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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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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