Arabella of Mars

Arabella of Mars was written by David D Levine and first published in 2016. It is a steampunk science fiction novel, set in an alternate timeline where the secret of interplanetary travel was discovered in late 17th Century. The novel forms the first part of the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series and is followed by Arabella and the Battle for Venus (2017) and Arabella the Traitor of Mars (2018).

The year is 1812 and Arabella lives happily with her family on their Martian plantation. Although her mother worries about her tomboyish behaviour, Arabella loves nothing more that to play hunting games with her brother, Michael, and learn about the tribal Martian culture from her native nanny, Khema. However, when she is injured during a rough game, Arabella’s mother declares this to be the last straw. She will not allow her daughter to grow up as a savage and whisks her away to London, where she can learn to be a lady and find a respectable husband.

However, a few months into their stay on Earth, Arabella receives terrible news. Her father has suddenly died and now Michael has been forced to take over the plantation. The news thrills her despicable cousin, Simon. Desperate for money, he hurries to Mars with the intent of murdering Michael. As the closest male relative, he would surely inherit everything and leave Arabella and her mother destitute.

Arabella disguises herself as a boy and makes her way to the docks, determined to catch Simon before he can depart. When she is too late, she hits upon a risky plan to beat him to the Red Planet. After impressing Prakash Singh, Captain of the Mars Company Airship “Diana”, she accepts a place on his crew as a cabin boy. The Diana is a fast ship and should be able to deliver her to Mars before Simon reaches the plantation. However, her safety depends on her ability to hide her sex for two months on a ship that is entirely crewed by men…

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Dethroned / Inimical

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

Moribund | Derailed | Ouroboros

Inimical was written by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge and first published in 2018. It is the third full-length novel of the Circuit Fae series, following on from Moribund (2017) and Ouroboros (2017). The series also includes a couple of shorter novellas; a prequel called Derailed (2018) and Dethroned (2018), which takes place between Ouroboros and Inimical. I would certainly recommend reading all of these instalments before tackling Inimical if you want to have any idea of what is going on.

When Rouen and Syl made a soul-bond, they thought that their troubles would be over. However, their desire to be together has instead sparked a cataclysm within both of the fae realms. The two worlds are set to collide on Midsummer’s Day and both princesses are told that the only way that they can save their respective kingdoms are to take their thrones. Trouble is, this will only ensure the safety of one realm. The other – and its princess – will perish.

To make matters worse, King Reinghûl of Dark Faerie has lost his mind. Severed from the hearthstone, he has taken extreme measures to ensure that he remains in power. Driven insane by his dark side, he engineers a new breed of Moribund – the Inimical – which allows him to completely control the infected. To make matters worse the Inimical is also immune to Syl’s fire, which means that she can do nothing to stop it.

Realising that there is no way to save her father, Rouen challenges him to a Battle of Wits and War. The victor will become the new ruler of Dark Faerie, while the loser will perish. However, the battle is only a few weeks away, so it will be a miracle if Rouen and Syl can survive frequent attacks by Reinghûl’s assassins, figure out a way to defeat the Inimical and stop the Great Convergence before then. Rouen knows that she has hidden depths that may help to give her an edge. However, this would mean succumbing to her own darkness…

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Explorers on Witch Mountain

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. You can read my review of this [here].

Explorers on Witch Mountain was written by Alex Bell and first published in 2018. It is the second book in The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club series and tells the continuing story of Stella Starflake Pearl, the first female explorer. The novel follows on directly where The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (2017) left off, so I would definitely recommend reading them in sequence to ensure that you have a firm grasp of what is going on.

Stella is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she is an ice princess. While having the power to control snow seems fun, she can’t help but remember the way that it felt when her heart started to freeze over. To make matters worse, people that she has never met seem to have decided that she’s a monster, and have taken to writing to both Felix and the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club to make their feelings known.

This is one of the reasons that Stella has not left her home since their adventure to the frozen north. The other reason is the giant vulture that seems to be stalking her. She knows that it was sent by Jezzybella – the witch who murdered her biological parents – and so whatever it wants can’t be good. When the creature finally manages to break into their home, Felix wastes no time in seizing control of it. He orders it to take him to Witch Mountain so that he can face Jezzybella, and orders Stella to stay home where it is safe.

Yet Stella knows that she can’t sit idly by. Witch Mountain is so dangerous that Explorers have never fully mapped it, and Jezzybella is the most evil witch of them all. With the help of Ethan, Beanie and Shay, she steals a dirigible and flies off to rescue her father. Yet this time they could have bitten off more than they can chew. There are things on Witch Mountain that are more dangerous than witches, and Stella may be forced to rely on her dangerous magic if they are to have any chance of surviving…

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Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil

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

The Firedragon | Firedragon Rising

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil was written by Mary Fan and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy dystopian novel, set it a world where anyone who is unable to use magic is a second-class citizen. The novel is technically the first instalment of the Flynn Nightsider series, although Fan did previous publish two short prequel novellas – The Firedragon (2014) and Firedragon Rising (2015) – which tell Aurelia’s backstory.

Despite being a powerless Norm, Flynn Nightsider lived a pretty happy life. That is, until the night when his mother was cruelly slain in front of him by a monstrous draugr. Since then, he was taken in by the Academy with the other orphaned Norms. Although they are kept safe from the monsters, Flynn knows that he will never amount to anything. Secondstringers like him will never receive the preferential treatment enjoyed by the Enchanters – the students who are able to use magic.

When Flynn and his best friend Brax learn that their Headmaster may be hiding an illicit secret – one that potentially concerns Flynn’s mother – the two know that they need to flaunt every school rule and break into is office. However, things are quick to go wrong. When they accidentally cause a magical explosion, the boys find themselves “black bagged” and hauled away as traitors. It is obvious to everyone that something strange is going on. While the explosion had seriously injured Brax, Flynn had somehow walked away unharmed.

Although the Triumvirate immediately sentence Flynn to death for his crimes, there are other people who have noticed him and taken an interest. The Rising – a secret rebellion against the tyrannical triumvirate – certainly have use for someone who could well be immune to an Enchanter’s spells. However, they are not the only ones. The Defiants – a group of Enchanters lead by the powerful Tydeus Storm – would also stop at nothing to get their hands on him. And the Defiants are known for their mastery of dark magic, so whatever plans they have for him cannot be good…

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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

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

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The fact that I’m returning to Hogwarts can only mean one thing. That’s right readers, today marks my 450th review on this blog! Thank you so much for your continuing support and recommendations. I wonder what gems we will find amongst the next 50…

Anyhow, with that out of the way, let’s continue. As always, please note that this post will undoubtably contain huge spoilers, as I do kind of expect that a lot of you are at least acquainted with the movie that is based on this book. However, in case you’re not familiar with this series, Harry Potter has been a worldwide phenomenon for over 20 years. It was written by J.K. Rowling and the main series consists of seven novels – Harry Potter and the Philosophers 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). This has since been supplemented by a play, a spin-off movie series and number of short-stories and reference books that further expand the world.

Unlike the previous summer, Harry has found that he has not been left to wallow in his misery. In the aftermath of the battle at the Ministry of Magic, it is not long before Dumbledore comes to Privet Drive to ask for his assistance. It soon becomes apparent that he is necessary to convince an elderly teacher by the name of Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts, though Harry isn’t entirely certain why this is important at all in the greater scheme of things. Every day, Voldemort’s Death Eaters seem to be becoming bolder and people who defy them are meeting unpleasant ends.

On the way back to Hogwarts, Harry becomes suspicious that Draco Malfoy may have an inside knowledge of what the Dark Lord is planning. However, no one else seems to share his concerns. They only see Malfoy as an arrogant teenage boy and just can’t accept that he would have anything to offer Voldemort. Yet Harry knows that Malfoy is hiding something and vows to keep a closer eye on his rival than ever before.

As the school year begins, Harry starts to have secret lessons with Dumbledore in which he learns more about Voldemort’s childhood. During these lessons, Dumbledore reveals the truth about Slughorn to Harry. Dumbledore believes that the professor once told a terrible secret to Voldemort and he needs Harry to discover exactly what that was. However, as Harry starts to get closer to Slughorn in his potions lessons, he stumbles across another mystery. An old potions book hidden in the classroom that has been annotated by a student who seems to know more about the subject than his teacher and has a definite malicious streak. A student that goes by the name of the Half Blood Prince…

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Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief

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

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball | Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords

Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2018. It is a middle-grade fantasy story about the adventures of a young vampire girl, her ghoulish friends, and her pet pumpkin, in a world populated by a mixture of monsters and cute fantasy creatures. The novel forms the third part of the Amelia Fang series and is preceded by Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017) and Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018). I would recommend reading these stories in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Now that Amelia and her friends have proven that the Creatures of the Light are no threat, Nocturnia has become a very different place to live. Faery exchange students are welcome in school and their classes have been adapted to include a number of new subjects – including Glitterology and Angel Kitten singing. Yet most exciting of all is the new cooking class. Their teacher is the famous faery chef, Mr Sublime, and in his first lesson he sets a contest to win tickets to the Pumpkin Paradise Park to whoever can bake and sell the most Sublime Cookies.

As she dreams of becoming a pumpkinologist, Amelia is desperate to win the tickets. While Tangine is happy to help her out due to his new-found love of cooking, the others seem less than convinced. Florence and Grimaldi are much more interested in playing Goblin Tag and this leads to friction as their lack of focus starts to ruin Amelia’s chance of winning the prize. Amelia also finds herself disappointing her mother. The Countess Frivolita wants Amelia to follow in her footsteps, yet Amelia doesn’t know how to make her mother see that she’s more interested in pumpkins than fancy balls and organ lessons.

However, in the midst of everything, something strange begins to happen. When Florence claims that she forgot about meeting with Amelia, Amelia first assumed that she was lying. Yet, when other people around the town start to become forgetful, she realises that something is seriously wrong. Can she and Tangine find out what is causing the memory loss before their friends and family completely forgot who they are?

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Firedragon Rising

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

Firedragon Rising was written by Mary Fan and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy novella that is set in a world where the magical elite rule over powerless “Norms” with an iron fist. The novella follows on from where The Firedragon (2014) left off and the two stories combined form a prequel to Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, which was published earlier this year.

It has been three months since Aurelia Sun survived the International Challenge, becoming the first Norm to ever defeat a Fangbeast in combat. Yet she is the only person who knows this. The Triumvirate have done everything in their power to hide her victory, claiming that she was saved from death by a Sentinel. Now she knows for sure that they cannot be trusted. Problem is, they know that she knows.

Following an act of defiance towards Headmaster Everett, Aurelia realises that she has to escape. Helped by both Williams and Connor, she arms herself and steals a motorcycle from the school. Her goal is to reach a safe-house used by the Rising which is hidden deep within the Wasteland. Yet getting there will be difficult, even for her. The Wasteland is filled with supernatural monsters and the Sentinels are hot on her tail. If she is captured, it will likely mean the end for her and all that she holds dear.

However, Aurelia is the Firedragon and is confident that she can defeat anything that stands in her way. Her years of Defender training have taught her everything that she needs to know to go toe to toe with horrible monsters. But it has not prepared her for all the horrors that lie outside of the city. What will she do when she finds herself faced by Dark Enchanters and spirits that are immune to all physical attacks?

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A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

A Good Night For Shooting Zombies was written by Jaco Jacobs and published in 2013 under the title Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefliek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word. As of October 2018, it has been made available in English for the very first time, been shortlisted for the Found in Translation Award and made into a successful film in Afrikaans. The novel tells the story of two boys who make friends over filming a zombie movie. It is a stand alone novel, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

The last few years have been pretty miserable for Martin. His father was killed in a tragic car accident and his family refuse to talk about it. In his free time, Martin looks after his father’s chickens which has earned him the nickname “Clucky”. That is, until one of his chickens is killed by his neighbour’s dog and his life changes forever.

The dog turns out to belong to a teenage boy named Vusi, who his seriously ill with cancer. Although he is initially furious with Vusi, Martin finds it difficult to stay angry as he starts to bond with the boy over his love of zombie films. Vusi dreams of making a film of his own but worries this will never be a reality. His parents are highly protective of him and reluctant to even let him go outside.

With Martin’s help, Vusi finds away that he can slip away and, with the help of local tomboy Chris, they start to piece together their film in secret. However, when they uncover the hideout for a gang of thieves, they suddenly find themselves in more trouble than they ever could have imagined. Will it be possible to finish the film without attracting the attention of some very dangerous men?

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Diamonds and Deceit

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

Diamonds and Deceit was written by Leila Rasheed and first published in 2014. It is a historical romance set in the early 20th Century that focuses on the lives of the people who live and work on the wealthy Somerton Estate. The novel forms the second part of the At Somerton series – following Secrets and Sapphires (2013) and preceding Emeralds and Ashes (2015). Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

A few months have passed since Lady Rose was formally adopted as one of Lord Westlake’s daughters and she is struggling to fit in. The other young Ladies refuse to accept her as one of them, disgusted by her poor upbringing. However, the serving staff behave strangely around her too, projecting a sense that they believe it improper for one of their station to ever believe that they belong in high society. As her season begins and she becomes attracted to a known ladies man, the Duke of Huntleigh, she knows that her feelings will never be reciprocated. What will Huntleigh think when he learns who she truly is?

Her sister, Ada, is also having a miserable time of things. There is a lot of pressure for her to accept Lord Fintan’s offer of engagement in order to save her family from poverty, however how can she do so in good conscience? Even though Ravi has returned to India, she still loves him dearly. It seems unfair to both of them to enter a loveless marriage. However, her choice may soon be taken from her. Charlotte is determined to have her revenge against her stepsister and has more than enough information at her fingertips to publicly shame both Ada and Lord Fintan.

Yet these are not the only dramas unfolding at the Somerton Estate. Sebastian is determined to prove that his love – Oliver – is innocent of murder. Michael must choose between going to Eton and finding a way to start a life with Priya, the Indian nursemaid. Georgina must find a way to stop the staff from leaving in protest of the authoritarian new housekeeper. If any of these scandals are discovered, they could spell the end of the Westlake family. Is there any way that they can hope to keep things together until Ada’s wedding can save the estate?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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