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This Land: The Search for Maui Bk 1 by Mark Abnett, art work by P.R. Dedlis. Pub Scholastic 2022.

October 20, 2022 Comments off

This first book of a three part series is a compilation of three comics. The old World has been destroyed and replaced by new lands with new people all with different characteristics from the old but influenced by the same old Gods.

The plot is set in the new land dominated by the city of Axeland whose people have withstood a fever and evolved to new lifestyles and tribes. Tane returns to the new Aotearoa and is arrested. Hell’na a beautiful goddess like creature rescues Tane then forms a band of mercenaries to search for Maui who seems to hold the key to everything.

The group travels through the new land which still has some landmarks of the old world like Waitomo Caves. But this group are followed by another band trying to find Tane. Very confusing I know.

Graphic novels are an ideal way to show Maori gods and legends but somehow this novel seems to complicate matters that baffle even an experienced reader like myself. This series seems to be directed at intermediate and junior secondary readers and I wish them well at figuring this lot out.

The illustrations are of course outstanding and the banter between the various warriors is entertaining. The dialogue and text is sprinkled with Maori words and all translated but if I am confused heaven knows how the kids will get on.

The 156-storey treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. Pub. MacMillan, 2022

September 23, 2022 Comments off

It had to happen, Andy and Terry’s treehouse now has another 13 storeys and this isn’t the end of the matter as 169 Storey Treehouse is planned.

This episode is about Xmas and the usual scenario of exploring the new 13 added storeys of which the best is the one inhabited by Quizzy the quizzical.

When Santa Claus crashes into the treehouse and his reindeer are caught up in the branches, Xmas is threatened. Then to make matters worse Santa falls into a cloning machine and there are Santas all over the place. Which one is the true Santa? Well having a quiz is a good way but will this reveal the true Santa? read it and find out.

The usual bag of madness and mayhem is superbly illustrated by Terry Denton and half the fun of reading these stories is looking at the illustrations. Then there are the observed public holidays of which “underpants on the head” day is my favourite.

Sure to be a favourite of reluctant readers especially boys but girls have a heroine with Jill. Don’t miss this it may be the second to last with 13 to the power of 2 a likely end. The Santas having an hilarious belly fight is a highlight of this novel.

The Smidgens Crash Land by David O’Connell. Illus. Seb Burnett. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

September 3, 2022 Comments off

A Smidgen is a small human like creature, no more than 7 centimeters tall and they live in the spaces that humans don’t know about and their culture is much like ours. Smidgens keep their existence secret and there are two clans of known Smidgens and a suspected third clan.

This is the second book in an easy to read, short chapter adventure story.

Gafferty Sprout is a risk taking adventurous girl who in the first book acquired a knife made from the shard of the Mirror of Trokanis, a magic mirror that has powers to keep away ghosts for one thing. humans and other Smidgens know about it and want it.

When a rascal of a Smidgen, Crumpeck, steals the magic knife and sets out to find the suspected third Smidgen clan in a golf course the action starts. Gafferty and her friend Will set after Crupeck in the human world where there are cats and other dangerous things to contend with. Will they be successful? Read it and see.

Well illustrated by Seb Burnett, the cat is a gem.

Not the last from this series. Appealling characters and good values. Lots of adventure.

Neon’s Secret Universe by Sibeal Pounder, illus. by Sarah Warburton. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

August 26, 2022 Comments off

This is the latest big thing from the UK and is designed to lure your reluctant juniors into reading. Good stuff.

Neon Gallup is three days short of her tenth birthday when her parents decide to their lives and neon’s by moving from Paris to Bunty somewhere in America and open a restaurant called Rats. Rats actually come up quite frequently in this story there is even a ghost rat. Neon is reluctant to go, she is going through an identity crisis and has decided to dress only in black and get away from colours.

Things change when she sees a strange mark on the window sill of her new bedroom and inside the cubby hole it conceals she finds a lipstick container which when used on the wall of her room, opens a portal into a magic world of unicorns.

The lipstick is the only key to this magic world which is colourful and is inhabited by unicorns which are nothing like the variety that the world knows. neon meets a friendly unicorn called Moya who shows her the ropes in this new world. But she cannot leave and is set a task that will change her attitudes and life.

Easy to read with a map of the Secret Universe of the unicorns. Check it out and see it will broaden your imagination.

The Golden Swift by Lev Grossman. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

August 18, 2022 Comments off

This highly imaginative ecological fantasy is the sequel to The Silver Arrow which is also reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The Silver arrow is a train which can communicate with humans with artificial intelligence and travel all over the world on secret railway lines which even go through the air. The train is controlled by The Great Secret Intercontinental Railway and was given to 10 year old Tom and 12 year old Kate for Kate’s birthday by their uncle Herbert who is a billionaire with ecological interests in endangered animals.

Uncle Herbert has disappeared and a new state of the art train called the Golden Swift has appeared as a rival to the Silver Arrow and controlled by a boy from Kates class called Jake and his friend Wren. They too are saving animals especially the Scottish Lynx which disappeared from Scotland centuries ago. They want to reestablish the ecological balance by returning the lynx to Scotland but is this a wise thing to do?

Lev Grossman uses the return to nature of the Demilitarised Zone between Nth and South Korea and the reintroduction of Wolves to a USA national Park as examples of how humans can return the ecological balance and food chains to the natural world. But is this what the natural world need?

The animals are not impressed by what humans have done to the environment and say every animal knows to run when humans are around. They express the opinion that humans should leave the environment alone and don’t deserve to be part of the natural world.

How is it all going to pan out? One thing for sure is this is not the last we have heard from this series.

Well written, crazy imagination and serious talk of the natural world. It poses the thought that can humans change their attitude and spoiling ways and save the environment and the life that inhabits it. We hope so.

It took me a time to get into this novel but as the plot developed I got more keen until the excellent ending. Read it and see what I mean.

The Midnighters by Hana Tooke. Illus. Ayesha Rubio. Pub. Puffin, 2022.

July 28, 2022 Comments off

One of the most unusual novels I have ever read, it’s not quite realism, it’s not quite fantasy but it is both of these. Set in the magical city of Prague with it’s spires, it’s bridges and its mechanical clock this novel takes you beneath the city to the dark magical world of the people that live after midnight.

Ema Vaskova was born at midnight on the twelfth day of the twelfth month at the same time as her grandmother Liliana died. She was one of twelve children-5 sets of twins and the oldest sister Frantiska, the only non twin, who takes responsibility for bringing her up.

Now Ema is twelve and she is sent to live with her uncle in old Prague where she meets a girl hanging upside down like a bat with a round face, round eyes and silver hair called Silvie. Ema lives in a state of impending doom, has a scientific mind like her other family members, has the ability to go unseen, people don’t notice her, and has a skill of being able to read people’s faces and know when they are lying.

Silvie sees Ema for what she is and tells her “nothing is impossible with a little imagination” and encourages her to have “less worrying and more daring.” Silvie tells Ema of a world beneath the city of Prague where the midnight Guild meet and react, and it is a strange world indeed. How will Ema cope? Then Silvie disappears and evidence of a murder starts to emerge. Where is Silvie and if there has been a murder who is guilty?

This is a novel about difference and in the words of the author Ema is an Enigma and quite possibly neurodivergent. This novel is not for everyone but readers of fantasy who love detail will love it to bits. I did.

Each chapter contains an illustration by Ayesha Rubio at the top which helps the intrigue and sets the scene for the action. A very nice package with short chapters and nearly 400 pages. You have never read anything like this before.

The Lost Girl King by Catherine Doyle. Pub. Bloomsbury, 5 October 2022.

July 12, 2022 Comments off

This adventure/fantasy novel for middle school readers up to senior readers is set in the mythical Irish land of Tir na nOg which is near the western Ireland county of Connemara. To get there you must pass through the Golden Waterfall but you will soon change your mind about staying.

Brother and sister Liam and Amy are on holiday with their grandma and she tells them of the secret land of Tir na nOg. They go and look for it and are lured through a waterfall by a white hawk called Ghost and are surprised by what they find. Within minutes they are set upon by a troop of headless riders called the Dullahan, Liam is captured and taken off to Silverstone castle, the lair of the evil mage Tarlock.

Tarlock has chained the sun in the sky in order to freeze time and give him time to bring about his immortality. To keep and strengthen his power he needs two interlopers or people from outside Tir na nOg to sacrifice. Will Liam and Amy fit the bill?

Amy is a strong character and she sees the decay and misery that the rule of Tarlock has brought to the land and people of Tir na nOg. The food and water taste like shite, the people are divided and miserable. They have forgotten how to sing and tell jokes and there are informants and spies everywhere.

Amy befriends a group of green clad boys called Greencloaks who introduce her to the Fianna, the bravest warriors of Tir na nOg led by Oscar who has a brother Culann who leads an army of wolves. She convinces them along with Tristan Prince of Selkies to help her free Liam and destroy the power of Tarlock.

Will they succeed? It is nail biting stuff down to the last minute. Well written with great descriptions of Tir na nOg with it’s variety of landscapes and environments. You will keep reading this novel long after your eyes say stop. The only thing I would add would be a map of Tir na nOg. It has some astonishing areas like The Slumbering Swamp, Culann’s cave, the fang Lands and others. I would like to see where they are.

Loki. A Bad God’s Guide to being Good by Louie Stowell. Pub. Walker Books, 2022

June 4, 2022 Comments off

Satire and irony are clever tools in comedy and this easy to read short novel about Loki the Norse god of mischief is a great example of these two techniques in action.

Loki is sent by Odin to Earth from Asgard, down the Rainbow Bridge because of his bad behaviour. He is accompanied by his nemesis Thor and two make believe parents Hyrrokkin, a giant woman and Heimdall an ogre like man. The reason is to learn how to behave, show empathy, remorse and kindness. If he fails he will be sent to hell with snakes.

Loki must keep a diary of what happens and the diary can monitor his behaviour and dock points off his starting point of minus 3000 for bad behaviour on Earth. he hasn’t got a chance because he can’t change the habits of a life time or can he? Read it and find out.

Thor is a perfect speciman, popular with the girls while Loki is a puny nerd looking boy who can’t compete, except by behaving badly which he is very good at. When the points differential reaches a million to the power of infinity he is in bad shape but can he come back?

Human behaviour is savaged. Stowell takes the water out of schools, family life, shopping, eating takeaways etc. Very funny and will attract reluctant readers particularly boys.

Skulduggery Pleasant. Until the End by Derek Landy. Pub. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2022.

May 30, 2022 Comments off

The 15th book in this very impressive series and I am astonished that it hasn’t been picked up by the film industry. I have read them all and they are complicated with a myriad of characters, worlds, time zones and scenarios and I just take it a chapter at a time.

For those who don’t know Skulduggery is a skeleton man who wears a flash suit and hat, sun glasses and is a silver tongued flatterer of the highest degree. He has powers that he uses to protect the innocent and fight the nasties in his role as Arbiter for a World dominated by The faceless Ones. They are sort of Gods and are worshiped by a large portion of the World’s population but not all. Supreme mages direct this sort of religion but there are many outbursts of opposition that result in vicious murders which Skuduggery Pleasant investigates along with his former enemy Valkyrie Valkyries was responsible for bringing back the Faceless Ones and she is titled the Mother and Child of them.

The World is a very dangerous place and doomsday is always round the corner but always seems to be averted at the last moment after all seems hopeless. So it is with this novel so it would be pointless of me to outline a plot, it is so complex, you will have to read it yourself.

I dig the names of some of the characters such as Crepuscular Vies, Obsidian, the Darkly Brothers, Darquesse and others.

Told in 133 short chapters with over 600 pages, each chapter deals with a different set of characters with plot and character development that leads to the customary crisis at the end.

There will be other novels I am sure so just enjoy the action and characters. I did.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A. F. Steadman. Pub. Simon & Schuster, 2022.

April 19, 2022 Comments off

The first of a new series that has taken the publishing world of children’s books by storm and has already had the film rights acquired by Sony Pictures. It is being seen as the next big thing in children’s literature and compared to Harry Potter, His dark materials and Percy Jackson. Need I write anymore?

This first book establishes the scenario and the characters and if a phrase can describe the theme of the novel it is this “Two souls destined for each other can never truly be parted

This is a story about unicorns but not the dreamy docile fantasy creatures you read about elsewhere. These unicorns have a horn that is razor sharp and they are creatures that are fundamentally bloodthirsty with a preference for violence and destruction. They have a shriek that is somewhere between a horses whinny, an eagles cry and a human scream and each is destined to be bonded to a human just as the human is destined to be bonded to the unicorn.

Each unicorn has an element-earth, air, fire or water, that they thrive in and their destined partners have that element too and the beginning of this novel has the human and the unicorn matched so that the human and unicorn are bonded from the birth of the unicorn from an egg.

Skandar Smith is bonded to Scoundrel’s Luck but they are different from the rest because both are from a secret and banned “spirit element”. Both have a destiny that neither knows about.

The novel opens with a race of unicorns and riders called the Chaos Cup a sort of Melbourne Cup or Grand National. It is gatecrashed by an evil being called the Weaver and the winner stolen. We learn that the Weaver is stealing other Unicorns, bonding them illegally with humans and has formed a powerful army to threaten the balance on the island of Unicorns which is out at sea by a pebble beach, surrounded by the Mirror Cliffs. If you want to know more you will have to read it yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Well written, excellent characters that you can relate to, Skandar is a good role model. An incredible world is created and of course those nasty unicorns. There are casualties along the way, an inevitable battle with the Weaver and big surprises. You will keep reading long after you want to put it down and watch out for the Silver Unicorn.