Book Review: ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon – A Threat From The Past’ by Paul Cude

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The first in the Bentwhistle the Dragon series of urban fantasy novels, this book is a wonderful blend of fantasy, mystery, adventure and suspense thriller. Dragons and magic abound in a parallel world that is complex and fascinating, and which remains full of surprises even for those who live there. 

Suitable for young adult and older audiences, the story explores important themes of friendship, ethics and personal integrity through the experiences of Peter Bentwhistle and his best friends, Richie and Tank. 

The characters are delightful, each with quirks and qualities that make them both likeable and relatable for human and dragon readers alike. The more sinister characters are similarly relatable, because we all know someone who is selfish or a bully. As the action rolls and the story develops, the reader is drawn deeper into the story and finds themselves very definitely on the side of the protagonists. The twists and surprises keep coming, right to the end of the book. 

Well-written and expertly constructed, this is a brilliant read.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins

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’The Binding’ is a tragic and compelling historical fantasy story of unlikely alliances, forbidden love, and the power of memories. The writing is beautiful and the story is superbly crafted. The narration by Carl Prekopp is a joy to listen to, as he gives life and voice to the characters and enchants the listener into feeling as though they are actually there as the events unfold. 

The story explores timeless themes including patriarchy and the abuse of power, particularly in terms of social class but also when it comes to the way society as a whole viewed same-sex relationships in the past. Because all of those prejudices still exist in society today, albeit to a lesser extent, the story is powerfully relevant. 

The characters, particularly Emmet and Alta, are developed so fully that the audience feels as though they know them intimately, which creates an emotional investment in their lives. This depth of feeling heightens the tensions of the complications and challenges they face, and makes the twists and revelations of the story more impactful. 

‘The Binding’ is available in ebook and novel as well as audio.

Book Review: 'The Promise of the Opal' by Lyra Shanti

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As full of mysticism as it is of mystery, ‘The Promise of the Opal ‘ is a vivid and sensual read that takes the reader to China and immerses them in a compelling love story that both blurs and crosses boundaries– of time, of gender, and of the laws that apply to the physical and spiritual worlds as we understand them. 

The characters are complex, interesting and relatable. Each struggles with questions of identity and belonging, and with feelings of inadequacy and failure, and each must wrestle with those issues as they discover confronting yet undeniable truths about themselves and each other. 

The writing is full of texture and sensory richness that brings the characters and settings — and their history — to life. The story unfolds seamlessly, deeply engaging the reader and making them feel as though they are present in the story. 

While the adult content in the story is tasteful and respectful, it is suitable for adult audiences only. 

This book delivers a fascinating story and a beautiful.reading experience.

Book Review: ‘Le Cirque de Magie’ by Marsha A Moore

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‘Le Cirque de Magie‘ is an excellent dark fantasy/paranormal romance novella set in a circus populated by both human and magical performers. 

The story gains momentum with the arrival of a mysterious new cast member who brings new complications to the show and, as the suspense builds, the reader becomes more invested in the safety of the central characters and the delivery of   justice to the antagonist. 

The characters are interesting and varied, and the story is well-developed, making a very enjoyable hour’s reading. 

Book Review: 'Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Collection of Spine Jingling Tales'

‘Christmas Australis’ is not your usual Christmas reading fare. Instead of fairy lights and tinsel, you’ll find shadows and dark corners, disreputable people, food that is not to be trusted and family secrets that are even darker than most. 

Introducing each story by means of a letter from The Epica adds another layer of mystery and darkness to the collection, while the distinctly Australian flavour of the stories adds a unique quality to the anthology that sets it apart from other Christmas collections.

This excellent anthology will certainly add a delicious dash of darkness to your Christmas reading.

‘Twelve Tales of Christmas’ by Cathleen Townsend

‘Twelve Tales of Christmas’ is a collection of fantasy and contemporary short stories with Christmas themes. Some of the stories are poignant, while others are lighthearted. The stories offer a good variety of themes, settings and characters, and each one delivers its own unique message to ponder. 

As with any collection, there were some stories I preferred over others, but I found them all to be enjoyable and interesting at the very least. 

This book would make great family or individual reading during December. 

Book Review: ‘The Grunch Who Stole Winter Solstice’ by Michael W. Huard

A dark fantasy short story set in a small island community, this can be read — like most fairy tales — as a as a story of heroism and commitment that enables one to face their fears for the greater good, but also on another level as a cautionary tale about the importance of following instructions and meeting one’s responsibilities.

The story is quite well written, although the language seemed a little stilted in places. This may well have been an intentional choice by the author in keeping with the old-fashioned narrative style of the fairy tale genre, but as Huard is an author that is new to this reader, it is hard to tell. It may simply be a matter of not yet being used to his writing style. 

The story is enjoyable and the challenges encountered by the characters certainly encourage the reader to engage in the action and hope for a positive outcome. The fact that not all characters survive is realistic in terms of both the fairy tale genre and real life. 

This book makes great December reading primarily for YA and older children, or for families to enjoy together.