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Find the latest books for fans of fantasy stories and magical tales! We have extracts to download for most of our books plus expert reviews.
May 2020 Book of the Month | The third book in Cressida Cowell’s new Wizards of Once series is full of magic – magical adventures and magical creatures, and it overflows with the magic of great storytelling. Our heroes, Wish the young Warrior girl and Xar the boy wizard, are continuing their dangerous quest to defeat the witches they accidentally freed in book one and which threaten both their worlds. They travel on a magic flying door, accompanied by their friends – sprites, a giant, snowcats, a werewolf and Bodkin, Wish’s young bodyguard – and come up against some awesome enemies. In hot pursuit are their parents, Xar’s father King Encanzo the enchanter and Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, both terrifying, both determined their children will do as they are told. Who will succeed? Can Wish and Xar change the course of history and write their own happy ending? We don’t know yet, but readers of all ages will be wishing with all their hearts that they can. Cressida Cowell’s invention and ambition for her characters is boundless, and this unputdownable story is as full of ideas and intelligence as it is of excitement.
May 2020 Book of the Month | Set ten years after the events of Dragon Daughter, which featured revolutionary dragon-rider Milla, this sparkling sequel tells the story of Milla’s cousin, Joe. On his twelfth birthday Joe is out-of-this-world excited about attending the Hatching Ceremony, desperately hoping that this is the day he’ll be bonded with a dragon. But when Joe inadvertently ruins the ceremony and Milla must step in to rescue the situation, “Joe fled from his parents’ home, knowing he’d never be able to return.” Ashamed to his bones, Joe has an epiphany after taking refuge in a cavern (“a home for a monster”) and meeting a stranger named Winter: “His old life was over. He’d messed it up spectacularly, but it was finished. He couldn’t hurt his parents any more. This was the new start he’d been looking for… Until he had become someone his parents could be proud of, he would stay dead.” With the sweeping atmosphere of a classic hero story, Joe’s story is shot-through with themes of acceptance, making amends, courage and concord, against a backdrop of political - and volcanic - eruptions. What’s more, the author’s vibrant, visual storytelling paints a truly sensory picture of a world and its compelling cast of characters.
May 2020 Book of the Month | David Solomons is the perfect author to write new Doctor Who books – he’s a sci-fi/comics fanatic, brilliantly funny and a dab hand at creating adventure stories too (all of which you’ll know if you’ve read his My Brother is a Superhero books). This new story sees the Doctor and her companions Yaz, Graham and Ryan come face to face with the Minotaur – yes, the monster from the labyrinth but also in fact a deadly bit of alien software. The adventure takes us to all sorts of settings and via a range of different transport – there’s a great scene on a speeding London bus – and while there’s lots to make readers laugh throughout, it’s properly thrilling too. A very satisfying Time Lord adventure and thoroughly recommended.
So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moments doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, I simply adored it.
There are adventures galore in the second episode of this new series starring little mermaid Marnie and her friends and family. This time the action is all to do with the annual entertainment extravaganza that is the Clamshell Show. Marnie really wants the part of Queen Maretta, but so does her friend Orla, and nasty new mergirl, show-off Gilly Seaflower too. When the curtain finally goes up, there’s as much drama behind the scenes as on stage, and the sudden surprise appearance of a human! Marnie and her friends are very appealing characters – naughty aunt Christabel is a hoot – and their underwater world very tempting. Pretty illustrations by Sheena Dempsey add to the all-round charm. Young readers should dive in straightaway. Fans of The Worst Witch will enjoy the lively stories in Mermaid School, and readers who like Marnie should get to know Lyla, star of Rebecca Patterson’s new Moon Girl series too.
Meet the Magic Dolls Grace, Lily and Holly. They live in a cottage in Dolly Town, always ready to help the magical inhabitants of the Enchanted Isle. In this adventure, a unicorn is in trouble – can they calm her down before she hurts herself or others, and why is she so upset? Young readers will love the sense of teamwork and friendship between the three as well as the idea of an island full of magical creatures. As an added treat, the book includes pretty colour stickers so that you can dress up the dolls ready for their adventures. An undemanding but satisfying read.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | May 2020 Debut of the Month | Every evening Lampie the lighthouse keeper’s daughter must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks. But one stormy night disaster strikes. The light goes out, a ship is wrecked, and an adventure begins. In disgrace Lampie is sent to work as a maid at the Admiral’s Black House, where rumour has it that a monster lurks in the tower. But what she finds there is stranger and more beautiful than any monster.
Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill is a new adventure that develops the brilliant ideas firmly established in Grimly Darkwood’s first Vale of Strange book. Late in the summer, following Peter and Amanda’s adventures in the Vale of Strange (covered in The Shop on Peculiar Hill) it becomes clear that Peter will have to return once more with a new friend, Mala, short for Guatemala. Her father is an explorer and has gone missing. The sudden outbreak of strangeness is the first of their problems but not the last and it seems that something big is going on. Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill follows on from the end of The Shop on Peculiar Hill. However, as the book starts it recaps the previous events and there’s enough detail for it to be read as a standalone story. I haven’t read the first book but I felt that everything was explained well enough for me to know what was happening. After reading, I’m sure children will be racing to enjoy the adventure in The Shop on Peculiar Hill if they haven’t read it already. I liked the interaction between Peter and Amanda, their disagreements in the library help to demonstrate their character while also explaining the world of Peculiarshire. I also liked Mala, I thought her joke was quite funny. I like that there was a contrast in the two female characters and I enjoyed watching the three of them team up towards the end of the book. This is an exciting adventure that will certainly be a page-turner for all of those that love all things, weird and wonderful. I think that the humour throughout helps to counteract some of the scarier bits. I also found that the discussion at the end of the book about adults keeping their promises was quite poignant. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Megal 2019 -Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Blending folkloric fantasy with contemporary romance, this immersive multi-layered novel heralds the arrival of a unique new voice in young adult fiction. Each Christmas, Wren is hunted in a twisted, tormenting re-enactment of an old game. But the village bullies don’t realise that Wren is part of the Augur family, formerly powerful kinfolk whose magical influence was all but obliterated by the Judges. When Wren is captured in the hunt and a boy claims a lock of her hair, she must become a spy in the house of the most powerful Judge of all. Straddling ancient Celtic mythology and the 21st century, the exhilarating storyline teems with tension as Wren lies, steals and searches her heart and soul while summoning up magic to save her family. The language is lyrical, the concept unique and, while comparisons are tricky to make, I’d recommend this highly to fans of Frances Hardinge’s thought-provoking fantasy.
Billionaire Solomon Daisy is obsessed with the skeleton of a blue eyed African girl from Roman London. When his tech guys accidentally invent a time machine he decides to send London schoolboy Alex Papas on a mission. Time travel is easier for kids, and Alex knows Greek and a little Latin. The portable portal is placed in London's Mithraeum, recently relocated back to its original 3rd century AD site. Now all Alex has to do is go through and find the blue-eyed girl. There are just three rules: 1. Naked you go and naked you must return. 2. Drink, don't eat. 3. As little interaction as possible. But Time Travel is fun fair, and there are more ways to die in Roman London than Alex could have guessed.
Written to be read aloud, The Ickabog is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land, and is a complete stand-alone story unrelated to the author’s other work. It will appeal to children between the ages of 7 and 9 but can be enjoyed by the whole family. The story will be translated into a number of other languages, and made available on the website shortly after the English language version appears.
Bursting with ideas and vivid scenes, Philip Caveney’s new adventure is rollicking good reading. Orphan Boy makes his escape from life as a stable-hand (unpaid) to seek his fortune in distant Ravalan with his father’s book of inventions, but immediately runs into trouble in the shame of a pair of unscrupulous crooks. He’s saved by a girl called Lexi and her father’s band of travelling players. Together they make their way to Ravalan where the stories converge with suitable drama. The actors are as colourful as you could want, and there’s action and humour aplenty (peril too) together with just the right amount of romance. Great fun! For more theatrical adventures Vivian French’s The Steam Whistle Theatre Company is excellent.
April 2020 Book of the Month | Book 7 Chronicles of Ancient Darkness This seventh book in Michelle Paver’s awe-inspiring Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series that began with Wolf Brother is a triumph of storytelling that myth-loving readers will wolf down (pun entirely intended). The sense of adventure and human spirit is exhilarating, and Paver’s passion for nature, for wildlife, for the world’s wondrous wilds is an immersive joy. Torak and Renn have been in the Forest with their Wolf Brother for two summers when Renn leaves him without word. Though realising that “she would have had to deceive Torak for days into order to prepare for her journey”, accomplished tracker Torak does what he must, and what he does best: he and Wolf embark on a quest to the Edge of the World beyond the Far North to find their friend. Alongside dealing with the ominous threat of ice bears and the “beyond good and evil” Sea Mother, Torak is desperate to discover what drove Renn to this place. The sense of demonic danger is powerfully palpable, the writing rich, yet exquisitely sparse and smoothly readable, and the entirety of this enthralling adventure is laced with an uplifting sense of camaraderie, love and legend.
P.G. Bell’s debut The Train to Impossible Places established him as a writer of hugely exciting, inventive and satisfying adventure, and its sequel, The Great Brain Robbery, is just as good, if not even better. Once again 11-year-old Suzy is aboard the Impossible Postal Express tearing through the fantastical realms that make up the Union of Impossible Places, and this time it’s a do or die mission to save Trollville from a thoroughly nasty villain. Suzy is much more at home now with fuzzics, the strange mix of science and magic that lies at the heart of troll technology, though there are still some fabulous surprises in store for her and readers. Adventure doesn’t come more exciting or entertaining, and this is one train young readers really mustn’t miss.
First published in 1975, this extraordinary story of the friendship between the gentle Tuck family and ten-year-old Winnie feels older than its years, but also of our age, in the magical way true classics do. The story is enthrallingly set-up by juxtaposing three apparently unconnected happenings during the “strange and breathless days” of a hot August. As the Prologue states, and as things turn out, “things can come together in strange ways.” Dissatisfied at home, Winnie longs to do “something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” Certain this will never happen “if I stay in here like this,” she explores her family’s wood and chances upon a “glorious” boy who stops Winnie in her tracks, and warns her against drinking from a spring. Winnie meets the boy’s family - the Tucks - and discovers a “big, dangerous secret” that must ever be revealed if their way of life is to be preserved, if the equilibrium of humanity is to be maintained, for the spring seems to have granted the Tucks everlasting life. In their company, in their warm-hearted, higgledy-piggledy home, Winnie “discovered the wings she’d always wished she had”. For their part, the Tucks say she’s the best thing that’s happened to them in “at least eighty years.” Then, when a yellow-suited stranger seeks to disrupt the Tuck’s lives, Winnie bravely leaps on her opportunity to make a difference. Dazzlingly written (how about this for a description of sunset? “The sun was dropping fast now, a soft, red sliding egg yolk”), this is a wondrously wise story. Take Tuck’s remarks about the nature of life and death: “You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” With a bittersweet ending that brings tears to the eyes and warmth to the soul, I couldn’t love this book more. It’s that rare kind of tale that speaks of all things, to all ages.
The thirteenth thrilling novel in the internationally bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series, SEASONS OF WAR will test the Skeleton Detective and Valkyrie like never before… War is coming. To avert catastrophe, Skulduggery and Valkyrie are sent on a secret mission that takes them away from everything they know, to a forsaken land of magic and grim, unrelenting terror. It is here that Valkyrie will have to fight the hardest ? not only against the enemies who want her dead, but also against her own self-destructive impulses. It's only by crawling through darkness that she'll be able to once again stand in the light…
This was an interesting book which reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter series. The storyline is very original, although I did find it rather lengthy and a bit complex at times: it might be difficult for some children to keep up with all the characters and the action. However, despite its complexity, it is very well-written. I like that the main character, Cricket, is different, and that her difference helps her in her quest. I think children will relate to the friendship between Cricket and her friend Penny who are likeable characters. Penny understands that Cricket is different from the other children but celebrates this difference with Cricket. Each chapter is illustrated and I love these, they are so detailed and original. I'm sure this book will appeal to its target audience and I think it will easily widen out into a series of adventures for Cricket and Penny. Pauline Braisher, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Delving deep into Paris and Prague, and teeming with tension, automatons and assassins, Damien Love’s Monstrous Devices is an atmospheric, adventure-packed debut, which will surely appeal to fans of Jonathan Stroud’s immersive, multi-layered novels. Bookish twelve-year-old Alex’s story begins with him enduring nasty messages from bullies at school, and then he receives a tin robot in the post, accompanied by a mysterious message that reads, “This one is special”. Next morning, his unfinished essay has been completed and, on cue, as matters take an alarming turn, Alex’s charismatic grandfather appears and whisks him away to Paris as a matter of urgency. Little by little, and in cryptic terms, Alex’s grandfather reveals details of a secret world of robots that sees them journey from Paris to Prague to combat mechanical menaces. Interweaving the Czech origin of the word ‘robot’ (meaning ‘forced labour’ and derived from Karel Čapek’s ‘RUR’ play), and Prague’s 16th century legend of the golem (a man made from clay created to protect the city’s Jewish Quarter) with contemporary pace and punch, this feels at once timeless and of the 21st century.
Lucky Isadora – she’s won a holiday in the sun for herself and her family in an art competition. At first everything seems perfect – a bit bright for her vampire dad but he loves the hotel spa – but a surprise meeting with her mermaid friend Marina shows Isadora what her mum suspected: the sea is full of litter. Fortunately, working as a team, fairies, mermaids and vampires can clean up the mess and persuade the humans to change their ways too. This is another lively and engaging story in this excellent series, mixing a fun adventure with an important message, deftly delivered. Half-vampire, half-fairy, Isadora is 100% brilliant especially for those growing in reading confidence.
A hero with a difference! Fizzlebert Stump wants to make changes to his life. Bored with life in the circus, he is determined to run away and join…the Library! How Fizzlebert sets out to achieve his goal and gets kidnapped by some unlikely villains for his audacity is a riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum! In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who ran away from the Circus (and joined the Library) a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Scroll down to read their reviews...
Set in a distant future on the romantic sounding Crescent Moon Bay in Australia, Somper’s story exuberantly and swashbucklingly combines two fiction favourites – pirates and vampires, and challenges our views of both. Twins Connor and Grace are left alone in the world when their lighthouse keeper father dies. They take his boat and head out to sea, only to run into a storm. Both are plucked from the ocean – Connor by pirates, Grace by the crew of a strange vessel – vampires! The action alternates between the two as secrets emerge, before the twins are reunited, but set for more adventure. With a wonderful cast of characters, some fabulous set scenes, and clever plotting, this is a hugely entertaining read and highly recommended, whether you’re team Pirates of the Caribbean or team Twilight!
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