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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Smoke

smoke

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

blood-for-blood

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

cogheart

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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Heartfire

Heartfire

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

Heartfire was written by Kate A Boorman and first published in 2016. It is the final part of the Winterkill Trilogy and is preceded by Winterkill (2014) and Darkthaw (2015). The story continues where Darkthaw leaves off and I would strongly recommend reading the novels in order if you want to have the faintest idea of what’s going on.

Emmeline has settled into life with the osanaskisiwak. Although she still feels like a bit of an outsider within their community, the First People have gratefully accepted her skills as a healer and are eager to teach her their ways. Tom has also found a place among them, finally able to find love with another man as he’s always dreamed of. The only thing missing is Kane. Em misses him terribly but she has not heard from him since they parted ways.

However, things take a turn for the worse when the First People start to be stricken by the Bleed. The disease has never affected them before but now their medicines seem to be failing. To make matters worse, Kane and Genya arrive at the settlement with words that the Dominion are near and have set their sights on the osanaskisiwak, knowing that they have the cure for the Bleed.

Em heads out to meet with the leader of the Dominion to cut a deal. They will offer the cure for the Bleed so long as the Dominion agree to leave the First People alone. The only problem is that it is all a gamble. The First People do not have the cure on hand anymore. Em releases that the only place they can get it is the Forbidden Woods, however that would mean returning to the Settlement that she left behind…

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Darkthaw

Darkthaw

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Winterkill. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Darkthaw was written by Kate A Boorman and first published in 2015. It is the second part of a planned trilogy and carries on directly where Winterkill (2014) left off, following Emmeline and her allies as they travel away from the Settlement for the first time. The final part of the trilogy, provisionally titled Heartfire, is due for release later this year.

La Prise has finally arrived and Emmeline is excited about the changes that it brings. Finally, it’s safe for her to travel through the forest to Matisa’s hometown. However, she soon discovers that the journey is not going to be as straightforward as she first imagined. Tom is unable to join her, forced to remain to care for his ailing father. Kane is also reluctant to come without his mother and brothers, raising tension among the party for fear that they will slow everyone down.

However, the biggest challenges lie outside the walls of the Settlement. The world is not how Emmeline envisioned it. The Dominion has begun its gradual crawl into the West, keen on bringing law and order to the ungoverned land. Ahead of them come all manner of outlaws, all intent on seizing control for themselves before the Dominion arrive. In addition to these, Emmeline discovers the truth of the malmaci, not a spirit but a disease that thrives in standing water. Only Matisa’s people know how to prevent the agonising death that this sickness brings.

Death and danger wait at every corner as Emmeline struggles to travel across the strange new lands and it’s not long before her party is divided. Lost in the woods with only the bad tempered Isi and Kane’s young brother for company, Emmeline battles to reunite her friends. However, she is also forced to face her own doubts. Is travelling to Matisa’s home really worth risking the lives of everyone that she’s ever cared about?

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Wolf by Wolf

Wolf by Wolf

Wolf by Wolf was written by Ryan Graudin and first published in 2015. It’s an alternative history novel with science fiction elements, set in a world in which Germany and Japan won World War II. The book is the first part of a planned duology, although at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Yael has spent a full year of training to fulfill one simple goal: Kill Hitler. Imprisoned in a concentration camp as a child, she soon found herself subjected to the torturous experiments of Dr Geyer – a man determined to find a way to turn a dark featured person into an Aryan. His experiment had one unforeseen side effect. It gave Yael the ability to skinshift – to change her physical appearance to resemble that of any human female. Using her newfound ability to escape, she found a home for herself within the resistance.

Now, she bares a tattoo of five wolves to hide her identification brand and help her to remember the five people that she has lost to get that far. Her skinshifting has brought new hope to the Resistance who plan to use it as a way to get close enough to assassinate the reclusive Fuhrer. Her one chance to do so comes in the form of the Axis Tour – a grueling motorcycle race between Germania and Tokyo.

Posing as Adele Wolfe – the only female victor of the race – Yael enters. She has no choice but to win, it’s her only hope to come close enough to Hitler to kill him on camera. However, her victory is not assured. The Axis Tour is notoriously dangerous and the other challengers will stop at nothing to disable their competition. Additional obstacles in the form of Adele’s former lover and her overprotective brother also add unexpected complications to Yael’s mission. She knows that she cannot afford to be discovered. The fate of the world rests on her victory…

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Winterkill

Winterkill

Winterkill was written by Kate A. Boorman and was first published in 2014. It combines elements of a fantasy, dystopian and historical novel to tell the story of a teenage girl coming of age in a remote and highly religious settlement. The novel is the first part of a planned trilogy and is followed by Darkthaw (2015). The final part of the trilogy – provisionally titled Heartfire – is expected to be released in late 2016.

Emmeline’s people have lived in the settlement for eight generations, banding together for safety after they were forced to leave the Western world. They have survived sickness and deadly winters by following their devout Councilmen, who put their faith in the virtues of Bravery, Honesty and Discovery. Anyone who is caught defying these precepts is declared Wayward and executed at the Crossroads to prevent them from causing damage to the community.

As an outcast in society, Emmeline knows that most people expect for her to become Wayward. She is stained – atoning for the sins committed by her grandmother long before she was born. As her sixteenth birthday nears, she knows that she will soon be of the age where she can be bound to a man. She wants nothing more for it to be Kane but when Brother Stockham – the leader of their community – starts to show an interest in her she starts to panic. Wedding the Councilman will absolve her of her stain but can she stand to be married to someone she does not love?

At the same time, Emmeline begins to have strange dreams that call her into the woods – the voices of a long dead race begging her to find them. Yet the woods are out of bounds and if she’s caught exploring them, Emmeline knows that she’ll be declared Wayward for sure. Yet that would be the least of her problems. The woods are also home to a terrible entity called the malmaci. If she ventures too far into the unknown, she could just as easily fall prey to the monster…

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Tersias

Tersias

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

Tersias was written by G.P. Taylor and first published in 2005. It is a Christian horror story set in an alternate version of Georgian London and forms the third part of The Shadowmancer Quartet. This novel was preceded by Shadowmancer (2002) and Wormwood (2004) and followed by The Shadowmancer Returns: Curse of Salamander Street (2006). Although it technically follows on from the events of Wormwood, Tersias does not contain any of the same characters or require any knowledge of the events of its precursor and so could be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

The comet Wormwood has now passed and London escaped destruction, however the city has still fallen into decay. Fallen chunks of ice have destroyed many of the major landmarks and left a majority of the city dwellers too frightened to return. Those that remain live a life of constant debauchery and crime – circuses perform in the streets and beggars and thieves haunt the shadows. It is not long before something worse still begins to rise.

When the failed magician Magnus Malachi purchases Tersias – a blind twelve year old boy – he originally hopes to use the boy’s disability to line his pockets. However, he realises that Tersias is much more valuable when he finds that the boy has visions of the future. An invisible creature known only as the Wretchkin comes to Tersias and whispers the answers to questions in his ear, all of which turn out to be true. Seeing that he could easily make his fortune Malachi puts the boy on display, however this quickly draws the attention of some very dangerous men.

Lord Malpas has just been robbed by a pair of highwayman – teenage Jonah Ketch and his partner-in-crime, Tara. They have taken from him two powerful artefacts and he desperately needs them back. The crazed zealot Solomon also has an interest in Tersias’s power as he believes that the oracle is destined to be at his side when London finally falls to its vices – an end that he intends to spur through use of his genetically engineered monsters. While they all seek to use Tersias for their own ends, a worry lies in the boy’s mind. Just what is the Wretchkin and is it a being of good or evil?

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Grass for his Pillow

Grass for his Pillow

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Across the Nightingale Floor. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Grass for his Pillow was written by Lian Hearn (pseudonym of author Gillian Rubenstein) and was first published in 2003. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Across the Nightingale Floor (2002) and forms the second instalment of the Tales of the Otori. It is followed by the final part of the original trilogy – Brilliance of the Moon (2004) – as well as a sequel called The Harsh Cry of the Heron (2006) and a prequel called Heaven’s Net is Wide (2007). The novel carries on exactly where Across the Nightingale Floor ended and so I would strongly advise that you read the novels in order in order to fully appreciate them.

Although Otori Takeo wishes to avenge the death of his adoptive father, he is bound to Tribe by his oath. Swiftly whisked away from the safety of Terayama, he soon realises that they have great plans for him. The Tribe both admire and loathe him for his powerful abilities and lack of discipline. As they force him into a rigorous and brutal training program, Takeo slips further and further into despair. He knows that his life as a nobleman is over and he will never be allowed to see his beloved Kaede again.

Shirakawa Kaede also nurses a broken heart. Now pregnant with Takeo’s child, she has little choice to return to her homeland. She arrives to find that her family lands have been almost destroyed by war and famine and her father is a shell of his former self, maddened by his own cowardice. Although the expectance is that she will marry again quickly, Kaede chooses to turn her back on tradition. As she observes the weakness of the men around her, she swiftly decides to follow a new path. As the heir to both the Shirakawa and Maruyama lands, she chooses to remain unwed and control them herself.

As Takeo and Kaede adapt to life without each other, the land around them begins to turn to chaos. A harsh winter and rise in taxes have left the lower classes unsatisfied and Arai Daiichi still struggles to fill the power vacuum left by Iida’s death. With war inevitable it’s not long before a prophecy rises amongst the Outcastes, stating that Takeo will return to take his rightful place as an Otori Lord and bring peace to the land…

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