Tag Archives: magic

The Shadow Arts – Damien Love

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Bloomsbury

July 2021

Imprint: Rock the Boat

ISBN: 9780861540860

RRP: $14.99

A few months ago, Alex’s world changed forever. Now, just when it seems life is almost getting back to normal, his grandfather crashes back into the picture with grave news…Innocent lives –  even history itself – could be at stake.

Monstrous Devices was one of the most gripping and splendid debut novels I have ever read and I have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Let me say right now, it did not disappoint, and I have no qualms that any readers who have so far become engrossed in Alex’ adventures and the mystery of his grandfather, the tall man and the little girl and the battered tin robot will feel the same.

Like the first book this is a thrilling fantasy/adventure that is edgy and dark with some very unsettling evil villains and seriously creepy machines. I included the first in my pre-holiday book talking ‘best holiday reading picks’ to the Year 6 cohort and made sure I underlined that this is not a series for the faint-hearted or squeamish! Needless to say there was a clamour to be the one to borrow it – especially when I told them I had started this sequel and it was just as exciting. It is going to be such a pleasure to give this one a book talk when the new term starts.

Alex has been struggling to get back to ‘normal’ since the whirlwind adventure that blended ancient magical powers with chancy mechanized killing machines. His brief taste of the power that the mysterious tablet commands has taken hold of his thoughts and he has tried to learn to manipulate it. In a moment of danger, Alex’ grandfather re-appears, dapper and suave as ever, and once again the pair are off on a breakneck trip across Europe, this time to rescue their friend, Harry, unravel the mystery of the disappearing paintings and uncover the tall man’s plot to resurrect an ancient evil force. Their travels lead them to the depths of the Black Forest on the very eve of Walpurgis, and along the way Alex begins to piece together his family history, the true identity of the tall man, the connection of the little girl and most of all some of the strange and unfathomable secrets about his grandfather.

When his grandfather becomes unable to carry on, it is up to Alex to put together all the missing pieces, and harness all his powers to ensure the tall man’s plans, which could signal the end of the world as we know it, come to naught. In the process, he learns much about himself and his own resilience, not to mention empathy and intuition.

Beyond the reckless chases, the nimble escapes and the humorous interludes there is a deep theme throughout of the light and dark of human nature, the power of creation for good and evil and the wants and desires of those who seek power, of whatever kind.

Once again this is a triumph of well-crafted writing which will thoroughly captivate your readers from upper primary onwards. It will certainly be a book that your kiddos will want to debate and discuss post-reading so make sure you set time aside for that.

Highly recommended for readers from around 11/12 years upwards – but possibly not ones easily scared by flying sharp mechanical objects that are programmed to attack no matter what. I suggest you issue all loans with a sachet of table salt – just for good measure!

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759608
  • ISBN 10: 1460759605
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 22.99 AUD

Buttons three, attend to me!

Take me where I want to be!

Emily Rodda returns with her own special brand of sparkling magic inthis delightful new fantasy adventure. Milly Dynes has been a bit down in the dumps of late. She still loves living in Tidgy Bay, in the holiday park she and her dad have called home for six years but there seem to be problems surrounding her which sometimes make her wish she could escape. Things have been changing at home with Julie and a new baby sister to think of, her friends are all going away for the holidays, high school is looming and grumpy old Mrs Meaney have all been causing Milly some real anxiety.

Then on a cold and wet wintery day, when there is never an expectation of anyone wanting to rent a cabin, along comes Eliza Vanda with her sewing, her small brown mouse friend and assistant, Victor, and her amazing button tin. And just like that Milly also becomes an assistant and helper for Eliza, finding herself whisked away with Victor on some very magical adventures and meeting some very odd characters. This is no overly dramatic on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventure but a gentle and winsome one where small deeds ensure happy results to problems.

Your readers who revel in imaginative and feel-good stories will love this – who wouldn’t want to go on errands to places where unicorns, frog princes and other magical beings abound?

Very highly recommended for readers from middle primary upwards – it’s a delightful and highly enjoyable read.

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni

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Penguin Australia

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760897512
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

I’m going to have a lot of my secondary students clamoring for this one. They are huge fans of Noni’s previous books, both boys and girls and this is another intriguing dark fantasy (with some dystopian touches) thriller for them to enjoy.

Set in an infamous death prison, Zalindov, seventeen year old Kiva has survived ten years of imprisonment – not for any wrong-doing as such but because she was captured along with her father who was charged with consorting with rebels.

After her father’s death Kiva took up his role as healer, then only aged 12, and has become an indispensable but hated prisoner. Seen as the Warden’s pet and the first to deal with incoming criminals by treating them and carving the ‘Z’ into the back of their hand, Kiva is reviled by the other inmates and it is only the orders of Warden Rooke that keep her relatively safe and whole.

The warring factions in Kiva’s world, the royal family and the rebels, are intent on creating division and this extends to the prisoners as well. The rising tensions within and without the prison are causing increased pressure on Kiva’s work in the infirmary and her emotional balance, held in check for so long. When the Rebel Queen is captured, gravely ill, Kiva must try to save her for two different reasons. One is that the authorities have ordered the rebel leader to be well enough to undergo the Trials by Ordeal and the other is that coded messages from her siblings on the outside have begged her to keep the queen safe, that they are coming to rescue them both. The arrival of a strangely mysterious prisoner, Jaren, threatens to upset Kiva’s balance even more and when she, in desperation, volunteers to submit to the Trials in place of the still sick queen, she must lean on the young man for help to endure and survive. At the same time, she is trying to uncover the reason for the mystery illness that is wreaking havoc with the prisoners, who are dying in droves.

This is complex and exciting with many twists and turns. Astute readers will very easily be able to piece together the various pieces of the puzzle from the cleverly inserted clues within the narrative but this will in no way detract from a satisfying read. It is quite dark and there are concepts best suited to older and mature readers: drug use/addiction, torture and violence and sexual references but that being said, I don’t feel it would be necessary to restrict this to our senior students (we put a disclaimer inside the cover for books with more mature issues/concepts).

I have every confidence that this new trilogy will prove every bit as popular as The Medoran Chronicles and with the second volume due for release in September, fans will not have to wait too long.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 years upwards.

The Storm Keepers’ Battle: Storm Keeper Trilogy 3 – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2021

ISBN:9781526607966
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

I have loved this series from the very start! The premise is so fresh and different, and full of so many wonderful themes, characters and fabulous magic.

Fionn and the Arranmore islanders are under siege from the evil Morrigan, her heinous brothers and her army of SoulStalkers. Black Mountain looms ever more menacingly over the island, threatening all with total annihilation. As the new Stormkeeper, Fionn knows that it is up to him to find some solution but how to do it? His best plan is to find the ancient sorcerer of old, Dagda, but that seems like an impossible ask.

To his aid comes old Rose, who it seems has been hiding her true identity for long ages. She is Róisín, First and Fearless, who fought alongside the mighty Dagda in the battle against Morrigan years and years ago. She tells Fionn how to find the Whispering Tree and thus be led to Dagda, an adventure fraught with tension and danger in itself. To Fionn’s utter astonishment, though he finds Dagda in one sense, it is not so that the ancient sorcerer can come to the island’s aid once again. That it would seem is entirely up to Fionn, as he is pronounced the new sorcerer and the islanders’ sole hope for salvation.

Fionn must learn to control his magic (which is, to his immense surprise, powerful indeed), empower the islanders as Stormkeepers themselves, each to their own clan and wield this combined force to defeat the darkness that is so near to engulfing them. Losing both his friend, Shelby, and his sister, Tara, to Morrigan almost proves his undoing but he digs deep into his newly found magical strength and with the aid of the clans and Róisín, the overwhelming odds are reduced and Fionn is revealed as the great sorcerer Dagda predicted.

The ongoing themes of family, loyalty, tradition, self-belief and selflessness, with references to Irish legends woven throughout, make for a thrilling and marvelous narrative and I am only sorry that we have reached the end of this trilogy.

Readers with a love of high fantasy and thrilling action, both boys and girls, from around 10 years upwards will absolutely love this series and I highly recommend it to you as a remarkable addition to your collection.

Hollowpox: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. Nevermoor #3 – Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734418241 | RRP $17.99

Huzzah! It has finally arrived! We’ve all been waiting with great impatience but at last the next instalment is here. And what a corker it is! Not only is it gripping and full of new revelations but has most uncanny parallels to our current parlous circumstances.

Morrigan is looking forward to her new studies at Wunsoc and the delicious anticipation of her second Christmas in Nevermoor as well as many other delights but there is a dread development overtaking her adopted home.

As Morrigan is introduced to deeper studies as part of her Wondersmith training by virtue of insights into long-gone but carefully preserved lessons, a bizarre and deadly illness is infecting Nevermoor’s Wunimals. Normally peaceable and productive members of society, the affected Wunimals are becoming wild and vicious unnimals attacking without reason anything and anyone in their path and eventually succumbing into a sort of ‘hollow’ torpor losing all traces of their unique ‘wunimal-ness’.

As the mystery virus takes hold with more and more Wunimals becoming infected and causing grievous bodily harm and even deaths, the residents of Nevermoor become violently divided in their reactions. Some vociferous in their protests that the Wunimals one and all are a menace to society, some in complete denial that the illness exists while others work as hard as possible to find a cure and save all lives – sound familiar?

Morrigan begins to see that it is going to be up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox but doesn’t quite bargain on her arch-enemy Ezra, the disgraced and feared Wondersmith, being the one who will lead her to it – though by very convoluted and mysterious ways.

As the young Wondersmith grows in her mastery of the Wretched Arts she is able to see more, do more, achieve more and manipulate the world around her more and while she still faces dire challenges and dangers, as she weaves her wundrous way through each new obstacle until she attains success, she is able to attain success, despite all odds.

This is not simply a new adventure filled with thrilling and and tense episodes but a very revealing insight into human nature and an ‘en pointe’ comparison to much of the disparate, and often extreme, responses we have all witnessed in recent times.

Fans, young and old, will relish this latest in the lives and events of Nevermoor and Morrigan and, like me, will be unable to put it down until they are done. And immediately, we will all be waiting with bated breath until we are able to re-visit Nevermoor, Morrigan, Jupiter and Fen – along with all the other marvellous and rich characters we have all grown to love so much.

Naturally it needs no recommendation – most of those I know have had their copy on pre-order forever!!

Never and Forever: Wizards of Once #4 – Cressida Cowell

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Hachette Australia

SEP 22, 2020 | 9781444956627 | RRP $19.99

While it’s always sad when something wonderful, like this magical series, comes to an end it’s also exciting when the conclusion is so supremely satisfying. Just as she did with the magnificent How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell has combined exciting magic, with dangerous and thrilling adventure and a very healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humour with quirky and loveable characters.

Xar and Wish, those misfits in their respective families and very different worlds, are in the final chapter of their self-appointed mission to rid both Wizards and Warriors of the dreadful and destructive Witches. They must destroy the long-imprisoned Witch King and save their people, the magical creatures and, indeed, the Wildwoods and the world from total annihilation.

They have found the Spell-to-get-rid-of-Witches and now they have to track down the Cup of Second Chances, rescue poor little Squeezjoos as well as navigate the heinous Mine of Happiness, defeat the dread Tatzelwerm, deal with their irate parents, protect their companions, find their way to the Lake of the Lost – and a whole lot more.

How exciting for all the fans of this series that the film option has already been picked up by Dreamworks and given the success of the How toTrain Your Dragon franchise we can all expect this to be transformed as excitingly in their hands.

Of course it’s not just the magic and adventure that makes this such a wonderful read of a series. The themes of loyalty, diversity of characters, overcoming difficulties, resilience and ultimately the acceptance of differences are all very much a part of what makes this series such a stand-out.

If your readers have not yet caught onto this series, my best advice is start talking it up and do at least a ‘First Chapter’ read-aloud to hook them. They will be hungry for more without doubt!

My highest recommendation for another of the current Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate’s amazing creations that will capture the hearts of readers from around Upper Primary upwards.

The Lost Tide Warriors – Catherine Doyle

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9781408896907

Bloomsbury

September 2019

ISBN: 9781408896907
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Series: The Storm Keeper Trilogy

 

The first in this trilogy The Storm Keeper’s Island was a fantastic read and this sequel equally stacks up in the page-turning excitement department.

Fionn Boyle is now six months into his acknowledged role as the new Storm Keeper of Arranmore and is in the depths of despair. Despite his heritage as the true descendant of Hughie Rua, who was imbued with the magic of the legendary Dagda, powerful sorcerer of eons ago, not to mention the magic that crackles within his own grandfather, the old Storm Keeper, he cannot summon his own powers. And time is running out, as his frequent nightmares keep reminding him. The evil witch, Morrigan, is preparing to rise again and when her minions, the dreadful Soulstalkers, begin to swarm onto the island Fionn knows that the time for her resurrection is imminent. How can Fionn possibly fulfil his role as Storm Keeper and keep the island safe when he can’t even use his supposed magic?

But Fionn hasn’t yet realised that the overthrow of evil is not always the responsibility of just one hero. It is often the case that such success is the result of a coming together of community and family. With his friends, Sam and Shelby, in particular along with his family – Grandad, Mum and even Tara – and the combined strengths of the Arranmore islanders, Fionn can lead a strong defensive resistance to Morrigan and her followers, especially if they can secure Hughie Rua’s sacred shell, the Tide Summoner, and call the ferocious Merrows from the sea to their aid.

Once again Doyle has crafted a spell-binding narrative with many plot twists and thrilling episodes. These narratives put me in mind so strongly of both Alan Garner and Susan Cooper, both of whom took traditional legends of their locales and wove them effortlessly into contemporary fantasy-adventures.

I am completely in love with this series and look forward very much to the third. This comes with my highest recommendation for readers from around ten years upwards who relish exciting fantasy-adventures with very well defined characters and awfully nasty villains.

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror – Natasha Farrant/Lydia Corry

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Harper Collins

November 2019

ISBN: 9781788541152

ISBN 10: 1788541154

Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr – GB

List Price: 29.99 AUD

Whether you are looking for alternative princesses or fairy tales or just looking for a beautiful book for the Mighty Girls in your readership this stunning gift book ticks all the boxes.

When an enchantress prepares for a new princess’ naming day saying she promises to ensure that the new little girl will become an ‘excellent’ princess, she needs to determine what in fact that means.

According to some it’s clean fingernails, manners, being pretty and kind to animals but the enchantress feels it’s so much more than just that. Her magic mirror is really not that much help but she knows a way to solve that problem and shrinks the large mirror to a pocket-sized compact and so its adventures begin.

Picked up by the first princess and travelling through time, place and misadventure over centuries the mirror becomes an important talisman for a eight different girls, each with their own strengths and energetic personalities who demonstrate courage, intelligence, compassion and love with big hearts and a burning desire to live life to its very best whatever that may be.

When the mirror returns finally to the old enchantress both have learned something valuable and lasting and the new princess will undoubtedly benefit from their wisdom.

This is truly a beautiful book both to read and behold – the colourful illustrations lend a real insight into each different princess and the absolutely glorious binding will make it a treasure for any recipient.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… what makes a princess excellent?’ The enchantress’s mirror travels through time, from east to west, to find the answer. Reflected in it are princesses who refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient. These are girls determined to do the rescuing themselves. The Arabian princess of the desert protects her people from the king with the black and gold banner; Latin American Princess, Tica, takes a crocodile for a pet; a Scottish princess explores the high seas; African Princess, Abayome, puts empathy and kindness above being royal; and in a tower-block, Princess saves her precious community garden from the hands of greedy urban developers. {Publisiher}

Highly recommended for readers from 8 years upwards.

The City of Guardian Stones – Jacob Sager Weinstein

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stones

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406368864
Imprint: Walker
Release Date: November 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

In the first of the trilogy The City of Secret Rivers Hyacinth Hayward managed to thwart the plot to control the magical powers of the underground waters of London and also gain some inkling about her family’s role as protectors of that city’s magic. Now in the second instalment Hyacinth is again joined in another manically paced adventure by familiar characters Little Ben and Oaroboarus, that unflappable mute yet eloquent porcine master of disguise. When ancient stones begin to be stolen from all over London, Hyacinth realises that this is yet another plot. With new characters – some friends, some foes – introduced including Dasra (suspect grandson of Lady Roslyn), Inspector Beale, Hungerford a large and somewhat awkward stone lion, the Precious Man and his daughter Minnie Tickle, Hyacinth embarks on a race-against-time to retrieve the missing magical stones and restore the balance of a structured city.

With the same hysterical humour as the first as well as the thrilling and adventurous, if convoluted, journey across and under the city, Hyacinth begins to not only surmise more about her own family’s role but to make discoveries about herself, hitherto unsuspected. Certainly aspects of her practical ‘instruction’ by female family members over the years become both understandable and frankly, very useful.

Again Weinstein has combined the gangbusters narrative with much hidden and fascinating history about this famous city which will continue to appeal to those interested in history mysteries.  Once again the factual notes and photos that conclude the novel provide some intriguing background to the story.

I for one am very much looking forward to the final instalment in this highly entertaining trilogy and again I highly recommend it for able readers from around 8 years upwards.

His Name was Walter – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460756188

ISBN 10: 1460756185

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 23/07/2018

List Price: 22.99 AUD

Oh my gosh!

 

Yes, of course there will be more to say but really this book was so incredible it really did almost leave me speechless. Just when I think Emily Rodda cannot get any better (I mean, I just loved The Shop at Hooper’s Bend!) she comes up with something so extraordinary that it is hard to imagine how any person can be so very talented.

After their excursion bus breaks down on a lonely country road a history teacher and four children are forced to seek shelter in a strange old, once grand, house until they are rescued. The overwhelming atmosphere of the shabby half-ruined place is one of melancholy and malevolence.  When they accidentally discover a very beautiful hand-written and illustrated book in a secret drawer the mystery deepens. The allegorical fairytale written to tell the story of Walter and Sparrow drives Colin and Tara especially, as the most sensitive of the group, to seek the truth behind the story .  While they are all intrigued by the strangely vivid almost lifelike painted illustrations it is the story itself that envelops them and compels them to keep reading throughout the night.

Emily’s book within a book explores the themes of justice, loyalty, compassion and true love all cloaked in a tale filled with magic and murder, prophecies and promises and long-hidden secrets.

As the haunting tale of Walter and Sparrow unravels the children and their teacher are drawn into a poignant and forgotten history until they finally solve the puzzle and at last, though decades later, justice can be served.

What a treat this book is! I read the first three chapters to Year 5 last Friday and you could have heard a pin drop with all of them clamouring for more – fortunately they will get that!

If you haven’t yet added this to your shelves be sure to do so. I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.