Book Review: ‘Severn’ by S.E. Turner

Although ‘Severn’ is book 9 in The Kingdom of Durundal series, there is absolutely nothing repetitive or predictable about this book. The author has cleverly and covertly woven discreet threads of the earlier narrative into this story, concealing the intricacy of the narrative until the story carries the reader to the well-crafted moment of revelation in which the connections and relationships become clear and crystallise.

This is a tale of strength and survival, of brotherhood and friendship, and of death and destiny. Different narratives interweave and blend together, keeping the reader fully engaged in Severn’s story. It is an enthralling story which moves at an exciting pace and is very hard to put down once started.

The cast of characters are varied and vibrant, with powerful and relatable motivations and interests. The settings are portrayed so vividly that the reader can almost feel the snap of the wind in their face or the crackle of a fire as it burns.

Turner’s craft as an author is so finely honed that readers who are new to this series can easily read ‘Severn’ as a standalone, and then enjoy the earlier books in the series without having received significant spoilers.

‘Severn’ is a highly recommended read.

Book Review: ‘Arija and the Burning City’ by Zachary Chopchinski

The third book following ‘Webley and the World Machine’ and ‘Kip and the Grinders’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series  is another action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friends Kip and Ypsilon as they negotiate a most challenging world full of dark creatures and even darker intentions. 

Chopchinski yet again demonstrates his creativity and humour in his edgy writing, sassy dialogue, and the complexity of the settings and the creatures who inhabit them. This novel, while still full of adrenaline and suspense, also explores some of the characters’ personal issues and motivations, developing more maturity and thoughtfulness amongst the familiar snark and showmanship.

One distinct contrast to the first two books in the series is that there is some sexual content in this book that makes it less suitable for younger readers, and really making it an NA rather than YA novel.

A blend of steampunk and paranormal fantasy, ‘Kip and the Grinders’ is an original and suspenseful story that will keep readers intrigued and entertained.

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers’ by Wilkie Martin

The third novel in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series is just as entertaining and intriguing as the first and second.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers’ delivers another riotous mystery story while at the same time taking a more personal turn for both Inspector Hobbes and his sidekick, Andy. 

As always, Martin’s witty writing is highly entertaining and as engaging as the story itself.

This quirky and fun read provides yet another great escape from reality. 

Book Review: ‘Kip and the Grinders’ Hall of Doors Book 2 by Zachary Chopchinski

The sequel to ‘Webley and the World Machine’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series  is an action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friend Kip, a Dweller of Webley’s World Machine. 

This story is set in Taraveil, another of the worlds that lie beyond the doors in Webley’s Hall of Doors. Once again, Chopchinski’s world building is complex and detailed, full of fascinating technology and diverse, colourful characters. Rich sensory detail adds texture and dimension to the various settings and environments in the book, complementing the action, characters and complications of the story.

Snarky and confident, Adal and Arija meet their matches in Ypsilon and her Grinder compatriots. Through conflict, danger and the formation of unlikely alliances, the integrity and loyalty of each of the central characters is tested as the story progresses.

Just like Adal and Arija, Ypsilon, Sasha, Van and Masa are characters that young adult readers will relate to. They are strong and flawed, passionate and vulnerable, smart mouthed and profoundly loyal to their own.

Chopchinski’s writing is edgy and descriptive, in keeping with the story and the world in which it is set. The story moves at a good pace, keeping the reader and their imagination fully engaged.

‘Kip and the Grinders’ is fast paced, distinctly original steampunk fiction that demands to be finished once started.

Audiobook Review: Dragon School Books 1-5 by Sarah K.L. Wilson

‘Dragon School’ is outstanding YA fantasy adventure featuring Amel Leafbrought, a teenage girl beginning her career as a  dragon rider. 

Despite significant physical and social challenges, Amel demonstrates determination, integrity and resilience, presenting a really good role model for young people who often confront obstacles of one kind or another in achieving their goals. Her discovery of abilities that others do not have is a powerful element of Amel’s narrative, and serves as a strong encouragement for others who experience physical disabilities or limitations. 

Amel’s experiences of other people, whether peers, teachers or dragons, demonstrate important lessons about the importance of careful discernment about who should be trusted, and about the true nature of friendship. 

This series is highly original and well constructed. The story progresses at a very good pace, with plenty of adventure balanced by reflection and the development of friendships and connections between characters. The imagery is colourful and detailed, the characters diverse and varied, and the complications and problems they face are compelling. 

The world building is unique and interesting, featuring complex and thought-provoking social systems, detailed and thoughtful architecture, and geography quite unique to this world. 

The narration by Jigisha Patel, is clear and fluent, with excellent diction and expression, although there are a couple of minor errors. Her use of voice and tone to develop character and deliver the narrative results in a compelling story that is as engaging and enjoyable as Wilson’s writing. 

While there  are more episodes to follow, this audiobook ends with sufficient resolution to satisfy the audience, and a tantalising promise of more adventure to come.

Book Review: ‘Footprints In The Sand’ by Pam Lecky

The second in the Lucy Lawrence mystery series, this is a most intriguing story, full of twists and turns, and set in a most exotic location. From Nice to Cairo to Sakkara, the reader is taken on a journey of many discoveries — not all of them archaeological.

The characters are colourful and lively, each with personal motivations and interests that they tend to keep to themselves, adding layers of intrigue to the secrets and mysteries that Lucy finds awaiting her in Egypt.

It is clearly evident and most pleasing that the author has taken care to keep the characters and their actions consistent with the time and places in which the story is set.

The story is well-crafted and written in a style that is very easy to read. The narrative unfolds at a good pace, with enough suspects and red herrings to keep both Lucy and the authorities guessing and to ensure very little predictability. 

Audiobook Review: ‘The Blue Moon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery’ by Phyllis Entis

‘The Blue Moon Caper’ is a the fifth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

Like the earlier instalments in the series, the book does stand alone, but will deliver spoilers for the previous books. There is definite continuity, but also some new characters and settings, and some great twists, that help to keep the ongoing story interesting and engaging.

Tom Lennon’s narration is well paced and entertaining, making excellent use of voice and accent to differentiate between characters and animate and narrative. 

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ by Wilkie Martin

The sequel to Inspector Hobbes and the Blood, this is the second book in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ delivers an intriguing and unpredictable mystery story featuring the hapless Andy and the unflappable Inspector Hobbes as they investigate the circumstances of a wild animal killing a local farmer’s sheep. 

Of course, nothing is as straightforward as it might otherwise be, so the story develops into a much more complicated and unexpectedly bizarre case than either Hobbes or Andy are expecting. 

Martin’s writing is witty and easy to read, characterised by a lighthearted tone that is enriched by word play and “dad-joke humour”, and balanced by macabre scenes and some really lovely poignant moments. The story is very engaging, and carries the reader along at a very comfortable pace.

This quirky and fun read provides a great escape for the duration of the book, and the series is proving to be most enjoyable. 

Book Review: ‘The High Priest’s Daughter’ by Katie Cross

The third book in The Network Series of fantasy books for Young Adult readers, ‘The High Priest’s Daughter ’ is an action packed, suspenseful read that is very hard to put down once started. 

The characters, plot, settings and cultures  are highly original and well-crafted. This is a compelling tale of a battle between the powers of evil that threaten to destroy the world of Antebellum, and those who refuse to yield to the darkness. The story delivers tension and adrenaline in equal measure, and there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. 

This book and the series to which it belongs have a magic of their own that readers of magical fantasy will find most appealing. Highly recommended for YA and older readers. 

Book Review: ‘Gravity Hill’ by Greg Alldredge

This third book in the Helena Brandywine steampunk adventure series is packed with action and suspense as Helena fights to solve the puzzle of her parents’ disappearance and battle against the evil forces that have taken over San Francisco at the same time. 

In many ways, Helena is a woman ahead of her time, who shows that women can do anything they set their mind to. She is also flawed, which makes her more believable and relatable for the reader.

While this story is part of a longer overall narrative, there is sufficient resolution for this story to stand on its own merits. The book ends in a satisfying manner, and yet the teasers for the next story still make book 4 beckon most invitingly. 

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