Lair of Dreams

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

Lair of Dreams was written by Libba Bray and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy story, set in New York during the 1920s, as a mysterious and possibly supernatural plague causes fear to spread throughout the city. The story does not really stand alone as it picks up shortly after its prequel, The Diviners (2012) left off. A third instalment of the series, titled Before the Devil Breaks You, is due for release next month.

Now that Evie has revealed her power to the world, she has found herself an overnight sensation. Labelled as the Sweetheart Seer, she soon gains a weekly radio show and her life becomes an endless cycle of mysticism and revelry. However, her glamorous new lifestyle has caused her to push her old friends away. Evie’s friends think that she’s changed but they do not understand why it is that she drinks. It’s to blot out her memories of her terrible battle against the spirit of Naughty John.

Meanwhile, a new threat has struck the city. People in Chinatown have begun to be stricken by a deadly disease that causes them to fall in a deep – and eventually fatal – sleep. As the sickness begins to spread, people fear that the Chinese may be the cause and violence against the immigrants starts to rise. In her nocturnal journeys, a young dream-walker named Ling encounters Henry and reluctantly helps him in his search for his lost love. The two of them do not realise that their quest will bring them face to face with the terrible cause of the affliction.

However, the sickness isn’t the only strange thing to strike close to Evie’s home. Sam has found a new lead regarding Project Buffalo and discovered that his mother’s research may have had something to do with a nationwide hunt for Diviners. Yet what could the Shadow Men want with people with powers like his own, and how does it all connect back to the increasing sightings of a man in a stovepipe hat?

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Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist was written by Renée Ahdieh and first published in 2017. It is a historical fantasy story set in Feudal Japan, focusing on a teenage girl out for revenge on the shinobi clan who want her dead. The book forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Hattori Mariko has never been a perfect daughter. Blessed with a keen intellect, she has always sought to learn as much as possible. Yet it is finally time for her to serve her father. The Emperor’s son, Raiden, has requested her hand and Mariko has no choice but to accept. While she has never met Raiden, the marriage will secure more power for her father and ensure that he can move up through the political strata of Inako.

Everything goes wrong while Mariko is on her way to their first meeting. Her convoy is attacked as it passes through the woods and all of her servants are killed. As Mariko flees into the night, she realises that the infamous Black Clan – a group of mercenaries and assassins – are responsible. Vowing that she will have her revenge, Mariko cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy. If she can only be accepted into their ranks, she knows that she can destroy them from within.

Yet the Black Clan’s trust is not easily won. Mariko finds herself under the scrutiny of their leader, Ranmaru, and his sullen second-in-command, Ōkami. They make quite clear that if Mariko slips up, she will find herself facing a gruesome death. To make matters worse, Mariko’s brother Kenshin is searching for her. As a well-regarded samurai, it’s not long before he has enlisted the help of the Emperor’s sons. Kenshin suspects that the Black Clan has its hand in Mariko’s disappearance, and is willing to kill every last one of them to get her back.

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Gaslight

Gaslight was written by Eloise Williams and first published in 2017. It is historical fiction, set in 19th Century Cardiff, which focuses on a fourteen-year-old girl in search of her lost mother. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Nansi remembers that her mother was beautiful and kind and on the run from someone. Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember anything more than that. She can’t remember how she came to be floating in the River Ely. It was lucky that Sid found her when he did. If he hadn’t been there to rescue her and give her somewhere safe to live, who knows what would have happened to her.

She knows that she should be grateful to Sid, yet sometimes it’s difficult. People call him Pernicious Sid with good reason, as he forces her to steal things to help pay his substantial debts and punishes her brutally if she fails. Still, at least he has given Nansi her own room beneath his theatre and promises that he will save money for her until she can afford a private detective to help search for her mother.

Yet everything changes on the day that Constance and Violet join the theatre. The fact that Sid overlooks Violet’s cruelty causes Nansi to finally see how he really is, and Constance brings a vital clue concerning her mother’s whereabouts. Soon, Nansi finds herself on the run from Sid and his men. Her only hope is to find her mother before he can catch her. If she doesn’t, who knows what fate Sid will have in store for her…

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The Dark Days Pact

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

The Dark Days Pact was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2017. It is a dark fantasy story set in 19th Century England, which focuses on a young woman’s continuing association with a demon-hunting secret society. The novel forms the second part of the Lady Helen series and is preceded by The Dark Days Club (2015).

Following her public disgrace at her Presentation Ball, Lady Helen travels to Brighton to spend the summer with Lady Margaret and her brother, Mr Hammond. While it appears to her friends that she has merely retired to the coast for health reasons, it is really the perfect opportunity to hone her Reclaimer skills. Under the watchful eye of Lord Carlston, her combat training intensifies and she learns how to disguise herself as a man.

However, Lady Helen can’t help but notice that Lord Carlston’s sickness is growing worse. Following their illicit contact at the Presentation Ball, there seems to be a strange sort of energy between them. While Lord Carlston claims he is fine, Lady Helen suspects that his Reclaimer madness is fast approaching the point of no return. If he does not retire soon, he will be lost in the same mania that claimed Mr Benchley.

Lady Helen is not the only one to have noticed this. It is not long before she and Mr Hammond are approached by Mr Pike with word from the Home Office. As Lord Carlston can no longer be trusted, the two of them are ordered to undertake a top-secret mission to retrieve Mr Benchley’s journal. Although the two are suspicious as to what Mr Pike’s true intentions are, they have no choice but to do as he asks. Mr Pike’s position is authorised by the Prince Regent and so to disobey him would mean committing the crime of high treason…

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Moonlocket

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

Moonlocket was written by Peter Bunzl and first published in 2017. It is a steampunk novel targeted at middle grade readers, focusing on two young protagonists as they attempt to outwit a master criminal. The novel forms the second instalment of The Cogheart Adventures series and is preceded by Cogheart (2016).

Although he has been welcomed into John and Lily’s home, Robert still does not feel welcome. He mourns for his father and feels nothing but animosity towards his mother – the woman who abandoned him when he was just a baby. However, everything changes when he sees a ghostly figure in the window of his old home. On investigation, he comes face to face with a dangerous vagabond and slowly starts to realise that there is more to his family than he ever realised.

The stranger is Jack Door – an infamous escape artist and thief – who was imprisoned after he managed to steal the Blood Moon Diamond right off the head of the Queen’s mechanical elephant during the Jubilee. He has now escaped from prison and is searching for his prize, and has reason to believe that Robert’s mother has hidden it from him.

Robert knows that they can’t let Jack get his hands on the diamond. With Lily and Malkin at his side, he travels to London in search of the jewel and his long-lost mother. His only clue is a broken locket and the mysterious cipher that it contains. However, he must be careful. Jack Door is a dangerous man and would stop at nothing to beat them to his treasure…

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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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