What a magnificent tale! Subtitled ‘Steampunk Snow Queen’ this was far, far more than a fairy tale retelling. It is a complex blend of Gaslamp fantasy, mystery, historical romance, and Shakespearean theatre that enchants and encompasses the audience, drawing them into the story and behind the scenes until there is no desire to escape.
The cast of characters is a varied and colourful as in any piece of theatre, their features, costumes and voices full of colour, texture and depth. Individually, they are lifelike and realistic; together, they generate a level of energy and drama that makes the audience feel as though they are right there in the scenes and events of the story.
A magical blend of beautiful writing and flawless narration, Ice and Embers is a masterpiece of storytelling.
‘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.
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.
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.
When I started book three of Rue Volley’s ‘13 Ways To Midnight’, I was in no way expecting the reality shift that this book delivered.
While Echo struggles with her perceptions and choices, the reader shares her sense that something is not quite right. As the truth unfolds, the reader realises just how cleverly this story is designed and crafted. Even so, nothing prepares the reader for the body slam of the ending.
Yet another great instalment in this spellbinding series.
‘Foul is Fair’ is a story that transports the reader from suburban normality deep into the land of the Fae, drawing them into a quest full of challenge, trials and very old magic. That these two worlds coexist and interact is a given, and any imbalance between them could be disastrous.
Well paced and full of action and adventure, this story is very engaging. The plot is original and unpredictable, delivering twists and challenges that build tension and drama but also call upon the protagonists to demonstrate both loyalty and ingenuity, and the ability to work together to achieve particular outcomes.
The characters are interesting and varied, each one having specific qualities that help their allies and hinder their opponents, so that every battle or challenge could, in fact, go either way. The two lead characters are not only engaging individuals, they also provide good role models for young readers, each exhibiting positive attitudes such as acceptance, inclusion, helpfulness, endurance and resilience.
Suitable for young adult and older readers, this is a ripping read that is really hard to put down.
The Recruit is an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.
‘The Recruit’ introduces the reader to Cassie, a teen who thinks her biggest problems are not getting along with her mother and not wanting a boyfriend when everyone else seems to. When Cassie is confronted by bigger problems that she hasn’t even realised existed in her life, she is launched on a journey of discovery that the reader follows with avid interest.
This story is really well written. The characters and dialogue are believable, and the story is packed with action, complications and heart-in-your-throat moments that make it hard to put down. Teen and YA readers will relate quite easily to Cassie, Kristen and Landon, and there’s certainly enough complexity and depth in the story to keep older readers engaged, too.
‘The Recruit’ tells a great story, but it also raises some really interesting and thought-provoking questions about the nature of evil, and the balance of good and evil in the world we live in. Readers are challenged to think beyond what they can see and reminded that appearances can be very deceiving.
As a reader who enjoys a variety of paranormal stories, I found this book to be an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.
‘The Recruit’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for excellence.
Find your copy here.
A highly original and entertaining YA read.
Far more interesting than an attack of mindless zombies, far more complicated than teen angst of not fitting in, and highly unique in its storyline and character development, ‘Through the Lichgate’ is an absolutely ripping read.
Adams has developed a really interesting premise and storyline in this first ‘Drama Club’ book. The reader is quickly drawn in by Thana’s singular perspective on life, and is absolutely hooked by the complication with which she is presented. She is complex and conflicted, which makes her highly relatable for teen readers, and older readers too, since we rarely actually lose our complexities or resolve all our conflicts as we age – we just get better at either disguising or dealing with them.
Thana is a strong female lead who will fight her own battles and stand up for what she believes is right in a world which doesn’t always agree with her standards or her choices. When she is faced with not just one almost impossible dilemma, but a whole series of them, the reader cannot help but hold their breath and cheer her on as the action unfolds.
I’m definitely keen to read more books in this series.
I’ve awarded ‘Through the Lichgate’ a Gold Acorn for excellence and originality.
Find your copy here.
A short read that is entirely unique and immensely satisfying.
‘Moonlight’ is a beautifully written fantasy story that starts out with a simple meeting of children, but soon becomes something much more enchanting and compelling.
Rose writes with eloquence that gives his story poetic qualities that lure the reader in as he seduces the imagination with his words. It’s almost impossible not to visualise the characters and settings as one reads.
The alternating perspectives of Tadao and Yuzuki give the story depth of insight which may not otherwise be possible to achieve in a short work, helping the reader to appreciate the strength of the bond between the characters and their determination to overcome the challenges they face.
This is a delightful short read that can be read in less than an hour, so it’s ideal for busy book lovers, as well as readers who simply want a taste of something different yet immensely satisfying.
I’ve awarded this book a Silver Acorn.
Find your copy here.
A well-written medieval-style fantasy adventure.
An exciting medieval-styled fantasy adventure, ‘The Royal Tournament’ is the story of Javen, a youth who represents his local area in the King’s Tournament. It’s a great story full of action and excitement, but it also carries weighty themes of family, loyalty, friendship, and tolerance that give the reader reasons to think and reflect.
‘The Royal Tournament’ is a great read for older children and young adults, and provides plenty of fodder for valuable discussions either as a family or in a classroom.
I really enjoyed this well-written short read, and have awarded it a Silver Acorn.
Get your copy here.