Ultimate Sacrifice

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Ultimate Sacrifice, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Ultimate Sacrifice was written by S.E. Green and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel with horror elements, focusing on a family whose lives are turned upside down when there is a grisly murder on their property. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s previous work to fully appreciate it.

Vickie fears the worst when she sees her twin brother Travis stumble out of the woods, covered in blood. However, she could never have imagined the horrible scene that he discovered. Their neighbour’s four-year-old daughter has been brutally murdered in what looks unmistakably like a Satanic ritual. To make things even worse, the murder took place only a short distance from her home and the killer could very well still be lurking in the forest.

As the police and media descend on her home, Vickie starts to realise that they are the number one suspects. Yet, how can that possibly be? Her family are all valued members of the community. Her parents are happily married and they all attend church every Sunday. Yet it’s not long before a mysterious stranger posts a blog that contains all sorts of sordid imagines of her parents, uncle and brothers. Suddenly, Vickie’s family don’t seem very squeaky clean after all and seem to come under even closer scrutiny.

Not content to let her family’s reputation be dragged through the mud, Vickie begins to investigate for herself and starts to uncover some sordid facts about the history between her parents and the victim’s mother. It seems that nobody is quite who Vickie believed them to be, but would that give them motive to kill a helpless child?

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Tempus Abbey

Tempus Abbey was written by Sammy Woodford and first published in 2016. It is a fantasy story that focuses on two teenagers who find themselves caught in the middle of a conflict between technology and religion. The book forms the first part of the Fray and Ira series, but at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Ira knows something is wrong when his father starts to lose his usually perfect timekeeping ability. He soon learns that there has been an accident at his place of work and it has badly affected his father’s memory. This is quick to catch the attention of both the faeries and important people within their home town of Kinda’s Leap. Everyone seems to either want to make his father disappear or use him to prove that the infamous machinist Akkeri is up to no go good. Ira knows that he and his father need to flee the town, but where could they possibly go?

Although the two make their escape, they soon run into trouble as they try to cross the harsh wilderness that surrounds Kinda’s Leap. They are discovered by Fray, the young ward of the abbot of Tempus Abbey, who takes them back to her home for urgent medical attention. However, their arrival sparks a lot of trouble. Although the Abbot offers them sanctuary, Akkeri’s men are not popular in the territory of the Confraternity and there are many who believe that they are spies.

However, Fray quickly learns that Ira’s father hides a secret. She discovers that he carries with him a strange key and, following a chance encounter with a talking rabbit called Albert, she learns that it may have belonged to a former sister at the Abbey. But why would an object belonging to a member of the Confraternity be in the hands of a senile Akkeri man? Fray and Ira set out to discover the reason, but it will be more dangerous than the two could ever imagine…

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Winter is Coming

Hello everyone.

I had hoped to bring you my review of Tempus Abbey by Sammy Woodford today but I’m having a really hard time getting through the book. Really, it serves me right for reading two super long novels back to back. Instead, I thought I’d give you an idea of what’s coming up next on Arkham Reviews in the run up to Christmas.

After Tempus Abbey, next up on the blog will be Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki. Over the months that follow, my plans get a bit more vague. There are so many great novels coming up – including Phillip Pullman’s new epic – that I’m likely to throw my neatly made plan out of the window. However, I do know that there will be a few very special reviews in the near future. These include my 350th review and book tours for Ultimate Sacrifice by S.E. Green and Wolves and Roses by Christina Bauer.

Here are a few more things that you can expect:

Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Three Words Promised by Ingrid Seymour

Raptors of Paradise by J.J. Burredge

Sky by Sarah Driver

Cloud Cuckoo by R.E. Palmer

The Last Namsara by Kirstin Ciccarelli

The Book of the Wise by J.T. Cope IV

Under by Abigail Blakely

dEaDINBURGH: Vantage by Mark Wilson

The Change #1-3 by Guy Adams

Ruby in the Rough by Stephen Ruby

The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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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Moribund

Moribund was written by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge and first published in 2017. It is an urban fantasy story about two fae princesses battling to stop a monstrous plague from being unleashed on the world. The novel forms the first part of the Circuit Fae series and its sequel is planned for release in March of next year.

Following a terrible train accident, Syl Skye has found herself as somewhat of a social recluse. Her former friend and rescuer Fiann has become a local hero and media darling, while Syl is merely known as the girl who survived. However, her memories of that night are vague at best and she can’t get the faint memory of another girl – one with dazzling eyes – from her mind.

Syl does not realise that the derailing was no accident. Former dark fae princess, Rouen, has been stripped of her title and forced to become a sluagh huntress – dead to her people and forced to obey the every command of her master, Agravaine. In order to purify their dying home world, Rouen has been forced to hunt down and kill all of the sleeper princesses of the fair fae. Unfortunately for Syl, she is the last.

However, the two girls quickly find that they are irresistibly drawn to one another. Rouen cannot defy Agravaine’s direct commands but she knows that she has to find a way to teach Syl to control her powers. However, Agravaine has a terrible power of his own – a plague known as the Moribund that merges circuitry and dark magic to control its host. When Agravaine unleashes the Moribund on the school, Syl and Rouen know that they must find a way to stop him. If they don’t, it could mean the end of everyone that Syl cares about…

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Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball is due for release in October 2017 and is the first novel that has been both written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. It is a humorous Gothic fantasy for younger readers that focuses on a vampire’s attempt to rescue her pet from a wicked prince. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

The Kingdom of Nocturnia is a place where things are more than happy to go bump in the night. The ghoulish inhabitants have only one thing to fear, and that is glitter. They know that they are safe so long as they are home before dawn, as that is when terrible things like unicorns, faeries and kittens wake up. Nobody wants to find themselves face to face with a faery. The very thought is too terrible to contemplate.

Amelia Fang is pretty happy on the whole. Her mother is obsessed with looking pretty and her father is a crossword enthusiast but she has two great friends – Florence the Yeti and Grimaldi the Grim Reaper – and a loyal companion in her pet pumpkin, Squashy. However, everything changes when Prince Tangine enrols in her school. Amelia knows that the Prince’s mother was eaten by a faery and wants to feel sorry for him, however he makes it very difficult. Prince Tangine is rude to everyone and is given whatever he wants, even if that thing belongs to someone else.

When the Prince comes for dinner at her house and takes a liking to Squashy, Amelia’s mother immediately hands the poor pumpkin over as a gift. Amelia is heartbroken. She cares about Squashy more than anything and knows that Tangine won’t treat her pet nicely. With Florence and Grimaldi’s help, she embarks on a mission to get him back. However, in doing so she discovers that there is more to her enemy than she first thought…

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Lyra’s Oxford / Once Upon a Time in the North / The Collectors

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

As there’s only a month to go before Philip Pullman releases his new and exciting novel, I thought that I should probably finish off my series of reviews of His Dark Materials. In previous posts, I’ve already taken a look at the main trilogy – Northern Nights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000) – but today I’m going to be looking at the three companion stories that complement these.

All three shorts were published in separate short volumes – Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008) and The Collectors (2014). They are each set in a different time period, with Once Upon a Time in the North and The Collectors being prequels to the main series, and Lyra’s Oxford set some years after the events of The Amber Spyglass. The collections also contain a number of other titbits, ranging from maps to newspaper clippings, some of which are reported to tie into Pullman’s upcoming The Book of Dust trilogy.

Lyra’s Oxford contains a short story called Lyra and the Birds, in which Lyra and Pantalaimon manage to protect a witch’s dæmon from a mob of angry starlings. The dæmon has come to Oxford in search of an alchemist who can save his partner’s life, however Lyra soon grows suspicious of his story. The alchemist is reported to be an unstable individual and there is clearly something that the dæmon is hiding from her. Just what is the dangerous secret that he is protecting?

Once Upon a Time in the North focuses on the adventures of a young Lee Scoresby and his dæmon, Hester. Scoresby has recently won a hot air balloon in a game of cards and is using it to explore the world. In this early adventure, he finds himself caught in a tense political situation that involves a politician who wants to wage war against the armoured bears, and a murderous gunslinger who bears a grudge against Scoresby.

The Collectors paints the creepy tale of a man who has come into possession of a pair of works of art – a painting of a young woman and a bronze statue of monkey. It is rumoured that if the two are separated, they will eventually find their way back to each other. However, the strangest thing is that when the collector shows the painting to his friend, he recognises the young woman as a former lover. Yet how can that be when the portrait is over eighty years old? The answer is stranger than he ever could have imagined…

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The Spectra United

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

The Spectra United was written by Christie Valentine Powell and first published in 2016. It forms the second part of the The Spectra: Keita’s Wings series and follows on directly from where The Spectra Unearthed (2015) left off. The third instalment of the series – The Spectra Uprooted – was released earlier this month. The novels don’t really stand alone, so I would strongly advise reading them in sequence if you want to have any idea as to what is going on.

Keita Sage and her friends managed to emerge triumphant from their first encounter with Donovan but the war is far from over. Although they have wrestled back the Nomelands from the Stygian’s evil rule, the other Spectra kingdoms remain under his control. Although Keita wants nothing more than to liberate her home, the Spritelands, she knows that she cannot hope to do this alone.

Unable to return to her people, she settles for helping her younger sister Avie to restore peace in distant Lectranis. However, in order to unite the people, they soon realise that they will need to restore Lectranis’s true heir. There is only one problem. The deceased Lectran King had several children and no one knows who was chosen to rule after his death.

With only the vaguest idea of where to search for the missing princes and princesses, Keita and her friends set out across the war-torn land to deliver messages to each of them, begging them to return to the capital. However, the party soon finds itself divided. Left alone with her best friend Sienna and Brian, the boy that she was once betrothed to, Keita must deal with her distaste towards the strange Lectran culture. If she can’t save Lectranis, she has no hope in saving her own home.

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Minecraft: The Island

Minecraft: The Island was written by Max Brooks and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy story based around the immensely popular video game, focusing on a youth who wakes up to find themself in a strange world. The novel proclaims that it is the first official Minecraft novel, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

A youth finds themself drifting in the ocean with no idea of who they are or how they came to be there. As they swim, desperately searching for land, they eventually come across an island and head to it in the hope of finding answers. However, this is where everything takes a turn for the odd. Everything on the island, from rocks to trees to animals, seem to be made up of cubes.

To the youth’s horror, they discover that they have also changed. They have become some bizarre fingerless mutant with a square body and blocks for hands. Unable to manipulate things in the usual way, they learn by trial and error that they can only eat certain objects that they find, and that others can be combined into new items by passing them from hand to hand.

As night falls, they discover that the island is full of danger. Zombies, spiders and explosive “creepers” appear in dark areas and seem desperate to hunt them down. To survive in this strange world, the youth realises that they need to use their power to combine blocks to create shelter and weapons. With this knowledge in mind, they set out to learn the mechanics of the world and craft themself a home.

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Animorphs 42-45

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 | 33-37 | 38-41

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

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

It’s been quite a while since my last Animorphs review so I think we should probably take a look at the next few novels in this series. In case you haven’t read any of these posts before, these reviews are intended to be a retrospective look at K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series and so may contain spoilers. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be talking about books 42 to 45 only – The Journey, The Test, The Unexpected and The Revelation.

The Animorphs thought that they had seen the last of the Helmacrons, but the minuscule aliens are still determined to take over the world. To do this, they know that they need the Escafil Device to power their engines but they know that the Animorphs will not just hand this over. In order to convince them, a group of Helmacrons enter Marco’s body and threaten to stop his heart. His friends have no choice but to shrink themselves down and follow the invaders. But Marco’s body is a hostile battlefield and could kill them long before they catch up with their foes.

However, this is not the only threat that the Animorphs face. Tobias is forced to relive his traumatic past when he is captured by Taylor once again. Taylor claims to have switched sides and wants to help them to destroy Visser Three, however the Animorphs are not sure if she can be trusted. If she is lying, she could be leading them to a fate worse than death. Cassie is also put in danger when a mission goes wrong and she is separated from the others. Trapped on a plane heading to Australia and surrounded by Controllers, she is forced to do everything that she can to survive.

Yet all of this pales in the face of their biggest challenge. When Marco’s father discovers Z-Space, he becomes a target for the Yeerks. As he is captured and taken to be made into a Controller, Marco is forced to make a terrible choice. Either he reveals to his father the truth about the invasion, or he loses another parent to the enemy…

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