Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse was written by D.D. Everest and first published in 2016. It forms the second part of a trilogy and is preceded by Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret (2015). The final instalment of the series – Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell – is due for release at the start of next month. The series is aimed at middle grade readers and focuses on the continuing adventures of an apprentice caretaker of magical books.

Archie Greene loves studying book mending under the watchful eye of Old Zeb, but is thrilled that he will soon receive his second firemark and learn what school of book magic he will be learning next. Better still, it is almost his cousin Thistle’s birthday, and so he will also be taking the fire test and joining them at Mothballs – the Museum of Magical Miscellany.

However, when Thistle arrives to take his test, the Flame of Pharos begins to act strangely. Instead of one of the usual three firemarks, both boys receive a golden one in the shape of a snake eating its own tail. Three other students – Bramble, Rupert and Arabella – also find themselves similarly inflicted. It is the alchemist’s mark – a symbol that has not been seen since the time of the Great Fire of London – and it means that the five are capable of writing their own magic!

With the alchemist’s mark, the five children realise that they could finally begin repairing the fading magical books and ushering in a new age of magic. However, their marks carry a sinister history and ties to dark magicians of old. When Archie also discovers that there is a fork in his destiny, he begins to grow worried. His entire future hinges on one unknown moment when he will have to choose between using his power for good or evil. Yet how can he avoid a terrible fate if he does not know what form this moment will take?

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Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret

Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret was written by D.D. Everest and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy story for middle grade readers, focusing on a young boy who discovers that he belongs to a family of magical book wardens. The novel forms the first part of a planned trilogy and is followed by Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse (2016). The final part of the series – Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell – is due for release later this year.

Since the tragic deaths of his parents and sister, Archie Greene has grown up living with his Grandmother and led a wholly unremarkable life. However, all this changes on his twelfth birthday when a stranger appears with an unusual gift for him. The man comes from London’s most secret law firm and has come to deliver a sealed book and a message. The weird thing is, the book has been with them awaiting for delivery for over four hundred years.

The message instructs Archie to deliver the book to the Aisle of White, a book shop in Oxford. It is here that he learns the truth about his family. Archie is a descendant of one of the men who protected the Library of Alexandria – the place were all magic books were kept until it was destroyed by fire. When the Flame of Alexandria recognises his potential, he is apprenticed to Old Zeb – a master book binder – and begins working for the Museum of Magical Miscellany (or Mothballs as it is known to the other apprentices).

Yet Archie soon learns about the dangers of the magical world. Mothballs is home to four of the Terrible Tomes – magical books that could bring about the end of everything. On Archie’s first day, another apprentice is targeted by Greaders – people who are desperate to get their hands on the Tomes’s power. Realising that they could have mistaken the boy for him, Archie begins to grow suspicious about the book that he delivered. Could it be that it’s what the Greaders are searching for?

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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

This is my 300th review. Yay! Thank-you to everyone who’s followed or otherwise supported this blog over the last three-and-a-bit years! To celebrate, I’m going to dip once again into J.K. Rowling’s magical world.

In case you’ve just returned from a lengthy stay on Mars, the Harry Potter series is known and loved across the world. It consists of seven main novels – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). Since then, the series has also been expanded to include a couple of scripts – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016 – a sequel stage play) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016 – a prequel film) – as well as a number of short companion books which further expand the world.

Harry is about to begin his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and couldn’t be more excited to get away from the abusive Dursleys for another year. However, things get off to a bad start when he accidentally blows up his Aunt Marge. Believing that his unauthorised use of magic will get him expelled, he flees into the night. However, he doesn’t get far before he encounters the Grim – the spectral black dog that is believed to bring death to all those who catch sight of it.

Harry manages to survive his encounter and soon meets the very relieved Minister of Magic. Everyone was especially worried about Harry as the infamous mass-murder, Sirius Black, has just escaped from Azkaban and they have reason to believe that Harry could be his next target. The safest place for him to remain is Hogwarts as the Dementors – Azkaban’s terrifying guards – have been posted at the school.

Yet the Dementors may not be enough to protect Harry. In his first Divinations class, Professor Trelawney predicts that Harry will soon die. As Black is sighted within the castle, it soon becomes clear that nowhere is safe. Yet just how is the killer sneaking past the guards? Could he be having help from the inside and, if so, who else has it in for Harry?

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Animorphs 33-37

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Animorphs:  1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-19 | 20-22 | 23-27 | 28-32

Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor’s Secret

Animorphs Chronicles: The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles

Welcome again to my retrospective of K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, this is my gradual look back over a popular-science fiction series that ran between 1996 and 2001. The series consisted of fifty-four main books and ten spin-offs, though for the purpose of this review I’m only going to be looking at volumes thirty-three to thirty-seven – The Illusion, The Prophecy, The Proposal, The Mutation and The Weakness. Be warned, there will be spoilers below the cut…

Due to Rachel’s struggle against herself, the Animorphs failed to stop the development of the Anti-Morphing Ray. Now that it’s ready to be tested, the team know that it could reveal that they’re really human and put all of their lives in danger. Their only hope is to fool Visser Three into believing that it’s broken and the only way to do this is to use Tobias. The hawk is his true form and so if the ray is turned upon him, nothing would happen. However, tricking the Yeerks requires for him to first become their prisoner.

Following this, the Animorphs are contacted by the last of the Arn. He wishes to breed a new strain of Hork-Bajir to free his plant for the Yeerks, but to do so he needs to find a cask of armaments that was once hidden by Aldrea. To locate this, he needs to transfer Aldrea’s consciousness into a willing host. However, there is no way of knowing if Aldrea will be prepared to give the person their body back.

Yet some of the Animorph’s biggest challenges occur close to home. Marco struggles to control his morphing power when put under stress by the possibility of his father remarrying, and Jake is forced to make difficult decisions when the team are taken captive by a race of aquatic humanoids. Yet the biggest challenge comes when Rachel is left in charge while Jake takes a vacation. Her reckless plan to show up Visser Three puts the lives of her friends in danger. Just how far will she go before she realises that she is in over her head?
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Young Adult Comics

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I haven’t had time to prepare a proper review for today as I’m currently studying for an exam. Don’t worry though – so long as I pass, everything should be back to normal for next week!

Anyhow, instead I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something a little different. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll already know that I’m also an avid comic book reader. While comics are a bit more mainstream now than they once were, they’re still often looked down upon as being of lesser value than other forms of art and literature. This is quite frankly crazy – as with the novels that I’ve reviewed, the quality of comics can vary quite wildly between titles, writers and artists.

Therefore, I thought I’d use this post to talk about my favourite comics for middle grade and young adult readers. Everything on this list (apart from Nimona) is an ongoing series so you should be able to find them at your local book store, library or comic book shop. I also should note that all of these series are all Western comics. While I do also read manga, these days I’m more of a Western comic book reader and so I’m not up on the most recent Japanese titles to recommend.

Anyhow, let’s start with some Marvel comics!

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Megamorphs #3: Elfangor’s Secret

megamorphs-3

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Animorphs:  1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-19 | 20-22 | 23-27 | 28-32

Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs

Animorphs Chronicles: The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles

It’s been a while since I looked at one of the Megamorphs books, so here’s a little background. This is a spin-off of K.A. Applegate’s popular Animorphs series. There are four Megamorphs books and they’re characterised by being longer and containing more narrators than a typical Animorphs book. For today’s review, I’m going to be looking at the third of these – Elfangor’s Secret – which was first published in 1999. It should also be noted that this book is designed to be read after The Sickness (the 29th instalment of the main series).

When Elfangor tried to escape the war, he did so using the Time Matrix – the most powerful device in the universe. He knew that if the machine fell into the wrong hands it could be used to alter the history of the world, and so he hid it. Unfortunately, things don’t remain hidden forever. The device has fallen into the hands of Visser Four, and he intends to use it to ensure that Yeerks can easily dominate the Earth.

When the Drode is sent to request the Animorphs’ assistance, they know that something is wrong. The Crayak is their most powerful enemy – why ever would he need their help? Yet it quickly becomes clear that neither side wants to see the Yeerks with such power. The Crayak offers to give them the ability to pursue Visser Four across history, but he will only do so for a price. One of the Animorphs must die.

This is naturally not something that they want to agree to, yet they have no choice. They can’t value one of their lives over those of every human on the planet. Therefore, they begin to chase Visser Four in an attempt to stop him from changing history. However, they know that they must be careful. The Yeerk is not the only threat. Any wrong move that they make could also change the future for the worse…

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American Monsters

american-monsters

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

American Monsters was written by Derek Landy and first published in 2016. It follows the continuing adventures of Amber and Milo as they try to find a way to finally stop Amber’s twisted parents. The book forms the final instalment of The Demon Road Trilogy, and is preceded by Demon Road (2015) and Desolation (2016). I’d strongly advise that you read the books in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

Amber is struggling to come to terms with her new role as the Shining Demon’s representative on Earth. She’s stronger than ever, her demonic side fuelled by vials of her benefactor’s blood, but using these is starting to come at the cost of her sanity. And then there are the things she must do – things that enable serial killers to go on killing. She knows that she needs to find a way to break her contract before she completely loses her soul.

And then there is the problem of her parents. Bill and Betty are still on the run and know that they’re living on borrowed time. When Amber finally catches up with them, they cut a deal. They know that they won’t live long while the Shining Demon is still in power. They want Amber to deliver the monster to them so that they can devour him and take his place. If Amber can do that, they promise that they’ll leave her alone to live her life.

Amber knows that her parents can’t be trusted, but there is one small problem. They’ve taken Kelly hostage and will kill her if Amber doesn’t deliver the goods within six days. With Kelly’s life on the line, Amber and Milo have no choice but to hit the road to find chains powerful enough to bind a Lord of Hell. However on the way they will encounter many old friends and enemies and, now that it’s known that Amber is the Shining Demon’s lapdog, it’s difficult to know who they can trust…

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Animorphs 28-32

animorphs-28-32

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Animorphs:  1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-19 | 20-22 | 23-27

Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs

Animorphs Chronicles: The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles

Sorry it’s taken so long for me to post this – life is busy. Anyhow, let’s return to my retrospective look at K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs books. As with previous reviews, please note that there will be spoilers. In case you’ve never heard of it before, Animorphs was a science fiction series for young teens that ran from 1996 to 2001. It consisted of fifty-four main novels, as well as ten spin-off stories. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to be looking at books twenty-eight to thirty-two only – The Experiment, The Sickness, The Reunion, The Conspiracy and The Separation. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

The Battle for Earth is drawing on and the Yeerks are being forced to grow craftier in their approach. When the Chee come to learn that the Yeerks have taken control of a research lab and meat processing plant, the Animorphs know that they have to infiltrate both to discover why. What they find is a complex plot to change the food supply in order to remove human free will. However, can they destroy the Yeerks’s research without winding up as hamburgers?

Following on from this, the Animorphs are forced to embark on a number of sensitive personal missions. Cassie’s trust is put to the test when she is contacted by a Yeerk who claims to be part of a peace movement. His ally, Aftran, has been captured and will inevitably reveal everything about the Animorphs once Visser Three tortures her. Yet, with all the other Animorphs sick, it’s up to Cassie alone to rescue her and, to do that, she must morph into her worst enemy…

Jake and Marco face crises of a different source when their families are targeted by the Yeerks. Jake must pull out all the stops to protect his unknowing father as Tom tries to either infest or destroy him, while Marco learns that his mother is still alive and is forced to make the impossible choice whether to risk his friends to save her or let her die. Meanwhile, Rachel is forced to face the danger within when she finds herself split in half. With the threat of the Yeerks developing an Anti-Morphing Ray, the team needs to be more focused than ever. But how can they stop it while Rachel is at war against herself?

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Born Scared

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Born Scared was written by Kevin Brooks and first published in 2016. It’s a thriller that focuses on a teenage boy who is afraid of everything. As it’s a stand-alone story, you don’t have to have read any of Brooks’s other novels to fully appreciate it. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy for me to review.

From the moment that he was born, Elliot has known nothing but terror. Although experts have been unable to put a name to his condition, his whole life is governed by acute fear. Every sight and sound, from sheep to the colour red, cause his mind to spiral into uncontrollable panic and so he rarely leaves the safety of his “fear-proofed” bedroom.

The one thing that takes the edge off his panic are the little yellow pills that his doctor prescribes. However, due to mix up at the pharmacy, it’s Christmas Eve and he’s running out. His mother leaves in a blizzard to get more. The trip should only take half an hour but as the minutes tick by and she doesn’t return, Elliot realises that something must have gone horribly wrong.

With his last pill beginning to wear off, Elliot is forced to do something terrifying – to head out into the snow to find her. His journey should take him less than a mile away from his home, but the outdoors are unpredictable and his fear is rapidly returning. Will he be able to conqueror it for long enough to find her?

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Caraval

caraval

Caraval was written by Stephanie Garber and first published in 2017. It’s a fantasy story about the experiences that a young woman has when she’s invited to take part in a magical game. The novel is the first part of a planned duology, although at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Scarlett has always dreamed of seeing Caraval – a yearly performance known for its audience participation and magic – but it seems that her chances have run out. Her abusive father has arranged for her to be married to a nobleman that she’s never met and Scarlett knows that she has no choice but to obey. He’ll only hurt her younger sister – Tella – if she displeases him.

When her long-awaited invitation to Caraval finally arrives, Scarlett is disappointed but knows there is nothing that she can do. However, Tella is not about to let her sister’s last chance at adventure slip away. Teaming up with Julian – a young sailor – the two fake a kidnapping and spirit Scarlett away to the festival. However, as soon as they set foot on the island, things start to go wrong.

Legend, the enigmatic master of Caraval, spirits Tella away. The game this year is to be a hunt for the stolen girl and the winner is promised to receive a wish in return. Scarlett is not interested in the prize but knows that she needs to get her sister back before the five days are up, otherwise she risks missing her wedding. Teaming up with Julian, the two work together to solve Legend’s clues. However, Caraval is a place of illusion and magic and Scarlett finds herself pitted against dozens of other players, all willing to go to any length to win…

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