The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince was written by Alaya Dawn Johnson and first published in 2013. It is a cyberpunk dystopian novel, set in a futuristic Brazilian city after the world was decimated by nuclear war. The story stands alone, so you do not have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

In the hostile wasteland of Brazil, the city of Palmares Tres exists as a peaceful safe-haven. The beautiful city has been formed from a mixture of western and eastern cultures, and is ruled by a circle of powerful women known as the Aunties. It also allows the use of body mods – upgrades that range from being cosmetic to allowing their user to live for over two hundred years. However, the culture of Palmares Tres is sustained by a dark act. Whenever a king is crowned, he must be ritually sacrificed at the end of his first year.

June Costa is an eighteen-year-old artist who is eager to prove herself. With the help of her friend Gil, she hopes to create the greatest art that the city has ever seen. She is inspired by the story of one of the candidates for the next Summer King – Enki – a young man from the poorest tier of Palmares Tres who loves to express himself through dance. As Enki is crowned as king, June is thrilled to meet him for the first time. However, her joy is short lived as she discovers that he only has eyes for Gil.

However, June and Enki find a connection through other means. Communicating through their art, they plan to create a display unlike anything the city has ever seen. However, Enki pushes June to her limits as he forces her to see the deep-rooted corruption in the city that the Aunties try to hide. June is torn by what she learns. While Enki will be dead within a year, she must live with her actions for centuries. Can she continue down his path, knowing that it will destroy her only chance for a future?

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The Night Before Krampus

The Night Before Krampus was written by Peter Johnson and first published in 2017. It is a festive horror story which focuses on a small town with a dark past. Although the novel reads as though it could be the first part of a series, at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

It is two nights before Christmas and a young boy named Christoph has started to notice that something strange is afoot. His mother has left to visit his grandmother, a woman who she has not seen in years. His teacher has vanished and been replaced with a woman obsessed with European mythology. The local miser has been seen running through the streets in his underwear, claiming that the dead have returned for him. However, the strangest thing of all is the ghostly encounter that he has while hiding in an abandoned house.

The spectral vision reveals to him that three members of his community once committed a terrible crime. While they believed that they had gotten away without punishment, they did not count upon their victim laying a curse across their bloodlines. The festive season has become a time for revenge and the settling of old scores. Christoph and his friends must rely on help from unexpected sources if they wish to survive to see Christmas Day.

For you see, an old wolf is slowly making its way towards the town. The curse has been calling to it for a long time and now is finally the time for it to strike. The ancient creature draws with it a number of others, some good and some bad. Amongst these monsters are a pair of Krampus. These demons have been summoned to serve a specific purpose, however one of them is starting to grow tired of his traditional role…

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Shadow Girl

Shadow Girl was written by Liana Liu and first published in 2017. It is a work of contemporary fiction which focuses on a teenage girl’s experiences while tutoring the eight-year-old daughter of a wealthy businessman. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mei has always striven to be a good girl. Since her father walked out on them and her brother turned to drink and petty theft, she has taken it upon herself to do everything that she can to make her mother’s life easier. Since she has always had a way with children, Mei spends her free time tutoring youths to help pay the bills.

When Vanessa Morison, wealthy wife of a famous business man, hires her to be the summer tutor for her daughter, Mei is initially reluctant. The job will mean leaving home for two months to live with the Morisons on their vast island estate. However, Vanessa is offering to pay her a fortune and Mei really can’t pass up the opportunity to earn so much money.

However, Mei might have bitten off more than she can chew. The Morisons are not the easiest people to live with – especially Vanessa’s stepson, Henry. Eight-year-old Ella is also not what Mei was expecting. The girl is shy and withdrawn, and it’s not long before Mei learns why. Ella is visited every night by the disturbed ghost of Eleanor Arrow – a previous inhabitant of the mansion. It’s not long before Mei also begins to see the spirit. Could it be that Eleanor is real, or is she just a symptom of a bigger problem on the island…

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Renegades

Renegades was written by Marissa Meyer and first published in 2017. It is a science fiction novel, set in a city where a faction of superheroes protect the innocent. The novel forms the first part of a planned duology, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

The Age of Anarchy almost tore society apart. Lead by the powerful Ace Anarchy, a band of super-powered “prodigies” sought to overthrow the status quo and earn freedom for their oppressed people. They were eventually defeated by the Renegades – a group of prodigies who believed in law and justice. Now, the Renegades control Gatlon City, doing their best to use their powers to fight crime and give a better quality of life to all people who live there.

Nova revered the Renegades, until they failed to save the lives of her family. Ten years later, she has taken on the mantle of Nightmare – a prodigy with the power to put anyone that she touches to sleep. When her attempt to assassinate a high-ranking Renegade fails, Nova and her fellow Anarchists realise that they need to be cunning to defeat their enemies. Giving Nova a false identity, they enrol her in the Renegade Trials in the hope that she will be accepted and become their spy on the inside.

Nova quickly gets accepted onto a team run by Adrian – otherwise known as Sketch – who has the power to make his drawings come to life. Adrian also has a secret. He has used his power to create himself a bio-mechanical suit of armour and moonlights as a vigilante called the Sentinel. Adrian has a personal vendetta against Nightmare and will stop at nothing to capture her. Will Nova be able to deceive him for long enough, or will he realise her true identity long before she can take down the Renegades?

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Cloud Cuckoo

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Never Dawn. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Cloud Cuckoo was written by R.E. Palmer and first published in 2016. It is the second novel of The Never Dawn series and falls between The Never Dawn (2016) and The Gates of Dawn (2017). As the book carries on directly where its prequel left off, you really need to read them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

When Noah wakes up after his night of exploration with Rebekah, he immediately knows that something is wrong. Mother must have done something to his memories as he can hardly remember what he saw. Stranger still, he seems to have missed a day in which all of his fellow workers were rewarded with a great celebration, yet all of them seem to believe that he was present for it.

When Mother immediately summons them to the square, Noah starts to feel worried. It seems that the prefects have not discovered Moses’s journal and now everyone must be punished. As Mother ushers them into the previously unseen lower levels, the Purges begin. Anyone who steps out of line – or is implicated by their fellows – is dragged away to the Trench, never to be seen again.

As Noah tries to remain inconspicuous, he realises that his days may be numbered. The stress of the Purge is pushing him close to breaking point and, even though his memories are still muddled, it’s clear that Barnabas is suspicious of him. If he does not think of something quickly, the entire rebellion could be in great danger…

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La Belle Sauvage

La Belle Sauvage was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2017. It forms the first part of a planned trilogy titled The Book of Dust, but at the time of writing the release date for the next instalment has not been announced. The series serves as a companion to Pullman’s massively successful His Dark Materials series, though this instalment is set ten years prior to the events of Northern Lights.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead dreams of being a scholar, but has settled on the fact that he is likely to become an innkeeper like his father. Still, he is fairly content with his life. Not only does he help out his family in his free time, but he also uses his canoe – La Belle Sauvage – to run errands for the nuns who live on the opposite side of the river.

One day, he discovers that the nuns have been charged with caring for the baby. Lyra Belacqua was born as the result of a scandalous relationship between two esteemed figures, however Malcolm soon learns that there is another reason why the girl must be protected. The Magisterium are unnaturally interested in her and will stop at nothing to snatch her away.

It’s not long before Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, meet Hannah Relf – an alethiometrist – and through her becomes involved with a secret organisation called Oakley Street. Although Relf is reluctant to involve such a young boy, Malcolm proves to be adept at finding information about the goings on close to his home that no one else can. However, the Magisterium are dangerous and powerful. Soon, Malcolm finds that he is the only one who can protect Lyra from both the Church’s agents and a terrifying stranger with a monstrous dæmon…

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The Shadow Cabinet

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

The Shadow Cabinet was written by Maureen Johnson and first published in 2015. It is the third instalment of the Shades of London series and follows The Name of the Star (2011) and The Madness Underneath (2013). This book carries on exactly where previous instalments have left off, so you really do need to have read them all in order to have any idea about what’s going on.

Rory Deveaux only came to London to study, but could never have imagined how much it would change her life. Over the last few months, she has nearly died, faced the Ripper and gained the ability to dispel ghosts with a touch. However, nothing could have prepared her for Stephen’s sudden death. Although Rory used her power to try and ensure that he would return as a spirit, now she faces a problem. She has no idea where Stephen’s ghost will manifest or what kind of condition it will be in when it does.

Meanwhile, Thorpe has pooled all of the resources that the organisation has into finding Jane. Charlotte is still missing and with every moment that they delay, their chances of finding her alive grow more remote. However, Rory is also technically a missing person and this presents extra complications. If Thorpe wishes to keep using her power, he has to keep her hidden her away from her searching friends and parents, which in turn limits her ability to hunt for Stephen.

Stuck in the safe-house with nothing to do but look through Stephen’s belongings, Rory starts to uncover a deeper mystery. Stephen has been researching a secret society known as the Shadow Cabinet – one that has devoted itself to protecting a group of standing stones that maintain the barrier between the worlds of the living and dead. Slowly, Rory begins to see a connection between the existence of this order and Jane’s crazy cult. Could Jane’s plan to defeat death have something to do with the stones?

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Lyra’s Oxford / Once Upon a Time in the North / The Collectors

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here], [here] and [here].

As there’s only a month to go before Philip Pullman releases his new and exciting novel, I thought that I should probably finish off my series of reviews of His Dark Materials. In previous posts, I’ve already taken a look at the main trilogy – Northern Nights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000) – but today I’m going to be looking at the three companion stories that complement these.

All three shorts were published in separate short volumes – Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008) and The Collectors (2014). They are each set in a different time period, with Once Upon a Time in the North and The Collectors being prequels to the main series, and Lyra’s Oxford set some years after the events of The Amber Spyglass. The collections also contain a number of other titbits, ranging from maps to newspaper clippings, some of which are reported to tie into Pullman’s upcoming The Book of Dust trilogy.

Lyra’s Oxford contains a short story called Lyra and the Birds, in which Lyra and Pantalaimon manage to protect a witch’s dæmon from a mob of angry starlings. The dæmon has come to Oxford in search of an alchemist who can save his partner’s life, however Lyra soon grows suspicious of his story. The alchemist is reported to be an unstable individual and there is clearly something that the dæmon is hiding from her. Just what is the dangerous secret that he is protecting?

Once Upon a Time in the North focuses on the adventures of a young Lee Scoresby and his dæmon, Hester. Scoresby has recently won a hot air balloon in a game of cards and is using it to explore the world. In this early adventure, he finds himself caught in a tense political situation that involves a politician who wants to wage war against the armoured bears, and a murderous gunslinger who bears a grudge against Scoresby.

The Collectors paints the creepy tale of a man who has come into possession of a pair of works of art – a painting of a young woman and a bronze statue of monkey. It is rumoured that if the two are separated, they will eventually find their way back to each other. However, the strangest thing is that when the collector shows the painting to his friend, he recognises the young woman as a former lover. Yet how can that be when the portrait is over eighty years old? The answer is stranger than he ever could have imagined…

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The Spectra United

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Spectra Unearthed. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Spectra United was written by Christie Valentine Powell and first published in 2016. It forms the second part of the The Spectra: Keita’s Wings series and follows on directly from where The Spectra Unearthed (2015) left off. The third instalment of the series – The Spectra Uprooted – was released earlier this month. The novels don’t really stand alone, so I would strongly advise reading them in sequence if you want to have any idea as to what is going on.

Keita Sage and her friends managed to emerge triumphant from their first encounter with Donovan but the war is far from over. Although they have wrestled back the Nomelands from the Stygian’s evil rule, the other Spectra kingdoms remain under his control. Although Keita wants nothing more than to liberate her home, the Spritelands, she knows that she cannot hope to do this alone.

Unable to return to her people, she settles for helping her younger sister Avie to restore peace in distant Lectranis. However, in order to unite the people, they soon realise that they will need to restore Lectranis’s true heir. There is only one problem. The deceased Lectran King had several children and no one knows who was chosen to rule after his death.

With only the vaguest idea of where to search for the missing princes and princesses, Keita and her friends set out across the war-torn land to deliver messages to each of them, begging them to return to the capital. However, the party soon finds itself divided. Left alone with her best friend Sienna and Brian, the boy that she was once betrothed to, Keita must deal with her distaste towards the strange Lectran culture. If she can’t save Lectranis, she has no hope in saving her own home.

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The Amber Spyglass

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

The Amber Spyglass was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2000. It is the final part of the epic His Dark Materials Trilogy and draws all of the threads of the previous instalments together. As the novel follows on directly from where Northern Lights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995) and The Subtle Knife (1997) left off, you really need to have read both of these novels to have any idea of what’s going on in this one.

Lyra has been kidnapped by Mrs Coulter who now keeps her drugged in a remote Tibetan cave. She hopes that it will be enough to keep her hidden from the Magisterium, who plan to have her killed to prevent her from beginning a second fall of man. To achieve this end, they have already dispatched an assassin to locate Mary Malone – the one they call the serpent – in the hope that the doctor will lead him to Lyra.

Meanwhile, Will has been approached by two angels who wish to take him to Lord Asriel. They are aware of the powers of the knife and know it will be vital in Asriel’s war against the Authority. Will agrees to go with them, but only if they help him find Lyra first. Their journey takes them half way around the world and necessitates that he joins forces with one of Lyra’s oldest allies in order to find her.

Meanwhile, the sides have been drawn and the final battle against the Authority is beginning. Lord Asriel’s army has taken arms against the angels of the Authority, led by the warrior known as the Metatron. The result of this war will affect all worlds. Either the Authority will be destroyed, or the Metatron will seize control of everything…

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