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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The Never Dawn

The Never Dawn was written by R.E. Palmer and first published in 2016. It’s a dystopian science fiction story that follows a young worker who lives in an underground commune. The book is the first part of a planned trilogy and is followed by Cloud Cuckoo (2016). At the time of writing, the final instalment has yet to be announced.

It has been over a hundred years since Noah’s people were forced to flee from the surface – from the toxic rain, polluted skies and enemies that would see them destroyed. Under Mother’s guidance, they retreated to the Ark and were divided into four classes – workers, farmers, researchers and prefects. Only by working together could they prepare for a time when it would be safe to return.

Noah has lived his life wanting nothing more than to please Mother. He works hard to build more components than anyone else, determined to one day be remembered like his hero, Moses. He never questions what he is making or where it goes next. He merely performs his role in society because it is what is expected of him. After all, Mother knows best.

However, Noah’s attitude begins to change as he starts to notice Rebekah. Thoughts of the beautiful researcher fill his mind and distract him from his duty, yet he can’t understand why. He finds himself even more confused when his team mate Seth is found guilty of being an agent of their enemies and taken away. Noah finds it hard to believe that someone as sweet as Seth could be corrupt. Yet it must be the truth. It couldn’t be that Mother is lying to them, could it?

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The Spirit of Stratos: The Shadow Virus

The Spirit of Stratos: The Shadow Virus was written by R.E. Larrison and first published in 2016. It is a science fiction novel that focuses on two teenagers as they face separate challenges on a dangerous alien world. The book reads as though it is the first part of a series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When Alec Quinn learns that an airship has crashed in the depths of the jungle, he knows that it’s the time to prove himself. However, when he approaches his admiral to ask permission to join the search party, he discovers that there may be something more to the accident. The military is desperate to keep the crash a secret and it’s only with the help of a well-regarded priest that Alec gets accepted onto the top-secret mission.

However, Alec may have bitten off more than he can chew. He’s only a cadet but the mission takes him deep into a jungle that’s infested with giant carnivores and arboreal savages. As Alec’s party nears the crash site, things grow stranger still. They find dozens of dead creatures and a settlement full of people who should not exist. Alec may have stumbled across the biggest threat to his nation, but how will be able to rescue the airship crew and escape when danger lurks behind every tree?

Meanwhile, Elka Kole – Alec’s childhood friend – has been kidnapped. She awakes to find herself held prisoner by a family of smugglers who plan to sell her to the infamous thug, Munner Lyn. Alone and far away from her family, Elka must find a way to survive and escape. However, to do this, she must first befriend her captors…

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The Conscript

The Conscript was written by Nate Kirtis and first published in 2016. It is a science fiction novel that focuses on a teenage boy who is kidnapped and forcibly recruited into a foreign military school. The book forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

World-FIVE is known for being a dangerous planet, but fourteen-year-old Avi Garza has always felt safe at his school in Co’pia. Yet everything changes on the day that mysterious foreign soldiers invade his school. They kill everyone who resists them, including Avi’s two best friends, and take the rest hostage. After days of travelling, Avi and the other survivors are released in Camp Condor, a military school in distant Yermo, and given two options. Either they can join the academy, or be used as target practice.

Unbeknown to his captors, Avi is not what he seems. He hide his true intelligence and the years of combat training that he received as a child. Avi knows that his best chance to have revenge is to play along, and therefore he hides his strengths and befriends the other boys in his bunker. However, his strange actions catch the attention of a camp official who requests for him to become his personal adept. Such a thing is unheard of, as not even the students who have been training for years have achieved such a lofty rank.

Naturally, Avi’s promotion angers both his fellow students and members of the faculty. It’s not long before some of his classmates strike back, taking advantage of Avi’s lack of citizenship in an attempt to murder him. As a foreigner, Avi knows that his chances of surviving are limited unless he can be recognised as full citizen of Yermo. Yet his best chance to earn this is to win the 6Day Games – a Camp wide war game that pits all of the students against each other…

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One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying was written by Karen M McManus and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel set in an American high school, where four students find themselves suspected of murdering one of their classmates. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of McManus’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Bronwyn is a diligent student with high hopes of getting into Yale. Cooper is a brilliant pitcher who is already been scouted for several baseball scholarships. Addison is the beautiful homecoming queen with a perfect boyfriend. Nate is a known drug dealer, one slip-up away from being sent to juvie. Simon is the notorious editor of the school’s gossip app.

All five students find themselves in detention when banned mobile phones are planted in their bags before a spot check. While the students believe themselves to be victims of a practical joke, things take a sinister turn as Simon suddenly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the room. While it looks to be a tragic accident, it turns out that Simon’s water had been spiked with peanut oil – something that he was deathly allergic to.

As no one else could have entered the room, it seems clear that one of the four others must have poisoned him. Suspicion grows as it is discovered that Simon had dirt on each of them and was planning on making it public. As Simon is renowned for always being right, it’s clear that none of the suspects are as clean as they first seemed. Every one of them hides a secret, yet would any of them be prepared to kill to protect it?

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Legion

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

Legion was written by Julie Kagawa and first published in 2017. It is the fourth instalment of The Talon Saga, raising the stakes as Talon finally reveals their terrible plan for world domination. As this novel follows on directly where Talon (2014), Rogue (2015) and Soldier (2016) left off, I’d recommend reading the novels in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

The Patriarch has been defeated and the Order has fallen into disarray, but it came at a terrible cost. Garret won the duel but still fell to his treacherous commander’s blade. As he bled to death in the middle of nowhere, his salvation came from an unexpected person. Riley offers his blood for transfusion, saving Garret’s life. However, the implications for him doing this are unknown. Garret is a human and Riley is a dragon. There is no way of knowing if he will survive, or what will become of him if he does.

However, Ember and the Rogues do not have time to find out. When a small town is wiped out in a sudden accident, they know that Talon must have something to do with it. What they discover chills them to the core. Talon have completed their army of Vessels – soulless clones bred purely for war – and Dante will be the one to dispatch them to destroy the last vestiges of the Order.

Ember knows that they must stop them, even if it means forging an alliance with their enemy. However, the Vessels aren’t the only threat. When she is taken captive by Dante, she meets the Elder Wyrm for the first time and learns of her true plan. Ember has a vital role to play in the Elder Wyrm’s schemes – one that will mean a fate worse than death for her…

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The Waterfall Traveler

The Waterfall Traveler was first published in 2017 and is S.J. Lem’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story about a teenage girl who teams up with a group of young men to protect her village from monsters. The story forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Due to her adopted father’s illness, Ri has long been treated as an outsider in her isolated island home. The sickness has slowly robbed Samuel of his mind and left him as a shell of his former self. His confused state makes him susceptible to confusion, which is why Ri does not initially believe his claims about the man who came through the waterfall.

Later, while out hunting, Ri comes across a sinister man in the woods and is attacked and badly wounded by an unseen creature. She’s rescued by another stranger who does indeed take her to safety through the waterfall. Yet this leaves Ri with a problem. Waterfall travel is regulated by the phases of the moon and so it will be a full month before she can return to Samuel.

Ri is frantic, yet there seems to be nothing that she can do. She is forced to bide her time by helping her saviour – Bryce – and his con-artist friend Carter to deliver medicines to sick people in the valley below. Yet the city she has found herself in is far from her home and is torn between monster attacks and the iron rule of a tyrant. All Ri wants is to go back to Samuel, but first she must survive the dangers of this strange new society…

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The Subtle Knife

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Northern Lights. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Subtle Knife was written by Philip Pullman and first published in 1997. It forms the second part of the epic His Dark Materials trilogy, preceded by Northern Lights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995) and followed by The Amber Spyglass (2000). The novel picks up shortly after Northern Lights left off and so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Will Parry has always believed that his mother’s paranoia was some sort of sickness, yet everything changes when two sinister men show up at his house and begin to pester her for information on his missing father. Their harassment only serves to make his mother worse and, when the men eventually break into his home, Will accidentally kills one of them in a struggle.

Knowing that he will soon be hunted by the police, or worse, Will escapes into the night with a briefcase full of his father’s letters. On the outskirts of Oxford, he accidentally discovers a window to another world – the oddly deserted city of Cittàgazze – and it is here that he first meets Lyra Silvertongue and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, and learns about their escape from their world.

As Lyra and Will get to know each other and explore the Cittàgazze, they come to learn of the existence of a device that can be used to cut holes between worlds. However, little do they know that their discovery is linked to a greater war. Far away, unknown to them, Lyra’s allies search for her. They know that Lord Asriel is building an army and has plans to defeat the Magisterium by slaying the Authority that they worship. Although the angels failed in this task decades ago, the witches fear that this time he will succeed and their prophecies tell that Lyra will somehow be instrumental in his victory…

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The Spectra Unearthed

The Spectra Unearthed was written by Christie Valentine Powell and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy story which focuses on three magical-using princesses on a mission to save their kingdoms from a cruel invading force. The novel forms the first part of The Spectra: Keita’s Wings series and is followed by The Spectra United (2016).

Keita Sage was never a very good princess. Really, she couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. However, that was before the Stygians attacked. They overwhelmed all six of the kingdoms, murdering the Kings and seizing control in the name of their leader, a man known only as Donovan. Now, Keita is on the run. She knows that she has to find a way to save her brother, trapped behind the fortified walls of the Summit. She just doesn’t know how.

It’s not long until she is captured by Jasper – a former friend of her brother who has thrown in his lot with the enemy. Jasper swears that he only wants to keep her safe but has a strange way of showing it. With the help of a Nome girl – Sienna – Keita manages to escape and reunite herself with two other renegade princesses – Zuri and Carli.

As the four girls travel across the arid desert of the Nomelands, they encounter a group of rebels who are intent on protecting Crossovers – orphaned children who had been abandoned for possessing different magical powers to their parents. Keita can see that this colony has little chance of standing up to Jasper’s might but still knows that she has to do everything in her power to help them. Yet what chance does she have against an army of Stygians, each of whom possess the magical abilities of all of the six factions?

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The Madness Underneath / The Boy in the Smoke

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

The Madness Underneath was written by Maureen Johnson and first published in 2013. It forms the second part of the Shades of London series and is preceded by The Name of the Star (2011) and followed by The Boy in the Smoke (2014) and The Shadow Cabinet (2015). The story picks up exactly where its prequel leaves off, with Rory coming to terms with her new power.

Ripper hype is slowly starting to die down. As far as the general public are concerned, the murderer is dead and his brutal killing spree is finally over. Rory is one of a small group of people who know the truth. The Ripper is gone, but he was not killed. He was never alive to begin with. Yet his defeat almost cost her life and now her overprotective parents have spirited her away from the city, determined that she will never return to her friends at Wexford.

For Rory, leaving London is far more distressing than her healing wounds. She misses her school friends horribly, and Stephen and his band of ghost hunters even more. To make matters worse, her battle with the Ripper has left her with a deadly power – the ability to dispel ghosts with a touch – and she has no one left that she can talk to about it. Luckily, it’s not long before her ability is discovered and the English government arrange for her to return to London.

Rory believed that this would make things easier, but it doesn’t. Stephen doesn’t seem to want her to be part of his team and her secrecy is damaging her relationship with Jerome. As things begin to spiral out of her control, Rory finally decides to seek the help of Jane, a local therapist. However, there is something very strange about Jane. The stories that she tells slowly begin to resonate with Rory’s own experiences. Could it be possible that Jane can see ghosts as well?

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