Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman

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9780241373347

The Book of Dust Volume Two

Published: 3 October 2019

ISBN: 9780241373347

Imprint: Penguin and David Fickling Books

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 784

RRP: $32.99

Surely one of the most highly anticipated sequels ever – or was that just me? (I don’t think so!)

I wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t this – and I mean that in a very positive way. Where La Belle Sauvage was set ten years prior to His Dark Materials this continuation is set ten years after those events. Where La Belle Sauvage’s plot raced as furiously as the flood waters, this moves at a far slower pace which serves to build the intensity of the narrative in a completely compelling manner.  It is mammoth and complex and there are myriad intricacies to the plot which are far too numerous on which to expound in a review – nor would I want to.

Lyra is now a young woman and a college student, and like so many others of her own period and place as well as others, full of new ideas, questioning old beliefs and eager to make her mark. She and Pan not only have the ability to separate physically but have developed an ever widening gulf between their ways of thinking and their previously sympatico and loving connection to each other.

Strange and dangerous forces are threatening Lyra’s very existence beginning with inexplicable incidents such as the new Master of Jordan forcing her to relinquish her room and relegating her to the servants’ quarters, she and Pan witnessing a murder and the pursuit of the two by unknown malefactors. Of course, the CCD is no stranger in all of this but it appears that there is more afoot than just this body and the existing Magisterium. Almost it seems that ghosts from the past are returning to haunt her and her faithful companions. For Alice and Malcolm now reveal to her the history of the connection between all three of them and Lyra has much to contemplate.

But the story is not just the recount of events that are impacting on Lyra in a personal way. There are other sinister happenings which seem to have no connection such as the increasing scarcity of certain roses and the oil distilled from these, the significance of Dust in all of this and the ruthless uprisings of certain factions and persons.

When Pan decides to leave Lyra in his extreme unhappiness she realizes what is at stake and leaving aside all thoughts of her own safety she determines to find him again and along the way to discover the truth about the threats that are crowding in on her. The journey is fraught but Lyra discovers that there are supporters to be found in the most unlikely of places and it is with hope that she continues her mission, all the time growing more and more attached to Malcolm, who has undertaken his own part in the unravelling of mysteries.

Pullman concludes with such a mighty cliffhanger that it made me swear (I know! How unusual for me!) and once again I will have to curb my impatience to wait for the conclusion – sigh.

The master has done it again – and needs no recommendation from me – but if you are looking for your holiday read I would urge to take it up, you won’t be disappointed.

Pages & Co [Book 2]: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales – Anna James

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Harper Collins

September 2019

ISBN: 9780008229900

ISBN 10: 0008229902

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

Once more Tilly and Oskar are plunged into a whirl of adventure and mystery as their book-wandering travels continue. Their world and their families are in a state of flux as the British Underlibrary becomes embroiled in turmoil. The new Librarian Melville Underwood is decidedly sinister and unscrupulous and there is a veil of mystery about his long absence in the fairy tale world and the continued unknown whereabouts of his sister Decima.

When Tilly and Oskar visit Paris (and discover that Oskar is also a book-wanderer) they bravely venture into the fairy tale world and are dismayed by the instability of the stories there – large black abysses appearing in plots, various versions of the same story overlapping randomly and characters becoming lost. All this appears to be the work of some dark force and it seems that Tilly and Oskar are the ones to solve the problem and restore order.

This series is proving to be quite a delight with its fresh approach to plot and characters. Book lovers both young and old will relish the concept of becoming truly ‘present’ in the stories they read and will readily identify with Tilly’s favourites as well as being very cognizant of the ever-present dangers and villainous characters lurking in odd places. There are tense moments when ‘happy ever after’ seems elusive and there is no doubt that the evil characters are ruthless but Tilly and Oskar have proven their mettle already and will not rest until the fairy tale world is safe again.

My first readers to try out this series have been completely taken with it and I know they will be enthusiastically lining up for this second instalment. I highly recommend it for your kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

The Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times: #3 – Cressida Cowell

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9781444941470

Hachette

SEP 24, 2019 | 9781444941470 | RRP $19.99

Not strange at all – looking up and seeing three children clutching a magical flying door high above a forest. Well ok, perhaps a magical door flying is a tiny bit odd but not in a Cressida Cowell fantasy/adventure! Xar, Wish and little Bodkin are escaping their Warrior and Wizard families along with their faithful retinue of assorted sprites, enchanted objects, snowcats, Crusher the giant and of course, Caliburn, the raven who was once the great wizard Pentaglion. However, it’s not just their respective parents and their supporters pursuing them but far worse, the Witches who are hovering above them, unseen but with the worst of intentions.

When Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, sets the forest alight all manner of chaos results. The ragged and tired children are facing the grimmest of narrow escapes until they are unexpectedly rescued by a giant bear. Although the giant bear is not really a bear but is actually Caliburn’s sister whom they are hoping to find and with whom they are hoping to seek shelter.  Perdita and her talking owl advisor  Hoola may not at first appear the best of saviours but the assorted band of refugees are taken into Pook’s Hill, the school for gifted wizards and are able to re-group, as well as contemplate a possible traitor in their midst.

Xar and Wish have a mission. They are determined to find a way to rid their world of Witches – and most especially the Witch-King, who is trapped in an iron ball but always posing a threat. Their sojourn at Pook’s Hill is not lengthy but enough to fortify them and give them both some skills and confidence with which to control their respective magical powers.

In the meantime, Queen Sychorax and Encanzo, Xar’s father and head of the Wizards, must reconcile their past as star-crossed lovers and unite to rescue their children.

It’s complex, fascinating, enchanting and chockers with exciting adventure and creepy characters.  I absolutely adore Cressida’s ability to combine the scary with the humorous, the seriousness with the silliness and of course, her unique illustrations and funky fonts all combine to create a really unique reading experience. No wonder she was chosen as the newest Children’s Laureate UK!

There really is no need to ‘sell’ Cressida’s novels and any readers who have already raced through the first two books in this new series will be leaping to grab this next instalment.

Highly recommended for your readers from around 10 years upwards.

Malamander – Thomas Taylor

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Walker Books Australia

 

ISBN: 9781406386288

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

malamander

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]

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bookofthree

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

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Hachette

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

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ivypocket

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

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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

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/geis

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

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archie

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780571307418

Publisher: Faber

Imprint: Faber Children Pb

Pub Date: August 2016

$14.99

 

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

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

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 18.99

nightbird

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.