involving Vivienne Small (heroine of Serendipity’s books), flying dogs, evil vercaka, the strange furred brother and sister, Tarquin and Harlequin as well as another writer of whom, no doubt, both we and Tuesday will see more – Blake Luckhurst.

I have no hesitation for recommending this highly to those readers, from around 10 years and up, who possess imagination and a creative spirit.