Book Review: ‘The Herbalist’s Daughter’ by Jeanette O’Hagan

Find your copy here.

This charming and delightful story focuses on Anna, nurserymaid at the palace and daughter of the local herbalist. The misery of feeling less attractive than others and of being not quite fulfilled in life imakes Anna a character that many readers will easily relate to. Despite her own perceptions of her shortcomings, Anna is a good-hearted and honourable young woman who does her job well. 

While there are moments of doubt and events that threaten Anna’s safety, the overall tone of the story is warm and lighthearted. It is a quick read that very effectively delivers an important message: others often see more value or beauty in us than we perceive in ourselves. 

’The Herbalist’s Daughter’ will appeal to readers of young adult fantasy, fairytale and romance.

Book Review: ‘The Perilous In-Between’ by Cortney Pearson

This is an intriguing steampunk mystery novel which immerses the readers in the world of Chuzzlewit and embeds them in the lives of its residents. 

It begins as a story of adventure and danger, and develops into a personal quest for the characters to solve the mystery behind the monster that holds their very existence in its hands. It explores the ways in which different people respond to adversity and conflict, and questions how those in a position of power use and abuse it. 

The story is very well written and very entertaining. The world building is more complex and thought-provoking than it first appears to be, and the nature of the Monster known as the Kreak is fascinating. 

The town of Chuzzlewit is populated with a varied cast of engaging and interesting characters, and the central characters are relatable in their motivations, responses and interactions with one another. Victoria, as the lead character, is an independent thinker, a problem solver, and stands up for what is right over what is easy. Her dilemmas are complex and the difficult choices she has to make remind the reader that it is the right of each individual to choose their path and shape their own reality from the choices offered to them in life, but also that those choices cannot be made in isolation from one’s responsibility to others or the society in which they live.

Book Review: ‘The King’s Traitor’ by Jeff Wheeler

Third in the KingFountain series, this book continues the story of Owen Kiskaddon and his life as A duke and advisor to King Severn of Ceredigion.  Once again, there is good continuity in the storyline and the central characters, with new complications and personalities entering the narrative as the plot develops. 

The story is beautifully told. The world building and characterisation are rich and complex, bringing the kingdoms and settings to life and populating them with engaging, relatable characters who the reader comes to know intimately.  Even those who belong to the upper echelons of society are shown to have very real concerns and inner conflicts with which they must wrestle. The ways in which different characters resolve those issues reflect the best and the worst of human nature, pitting good and evil against one another in a very personal way. 

As with the previous books in the series, there are connections between this story and the popularised version of the life and personality of Richard III which are clearly discernible, although this story focuses far more on Owen than it does on King Severn. The story maintains an original and unique plot that sets it apart from those events and distinguishes it as as an outstanding work of fantasy rather than historical fiction.  

This book and the series to which it belongs are most excellent, and will please all lovers of epic sword and sorcery fantasy books.    

Book Review: ‘Fight Like A Woman’ by J.S. Frankel

A story of resistance, resilience and loyalty, this is a book for the persecuted, the exploited and the downtrodden. It is a story in which brains overcome brawn and integrity is valued more than power.

Kyle Sorton is a classic underdog character, highly relatable for anyone who has struggled with mediocrity or a lack of opportunities to discover their potential. The tenacity and self-assurance of Rinarra and Merat make them powerful contrasts for Kyle, yet he surprises himself by proving to be their equal in resourcefulness and instinct. That the three of them overcome their challenges by working together and sharing their knowledge and abilities is a powerful reminder that we are stronger together than alone, and that a loyal team can achieve far more in cooperation than they could if the members were to work independently of one another..

The plot is intriguing and highly engaging, and the world building is excellent. There is enough that is familiar to the reader for them to feel sufficiently oriented and grounded, but enough that is different for them to be fascinated by the qualities of the world and culture in which they are immersed.

The unique circumstances in which Kyle finds himself are treated with sensitivity and a sense of natural curiosity, making him a central character who will endear himself to those readers who have questioned and explored their own questions of self, gender and identity, even though Kyle’s situation and the reasons for his questioning are bound to be somewhat different than their own.

This is a most excellent read.

‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ by Jeffery Cook and Kathleen Perkins

As unpleasant as the experiences may be, it is often when experiencing persecution or encountering conflict that people make surprising discoveries about themselves.

That is absolutely the case for Rae Schwarz when she discovers that there is much more to her life than homework, preparing for Halloween and avoiding the school bully. What ensues is a story of resilience, friendship, loyalty, discovering new talents and looking beyond the surface to recognise what is hidden underneath.

This story is refreshing and original, written with a very comfortable style and personal tone that makes it very relatable and highly engaging. The characters are interesting and varied, each complementing the others in ways that are not immediately obvious to the reader at the outset, and demonstrating the it is entirely possible to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. 

A book laden with positive messages and values, ‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ demonstrates a profound acceptance of differences and individuality and encourages the reader to recognise their own unique combinations of personality, ability and talent, and to learn to see others in the same way. 

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining story, written for a YA audience but suitable and appealing for all ages. 

Book Review: ‘The Thief’s Daughter’ by Jeff Wheeler

Sequel to ‘The Queen’s Poisoner’ in the KingFountain series, this book continues the story of Owen Kiskaddon and his life as a one of King Severn’s most trusted advisors.

Many of the same central characters feature alongside some entirely new ones, who add new dimensions and qualities to the story.

Time has passed, naturally, and Owen has grown from the child hostage and stranger in the royal court into a man, rewarded with a Duchy for his loyalty, and charged with the duty of serving the king and protecting those closest to him. 

It is a magnificent and epic fantasy story, enriched with magic, deeply involving the reader in both the personal lives of the central characters the fate of the kingdom of Ceredigion, a kingdom that is richly and intricately detailed to the point where it seems real. The reader gains a deeper understanding of the complexities of the problems that face the king, fully aware as he is of the reasons why many distrust and fear him, yet also strongly motivated by his sincere love and concern for his kingdom and subjects. 

Although the connections between this story and the elements of English history during The Wars of the Roses, particularly the life and personality of Richard III, are clearly discernible, the story maintains an original and unique plot that sets it apart from those events and ensures its distinction as a fine work of fantasy rather than historical fiction.  

This book delivers a rich and deeply involving story that captivates the reader. It is difficult to put the book down once started, and as the momentum of the story builds, the story becomes even more compelling. It really is a most excellent read.    

The Thief’s Daughter has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘Josie’ by Susan Lowe and Diane Iverson

‘Josie’ is the true story of a young German girl who endured the family’s expulsion from their home in Glogon, now Glogonj in Serbia, after Workd War II, and the horrors of persecution and imprisonment. 

Written from a child’s perspective, the story is told in a straightforward but very personal way, so that the reader develops a strong sense of empathy and connection with Josie, taking on her emotions and feeling the tension of key moments in the story quite profoundly. 

While Josie’s experiences are neither sanitised nor glossed over, her story is  encouraging and positive, a powerful testimony to the importance of love, hope, and family connections in a world that so often seemed to Josie to be full of hatred and violence. 

A suitable read for teens and adults, ‘Josie’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.