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Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club

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By: Alison Goodman

Lady Helen Series Bk 1

The year is 1812 and Lady Helen Wrexhall is preparing for her debut, such an important and changing event in the life of young women in Regency London. Helen’s debut is tainted by the demise of her parents, by her mother’s apparent treason and subsequent death. Despite being told to keep as much distance between herself and her past there is something going on that Helen finds she just cannot let go of. Then there is Lord Carlston, who is reentering society after some scandal of his own. He is a man of many secrets, some of them directly related to Helen, her past and possible future. Helen is supposed to be a lady but a lady doesn’t get herself involved in a hidden world of missing servants and demonic conspiracies, surely.

Goodman has woven a tale that transports us into Regency London with all it’s intricacies and foibles. Helen is a young woman on the cusp of rest of her life, how is that a thing when you aren’t sure who you are? That is the crux of Helen’s dilemma, the known and expected verses the unknown but possibilities. Goodman’s attention to detail transports the reader to the drawing rooms, ballrooms, and habits of the wealthy as well as plunging you into the dank, crudeness of the lower classes.

A thoroughly entertaining read that delves into dark fantasy in the midst of structured culture.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 14th December 2015

Key Words: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Demons, Regency

ISBN: 978732296094

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Battle Magic

battle-magic
By: Tamora Pierce

Briar, Rosethorn and Evvy and visiting the mountain kingdom of Gyongxe, a mystical country filled with temples of many religions, the very earth is filled with power. Before there time is up though they are summonsed to visit the Emperor of Yanjing under the pretense of seeing his glorious gardens.
Things are not as peaceful and pleasant as the emperor attempts to make things seem on the surface. The mages sense and see things they do not like, amongst them the treatment of certain individuals, the emperor’s dark cruelty, a huge army and throng magic that underlies it all, keeping it all together. Unwilling to stay they leave and discover the Emperor as about to launch an attack on Gyongxe and he will do anything to stop the visiting mages from joining the other side. This is omething Rosethorn cannot allow as she has vowed to defend the First Temple of the Living Circle and where Rosethorn is bound to go Briar will not be far away, even if they do get separated for a while.
Another wonderful addition to the world first bought to us in the Circle Of Magic series. This is perhaps though, the darkest and bloodiest of the books, dealing as it does with genocide and war. Pierce uses this context to push her characters through emotional arcs that will forever change them. I won’t go too much into what they go through, the individual things they experience, because that would detract too much from the read itself, and it would be too easy to unintentionally leave spoilers. Rosethorn’s steadfastness, Briar’s stubborn loyalty and Evvy’s wonder and enthusiasm are still there shining through the whole time.
A bigger book than the other circle books but just as un-put downable.
Highly recommended.
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: 1st Oct 2013
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781742990170

Melody and Jackson’s Christmas Spell

 

melody-jackson-s-christmas-spell

By: Vivian French

Stargirl Academy bk 7

Melody and Jackson are still hoping to get their final star and graduate from Stargirl Academy, but with the other girls already having got their stars the best friends are wondering if they will get their chance. They are so glad when they get their chance and they know just what they want to do. Instead of playing it safe and helping people they know, they decide to help a complete stranger. Things aren’t quite what they first appeared to be though, and the girls learn something along the way.

This is a story about teamwork and seeing bigger pictures. The girls judge something by a brief snippet that they see and what they uncover is a bit different to what they thought it was. This helps them to understand that things aren’t always what they are like on the surface. A cute Christmas story with a nice Christmas message (or one that suits for any time of the year really).

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd

Published: 03 October 2013

Format: Paperback 192 pages

Categories: Science Fiction Fantasy School Stories

ISBN 13: 9781406349382

Purchase: here or use Booktopia link on side of page

 

The House of Hades

By: Rick Riordan

9780141339191

Heroes of Olympus Bk 4

Percy and Annabeth are trapped in Tartarus, their only hope is to journey across the land of the dead to the Doors of Death. This will perhaps be the most testing and brutal of all trails they have gone through. To make matters worse monsters are regenerating at an increased rate and none of them like the demigods, in fact Percy and Annabeth are the reason quite a few are in Tartarus in the first place. Still they have each other and that will get them through much and then there is Bob, a surprise addition to their team, and one that could just tip the balance.

On the surface Jason, Hazel and the others are trying to get to the House of Hades so they can be at the doors to help Percy and Annabeth. This is not turning out to be as simple as flying there. Gods and monsters are doing everything they can to stop them. Hazel discovers that Hecate has a plan for her, Frank fights his fears of his parentage and comes into his own and Nico faces up to his deepest secret. Will all that be enough, with the God’s being split between their Greek and Roman selves,  and the Roman demigods determined to attack Camp Half-Blood? Gaia must be stopped but is that even possible with the team split up this way?

An awesome action filled instalment of the Heroes of Olympus series. Percy and Jason are still obviously leaders but it is not all about them. Percy and Annabeth have a real partnership and together they are much stronger than could be expected. So much of this adventure hinges on Hazel learning new skills and how to have faith in herself and Frank stepping up to be the son of Mars that he is. Frank’s story arc in this is one that builds slowly but reaches an awesome crescendo and it is going to be interesting to see where he goes in the next book. Nico’s torment is something we finally have some light shed on and it is so sad in some ways, you just want Nico to be able to move through it, it too is something that we are left wondering about. Leo too gets the chance to have some growth in a rather unexpected way (but I’m not giving any spoilers).

The pace never wavers and as such this book like those before it is hard to put down. The world Riordan creates is varied, full of the familiar and unfamiliar, and it blends together seamlessly. It seems totally fine that one minute the heroes are using magical and advanced technology and the next it’s all swords and flying horses. These books are addictive, the blend of action and mythology often leaves me wanting more.

Recommended.

Publisher: Puffin Books

Published: 08 October 2013

Format: Paperback 565 pages

Categories: Fantasy, Mythology

ISBN 13: 9780141339191

Purchase: here or use Booktopia link on side of page.

The Will of the Empress

the-will-of-the-empressBy: Tamora Pierce

Winding Circle is a long way away for our four mages, at least it is time wise and now they are all back together they find they can’t go back to the way things were. They all experienced things they don’t know how to share and this causes rifts between them. Then Sandry’s uncle asks the others to accompany her on a journey to Namor. It is a journey the reluctant Sandry has to go on because she needs to check out the lands that provide her income.

The problem is that Namorn is ruled by an Empress who is not used to people saying no to her and Sandry has no intention of getting married to the Empress’s choice and settling down to become a tool for the Namorese court. They quickly discover though that the trap isn’t just for Sandry, the Empress wants all of them to become her pets and she already has powerful mages in her employ to ensure her will is never thwarted. The Circle though is not without it’s own power, that is if they can remember what drew them together in the first place and if they can put aside their worries and start working together once again.

What a great read. This is a return to loved characters, ones that have changed and it is good to see characters go though changes like these ones have. The paths they travel on are difficult, the choices they have to make are weighty and the sort of things that would leave a mark on your soul, it is good to see an author give us characters who have changed as a direct result of their choices and actions.

More than any of them Sandry longs for things to go back to the way they were. She missed her family immensely and despite her words to them, never wanted them to go. She however is the most secure in her place, finically and status wise. She will always belong and the others don’t have that kind of security. None of them are without means though, Daja and Briar are very finically well off as their magic provides them with unique products they can sell for a tidy profit. Tris struggles with acceptance more than the others in that her magic is stranger, even more powerful, and with her new ability she is convinced everyone will think less of her.

Pierce has given us a very detailed and thus easy to visualise setting. The realism that shines through here assists in keeping us grounded in the four’s story. It is the breaks in the friendship that are what make this story so strong. We all know what it is like to fall out with friends or family, (or most of us do), it is a battle of wills and a learning curve of give and take. Pierce handles all this skilfully. The Empress is a master manipulator who has power to back herself up. She is a spoilt brat in many ways and it is nice to occasionally see those cracks in her persona. The way the four young mages work through what has gone before and what is happening now is an interesting journey and the overarching story is one that allows us to see how each of these youngsters have grown.

Once again Pierce has created a wonderful adventure within a fantastic world.

Highly Recommended.

Publisher: Scholastic US

Published: 01 October 2008

Format: Paperback 550 pages

Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

ISBN 13: 9780545074551

Purchase: here or use Booktopia link on side of the page

Melting Stones

melting-stonesBy: Tamora Pierce

Evvy has been an apprentice stone mage for four years now. She really doesn’t want to be on another journey with her mentor, Rosethorn but she finds herself accompanying her and Dedicate Myrrhtide, a water mage, to the Battle Islands. Something is causing the plants and animals to die and it is up to Rosethorn and Myrrhtide to find out what, it is Evvy’s job just to listen and learn. Evvy isn’t so good at the keeping quiet though and she soon discovers something important. With the help of her friend Luvo (a living stone heart from a mountain) she knows it is up to her to help save some ungrateful people from total destruction.

Evvy is a wonderful character, rough around the edges and hard as the stone she is attuned to.  She isn’t so good with people and that makes her an interesting character in a context where dealing with people is important. The environment of the Battle Islands is detailed, and layered. Pierce gives wonderful descriptions of the land and how the different inhabitants interact. The village has tensions all of it’s own that contribute to the overall emotion of the situation. Rosethorn tempers Evvy and if you’ve read the other Circle books you know this is a slight turn around as Rosethorn is usually the most abrupt. The introduction of Luvo is interesting because he adds some weight and age to the tale, he is a solid centre for Evvy and a great source of wisdom.

A wonderful stand alone book that Pierce’s fan will enjoy. I will say this fits best into the YA category though a good reader 10+ would also be okay with it.

Recommended.

Publisher: Scholastic US

Published: 01 August 2010

Format: Paperback 312 pages

Categories: Fantasy, Adventure

ISBN 13: 9780545052658

Purchase: here or use Booktopia link on the side of the page

Cold Fire

cold-fireBy: Tamora Pierce

The Circle Opens Bk 3

Daja Kisubo and her teacher Frostpine are wintering with friends of his in Kugisko. It is a port location made up of many islands. A strange place for fire mages to holiday. It is here though that a series of strange fires happen. Daja takes it upon herself to assist local firefighter Bennat Ladradun in fighting them. She soon realises that things may not be what they seem when it becomes clear that someone is setting the fires deliberately. Daja decides to use her magic to create something that will hopefully help in fighting the flames. All whilst finding tutors for the two young mages she has discovered. Daja then experiences something terrible, betrayal.

Daja’s story is a little different from the others who find themselves with students because she is somewhere where both young mages can find masters, even though she does for a while take over some of their learning. It is in this process she finds out more about herself, and a little about thinking outside the norm, something she should be quiet used to. It is nice to see Daja find someone who treats her more as an equal than a young girl who shouldn’t have the mage qualifications she does. 

The world Pierce has created is crisp and clear in its descriptions, all the snow and frozen activities, it is all so easy to picture. The complex nature of magic is given plenty of attention here as we see Daja’s skills, as well as cooking magic and carpentry magic bought clearly to life. Pierce also uses the juxtaposition of fire and ice effectively in this tale. This is a fitting instalment to the series. It is a pleasure to see each of these characters grow into their own. Once again Piece has excelled and given us a series I will no doubt return to again and again.

Highly recommended.

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: 01 March 2003

Format: Paperback 355 pages

Categories: Fantasy, Magic

ISBN 13: 9780590396561

Purchase: here or use Booktopia link on the side of the page

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