The Sword of Kuromori

The Sword of Kuromori was first published in 2014 and is Jason Rohan’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story set in Japan, focusing on a teenager who discovers that he is destined to save America from a great disaster. The novel forms the first part of the Sword of Kuromori series and is followed by The Shield of Kuromori (2015) and The Stone of Kuromori (2017).

Kenny Blackwood is on his way to stay with his father in Japan for the holidays, but hasn’t even set foot on Japanese soil when strange things begin to happen. When he blows on a wooden whistle – an odd gift from his eccentric grandfather – a strange creature appears on the plane that only he seems to be able to see. Things get weirder when he is immediately stopped at customs and arrested, but subsequently rescued by a motorbike riding ninja.

Unbeknownst to Kenny, he has become tangled in events that his grandfather set in motion years before. At a time when American soldiers had stolen many priceless antiquities from the Japanese people, his grandfather, known as Kuromori, was responsible for hiding one of the most valuable of all – a magical sword created by the Goddess Amaterasu. Now, the sword is the only thing that can stop a terrible monster from laying waste to America. The only problem is, no one knows where Kuromori hid it.

With the help of Kiyomi – a girl who has devoted her life to training in both the martial and mystical arts – Kenny sets off on an adventure across Japan, fighting monstrous yōkai and learning how to use powers that he never knew he had. He soon learns that he has inherited his grandfather’s title and all the baggage that comes with it. Unfortunately, this includes a prophecy that indicates that one of his loved ones could soon die…

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The Glass Republic

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

The Glass Republic was written by Tom Pollock and first published in 2013. It is an urban fantasy story that focuses on a teenage girl’s adventure into a dystopian mirror world. The novel forms the second part of the The Skyscraper Throne series and carries on from where The City’s Son (2012) left off, so you need to read the books in sequence to fully appreciate what’s going on. The final instalment of the series – Our Lady of the Streets – was published in 2014.

Parva Khan, known as Pen to her friends, has returned to school a changed person. Her torture at the coils of the Wire Mistress has left her physically and mentally scarred and, without Beth for company, she no longer has anyone to hang around with. Her only friend is Parva – the girl in the mirror. Parva was created when Pen’s reflection was caught between two mirrors and has made a life for herself in the world behind the mirror, London-Under-Glass.

However, Parva’s life is shrouded in mystery. She hints to Pen that she has gotten a job somewhere but then disappears without a trace, leaving behind unmistakable signs of a struggle. Pen knows that she has to find some way to get to London-Under-Glass to save her sister but no one has ever travelled through the mirrors before. The only creatures that know how are the Chemical Synod and Pen knows from experience that their price could be more than she can pay.

Meanwhile, Beth is undergoing some strange changes. When her teeth start to turn into church spires, she realises that the transformation that Fil bought for her has not completed itself. However, some of Beth’s allies are concerned about what she is becoming. The similarities between her and Mater Viae are unmistakable, and there are those who do not wish for Our Lady of the Streets to return…

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The Chaos of Now

The Chaos of Now was written by Erin Lange and is due for release in October 2018. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a group of hackers who are out for revenge against the bullies in their school. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

The life of Eli Bennett and every other teenager changed on the day that Jordan Bishop set himself on fire. Although no one was ever blamed for his death, it quickly became common knowledge that he was bullied online. New legislations were passed to allow schools to become cyber snoops and strict punishments were levelled against any student who rebelled against these oppressive laws.

As a young hacker, Eli has more reason to hate the laws the most. He feels that the laws restrict his fundamental freedoms and its not long before he finds some like-minded allies in his school. His friendship with Seth and Mouse starts out as a project – an attempt to enter a nationwide programming contest – but, through this, the Friends of Bishop are born.

The Friends of Bishop gives voice to students, providing a place online where they can anonymously upload videos that shame bullies. It seems like harmless fun at first – the only way that most students will ever get a chance to have revenge against their tormentors – but its not long before things get out of hand. Eli is desperate to pull the plug before things get worse but he quickly realises that his friends have other plans. How far will Seth and Mouse go to have their revenge against the people who drove Jordan to suicide?

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Secrets and Sapphires

Secrets and Sapphires (also known as Cinders and Sapphires in America) was written by Leila Rasheed and first published in 2013. It is a historical romance set in 1912 that focuses on the lives of the people who live on a wealthy English estate. The novel forms the first part of the At Somerton series and is followed by Diamonds and Deceit (2014) and Emeralds and Ashes (2015).

For the first time in years, Lord Westlake and his family have returned from India to their ancestral home of Somerton. However, he has brought with him a surprise. The Lord is to be wed to the affluent Fiona Templeton, and Lord Westlake’s two daughters – Ada and Georgiana – now must grow accustomed to sharing their father with Fiona’s three children.

Life on the estate seems simple and glamorous for the young ladies who live there however, as Ada prepares for her coming out, she increasingly realises that life is more complex than she first imagined. She has two ambitions in life – to study at Oxford University and to marry her true love, Ravi, yet neither can be. As the heir to Somerton she is expected to marry someone wealthy and maintain the family name. Ravi is a penniless Indian scholar and her reputation would be ruined if anyone found out.

However, Ada is not the only person with a secret. Beneath the glamour and civility of Somerton, almost everyone is hiding something. Ambition, forbidden love and dangerous secrets are rampant and, if they were to be discovered, would spell destruction a dozen times over for the name of Westlake. However, there are always those who are desperate to profit from a good scandal… More

The Beneath

The Beneath was written by S.C. Ransom and first published in 2015. It is an urban fantasy story with horror elements that focuses on a teenage girl who discovers the existence of a dystopian community living beneath the streets of London. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lily has been having a rough time of it at school. She used to be rich and popular but the her parents lost everything. Now she lives with her Nan and everyone that she used to call a friend has turned against her. However, everything changes for Lily when she saves Aria from being hit by a train.

Aria is more than a little strange. She can’t read and seems confused by everything, from televisions to dogs. Lily soon learns that this is because she is seeing them for the first time. Aria has escaped from the Community – a group of people who have lived beneath London for centuries. In their culture, everything is dictated to them by the Farmer, who is the one person with control of the Crop – a deadly entity that keeps them all safe so long as they obey the Farmer’s strict rules to the letter.

Aria knows that she will be killed if she returns to the Community yet is torn by her sense of duty. She only came to the surface in the first place because she had been sent on a mission by Dane, the boy that she loves. Dane believes that the only person who can overthrow the Farmer lives on the surface but now Aria isn’t sure that she can go through with his plan. What would Lily say if she learned that Aria had only come to the surface to kidnap her?

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The Other Alice

The Other Alice was written by Michelle Harrison and first published in 2016. It is a middle grade fantasy novel which focuses on a young boy’s attempt to save his sister when the characters from one of her stories come to life. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Midge knows that his sister can be a little odd but he has always loved her stories. Alice’s imagination seems to be endless and she believes that every story should have an ending, no matter how silly. However, Alice seems to be having trouble with her new novel. She’s foregoing sleep and food but can’t seem to find a way to make the story end.

At first, Midge feels like Alice is over reacting but then one morning she suddenly vanishes. After that, things start to get very strange. A talking cat shows up at the house and he meets someone who looks strikingly like his sister, only seems to be unable to speak. When Midge finds his sister’s notebook, he realises that the characters from her unfinished story have come to life and are now wandering the village with no idea that they are fictional.

However, some characters seem to be more aware than others. It’s not long before Midge encounters the sinister Dolly Weaver and realises that his sister has a particular talent for writing psychopaths. Dolly is desperately hunting for Alice’s book and Midge knows that she does not care who she hurts in order to get it. Knowing that he has to find it first, Midge befriends a few of Alice’s friendlier creations – mute Gypsy, roguish Piper and Tabitha the talking cat – but in doing so he finds himself in trouble. How will they react if they find out that they’re just characters in a story?

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The Children of Castle Rock

The Children of Castle Rock was written by Natasha Farrant and first published in 2018. It is an adventure story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on a young girl’s adventures at boarding school. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Alice has become increasingly withdrawn since the tragic death of her mother. While she was once adventurous, now she just sits in her room and spends all of her time writing stories. When her family is forced to move from their beautiful home, Alice is devastated and her father and aunt worry about her isolating herself further. In an attempt to help her to find herself, they enrol her at Stormy Loch, a remote Scottish boarding school that is known for taking in wayward souls.

Although Alice feels abandoned, she quickly finds that Stormy Loch is not what she expected. Teachers encourage children to discover their talents and regular “Challenges” are a way of life. The school also doesn’t believe in punishments, though sometimes the consequences for failing the Challenges aren’t much better than these. It’s not long before Alice starts to enjoy herself and gradually starts to make friends with Fergus, a genius with a habit of getting into trouble.

When the school holds an open day, Alice is eager to show her father how great Stormy Loch is. However, he she is disappointed when he does not turn up. Later that day, Alice receives a strange parcel and a note telling her to deliver it to her father on an uninhabited Scottish island. Alice and Fergus soon hatch a plan to enable her to get there in time. However, carrying it out will require the map reading skills of their classmate, Jesse. And there is no way that Jesse will break the school rules knowingly…

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. You can read my review of this novel [here].

2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious was written in 2018 by Shannon and Dean Hale. The young adult novel is a prequel to Marvel’s popular The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series, though you don’t really need to have read any of the comics to fully appreciate it. However, this book does carry on directly where Squirrel Meets World left off, so you may want to read the novels in sequence in order to fully appreciate what’s going on.

Doreen Green has found that having a superhero alter ego is a lot more complicated than she thought. In the town of Shady Oaks, Squirrel Girl is now a household name and she’s finding it hard to live up to people’s expectations of her. The Squirrel Scouts are always disappointed if they don’t get to see her beat up the bad guys, yet she’s sure that most problems could be solved if she just talks to them.

Yet being Doreen seems to be more complicated still. A teacher at school seems to detest her, and Doreen doesn’t understand why. To make matters worse, something is wrong with Ana Sofía. Her BHFF has been strangely distant with her lately, and Doreen is worried that she is about to lose the only person who knows her secret. Yet having friends is new to Doreen and she has no idea how to put things right.

To make matters worse, there seems to be a sinister plot at work. A contest to choose the mascot for a new mall is causing people to fight like cats and dogs. When mutant animals also begin to terrorise Shady Oaks, Doreen starts to suspect that HYDRA might be the ones behind it. Unable to enlist the help of the Avengers, its up to Squirrel Girl and her squirrel army to discover the truth and save the day.

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S.T.A.G.S

S.T.A.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2017. It is a thriller novel with horror elements, focusing on a group of teenagers on a weekend hunting trip. The story does end on a note that implies that this could be the start of a series. However, at the time of writing, no future instalments have been announced.

Greer MacDonald is lucky to have been accepted into the prestigious St Aidan the Great boarding school (known to students as S.T.A.G.S) on a scholarship, however she is painfully aware that she does not fit in. Her roommate barely speaks to her and she is often singled out by the Medievals – the school’s unofficial prefects – who make mean jokes about her northern accent and lack of class.

Greer is more surprised than anyone when she receives an invitation to spend half-term weekend on the sprawling Longcross Estate as a guest of Henry de Warlencourt – leader of the Medievals. Along with the rest of the Medievals and her fellow outcasts, Nel and Shafeer, she has been invited for a weekend of blood sports. On three consecutive afternoons, the group will be hunting, shooting and fishing. Although Greer isn’t certain that she’ll be able to stomach this, she is so flattered by the invitation that she immediately accepts.

However, it’s not long before she starts to notice that something is wrong. The Medievals are all acting strangely, friendly one minute and cruel the next. It’s not long before odd accidents begin to occur and it becomes clear that someone could get seriously hurt. Greer gradually begins to suspect that the rich kids are not only planning to hunt game that weekend. However, how can she hope to prove it when the whole village seem to be in on their plan?

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow was written by Jessica Townsend and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy middle grade novel about a young girl who must pass four trials to gain membership of an elite organisation. The book forms the first part of the Nevermoor series and its sequel – provisionally titled Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow – is expected to be released later this year.

Morrigan Crow has not had a happy life. As a cursed child, she brings nothing but misery to those around her and knows that she is fated to die on the eve of Eventide, which is due to fall on her twelfth birthday. Unluckily for Morrigan, fate has other ideas. When Eventide unexpectedly falls a year early, she suddenly finds herself face to face with the terrifying Hunt of Smoke and Shadow.

However, Morrigan is rescued by an eccentric gentleman by the name of Jupiter North. Jupiter has selected Morrigan to be his first ever apprentice and he intends to enter her in the trials to become a member of the mysterious Wunder Society – an organisation of talented individuals who reside in the fantastical city of Nevermoor.

While Morrigan is thrilled to have escaped her fate, she soon realises that this may just be a stay of execution. She must compete for one of nice places against hundreds of other young applicants, all whom are more familiar with the oddities of Nevermoor than she is. If she fails at any point, she will be deported back to her home world and have to face the Hunt again. To make matters worse, every applicant must be able to prove that they have a special and useful talent. Unfortunately for Morrigan, she knows that she does not have one…

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