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June 2018 Debut of the Month | This ambitiously epic fantasy debut sees a captive princess rise from the ashes of her traumatic childhood to combat a cruel Kaiser. At the tender age of six Theodosia witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury. Now, ten years on, and backed deeper into a no-hope situation by the cruel Kaiser who’s forced her to live in a degraded state as the Ash Princess, Theodosia is driven to concoct a scheme to exact her revenge. With the assistance of a band of magical rebels she will seduce the Kaiser’s son and ruin him from within in order to reclaim the throne. While this motif is far from new, the writing is bold and fresh, and this promising debut sparkles with Theodosia’s drive and desire. But, while she’s a straight-talking, sharp-thinking young woman, her lively first-person narrative also reveals hidden fears, doubts and personal conflicts which, alongside the gory grimness of the political climate (slavery, brutal colonisation) and a backdrop of elemental gods, makes for a riveting reading experience that comes recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
Mermaids Beattie, Zelda and Mimi are absolutely fabulous! Their second adventure streams by, full of underwater hi-jinks all driven by friendship and fun. The little mermaids are in the Crocodile Kingdom (it’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean) where nothing is quite as it seems. Meanwhile, on land Paris, self-described Gadget Queen, has discovered a plot to destroy the mermaid world. With gorgeous illustrations by Jason Cockroft too, this is stylish, irresistible reading for anyone who’s ever imagined themselves with a tail. If you’ve got young readers in the house, send yourself a crabagram reminder to get a copy. Required reading for fans of Sibeal Pounder’s Witch Wars series or The Little Mermaid.
Mirror Magic is perfect for children who like their stories full of magic and excitement. Orphans Ava and her big brother Matthew move to the town of Wyse, the last place in Britain with a working connection to the magical fairy Underworld. Access between the two worlds is through mirrors but according to the autocratic Lord Skinner the magic is fading away and fewer and fewer mirrors are working. Ava suspects Lord Skinner is not be trusted and her suspicions are confirmed when she meets a fairy boy, Howell. What follows is a story of conspiracy, intrigue and adventure, some genuinely creepy adversaries balanced by magical hats, a somewhat caustic talking book and entertaining transformations. Clever and lots of fun it comes with a reminder too that it is better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears. Readers who enjoy this book should also read Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series by the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones.
Any young person faced with family break-up will understand the frustration that Ned, hero of Emma Fischel’s new book feels. They’ll sympathise too with the hurt he experiences when his best and pretty well only friend chooses to spend time with others. But no-one – at least as far as we know – has ever developed Ned’s magical ability to ‘wallboggle’. Driven into a fury by the walls that divide his home into two houses (one for Mum, one for Dad), Ned literally barges through them, passing through the bricks and mortar as though they’re not there. Initially his new ability is just another way to vent his anger, but eventually he turns it into something positive. It’s an original story, funny and exciting too, and Ned is a complex, interesting character. The moral choices presented by his ‘wallboggling’ are subtly explored and leave readers with much to think about.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2018 Award-winning illustrator Helen Cooper’s debut novel is a richly imagined and cleverly crafted story perfectly matched by her own illustrations. ‘Come now or come never!’ reads the mysterious invitation that arrives with the milk one day. Despite his mother’s protest, Ben knows he must take up the challenge. Working with the diverse inhabitants of the museum, he finds himself caught up in a desperate struggle to save the whole place from the wicked developers. With an underlying plot about the mysterious disappearance of his father this is both a thoughtful and an exciting novel that will fire the imagination of all readers who, like Ben, have ever dared to believe that the animals in a museum might come alive. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for June 2018: Mariella, Queen of the Skies by Eoin Colfer Opposites by Roald Dahl 1, 2, 3 by Roald Dahl The Day War Came by Nicola Davies The Hippo at the End of the Hall by Helen Cooper The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman
This smart sci-fi-infused thriller sees a group of friends faced with having to make the mother of all life and death decisions. The night Bee decides to visit her estranged friends one year on from the mysterious death of her enigmatic boyfriend, Jim, ends with them involved in a car accident, and then they’re dealt a gut-wrenching revelation by a strange old man. Initially dismissive, the friends are soon hit by the realisation that the stranger isn’t just some random crazy, and they really must make the hideous decision he issues them with. While the rest of the group dive into destruction mode, Bee makes some profound realisations: “Without time, nothing had meaning.” Throughout Bee is an engaging narrator, her language and thoughts incisive, measured, lucidly poetic. As her world implodes, she wonders if their situation is somehow because of Jim, whose “death had been the earthquake that swallows cities”. His death continues to cause monumental convulsions as they try to figure out what happened to him, which sees their group dynamic disintegrate into a tangle of distrust. Throw in the secrets of a cult time-travel novel, a showdown with Jim’s parents, and a whole lot of ricocheting revelations, and you have a compelling cauldron of end-days detective fiction.
Race to the Bottom of the Sea is a well-written, thoroughly unusual, thought-provoking pirate story, and a rip-roaring adventure. Our hero 11-year old Fidelia Quail has grown up with the sea in her blood: ever since she was a baby she’s accompanied her marine biologist parents on their travels. In the book’s dramatic opening, she’s on the surface tracking sharks while her parents record life on the seabed, until their submarine – designed and built by Fidelia – is destroyed by the deadly ‘Undertow’. Still grieving, Fidelia is kidnapped by the notorious pirate Merrick the Monstrous and forced to build a diving suit that will allow her to retrieve his treasure, hidden in an undersea cave and believed cursed. It’s an ingenious mix of buccaneering, science and oceanography, with a surprise touch of romance too, and Fidelia is a one in a million hero. Great stuff and one to recommend to fans of Philip Reeve, Christopher Edge and Jonathan Stroud.
Perfect for readers who enjoy magical adventures set in the wild world, Sylvia Linsteadt’s beautifully told story stars two children called upon to be brave and resolute, and has starring roles too for talking animals. Tin has grown up in the bleak environment of the City, taught to believe that everything beyond its walls is dead or dangerous; Comfrey is a country child, getting by on what her family can grow, and cautious of the mysterious Wild Folk. The children must work together to unite warring factions before it’s too late for everyone. Like the best fantasy adventures, the story feels as though it has grown out of legends passed down through generations, while at the same time conveying a topical message about the way nature and mankind’s future are inextricably linked. ** Note the extract available is a manuscript of the text only.
Following hot on the heels of Resurrection, this eleventh instalment of Skulduggery Pleasant’s incomparable exploits offers everything devoted fans have come to expect - all-out action, astonishing twists, riotously witty repartee – and more, for this latest epic ramps up the stakes on the emotional front. Intrepid, intelligent, endlessly entertaining Valkyrie Cain is no stranger to fighting to keep her friends and family from harm, but this gripping story sees her having to face her biggest battle yet when a cruel killer captures her little sister, Alice. Worse still, she has just twelve hours to track her down. The sense of urgency and anxiety is heart-poundingly evoked, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering more about Omen.
December 2018 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Peoples Book Prize 2019 | All the best adventures start with a map and there’s a corker in Clive Mantle’s new thriller. Freddie’s Uncle Patrick gives him a huge and beautiful antique map of the world as a birthday present, little suspecting – or does he? – that it will magically transport Freddie across the continents and through time, to the Himalayas. He shares the adventures that befall him there with his best friend Connor, who has his own challenges at home with a gang of bullies. The two plotlines connect and this is thoroughly satisfying edge-of-the-seat boys-own stuff. Readers who enjoy this stories should also look out for Josh Lacey’s Island of Thieves, or Tamsin Cooke’s Stunt Double series.
In a Nutshell: Magic | Murder | Mystical plague | This satisfying sequel to Spellslinger sizzles with sorcery, secrets and a slathering of swindle and comes highly-recommended for fans of funny fantasy. Though darker than its predecessor, this is still driven by cinematic scope, and by Kellen’s quirks and self-depreciating tone. “I made a terrible outlaw. I couldn’t hunt worth a damn, got lost just about everywhere I went, and it seemed like every person I met found some perfectly sensible reason to try to rob me or kill me.’ Kellen has made the (perhaps not unexpected) discovery that he’s a hopeless fugitive - this is classic crisis of confidence stuff. He’s an on-the-run outlaw, with allies who aren’t exactly delivering on the helping-him-through front. The plot twists and thickens when a mysterious blindfolded girl embroils him in a web of murder and magic, not to mention the ‘shadowblack’ plague. What a whirlwind of Wild West-ism and witty wonder this is. ~ Joanne Owen
Kellen, Reichis and Ferius are on their way to Gitabria, a city where amazing inventions are dreamed up and sold across the land of the Seven Sands. But when the three of them stumble across a tiny mechanical bird, magically brought to life, they quickly realise all is not as it appears. Meanwhile two strange Argosi appear, carrying secrets from Ferius' past, together with an unlikely Jan'Tep ally. And as time ticks on, all the cards in Ferius' deck point to the emerging tides of war . . . Lovereading Comment to follow.
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