Revolution

Revolution was written by Jennifer Donnelly and first published in 2010. It is a very ambitious novel that blends elements of contemporary, historical and science fiction, presenting the dual stories of an American teenager suffering from the death of her brother, and a French teenager trying to survive the Great Terror. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of Donnelly’s other books to fully appreciate it.

Andi Alpers is falling apart. Her little brother – Truman – has been dead for two years, her mother is lost in grief and her father has left them to start a family with a younger woman. Andi knows that she is entirely to blame for all of this and is growing increasingly numb to everything. She is flunking school but doesn’t care. She knows that everyone would be happier if she just wasn’t around.

However, her father’s sudden return derails her morbid plans. To Andi’s horror, he immediately has her mother sent away to a psychiatric institution and insists that Andi accompanies him to Paris over the school break. He hopes that the change will do her good and give her ample time to work on her thesis – a complex work linking an 19th Century French musician to present day acts. Over this time, they will be staying with an eccentric family friend – a Historian known as G who is desperate to prove that a mummified heart belongs to the last Prince of France.

Although Andi is desperate to finish her research and return to her mother, she grows increasingly distracted as she discovers a lost diary belonging to a servant working in the Court of King Louis XVI. The girl – Alex – initially agreed to be a companion for the young prince to move up in society, but gradually grew to view him as a younger brother. Andi keeps reading these increasingly grim accounts of the French Revolution, hoping for the best. However, as G’s research continues, she becomes increasingly fearful as to what Alex’s fate will be…

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Boudica’s Daughters

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Boudica’s Daughters was written by Sheridan Winn and first published in 2016. It’s a fantasy story with historical elements, focusing on a family who are drawn closer together by both personal tragedy and an archaeological find. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lilla has always seen ghosts, though she often finds that people don’t believe her. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that when her family moves out into the Norfolk countryside, she starts to see spirits of ancient warriors. Two thousand years before, the Iceni tribe was known to live in the area and when Lilla uncovers an ornamental hare in the woods behind her house, she quickly learns that it belonged to the daughter of Queen Boudica.

However, her investigation into the ghosts is put on hold when her sister returns home from University. While Lilla has always been a bit weird, her sister Janey was the life and soul of the party. Yet Janey’s not the same as she was. In the past year, she’s gone increasingly off the rails and fallen in with a bad crowd. It’s not long the family discover why, and the tragic revelation shocks all of them to the core.

In an attempt draw her sister out of her depression, Lilla enlists her to help scour the woods for Iceni treasure. As they discover more than they ever could have imagined, the sisters slowly begin to grow closer as they search for a way to both help Janey and the restless spirits find peace.

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The Dark Days Club

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The Dark Days Club was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2015. It’s a dark fantasy story set in England’s Regency Era, focusing on a young lady finding out about the existence of a demon-hunting secret society. The novel forms the first part of the Lady Helen series and is followed by The Dark Days Pact (2017). The final instalment of the trilogy has yet to be announced.

Lady Helen Wrexhall has just reached eighteen years of age and is finally old enough to make her debut in society, attending balls and soirées to make a good impression on any potential husbands. Although she carries the stain of her family name, her uncle is convinced that the inheritance left to her by her disgraced mother will be enough to attract a suitable match.

However, the first man that seems to be interested in Helen is the infamous Lord Carlston – a man suspected of murdering his previous wife. Helen’s uncle is not impressed that Carlson – a distant relation of his – is trying to use their name to catapult himself back into high society. However, Helen soon learns that Carlston is not interested in her as a match. He is a Reclaimer – a member of a secret society called the Dark Days Club – and he believes that Helen is one as well.

Through secret meetings with Carlston, Helen learns all about his organisation, the horrible monsters that they fight and their sacred duty to protect humanity. However, the more that Helen sees of their world, the more certain she is that she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Yet Carlston is certain that a powerful creature known as a Grand Deceiver is on the rise. How could Helen be able to deny her calling when she could be the only one capable of stopping it?

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The Diviners

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The Diviners was written by Libba Bray and first published in 2012. It’s a paranormal novel set in the Roaring Twenties, which focuses on a flapper discovering her psychic powers as she faces a supernatural murder. The novel forms the first part of a series and is followed by Lair of Dreams (2015), though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Evie O’Neill has caused her parents trouble from the last time. Her “party trick” of divining a person’s darkest secrets from a personal item has led to nothing but trouble in her hometown and so her parents decide to ship her off to stay with her uncle in New York City. Although her uncle runs the boring Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (known to locals as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies), Evie is still thrilled. She can’t wait to meet up with her childhood friend, Mabel, and take the town by storm.

However, she soon discovers that a great evil has gripped the city. People are being found ritually murdered, missing body parts and branded with occultist symbols. The police are baffled and turn to Will for advise. When Evie comes into contact with an item belonging to one of the victims, she has a vivid vision of the murder taking place. She realises that she could use her power to help catch the killer, but how can she find a way to do so without making her superstitious uncle suspicious?

Meanwhile, something strange is happening all across America. Individuals with powers that are similar to Evie’s are finding themselves drawn to New York without even being aware of why. In Harlem, a young seer begins to prophesise a coming storm. Its clear that these Diviners are being drawn by some power far great than themselves, but what can it mean and how can they be expected to face it?

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Razorhurst

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Razorhurst was written by Justine Larbalestier and first published in 2016. It’s historical fiction with supernatural elements, focusing on two girls who see ghosts as they struggle to survive in 1930s Sydney. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It’s 1932 and the streets of Razorhurst are bathed in blood. The fragile truce between the two most powerful mob bosses – Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson – is slowly beginning to crumble and their enforcers frequently come to blows in the streets, finishing each other off with razor blades as carrying guns is illegal. It’s not surprising that with so much murder and violence, the streets are also filled with ghosts. Invisible to most, the haunt the places they died or people that they once loved. Only Kelpie seems to notice them, and that often leads to more harm than good.

Kelpie is a street urchin, orphaned and left homeless at a young age. Although she knows that ghosts usually aren’t to be trusted, she makes the mistake of following one’s advice in the hope of finding fresh food. What she stumbles across instead is a murder. Jimmy Palmer – Glory’s favourite lieutenant – has been brutally slaughtered. Although Jimmy’s ghost tells her who committed the crime, there is no way that Kelpie can come forward with this information. If she did, she’d have to explain exactly how she came across it.

Instead, Kelpie finds herself fleeing across Razorhurst with Dymphna Campbell – Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s prized moll. Dymphna has already earned the nickname “Angel of Death” since her partners never seem to last long, and knows that she’s likely to be found responsible for the most recent murder. Dymphna knows that Glory’s hold is weakening and dreams of taking her place, yet most importantly she knows that she must survive. Meeting Kelpie seems to be fate as Dymphna has never encountered another who shares her supernatural power. Together, she knows that they can rise to the top.

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Smoke

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Smoke was written by Dan Vyleta and first published in 2016. In is a historical fantasy novel, set in a 19th Century England where everyone’s sin is visible. Although the novel certainly leaves enough open to allow a sequel, none has been announced at the time of writing and you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Every wicked thought or deed causes a person to smoke, producing the thick substance from their pores and throat. Its thickness, smell and colour is determined by how vile the thought that produces it is. The aristocracy and peasants are separated by this very fact. It is known that the poor smoke constantly, unable to contain their sin. The rich, on the other hand, have learned how to live a life of purity. They control their vices and it is poor show for them to smoke at all.

Thomas and Charlie attend an elite boarding school where the sons of Lords learn how to become proper gentlemen. The problem is, Thomas knows that he is stained. His father was a murderer and he knows that he will one day inherit the same sin. Even though he has come of age, his smoke is still dark and uncontrollable, revealing the darkness of his soul. Charlie is the only one who likes him, sure that Thomas isn’t hopeless as he believes.

When the two of them are sent to stay with Thomas’s distant relative – Lady Naylor – for Christmas, they slowly begin to uncover a conspiracy rooted in the depths of society. The rich are no better than the poor, they have just found ways of managing their smoke through specialist sweets and cigarettes. When it becomes clear that they may pose a threat to her plans for country’s future, Lady Naylor arranges an accident to prevent the boys from leaving her land. However, when things go wrong, the boys wind up on the run with Lady Naylor’s daughter Livia in tow and a deranged serial killer following close behind…

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Blood for Blood

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

Blood for Blood was written by Ryan Graudin and first published in 2016. It is an alternate history story with science-fiction elements, set in a world where the Nazis won the Second World War and have spread out across most of Europe, Russia and Africa. The novel is the sequel to the excellent Wolf by Wolf (2015) and carries on exactly where this novel left off, so you really need to read them in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Yael’s mission failed in the worst possible way. The man she killed was not Hitler, but another skinshifter just like herself. Yet to the viewers watching the broadcast, it appeared that everything had gone to plan. The resistance began their battle against their oppressors, believing that the Nazi war machine had lost its head. Yet the National Socialists were as strong as ever and now hungry for revenge.

Barely escaping Tokyo with her life, Yael finds herself stranded in the wilds of Russia with Luka and Felix. Once allies, the three find their relationship strained. Felix is unable to trust Yael, not entirely believing that his sister is still alive and that the Resistance are not his enemy. Luka’s feelings are more conflicted. It is hard to accept that the racer he fell in love with was not Adele Wolfe, and harder still to accept that he might truly be in love with Yael.

Yael’s mission to topple Hitler from power seems to be doomed to fail, yet when she receives help from a very unexpected source she realises that they may have the tiniest chance. If they could only get the people of Germania to accept that their leaders are responsible for atrocities, perhaps they could gain enough support to fight back against the SS. However, to get evidence to prove this she will need to return to the place where her nightmare began…

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Cogheart

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Cogheart was written by Peter Bunzl and first published in 2016. It is a steampunk novel aimed at middle grade readers which focuses on a young girl as she searches for her missing father. The novel forms the first part of a series and its sequel – provisionally titled Moonlocket – is expected to be released next year.

Lily Hartman does not want to be a proper lady. While the tutors at Miss Scrimshaw’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies are intent on teaching her good manners and poise, she would much rather be reading penny dreadfuls and practicing her lock picking skills. Yet her life becomes even worse when her father – esteemed inventor of mechanicals and mechanimals, John Hartman – is killed in an airship accident, leaving her entrusted to the care of her cold-hearted housekeeper, Madame Verdigris.

Yet Lily struggles to believe that her father is dead. After all, nobody ever found the body. Further suspicions arise when her father’s pet mechanimal fox, Malkin, is discovered by the local clockmaker’s apprentice, a clumsy boy by the name of Robert. Malkin escaped the airship crash, carrying a note which reveals the truth about John’s shady past. He may very well have invented the first perpetual motion machine and there may be others who are also aware of this fact.

As Robert and Malkin try to deliver the letter to Lily, the young girl finds herself in grave danger. Two sinister men with mirrors for eyes are hunting for her and she’s pretty sure that Madame Verdigris is also in on the conspiracy. She knows that her only chance of staying safe and finding her father is to get to her Godfather, but he lives many miles away in London. Soon, Lily’s life starts to feel like one of her penny dreadfuls and she realises that even her closest friends may not be all that trustworthy…

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Strange Star

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Strange Star was written by Emma Carroll and first published in 2016. It is middle grade novel which presents a fantastical account of how Mary Shelley found the inspiration to write Frankenstein. The novel stands alone and so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

June, 1816. The year that a bright new star appears in the sky, drawing a long tail behind it. Lord Byron invites four esteemed guests to Villa Diodati on the shore of Lake Geneva for an evening of ghost stories to chill the blood. For his young servant, Felix, it is an exciting night. Not only is it a good time to prove he is worthy of being Byron’s footman but he can also listen to tales told by some of the greatest thinkers in England.

Yet as darkness falls and a storm begins, there comes a frantic knocking at the door. Felix reluctantly answers it to find the body of a girl on the doorstep. Although Dr Polidori declares her dead, Mary Shelley is not prepared to give up on her. Through sheer force of will she manages to revive the girl, and the girl immediately accuses her of having kidnapped her younger sister. Horrified at the accusation, Mary denies any wrong doing, but the girl has a terrible story to tell.

As Felix and Mary listen, the girl – named Lizzie – tells a terrifying story of her own. One that began the previous winter in a small English village. It is a tale of freak storms and stolen livestock. Impossible science and the possibility of curing death itself. Although Mary is not sure if she believes Lizzie, her story is truly more terrible than anything that the writers could have dreamed of.

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Ratchet the Reluctant Witch

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Ratchet the Reluctant Witch was written by Sara Pascoe and first published in 2015. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl who is forced to find a way home when her magical powers shunt her back in time. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Rachel “Ratchet” Hollinsworth has been living in foster care ever since her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she hates every minute of it. To make matters worse, she’s worried that she’s also developing a mental disorder. Lately, she’s been seeing things that aren’t there and hearing cats talk. If anyone finds out, she knows she’ll be locked away like her mother.

Desperate for independence, Ratchet runs away to London and her life soon starts to look up. She finds herself a job in a nice café and a homeless psychic named Pavel reveals to her that she is actually an Integrator (witch). He even starts to teach her how to control her powers. Her situation still isn’t perfect but Ratchet is content. That is, until her social worker tracks her down.

It turns out that the social worker – Bryony – is an Integrator too and had been keeping an eye on Ratchet. When one of Ratchet’s friends is injured, the grief triggers her powers and sends her hurtling back in time to the Essex Witch trials. Bryony and her wisecracking familiar, Oscar the Cat, hurry to bring her back before the Witchfinder General can catch her. Yet things go from bad to worse when Ratchet jumps to 17th Century Istanbul and finds herself as a fortune teller to the murderous Sultana. Will she live long enough to get back to her own time?

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