The Wheel Mages

The Wheel Mages was written by Aimee Davis and first published in 2016. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on a water mage on a mission to hunt down rogue mages that threaten her clan. The book forms the first part of the Changing Tides series and is followed by The Blood Mage (2017).

As the last of the water mages, seventeen-year-old Alena Kozlov has a lot resting on her shoulders. She has just passed her final test and been accepted into the Sanctum, meaning that for the first time in recent history they have a full Wheel – a group of mages representing each of the four elements. While Alena’s existence is precious to them, the Sanctum cannot miss out on the opportunity to use the Wheel’s increased power to root out some of the enemies that threaten their way of life.

All over the world, dark mages are abusing their power in direct rebellion against the Sanctum’s strict rules. Alena and her allies – Nikolai, Filipe and Catalina – are dispatched to the city in order to hunt them out. While Filipe and Catalina masquerade as nobility to enter high society, Alena and Nikolai take advantage of Alena’s history as a street urchin to set up a drug den and lure in the lower elements.

However, it is their enemies that manage to find them first. Alena is approached by a nobleman who recognises her as a water mage and wishes to trade her for his sister. It seems that someone else is trying to gather a Wheel of their own and is in desperate need for Alena’s power. In order to find the rogue mages, Alena must tread a different path. However, it’s not long before her discoveries shake her faith in the Sanctum. Could be that the rogues are right to rebel, and that it is the Sanctum that is corrupt to the core?

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Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist was written by Renée Ahdieh and first published in 2017. It is a historical fantasy story set in Feudal Japan, focusing on a teenage girl out for revenge on the shinobi clan who want her dead. The book forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Hattori Mariko has never been a perfect daughter. Blessed with a keen intellect, she has always sought to learn as much as possible. Yet it is finally time for her to serve her father. The Emperor’s son, Raiden, has requested her hand and Mariko has no choice but to accept. While she has never met Raiden, the marriage will secure more power for her father and ensure that he can move up through the political strata of Inako.

Everything goes wrong while Mariko is on her way to their first meeting. Her convoy is attacked as it passes through the woods and all of her servants are killed. As Mariko flees into the night, she realises that the infamous Black Clan – a group of mercenaries and assassins – are responsible. Vowing that she will have her revenge, Mariko cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy. If she can only be accepted into their ranks, she knows that she can destroy them from within.

Yet the Black Clan’s trust is not easily won. Mariko finds herself under the scrutiny of their leader, Ranmaru, and his sullen second-in-command, Ōkami. They make quite clear that if Mariko slips up, she will find herself facing a gruesome death. To make matters worse, Mariko’s brother Kenshin is searching for her. As a well-regarded samurai, it’s not long before he has enlisted the help of the Emperor’s sons. Kenshin suspects that the Black Clan has its hand in Mariko’s disappearance, and is willing to kill every last one of them to get her back.

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Venturess

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

Venturess was written by Betsy Cornwell and first published in 2017. It is a steampunk fantasy story that focuses on a gifted inventor and young prince as they try to unite two warring nations. As the novel follows on directly from where its prequel – Mechanica (2015) – left off, you really need to read the novels in order to have any idea of what is going on.

Following her success at the exposition, Nicoletta Lambton has become a household name. Every woman in Esting wants to buy her glass slippers and a line of fashionable dresses made by Jules and the Buzzers has proven equally as popular. She has fallen into a comfortable relationship with Fin and Caro, and she’s confident that she will be successful despite the difficulties that the embargo with Faerie has put on her business.

However, everything changes when Fin is shot during a speech. Old hatreds are ignited as the incised people of Esting begin to cry for a strike on Faerie. It is at this time that Nick receives a note from her old Fae housekeeper, Mr Candary, who invites her and Fin to the shores of Faerie to discuss a truce with their leader. Eager to prevent a war, Fin agrees at once to travel to the distant land for a meeting.

However, it may be too late for even the prince to be able to stop the war. Fitz has already begun work on an army of automaton soldiers and many members of the Fae resistance are unwilling to trust humans. It’s up to Nick and her friends to convince the sides to stop fighting, yet when Nick makes a sinister discovery her belief in what is right and wrong is shaken. How can she possibly put an end to the fighting when both sides harbour dark secrets?

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Curse of Stars

Curse of Stars was first published in 2017 and is Donna Compositor’s debut novel. It is a dark fantasy story about a teenage girl who is captured and kept prisoner by the lord of a distant world. The book forms the first part of the Diamond Crier series, yet at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Sabi Perez and her sister Matti live a pretty uneventful life. Although her parents can be overbearing, Sabi is really just a typical New York teenager. However, when a strange man appears at her home, she starts to realise that she’s far from ordinary. He is Javier Goquin, ruthless overlord of the planet Raydin, and she is the last Diamond Crier. Sabi’s parents brought her to Earth to escape from him, yet now he has come to take her back so that he can harvest her priceless tears.

Ripped away from her family, Sabi is thrown into Javier’s dungeons and her life becomes a cycle of starvation and suffering. Although she finds a friend in her cellmate, Anya, she slowly starts to realise that she will soon die as Javier’s slave. Her only hope is Cabal – a slave that has earned some iota of trust and independence due to his strange powers. As Sabi belongs to the same clan as Cabal, she hopes that she can also learn to harness the same magic.

Working together, Cabal helps Sabi to unlock her potential and the two quickly hatch a plan to escape. Yet doing so is fraught with danger. Their homeland of South Fair is weeks away on the other side of a deadly expanse known as the Void. Even if they manage to survive the journey, there is no guarantee that they will be welcome there. Not after Javier punished their kin for allowing Sabi to escape all those years ago…

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Spontaneous

Spontaneous was written by Aaron Starmer and first published in 2016. It is a book aimed at older teens that focuses on love, friendship, being a teenager and spontaneous human combustion. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mara Carlyse’s life is pretty normal. She goes to school, experiments with alcohol and likes hanging out with her best friend Tess. She knows that life as the daughter of a deli owner is far from eventful. That is, of course, until Katelyn Ogden explodes in her calculus class. While people initially suspect that it’s some kind of bizarre terrorist attack, they soon realise that the truth is far stranger. Katelyn has just randomly popped like a balloon.

Although people try to chalk this up to a freak occurrence, things grow more insane when another student explodes during a group therapy session. As more and more teenagers randomly blow up, it begins to attract world attention. It’s clear that something is wrong in Katelyn’s school but no one can quite figure out what. People blame race, sexuality and drug use yet patterns grow blurred as more and more students are effected.

It’s not long until the town goes into lock-down to prevent the students from potentially infecting others. Yet Mara and her classmates slowly start to realise that the American government doesn’t really care about them at all. Their lives are rocked by the combustions and basic rights, such as graduation and even the ability to attend a prom, are stripped from them. Mara knows that they need to take some kind of stand. She just needs to figure out what she can do to convince the others…

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Wanted

Wanted was first published in 2016 and is screenwriter Jo Ho’s first novel for younger readers. It’s a science fiction thriller, focusing on a teenage girl and a dog on the run from a sinister organisation. The book forms the first part of the Chase Ryder series and its sequel – Haunted – is due for release later this year.

Life on the streets is hard for fifteen-year-old Chase Ryder. She came to Greenwich hoping for a better life, yet has found only hunger and loneliness. Yet everything changes when she comes across a starving dog. Chase quickly realises that there is something odd about the creature. He’s smarter than he should be, more than able to understand everything that she says. It’s not long before the two of them become firm friends and Chase gives him a name – Bandit.

Things are starting to look up for Chase until Bandit is hurt. Badly. This brings her to the doorstep of local vet, Jake Sullivan. Sully is passionate about animals yet lives a half-life, unable to get over the tragic death of his wife. As he examines Bandit, he discovers a medical tattoo in the dog’s ear and calls the lost pet hotline to report that he has been found. This turns out to be a huge mistake.

Suddenly, the clinic is surrounded by armed thugs and Chase, Sully and Bandit are forced to flee into the night. It’s clear that Bandit has a sinister history and someone is desperate to get him back. The trio flee across America, desperately trying to learn more about Bandit’s origins. Yet doing so will not be easy. How can they keep ahead of someone with endless resources at their disposal?

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The Amber Spyglass

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

The Amber Spyglass was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2000. It is the final part of the epic His Dark Materials Trilogy and draws all of the threads of the previous instalments together. As the novel follows on directly from where Northern Lights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995) and The Subtle Knife (1997) left off, you really need to have read both of these novels to have any idea of what’s going on in this one.

Lyra has been kidnapped by Mrs Coulter who now keeps her drugged in a remote Tibetan cave. She hopes that it will be enough to keep her hidden from the Magisterium, who plan to have her killed to prevent her from beginning a second fall of man. To achieve this end, they have already dispatched an assassin to locate Mary Malone – the one they call the serpent – in the hope that the doctor will lead him to Lyra.

Meanwhile, Will has been approached by two angels who wish to take him to Lord Asriel. They are aware of the powers of the knife and know it will be vital in Asriel’s war against the Authority. Will agrees to go with them, but only if they help him find Lyra first. Their journey takes them half way around the world and necessitates that he joins forces with one of Lyra’s oldest allies in order to find her.

Meanwhile, the sides have been drawn and the final battle against the Authority is beginning. Lord Asriel’s army has taken arms against the angels of the Authority, led by the warrior known as the Metatron. The result of this war will affect all worlds. Either the Authority will be destroyed, or the Metatron will seize control of everything…

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The Savage Dawn

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

The Savage Dawn was written by Melissa Grey and first published in 2017. It is the final instalment of The Girl at Midnight Trilogy, following The Girl at Midnight (2015) and The Shadow Hour (2016). The novel carries on exactly where the previous instalments left off, so you really do have to read them in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

Echo and the Avicen somehow managed to survive their first battle against Tanith’s dark forces, but their victory was at a terrible cost. Caius was taken by his insane sister, who now plans to torture him to allow the Kuçedra to feed off his magic. Just as Tanith was born with the ability to control flame, Caius’s gifts give him power over the in-between and this is exactly what the monster needs.

The loss of Caius rocks Echo’s confidence. Although she holds the power of the Firebird – the entity of pure light – she now realises that the battle against the Kuçedra is likely to cost the lives of the people that she loves. Still, before she can focus on the war, she knows that she must get Caius back and sets off with Dorian and Jasper in tow to do just that.

Meanwhile Ivy and Helios sneak into a human hospital, determined to use the bloodweed to heal the humans infected with the Kuçedra’s blight. However, they soon make a horrifying discovery. The Kuçedra is more insidious than they could ever have imagined, and is growing in power every moment. If they don’t find a way to defeat it quickly, it could mean the end of everything that they know.

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Gaslight

Gaslight was written by Eloise Williams and first published in 2017. It is historical fiction, set in 19th Century Cardiff, which focuses on a fourteen-year-old girl in search of her lost mother. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Nansi remembers that her mother was beautiful and kind and on the run from someone. Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember anything more than that. She can’t remember how she came to be floating in the River Ely. It was lucky that Sid found her when he did. If he hadn’t been there to rescue her and give her somewhere safe to live, who knows what would have happened to her.

She knows that she should be grateful to Sid, yet sometimes it’s difficult. People call him Pernicious Sid with good reason, as he forces her to steal things to help pay his substantial debts and punishes her brutally if she fails. Still, at least he has given Nansi her own room beneath his theatre and promises that he will save money for her until she can afford a private detective to help search for her mother.

Yet everything changes on the day that Constance and Violet join the theatre. The fact that Sid overlooks Violet’s cruelty causes Nansi to finally see how he really is, and Constance brings a vital clue concerning her mother’s whereabouts. Soon, Nansi finds herself on the run from Sid and his men. Her only hope is to find her mother before he can catch her. If she doesn’t, who knows what fate Sid will have in store for her…

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This Summer on Arkham Reviews

Hello Everyone!

We’re into that part of the year when the terrible day-star is at its hottest and I start to contemplate moving to that place where it’s dark for six months of the year. Yes, I’m not much of a sun worshipper, but I appreciate that I’m in the minority. The one good thing about sun bathing is that it gives you plenty of time to get stuck into a new book. So, in case you’re looking for recommendations, here’s an idea of what’s coming up next on Arkham Reviews!

I’m currently working my way through Gaslight by Eloise Williams and, hopefully by the time I’ve finished it, my copy of The Savage Dawn – the final part of Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight Trilogy – will have arrived. Unless I get similarly distracted, here’s a sneak peak of the other things on my mountainous to read pile:

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Wanted by Jo Ho

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Curse of Stars by Donna Compositor

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

The Wheel Mages by Aimee Davis

Contagion by Teri Terry

The Spectra United by Christie Valentine Powell

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Tempus Abbey by Sammy Woodford

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Three Words Promised by Ingrid Seymour

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